Back to school – how to jumpstart your ashtanga yoga practice

By August 16, 2010 No Comments

I always think of the beginning of a new school year as a time of renewal.  More so than New Years Day, the start of school feels like a new year.  The kids return to class with new books, new teachers, and new lessons to learn.  During this time of year, I am compelled to incorporate this feeling of renewal into my yoga practice.

Ashtanga yoga, as you may already know, can be a little repetitive.  When we practice the same poses week after week, we may start to notice subtle changes in our flexibility, strength and balance.  Perhaps even feel as though we’ve “mastered” some of the poses.  However, we may start to feel a little stale, bored or frustrated with our practice.  Here are a few tips to jump-start your Ashtanga and bring little renewal to your practice.

  • Each practice is like a new beginning, so start each practice with an open mind.
  • Enjoy the feeling of breathing during your practice.  Let the breath move you into each pose.
  • In each pose we think about our foundation: think of your strength and energy moving from the ground up.
  • Try bringing your awareness to the sensation in your body with each pose.  Notice the subtle differences when you make a slight adjustment.  The more you listen to your body, the more balanced you will become.  Your body will tell you what it needs to be healthier and more at ease.
  • In downward dog, press your hands firmly into the floor.  Imagine you are pushing yourself off the mat and try to lift your tush as high as you can in the air.  Bring the weight towards the back your body and notice your spine and neck release.
  • For standing or seated forward bends, try lifting your quadriceps (the front thighs) up.  Take a deep breath and notice if the hamstrings (back of legs) release a little.
  • In triangle pose, feel the connection with all parts of the angle.  Press both feet down firmly into the floor, lift out of the crown of your head and keep the lift coming from your extended arm.
  • Pull your abdominals in and see if that changes how you feel in a pose.  Using your “Bhandas” or your energy locks brings strength to the poses and the body.  One of the main “bhandas” we use is abdominal region.  Try doing warrior position without using your abdominals and then see what happens when you strengthen that area.
  • Try to move beyond each pose.  When you move into a new pose, avoid just holding it.  Try to continue reaching and moving deeper with each exhalation.
  • There is a saying in yoga, Stitah Suka Asanam, which means effort without tension, relaxation without dullness.  This means to find the balance, or middle-way, in each pose.
  •  Always practice with patience, let your practice unfold and you will gradually see improvements in your strength, flexibility and balance.
  • Read an inspiring yoga article.  Yoga Journal’s website is a fantastic resource.  Or, research some motivating books on yoga.  The following quote is from one from my collection called, “Moving Toward Balance, “by Rodney Yee.

“By focusing on your body and breath during yoga, you will learn to become fully present.  When you are totally involved in listening and responding to the present moment, nothing else exists.  There is no room for the past.  There is no room for the future.  You’re engaged in the present moment.”… 

 “When we practice yoga, we aim for complete awareness.  And that process alone teaches us many things about who we are and what it is that will move us towards balance.” 


Author Jennifer Frye

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