Ashtanga self-practice is like a private class in a group environment where the teacher works with you one-on-one. The class is not “led” in the way that we are generally used to with yoga classes, rather students work at their own pace and rhythm, working through a set sequence of postures that they learn through regular practice.
Self-practice classes are an utterly unique way to learn yoga. Once you get over the initial hesitation it is so liberating to have this system that you can use anytime and anywhere you want!
It really is quite a magical way to learn. Sure, it takes time at the beginning to get to grips with the sequence and I certainly remember doing A LOT of sun salutations at the start. But once you get a chunk of postures memorised the beauty of the flow comes alive. That and the shared energy of practicing with other people who are working through the sequence at their own pace. It also means that beginners and long-time practitioners can be practicing side by side and students can come at any time during the session, as their length of practice will vary depending on their experience. All of this means it can be a really empowering way to practice.
The student being in charge of their own practice is what’s important to us at Yoga Reading.
There have been lots of criticisms levelled at Ashtanga yoga for being too rule driven and dogmatic. And you don’t have to look too far for examples of these rules, eg:
- No drinking water whilst you practice,
- No practicing on a moon day or during your period,
- You can’t start the next pose until you’ve mastered the pose you are on,
- Primary series only on a Friday… we could go on.
But in our studio, we love to encourage people to explore what’s going on in their body as they move through the postures. If they find they have stiffness in the shoulders, we give them mobility drills or exercises that can help address this stiffness. If there is pain, we examine this with the practitioner and see if there is a way of modifying the pose to take the pain out of it; and if there isn’t? Well, we can always drop the pose and look to work on something else that might help with the underlying issue or restriction!
We really enjoy working with the individual to understand how yoga can support them in developing comfort in their own bodies – how can you become more comfortable sitting on the floor to play with your children? How can you get rid of that backache? Or how can you improve your running/golf swing/rock-climbing?! We really love to work on this personal journey with our students.
We are big fans of props from yoga bricks to resistance bands and are strong advocates of including some kind of strength-based work in your weekly schedule – as the strength classes on our timetable show! We also love combining our experiences and knowledge of Functional Range Conditioning, kinesthetics, soft tissue massage and gym work into what we offer our students.
All of this variety doesn’t mean that we don’t value the map that the Ashtanga sequences give us. We just allow ourselves to be creative and trust our expertise about the body in what we offer our students.
So, if you are curious about this unique way to learn and practice yoga come along and try our self-practice classes:
- Mondays: 6 – 8pm
- Wednesdays: 6:30 – 8am (NB: this is a morning practice for the early birds!)
- Thursdays: 6 – 8pm
Remember you don’t have to turn up at the beginning of these sessions – just allow yourself at least an hour to fit in a nice length of practice.
If you would rather start to learn the sequence first before dropping into one of our self-practice classes you can join our 6-week beginner courses, which lead you through the standing postures and teach the Ashtanga fundamentals in the Yoga Reading way.
Sophie and Katia Co-Direct and teach at Yoga Reading. They are both ashtanga teachers with a variety of other passions and skills that they enjoy weaving into their teaching!