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Tips For Ashtangis Without Regular Teachers

By Shanna Small

Though Ashtanga has grown in popularity, there are still pockets of the world where there are no teachers and many practice alone. Below are things that home practitioners deal with and ways to cope and overcome so that you have a strong healthy practice. crowwithlotus

Boredom/Lack of Motivation/Distraction

Set a time and stick to it-make it a no brainer that you don’ t even have to think about like brushing your teeth

Just get on your mat-No matter what your mind is saying, just get on your mat. Do it anyway

Set Up a dedicated space-chose a space that is free from distraction. Decorate it, get space heaters and make it special

Make it a kid free, pet free and lover free zone-A have a cat, dog, kid and a husband. They are so cute and who wants to lock them out? You must. padmasana3

Music-I know this is sacrilegious but it can really get you hype and pumped when your energy is low. Practice without it as much as you can but if you have to make the choice between an awesome practice with music and a crappy practice without it…well…you decide.

Take another type of yoga class-another sacrilege but see it like a vacation.  You know how you are always so happy to be back in your own bed when it is over? Changing it up every now and then gives you an appreciation of your own life. The same can happen for your practice.

Yoga Videos/Apps-There are many yoga videos by certified and authorized Ashtanga teachers like David Garrigues, Kino Macgregor and David Swenson that can help you stay motivated. You can also find full length videos on YouTube and sites like Yoga Vibes. Michael Gannon and one or two others have also created apps for Apple and Android devices that can be used as well.

Set a Yoga Play Date-Hook up with another Ashtangi in the community and practice together. hanumanasana

Lack of Results/Growth

Learn To Self Assist-below are some self assist techniques

Long holds-Gravity, your nervous system and your breath will slowly take you deeper.  Come into the pose, and on each exhale, see if your body will drop deeper into the pose. When you body has gone as deep as it can,  hold the pose for 5  more breaths.

Use the Wall-Do the pose first without the wall so that it does not become a crutch and you develop the proper muscles to do it unassisted. Then take your mat to the wall and you can  use it to catch you in arm balances, get you deeper in backbends, open up hamstrings and hips and much more. For ideas, visit You Tube and do a search for whatever pose you are working on.

Use Props-yep, another sacrilege. However, when at home, they can replace the hands of a teacher. For instance, if your teacher clasps your hands for you in binds, you can use a towel and slowly breath by breath walk your hands closer. For ideas, visit You Tube. IMG_6231_web

Yoga Play Day-Pick one day a week to really focus on a skill or pose. Start with sun salutes, then do poses that open you up and prepare you for the pose you are working on. These may be poses from other styles of yoga or other series. Then when the body is nice and open, use your wall, props and breath to work on your chosen skill and pose. Close it up with some counter poses, back bends, closing series and Svasana.

For example, if you are having trouble with full lotus. Warm up by going through sun salutes and standing. Move into pigeon, double pigeon, wide leg straddle, baddha konasana and frog pose. Holding each for about a minute. Do some of the half lotus forward folds from primary series, then do half lotus on both sides a few times. Then move into full lotus. Do some back bends, closing and svasana.

Go To an Ashtanga Workshop-get on the mailing list for studios in neighboring cities or states that host certified and authorized Ashtanga teachers and plan to attend at least one a year.

Go To Mysore and Practice With Sharath or Saraswati-you can’t get any better then this

You Tube-Teachers like David Garrigues and Kino MacGregor regularly post video tutorials with tips to rock out your poses 023

Ask a Question-you would be amazed at which yoga celebrities will actually answer your questions. I am not naming any names because I don’t want them to get bombarded but I have done this several times and EVERY SINGLE TIME they answered within 24-48 hours.  The key is to send them a direct e-mail or direct message. If you comment on a post, blog, page or video, you may get lost.

Go To Another Type of  Yoga Class/Workshop From Time To Time-Again sacrilegious. However, many yoga traditions practice Ashtanga poses just in different orders. They may be able to give you tips to help with things you are stuck in.

Do you have any tips for home practitioners?



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