Can Beginners Do Ashtanga Yoga?



How to begin so as you mean to go on

Is Ashtanga yoga for beginners is a question I often get asked. Yet, it’s not just the immediate beginning of something that we need help with. Honestly, finding someone or some resource that’ll help you begin is the easy part. However, what we really need help with, or, to rephrase the question; how can we begin in such a way that’ll make it more likely that we will be likely to continue?
 
For, if you’re anything like me, in beginning most things, I tend to dive in head-first without much reflection as to the best or most efficient approach. Yet, this is imperative if we do are to stand a chance at building something sustainable. It’s easy to start, to continue is another matter altogether, one that involves starting well.  This, in turn, means beginning in a methodical, structured and pragmatic manner.
 
Obstacles to beginning well – the deadly due of ambition and impatience
 
The most obvious difficulty we run into here is running before we can walk. With the huge amount of information available, our eyes and minds get the better of us. Perhaps, idealistic, ambitious, as well as impatient by our very nature, we aspire to do too much, too quickly. So, firstly, beginning as we mean to go on means a careful and pragmatic taking of small increments of learning and practice. 
 
The body responds in a similar manner; gradually, in fits and starts does it begin to get the idea that we are instilling in it regularly. Muscles are trained just like horses, they need to be coaxed and convinced slowly. That is, muscle memory takes a while to alter, then, similarly, develop.  On the other hand, when from every corner of yoga online we are sold to in beautiful images of advanced postures, it’s hard to refrain our temptation towards rushing forward too quickly.
 
Honesty is the key
 
The antidote to the above enemies of ambition, idealism and impatience is evidently honesty. If we are actually able to be straightforward with ourselves about our current level, this will be of inordinate help to us in the long run. Maybe, this also means a more cautious use of social media. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that we won’t arrive there; develop the advanced asanas’ we would, most of us like. It’s rather, that the fastest way to arrive at this is to ascertain in all honesty one’s own ability, at present. Only here can we work effectively. An important aspect of beginning ashtanga well then is that you are able to challenge yourself to the right-degree.
 
Don’t neglect the basics as a beginner to Ashtanga yoga

Probably the one thing every teacher says, and, equally, the one thing the beginning student is most resistant to, is to do with the invaluable nature of getting the foundations to practice right. Of course, we do not want to build our house on uneven ground. For, as they say as stitch in time saves nine, and to have to take it all down and rebuild again is incomparably harder – as well as, usually, a lot more painful than getting your basics under you belt. Because, everything else is a development on an original understanding, it is as well to get this understanding as clear as one can in ones’ head (and body), before moving forward.
 
Pick the right teacher – a good one, not a popular one

In this current market place, it is sad to say, that the teacher doesn’t always have the beginner ashtanga student’s best interests at heart. Instead, they are indisputably in the process of selling to the student. It must be remembered that to be a yoga teacher is now a job, furthermore, a popular one. To this end, if they are to pay the bills, they need to attract students. Indeed, like any economy, its’ one of scale, so the more the better. All this means, that the teacher often delivers to the student what they want and not what they need.
 
As we have said, what we want when we begin, may not be the best place to move from.
For this reason, we need to be really careful in picking a teacher, looking for a teacher who will challenge us, without a doubt, but, not one who will sell to our natural sense of ambition and wish for a most obvious accomplishment.
 
Checking in with our own aims
 
The first piece of advice we might offer, the very most important, is to check in with ourselves before even starting. That is, it might be worth to reflect a little on our aims, and, aim as high as possible. I don’t necessarily mean in asana here, though, holding those aspirations in mind (whilst we build up more gradually), is no bad thing. In fact, we also need this kind of inspiration to continue.
 
However, when I suggest aiming high, what I really mean is to aim for the greatest thing we might imagine. Which, in my mind, is inner-peace that comes through self-knowledge/self-acceptance.  Keeping this in mind on every step of the way is most helpful in facilitating a progress most suitable to oneself. As well as a most sustainable and fruitful one. One must keep returning to this question, for, equally, at every step of the way, as one moves away from being a beginner, the risk is that we start to build up pride in our new-found ability.
 
Pride comes before a fall
 
We are all, to degrees, proud of our progress. Indeed, we should be when progress is hard won. On the other hand, the capacity to keep ones’ sites set on our own practice really pays dividends. In order to mitigate the very worst in pushing ourselves at the beginning, the only thing one can do really and truly is bear in mind ones deeper aim as well as recognising that this practice doesn’t’ matter to anyone else really other than ourselves. In other words, it’s to no one else’s benefit, or interest, apart from ours, whether we are able to put our leg behind our head or not.  
 
The value of consistency in whatever we do
 
Finally, here are some practical ideas of how to begin. All of them are framed by the attempt at consistency. It is only though this quality that we truly make progress in the world with anything. In contrast, starting and stopping; doing loads one day or week and none the next, is not really a recipe for sustainable progress. Which, in fact, is what we ought to be aiming for, because, the opposite of this is injury in ashtanga.
 
This is the reason most people stop, so we really want to avoid this as best we can Obviously, everyone has little obstacles, pulls and tweaks that’s part of the process. But, a full-blown injury usually stems with inconsistency in approach.

So, how might we avoid this most fundamental mistake?
 
·       Find a teacher who encourages you to the right degree. Doesn’t  over-push you or make over-claims in order to attract you.
·       Check your foundations. Clear understanding of the information is essential before moving forward. The underlying quality of this is consistency itself.
·       Do a little, often. It’s easy to get carried away. Restrain the temptation to over-practice one day. This can easily lay you up for days after.
·       Do something. There will be many days you don’t want to practice. This must be admitted. On the other hand, just get on the mat and do something. In this way we save the space for when motivation and inspiration return in full-force (they surely will if you have begun well).
 
Getting stuck on the Plateau

As we have been discussing, beginning very quickly comes to be related to continuing. For this reason, we need to understand how to deal with the plateau. For, at the start, we seem to progress incredibly quickly, almost daily progress can be seen with our own eyes. However, when this progress slows down, which it inevitably does, we enter onto the plateau with yoga. Or, to put it in a more familiar way, graduate from the honeymoon phase.
 
This means that we have to use every method and trick in the book to keep us at it. As already stated, all of these are around consistency. Whereby, yoga in the end, becomes emeshed into our very lifestyle – yoga as a lifestyle. Then, it is harder not to do it than to do it, for it is part of our daily routine.

So, how do we make this happen?
 
·      Try to pick the same time and place to practice each day. Regularity helps us with motivation. We build strength through habit and familiarity is a big part of this.
·      Use online resources carefully for motivation. A little can help, a lot, or the wrong type can be dispiriting.
·      DO NOT beat yourself up if you can’t face doing ALL of it. Instead, roll out your mat anyway and do what you can. As they say;

Don’t let the great get in the way of the good.
 
·      DO NOT judge yourself. Sometimes, you just have to put your mind to it and not look to the left or the right.
·      Watch for any little sign of something you did better today
·      Get your information clear. There is nothing like doubt and uncertainty to make you inconsistent in your approach to what you do.
 
I hope some of these thoughts have been helpful to you. I think Ashtanga yoga for beginners is an ideal way to start in fact how many do in Mysore.

The main thing I want to stress is that it is your practice from day 1 and that there is no level of expertise better in a way than a beginners’ mind as they say. On the other hand, you also have to build on this carefully. Go slowly, and allow the suck it and see methodology into your approach. If it works, keep it, if it doesn’t let it go. Which means, one has to work pragmatically and with the long-haul in mind. Remember, nothing is worthwhile that came to easily, and few things that came too easily prove to be truly sustainable or worthwhile in the long-term.
Scroll to Top