Ashtanga Yoga- A Feminine Approach

Ashtanga means ‘eight limbs’ as laid out in ‘Yoga Sutra’ by Patanjali.  The Ashtanga method of Asana practice (postures) was interpreted by T. Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta, which they claimed described a unique system of Hatha yoga developed by Vamana Rishi. ‘Asana’ is only one branch of Ashtanga System.

It has become a known Yoga system that combines movement and breathing together (Yinyasa) through a set sequence of alignment-based Asana. This is can be a challenging form of yoga, strengthening and toning the body whilst releasing tension and detoxifying the body. The added emphasis is on the breath (ujayii) creates a more focused and meditative practice. it is at the root of many other newer yoga practices such as Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Power Yoga, Flow.. to name a few,

There is much merit and benefits for some in the strong physical practice if it is approached with intelligence, anatomical understanding and body awareness.  I teach with a BUT..

Hi all, thought I’d write a little about myself, my experience and style of teaching, save on waffle and more time on the mat!
For those who don’t know me, I am from UK, moved to Pretoria about 3 years ago. (via cape town/Tanzania)
I have taught yoga for over 10 years. (practicing for 20) my original foundation training and practice was in an Ashtanga based training.  I practiced and taught for many Years. When I started training in Well Woman Yoga around 2010 with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and opened to the world of Women’s yoga and womb work. and how some practices of yoga are not suitable at different times and stages of a women’s life ( see Womb Yoga manifesto) My Ashtanga practice changed dramatically as I listened to my body rather than just push push push. Working through menstruality, fertility, miscarriages pregnancy and postnatal and my menstrual Cycles taught me no one practice is suitable for every day.
I also learned the sad truth in 2018 when The ashtanga community was rocked by allegation of sexual abuse by its founder Pattabhi Jois. As upsetting as this was, I was not shocked especially as the yoga community is not immune to the sadness of Gender based vilolence and abuse in the world.
I decided this is not a ‘school’ I affiliate with, I do not call myself an Ashtanga teacher, I stopped reading, buying, supporting or quoting the Ashtanga community until there is a unified response and accountability. 
I actually didn’t want to practice the sequences for the last few years. feeling I was betraying all the women who have been victims of patriarchal and predatory abuse in the name of yoga and spiritual enlightenment. I recently asked my teacher,
‘how do we not throw the baby out with the bathwater?’
We acknowledge the good and benefits we have received from teaching, the friends and colleagues I have made on this journey, the skills I have enjoyed passing on to others,  knowing that Yoga is bigger than the people who have abused their power its name. It comes through lineages but is not from them, it is something deeper. Wiser. we also still need to question some of the practices, especially if they were used as an abuse of power.
”chuck out the bathwater and keep the baby and reveal the abuses of the peeps who ran the bath – keep the practices and TRANSPLANT these valuable practices to other nurturing contexts of equality and respect: the contexts of teaching are toxic, but the precious teachings are of immense value”. Uma Dinsmore Tuli. Yoni Shakti Movement.

BUT I will not allow my students to give away their own power, inner knowledge of their own bodies. I rarely adjust a person unless we have a good relationship and we are working in a consensual way with feedback, working to bring deeper awareness not to just them out of their own experience.

I use my deep knowledge of anatomy, and yoga asana in my teaching,

Focusing on connection with the present moment of moving mediation, at your own pace of your own breath..

As teachers, we must stand together and unite against such trauma.

Eradicate Abuse of Women in Yoga and to Reclaim Yoga as a Tool for Healing and Justice.

As a well-woman and cyclical yoga specialist, I draw from my wisdom of the female body and psyche and our cycles and weave this into any ashtanga based teachings. On the surface, the 2 paths at first don’t seem to match but in my experience is that there is so much beauty, groundedness and femininity in any form of yoga practice, when you strip back the masculine ego-driven appearance, dogmatic teaching and deconstruct and unlearn.   I encourage all yoga teachers, trainers and those that practice yoga to stand together. yoni shakti the movement
So In ‘feminine’ ashtanga inspired class this is what I gift but also ask you to respect.-
Sequence and Practice 
• I share the sequences of ashtanga asana but will help you get the most out of your practice by adapting, skipping or adding things that might not be there in the ‘strict series’
• Honouring the female/human! physiological adaptations in regards to pelvic health, structure, muscular system (female mula bandha)
• I will give alternatives in menstruation and pregnancy for physiological and energetic reasons.
• I won’t push you into asana you are not ready for or not able to do.. I encourage your ego also respect your body and my advice. Feel free to disagree too! I am open to healthy questioning. always question your teachers!
• In the tradition in Ashtanga I do not Practice alongside the students, I may just do a quick demo if needed or gesturally.
• Adjustments are traditionally part of the ashtanga sequence. Most of my adjustments are verbal very little is normally needed, at most I use a light touch on a shoulder hand or foot, stronger adjustments and are reserved and only after communication and consent. I respect your body and there is no right way to look in the posture.
Empowering Awareness 
• Encourage each woman to listen to their body and honour their life stages, and menstrual cycles. (are you menstruating, working through fertility, pregnancy, 2 years postnatal, Breastfeeding, peri or post-menopause? )
• Encouraging deep breath awareness in each asana and sequence.
• Encourage you to practice with self-acceptance and compassion. There is no competition especially with yourself.
• I encourage a new start every time. To listen how are your energies, bodies today. Progression in the sequence is not measured by the number or depth of Asana.
• Every student will take deep rest for at least 15 mins post asana practice. If you don’t have much time then it is better to skip postures so your body and nervous system can rebalance.

Basic Yoga Etiquette
• No excessive talking during asana, pranayama or relaxation. (Though happy for questions))
• Take water if needed especially on hot days, but try not to use it as a distraction.
• No gum, jewellery, perfume, also come clean please! Phones off or silent.
• Keep clothes simple, cool and comfortable. Look after your boobs- wear a decent bra or supportive clothing if you need.
• Notify if you are going to be late or if you need to leave at a certain time (I will give you time for proper rest)
• Let me know if you have any injuries or something doesn’t feel right, also if you are menstruating or possible pregnancies.
• Lastly have fun, enjoy respect and give gratitude to your beautiful body.