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Ask the APP: Not Enough Strength for Ashtanga?

The APP was asked about lack of strength. This is a popular picture that circulates around the internet and this question is in the same vein. (I have no clue who made this picture).



You gain the strength from the practice. 

There is also this question that applies, “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” What came first, the strength or the yoga? Doesn’t matter.

Ashtanga Yoga will bring out your weaknesses and give you the tools to build it up-this is what I love about this yoga and this is the reason many people hate it. In Ashtanga, you cannot avoid what you don’t like.  If you aren’t strong, strength poses are coming. If you hate backbends, backbends are coming. If your hamstrings are tight, hamstring stretches are coming.  You have two choices in Ashtanga, you can come face to face with your weaknesses, or you can quit. A good teacher will not allow you to go any further in the practice until you do. They will not allow you to skip it. Unless you have health problems or  irreparable damage to your body, they will not allow you to stick with modifications forever. You will become strong.titibhasana9813

Do Your Practice and All is Coming-you work on strength from day one. Sun Salutes are the first thing that every student learns and they contain push ups and floats.

Set Your Foundation-the foundation for all the poses in your practice comes from Sun Salutes. Many people come into Ashtanga and they want to “get up to speed” or learn the sequence quickly only to plateau and struggle later. Many teachers will teach them  most of Primary series in the first few weeks for fear that they will get frustrated and not come back. However, trust the process.  Ashtanga is set up so that the previous poses prepares you  for the next. Build a strong foundation in the poses that you already do so  you are ready for the ones that come later. If you work Sun Salutes properly, you will have amazing strength and flexibility.

Sun Salute A Contains 

Backbends (urdvha Muka Svanasana) which is the precursor to urdhva dhanurasana later


Floats (going from urdhva uttanasana to chatarunga and from Adho Mukha Svanasana to the front of the mat) that are the precursor to jump backs, arm balances and handstands

Strength (in chatarunga and adho Mukha Svanasana)



Breath Control

Mind Control


Hamstring Openers( uttanasana and adho mukha svanasana)


Most people miss out on the strength and flexibility that come in Sun Salutes because they see them as a means to an end. They are seen as just warm ups for the poses they really want to do. However, if you see them as a practice onto themselves and work every movement, they will prepare you for poses to come.

Trust the process

All those amazing yogis you see on You Tube worked hard to get where they are. You have to work too.

If you want to build strength for Ashtangawarrior23

Do more Ashtanga! Practice, Practice Practice

Do not skimp on the precursors-If you work the series right, before you get to your first jump back and jump through, you have already become strong in floating and holding yourself up on Sun salutes. Before you do your first full arm balance, you have already gotten strong in jump through and jump backs. Before you do your first wheel, you have done up dog thousands of times. Slow down and work on the precursors.

Got an Ashanga question? Ask it, we will feature it on the blog. If I cannot answer it, I will find someone that can. Send questions to



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

One Comment

  • Scott

    I was taught Ashtanga in 1993 by a student of Jois, he told me that often, when faced with a student with serious challenges, like being seriously overweight, he would just assign them an hour’s practice of sun salutes.

    And I think you’re right about the foundational aspects. Can’t remember where I read it, one of these blogs, where it said that often the practice is sped up for westerners, and that there were a few Indian students who were taught, presumably by Jois at his shala, the more traditional Indian way. They did nothing but sun salutes and the standing poses for a long time, but in just a few years they were already on the third series.

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