Alignment and Injuries,  Ashtanga Adaptability,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Every Day Life: Common Misconceptions of Ashtanga Yoga

YogaSutras of Patanjali 1:5-1:8

There are five types of mind fluctuations which are either painful or painless.

They are right knowledge,misconception,verbal delusion, sleep and memory.

Right knowledge is made up of direct perception, inference and valid testimony

Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based on its true form


Most humans do not feel safe unless they can  categorize the things around them. Indeed, we cannot even communicate or run our society with out labeling of some sort. We all had to agree that a brown thing with green leaves at the top is a tree. That a small furry animal with four legs and pointy ears is a cat. Labeling is very useful…up to a point.  If the furry thing we agreed to call a cat bites you, you may start to hate and fear all cats. Now the animal is not only a cat. It is also evil, harmful,violent and dangerous. But are all cats really violent, harmful, evil and dangerous? Was the cat that bit you all of those things? Maybe it was scared or hurt and it was protecting itself?


The knowledge of cats  is no longer based on its true form. Now the knowledge of cats is infused with past pain and hurt causing a misconception of what a cat is. According to the Yoga Sutras, this is one of the fluctuations of the mind that a yogi seeks to be rid of.

 Openness means no conclusions – simply looking at everything the way it is. Sadhguru

Modern Day Application:

If we are not careful, it is easy to pick up many misconceptions about the world based on past pains and pleasure. As we move through the world, it is important to see things as they are and not how we want them to be or based on our past pains or hurts.

Why Is It Important:

If we harbor misconceptions, we can no longer see the world as it is. We cut ourselves off from pure enjoyment of life and the ability to just simply experience.  We cut ourselves off from things that could potentially be good for us because, due to our thoughts, we see it as bad. We allow things in that are bad for us because we lack the ability to see it for what it really is.

37 weeks Kapo (3)

I will demonstrate this with common misconceptions of Ashtanga Yoga.


Ashtanga is only for flexible people

Ashtanga is for young people

If I cannot do a certain pose, I cannot practice Ashtanga



All of these misconceptions came due to a belief that perfection of  asanas is the goal of the practice. Ashtanga yoga is about stilling the fluctuations of the mind. The asanas are a means to an end.  Some people can find this through a few sun salutes. Others need to put their leg behind their head.


Ashtanga hurts people 

Just like the example of the cat, this misconception came about because someone got hurt. A hammer is just a wood handle with a piece of metal on the end and a hook on the back. When we put a nail in the wall with it, we call it a “tool”. When the police find it at a crime scene covered in blood, they call it a “weapon”.  The hammer didn’t just jump off the wall and start banging things. It had to welded in someone’s hands.

Ashtanga is the same. The collection of poses and techniques are just theory until someone takes it and applies it to their body or their students. Ashtanga is an idea. Can you really see Ashtanga they way you can see a hammer on the wall? You can see humans behaving or moving  in a way that is in alignment with this thing we call Ashtanga. You cannot experience Ashtanga without humans.  Ashtanga is a direct result of who is using it.

People have been practicing this idea called Ashtanga yoga for many years with proven results. If can be done safely.
What are some other common misconceptions of Ashtanga Yoga?



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 [email protected]