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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. New Ask a Question Page Added « Ashtanga and Other Things – Paul Gold's Blog
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 17:00:55

  2. AYS News: » New Ask a Question Page on Paul’s Blog
    Jun 21, 2012 @ 18:26:55

  3. rpgold
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 11:32:56

    Here was a question from Lu:
    Hi Paul! Wondering what the life of an Ashtanga teacher is like beginning with the alarm clock.

    The answer…
    Weekdays, my alarm goes off at 3 am. I time things so I can press snooze and lay in bed for another 10 minutes. When the alarm goes off again, I make sure to sit up in bed. That’s the key to being able to get up. So, I’m out of bed at 3:15.

    I go downstairs, make coffee and prepare a sandwich for after teaching. I feed my cat, Lou, and hang out on the couch with him for a half hour. The quality time with Lou is one of the things that helps me get out of bed this early.

    Sometime around 3:45, I pack up the smoothie that my wife made the night before and go upstairs to shower. I’m out of the house by 4:15 am.

    I’m at the yoga shala by 4:20 am and usually start my practice by 4:40.

    Students begin showing up between 5 and 5:30, but I don’t have to start adjusting and teaching until 6:15.

When practice is finished, I start teaching and rehydrating in between adjustments.

    After teaching, we clean the Shala and get things ready for the next morning. If we have errands to run or groceries to buy, we take care of it after class. We take lunch (we’re both pure veg, by the way) and return home to feed and hang with our cat.
Sometimes, we take a quick nap. Sometimes, we read or I write my blogs. We’ll watch some television and then start preparing for the next morning. We make our smoothie and dinner. We are usually in bed by 8 pm.

    Sunday mornings are a little more benign. My alarm doesn’t go off until 5:30 am. That’s a serious sleep-in compared the the weekdays.


  4. rpgold
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 08:54:52

    Here’s a question I received from Maureen.

    Hello Paul! Unfortunately, I am unable to practice at a shala with an authorized teacher. However, I am a committed daily practitioner in the Mysore style and wake up each morning and practice with devotion. I practice with no “end-goal” in mind with regards to asana to ensure a safe and effective practice. Can you please address advice and guidance for the home/self-practitioner? Thanks!

    Good question.

    Ultimately, regardless of location, it’s most important to practice daily with non-attachment which you’re doing; so, good for you. Practicing at home on one’s own is the final frontier and your ability to maintain your practice is a real accomplishment.

    My advice is to try and to visit a qualified teacher periodically to make sure that everything you’re doing is correct. We’ve had students move away and they drop in once or twice a year for a few days of practice. It would make a big difference to get some advice on what you’ve been practicing and to have a shala’s group energy for a few days.


  5. rpgold
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 16:41:29

    Here’s a good question I received…
    I have read may times that people who practice Ashtanga regularly avoid running, weightlifting, biking etc. Can you talk a little bit about this? I assume its because the affect on flexibility. Can a daily Ashtanga practice really be enough with respect to physical activity?

    The answer is yes. A daily Ashtanga practice is enough physical activity to keep you healthy. Next time you practice, notice how your heart rate increases when doing a difficult asana. If you cultivate proper breathing, your lung capacity will increase too. Daily practice cultivates a healthy and strong cardiovascular system and will give your body increased mobility and strength.

    So, the good news is you don’t have to run, weight lift, bike, etc. to maintain good physical health. Now, if you actually want or like doing some other activity, ashtanga yoga will help keep that activity from wrecking your body.

We have a student who is a marathon runner. He’s been running marathons for years and has no intention of quitting. That said, he’s been practicing ashtanga yoga for three years and it’s made a huge difference. His body is more mobile and limber than it’s ever been and the practice helps mitigate the negative effects of running on his back and joints.

    We’re diverging from your question a little, but the subject of “cross training” with ashtanga yoga is worth addressing. It’s possible to do other sports or activities and ashtanga yoga as long as you balance your expectations.

    I forget who said it but the saying is “we can only serve one master.” Something has to take priority. In the case of our marathon runner, he uses the yoga to balance and enhance his running. Tennis star Novak Djokovic started doing yoga to help his with his flexibility and asthma. Clearly, his priority is playing tennis.

    Problems arise when students believe they can jog, for example, and get deep into the ashtanga practice. More than once, we’ve had to tell students that they might not be able to do some difficult asanas if they keep jogging. We’ve also suggested that they stop jogging for a month and experiment with how they feel. Students can’t be attached to progress and doing more asanas when ashtanga isn’t the priority.

    Rachelle and I used to be avid skiers. We both grew up in families that took ski holidays and we spent weekends while growing up skiing outside our native Montreal and Toronto. Even once we began doing ashtanga yoga, we took some ski trips. We chose to give up skiing because it was making us too stiff and sore to do more advanced asanas. We wanted to give priority to our ashtanga practice.

    We still love to take long walks and we love to swim during the warmer months, but we do these things for amusement rather than for physical health.

    Thanks for your question. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about a common concern amongst yoga students.


  6. rpgold
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 11:25:00

    Here’s a question I received and finally (sorry for the delay) was able to answer:
    When faced with a limited practice based on time, what is your guidance?

    Since time is the factor in this scenario, it’s all about how long you have on your mat before you need to finish up. So, determine when you need to be finished practice. Then, give yourself five to ten minutes for the last three seated finishing asanas and some rest. Once you know when you need to wrap up, you just start practicing like any other day until you have to stop.

    Rachelle and I have never been advocates of cherry picking asanas when pressed for time. We never skip or omit postures. We prefer to stick to the sequence and do as much as possible before finishing up.

    Depending on time, it may mean only doing a few surya namaskars. It may mean going through part of all of the standing asanas. It might mean making it to the floor asanas of primary and doing some of those as well. Again it all depends on time.

    Some things to consider…

    When pressed for time, I do backbending and the finishing asanas (i.e. sarvangasana through sirshasana) only if I make it to the marichasana section of primary and, obviously, if I have enough time. I’ve found that unless I get that far in primary, I don’t feel warm enough to want to do backbends and the complete finishing asanas. That’s not anything written in stone or passed down from Guruji. It’s just what I’ve noticed over the years when I’m pressed for time.

    If you have an Intermediate Series practice and you’ve been split, you can do a shorter Intermediate practice when time is limited. In this case, I’d say if you can make it to eka pada sirshasana, that’s a lovely shorter 2nd series practice. Of course, in this case, I’d make sure I had enough time for backbending and all the finishing asanas. One would probably need an hour in this case.

    If you’re not sure what to do, you can ask your teacher. He or she will have a better sense of your practice than I do unless you’re my student. 🙂

    The most important thing when pressed for time is do not to over-think what you’re going to do. Don’t psych yourself out of practicing. Just get on your mat and do something. Any amount is better than rationalizing that it’s not worth doing if you can’t do your entire practice on a particular day or days until your schedule calms down.


  7. rpgold
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 11:39:54

    I received a question on how to come up from karandavasana, a difficult asana in Ashtanga’s intermediate series.

    This asana is a forearm balance similar to pincha mayurasana but with the added challenge of taking full lotus, lowering down onto the arms, taking 5 full breaths and then lifting back up, straightening the legs and dismounting.

    I’ve posted a short video of the asana on flickr.

    First of all, it’s only men that are required to lift back up. There are some women that have the strength to do it, but it’s not a pre-requisite for women to learn subsequent asanas. Lifting back up is a real hurdle for men making their way through this series. It’s not uncommon for gents to have to spend a little time sorting out this pose before advancing.

    It’s important to have strong bandhas and good breathing in this asana. In order to get the legs into lotus and lower down, one has to have a good strong waist to maintain balance, especially bringing the second leg into lotus.

    The big problem when lifting back up is there’s a tendency to let the hips and seat sag and drop once one’s lowered onto the arms. It’s important to resist gravity and try to keep the hips and seat as elevated as possible. With each of the 5 breaths taken on the arms, fatigue increases and the hips and seat will want to drop. If the hips and seat get too low, it’s very hard to lift back up.

    When it’s time to lift up, engage the bandhas strongly, take the weight forward and press the forearms straight down into the floor while pulling the hips and seat upward. All of this occurs on a long, full inhale. There is also a swinging movement bringing the knees up towards the ceiling as well, but the hips and seat lead the knees.

    In a perfect world, one’s face doesn’t get squished into the floor. 🙂 However, it’s common for the head to drop a little (as in the video) without touching the face to the mat. That said, on some tired Sundays and the odd led Intermediate class at KPJAYI, I’ve face planted to lift back up.

    Don’t worry about ‘style points’ at first. It’s the mechanics of using the breath, engaging the bandhas and taking the weight forward and upwards that’s most important. Try not to get discouraged if it takes some time. Keep practicing and it will come.

    Hope this helps.


  8. rpgold
    Nov 27, 2013 @ 14:12:19

    I received a question asking for tips when doing kapotasana from Intermediate Series. Here’s the answer – https://paulmitchellgold.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/kapotasana-question-answered/.


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