The complete Ashtanga primary series takes 90 minutes. The idea is that you would do the 90 minutes six days a week. Wow! Obviously that is not realistic for the vast majority of practitioners — we have families, jobs, hobbies, etc. Even David Swenson, one of the nationally known Ashtanga teachers, knows that such an intense time commitment is not practical for everyone.
“…it is not feasible to expect everyone to apply such a disciplinary regimen,” he writes in Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual. “Setting unreasonable goals creates a recipe for discouragement or self-doubt which may lead to giving up the practice altogether. It is much better to practice a small amount rather than none at all.”
Angela Jamison also offers advice for how to practice when you only have a few minutes. What follows are a couple of short forms that take only 10-15 minutes.
David Swenson’s short form:
5 Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A)
3 Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B)
Paschimottanasana B (seated forward fold, hands around outsides of feet)
Marichyasana C (seated twist)
Navasana 2x (boat)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (bridge or wheel), followed by Paschimottanasana B
Padmasana (seated cross-legged or lotus, with back of hands on knees, thumb and index finger touching, chin tucked)
Angela Jamison’s short form:
Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A)
Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B) (do as many of each as you can)
The closing postures: Baddha Padmasana, Padmasana, Tolasana)
However long your practice is, the important thing is that you build up energy and heat and then have a way for it to come down. You wouldn’t just do the first few asanas and then stop — you’d be stopping on a “high” without any counteraction. These short forms have the “bring up” and “bring down.”
I live 80 miles from a shala that offers Mysore-style Ashtanga. That distance doesn’t make it practical for me to practice at a shala regularly. Instead, I have to be committed to a home practice (a woman I met at the workshop let me know about the Ashtanga Home Practitioners network on Facebook — that’s already been so helpful!).
But in July I started teaching a class on Monday evenings at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. So I started to think…I could stay overnight on Mondays and go to Lynn Thomasberg’s Mysore class at One Yoga on Tuesday mornings.
So for four weeks, that’s what I did. I was a little nervous the first day with my limited Mysore experience and being in a new space. But I clearly remember the moment during that practice when the endorphins released and I felt buoyant, energized, and happy. That feeling continued throughout the day.
I finished my last Mysore class yesterday and I was a little sad even before it began, knowing it would be my last one for a while. I will miss the addictive positive energy that comes from a challenging class. I’m already trying to figure out ways to make this work during the school year 🙂
(The fifth Mysore class I did was during the Angela Jamison workshop. That week I had done three Ashtanga classes — a first for me!).
Every time I take an Ashtanga class or attend a workshop, I’m newly inspired in my home practice. Thanks to all the practice I did in July, I have a plan for my daily sessions (prior to this I did whatever I felt called to do in the morning, but that was a little too fluid). I created a calendar in which I do something different each day. For now it looks like this: