• 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

    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!

  • How Injury Brought Me Closer to the Purpose of Yoga

    I attribute yoga taking over my life to the moment I started practicing Ashtanga yoga mysore style at Miami Life Center. It affected everything, not just the 90 minutes in class. I fell hard (still falling) for this practice and mysore style was a gateway to a whole new world. That is, until about 4 months into my new found high. I fell off my bike. Nothing too serious, but enough for me to determine I couldn’t practice yoga until I was fully healed. I fell on my right arm and hurt my elbow so it was difficult to put weight on it, like in downward facing dog. I thought if I can’t downward dog I have no business walking into a mysore room.

    I took about 3 months off, more than I probably needed to. Losing the momentum of practicing 3 times a week made it really hard for me to get back to the mat. I’ve come across students with similar experiences. Getting back on the mat after stepping away for the first time is sometimes harder than coming to the mat in the first place. You would think the opposite, especially after experiencing the life shifting results from a regular practice, that you’d come running back.

    If you want to know the benefits of practicing yoga, stop practicing. I’m pretty sure I got that one from David Swenson. But its so true! It points to the slow subtle shifts that yoga creates on a deep level, which then slowly work their way to the surface. You won’t notice how much has changed from one day to the next, but if all of a sudden you stop practicing and those yoga benefits stop making an appearance in your life, the sharp contrast in how you feel and show up in the world will tell you. Yoga works in quiet sometimes mysterious ways.

    When I was off the mat those months, I felt the tamas, apathy and heaviness coming back into my body and mind. I was more emotional, getting lost in sadness and doubt (my go to’s). The crazy part was that before yoga I never thought of these things as the lack of yoga, but as my nature, a part of who I was and never considered living without them. It was a big shift for me. I now saw those physical, mental and emotional states as changeable by a yoga practice.

    My practice had become a space for me to tune in, which I soon realized allowed me to show up as a better and more present person for the rest of my day. I didn’t realize at the time that I didn’t need to do a downward facing dog in order to have that. But the mysore room and the teacher provided me with a clearly defined space and time to tune in. And most importantly a method and path to support me through that process. I didn’t know how to move through this process alone, much less that I was so eagerly searching for a path most of my life. When I found this path, I sank into it without fully realizing that I had finally found what I was searching for. Having a teacher, a class holding me accountable, expecting me to show up for that space was really important for me at the beginning. Which makes this less about blaming myself for stepping away when I was hurt, and more about understanding and compassion for my journey as a beginner.

    When I got back into the mysore room 3 months after I fell off my bike, I felt like I had taken 2 steps back. Starting up again took so much effort, so much tapas and fire to burn through the stagnation that had taken over. It was an important part of my journey, going through that physical, mental and emotional effort and discomfort. Once I got through it, the daily ritual of this practice and tuning in was further ingrained in me. Since then I’ve had unbroken regular practice, nowadays 6 days a week for asana.

    Fast forward 4 years and I run into a shoulder injury. There was pain when I lifted my arms over my head. I couldn’t do the first movement in Ashtanga yoga! Which of course brought on all the reactions – sadness, frustration, doubt whether I would even practice yoga again. But this time I knew better. I wasn’t going to stop coming to the mat. My practice needed to drastically change from intermediate and part of third series, to heavily modified standing postures. I went from practicing asana for 90 minutes to 20. At this point I realized those 90 minutes were really useful as it took me some time of being on the mat to drop down to the undercurrent. So I looked for other tools to keep me on the mat each day a bit longer than 20 minutes.

    I found pranayama (the practice of controlling the breath) through one of my teachers, Mark Linksman. It become my main practice while my shoulder was healing. It was such a beautiful time for me as a yoga practitioner. I continued healing the body through minimal movement, not allowing stagnation to take over and I opened up to a new pathway into the practice of yoga, into focusing inwards. Pranayama is incorporated in the Ashtanga system, but to practice it on its own gave me a closer look into the self-transformational power of the breath. I explored more precise ways of working with it that could be translated to deepen an asana practice.

    It’s so interesting to notice how as I spend more time on the mat, my ideas about what I think is right or wrong changes. The context of my practice changes because my perspective gets a bit broader. It’s as if I can look in from a further stance and get a more complete view of Ashtanga Yoga, or yoga in general for that matter. I imagine it’ll be like this for the long haul of this path – I’ll keep taking another step back, and keep seeing pieces I was blind to before because they weren’t yet in my view.

    This time, as soon as my shoulder healed I was there, present and ready to slowly move back into a longer asana practice. This time without the heaviness I had the first time coming back from an injury. I had maintained a practice so I never really left. Creating a practice with a different form allowed me to better understand through firsthand experience the purpose of yoga, regardless of the tools used. It wasn’t to perfectly execute a shape with our bodies but to create a space to observe ourselves, to sit in awareness. Lucky for us we’ve been given more than one way of doing this, teachings that have been passed down through many generations, through lineage.

    I was also given an opportunity to witness the healing potential of the primary series of Ashtanga yoga. Moving slowly through heavily modified standing postures and then into primary series little by little facilitated my healing process, coupled with some physical therapy exercises. I wasn’t doing the traditional full expression of primary series, but to me is was complete and perfect. I had the opportunity to revisit the foundations and refine basic technique. It’s since then become a big focus in my practice – continuously going back to the basics. While I was healing it helped me establish movement patterns that more efficiently built strength and flexibility while doing a very beginner practice. Mentally, I learned to tap into a beginner’s mind, looking at something for the hundredth time with a unbiased perspective. As I moved back into a more advanced practice, my body felt good and strong because of the time I spent more intimately understanding basic movements.

    I often see students get caught up in the external conditions set for the sequence, holding on to them as truth, thinking if it weren’t followed perfectly it meant they weren’t practicing Ashtanga yoga. The context of Ashtanga yoga is much broader than the postures – another lesson I picked up from these experiences with injury. The postures are there as tools for a more holistic and spiritual purpose. They bring us into our bodies, something tangible to feel what’s present. They give us a single point to focus on, and they give us a mirror to observe ourselves by. And yes the conditions set to execute an asana are important, such as place your hand here, breath in here, but they can be accommodated to work with a student’s situation, like a physical limitation for example, and still maintain the intention of yoga.

    We can expand the context of yoga by modifying a posture, incorporating seated breathing or seated meditation, staying in one posture for 10 minutes, the list goes on. There are different doorways into yoga and therefore the pathways along the way may look different, in the same way that my personal journey through this practice will look different than yours.

    I had two different experiences with injury and came out with my own lessons and conclusions, which I get to share with you here. Not to tell you what to do but to let you know that there are different paths within this path and it’s important to find your own way. I’ve used the experiences and knowledge of others to help inform what and how I choose to explore. To then evaluate and integrate the lessons learned from my own personal experience. The result is as many expressions of yoga as there are humans, and that’s a beautiful thing.

    By Monica Arellano

    Practice LIVE on Omstars with Monica Arellano

    Monica Arellano is a Level 2 Authorized teacher in the Ashtanga Yoga Method; a formal blessing received by her teacher R. Sharath Jois in Mysore, India. She first connected to the practice of yoga in 2010, looking for a more peaceful way of being. When she found her way to Miami Life Center in 2014 she began a regular Ashtanga Yoga practice and soon after completed a 2 year apprenticeship program under Tim Feldmann. Today she continues to practice, teach and travel regularly to Mysore, India to learn yoga directly from the source. Monica’s teachings are informed by the knowledge carried on from her teachers and the first-hand experience from her daily asana and meditation practice. Her classes emphasize the breath, alignment, and methods of concentration; in hopes of exploring the deeper experience of asana and the resulting expression in each student’s unique and mind. In this space, she believes we can deconstruct unhealthy patterns, facilitate healing on many levels, and find our way back to the most honest version of ourselves.

    This blog was originally posted on monicarellano.com

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  • Yoga Obstacles: Setbacks and Plateaus

    Yoga is the effort full path, which entails a road with inescapable obstacles, plateaus, and setbacks. When we are facing a challenge, it is easy to disregard the valuable opportunity we are also presented for gaining new inner knowledge. As we begin to take the necessary steps to overcome our discomfort, more often than not, we’ll gain insightful information and inner strength, as we work our way through on overcoming our road blocks.

    Yoga Sutra 1.14 sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkarasevito drdhabhumih

    When dealing with an injury, a disrupting life event, or anything else that impedes us from taking daily practice, there’s a sense of defeat that can bring down our spirit a little bit, or a lot. It is important to understand the power of taking mouse bites. Applying effort consistently and steadily is all it takes. It is not about applying full on effort only when you’re feeling 100 when climbing peaks and valleys to then give up all effort when you hit the proverbial wall. Effort also comes into play when we are halted on our journey. It’s the key to overcome that sense of defeat. Compassion towards oneself, as well as time and patience, are necessary and valuable elements to continue on the path. Steady effort, however small, is key. Just like a mouse can break through a wall by taking small little bites at a time, that which hinders progress can be an opportunity for insight, strength, and empowerment.

    Setbacks are great opportunities. 

    Setbacks are great opportunities to observe and study not only the makings of our mind, inner strength, and will power, but also the reasons why we take on a spiritual practice in the first place. Oftentimes, when we deal with injuries in our physical yoga practice, and our ego gets knocked down a pec or two, we realize that inner peace, joy, contentment can still be achieved through the other limbs of yoga; such as: pranayama-breathing techniques, concentration, meditation, etc. We also realize the more subtle aspects of our physical practice and how restorative it is meant to be and feel when we are forced to decelerate and deepen our awareness. When our ego gets poked and deflated, it is easy to loose faith. However, this is the time we have been training for to step forward and handle the way we decide to deal with the new limiting situation.

    The lessons learned will be that much deeper and stronger.

    There is beauty in the humbling power of a setback. We are given the priceless opportunity to become stronger, as we learn and re-learn what we have been doing up until that point. More often than not, we gain a double punch of extra power. We are bound to comeback stronger when we learn to overcome our seemingly insurmountable walls. Fear not your setbacks, for the bigger they are, the stronger the comeback will be. The lessons learned will be that much deeper and stronger. Obstacles and setbacks present themselves in our path, and we are somehow forced to deal with them, unless you simply let it all go, quick, and abandon the practice all together. But, for those of us who have experienced the deep transformational power of a firmly established yoga practice, it is easier to naturally stay the course, despite any down feelings we might be experiencing. It’s, however, a different story when we experience a plateau.

    It helps to know that this too is part of the yoga journey.

    A plateau during our practice can bring a sense of apathy and sadness, a debilitating confusion of sorts, for there is nothing wrong with our practice, we know-feel-and understand we are not better without it. We believe how incredibly powerful it is for our well being to maintain it, but somehow we experience this phase, period, in which it all feels stagnant, nothing is evolving, there are no big shift and changes, no apparent progress. Firstly, it helps to know that this too is part of the yoga journey. Know and understand that we all go through this, and like anything else, it will also pass. With that said, what can you do in the meantime? Stay the course! That, in and of itself, will eventually reap its rewards, and you will look back with a wiser understanding of why the plateau presented itself on the first place. But what about now? When you are experiencing a plateau, and you feel a sense of exhaustion brought about by a seemingly chain of monotonous repetitions. You will not come out of it unless you challenge yourself a little.

    Pick and choose something in your practice that you know could benefit from that deeper focus. 

    The couple of times I have personally experienced a plateau, I have asked myself; “Why am I even feeling like I am plateauing when I know for a fact that there are a lot of loose ends in my practice that need some tightening up?” There are many aspects of my practice that need working, polishing, and being more firmly established. Going through the motions, day in and day out, will eventually land you in that dreadful place. When we create awareness, an honest inner understanding that we could deepen our practice through focus and attention, then the game changes altogether. Pick and choose something in your practice that you know could benefit from that deeper focus, say for example: jump backs and jump throughs, anyone? That’s exactly what I chose when I entered into my first plateau. Attentively working on my inner and outer strength, sharpened my focus when I tried to lift myself off the mat each and every time. It helped me gain back my attention and doubly increase it by journeying inward within the inner layers of my own mental and physical awareness, concentration, and inner strength.

    Maintain a deep inner focus by solely vowing to maintain a steady gaze towards the focal point. 

    My whole practice actually benefited because of it. I was back again in mind-training mode. Remember, this is a mind training practice, it is not about the ultimate expression of a perfect pose, or the floating effect of weightless jump back. You can very well decide on bringing full attention to the quality of your breath from the beginning to the end of the practice noticing with laser like focus each time you loose and apply immediate effort to regain it back by breathing deeply. Or, opt for committing to maintain a deep inner focus by solely vowing to maintain a steady gaze towards the focal point of attention that the asana calls for and not derail your gaze at all. Can you do that throughout the practice? From beginning to need? Not look at the phone, the door, the clock, the phone? Full on inward attention? That’s a tough one, which means it’s a powerful one. A strong mental challenge is what has personally helped me. Choosing an element in my practice that I perhaps even dread and applying all my effort into it has been incredibly liberating and worth it.

    Enter your challenge with indestructible will power, and awaken your inner Spartan.

    Taking in fully the challenges people, practice, and events life brings you, is the ultimate training ground. Getting in the arena getting your ass kicked is the prerequisite for victory over your difficulties. Enter your challenge with indestructible will power, and awaken your inner Spartan. Gladiators are not extinct in antiquity, they are dormant within. It’s not people and animals waiting in the arena, but the obstacles and the challenges that need facing intelligently. Awaken your primal hero, that archetype available to all of us, and slay the dragon! Be your own hero!

    By Patricia Amado 


    Practice with Patricia Amado on Omstars

    Patricia Amado embarked on her yoga journey in 2010 leading her to find the Ashtanga Yoga system in 2011, a practice she has remained devoted ever since. In 2013, she completed Miami Life Center’s very first training under the guidance of Kino MacGregor initiating her passionate path of teaching and sharing the Ashtanga Yoga method. She traveled to Mysore, India in 2015, 2016, and 2019 to study with R. Sharath Jois. Most recently, she completed a two year apprenticeship program at MLC under the guidance of her mentor and MLC Director Tim Feldman.  She is also a student of Yoga philosophy and Sanskrit recitation of the old scriptures with Professor Rao, Dr. M.A. Jayashree and Professor Sri. M.A. Narasimhan.  Patricia aims for her students to experience the stress-relieving and transformative benefits that a committed Ashtanga Yoga practice can bring into their life. She is dedicated to teaching in the authentic tradition of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois.

  • Ashtanga Home Practice Challenge

    New Yoga Challenge coming to Omstars September 1st!  With this challenge, you’ll get access to an amazing new course that’s designed to help you explore the Ashtanga Yoga practice from the comfort of your own home! There are 16 classes that serve to break the Ashtanga Yoga Primary and Second Series into more digestible segments so you can experience both practices in their entirety in a way that’s manageable and approachable. Join the Challenge


    The Ashtanga Yoga Home Practice challenge is hosted by Kino MacGregor features a special guest teacher, Shanna Small. Use these classes to work through your sticking points at your own pace and learn to honor your body’s abilities as you explore your practice each day of the challenge. Wait, that’s not all, Shanna Small (@wellness_yogini) will be teaching 5 live classes that breakdown a variety of postures and movements and she’ll be giving you tips on how to use props and variations to support you in your practice.

    Ready to Get Started?

    Sign up

    If you’re already a member click the link get yourself signed up today. Not an Omstars member? No problem! All you have to do is register as a participant and we’ll send you a special code prior to the challenge start date. Your special code will give you a one-month, all access pass to Omstars.com so you can join the challenge and explore our entire library of on-demand videos and live classes! Sound good? We’ll be kicking off our very first practice on Sunday, September 1st; here’s what you need to do to sign up:


    Follow our hosts and sponsors on Instagram for your chance to win some incredible prizes including outfits from Omstars by Liquido and Kino’s new collection Off The Mat beach wear clothing, books and DVDs by Kino, and some beautiful gift sets of handmade, vegan friendly, soaps by Smithmade Essentials.



    Repost the challenge graphic and help spread the word, and tag three friends to join you in this challenge! Practice with us every day, for 16 days, and share your journey and daily poses on Instagram! Be sure to use our challenge hashtag #ashtangahomepracticechallenge and tag us in your daily posts.

    Daily Poses:

    1. Chaturanga
    2. Trikonasana
    3. Prasarita C
    4. Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
    5. Warrior One
    6. Janu A
    7. Mari  A & B (both)
    8. Mari C & D (both)
    9. Bujapidasana
    10. Pasasana
    11. Krounchasana
    12. Dhanurasana
    13. Ustrasana
    14. Eka Pada Sirsasana
    15. Pinchamayurasana
    16. Padmâsana


    Have fun within the community by liking and commenting on each other’s posts!


    Get Started HERE!


  • Interview with Angelique Sandas

     I practice to learn about who I am, why I am that way, and to become the best version of myself that I possibly can. I teach because this practice has been so significant for me and I believe it can also be beneficial for others, I have to share what I know! I feel obligated to help make the practice available to all who seek it, it is my duty and honor.

    Describe your personality in three words. 

    Task-master. Nurturer. Seeker.

    Where are you from and/or where do you live? 

    I grew up in the MidWest but have lived in South Florida for a while, now specifically West Palm Beach

    How long have you been practicing yoga and why did you start practicing yoga?

    My first experiences with yoga were whiles studying dance in college. I became a committed practitioner around 2002 when dealing with a deeply broken heart.

    What is yoga to you?

    Yoga is a method of developing self- awareness so that you can choose self-transformation.

    How did you feel after your first yoga class and how do you want students to feel after they practice with you?

    I took several yoga classes in different techniques with different teachers until I found the one that fit.  I truly believe there is a method, an environment, a teacher that is right for each of us and we only need to keep seeking until we find that match.  I want people who come to my class to feel inspired to find their practice, or if they find it with me, to feel supported, to feel like they found something special that works for them.

    What impact has yoga had on your life? Who were you before you started practicing and how have you changed, evolved and transformed?

    For me, the results we at first obvious – I saw myself becoming for thoughtful, more conscious of those around me and my actions. Then, as time moved and I continued to practice, the effect fas more subtle but no less profound. It’s one of those things you don’t realize is happening until you get some perspective to look back, or are tested in some way and see that you are behaving differently,  or are thinking differently about a thing. You ove through your world with more consideration, with more empathy and connection, with more strength and acceptance, with more awareness and intuition.

    Join Angelique’s LIVE classes on Omstars

    Why did you decide to start teaching yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher?

    I really do feel like this has been a sort of calling for me. My experience in dance, teaching dance and choreography, my natural interests in the body, psychology, etc – it all led to yoga. within a year of committing to my practice, I knew I would teach. I honestly can’t imagine any other path. What makes a good teacher? That is so hard to answer. I could dig in and it would take days to get all of my thoughts down on paper – and in the end it might not mean much to anyone but me. Generally a good teacher is also a student. Through our own practice we learn so much. We learn also from each student we interact with. A good teacher has to always be willing to adjust as they receive new data. We can’t know everything and we can’t possibly know what we don’t know. As soon as a teacher thinks they have nothing else to learn, they have lost something.

    What style of yoga do you practice and what makes that style most effective? Do you have a teacher in your style of yoga?

    I practice and teach Ashtanga Yoga. The Mysore method in particular is a very independent way of practice, while at the same time allows for a deeper teacher student relationship to develop. This relationship provides the basis of trust for a student to be willing to challenge themselves, to venture into new territory, to face unknowns. That is where the growth lies. I mostly self-practice these days but I do consider my teachers to be Kino MacGregor who I worked closely with for many years, and Paramaguru R Sharath Jois, the current head of the lineage, who I try to practice with as regularly as I can!

    What has been your biggest struggle and your biggest milestone in the practice? 

    My biggest struggle is also my biggest milestone. Becoming a mother. Motherhood was ego-annihilating. And that really what we are trying to do in yoga right? Become aware of the trappings of our ego-self, the limiting labels, the attachments and aversions, the boxes. Motherhood shatters all of it. All of the ways you identified to be “self” become distorted or cease to exist all-together. I navigated those early days of motherhood as I tried to regain some sense of self on the yoga matt and it all failed, over and over again, until I realized that I was trying to be something I no longer was. I had to surrender to a new way of being and this opened up so much by way of my yoga practice. While my physical capabilities seemed atrophied, my yoga became stronger.

    What is yoga favorite yoga pose and why? And what’s your least favorite yoga pose and why?

    Generally I enjoy deep back bends – they are intensely liberating. Strength postures are always challenging and I don’t enjoy them much – especially if they are new.

    What has been the most inspirational moment you’ve experienced as a yoga student?

    I am inspired by my teachers and fellow practitioners. This community of people is incredible.

    And how about as a teacher?

    I am constantly inspired by what I observe in my students, their experiences with this practice. I see people discovering themselves everyday – that’s amazing!

    Practice with Angelique on Omstars

    Why do you practice? Why do you teach?

    I practice to learn about who I am, why I am that way, and to become the best version of myself that I possibly can. I teach because this practice has been so significant for me and I believe it can also be beneficial for others, I have to share what I know! I feel obligated to help make the practice available to all who seek it, it is my duty and honor.

    What’s your favorite yoga quote or mantra?

    My favorite changes depending in what I am going though, where I am in my practice, or in life. One that has stayed with me for a long time and comes from a former teacher is “If it is challenging, growth is inevitable” Another comes from Nisargadatta Maharaj “I am that” So simple and so vast.

    What is the single most defining issue facing the global yoga community today?

    The desire/effort to define what yoga is. Can it be defined in a way that suits everyone’s understanding? I don’t know, can it?

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you as a student and as a teacher?

    I’ve had so many falls and crashes and “fails” as a student that those events all blend together in my memory and no longer have the power to embarrass me. Same as a teacher – I have made many missteps, numerous. At this point I try to only learn from them and move on. There is no one major embarrassing thing that comes to mind.

    Do you have any recommended yoga reading?

    Specific suggestions would depend on the type of interest the reader has. First identify yourself as someone who is interested in philosophy, history, biographical stories, yoga as healing, anatomy and kinesiology, etc. There are so many branches of learning available within this practice and nowadays, there is so much material out there.

    What is your dharma, your life mission?

    Healing. I consider yoga to be a practice of healing, and as a teacher it is my purpose to facilitate that process and effort for my students.

    What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?

    There is a practice for everyone. If you are not sure where you fit, keep trying classes, teachers, studios, until you feel supported and inspired. There is a yoga for you, a practice that will feel right and there you will begin to receive the benefits.

    Are there any current projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

    I’m currently excited about my new Live class on Plankk Studio App with Omstars! It is a beginner’s journey into Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series and I am having a lot of fun with it! I love breaking things down and looking deeply into the intelligence of the practice. I am also working with some fellow Mama yoga teachers in my community to establish supportive workshops and classes for new moms. Getting back into a yoga practice after having a children can be daunting – not to mention the challenges of simply adjusting to a life of motherhood! We are reaching out to support women – it takes a village! I am also going to be beginning a series of clinics with teachers working on asana adjustment training. I love working with other teachers so I’m really looking forward to it.

    Watch Seek Up interview with Kino and Angelique

    Aside from your fantastic course on Omstars, do you have a favorite class that you’d like to share?

    I actually really love some of the non-practice features of Omstars. The travel, food, fashion, and especially, the interviews. We all come to a yoga practice and yogic lifestyles with our own stories. Sharing these stories is a wonderful way to feel connected.

    By Angelique Sandas

  • Why Yoga

    Why do you practice yoga? A yogi is a seeker of the truth. Intention sets the tone for what kind of journey you‘ll have along the path of yoga. Align yourself with the deeper dimension of yoga, practice with a sincere heart, and cultivate an attitude of devotion. Set your intention to know the deepest, most subtle, truth about yourself and about the universe because this is the goal of yoga from time immemorial.

    The yogis of ancient times in India were human beings like you and me. They were on a quest to directly experience the truth about who we are and why we are here and how this crazy thing called life works. The answers they found are the methodology of yoga that we continue to practice today. We cannot divorce yoga from its spiritual roots. In fact, I think the whole reason so many people are drawn to yoga is that in an age of spiritual vacuousness, rampant materialism and cut-throat capitalism, we have reached a kind of inner boiling point.

    So many people are hurting and wounded in their bodies and in their hearts and mind. So many people desperately want to scream, but instead, stand silently in shock. So many people show up to the safe and sacred space of yoga to discover the unfelt parts of their own bodies, to finally heal, to learn how to listen and ultimately to directly and personally experience the highest and ultimate truth, the truth that sets you free.

    If you haven’t asked yourself why you practice, ask. Dig below the surface for the hidden answers and you will find your true self.

    I practice because practice is prayer, a holy space of worship where I lay down all my heart and all my soul to the temple of the Eternal. I practice because in the quiet space between breath and body, I am free, immersed in the Infinite, replenished, restored. I practice because the simple purity of the seeker’s path keeps me real, humble and raw, it breaks my heart open so that love shines through just that little bit more and makes my world a more peaceful place, one breath at a time.

    Why do you practice?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

    Practice Yoga With Kino On OMstars

    Try Meditation With Kino On OMstars

  • The Tristhana Training Ground: Breath, Gaze and Pose in Ashtanga Yoga

    Life feels like it’s been going through a slow-motion upheaval for some months now. Relationships tumbled out of the place I thought they belonged. Teaching opportunities I hadn’t even imagined pushed themselves to forefront. The political vibe of the world has felt erratic and powerful social justice movements have shaken me. The landscape of my life has been changed radically. Amid all this disturbance I have remained dedicated and devoted to my practice, thanks to the 3 stabilizers at its core.

    The Tristhana Method teaches us how to concentrate our attention using the breath, the gaze and both the outward (and deep internal) posture of the body. In Ashtanga yoga we always begin by lifting the arms over the head, drawing our navel in and up. This combination of internal and external movement shapes the pose through outward alignment and the inward bandha. We pair this alignment with a deep inhalation that matches up precisely to the duration of the arms rising. As the palms press together overhead, the drishti (gazing point) becomes fixed on the thumbs.

    This first vinyasa (a term signifying the matching of any one breath movement with any one body movement) of our practice sets us up to expand the mind/body/breath complex in new and intriguing ways. A slow rhythmic breath has a powerful effect on the nervous system. It’s a fact of our biology that as we exhale the heart rate decreases. So we breathe with sound, giving the breath texture, something we can hold on to and extend. The sound is like that of fogging a mirror, but through the nose. This breath control leads to a greater awareness of the inner spaces of the body. We see how the breath creates an openness where calm, dispassionate self-exploration is possible. There is a play of aliveness here that’s suitable for working to balance effort and ease.

    We settle into a gentle coercion around the breathing. We imbue it with just the right meter (even on inhale and exhale) and feeling tone (not too quiet, but not too forced).  When the dynamics of the breath are correct they fuel the practice with a sensation of harmonious propulsion.

    This vinyasa method of linking each movement with an inhale or an exhale allows us to make transitions with fluidity and drives us into the second stabilizer- the posture itself. In Sanskrit we call the pose Asana. Its made up of two parts, the external shape and the subtler internal engagement. The outward appearance of the pose is created by alignment via the measured arrangement of limbs, torso, pelvis, head, toes and fingers. The internal engagement is created by bandha, subtle physical and energetic controls centered deep in the body.

    If the breath gave the inner spaces shape, the then bandha gives them a sense of mass and makes them movable. Uddiyana Bandha feels a bit like drawing the low belly in and up. Moola Bandha activates the pelvic floor. Imagine you have to pee really bad, and there’s a line for the bathroom. Those muscles you squeeze to hold it are the ones you should contract for Moola Bandha. When these two work together they have the effect of suctioning the outer body in. Like a corset, they pull the more external body tissues towards the center, slimming the waist. In this way, the gravity of your core increases and the mass of your body is more easily controlled, pivots more freely around this newly awakened energetic center.

    Bandha brings a sense of lightness. As these deep muscles that were previously unused step up and take on responsibility for some of the body weight, our posture becomes steady and still. To the observer there may appear to be and effortless grace about the practitioner.

    Perhaps the most easily understood of these three tools is the drishti, or gazing point. If the breath and bandha have worked together to cultivate an expansion of the mind/body awareness, then the gaze has the effect of locking it all in place. When we reach the arms over the head in Utkatasana and hold for 5 long breaths, the arms naturally become fatigued. But if the gaze is focused on the thumbs and unwavering, there is a psychic push. Under the strength of the gaze the background blurs out and the fingertips reach up further than you thought possible.

    This three-pronged approach is the proven heart of the Ashtanga Yoga Method. When practiced daily and for a long time, it seems to increase sensitivity, provide clarity and perspective.

    Presidents come and go. Lovers become friends. We wake up to important social truths with a start. Change is always coming, sometimes more quickly than were prepared for. But these moments are prime opportunities for carrying our practice off the mat. When our pulse quickens at the thought of a border wall, take a deep breath and remember that the next President might pull it down. The sight of our old lover with his new one is a cue to focus our eyes and hearts somewhere else. When you’ve heard ‘me too’ just one too many times, or see another black life disregarded and your heart wants to burst? That’s the moment bring the posture of your behavior into alignment with your core conviction.

    The three stabilizers teach us to move in ways that are healing and mindful, to turn our senses inward on the mat. Many Ashtangi’s are finding, as we move through the world of distraction and disturbance, that same self-sure steadiness is coming up. Harmony. Grace. Focus. We’re connecting with a voice of knowing that leads us more adeptly than before. Tristhana has been a training ground.

    By Joseph Armstrong

  • Ashtanga Yoga IS Hard—A Beginner’s Guide to How to Practice

    There is no easy way to say this but the reality is that Ashtanga Yoga is in fact really hard. The longer you practice the more you forget what a marathon the Primary Series really is. For total yoga newbies this can seem utterly intimidating and defeating. While I’ve dedicated ample resources into making the Ashtanga Yoga method approachable, even the most basic and modified version of this traditional practice is still quite challenging.

    It takes on average 90 minutes to complete the Full Primary Series – longer than the most yoga or fitness classes. The traditional method also asks you to practice six days a week, which is an often daunting task. There are then lifestyle and diet changes that are recommended for more committed Ashtangis, including following a plant-based diet and practicing early in the morning. Ashtanga Yoga isn’t for everyone. And yet, perhaps it is.

    Not only have I practiced and taught this traditional method for over 20 years, but I believe that it can be made accessible to all. I’ve created this Beginner’s Guide to Ashtanga Yoga for exactly this purpose. It is my hope that students of yoga who are keen to try the Ashtanga Yoga method read this first and follow these guidelines. Ideally, every student leaves the practice with a feeling of inspiration and faith. Consider this a map passed on by a trekker who has been on the mountain for many years.

    Join Kino’s 5-Day Ashtanga Immersion Virtual Retreat on Omstars


    1. Expect to Fail— In the Ashtanga Yoga method nothing is meant to be easy on your first try. This is part of the lesson of the practice. Instead of making the practice easy, the method asks you to make your mind strong. If you accept your failure and learn to love yourself anyway, you’re practicing a valuable life skill. You should feel somewhat overwhelmed in the midst of your first Ashtanga Yoga practice. It gets better after many years!

    2. Start Small and Build Up Incrementally— Don’t bite off more than you can chew. While it may be tempting to jump into the Full Primary Series, as a newbie to Ashtanga Yoga, I’d recommend that you start off with just the Sun Salutations. If you’re watching a video of the Full Primary Series to inspire you to practice, just follow along for the first bit and then watch as much as you want. Then when you’re ready to close, skip ahead to the final closing poses to complete your practice. Once you get established in the basics of the Sun Salutations you can move on to include the Standing Poses and then the Seated Poses, until you’ve built up the whole Primary Series.

    3. Focus on the Breath, Not the Pose—The real magic of the practice happens through the channel of the breath. Deep breathing with sound is the link that ties the conscious and the subconscious mind together. When you delve into the Ashtanga Yoga method, the poses are merely an opportunity for you to breathe. Once you re-calibrate your attention towards the breath, it no longer matters what poses you’re doing or not doing.

    4. Watch the Tutorials—If you ever feel overwhelmed by a pose, you’re not alone. Watch tutorials from a qualified teacher that you respect to guide you into healthy anatomical and alignment principles. Learning how to think through the technique of the asana helps you understand how to work. It can change a feeling of helplessness to a feeling of hopefulness.

    5. Feel Your Body—The real purpose of yoga is to feel your body. The poses are never meant to be goals in an of themselves. In fact you never really master a pose. Instead, when you practice, the real intention is to bring awareness into every cell of your whole body. Once the body is literally filled with the infinite light of your own consciousness you will wake up to the truth of who you are. This transcendental body awareness can happen in any pose, so no need to try and do all the advanced poses.

    6. Don’t Play the Comparison Game— More poses don’t make you a better yogi. Having more poses isn’t like accumulating chips on your shoulder. The inner work is what it’s all about. While almost all yogis struggle with the poses, the struggle is meant to be a teacher. Wherever you meet your challenge is where your yoga begins. If someone needs a more “advanced” pose to find their edge, then that’s their edge. If you find your edge in the first breath of the practice consider yourself lucky. You don’t need to go in search of more extreme poses in order to generate one of the deepest benefits of yoga—compassion, which means suffering with. It is not success in yoga that connects us, but our struggle. The more you find yourself caught in a difficult pose, the more your heart will open.

    7. Study—Supplement your daily asana practice with some reading. Pick up the key texts of the Ashtanga Yoga method and learn more about how the practice works. Once you understand the deeper elements and intentions of the practice, it will be easier to understand how it works.

    8.  Surrender to the Process— While you might feel like you want to have more poses than just the Sun Salutations and do something interesting and more fun, if you learn to accept where you are and surrender to the journey you will get a benefit that’s better than any pose—peace. Inner peace happens as a shift in your heart that happens when you realize you don’t have anything to prove and you’re happy to work and be exactly where you are.

    9. Don’t Push or Force, Just Be—While it may be tempting to grab your limbs and force them into the shapes of the asana, your body will suffer. Cultivate a peaceful attitude towards your body and never force or push yourself. Practice being with your body in a space of loving-kindness. When you feel the urge to force or push, let it go.

    10. Never Give Up—If you feel overwhelmed by doubt, watch an inspirational video to motivate yourself. Get on your mat even for five minutes a day six days a week. Congratulate yourself for every small step forward you take. Decide that you will not give up, especially when it feels daunting and overwhelming.

    By Kino MacGregor

    International yoga teacher, Kino MacGregor has over 20 years of experience in Ashtanga yoga & 18 years of experience in Vipassana Meditation. She is one of a select group of people to receive the certification to teach Ashtanga Yoga & practice into the Fifth Series of Ashtanga Yoga. With over 1 million followers on Instagram & over 500,000 subscribers on YouTube & Facebook, she spreads the message of yoga around the world. To Kino, yoga is more than making shapes. It is a daily ritual where people tune deeply into their spiritual center & experience the peace of the Eternal Divine. Her goal is to make the tools of traditional yoga accessible for all different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, & ages. She believes yoga is truly for everyone. Learn more from and connect with Kino on Instagram!