Limits in ashtanga yoga

 The most common cause of frustration amongst us students of Ashtanga Yoga is getting ‘stuck’ on a certain asana. We have been given this system which specifies that you can’t learn the next asana in the series until you can at least make a good fist of the previous one. That’s all very well until we come up against something which seems physically impossible. The mind tends to go into overdrive at this point.


“I’m not making any progress. Why can’t I just skip this asana? Some of the later ones are easier than this one anyway! What if I can never do this asana? Will I just be stuck here forever? Maybe I should give up yoga and do something that I’m good at, or at least something that is less frustrating”.


So what is it all about?


Well, from my experience, it’s all to do with limits.


Most of us remember our first yoga class. For some of us it was an ordeal of sweating, stretching, balancing and basically just trying to survive until the teacher said it was time to finish. For others it was a blissful experience of opening, and releasing our bodies and allowing our minds to relax. Somewhere in between those two extremes lies the ‘average’ experience (for the record I fell into the first category, but I felt so fantastic AFTER the class that I came back again and again and again, and now it seems less like an ordeal….most days!)


To the uninitiated in asana practice it would seem like the person performing the asanas more easily was ‘better at yoga’ (I hear this expression more often than you would believe!). The beauty of the Mysore Style method of learning is that that person would be given more to do over the first few weeks and months of practice until they found their limit. The person who is struggling is, of course, already at (or near) their limit.


Now this is where the real work and the real benefit of yoga practice happens. At your limit. So, as we can see from the very simple example above, we are all operating at our limit in the yoga practice. And, in other words, we are all having the same experience; some days positive and some days negative.


The trap is that, because the six series’ of Ashtanga Yoga seem like a linear progression, it is easy to get frustrated when we are not getting through them as quickly as we would like. Rest assured, the fundamental experience of the practice changes very little, the more postures you learn. The fundamentals of breath, posture and dhrishti are still just as elusive, and the feeling of operating at your physical and psychological limit is the same, regardless of whether the practice you have been given is half primary or the entire third or fourth series. Although it seems counter-intuitive, reaching your limit quicker could be seen as something of a blessing as you don’t have to go through all of those advanced asanas in order to see the truth; that the most important thing about the yoga practice is the attention which you bring to it, one vinyasa at a time.


So the idea of progress in asana practice becomes something which we didn’t expect it to become. That is, we are progressing in our asana practice when we bring a more single-pointed focus to it as the months and years go on. When the asanas start to become easy we are given more challenging ones, but only because that’s the best way to re-focus our minds and stop them from wandering.


Frustration is a part of this practice, and it can be an important one, because it shines a light on the real reasons we are practising in the first place.


Remember; what is your limit today will not be your limit next week, next month, next year or ten years from now. But to experience one-pointed attention (called ekagrata in Sanskrit) is one of the main goals of asana practice.

Luke Jordan in Dublin

January 27th to February 1st 2013

We are delighted to announce that our good friend, Luke Jordan will be joining us for a full week of classes in the New Year.

A lot of you will already know Luke well as he taught daily Mysore Style classes in Dublin from early 2008 until the end of 2010. Luke now spends his time travelling; sharing his expertise, experience and knowledge with yoga students around the world.

Luke is an advanced practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga and is authorised to teach the full primary and intermediate series. He is also currently completing a masters degree in Indian philosophy and we’re happy to say that he will be sharing some of his insights with us in his talk, and questions and answers session, on the Sunday afternoon.

Luke’s teaching is characterised by the calm, focussed intensity which he shares with his students. He is a generous teacher with a wealth of experience and knowledge in Ashtanga Yoga and beyond.

Please sign up well in advance for this week as space will certainly be at a premium.

Contact us here to book your place


Date Start Time Class Type
Sunday 9am Mysore Style
Sunday TBC (afternoon) Talk and Q&A session
Monday to Thursday 6.30am Mysore Style
Friday 6.30am Full Led Primary


Full week:  €120

Single class:  €25

Indian road block


Cows in India have free reign in the streets. I’ve never seen anyone hassling a cow or getting it to move on.

I came out of our house yesterday and saw this cow sitting happily in the middle of the road. Vehicles which could fit past went around her, and those that couldn’t reversed and went up the adjacent road.

It occurred to me that, if a cow did this in Dublin, it would probably be on the news! But it’s totally normal here.

Going home is going to be quite a culture shock!


How I got authorised to teach Ashtanga Yoga

Picture the scene: I’ve just done somewhere between eight and ten backbends and I stand up to try some unassisted dropbacks. I conquer the fear once and manage to get to the floor, from where I try, unsuccessfully, to stand back up. No dice.

I get to my feet again and attempt to drop back again. As I’m preparing myself Sharath comes and stands in front of me (about 6 inches in front of me actually!). I go back and my hands touch the floor again. He doesn’t help me. I walk in a little bit and Sharath puts his hands on my thighs. I stand up with ease, unsure of how it happened.

He says “you can do it”. I’m not so sure.

He helps me to do three of those half-bend drop back thingys and then brings me all the way down (I walk in again) and back up.

I’m physically and mentally drained and, as usual, a little shell-shocked by the back-bending experience.

Sharath says, “You come to the office later and fill out the authorisation form. Actually, come tomorrow, I won’t be there today”.

I say “ok”. Which is all I can manage if I’m honest.

Then I get into the pascimattanasana position on the floor and he presses me down hard. I say “uuugggh”. After 3 breaths he’s gone and I’m thinking, “…..”

And that’s the story of how I got authorised!

The best yoga-related snippets from the web part 4

Ok I haven’t done one of these for a while but here we go.

First up is a great essay written by certified teacher Tim Miller about his first experiences with Ashtanga Yoga, travelling to India and learning with Guruji. It’s easy to read in just one sitting and it’s always nice to hear long-time students talk about their early days with the practice. I highly recommend it.

Rich Roll, two time top-finisher at the Ultraman world championships has written this article on why every athlete should practise yoga. If he says it, then it must be true!

Further to that video that went viral of Arthur learning how to walk again through yoga practice, his teacher (and former pro-wrestler) Diamond Dallas Page has done this interview talking about his DDP yoga programme. Personally I love his slogan; “It Aint Your Mama’s Yoga” but maybe I’m just crass. Anyway, DDP is more of a yogi than he would let on by the sounds of things. Check it out.

Eddie Stern recently included this in his blog. It’s the story of an elementary school teacher called John Hunter in the USA who invented a game called the World Peace Game. It’s an inspiring example of what is possible through proper thought-provoking education, not just book-learning. World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more.

The best yoga-related snippets from the web part 3

Lets jump straight in this week and start with a video from the New York Times in which Eddie Stern talks a little bit about Ashtanga Yoga. From what we see of Eddie on the web, we really like him.

Canadian teacher, Paul Gold, asks an important question in this article. Fewer practice days or less practice every day? Sharath was asked this same question in London last August and he said ‘You just have to do what you can’.

Two videos of Guruji in Copenhagen in 2006. I’ve already posted these on our facebook page but here they are again for those of you who missed them. First, a short video documenting Guruji’s visit to Copenhagen followed by a 17 minute conference given by Guruji with Sharath and Saraswathi.

We came across this film about bio-dynamic/organic farming in India. It raises a lot of questions about working with nature (as opposed to trying to conquer nature) to produce food. Peter Proctor (the father of modern biodynamics) is a New-Zealander who now lives just outside Mysore at the Bhaktivedanta Academy for Sustainable Integrated Living. We are told in the film that he knows more about soil than probably anyone else on the planet. This is well worth a watch.

Follow our blog by clicking the ‘follow’ button on the left of this page.


The shala is currently closed due to the Covid-19 crisis. Click here to join our online classes.

Click here to find out about our introductory classes. All proceeds go to Odanadi Seva Trust, a home for trafficked children in Mysore, India.

The next moon-day is Sunday the 5th of July. There are no classes on that day.

  • 7 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2
  • (087) 2780 559
Leave us a review on Google