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My First Taste of Ashtanga Yoga

Before starting to write this article, I looked through my Her Campus articles from the past two years to see if I had already written any posts about yoga (because it feels like I talk about it a lot). It turns out that I had only written one, early in my first year, which shocked me because yoga has been such a big part of my life since the summer before I started grade 12. Back then, I tried to be on my mat at least three to four times a week, and my yoga studio quickly became a second home for me. At home, I mostly did Moksha yoga. I had tried a couple Vinyasa classes and a couple Bikram classes, with some restorative and yin classes thrown into the mix. I liked the idea of trying new classes because of the unlimited monthly pass that I had with the studio, but the truth was that stepping into a class where I knew none of the flows (poses) that would be coming up was intimidating.

Here in Kingston, I’m a regular at Samatva Yoga on Princess Street. It’s the closest studio to me that offers hot yoga, which is what I love. At the start of the school year, I bought a class card pack that lets me go whenever I want, and I find that it’s a great way to start or end my day. They have HOT Detox, HOT Wake up and HOT Energize classes that I love going to. By the end of it, I’m always sweaty, relaxed and focused.

The other week, I saw that there was a HOT Ashtanga class on the schedule. I had just finished class for the day, so it was a good time to get a workout in and then have the rest of the night to myself. I had never tried an Ashtanga class. The only time I had heard of it was right when I first started practicing yoga so many years ago – somebody in one of my yoga classes had asked me if I had tried it before and after I replied with no, they mentioned that it was “crazy intense.” For some reason, I had a sudden desire to try this “crazy intense” class at Samatva. Part of it was because I really just wanted to go to a yoga class after a long day at school. The other part of me wanted to do it because I’m really trying to step outside of my comfort zone this year. I want to push myself past my limits in all areas of life. And this just seemed like another opportunity that I couldn’t turn down without becoming angry at myself for being scared.

The class kicked my ass. That’s the simplest way of putting it. A lot of poses were poses that were from the regular Vinyasa and Moksha classes I had gone to before, but the intensity was increased. Many others, though, were new. They involved body strength that I simply had not developed yet. It was tough – that’s an undeniable fact. It left me covered in sweat and sore for the next couple days, but what shocked me the most? I still liked it. I still found myself wanting to try it again.

In my eyes, I was proud of myself for even trying it in the first place without fear. I viewed it as a good challenge and after the first class, I felt the need to become better at it. I wanted to practice. I wanted to let myself be guided by the practice, and I so badly wanted to make it a hurdle that I could overcome.

At the end of the hot class, the instructor mentioned that she also led a Mysore practice on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7 am to 9:30 am. Mysore practices for Ashtanga are not guided by a teacher; instead, the teacher walks around, observing and helping each person individually. You come in, you do the flows on your own at your own pace from memory and when you’re done, you leave. It’s a free come-and-go type of class that is designed to help you do one thing: work on your practice.

For beginners, she recommended that we come from 7 to 8. So, the following Tuesday morning, I went to the Mysore class for the first time. Again, it was my desire to become better and take on a challenge that led me to attend the class. This was the push I needed to take on something new.

It was daunting, I have to admit. When I got there at 7, there was only one other person in the room and he jumped right into the practice, evidently having taken this class regularly. The teacher worked with me to teach me a little bit more about the practice, and then we got to work on the flows and the poses. She taught me Sun Salutation A, Sun Salutation B, 3 other postures and that was it. When she would teach them to me, it would just be her and I, flowing it out. It was so different from a regular class where you could blend in with the rest of the class. Here, the teacher’s eyes were just on me. After she would teach it to me, she’d have me repeat it on my own, four or five times, so that I could build muscle memory of the flow. At the very end, after she had taught me all that she wanted to teach me for the day, she had me repeat everything from beginning to end, and then she sent me home.

Yoga, in general, has taught me a lot. This first taste of Ashtanga has shown me a lot, too. It has taught me that growth is one of the best parts of life. It’s important to be self-aware and recognize that you do not know everything and that there is still so much room to grow. I walked into that first Ashtanga class accepting that I was not going to be able to do all the flows and poses. But, after that acceptance, I realized that I wanted to grow and push myself so that one day, I would be able to complete all the sequences.

So, with whatever you are doing right now or whatever you want to do, let yourself grow and flourish. Become an even better version of yourself.

And if you’re into yoga? Try the Ashtanga class! Push yourself beyond the boundary of where you think you can be pushed.

Julia Sun is currently a second-year student at Queen's University studying Commerce. She has always loved to write in her spare time and has her own lifestyle and travel blog on the side (lifewithjulia.net). When she's not writing for Her Campus Queen's, you can find her doing yoga, reading a book, or going for a run. 
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