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

On the ish List: Yoga Body and the Ashtanga Teacher Training Program

It is almost New Year’s. Ads for programs that promise positive change for 2016 are everywhere. I can’t log into Facebook without seeing the sponsored ad promising the “yoga body” or a plug to become a “Certified Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher”. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid or buy the snake oil. Beware of the two things below.


Yoga Body Diet/Fitness Plan

What is a yoga body and who defines that? I did a search on Google for “yoga body”.  This is one of the pictures. All the pictures looked similar to this. If you don’t believe me, do a search yourself.  This is model Miranda Kerr. Under the pintrest account I pulled it from, it says, “the yoga body I want”. So obviously, people have some type of idea of what that is.



Miranda is beautiful. Kudos to her. Many people, who practice yoga, do look like this. Kudos to them. The male picture below came from “Body by Yoga”.




Kudos to him. He looks awesome. I know many guys, who practice yoga, who look like him as well. However, If I had to define a yoga body, and I don’t, but I am going to humor myself, I would choose pictures from the foremost teachers on yoga, Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya, BKS Iyengar and Gita Iyengar. After all, modern yoga is based on their teachings and they lived the yoga life.








They all look wonderful but lets be serious, do you really think anyone would chose someone who looked like either of them for a “yoga body” ad? The  reality is that the yoga body is pretty ordinary. You have a few outliers who look like Miranda or the buff dude, but honestly, I think they would have been outliers if they would have been doing some other physical activity like body building, dancing or cross fit.

When I first started teaching yoga, a beautiful black female basketball player came to see me. She was built like Serena Williams.  She had big strong legs and a muscular build. She told me that she wanted me to teach her yoga because she wanted a “yoga body”. I was like, “what do you mean?” She said she wanted a long lean body like a dancer. I told her that yoga was not going to get her that. An eating disorder coupled with an insane amount of cardio might but she would have to be willing to lose muscle and the powerful body that allowed her to excel in basketball.  Essentially, the way her body was built, would make it almost impossible.

Yoga is about balance. So physically speaking, a yoga body, if we just have to define it,  is a balanced body. It is a body that is nourished from the inside out. It is strong and flexible. It is light enough to float, twist and support its own weight. That body could look like Serena Williams, Miranda Kerr or Geeta Iyengar. In Ashtanga, if you can bind in Marichi D and still breathe and make it through a traditional guided full primary without taking a break or skipping a pose, chances are, your body is a “yoga body”.

To get out of the physical realm, anyone who practices, as the Yoga Sutras says,  (you might fail miserably but you try) abiding in their true nature, has a yoga body too.

Geeta Iyengar
Geeta Iyengar

Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training

The only way to get certified is through Sharath Jois or Pattabhi Jois, who has left his body,  in Mysore. Period. There is no teacher training program. You just go as a student, if Sharath wants you to teach, he will let you know. Some people have even asked him up front but there was definitely  not a 200 hour Yoga Alliance $2500 program associated with it.

You may run into these gray areas:

Ashtanga based Vinyasa/Hatha yoga  teacher training

Ashtanga Apprenticeship

Ashtanga training program

Asthanga Intensive

These programs are somewhat clear that they are not certifying you in Ashtanga. I say somewhat because someone who is fairly new to yoga, won’t know the difference. However, if you run into anyone saying they can straight up certify you in Ashtanga Yoga in the lineage of Pattabhi Jois, RUN. Really fast. Really far. This person either A. knows nothing about Ashtanga Yoga and you don’t want to learn from them or B. Is just totally disrespecting the lineage and why would you want to study Ashtanga with someone who totally disregards the lineage?



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


  • Kacey Neckowitz

    Re: Teacher Training

    I agree the lineage originates in Mysore, I’m just wondering if Tim Miller’s teacher trainings fall under your “RUN. Really fast. Really Far” category. I’ve only practiced with him once, but I wouldn’t categorize him as either A (knowing nothing about Ashtanga) or B (someone who totally disregards the lineage).

    Some caveats: I have no desire to attend ANY yoga teacher training and am not sure I will ever make it to Mysore once, let alone the number of years it may take for Sharath to authorize someone. I don’t disagree with you, I’m just wondering about your thoughts regarding the trainings out of Carlsbad.


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