Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive. Thanks for asking!
What is ashtanga and, um, how do you say it?
Ashtanga (pronounced ash-tonga) is a Sanskrit word meaning 8 limbs. These limbs offer one direction on the path to self-realization. One of the limbs is asana, which is another word for the physical postures we have come to associate with yoga in the western world. Sri K Pattabhi Jois developed ashtanga yoga as a system that combines the 8 limbs using movement, breath and mental focus as a way to inner clarity.
In ashtanga we learn a set series of postures. One memorizes the postures and, by repeating them regularly, gains strength, flexibility and the ability to go within and explore the deeper layers of consciousness.
Is this hot yoga?
Ashtanga is a very active form of yoga that is designed to build heat and energy internally, producing a cleansing sweat to help clear the body of impurities. Ashtanga yoga is not “hot yoga”. The phrase “hot yoga” is typically used to refer to styles modeled after Bikram yoga where studios are heated to more than 100 degrees.
Yoga has come to be associated with flexibility but there is far more to it than that. At its root yoga is about being aware of and accepting of wherever you are at at the present moment and not judging it as good or bad. As ashtanga teacher David Swenson says, “The real yoga is what we cannot see.”
Patthabi Jois was fond of saying, “weak body, weak mind.” Ashtanga challenges a person to make their body strong and flexible but also not to be attached to the idea of being either of these. Ultimately, the practice is designed to use the body to shape the mind by developing focus and shinning a light on our inner selves.
Is yoga a religion?
No. Yoga teaches one how to unite body, breath and mind in order to live fully in the present moment. It does not dictate that you believe in a particular god or any god. Because of this, it has been adopted by people of different religious faiths around the world for centuries.