Ep7 – What is Ashtanga Yoga, with Certified Ashtanga teacher, Jörgen Christiansson

Learn a bit about Asthanga yoga from Jörgen Christiansson, a Certified Ashtanga yoga teacher with more than 30 years experience. He and Dr. Hill speak about yoga, meditation, long days in Sweden, and why Ashtangis take “Moon Days” off.

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Learn a bit about Asthanga yoga from Jörgen Christiansson, a Certified Ashtanga yoga teacher with more than 30 years experience. He and Dr. Hill speak about yoga, meditation, long days in Sweden, and why Ashtangis take “Moon Days” off.

so welcome to the next episode of head first with dr. hill today’s guest is
Juergen Kristensen who’s a certified ashtanga yoga teacher patina stronger for 30 years more than 30 years and he’s
my personal teacher and we share a wall our businesses are congruent so he was a pretty easy guest to get on I sort of am
blessed to have next door so you’re going to welcome to the show today like I have you thank you very much so
could you introduce yourself to our listeners tell us a little bit about who you are what your background is where
you grew up that kind of thing okay well I grew up in Malmo Sweden okay and came
here in 87 all right early like 20 years old I think I was okay and came here to study
music but the yoga part of my life became more sort of important and it
took over two years later and then been teaching yoga things so you came to the
u.s. from Sweden yes and I think I know that you went to India at some point too
is that right I did I went to India as early as I could pretty much because growing up I always had an interest in
Indian culture and so went there I think when I was 17 okay okay great so what
kind of music were you into when you came to the u.s. what was that journey for you it was everything back in listen to jazz
all kinds of experimental music I like what would be called now world music I
guess which was a combination of all kinds of drug rhythms from different countries combined with different scales
and types of music interesting yeah great so when did you first get exposed
to yoga or meditation I think I mean I
heard about yoga when I was a child but I came across it more in my early teens
I think I was 12 and my mother went to a
Transcendental Meditation course and I went there also to get initiated
started meditating and had really great
success in meditation back then I think your mind is just not as busy or filled
with conditioning ah so when I started meditating back when I was younger I would sit for half hour and it felt like
a few minutes went by so that was a nice I think you get this inspiration early
on so you know what’s to come certainly inspired to continue so I think it was my early teens and it
started from meditation and I had read about yoga philosophy so I was mostly
interested in in yoga from that perspective to begin with and then later
on it became the yoga poses and the pranayama and the breathing techniques okay yeah and then when you came to the
US for music and then so he said yoga took a bludger part yeah I was struggling for a while for about two
years I was in limbo because I thought my career would be in music and and I
still love music but yoga just seemed to be what was falling in place naturally
all the time so finally I gave in and said okay do you follow the signs yes
because with music sometimes people stay up late they rehearse and it’s hard to get up in the morning and so it was a
bit of a conflict I’ve discovered that conflict of course the stronger has a very early morning practice typically
and some days I Roland will too late for for morning practice as you notice so
tell me about your training as a yoga teacher so of course you got into personally but
when did you decide okay this is something I want to pursue as a teacher to practice on you teach to teach ya to
teach I never decided to teach I was kind of thrust into a class once I was
helping out doing carpentry work with it was the Chuck Miller at yoga works and
who was the first one to instruct me the method before I went to to India the
Pattabhi Jois and there was a missing teacher and I was thrown in there and
after that it just seemed to be more and more of those opportunities so I never really decided that was going to teach
it just kind of happened okay so first you get sort of you discovered you were you were teaching all of a sudden
exactly okay yeah now can you tell listeners what yoga is
can you unpack that that’s a pretty loaded term people people in the West may not have the same perspective on it
as folks from India culturally it’s a very big area but for you what is yoga
what what can you tell us yeah first you have to define yoga which which part of yoga you’re talking about
okay yoga is is a state ultimately where there’s union between the universal and
individual self sounds great but mostly people speak of yoga as the practice of
poses and reading which is classified into what’s called hatha yoga mat yoga
is the four lower limbs of our Sangha yoga limbs Yama’s new Yama’s asana and pranayama
okay so those four generally go under the umbrella hata yoga and it’s it’s not
a term for any specific style which is a misconception okay yoga is all pretty much all the
styles of poses that are practiced today so all of the body oriented practice
yeah the seemingly body oriented it starts with that we start with the body because it’s the easiest thing to
control holding a pose like inertia on yoga we hold the pose for about five
breaths generally look at one place and breathe and that could be enough of a
challenge to begin with because the mind wavers and goes here and there sure but just continuing to do that practice
regularly trains the mind to to focus and so that’s what we do understand a
yoga okay so Ashtanga is a cause is of the hatha yoga or at least it contains
the hatha contains the head limbs yeah Ashtanga Yoga are still means eight and it refers to the eight limbs which
is Patanjali yoga okay what is Patanjali potentially is considered the the father
of yoga ah heen I should know this but he lived about just a little over 2,000
years ago okay and he wrote the yoga sutras and so that is the science he describes
in 180 verses the signs of yoga and how to attain these these stages so so
besides the four lower limbs what what else is there after that you have
prepped ihara which is you withdraw the senses and cutter now which is concentration
dianna which is the meditation which leads to Samadhi which is the state of
bliss okay so you know sometimes people say arrogantly oh I don’t practice hatha
yoga practice Raja yoga which is the higher four limbs but it’s impossible to just go straight there okay if you’re
sitting with a slouched body and you have all kinds of fluctuations in the
mind it’s impossible to sit there and just meditate so to the lower limbs support the upper limbs they all need to
be there okay they all need to be there but we start with we start with those first four generally and that supports a
further practice so you mentioned with drawing the senses hmm can you say more
about that what does that mean it sounds like meditation a little to me it is a little bit of meditation the senses are
what pulls us out into the world and the senses are what pulls us out to to
indulge in sense gratification which causes pain ultimately so it sounds it
sounds boring to be a yogi because I try to attain from from that which most people seek but ultimately when you have
the understanding that the more you indulge the more pain you will have in your life gradually that becomes boring
instead you can so you seek a yogic life which is more to simplify and structure
your life so that it supports that direction so withdrawing of the senses
is that a practice where you gradually begin to turn inward and preparation for
meditation the next step is concentration and if you’re too focused outwardly you get pulled out you get
distracted there will always be sounds smells all kinds of stuff going on when you sit to meditate anyone who meditates
noses the point is not to focus on them they graduated just keep returning inward and
focus on some sort of focus so I do a lot of Buddhist meditation I sort of
view concentration in almost in contrast to awareness sort of single point versus
present time awareness is the concentration in Ashtanga is it anchored
to a specific point or a narrow focus or is it just concentrating all aspects of
your mind how is it achieved what is the are we now talking about the astanga practice as in when we’re doing the
poses or just the active concentration as that builds from the practice which
type of concentration of what your focus is is not so relevant okay they’re all different paths leading to the same goal
but in the yoga practice when you’re doing the poses we start by holding a pose and usually there’s a looking place
as good or do we say my teacher he said looking place which is Drishti in sounds good you look at one place one specific
place depending on the pose and when you look at one place and breathe that
trains the mind to be still and focus mind control and so this is how we start
gradually the mind is like the wind it’s easy to control or harness so you have
to start in this way first with the physical the middle with breathing techniques and then with drawing and in
concentration in that order okay yeah so sounds like a good building that it is a good building so I’ve been doing yoga
with you for a couple of years now off and on with certain degree of commitment some some months better than others yes
and I noticed pretty early on when I started to practice in um car when away
the your studio I didn’t really have any yoga experience before I done you know for one day you know one hour classes
twenty thirty years ago when I was young and when I started to do practice I
would leave practice after an hour and a half feeling like I had both worked out at the gym and I had meditated
significantly like I had the stillness of meditation and the more I I practice
the almost the more involuntary sort of meditation pack I seem to get in and now I would say
correct if I’m wrong it sounds like I’m been focusing on the lower limbs and your studio up until now been practicing
the asanas and yet the meditative
concentrated those things seem to be emerging in spite of me not focusing on them or trying to do them right is that
a function of just doing the lower limbs yes it happens when it’s ready it comes automatically there’s nothing you really
need to focus on when people come into the practice and they start focusing on those higher aspects right away huh they
come in they ask about the class they’ve never practiced yoga there’s two things when can I start teaching AHA I almost
chose initially now the first-year practice but before they ask you know
when they’re going to attain these higher states hmm and so these are all aspirations and desires that are within
you and it’s coming from you know when
you have that desire it’s not necessarily a good thing it’s it’s the ambition that will gradually entangle
you and get you in trouble it’s better to come and just practice knowing that I’m focusing on this first now and then
when it’s when the time is ready it’ll come wonderful so you don’t really have to think too much or focus on these
higher limbs right away it’s okay to sit quietly that’s the practice anyone can
start and do there’s very simple breathing techniques that people can do after they just begin yoga practice you
begin your your asana practice or your poses surely you can sit afterwards and just do simple art and alternate nostril
breathing techniques and then sit quietly that’s fine it’s beneficial for everyone kind of facial but it’s
important to to really focus on the beginning part of the poses and then the
breathing so um for folks that know Ashtanga seems to have as a core piece
of it what we call Mysore style practice which is I always tell my brain training clients as I’m encouraging to go next
door that some differences what they may expect from other forms of yoga is that it is self-paced where you have an
opportunity to go in and practice in a guided way a facilitated way but you aren’t rushing to follow
along typically most days you are able to drop into the rhythm of the practice
at your own pace do as much as you like go as quickly or slowly as it feels appropriate for me that was one of the
biggest reasons why I’ve actually stuck with Ashtanga is the fact that it wasn’t it has this very personal process and
I’ve actually had this sort of master the the personal nature of the commitment of the practice of doing it
and before I knew it I did when I first start working I don’t think I told you
this when I first start working with you I had done about six weeks with you and that was it and then I went away to I’d
this retreat I do every summer a Sufi mountaintop in upstate New York oh yes right and I went away and there
was somebody teaching in a stronger led primary now okay great I’ll do this soon four or five days into class but I brought a good time at the end of it
everyone’s like oh my god your yoga is so good no really I didn’t notice you know I had no idea and it was because I
was sort of forced to do it in a very you know internal way without paying much attention and also in your studio
you know I was very new and I feel ungainly and clumsy and you know unflexible although maybe that’s the
mind not the body I hear is that it is the mind monkey yeah but it’s almost that I that I learned
Yoga in a way that I wasn’t even aware I was learning because I was focusing on
my practice for his you know thinking about what it was I should be doing so
I’m is that this one you find in general from students that the Mysore practice teaches them without them even knowing
yeah the my style is is a beautiful practice and first let me describe what the name
is sometimes people who come and they see this Mysore does that mean I’m going to get really sore and it does it does
whether you are stronger you do get sore but that’s not what the name is from Mysore is a city in South India where my
my teacher lived in South India my sword and he had his small room fitting a pen
later 12 people squeezed into that small room huh and we were practicing this self-paced practice
and it’s really beautiful because people can start from any place no matter what
their age or physical limitations you do what you can when you’re in a class
where everyone is doing at the same time sometimes you’re led to compromise or over over do sure and this is a very
nice organic way to practice because when people first come they they ask how
often should I come how much should I do and it’s basically incorporated a new lifestyle hmm you sign up for a month
and you try to come six days a week if you can’t make six days you do what you can people have schedules I understand
but you try to keep the practice very regular and in the beginning your
practice may be in only 20-30 minutes yeah yeah but it’s better to do everyday 20 30 minutes than to do an hour and a
half once or twice a week it has a completely different effect mm-hmm you’re not overdoing and you’re
cultivating and learning to to practice on your own yeah you know it’s the mind
doing instead of just listening to someone telling you what to do you are memorizing and you’re following your own
rhythm and breath which is good to do for the most part it is also important
to do at least once a week at led class to sort of check in to see what your
rhythm is and if you’re doing the vinyasa or the movements and breathing correctly but the my system is amazing
yeah when I first got involved with with yoga with you I would you know tell friends whoa I’m doing you know some
yoga Ashtanga oh really oh that’s hardcore oh you’re gonna hurt all that’s that’s too much and that was not my experience
my experience was it was a very gentle place to land where I could push myself as much as I wanted or as little as I
wanted and from the outside people that were not a strong use they had this perspective that it was hardcore you
know physically really difficult yoga but that’s not been my experience I sighs too much the difference between
Mysore practice and only doing lead classes maybe I think it’s more has more
to do with who’s teaching it and what their attitude is why is very significant okay now any action
we do in life is governed by our motives what is our intention with what we do
and based on that has a different result or effect and it affects the students
too that’s why it’s so important the other big responsibility as a teacher what is your motive for doing what you’re doing I am just passing on the
method that I was taught to my by my teacher and I’m trying to create a space to facilitate in a safe place
people just growing mmm you know but it should come from them inside yeah yeah
but if if there’s too much of ego involved if you have this idea that you
want two people to be afraid of you or respect you or like you or all these wrong wrong intentions then you may you
may give people this feeling that Ashtanga is intense and also of course there’s people that are not qualified
they call themselves a stronger teachers but they haven’t really studied they haven’t gone to Mysore they haven’t
really studied with the lineage and they may not know exactly the method yeah so
I when I first started working with you I started googling you know Ashtanga places and looking for different teachers it does not look like there’s a
huge number of certified donkeys in this country is that accurate yeah no I don’t
think there’s that many I don’t know exactly the number I think us probably has the most your pedaling is almost no
one okay and so there’s a it’s it’s a growing number but it requires you to go and put in time it’s certainly not a 200
hour training it’s more like a 20 year training okay all right it’s not so easy
great well it’s it’s a it sounds like it’s a worthwhile pursuit it is because
at teaching yoga you know sometimes these 200 hours give new teachers the
idea that they are ready after 200 hours because they get a certificate sure these are not standard trainings
obviously these are just anything else and that is very dangerous because people believe that now they are ready
and they have enough experience to teach yoga and to tell people what to do when they come with problems and injuries
and they usually are not they don’t have enough experience so humility is a very
important part as a yoga teacher great so you learn from guru ji ever I learned
from that occasional Pattabhi Jois hi my guru uh-huh and then you said 2,000 years ago
Patanjali yes just over 2,000 years ago what happened in the intervening 2,000
years what happened like like where’s the connection oh I think people were
already practicing yoga before Patanjali obviously actually he just sort of did a
concise in very short Sutra form verse form the signs of yoga and the steps
basically of stealing the mind you know step by step what to do to still the
mind and to connect in yoga he just wrote like a manual okay and that was
followed by people ever since you know he’s highly regarded as the father of
yoga kind of so the Ashtanga itself emerge you know many thousands of years ago or is it sort of a framing a
reformation of Patanjali sutras more recently you know I think categorizing different schools of yoga and lineages
is something we do but Yoe gihan they’re okay and the unique thing about what I’m
practicing is that it is following a param para or lineage of teachers sometimes people do learn from watching
videos or copying other people yeah and it does not have the same magic or or
grace behind it certainly no when you have when you have the blessings of teachers of the teaching that’s been
passed down through the ages it has a certain energy to it and people feel it when they come to the room yeah even if
I’m not adjusting anyone at that day just being in the room practicing they feel they feel the energy from guru ji
from the lineage and so that is important people have certainly been
practicing before Patanjali and ever since interesting you know my guru he
had this teacher krishnamacharya and he had his teacher Ram Mohan Ramachari
who was living up in a cave in the Himalayas aha and he studied with him for I think seven seven years and
learned thousands of asanas and so and so on before so it’s it’s a connected
lineage and that I think is what makes astanga-yoga unique so you have a course a studio in los angeles in culver city
called um car 108 which is a I can’t say enough good things about it as a lovely
place to practice thank you what others style mean you haven’t had a um car forever you only what five or six years
is that right f4 yes six and a half years we’ve had that location I was looking for a space for about 20 years
okay but I was teaching out of a friend’s place mostly in Brentwood for
many many years at least fifteen years and just decided I wanted to find a
space where I could have more events longer hours and create more of a
community or stronger community and have more influence of the space itself and
so people say when they come they feel the energy feels inspiring and safe and
good yes and that is because we’re focusing on that when people come i don’t allow anyone to have arrogance or
attitude or anything okay sometimes you have people who come and they’re proud of their poses or people get upset
because someone took their spot okay whatever that means and so I try to teach everyone to get along
in the room and focus on their practice so when someone comes in as a beginner it may look intimidating at first to see
so many people some people been practicing 25 years yeah how many advanced poses but there’s also
beginners sure and they are very much supported and encouraged by the senior students I also really like I tell
people that a there’s no mirrors and B it’s sort of a low lululemon quotient it’s not really in LA yoga scene and the
slightest which means it’s a bit more comfortable you have for me at least is yeah no fluff yeah it’s a mirror
certainly pull the mind out it’s not a dance class so mirrors would just
distract you looking at yourself other people older mind aldehyde you look at
the dish day or the point and you breathe to focus just Ito looking at the point
of your nose the point of your hand exactly there’s different ones for different poses okay yes I know some of
those not not many but some yeah so I’m aside from teaching in a studio
what other kinds of teaching and done I think you were traveling and one on one instructor for some people you’ve you’ve
done a lot of worldwide travel you’ve been and itinerant a yoga instructor
yeah now I traveled quite a bit and taught a lot of privates in the past these days I limited to maybe just a
couple of privates okay generally because I’d like to build on car and be more available there of
course when I do workshops and go away and have retreats yep so all of them but
my guru said to have a class mmm-hmm he said always have a class so so what kind
of things are you doing at Omkar besides simply ashtanga yoga what other things are emerging as you build the community
and the activities we’re doing chanting classes okay we’re doing pajamas or kittens uh-huh philosophy you know all
the other aspects that is yoga we have informal talks what we talk sometimes
just after class but we will schedule separately also but we talk about different aspects and what’s you know we
talk about the Yoga Sutras but then also we talk about two simple things like I asked this morning why people practice
yoga and I didn’t want a high esoteric answer I just wanted why do you practice
why did you start mm-hmm and then people say oh they want to be more still okay
and someone said I just feel better yeah my body feels better and these are very
honest correct answers you can why people start and after a few years you
get to other aspects and you may you may do it for different reasons interesting
yeah I I started doing it certainly to just be physically more you know intact
more flexible and of course I’m as I mentioned as I started to do what I discovered that it served the purpose of
both exercise and meditate for me very very well yeah I seem to get
the same type of meditative stillness that I would get from their half day for our sit in an hour of stanga yeah and
also get the same kind of workout I would get you know lifting iron for a couple of hours in the same hour and so
it’s very efficient use of time is but also not quite as worn out as I might be
from pumping iron and not quite as much of a commitment as it might be for doing a half-day sit or something right it
energizes you even though you’re doing a physical exercise on some level you’re
moving the body or breathing yep it’s exhausting certainly at the same time
you’re getting all the other benefits of you know you need to release past body
memories that are stored in muscles there’s also making you tight breathing through it the biggest lesson in the beginning is
for people to learn that it’s okay to feel pain and they learn that and your
brake fluid uh-huh because you put up with the pain and you breathe for the moment and then afterwards you feel so
much better and more relaxed mmm-hmm and so that is you know Ashtanga is not
necessarily a only feel-good type of yoga right you feel good after yeah it’s
like an investment yeah you you work through some karma you put up with some of the pain now and then afterwards you
feel better that’s wonderful I certainly can come back for that yeah so um this is 2017 what kinds of things might you
be planning for the year any any workshops and retreats anything that’s interesting that you want to share with our listeners
well my highlight is my yearly Swedish midsummer yoga retreat that is my
favorite place to go and actually was the favorite for a lot of people who went there last year no coming back plus
some new ones yeah I think I’ll have to be one of those new ones here tell us but more about that is it’s obviously in
Sweden it’s out in the countryside is this converted old farmhouse uh-huh and
they have a little Swedish winery believe it or not it’s kind of Italian
style and the bluffs have been converted it’s really a lovely place to stay have amazing healthy vegan food mm-hmm
the chef that comes there she’s amazing and we have yoga upstairs in a kind of
loft space uh-huh and this is overall really beautiful very nice in place we look out around it’s all fields and
flowers and oh it’s great can’t wait to see it and this is of course is happening at the Swedish midsummer it
will be starting June 18th through the 24th well before that I think I’m doing
a three or four-day workshop in Malmo which is the city close by great wonderful so now what is a midsummer we
don’t have that holiday here in the US for the culturally can you tell us a little about the Swedish background of
that yeah it’s the longest day of the year mm-hmm and so people celebrate the light
because it is very light you even that far south and Sweden it is it is people
who first come to Sweden in the summer they get a little freaked out this is they don’t realize it’s going to get
light so early uh-huh and they cannot also fall asleep in the evening because even 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. it’s still light
so they have to pull the blinds down yeah right so yeah we celebrate that that long day of midsummer it’s an old
tradition how much light are you getting at that point I don’t know but it feels like the Sun is only down for a few
hours and then the light starts coming back again I imagine that might affect people’s energy oddly especially if you’re
getting if you’re not from Sweden the Arctic’s you’re used to needing to drive around it affects people oddly even if
you’re living in Sweden okay people seem to come alive in the summer uh-huh almost like hysterically so also
everyone stays out and everyone eats and drinks and parties uh-huh and then we
winter people hibernate how can you get up for early-morning mice or practice if you’re up you know partying all night oh
yeah I’m not talking about partying but you know certainly when we have incidentally this year we have a moon
day mm-hm Midsummer Eve uh-huh so that’s very convenient we might get to sleep in
a little bit okay and then we have instead of practice we’ll do some versions or get done and we do a day of
practice on the Sunday before the end of the retreat but yeah I it’s it’s not
like you stay up and partly I’m just peed it’s light Caroline so people tend
to just sleep a little bit life and you don’t seem to need to sleep as much
interesting the Sun gives of energy yes yes certainly certainly so you said this
this this term moon day it’s make your practices a stronger for me it’s the day that I get to not practice and not feel
guilty but beyond that I don’t have a
good sense of why we take full moon and new moon days off of your soccer practice
yeah there are many explanations for what the moon days are huh you can say
very often people speak of the gravity cool of the Moon being in line with the
Sun yes and the moon the body of the moon itself affects all bodies of water thus XT is the gravity and so the ocean
Rises and so since we are mostly water people say that oh it also affects our body okay and so we take a day off that
day not to misjudge it’s kind of a more extreme time where it’s a being and
flowing and so you take a day off just to make sure you don’t misjudge anything I think traditionally when guru ji was
teaching at the under the maharaja of mysore they took a day off because it
was a very busy time in as a Brahmin priest during full moon and new moon you do extra poojas okay what is that you
just ceremonies uh-huh yeah so you do certain ceremonies at the time and sort of quite busy and so I think a
very practical reason for why we take a day off then is because they were busy doing the poojas so that became a
natural natural time off but it is a is a nice rhythm to follow to become aware
of where the moon is in the cycle and certainly if we practice six days a week
an extra day of moon day right unless it falls on a Saturday then you don’t get a
day off right but it is a nice extra break sure yeah I certainly when I started doing counting and realizing oh
I can twenty two days a month oh that’s not a big deal I can do that right it sort of
makes it less threatening than the idea of practicing you know 30 days 28 days a month so yeah I anyone that starts to
practice I don’t want them to feel intimidated by the idea that oh I have to do this every day and it’s going to
be like this and that try not to think too far ahead just see the practice as
something that you incorporate into your daily routine and in the beginning it may only be 20-30 minutes and once you
start that it just becomes something you want to do because it feels so so much better yeah it supports everything else
in your life so it’s something you want to have there yeah I certainly find that I crave if I’ve been lazy or too busy
and I’ve been up late at night and you know up on early morning not practicing after a few days of that my body starts going you need to do Sun Salutations and
sort of get pulled towards my yoga room yes so it’s very nice in spite of myself
I discover I have a practice that you know is insistent on on being met to some extent exactly when you practice
for long enough then you you want to have it in your life and the moment you realize that the most is when you’ve
missed a few days yeah because keeping a regular practice just keeps your mind in
focus of what’s important in life after a longer practice you start realizing this while everyone else is pursuing
sense gratification which ultimately leads to pain yeah you are you know
going to bed early waking up practicing early mm-hmm and by the time you’re done most people are starting their day yeah
but they have discovered that what you do in the morning and how you condition
the mind in the morning has an effects of the rest of the day so starting a morning with the mice or practice or
astanga practice really supports everything else in your life that’s wonderfully agree from a personal
perspective I find it’s changed a lot and you know and I work with brains I work people’s personal challenges and
struggles and performance goals and if I’m sort of a post Ashtanga practice in
the morning at you know 8:00 a.m. or 8:15 my space my bandwidth my ability to
quietly listen to take and people are saying to not think about I really need a coffee or something is
really established it seems to get all the the busyness of my mind sorted so
that I can be more present for clients yes yeah this practice teaches you not to give in to every little wimp mm-hmm
it’s a it’s called tapasya or austerity which is one of the aspects of yoga not
giving in to every sort of impulse but the senses send us is is yoga okay and
it teaches you to stay in control over yourself and it’s something that makes you feel
better in the long run so we have morning Mysore class and led classes in
the morning available at um car 108 what other evening or other classes are you
having a whole program of classes starting actually so we have sometimes
people are very intimidated to just start a Mysore practice okay and I’m saying again they should not be intimidated because that’s nothing scary
but if they cannot make it in the morning we do have what I call short
primary which is the beginning or most of the primary series it’s the same
sequence as you do in the Mysore class but it’s a guided and counted class so we we have that also during the
weeknights and then we also have some other classes at 7:35 that are just kind
of like hatha yoga or vinyasa classes then when Yassa means flow essentially that’s that right yes it’s vinyasa is
the movement with breath okay sequence and so there’s a style of yoga that has
been called vinyasa yoga yeah a lot of times it’s very much based on the Ashtanga system but maybe not sticking
so rigidly due to the the sequence but yeah like a 6:30 every weeknight we have
a short form of the astanga practice and this is the short primary series primary now primary meaning first of course I’m
vaguely aware there are things beyond the primary series is that that accurate yes there’s several series uh-huh I’m
not concerned about getting some myself I’m not attached to that in the slightest because I’m only about halfway
I think through the mastering the primary series myself personally yeah it seems to me you know
when I come in in the morning and those people who’ve been doing it for many many years that this takes years it is not a hey
I’m gonna learn Ashtanga this month it seems like it has a much longer practice
or much longer process guru ji says this is not you something you do one month one year or even ten years oh it’s a
lifelong practice okay you’re basically conditioning and preparing yourself it’s a lifelong practice people come in and say oh how
long can I learn primary series in one month you know they come on with this this ambition and it’s it’s you don’t
understand when you come in with that motive is from the wrong reason we start from where you are and it doesn’t really
matter in which series you are what matters is that you are progressing and overcoming obstacles and difficulties
and allowing the body to open you’re releasing with your breath that is what’s important is the breathing
practice and the the different series and poses are almost there just as a an
excuse okay to breathe further so breathing gaze the poses what what else
is important that I may have missed in my own Ashtanga practice mula bandha are the the locks the relock yes it’s just
like not even sure if we should mention it now but it’s a slight awareness and
contraction of the perineum disease which gives mind control as already says so trying to keep or maintain and also
as you’re breathing and moving is also very helpful maintaining that during practice or yes all the time all during
practice for sure huh that’s the best time to sort of remember to do it yeah but good would you would say almost at
all times ah okay but it sounds very difficult I am I find that keeping things locked down there helps a great
deal with my lower back I have some discs that are intact anymore yeah and oddly enough I mean I blew that two
discs 25 years ago or something and I have a chronic lower back issue most of
the physical things I’ve done sports exercises weightlifting whatever it is when I tweaked my back I have to
Oh be careful don’t do anything for a while at settled for a week or two and then slowly move back into it and for
the first year I did a shank oh that was my my habit was to go oh right we commit maybe don’t come in for a few days and
then I started to push past that even if it was hurting and I only enough find
that typical you know morning practice
reduces pain in my back and every other exercise I’ve done it increases it or
makes it worse or exacerbates it pretty profoundly but you know some citations are not the most gentle thing
necessarily but they do seem to open up my lower back in a way that I’ve been
very surprised by yeah if you learn to move in the right way with the breath
mm-hmm it’s very very very helpful even if you have issues with lower back and so forth
many people have it’s very common okay but if you learn to move correctly with the breath it actually helps a great
deal what happens usually when people start feeling pain is that they hold the breath which is the complete opposite of
what you should be doing when you’re holding your breath that you’re sending a signal to the body that there’s some
sort of distress and you tense up further and you cannot release and open up what needs to what needs to give so
you should lock the lower muscles but also keep the blood flowing it’s not even really a lock I almost
just a slight awareness so it’s not a tight contraction that is just going to
cause constipation got a very slight awareness of lifting it’s just an honor
almost energetic lift uh-huh but I you know in the beginning I tell people not to worry too much yeah moolah vada
the main thing is as good as you would say free breathing meaning just breathe
even if you cannot remember exactly how long to breathe and perfectly and the
quality of the breath the main thing is to not hold the breath okay keep moving keep breathing because even when the
body is tight in one area other places open up if you continue practice and if it’s different types of
pain if there’s a sharp pain definitely become be aware and an observant and ask
the teacher what they think is the good idea to do but if it’s something that’s painful while you’re doing it but it
sort of goes away when you come out of the pose it’s generally not a pain okay it helps the body open up in other ways
because yes if you’re bending forward you feel your back slightly but it also helps stretching your hamstrings if you
do it correctly mm-hmm stretching the hamstrings will alleviate the pain that you have in the lower back so they’re
all they’re all supporting each other so what people find is that if they feel
pain and they back off they generally have pain for longer yeah let me if they continue practicing with awareness
interesting I’ve also heard you say in class breathe with sound freeze with
sound read with sound yes what is what is the yeah look at Darth Vader yes exactly kind of that breathing they
people used to mistake it for what’s called Wu ji breath which is a classic-car nagamma okay I think this is
not that it is not that because which I breathing is when you’re sitting and doing this practice by itself in a
different way okay so guru ji would say breathe with sound which is this whispering just like a slight
contractions like whispering with the mouth closed so people who have a hard time finding it I usually say just
whisper and then close your mouth continue to whisper ah and then that sound comes you try to
have it on both inhale and exhale and the main effect of it is that it lengthens the breath and it tells you
the quality of the breath or if you again or stop breathing it’s very noticeable if you hear the sound and all
of a sudden the sound stops you know you stopped breathing so it’s that’s a helpful thing to happen
incorporate that’s wonderful yeah so um again I told you that what I told my
friends I was getting into a song oh that’s really intense at hardcore what are you doing but having practiced in
your studio for a couple of years I see people who have who are young and slender la Yogi’s and I also see people
who are maybe that older or heavier or have some physical difficulties or can’t touch their toes oh yeah it does is it true that a
stronger is really for anyone I mean it can be a happended anyone gurus you would say Ashtanga Yoga is for young man
old man even sick man uh-huh cool easy man I’m not practise Ashtanga Yoga okay
so all it takes is that you have the discipline to get up in the morning get on the mat no matter how much you do if
you come in sometimes I see people come in and they look down you know something happened in their life but they’re there
and they’re practicing for half an hour and they feel better yeah it’s a wonderful success I mean just showing up
and practicing that’s all that we need and people who are scared of the practice have usually heard it from
someone yeah could be someone who does not have the experience of our Sangha well they learnt it from the wrong
person you know a lot of times I have I’ve heard it from other people who teach other styles of yoga will be
scared of our Sangha and it’s it’s a misconception okay they either don’t have any experience of our Sangha Yoga
themselves yep or they learn to the incorrect way yeah okay yeah well that’s wonderful thank you so much for taking
the time and sharing your wisdom with us today you’re welcome if our listeners want to find out more about you more about Omkar 108 or
stronger where can they find you and they can look it up on the website okay at home car 108 to.com om kar 1:08 calm
what is M car mean all car is the name of ohm if you know uh-huh ohm is the universal sound and ohm car
is kind of like it’s the name of the symbol or ohm itself um not as the sound
the letter is if you will is the on guard yes or just describing um the full
word is actually on car but as the sound and mantra we say on ah thank you so
much I never knew that and if someone wants to learn more about the stange yoga of course you can read about it you
can google it but nothing’s going to replace going in and learning it directly from a teacher so practice is
the way to literacy says 99% practice 1% theory okay so don’t learn our Stanga
yoga from looking at YouTube videos come into class it’s great good advice thank you so much thank you alright folks this
has been episode of head first with dr. hill my guest today Jurgen Christiansen 30 year teacher of ashtanga yoga certified
stange and he’s a really interesting guy look him up on the web
track him down come to class you can learn a lot and your body will thank you as well as your mind so take care of
those brains and we’ll see you next week
[Music]

Jörgen Christiansson

Jörgen Christiansson is certified by the Sri.K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore India and has had a lifelong relationship with Yoga. With more than 30 years of teaching experience, he teaches Ashtanga Yoga in the same traditional manner as was taught to him by his Guru. Jörgen has a unique ability to sense each student’s limits and abilities. With his positive and inspiring nature, he safely helps his students break through old patterns and fears.