Creating a Safe Space for Practice
Over the last few years, the Ashtanga world has been through challenging experiences as a yoga community. Through painful experiences – not only personal but equally through those of others – we have the opportunity to learn and move forward with a better understanding of what it means to create a safe and supportive environment for all teachers and yoga practitioners.
We have great respect and trust for the teachers who lead the retreats at Purple Valley Yoga Centre. They've dedicated their lives to the practice and teaching of Ashtanga yoga and always welcome an open dialogue with the practitioners.
Our intention is to continue serving the Ashtanga yoga community with honesty, inclusivity and compassion, and to continue to create a space for practitioners to grow and deepen their practice.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Series
The Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga series, when practised correctly and with discipline, has been shown to help build strength, improve flexibility, relieve stress and create a general state of calmness, wellbeing and ease.
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is a moving meditation – a system of flowing postures, linked by the breath, which is the powerful connection at the heart of the discipline. The focus is on developing a daily physical practice to strengthen, purify and energise the body. This eventually leads to a steady, controlled mind and a healthy nervous system.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga method in the tradition of K. Pattabhi Jois involves synchronising the breath with a progressive series of postures. Students learn postures in a fixed order using a special movement-breathing technique called 'vinyasa'. Vinyasa is the term for breath synchronised with movement. The vinyasa links the asanas together in the dance of the breath.
The breath is the essence and heart of this discipline and links posture to posture in a precise order. Asanas should be practised in the correct sequential order; the intention is for the practitioner to produce intense
internal heat and sweat to detoxify muscles and organs, which results in improved circulation and a light, strong body.
Practitioners also rediscover their full potential on all levels of human consciousness. Through proper breathing (ujjayi or breathing with sound), postures, gazing points (dristi) and locks (bandhas), the Ashtanga yoga practitioner gains control of the senses and a deep awareness of the self.
The Mysore Method/Technique
Mysore is the city in the south of India where Ashtanga yoga was taught by K. Pattabhi Jois from the 1930s until his death in 2009. Mysore self-practice is the traditional way of practising Ashtanga yoga and enables the student to learn individually, yet with all of the group energy of a conventional class. In a ‘Mysore class’, students work at their own pace, practising and progressing through the series according to their ability and individual needs.
Since each asana is designed to prepare the practitioner for the rest of the series of postures, beginners have a shorter practice than more experienced students. As they gain strength, stamina, flexibility and concentration, additional postures are given by the teacher, so the practice becomes longer and more demanding.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga for Beginners
It's often believed that Ashtanga yoga is not for beginners and that you'd need to be a seasoned yoga practitioner to sign up for a retreat at Purple Valley. For a total newbie it may seem intimidating and impossible. But all the teachers at the centre welcome beginners. Students enjoy the advantage of individual support and feedback in a Mysore style class, while still in a group setting.
You move at your own pace, while the teacher helps modify any of the postures that might be inaccessible, to suit your age, body type and fitness level. Just what a beginner yogi needs!
Ashtanga yoga is also a great way to experience the meditative side of yoga. It involves a consistent focus of the mind on the breath, the posture and the gaze which allows us to be focused in the present moment. Since we don't have to put our mind to deciding what asana to do next each day, and the series is more or less set, the practice becomes a moving meditation.
FAQs About Ashtanga
I'm a beginner, are the courses suitable for me?
Purple Valley is perfect for Ashtanga beginners. Most teachers have beginners on their courses, but a few courses aren't suitable for beginners. For full details, see the course descriptions or contact us for more details.
Do I need to know the full primary sequence and the asana names in Sanskrit?
It's always helpful for your own practice to learn the sequence and names of the asanas. However, your teacher will always be happy to guide you. Many courses at Purple Valley begin with a led primary series class to refresh your memory of the sequence if necessary. In the case of newcomers to the Ashtanga yoga method, beginner lessons are held in the first few days of the course. There are also various books and charts available to help you memorise the sequence.
Do I have to memorise the opening and closing invocations (mantras)?
No, but the invocations are a beautiful way to start and finish your practice. All teachers at Purple Valley recite the opening invocation in Sanskrit; you're welcome to repeat line-by-line with the rest of the students.
What do I need to bring for practice?
Most importantly, you need to be comfortable in appropriate yoga clothes. During winter months (generally mid-December to mid-February), it can get chilly – bring some warmer clothes for before and after practice. Most students prefer to bring their own yoga mats, but we do have some mats to borrow if necessary (they're not high quality). We also have cotton yoga mats (Mysore rugs) featuring the Purple Valley logo for sale. You should bring a yoga towel because you'll sweat during practice! If you forget, we have some for sale in the office. Shoes are left outside the Shala, and apart from personal belongings which should be kept in the small room in the Shala, nothing else is necessary for your morning practice.
What is the schedule for yoga practice and what are the timings?
At Purple Valley we practise in the early morning from Sunday to Friday and take Saturday for rest. The timings are set by your teacher at the beginning of each retreat, and the guest managers will write this and other yoga-related information on a blackboard for your convenience. Most teachers hold afternoon workshops at 4pm every day except Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (subject to change).
How long does practice take?
The full Ashtanga primary series takes approximately 90 minutes. Beginners do a shorter version, and more advanced practitioners take longer. It's important to always practise at a pace that's comfortable for you.
What is “noble silence”?
To get the most benefit out of your practice, we encourage you to maintain silence before entering the Shala. This might include not engaging with social media. Most importantly, there should be no talking in the Shala unless you need to speak with the teachers. Please also be considerate of others who prefer to remain silent for a short time after practice.
Do we have days off?
Yes – at Purple Valley we don’t practise on Saturdays. You might also want to follow the tradition of not practising on moon days, which occur about twice a month. Women are free to take their “lady’s holiday.”
Should I eat or drink before practice?
Traditionally, nothing should be consumed before or during practice. It's hot in India, however, and it’s always advisable to be well-hydrated. Tea and coffee are always available on the terrace if you require, and you may leave your water bottle in the small room in the Shala (not by your mat). If you find you become light-headed during practice, you can also ask the kitchen staff for a few bananas before practice, which may help.
Should I do any other exercise apart from yoga?
It's entirely up to you, but keep in mind that Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is quite demanding and vigorous. If you wish to exercise, we recommend swimming, walking or another mild activity.
Will I ache and what should I do?
If you’re not used to practising 6 days a week then yes, you can expect your muscles to feel sore and perhaps ache. Everyone goes through it at some point. Just go at your own pace, enjoy the benefits of the practice and the soreness will pass!
What should I do if I experience pain during or after practice?
If you experience pain, speak to your teacher who will always be happy to share his or her experience and expertise with you. There are different types of pain, so it’s essential to speak up and find out more.
When is an appropriate time to speak with the teacher?
Preferably before or after practice (mealtimes are good), but if it’s necessary and related to your yoga practice, you can speak to the teacher in the Shala.
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