Ashtanga vs. Sustainability

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We’ve all read about traditional Ashtanga shalas from all over the world closing due to it being not financially sustainable. Even the most established ones, like Eddie Stern’s AYNY, whose been around for more than a decade.

Many of us ask why? One of my regular students Lyn, asked the same thing. She was referring to yoga in general (Ashtanga, Yin, Vinyasa, etc), as seen in Cagayan de Oro City. “Why is it not picking up?” she asked. Whereas other fitness classes like Crossfit, Circuit Training, and Zumba are spreading like wildfire. That each class is almost always full packed with students every day.

Other than the obvious reasons i.e. 1) that Ashtanga is intimidatingly vigorous with the unending difficulty of the poses, thus an ego bruising kind of practice, and 2) religiously repetitive, thus boring for those with spontaneous personalities; I didn’t really have a definite answer to Lyn’s question. Because I myself had been asking the same.

As for me, the reason why it took me about two (2) years to decide to fully commit to ashtanga was because it showed me not so beautiful parts of myself that I was not ready to face yet at that time. As for the reasons of others, I could only guess.


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Even in Cebu, where yoga is at least five (5) years ahead of that in Cagayan de Oro, Ashtanga is not as popular. If there are times where an Ashtanga class is full packed, most likely half of it are not going to come back anymore. And half of the other half would most likely just practice once a week.

One of the few experienced Ashtanga instructors I know in Cebu said she only has four (4) students who practice with her at least three (3) times a week. Thus, not enough to sustain a traditional Ashtanga shala, if she were to open one. The rest are a come and go. It’s exactly what’s happening in Cagayan de Oro as well. It sort of frustrated me at first, having to operate Namaskar Yoga Shala (NYS). Good thing for me, I didn’t have an overhead cost expense to think about.

 

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Having been blessed to operate NYS solo at least for a year, made me realize a few things.

(1) That I don’t want to run a commercial studio solo. There are not many things that can ground me these days and it’s all too time consuming that I won’t have time for the other equally important aspects of my life, if I’m going to do it alone.

(2) I enjoy holding pop up events instead. Just like outdoor yoga sessions, retreats, and ashtanga challenge programs that I get to decide when and where and how long, depending upon my availability.

(3) I’m more inclined to travel and teach, than stay and seed in only one specific place. My wanderlust hasn’t been fully satisfied just yet. And having a commercial shala, wont afford me the time and resources to travel whenever I want.

 

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So back to the issue of why Ashtanga specifically isn’t picking up, thus not financially sustainable to operate a traditional Shala, I guess it’s just not the right time for now.

Just like what David Swenson said “The practice finds you when you’re ready.” Maybe at the present, Ashtanga is not the best fit style of yoga for those I’ve taught it to. Or maybe I’m not the best fit kind of teacher for them. Or they’re just not ready to commit to the practice just yet.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them, or me, or with the Ashtanga system. It’s just not the right time for now, at least in Mindanao. But I’m still hoping it will be, in say three (3) years. All I can do now is plant seeds, and strengthen my own practice. Whether I get to bear witness to the seeds’ fruition, we’ll know in time.

So for now, “Practice, practice, and all is coming…”