Alignment and Injuries,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy

Can Older People Do Ashtanga?

Note: the pictures on this page were chosen at random and not based on age.

Written by Shanna Small

Someone came to the APP (Ashtanga Picture Project) yesterday asking, can older people do Ashtannga? The answer is Yes, Yes, YES!

Contrary to popular belief, Ashtanga is one of the most highly adaptable forms of yoga out there. Where did the confusion come from?  Most people come to Ashtanga through guided classes. Guided classes were never designed for new students. They are for current  students(that practice Mysore style already)  who know the sequence. Guided classes are rigid and set because they are about proper counting, proper breathing, proper vinyasas and flow. Sharath, the lineage holder for Ashtanga yoga,  has even said in conference, that they are hard and that students should take an hours rest afterwards! Check out Priyas Yoga Blog for conference transcripts.

While you can find guided classes in non traditional studios that claim to be geared towards beginners and may actually be beneficial, just keep in mind that , they were never meant to be used that way. If they are too tough, before you give up, find a good Mysore class and commit to doing it consistently for at least 6 weeks and you will see results.

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Mysore style is the main method for practicing and learning Ashtanga yoga. In Mysore, a student does one guided class a week and 5 Mysore classes. Mysore style is learning one on one in a group setting. This is perfect for aging bodies.

Another source of confusion is media.  I try my best to run a diverse platform, but the majority of the pictures and videos  out there are of people 40 and lower. However, if you search through the portfolio, videos and blogs of this site, you will see Ashtangis of all ages.  You do not have to do all the craziness you see on Instagram. Don’t let that scare you. Ashtanga can be adapted for anyone’s needs.

 

Why Mysore Style Ashtanga is Perfect For Aging Bodies

 

Adaptable-A good teacher can modify poses, shorten the sequence,  teach breathing and meditation techniques that are perfect for whatever you may be going through.  You can literally walk into the room each day, tell them what is going on with you and they can adjust your practice accordingly. triangle5

The Sky is the Limit-If you are in good health and are athletic and able, a good Ashtanga teacher will let you soar regardless of your age. There are plenty of people in their fifties and beyond doing handstands and putting their legs behind their head. If the desire is strong they will teach you.

Move at Your Own Pace-you learn and move at your own pace. You don’t have to keep up with anyone

You Can Practice It At Home-having a tough day health wise? Can’t make it to the studio? You can take your practice home with you. That is one of the beauties of a set sequence. The sequence your teacher gives you is uniquely yours with a few variables changing from time to time based on what is going on with you.  You can memorize it and do it in the comfort of your own home.

Moderate Temperature: Hot yoga is popular these days and many older people can not tolerate those temperatures. Even in classes that are advertised as cooler, many  studios will still be upwards of 90 degrees. Most Ashtanga classes are no higher then 80-85 degrees which is warm enough to get your muscles moving but not too hot.

If You Want Spiritual Instead of Physical-Ashtanga is a complete system that brings inner and outer peace with an established framework. If  your life is moving towards the spiritual and away from the physical, a good teacher can introduce you to the 8 limbs and the spiritual side of the practice.

Helps Preserve Memory Function and Keep the Brain Sharp-Ashtanga advocates memorization of the sequence, breath counts and vinyasas and you guide yourself through your learned sequence.  Many studies have shown that a stimulated brain is less likely to suffer from age related memory and cognitive issues.

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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 shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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