Yoga is very popular and it is the top choice on the fitness market today. However, we witness decrease of popularity of Ashtanga yoga. You may see cancellations of Ashtanga classes in yoga studios more often than some other type of yoga be it classic Hatha poses, Bikram’s sweaty sessions in a heated studio or any hybrid of Vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga yoga retreats are among the most unpopular and are often cancelled or changed to some other yoga styles.
There are signs that Ashtanga Yoga bubble may be about to burst.
The orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists and chiropractors in North America are increasingly dealing with the ashtanga yoga practitioners which practice has gone awry.
The increase of injuries in ashtanga yoga practice are blamed on the lack of good teachers. Almost everyone with 200 hours teachers training programme can and certainly teach ashtanga yoga with poor understanding of the practice itself. Such teachers are badly trained, inexperienced and overzealous and that cause a lot of problems for the students.
A yoga student from England observed it well: « I was at an Ashtanga yoga class and in a posture where you really twist your spine. My teacher came to adjust me in the pose and really pushed me into it. It felt really uncomfortable at the time and it got worse afterwards. It was so painful that I went to the doctor and he told me that I’d bruised a rib. »
Very often the students are uncertain about questioning yoga teacher. When you’re in the middle of a class it’s really difficult to say that something hurts. Ashtanga yoga teachers are known to be quite forceful characters and they assume they know what they are doing.
Let me digress a bit, not all ashtanga yoga teachers are forceful, inexperienced and overzealous. But in general, there is no legislation that dictates standards for teaching ashtanga yoga. It is loyalty of visiting Mysore, being in good terms with Sharath and the practice itself that, seems to me, determine certified ashtanga yoga teacher. They are extremely rare and students are left with 200 hours teacher trainees devoid from the understanding of student psychology, anatomy and most of all the humility as a human being that make up the right credentials for anyone wanted to be a yoga teacher.
Good teachers don’t hold classes in gyms and community centres.
But what about ashtanga yoga students? Can they help themselves by taking responsibility for their own practice?
Ashtanga yoga is not like getting on a treadmill and start running with constant acceleration. It requires mindfulness and understanding of it’s flexibility and strength. Recognise pain that isn’t good and continue or stop if you need to. Ashtanga is not a competitive practice and there is no reason to force yourself into a painful pose.
No doubt about it, there is a high level of risk for injury in ashtanga yoga. And ashtanga practitioners so often forget that yoga is a lifetime practice. More than that, it’s a spiritual practice. The physical benefits come with it, but if you’re only interested in getting fit, then go to the gym.