What is ashtanga yoga?

It's a traditional style of yoga combining breath and movement. It's a fairly strong physical practice, where you'll build internal heat to help purify and energise the body and mind. Ashtanga has a set sequence of poses that we work through, so over time you become familiar with the sequence and it becomes a moving meditation. It's as much a workout for the mind as it is for the body, and the challenging nature of some of the poses helps train your mind to remain calm and steady when faced with difficulty, on and off the mat. You can read more here, or come along to a class and see what it's all about.

I'm not flexible or strong - can I join your classes?

Yes! All the more reason to join. It's really not about what the poses look like - they are more like a tool to help train your mind, and over time you will become stronger and more flexible. I'll give modifications so everyone will be able to access the poses and you'll learn to work within your own limits, which will vary from day to day. Some basic level of physical fitness will help as ashtanga is a dynamic style of yoga, but you definitely don't need to be flexible or strong.

Are your classes suitable for pregnant women?

I advise against pregnant women joining my classes - I am not specifically trained in pregnancy yoga and many of the ashtanga poses need to be adapted for pregnant women. If you already have an existing ashtanga practice and understand how to adapt the practice for your body, then you are welcome to join and modify as you need, but please still let me know that you are pregnant. If you're new to ashtanga, I'd recommend joining a specific pre-natal class instead.

Do I need to have my video on for online classes?

No, but it's ideal if you do. I will teach to the people I can see - if your video is off, I won't know if you are following along ok or if you need any help. For me, a huge part of teaching is observing my students, and it also helps it to feel like a real life class. And none of the other students will be watching you! However, if you're self-conscious about having your video on, please come along anyway and feel free to turn it off - I'd much rather you come with your video off than not come at all. You could always just turn it on at the start or end to say hello if you feel like it so I can get to know you a bit!

Is there an app I can use to book your classes?

Yes! You can book my classes really easily through the Wix app. 1. Download the Wix app. (Search for the app or click on this link to download the app and be directed to my site.) 2. Create a login (you can use the same login you use with my website if you already have one).* 3. Go to My Account and then join with an invite code: the code for my site is OIPNJ9. Once you have the app, you can stay logged in and book classes really easily. You can flick through the calendar to see what's coming up, buy class passes, view bookings, check how many classes you've got left and more! *Some people have had problems logging into their account on the app because they used their Facebook or Google account to login to the website initially. If this is you, please get in touch and I'll help you fix it!

Do you teach private classes?

Yes - you can book an online private class through this websie. If you would like 1:1 help, you can also come along to a self-practice class on a Saturday with Shanti Bee, which is like a private class in a group setting.

Do you teach kids' yoga classes?

Yes! I have lots of experience teaching kids' classes but I don't currently have any on my timetable. I often teach one-off family yoga classes in school holidays too, as well as yoga for GirlGuiding groups and children's parties.

Do you teach yoga at workplaces?

Yes. I can teach regular workplace yoga classes, or one-off sessions, for instance for well-being events. I also have experience delivering Menstrual Cycle Awareness training for workplaces. Get in touch if you'd like to book classes at your workplace.

Which classes are suitable for beginners?

All classes can be adapted for beginners apart from the Full Primary Series. Note that ashtanga can be a fairly strong practice so some basic level of fitness will be helpful. Alternatively, you can book a private class to go through the basics before joining a group session.


What is a self-practice/Mysore class?

Self-practice classes (or Mysore classes) are where you practise the ashtanga sequence in your own time, without the teacher leading the class. The practice really becomes internalised and personal - you work through part or all of the sequence, letting your breath set the pace. This frees me up to be able to observe and offer 1:1 help, so it's like a private class in a small group setting. It's my favourite way to practise. It's how ashtanga was traditionally taught, and got it's name from Mysore, in India, which is often thought of as the home of the ashtanga yoga we practise today. Traditionally you would learn the sequence bit by bit, starting with just sun salutations and then adding on new poses one at a time. Usually an important part of these classes is hands-on adjustments. Physical adjustments can help you to 'feel' what a pose should be like, rather than processing verbal cues and thinking about them. I also like that this keeps the practice quieter! Adjustments can help you realise what you're capable of, and give you confidence to practise poses you might not be comortable trying on your own, as well as feeling therapeutic. I'm not giving physical adjustments in any classes at the moment due to social distancing restrictions. However, you will still get personal verbal feedback and help. Hands-on adjustments are always optional, so please do feel free to let me know if you would prefer not to be adjusted (at all, or in specific poses).

How many sun salutations should I do?

5 x sun salutation A and 3 x sun salutation B. You can practise less if you're short on time or building up to the full amount. Or you can do 5 x sun salutation B if you really want to build some heat!

Can I use a cheat sheet to help me remember the poses?

Yes - I'd recommend the one by Joey Miles which you can download for free here. It's absolutely fine to use a cheat sheet, particularly when you're practising alone, but I'd also really encourage you to practise without the sheet as much as possible. It can be a bit of a distraction to keep looking at it, and ultimately you'll never learn it if you always use the sheet! Trust yourself to go solo as much as possible, and don't worry if you forget a pose! In the self-practice class just wait at the top of the mat or catch my eye if you're not sure where you're up to, and I will help.

Can beginners join self-practice classes?

Yes - in fact, this is the traditional way of learning ashtanga for everyone, including beginners. Part of the beauty of a Mysore class is that it is so inclusive and allows all abilites to practise together. I'll explain everything and teach you what to do, so no experience is necessary.

What happens if I forget what comes next?

Just wait at the top of your mat or catch my attention and ask - I'll keep you right. Or refer to a cheat sheet if you're using one. If you're practising at home and can't remember, maybe just move on so you don't interrupt the flow of your practice too much. You can check afterwards, but it will probably come to you when you're in savasana anyway!

Do I need to do the full primary series?

No. Practise up to a point you're comfortable with - this could be the full series, or just the standing sequence, and it can vary from day to day. Even if you usually practise full primary series, there might be some days where you just want to do sun salutations or a shorter sequence. Traditionally, you'd learn the sequence one pose at a time, and your teacher would give you a new pose when you're ready, or when you are 'proficient' in the previous pose. If you're not sure where to practise up to, get in touch and we can chat about it to work out a good place for you. I will give you new poses when you're ready. Once you reach the final pose you are practising up to, go to the backbend sequence and then the closing sequence (shoulderstand, headstand, final 3) and savasana. If you're pushed for time, you can just do the final 3 and savasana. Make sure you leave enough time for a decent savasana (at least 5 mins, 10 or more if possible) - it's just as important, if not more important than the other poses.

How long should you hold poses in the closing sequence for?

Good question! This can vary between teachers and classes, but below is what I usually talk through in a led class. You can work up to this if it's too much at the moment. And you can hold poses for longer if you have time (and energy!), particularly shoulderstand and headstand (up to 25 breaths).

  • Backbends
1 x bridge pose: 5 breaths 3 x urdvha dhanurasana/wheel: 5 breaths each (just lower onto to the crown of the head between each one if possible) (If you're practising dropbacks, you can lift up from your last wheel and then practise dropbacks). Vinyasa Paschimottanasana/seated forward bend: 10 breaths
  • Shoulderstand Sequence
Lie down on the back: 10 breaths Sarvangasana/full shoulderstand: 15 breaths Halasana: 8 breaths Karnapidasana: 8 breaths Urdvha Padmasana: 8 breaths Pindasana: 8 breaths Matsyasana: 8 breaths Uttana Padasana: 8 breaths Chakrasana Vinyasa/backwards roll
  • Headstand Sequence
Sirsasana: 10 breaths Half Headstand: 5 breaths (then lift back up for 1 breath) Balasana/child's pose: 10-15 breaths Vinyasa
  • Final 3
Yoga Mudra: 10 breaths Padmasana: 10 breaths Utpluthih: 10 breaths Vinyasa Savasana: at least 5 minutes, 10 or more if possible

I practise second series - can I join these classes?

You're very welcome to join, but my classes are aimed at people practising the primary series. I have taught parts of second series before, but I don't have as much experience or training in the sequence. I used to practise full second series, but I currently only practise upto parighasana (gate post). I'll definitely try to help where I can.

Do I need to stay for the full 90 minutes?

No. You can start and finish any time within the 90 minute slot.

What should I do when I get to a pose I struggle with?

Have a go and then move on! In self-practice you can spend longer on poses you're struggling with, so feel free to have a few attempts at a pose, practise any modified versions, or spend longer on it. I once read that you should only practise your struggle pose 3 times before moving on, and whilst I don't always stick to this, I do think it is brilliant advice (I think it was Kino who said it). It means you don't get too bogged down in a pose and lose the flow of your practice, and you don't want to fatigue yourself (body and mind). You can also teach your body bad habits, especially if it's a strength pose - you don't want to keep falling out of something relentlessly and teach your body how to fall, or even injure yourself. Obviously my job is to help you so I will also help offer advice and tips with poses you're struggling with. In many cases I'll be aware of poses different students are working on anyway, and will talk you through some tips. If you want more help or have any questions, you can always ask. Even if I'm busy with someone else, you can just wait at the top of your mat until I'm free.

What if I only have a short time to practise?

Just do sun salutations! Or sun salutations, standing sequence and the final 3 poses. Or half primary and finishing sequence. Just do whatever you have time for, but try to always leave some time for a savasana (even if just a minute).

How many days a week should I practise ashtanga?

Practise as much or as little is useful to you. The official ashtanga way is 6 days per week, plus extra rest days on moon days and 'ladies holiday'. But it depends on so many different things, so it's really down to the individual. You don't want to be burnt out or not have time or energy for other areas of your life. And each day doesn't need to be a full practice - it could be as simple as meditating on your mat or doing a few sun salutations. Generally, it's best to do a little bit regularly rather than just one or two hard practices that wipe you out for the rest of the week. And try not to beat yourself up if you don't practise as much as you planned! The practice should be a help in your life, not a burden. I rarely practise 6 days a week - at least not a full ashtanga practice.

Should I practise when I am on my period?

Again, it's really down to the individual. The days when a woman is menstruating is often referred to as 'ladies holiday' and many women take rest from ashtanga on these days. (This is not only specific in ashtanga, but also in lots of cultures around the world, where the days of the bleed are seen as a sacred and deeply spiritual time to rest and enter the 'inner temple'.) If you do choose to practise when menstruating, it's often advised to avoid inversions and the use of strong bandhas. This is because menstruation is a downward or 'apanic' energy, and inversions and mula bandha in particular oppose this natural downward flow of energy. If you are practising, be mindful that you may want to be more gentle, particularly without the use of strong bandhas to support you. If you're in a led class when on your period and want to avoid inversions, you can keep the hips down in shoulderstand and just raise the feet, and take child's pose instead of headstand. I personally do not practise ashtanga for at least the first 3 days of my bleed, sometimes not for 4 or 5 days.

Is it best to practise in the morning or the evening?

Whatever suits you best. It's traditional to practise in the morning before the sunrise and before you've eaten or had time for the chaos of life to filter in. Since yoga was originally practised in hot countires, it also made sense to practise early in the morning because it was cooler. But really, I think it just depends what time suits your lifestyle. If you're trying to build practice into your daily routine, practising at the same time each day is helpful. I personally have never liked being stuck to a strict routine (which is ironic considering I practise ashtanga), so I mix it up. I find that when I practise in the morning, my body is stiffer but my mind is more focussed. In the evening, my body might feel more open and stronger but my mind wanders more. And if I'm practising at home, I've usually found an excuse or run out of time by the evening, so sometimes it works better if I just get up and get it done before I have time to talk myself out of it.

What are moon days and should I practise on them?

Moon days are the days when there is a new moon and a full moon - so roughly two each month. Ashtangis typically rest on these days, and many ashtanga shalas are closed on moon days. The new moon is seen as a time of rest and renewal, whereas the full moon is a time of expansive energy and emotion, and typically a time of feeling ungrounded. Resting on moon days is a great way of staying connected to the moon cycles, and can also be much needed extra rest days if you're practising 6 days most weeks! If you do practise on moon days, try to be mindful of the different energies - especially at full moon it's a good idea to back off a bit as you may be tempted to push yourself too far, which could lead to injury. I personally do practise (and teach) on moon days, and follow my menstrual cycle instead - often considered a personal moon cycle. If you don't have a menstrual cycle, it can be really helpful to track the moon cycle and observe moon days.

©2020 by Louise Watson Yoga.