Ashtanga is probably as foreign to you as a world without Netflix- unless you attended our Ashtanga 101 Workshop. But have no fear- that's why the CAMP blog is here! We want to introduce you to some of the classes on our schedule that might seem a little different than those offered at typical gyms. Because in case you weren't aware... CAMP is anything BUT typical! Have you even seen our Instagram? #BoomerangGameOnPoint
So what is Ashtanga? The practice as we know it today was created in the mid-1900's by the late Pattabhi Jois, an accomplished yogi who studied under the super-famous guru Krishnamacharya. In Sanskrit (AKA the language of yoga), the word ashtanga literally means "8 limbs," which hearkens back to an ancient yoga text called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This is a pretty important text that essentially serves as the foundation for yoga as we know it today- but we can talk about that another time.
Ashtanga has grown to immense popularity in America due to its set structure, focus on tradition, and challenging sequence. Ashtanga is meant to be practiced 6 days a week in the early morning, allowing you to create discipline in your life that extends outside of your practice. Brittany, CAMP's Ashtanga Expert and our newest yoga teacher, says this is what initially drew her to the practice: "Practicing ashtanga consistently was the first time I experienced transformation in my life- physically, mentally, and emotionally." Now, almost seven years later, she still can't get enough. You might notice after taking her class that she focuses heavily on cultivating the breath- this is a very important aspect of Ashtanga, sometimes referred to as "prana." Traditionally, it is thought that we only have a certain number of breaths in our lifetime, so if we're able to elongate our breaths, we can live longer lives. Basically, yoga keeps you forever young. The breath is actually part of what is called the "Tristana method," which includes an emphasis on the dristhi (gazing point) and the posture (including activation of the bandhas). These three things combined allow one to focus on nothing else but the practice of Ashtanga, making it a "moving meditation." No room for your monkey brain here!
So what can you expect from your first class? According to Brittany, "a lot of chaturungas." Expect to work your triceps and shoulders more than you've ever worked them before, from the sun salutations at the beginning of class to the vinyasas in between each seated posture. You might also notice that each class begins and ends with a mantra. This is part of the tradition so heavily emphasized in Ashtanga, and it's a beautiful part of the practice, especially once you understand the meaning behind the words. Mantras allow you to connect to your practice and the yogis around you, and once you get past the initial awkwardness of chanting in public, it'll feel as normal as downward dog (well, almost).
Maybe all of this talk of chaturungas and tradition is scaring you off- but don't leave us just yet! Because if there's one thing Brittany wants you to know, it's this: Ashtanga is an all-levels practice. You can make it whatever you need on a day-to-day basis, from a more therapeutic practice that incorporates modifications to an advanced practice that will give you the chance to build awe-inspiring strength. Another thing to keep in mind is that consistency is key- don't expect to come into your first class and nail every pose. Ashtanga is an intelligently designed sequence, and it is meant to slowly open up the body. Give it a chance to work its magic, and your body (and mind!) will reap the benefits.
See you in class! Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7PM.