by Shanna Small
In a traditional Ashtanga Yoga Mysore style class, it is up to the teacher to give a student poses. This tradition has been a source of contrition for the Western yoga community. We live in a society that says, when you want something you work hard and get it. You don’t have to wait on anyone to give it to you and you should go out and make your own fortune.
Submitting to the idea of waiting on a teacher to give you a pose, that you yourself feel that you are ready for, can be frustrating and difficult. To practice Ashtanga in this traditional way, means putting full faith in the teacher’s judgement. If you have a good Ashtanga teacher that you trust, but you still are not being given the poses you want, these may be the reasons why.
You Want It To Much
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali states that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. A yogi is to have calmness in any situation. The teacher may sense your agitation and use this as an opportunity to learn about stilling the mind.
As you progress through a sequence, the poses get progressively harder and then peak. Each sequence itself, is progressively harder than the one before it.
A good teacher understands the purpose of each pose and how it relates to the poses around it and the ones that are coming. They know that each pose prepares you for the next. They may chose to not give you more poses because they feel that your body is not ready for the next major asana or that you don’t have the strength to do the exit or entrance.
Your Mind is Not Ready
Many yoga poses bring up intense emotions. The yoga teacher may not give you the next pose because they do not feel you are mentally ready for what is coming.
The book, Guruji,tells of many instances where Pattabhi Jois held students back, ignored students or made them sit and watch if their ego was out of control. If the teacher feels that your sense of self is wrapped up in the poses, they may chose to not give you the next pose.
Ashtanga requires a strong free breath with sound. Your teacher may stop you because they want you to be able to breathe freely in your current poses before they give you new ones.
The tradition of Ashtanga is about dedication. If your practice is inconsistent, your teacher may chose to not give you any more poses until you dedicate yourself to the practice.
If you have an injury, the teacher may feel that going on to the next poses may make it worse.
The teacher may feel that you are pushing to much and that you need to learn how to soften your practice before moving on.
You may be fully capable of moving through the poses but to do too many may cause you to be overwhelmed and stressed out. This is especially true of new students who come from other forms of yoga, gymnastics, dance or sports that require high degrees of flexibility. You may have the ability to do the whole sequence but it is best to learn a little bit at a time.
If you are taking a lot of breaks and your breath is short and shallow, the teacher my want you to build your stamina before being given any more poses.
Do any teachers have anything to add to the list? Are you a student and you feel that you are being held back? Comment Below
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.