Ashtanga Adaptability,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Number One Reason People Don’t Like Mysore Style Ashtanga

The number 1 reason I get for why people don’t practice Mysore Style Ashtanga is, “I don’t want to think”.  It’s an honest answer. Its real.  I am thankful to everyone who has the courage to say it.What does not thinking really mean?

When people say they don’t want to think, I sometimes ask them to expound on it. Upon digging deeper, these are the themes that keep coming up.

Want to take their minds off their life

When people want to take their minds off their life, they are really wanting to let go of their suffering. You don’t want to take your mind off of awesome stuff, right?  Suffering is caused by mental fluctuations. Depending on who you talk to, the second verse in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali defines yoga as ” freedom from all non essential thought” or  “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”.

We have the intellect and the capability to think because it is useful. Yoga is not about the absence of thinking, it is about getting rid of non essential thinking.  Non essential thought is what causes the mind to fluctuate. The Yoga Sutras then goes on to state what these fluctuations are and why they need to go. I go into detail on these in the Yoga Sutras for Modern Day Life column, so I won’t do it here. These need to go because they cause suffering. Yoga is meant to give us freedom from suffering.



The yoga is not meant to distract us from the fluctuations. Distraction is temporary. Yoga is presenting a permanent solution to suffering. Suffering happens because there is a disconnect between who we are and what we are doing or thinking. Yoga is about stilling the fluctuations so you can see who you are and connect to that. To do that, you have to first see what is blocking your connection. Yoga brings that stuff up so you can get rid of it.

Yoga is the opposite of distraction. Yoga is saying, “there it is, now look at it.”  Distraction has its benefits. Trust me. I understand what it means to be hit so hard by life that distraction feels like the only way to get out of your head for a little bit and to reset. I use my fair share of distractions. Yes, even sometimes, yoga is one of them. However, this is not the purpose of yoga.

Not Ready to Commit

When you get serious about Ashtanga, your lifestyle has to change. You can’t stay up late and get up early for practice. You can’t get drunk and practice in the morning. You can’t over eat and bind, float or invert. You can’t practice inconsistently and still make progress. As you get deeper into the non physical limbs,your priorities might shift.  I get it. If you are not ready, you are not ready.

Don’t Want to Memorize the Sequence

K. I get it. You got enough on your plate. I will say this.  Once you memorize it, it is memorized. It is not like you have to memorize a different sequence every week for the rest of your life. . The most memorization you will do is during the first 2 weeks or so, after that, it slows down and you get a pose here or there.

Want To Be Told What To Do

This one is kind of funny to me. Ashtanga tells you what to do! Ashtanga tells you where to place your feet, where to breathe, where to move, what poses to do, how long to hold them etc. Ashtanga is so detailed that it has a count that goes with every movement!!!! Ashtanga is the ultimate yoga for people who want to be told what to do!

Don’t Want to Think…Literally…

Scientists like Steven Hawking and Einstein were thinking. Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright Brothers were thinking. To do the physical practice of Ashtanga, you just need to memorize a sequence. You don’t need to think about the sequence. You don’t have to even really understand the sequence. All you have to do is memorize it and execute it….consistently.  The benefits come from those two simple steps.

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