I’ve been practising Ashtanga for just over 2 months now and threw myself in the deep end by going straight to the Mysore morning self-practice classes, with a little (understatement?) encouragement both from Guy and his teachers. I’d only been to 2 led classes prior to that and nearly collapsed from exhaustion after both of them. I didn’t feel worthy of self-practising amongst established Ashtangis and didn’t even know any of the sequence. However, after a bit of home tuition from Guy, I finally plucked up the courage to go to my first class on Tuesday 19th May.
Walking into the practice room at the Brighton Natural Health Centre, I was instantly struck by the magical energy (prana as I now know it to be) being generated. There’s something quite lovely about seeing a room full of people all doing their own thing at their own pace, lost in their own inner worlds. The only sound in the room is the collective soft ujiya breathing and also the occasional whisper or laugh between teacher and student. It really is a unique experience and one that cannot by simply described to others – you have to try it for yourself.
I was also struck by how kind and welcoming the two teachers have been – Sarah Miles and Shari Berman. They’ve led me through the postures, showed me how to get the best out of them and given me lots of tips and advice along the way, including some much needed nurturing and encouragement when both my shoulders were in pain for about 2 weeks (ah yes, the opening up!) They have very different teaching styles and techniques but have both given me so much already and I feel gutted that Shari’s leaving us in just under a month :0(
Before I started my own practice, Guy would tell me about his experiences, but I never really ‘got’ them before. When he tried to explain the setup of the classes, I’d be like “So, you all just do your own practice in your own time and the teachers come round and adjust you? Why does that need 2 teachers?” To me, with my previous experience of (gentle!) evening yoga classes, giving adjustments meant the teacher occasionally going round the room giving little tweaks here and there. It wasn’t until I started practising for myself, that I understood the significant of adjustments – that they’re integral to your progress, that everyone needs them throughout their practice and that they’re a full-on, full-time job for the teachers.
After my first week I was full of the usual excuses as to why I couldn’t sustain a regular practice, namely time and money, but I also knew I was onto a good thing. I felt amazing and had so much more energy than I’d expected – well, prana does generate prana after all. So I took the plunge and bought my first 20-class card, eek! I’ve tried to go every day since, but have only managed 5-days-in-a-row once so far! I put that down to moon days & holidays. Oh, ok and maybe one or two days when I just couldn’t get out of bed! But the benefits I’m experiencing so far already outweigh the aches and pains and occasional off day: I feel fitter and have loads more energy; I’m less bloated and feel slimmer and more toned; my digestive system is healthier than ever; my bowel movements are much more regular; my mind feels calmer and freer after practice; even my nails seem to grow quicker than before. I’m constantly reaping the benefits and can see real progress in my practice every day. My most recent ‘achievement’ is being able to get into Marichyasana D on my own – much to the annoyance of some of my fellow practitioners (sorry!). Well, I think it’s fair to say I’m well and truly hooked.
I feel so lucky to have been given such a great introduction to the practice by 2 amazingly inspiring teachers and lots of lovely fellow Ashtangis, as well as by a dedicated, supportive, encouraging partner. Guy and I both feel blessed to be able to share our experiences and practice together every morning and it makes getting out of bed that little bit easier too. So here’s to my next 5-day week…. Oops there’s a moon day next week, maybe the one after….!