Ashtanga is one of my favorite forms of yoga because it's fast-paced, fluid, and each class follows the same sequence, so you always know what to expect once you have a few classes under your capris. It's also really intense, and some aspects of it can be a real turn-off to people. Before you head to your first ashtanga class, here are some things you'll be glad you know.
1. You'll Probably Be Touched by Strangers
Adjustments are pretty common in the ashtanga world, so expect to be touched — a lot. Instructors (or the assistants in class) use adjustments to correct your alignment or to help you get deeper into a posture. The touch-feely aspect of ashtanga can either make you say "yay," or "yikes." If you're not into being touched, politely ask not to be assisted. If you are OK with it and an assist hurts you, make sure you speak up.
Keep reading to hear four other things you'll want to know before your first ashtanga class.
2. Classes Are Often Taught in Sanskrit
Namaste? Adho Mukha Svanasana-huh? Sanskrit is the language of yoga, and some instructors won't speak a lick of English while teaching. Like landing in Italy and not knowing what "ciao" means, this can be very intimidating. Don't worry because after a few classes, you'll begin to soak in the Sanskrit names for poses, so much so that you'll think, "My hips are screaming for some Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)!" Oh, and some classes begin and end with chanting, so don't be alarmed if the entire class bursts into Sanskrit song.
3. Your Hamstrings Won't Know What Hit Them
Most ashtanga studios teach Primary Series, and if you suffer from tight hamstrings because you run or bike, this class was made for you. You'll do every type of forward bend you can think of, while standing, sitting, with wide legs, and even one-legged versions. Expect to be sore the next day, and probably even the day after that.
4. You'll Sweat in Places You Didn't Know Could Sweat
Aside from your entire outfit being soaked in perspiration, you might even have a puddle of sweat on and around your mat. Ashtanga is done in a heated room — not nearly as hot as Bikram, but hot enough. Make sure you drink plenty water before you head to class, and wear fitted clothes that wick moisture. And if you sweat this much in class, just think how many other people sweat on the exact same mat you each borrowed from the studio. For this reason, I'd bring your own mat to class.
5. Everyone Seems to Know What They're Doing
Ashtanga classes are for all levels, for beginners and advanced yogis alike. So if it seems like everyone knows the order of the poses and how to do them perfectly, it's because they've been practicing for awhile. Don't feel intimidated because after five or so classes you too will become familiar with the set series of postures, and you'll surprise yourself at how quickly your strength and flexibility increases.
Source: Flickr User gbSk