Adventures in Mysore India,  Alignment and Injuries,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy

Ask the APP: Overweight Ashtangis?

Note:Pictures in this post were chosen at random from APP submissions.


Someone recently came to the APP searching for information for Ashtanga and weight so here it goes.

Anyone Can Practice Ashtanga

I know many self proclaimed overweight people who practice Ashtanga. Mysore style Ashtanga is accessible to everyone because the student is taught one on one and given options that fit their bodies. After attending Mysore style class regularly, the student is equipped with enough knowledge to join in on a guided/led class. purvo1133

I also know of self proclaimed overweight people who have practiced with Sharath and found him to be understanding, good natured and accepting.  However, Sharath did suggest that they lose weight with his famous line said in a sweet manner with some head nodding, “no more chapatis!”

How does weight effect the practice?

The physical practice of Ashtanga requires stamina, strength, agility and flexibility. While most teachers will offer modifications and take you all the way through Primary Series, there are some poses that will never be accessible if you carry extra weight.

Many binds like Marichyasana, will not be accessible simply because the arms cannot wrap around the body. Heaviness will make jump backs and lift ups impossible not only because of the amount of weight you have to pick up but because of the pressure on the shoulder joints. Many inversions will not be possible also because of the pressure on the joints.

When Sharath was telling my friend to lay off the chapatis, he stopped him at Marichyasana because the binds simply could not be done at that weight. However, when he went back, Sharath did give him the next pose anyway.

If the full poses cannot be attained, is there still benefit? wideleg1132

Yes. I good teacher can adjust the pose so that you can still get all the benefits. Also Ashtanga Yoga provides mental and spiritual benefit as well. Yoga is the art of stilling the mind so that you find liberation from the thoughts that cause you stress and unhappiness. Ashtanga can give this to you regardless.

Can Ashanga help in weight loss?

Yes, Ashtanga brings awareness to the thoughts and habits in your life that are not serving you. With this awareness, most people either A. Stop practicing because facing their own neurosis is too much or B. Change. Everyone that I know that is serious about yoga usually changes their eating habits and lifestyle to support their practice. They usually get plenty of sleep, raise early,drink plenty of water, eat light prior to practice,hang out with positive people, are health conscious and lower their alcohol intake. All of these things will aid in weight loss. joao guerra de morais

I am no doctor, but many people find that Ashtanga practiced 6 days a week, coupled with a balanced diet, keeps them healthy and fit. I know people who only do Ashtanga and they have washboard abs and arms like Michele Obama.

Traditionally, Ashtangis are encouraged to eat a simple vegetarian diet. We are also, encouraged to eat an early and light dinner and to practice in the morning before eating again. These will also aid in weight loss.

Ahimsa,(non harming),  Aparigraha (non-hoarding), Svadyaya (self study) are a part of the 8 limbs of yoga that make up the back bone of the practice. As you become serious about the physical part of the practice, you will become more curious about the spiritual portion of it. Excessive eating goes against both ahimsa and aparigraha. Svadyaya, or the itch to study yourself as well as the ancient texts, will aid you in figuring out why you over eat and give you tools to stop.

To recap, if you want to use Ashtanga to lose weight:

Svadyaya-Study Yourself

Get to the root of why you eat by taking a hard look at your life and your habits.

Eat a clean, simple, vegetarian diet yogamudra1009

Think more like the old school vegetarians whose food was natural and from the earth and less like new school vegetarians who eat processed junk. Stay away from chemicals and try to eat organic, fresh unprocessed foods.

Practice consistently and frequently

To ensure that you get enough physical activity,try to stay with the traditional habit of practicing 6 days a week with moon days and ladies holiday off. If you need more activity, make it something that will support your practice like body weight bearing activities and walking. Running can be rough on the joints and lifting heavy weights tighten the muscles which can hinder your practice.

If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail