In May, I started teaching a daily Mysore program at One Yoga. This took us from two morning Mysore classes and almost-daily led classes to SIX morning Mysore classes with the same number of led classes too. Over the past few months I’ve had some great conversations with students who are very dedicated to their Ashtanga practice and wondering how, or IF, they should increase the frequency of their practice.
Question: How often should I practice to be a good Ashtangi?
First of all, your level of commitment is really so much up to you. Practicing three times a week doesn’t make you a “bad” Ashtangi, and neither does six times a week make a “good” Ashtangi. In my opinion, if you are practicing in such a way that your awareness of your body, your mind and the world around you is getting sharper, then you are doing it right.
Beyond that, I will say, because it’s true, that this practice is meant to be a daily practice. If you want to get all the water out of this coconut, so to speak, you get on your mat every day.
But why do I have to practice every day?
First (maybe. I don’t know if there’s any order to these), because every day you feel a little different. Some days creaky, some days open. Some days you want to snap at everyone in your path, some days you’re Cinderella, singing with the birds. If you decide that you will practice three days this week, chances are that you’ll choose the days when you feel your best, amirite? And then you’re missing out on a great opportunity to watch what happens in your mind when your body isn’t behaving the way you think it should. Coming up against frustration, sluggishness, boredom, pain, this is often when you get the real benefits of practice. Because these are things that happen in your life too, right? And on the mat, you get to practice reacting to these feelings over and over and over again, which lets you detach a bit.. “Oh, ha, silly mind, getting frustrated by falling out of Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana.” Or, “How adorable. Look how my shoulders tense up when I don’t get this bind on the first try.” Or, “How cute, I’m getting frustrated by my husband’s inability to refill the Brita pitcher.” Or, you know, whatever.
Because the little things become even littler when you can just try again the next day. We only get five breaths in each pose. That is often not enough time to get to the absolute deepest expression of the pose. That’s ok. It’s on purpose. You can try more than one time, of course, in a Mysore-style class, but if you try too many times your teacher might come over (hi) and tell you to give it a rest. There is always tomorrow. When you practice once a week, it can feel like FOREVER until you get to try again, so you better strain and push and get all the way into it NOW. That doesn’t seem super safe, does it?
I don’t think I have the energy to practice every day.
Ultimately, we want this practice to accompany us the rest of our lives. If your practice is leaving you so depleted that you can’t fathom doing it more than two or three times a week, you might be doing too much. Talk to your teacher. Do a little less, a little more often. See what happens. Besides, a daily practice actually means five or six days per week. When you commit to this method, the days we DO have off mean so much more. Saturdays, moon days, ladies holidays: relish them! Sleep in. Take a salt bath. Take an oil bath. Do something relaxing and nourishing for yourself. For more info on when to take rest, take a look at this.
What about led classes?
They are important. In a led class you get to check yourself on correct vinyasa, see where you are taking too much time to get into poses, see where you are not spending enough time. A led class takes you out of the “this is the right pace for ME” mindset and challenges you to surrender to someone else’s rhythm. Generally my recommendation is to take one led class per week and Mysore classes the rest of the time. If your Mysore practice is right at the half- or full- primary mark, you could certainly take two or three half- or full-primary led classes, since your practice on those days would be the same as in the Mysore room. Consistency is good. Check out allll the led classes at One Yoga!
See you tomorrow.