• How to do Surya Namaskar B (Sun Salutation B)

    Learning how to do Surya Namaskar B isn’t as difficult as you might think. In this tutorial, we give you video lessons that break down the individual poses, so you know exactly how to do Sun Salutation B. You’ll learn how to do each pose in the sequence correctly, and then follow along with the video that ties all of the poses together for you at the end of this post.

    If you already know how to do Surya Namaskar A, you’re well on your way to knowing how to do Surya Namaskar B. Sun Salutation B adds a few more poses to the sequence to ignite that inner fire and build heat in your body.

    In the beginning, you’ll take time to learn each individual pose. Once you can flow through the poses from memory, you will be able to do the poses with the corresponding breaths.

    Let’s start from the beginning and take you through each pose in Surya Namaskar B in order. Follow along with the video instructions to give you a better understanding of the pose. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find a full practice of the sequence that you can practice with.

    Samasthiti (Mountain Pose)

    Stand at the top of your mat with your feet together and your arms at your sides.

    Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

    From mountain pose inhale and sink down into chair pose by bending your knees like you are going to sit down. Bring your palms together over your head and look up at your thumbs.

    Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

    Exhale and straighten your legs. Fold your torso forward over your thighs into standing forward bend pose. Bend from your hips. You can bring your hands to the floor, or if you can’t reach the floor, place your hands on your shins.

    Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Bend)

    From uttanasana, inhale and straighten your back, coming up onto your fingertips if your hands are on the floor and look forward. You can bend your knees slightly if you need to.

    Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

    Exhale and place your palms flat on the floor. Step back into plank pose and lower down like you are going to do a push-up. This is chaturanga dandasana. Keep your elbows close to your body and stay broad through the collarbone.

    Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

    Inhale and point your feet behind you and straighten your arms to come up into upward facing dog. Your legs are engaged. Your knees and pelvis are off of the ground.

    Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

    Exhale and roll your toes over. Send your hips back and up to downward facing dog. Straighten your legs and bring your heels down into the ground.

    Virabhadrasana A (Warrior I)

    Inhale and step your right foot forward between your hands. Rise up into warrior I pose.

    Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

    Exhale and step back to chaturanga dandasana.

    Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

    Inhale and move into upward facing dog again.

    Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

    Exhale and return to downward facing dog.

    Virabhadrasana A (Warrior I)

    Now inhale and repeat warrior I but on the left side, so step your left foot forward.

    Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

    Exhale and step back to chaturanga dandasana.

    Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)

    Inhale and move into upward facing dog again.

    Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

    Exhale and return to downward facing dog. Stay in this pose for five breaths. Allow yourself to settle into the pose. Check in with your breath and make sure it is steady and even.

    Ardha Uttanasana (Half Forward Bend)

    Inhale and step forward, returning to half forward bend.

    Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

    Exhale and bend from your hips into standing forward fold. Now that you’re warm, you’ll find that you’re a bit more flexible.

    Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

    Inhale and return to chair pose.

    Samasthiti (Mountain Pose)

    Exhale and end the sequence by returning to mountain pose.

    Repeat this sequence of poses as many times as you like. You can follow along with this video to see how all of the poses fit together.

  • Cultural Appropriation in the Ashtanga Yoga Community

    It’s no longer considered ok to make fun of women, or the LGBTQ community, or other social or cultural identities like Black people or people of Chinese descent. So why is making fun of the Indian accent ok? Is it considered lighthearted fun, or just a joke?

    I am the child of immigrant parents. My parents were born and raised in Sri Lanka and my father’s extended family is from South India. We came to the US when I was 9 months old. As a result, I don’t have an accent. Or rather, I have an American accent.

    I am also a yoga teacher in the Ashtanga method and have been practicing solely Ashtanga yoga for the past 12 years. I love the Ashtanga system and method of teaching, however, I don’t love the habit many teachers have of imitating the Indian accent. In fact, I find this mimicry confusing, unnerving and frankly offensive.

    Ashtanga is a very traditional system, which originated in Mysore India from Krishnamacharya and Sri. K. Patthabi Jois. The Jois family has developed a credentialing system of authorizing teachers who are able to teach this method. For some reason, many of these “Authorized” teachers have adopted mimicking the accent, mannerisms, and intonation of Patthabi Jois as part of their teaching and in some cases they have adopted parts of the Indian culture as their lifestyle.

    I have been conditioned to accept this habit of imitating the Indian accent for the past 53 years of my life. White people think it’s funny, or charming perhaps, while I was raised to grow a “thicker skin” and ignore it. My parents would tell me that people were being “silly” and I shouldn’t let it bother me. But, after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, the ensuing wave of protests against systemic racism and the treatment of Black and brown people in this country, and spending almost every day in the summer of 2020 marching in protests with my adult daughters for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless others killed because of their race, I can’t sit back and accept this seemingly benign habit any longer. There is no reason for Ashtanga teachers to put on a false accent to somehow accentuate their teaching. It doesn’t add anything to the student’s understanding of the practice, or the posture.
    What it does is make a mockery of the Indian people.

    The first weekend of February, 2022, I attended a much anticipated Ashtanga workshop. Since I have been a longtime fan of this popular Ashtanga teacher, I encouraged all of my students to attend as well. Several of them took my advice and registered for the workshop. As we started the Mysore portion of the workshop I could hear this teacher go around the room adjusting people and giving them instruction. I was shocked to hear that she was imitating an Indian accent! I felt myself bristle and thought to myself, is this really happening? Haven’t these teachers learned not to do this? Somehow, in the absence of in-person instruction during the pandemic, I’d forgotten that Ashtanga teachers would commonly pepper this type of speech into their instruction.

    Several days after the workshop I still couldn’t shake how upset this behavior made me. One of my students even reached out to me to express some concern and ask my thoughts. I responded by explaining that I didn’t not agree with how the accent was used

    and was embarrassed for having recommended the workshop in the first place. The more I sat with it the more I decided I had to act: I called the teacher personally to explain how offensive I found her imitation of Patthabi Jois. She was extremely apologetic and stated that she did it out of reverence or homage to her teacher. She maintained it was a form of “cultural appreciation.” She never dreamt it was offensive in any way. She mentioned that she liked to speak in the voice of her teacher to honor him. I found her response very confusing, because it doesn’t actually improve her teaching, or imbue it with any additional information to help a student learn. For example, saying, “backbend, you do,” while mimicking the Indian “head wobble” doesn’t actually help a student do a backbend. Clearly it’s done with the intention of lightening the mood and making some students laugh, but I don’t find it funny, I find it disrespectful. I believe this to be offensive and racist behavior.

    After speaking with me, this teacher also wrote an apology to my students who are of South Asian descent. I have shared it with them. I think this was very magnanimous of her and she did it of her own volition. But, it still leaves me confused. Why is this considered ok in the first place? I did some research and apparently, Indians are one of the last acceptable groups of people to poke fun at. It’s no longer considered ok to make fun of women, or the LGBTQ community, or other social or cultural identities like Black people or people of Chinese descent. So why is making fun of the Indian accent ok? Is it considered lighthearted fun, or just a joke? Comedian Hari Kondabolu asserts in his documentary, THE PROBLEM with Apu, “It’s not a joke, it’s racist.”

    Graphics Coordinator, Sharada Vishwanath states, ``When people imitate accents, they often include stigmas about the race, ethnicity or culture which they are mocking.” I believe this to be the case here.

    Cultural appropriation is defined by Britannica.com as “when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way.” I believe this is exactly what is happening when Ashtanga teachers mimic the way Indians speak when they teach.

    Yoga is something that is already culturally appropriated. It is an ancient Indian practice that the Western world has adopted, co-opted, and converted into a multi-million dollar industry. Yoga teachers claim they are not appropriating the culture, rather they are appreciating the culture. Yoga teachers claim to have a deep reverence for Indian culture and the origins of yoga. But, non-Indian and non-South-Asian teachers are making a living and profiting from something that is not their culture, and therefore not theirs to own. It is an example of the white dominant culture taking something from a minority culture and branding it as their own which is, by definition, Appropriation.

    Cultural appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally. Appropriation, on the other hand, is simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest.
    Kelsey Holmes, Greenheart International

    Ashtanga teachers specifically claim to have this great reverence for Indian culture in general. They perform Hindu rituals, and dress as if they are native Indians in a Sari or Punjabi leggings. They wear Bindis and have henna artists at their gatherings. This cultural appropriation is problematic to say the least. But I have to draw the line at the mimicry of the voice of the teacher.

    As Yoga teachers, I think we need to look at how we are teaching yoga and see if we need to change the way we transmit information to our students. Take a look at how you speak and pass on the lineage of Ashtanga. Pay attention to see if you are perpetuating a cycle of cultural appropriation or mimicry simply because that is how you were taught. Here are some tips to help you analyze your teaching style.

    1. Examine your own culture. Meditate on how you speak and learn. Would you be offended if someone mimicked your culture in order to teach? Are you doing something for your own ego, or to get a laugh? Will it really help people learn?

    2. Consider the context and how the material you are sharing can help your student learn. Does telling a story about Pattahabi Jois need to be told in his vernacular? Is the same information able to be conveyed in your own words?

    3. “Be impeccable with your word” – The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

    a. Does what you are saying help a student learn? Impeccable meaning the intention behind what you are saying. Typically in a Mysore room there is very little speaking. So what you do say should be intentional towards helping a student with their practice. Ask yourself, does making a joke serve you, the teacher, or your student?

    Works cited and referenced:

    1. The Problem with Apu. Directed by Michael Melamedoff, Avalon Media November, 19, 2017

    2. Jaini, Prav, “YES, MOCKING INDIAN ACCENTS IS RACIST,” Socialworker.org, 2017
    https://socialistworker.org/2017/11/22/yes-mocking-indian-accents-is-racist

    3. Vishvanath, Sharada. “Mocking accents spreads unjust, offensive stereotypes,”arhsharbinger.com, May 29, 2019,
    Mocking accents spreads unjust, offensive stereotypes – THE ALGONQUIN HARBINGER.

    4. Brittanica.com, “What is cultural appropriation?” https://www.britannica.com/story/what-is-cultural-appropriation

    5. Holmes, Kelsey,“Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation: Why it Matters” 2017 Cultural Appreciation vs. Cultural Appropriation: Why it Matters | Greenheart International

    6. Ruiz, Don Miguel, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book), Amber-Allen Publishing, Incorporated (July 10, 2018)

    By Anusha Moore

     

    Anusha Moore discovered yoga 20 years ago while searching for a physical complement to her ballet training. She wanted something that would enhance her technique and strengthen her body. Ashtanga Yoga was a natural fit; the discipline and dedication she forged in years of dance found a new home in developing her daily practice. After her first class, she realized Yoga presented so much more than simply a way to cross-train; she felt the spiritual awakening that comes with setting an intention for the practice in every class.

    Anusha received her 200-hour teacher training from At One Yoga in 2004 and completed her 300-hour certification with Dave and Cheryl Oliver in 2012. Anusha is the mother of two adult daughters who humble her every day with their wisdom and fierce independence.

    Anusha Moore is an Ashtanga Yoga teacher based in Phoenix, Arizona. She teaches daily Mysore-style classes and leads a weekly primary series class via Zoom. She can be found on Facebook at Phoenix Ashtanga Studies and on Instagram @phoenix_ashtanga_studies. All are
    welcome to study with her and the community she practices with.

    Photo by Samantha Sheppard on Unsplash

  • Ashtanga Yoga: Everything You Need to Know

    “Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind. Then there is abiding in the Seer’s own form.”
    ― The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


    Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic form of yoga that combines breathwork, movement, and meditation. In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about Ashtanga Yoga and answer common questions like “What is Ashtanga?” and “How often should I practice?” We will also explore the benefits of starting an Ashtanga Yoga practice and offer tips for beginners who want to start practicing at home!

    What is Ashtanga Yoga?

    Ashtanga yoga is a system of yoga that originates in India. The word Ashtanga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It refers to the eight steps or principles of Yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras about 2,000 years ago. The first four steps are moral guidelines for living a good life, while the last four are techniques for mastering the mind and body.

    The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are :

    1. Yama: Moral guidelines for living a good life. This includes ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (not stealing), and brahmacharya (sexual restraint).
    2. Niyama: Personal observances to help you live a good life, such as saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), and svadhyaya (self-study).
    3. Asana: The physical postures of yoga.
    4. Pranayama: Control of the breath.
    5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses.
    6. Dharana: Concentration or focus.
    7. Dhyana: Meditation.
    8. Samadhi: Liberation or enlightenment.

    This yoga method is based on a set sequence of poses referred to as a series that is repeated each time you practice. Think of it as a kind of moving meditation. Your movements are coordinated with your breath as a way to steady and calm the mind.

    There are six series in Ashtanga. The Primary Series, Second Series, Third Series, Fourth Series, and Fifth Series are all considered “mainstream” series. There is also a Sixth Series known as the Advanced A Series. This series is taught to advanced practitioners only.

    Most people start with the Primary Series and work their way up. “The Primary Series” or “Yoga Chikitsa” detoxifies and strengthens the body, improving flexibility and overall health. The sequence is designed to be learned gradually, over time, as students progress in their practice.

    How is Ashtanga different from vinyasa yoga?

    Ashtanga yoga is a disciplined form of vinyasa yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures. One of the major things that sets Ashtanga apart from vinyasa yoga is the emphasis on yoga as a lifestyle. Ashtanga yoga is more than physical exercise. It is a lifestyle meant to bring you inner peace by integrating the principles of the eight limbs into your life.

    Ashtanga uses a three-pronged approach to the practice called the Tristhana Method. This method teaches us how to concentrate our attention by using a combination of the breath, postures, and a single point of focus called the Drishti.

    Who invented Ashtanga Yoga?

    Sri K. Pattabhi Jois created the Ashtanga method based on what he learned from his teacher,Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya based his teachings on the teachings of Vamana Rishi.

    Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga for the first time in 1948 in Mysore, India.

    What is a Mysore style class?

    Mysore refers to the city in India where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. In a Mysore yoga class, there is no teacher-led instruction. Instead, students work through a series of memorized yoga postures on their own while the teacher circulates around the classroom providing assistance and instruction to individuals as needed.

    What are the benefits of learning Ashtanga Yoga?

    There are many benefits to this practice. Some of the most notable include:

    • Improved flexibility
    • Improved strength and endurance
    • Detoxification of the body
    • Improved mental clarity and focus
    • Improved breathing
    • Increased energy
    • Better sleep
    • Improved concentration and focus
    • Reduced stress and anxiety
    • Improved cardiovascular health
    • Greater sense of well-being and contentment

    Who can practice Ashtanga yoga?

    Anyone can practice Ashtanga, regardless of age or fitness level. It is important to start slowly and build up your practice over time. The poses practiced in Ashtanga can all be modified to make the practice accessible to you no matter what your physical ability. If you are new to the practice, be sure to seek guidance from an experienced teacher.

    How Often should I practice?

    The traditional recommendation is to practice six days a week and to rest on the seventh day.

    When should I practice?

    Most people practice in the morning, but it can be practiced at any time of the day.

    Can I practice at home?

    Yes, you can! In fact, many people find it helpful to practice at home when they are first starting out. Omstars offers a number of resources including beginner Ashtanga yoga classes for people who are just starting out on their Ashtanga journey.

    Are there any risks associated with practicing Ashtanga Yoga?

    Like any physical activity, there are some risks associated with practicing Ashtanga yoga. It is important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. If you have any health concerns, please consult a doctor before starting or continuing your practice. When you practice always listen to your body and avoid pushing it beyond its limit.

    Advice for starting an Ashtanga yoga practice …

    If you are new to Ashtanga yoga, be sure to seek guidance from an experienced teacher. Start slowly and build up your practice over time. The poses can all be modified to make the practice accessible to you no matter what your physical ability. Practice six days a week for best results. Try practicing in the morning for the most peaceful and energized experience. Be sure to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. If you have any health concerns, consult a doctor before starting or continuing your practice.

    You can watch this intro to Ashtanga class to get you started.

    If you’re ready to start your Ashtanga yoga journey sign up for a free trial with Omstars today. With regular practice, you will soon see and feel the many benefits of Ashtanga yoga in your own body and mind. Namaste!

  • Moving Into Intermediate Series: When Are You Ready?

    If you have been doing the same primary series practice every day for many years, it can be incredibly helpful to re-inspire your connection to your yoga and your body by exploring something new.

    In the Ashtanga method of yoga asana, progression is traditionally guided by an instructor, someone who has an established relationship with the student and an understanding of the student’s body and practice over an extended period of time as well as circumstances beyond the body that may have an effect on the practice. But for many of us, there is very little tradition in the way we’ve been approaching our practice lately.

    When life forces us into a primarily home practice, or even just an unpredictable routine, and we are our own guides through our yoga, it can be hard to know when it is time to move forward, particularly when contemplating the shift into the intermediate series. But there are some cues that will give you insight into whether or not it is time to make that leap. And I know, it can definitely feel like quite a leap.

    When to start Ashtanga intermediate series?

    One of the first things to consider is the quality of your primary series practice. While it is important to have regular and consistent experiences with all of the postures of primary series before moving forward, it is more than just being able to do them. It is also about how the nervous system is experiencing the practice. Erratic breathing, pounding heart, shaking muscles, an energetic sense of being ungrounded, stressed, or off in lala land are all signs of an overstressed nervous system.

    It is possible that the postures themselves can be fully expressed, but the body is shaking and the focus is all over the place. This is not the time to move into the intermediate series. The second series of Ashtanga yoga is designed to challenge the nervous system, so be sure to begin from a place of foundational steadiness, developed over time through the primary series.

    Sometimes it may be appropriate to move into intermediate series even if the binds are not all there, or the legs are a little bent when they should be straight, or it takes a few extra breathes to enter a posture, or we are still in the process of building strength and releasing tensions. It is essential to develop a steadiness of breath and an ease of mind amidst the obstacles, whatever they are for you. If that steadiness is elusive, you may already be doing too much. Pull back and then move ahead slowly and gradually, one posture at a time.

    We also want to honor and acknowledge the systematized and purposefully arranged nature of the sequence. There are many postures in the intermediate series that directly build on patterns, strengths, and openings that are established in the primary series. And just as we built our way, pose by pose through the primary series, we approach each posture in intermediate series one at a time.

    Take the first posture of intermediate as an example, pasasana. Being able to fully express all elements of this challenging pose is dependent on the integrity and depth of your ustrasana and marichyasana c and d of primary series. If those postures are a challenge for you, pasasana will be elusive. That being said, there is still work in pasasana that can be explored and may benefit your practice overall, even if you can’t manifest the full experience.

    The same is true of the second posture in intermediate series and a few midway through. They won’t cause any harm in the body if you explore them too soon, they simply won’t be easily available.

    Because the primary series is so heavily focused on forward folding, many students would benefit from the balancing work of the intermediate series backbends, and most are relatively safe to attempt on your own. A common guideline in the practice says that a student must be able to come up to stand from backbends in order to progress into the intermediate series. This is primarily a guidepost and indicator of certain strengths being integrated, specifically regarding the bandhas and is meant to protect you from harm. But many of the intermediate series backbends can be supportive of that strengthening process, if approached mindfully and with bandha awareness and the proper technique that must be established first in primary series. The indication that these are established is again, the ease at which you are able to move through your practice, with a steady and controlled breath and a certain effortless quality.

    Kapotasana is a posture that is directly dependent on the drop-backs at the end of primary series. So consider how you are experiencing the drop-backs and allow that to inform whether or how you approach this intense intermediate series posture. Every pose is built on something that comes before, so keep looking back and asking yourself, where in the practice can I do this work to be ready for this posture?

    Work mindfully and slowly, honoring the process, recognizing that there is no skipping steps and anything that is challenging in intermediate series can likely be traced back to something in primary series that needs more attention, more understanding, and more integration. Be willing to regularly go back and re-examine what you thought you knew about your primary series practice. Once you move on, those foundational poses are not finished. They are still ever-evolving based on what you continue to learn.

    Another powerful and valid cue that it made be time to move forward into intermediate series—one that is often overlooked or under-valued—is the feeling of being stuck and uninspired. If you have been doing the same primary series practice every day for many years, it can be incredibly helpful to re-inspire your connection to your yoga and your body by exploring something new. It can also be invigorating to the nervous system and help to shift settled patterns that may need some shaking up to evolve. The postures of intermediate series may help shift perspective and give insight into your primary series experience, giving you new focus and intention.

    Remember that every body is different. If you are primarily self-practicing, it can be hard to know when it is time to challenge yourself, especially when it comes to a shift like moving into the next series. Be honest with yourself about how your practice is feeling for you and be willing to experiment. There is no absolute right or wrong way, but if you go slowly and progress mindfully and carefully, you will find your path.

    By Angelique Sandas

     

    Angelique Sandas is a lifelong student of movement and the interconnectedness of mind body and spirit. It began with gymnastics and dance, initiating her love of movement, the body’s natural way of expressing ideas, emotions, and experiences. Angelique received her B.A. in dance from the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1999. It was during these years that she was first introduced to yoga. In yoga, Angelique’s relationship with movement developed new depth and meaning. Movement became a path to profound inner transformation. She was inspired to share what she was learning and felt drawn to teach. In 2003, Angelique traveled to Thailand to study with Paul Dallaghan in the Ashtanga yoga system as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and received her teaching certification. She has also studied pranayama and yogic philosophy with Sri O.P. Tiwari of the Kaivalyadhama Institute, India and received advanced anatomy and adjustment training from David Keil. Until 2007, Angelique taught and practiced in Chicago. She then moved to Miami Beach where she worked closely in the Ashtanga method with her teacher and mentor Kino MacGregor as well as Tim Feldmann and Greg Nardi at Miami Life Center. Angelique ran the Mysore program at Shanti Yoga Shala in Philadelphia, PA in 2012 – 2013 and Delray Yoga Shala in Delray Beach, FL. 2014 – 2016. Currently, Angelique runs a Mysore program Ashtanga Yoga Palm Beach at Yoga Path Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, FL. She has had the opportunity to study with the Guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and continues her training with his grandson, Sri R. Sharath Jois, in Mysore, India. During her 2011 visit to study in Mysore, India, Angelique received Authorization to teach Ashtanga Yoga from Sri R. Sharath Jois. She remains a dedicated instructor and a devoted student of yoga, growing into the potential of the spirit through it’s physical expression.