Here is a piece of an interview I did with Balearic Retreats for my upcoming 2018 Retreat...
The structure of Ashtanga yoga, everyday the same, the initial rigidity of the method, and the accountability of the teacher, makes you internally and externally strong. It teaches you to show up for yourself, to turn inwards and observe your choices when something doesn’t feel just right. You become self reliant and hence learn to be a responsible human.You begin taking responsibility of your own actions.
It truly serves as a mirror to the choices you make. You learn to rely on yourself. I think you can grow with other styles of practice, but only to a certain point. I think Ashtanga challenges your mind and body so much that you are taken out of your comfort zones over and over again. It teaches you to be steady and stable. I’m not sure it can work for everybody in the same way, that’s why having an intelligent teacher is so important at the beginning, the seed must be planted right. But I think the element of repetition and consistency are essential to build faith, devotion and commitment. When you have those you can grow! Within the method you find your way to freedom.
On the Importance of daily practice...
I think that is really the key element to the success of Ashtanga Yoga. It doesn't matter how much you do, but you show up each day and that is a very bold statement to yourself and the universe. You are here to show up and grow. That’s powerful. It leaves no room for excuses. It’s easy for all of us to find excuses to not do something good for ourselves. It’s important here to make clear that daily practice does not mean you have to do your whole practice. Daily practice is showing up on the mat and putting your palms together with intention, breathing and being willing to have faith. You have to look at the larger picture, you want this practice to last for a lifetime - that means 365 days (minus some moon days, ladies holidays….) times god knows how many years. You don’t want to burn out because, so you have to learn to be smart about how you push yourself. I have practiced through sicknes,, injuries, travel, exaustion…you name it, but I learned over time how to do it in a way that is softer and more sustainable, where it is not so asana and perfection oriented but more geared towards a moving prayer, an honoring of my body as a vehicle for spirit. Everyday is different and as much as I can I come to it daily with a listening approach. It took time to come to that, and I think it’s valuable to come to it on your own, especially if you begin early like I did. You have energy to burn, so it’s ok. But eventually with time you want to listen to yourself, push mindfully, hold back mindfully…travel in the midway.
From my experience and the groups of people I spend time with outside the yoga world, I realize Ashtanga gets really bad reputation because people think that they have to commit to something really challenging and strenuous and so they give up before trying. The beauty of this practice is that it is a personalized practice. There is a structure but it is traditionally taught by meeting the student where they are at, working with them and the structure to see how the structure can best serve them to be healthy .That is a key part of my teaching, meeting each student where they are at. I am invested in them as human beings and I want each one of them to succeed at life. I know each one of us has a history and not all of us fit in the same box. My teachers Kristin Leigh and Barbara Verrochi have always made me understand this. This is also what I picked up from assisting Sharath over the years.