Au revoir Ashtanga  

Hannah says au revoir to Ashtanga YogaNow, this isn’t going to be easy but I need to talk to you. I have something important to tell you. You’d better sit down for this one.

The thing is, I’m leaving. In fact, I’ve already left. It isn’t you, it’s me. I just don’t feel the same about you anymore. I’m sorry Ashtanga, but after 6 years of commitment, dedication and devotion, it’s time to call it a day.

There. I said it. I’ve quit. I’ve let go of my practice. Completely. It was a slow, gradual process, but I can now finally admit that I no longer practice Ashtanga Yoga. And, to be honest, it’s such a relief!

So, what happened? Well, following my last blog post How Mysore Made Me Softer, I started to question everything about my practice. Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Why am I making myself get up at the crack of dawn, restricting what and when I eat and what I can do in the evenings? Sometimes I just want to stay up late watching TV (shock!), sometimes I’d like a glass of wine during the week (horror!) and sometimes I’d like to be able to say yes when a friend invites me out beyond 9pm (surely not!). I felt like I was depriving myself of the things I wanted to do, putting restrictions on my life and feeling guilty if I didn’t stick to them. And for what?

I felt like I’d lost touch with my practice. Lost the essence of yoga. Lost touch with myself. I didn’t know what I was doing or why. I was simply going through the motions of the practice I knew so well, forcing myself to do it each day and telling myself this was what I needed to do. Practice, practice and all is coming. Keep believing. Keep the faith. But I felt unsettled. In all areas of my life.

So I tried a new class. What?! I’ve been averse to trying other yoga classes for a long time now. I’ve had Ashtanga blinkers firmly in place ever since I started practising 6 years ago. Why would I want to try another type of yoga when I’ve found my ultimate style?

I tried a gentle Hatha class, which was the complete antithesis of Ashtanga. I found it deeply healing and restorative, but most of all, connected. I felt deeply aware of and in the presence of my own body. Something I hadn’t felt for a long time with Ashtanga. The movements were gentle, and slow, and meditative. I could really concentrate on what my body was doing, how it was moving and how it felt. And I felt so much more in touch with the essence of yoga than I had for a long time.

I feel like I’m going through an exploratory stage. I feel like trying other styles of yoga, different classes and teachers, to find one that resonates with me, just as Ashtanga did when I first discovered it. In the same way as modern-day careers are not the single-track job-for-a-lifetime commitments they were for our grandparents, maybe styles of yoga aren’t set in stone either. Maybe as our bodies, minds and lifestyles change over the years, so do our needs within our yoga practice. Maybe Ashtanga isn’t what I need in my life right now. And if it isn’t, that doesn’t mean it never will be again.

I’ve experienced moments of grief already and I’m sure there’s more of that to come. The other morning I was chanting some of the Shanti Mantras, which I’d learned by heart, and found myself stumbling over some of the words towards the end. A wave of grief rose up from within me as I realised I’ll quickly forget these chants if I don’t practice them. Just as I’ll quickly lose a lot of the asana practice that felt so familiar for so long. In fact I’m sure I can already do far less than I could 2 months ago.

That’s ok though. I don’t want to end my relationship with yoga for good. What I’d like is to become more intuitive in whatever practice I find. And have a more open attitude to the wonderful, healing practice and philosophy that is yoga. At least this way I know I’ll be practising because I want to. Because my mind and body feel like practising. And not just because I think I should. Ultimately, at the end of the day, just going through the motions is not how I want to experience my yoga practice, or my life.

So, for now it’s au revoir Ashtanga. Not farewell though – I’d never say never. It’s been an amazing journey and you’ve taught me so much, for which I’ll always be grateful. But right now I need to call it a day and move on with my life. I hope you can understand. And I hope you can forgive me. Thank you.


– Hannah

13 Responses to Au revoir Ashtanga  

  1. Davy Jones 13th September 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Hannah, you have absolutely nothing to apologise for ! It’s easy to get caught up in the Ashtanga lifestyle and to see it as all or nothing. It isn’t. It is perfectly fine to do your practice once or twice a week when you feel like it, rather than to see it as a daily devotion. And I enjoy going to other yoga classes/workshops too – Ashtanga will probably always be my favourite form of yoga but it will never be the only one. And personally I think that having a life outside yoga is positively beneficial – makes you more balanced (which is what yoga is all about, after all) and less one-dimensional. You are taking control of your life and your yoga practice – good for you !

  2. HK 13th September 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    Hi Hanna

    Yin or hatha is excellent to do with your normal asana practice – Sharath may not emphasize it – but many senior and truly great astangis do.

    I usually do:
    Pranayama 30 mi a
    Yin 30 mins
    Asana 80-90 mins

    And reading the sutras from books like German author Maehle will shine light of meaning and purpose of it all.

    It’s not unnatural to do and like other pursuits but it’s def good to have fresh and deep inquiry wrt purpose of and why. …

  3. Barbara 13th September 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    Even after 6 years of practicing Ashtanga, you Yoga is still in its infancy. The description of your experience in the Hatha Yoga class is really what Ashtanga becomes. It will become slower, more meditative, more focused internally, and you will give yourself the freedom of choosing how you practice and when you choose to step on the mat. Go to a workshop with Manju Jois, David Williams, or Nancy Gilgoff. You might again appreciate Ashtanga, or not. Keep on practicing whatever brings you to your mat. Namaste.

  4. Zsolt Tanka 13th September 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Hannah, it’s really beautiful what you wrote, following your dreams but especially following your heart. Don’t ever lose that. One door closes (for now) another one opens.
    Greetz, Zsolt

  5. Swarup Debnath 14th September 2015 at 5:53 am #

    It takes a tremendous courage to express such a parting message ! Many of us go through such inner turmoil time to time when we don’t even ponder why are doing certain things? is it contributing to a more peaceful inner Self ? Is it nurturing true connection with Nature and all it’s beings? Actually no time to take a step back from the endless practices and establish the actual relationship with Self ! Or rather not having adequate courage to counter such ancient forms of practice and its efficacy. But then, Hannah’s commitment to Ashtanga practice unveiled her true need and connection and that could be something like parting with it. Embracing new ways leading to the same destination is part of joyous journey wherein the self discovery is even more deeper and meaningful. Wish Hannah more connection, more depth , more bliss in restorative practices and living with true essence of Yoga ! Om Shanti !

  6. Daniela 14th September 2015 at 9:27 am #

    I am on the same path, so brave that you share this with us. thank you for being so open

  7. Lo 14th September 2015 at 9:48 am #

    I think I can understand the feelings you describe, specially the connection experienced in traditional hatha yoga, but I don’t understand why so many people practice ashtanga in an orthodox way.
    In any kind of yoga practice it’s recommended not to eat meat, not to smoke, practice everyday early morning… but I think it’s just coming slowly with the practice, you don’t really decide it.
    There is a thin line between deciding to force ourselves to do things (that to me sounds like violence) and the process of acceptation which takes time (that to me sounds like being gentle with ourselves)

  8. carlos 14th September 2015 at 10:30 am #

    i know exactly what you mean, nobody commits you, and theres an emotional bond with the practice and human environment as in the tour of france!
    theres a whole world out of the compliances and looking backwards it all makes sense
    if you are soft and aware you stand to learn a lot , even you return and do just 5 salutations daily to honour what shaped you

  9. Jo Ozden 14th September 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    Welcome to the softer side,

    Enjoy exploring your freedom and spaciousness as you flow and breath to you want you feel right now in this moment.


    Wishes and best

    Jo 🙂

  10. Rita Rudenko 6th October 2015 at 5:53 am #

    If there is proper inner work in asana, practice can take any form – from dynamic and fast flowing to slow, with a lot of preliminary work before entering full asana and longer holds. Essentially it’s about creating wisdom of knowing yourself and choosing what it’s right in this very present moment. It’s beautiful process of letting go of any desire to manipulate breath and achieve anything that easily leads to spontaneous meditation. It’s very blissful, I love it and wish you to experience it to the fullest!

  11. Julie 23rd January 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    I agree with Barbara, you’re in your infancy with Ashtanga. And I don’t think Ashtanga practice is as dogmatic as you claim. For years, I practiced Hatha. Now I’ve been practicing Ashtanga for over 12 years. There have been many frustrations, but what makes me an Ashtangi is my dedication to the practice, not whether I stay up too late. Try again!

  12. Hannah 14th June 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    I think you are very brave to change your path. Do what makes you happy and be confident enough to let go of the things that don’t!


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