23.05.2017 | Sport | Ashtanga yoga: Keep calm and gain more physical and mental strength
Het Gymlokaal recently added Ashtanga yoga to the schedule. Tina Rumenovic
and Daria Mnych, both die-hard Ashtangi’s, will teach the classes. Tina teaches Hatha, Power yoga and now Ashtanga yoga at Het Gymlokaal. Daria was teaching yoga at Het Gymlokaal since the opening. She followed her Ashtanga heart and explored teaching elsewhere, but now she’s back! What is Ashtanga?
Tina: ‘When I started practicing Ashtanga on a regular basis, it was really transformative. If you commit to practice on a regular basis, you will improve quite fast. In that way, Ashtanga is really powerful. With Ashtanga we always do the same sequence of poses in a class. When you learn the sequence you will get deeper within yourself on the mat. With other yoga styles you have to pay attention to the teacher that is telling you what to do. With Ashtanga you will memorise the sequence on some point, so it becomes easier to focus on your own practice. For me Ashtanga is a way to get more focused on what’s happening at this moment, in my head, my brain, my body and my heart.’
Daria: ’Ashtanga is for people who like to be challenged. The classes are for all levels, but it’s a challenging yoga style. After a few classes you will notice that your body and mind are developing. You will be able to find more rest and calmness during the poses. The focus in Ashtanga is on breathing. We move with the breath and usually stay in one pose (asana) for five breaths.’
Tina: ‘Despite the repetitive sequences, the movements feel different each time. In the beginning you might have a difficult time executing the transitions. But with time your transitions will become smoother and you will get further and deeper in the sequence. There’s always something more to learn in the sequence, the sequence is never finished.’
Daria: ‘Participants of the Ashtanga class will gain strength within weeks. If you’re not that flexible, the teacher can give you a modified pose. So you start easy and maybe in a few weeks you are able to do the whole posture. This is how it works. It is never ending. Ashtanga is a hand-on practice. So, the teacher will be always around you and encouraging you, and even slowing you down when needed.’
Tina: ‘There is no absolute perfect posture in Ashtanga yoga, the posture never ends. No alignment rules, alignment in Ashtanga comes from within, from the breath. In Ashtanga we want to cultivate a calm mind in a difficult asana (pose). For instance, when you are standing on your head and your breathing is not calm, your mind is not calm. Your breathing has to be synchronized with your moves.’
Daria: ‘Your breathing mirrors the situation on the mat. When your practise gets difficult, you have to stay calm and stay with your breathing.’Is it similar to other yoga styles?
Daria: ‘Vinyasa has the same focus on breathing. Ashtanga is a bit more static if you compare it to Vinyasa. With Vinyasa you flow the whole class really fast. Whereas, with Ashtanga you get to the pose and then hold it for five breaths. Within these breaths you have time to see what is happening, to observe the body and reactions to the body, to find challenges that you might have. Also people find Birkram yoga similar to Ashtanga, because of the dynamics and the heating aspects of both yoga’s. The main difference is that with Birkram, you get heat from the outside whereas with Ashtanga, you create heat from the inside.’ What are the main benefits of Ashtanga Yoga?
Tina: ‘You will gain strength a lot quicker than with other yoga styles. It can also help manage to ease your mind. I just had an exam and I took twenty breaths before it began. I started the exam with a clear mind and I passed!’
Daria: ‘With Ashtanga you are more in touch with your body, especially because the sequence is always the same. Each day your body feels different. Once you manage that feeling, thoughts will come up and you will be able to manage your thoughts and emotions. Once you come out of that class, you’ll definitely feel more refreshed.’
Tina: ‘The primary series within Ashtanga is also known as yoga therapy, which works on purifying the body. Especially on the digestive system, which is the base of a healthy body. When your digestive system doesn’t work well, it affects your whole body. The second series focuses on the nervous system. Because of its effect on the nerves, this can be quite emotional.’
Daria: ‘It builds up physical strength, but also mental strength. Some of the poses are so funky, that you are thinking, I can never do that. But with the help from the teacher you are coming in a pose that you never thought you were able to do. That’s a great feeling. It helps stepping over your fear in a gentle way.’Is Ashtanga Yoga a good combination with other types of yoga?
Tina: ‘Yes, as Ashtanga is yang yoga, which focuses on the muscles, it fits perfectly with yin yoga. Yin yoga aims at strengthening and easing connective tissue and joints. This combination is very effective!’Is Ashtanga a good combination with other sports, like kickboxing?
Daria: ‘Yes, it definitely is. You want to build up focus and Ashtanga is perfect for that. You want to have mental self-awareness. Ashtanga will help you punching your hand in a direction faster and more stable, because with Ashtanga you are able to control your mind better and your mind controls your body.’What do you think of starting teaching Ashtanga at Het Gymlokaal?
Daria & Tina: ‘WE CAN’T WAIT!’What would you say to people who are not sure if it’s for them?
Daria: ’Everybody can join. Ashtanga is for beginners as well as for pros. And to all men who are still doubting; Asthanga was developed for men by men. It is very dynamic and physical. Yoga isn’t just for girls.’
Tina: ‘Enjoy our classes and gain more physical and mental strength!’