I just recently learned an Ashtanga sequence that is great for the gym if you teach yoga at one. I do. A gym’s yoga clients can be so diverse…lots of ages, different fitness abilities, different reasons for coming to yoga, and different yoga experiences. As an instructor who teaches at a few gyms, I can’t tell you how many people tell me I am their first yoga teacher.
Gyms are different than yoga studios in that fitness is their business not just yoga. Many fitness rooms are multipurpose so you’ll have a variety of equipment (maybe not the yoga kind) in the room. You may not be able to control the thermostat or even the lights. Also, your time maybe limited to only an hour. Often, the word yoga is what is on the schedule, not Ashtanga, hot Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative…
The following is great for the one hour gym crowd that comes to yoga. It is safe. Temperature is room temperature, not heated. I play soft background music even though music isn’t traditionally played. I allow blocks whereas Ashtanga typically doesn’t use them. Again, this is meant to be an introduction to Ashtanga not the strict practice. I do this sequence once a month and my clients like that.
So what is the sequence, you ask? (Cliff notes version)
1. Sun Salutation A (Ashtanga version). This is repeated 5 times. Pit stops of 5 breaths occur in each Downward Facing Dog. I usually cue the first two and minimally cue the last three as people are working at their own paces. After the last round, members close out the sequence at the top of the mat in Samastithi. This is also a great place to briefly pause so the whole class will start part two together again.
2. Sun Salutation B (Ashtanga version). This is also repeated 5 times. We start together in Samastithi. Then flow right into the sequence. I tell people to go straight into Warrior I from Downward Facing Dog, both right and left sides. This is where people start to slow down. However, after Warrior I on the left side, there is a vinyasa and it is in this Downward Facing Dog that we pit stop for 5 breaths. Once people finish up, we again meet in Samastithi.
****** You can Google these two Sun Salutation sequences. I follow them as they are described.
3. Primary Sequence (Ashtanga version). Generally, my clients can do this part. I do offer and cue modifications. I do the step backs with the right foot and keep the pivots to the back and front of the mat. I also cue to settle into these poses for 5 breaths.
A. From Samastithi, separate feet hip distance apart. Forward Fold, holding toes with Peace Fingers. Hold.
B. Not moving up, switch up hand position by sliding hands under feet for Gorilla.
D. Revolved Triangle — close out in Samastithi (at the front of the mat)
E. Angle pose
F. Revolved Angle — close out in Samastithi
G. Wide Forward Folds (long edge of the mat)
– First one is with palms on the mat
– Next, is with hands on the hips
– Third, is hands clasped behind back
– Last, is toe holds with peace fingers — close out in Samastithi
H. Pyramid (I show both hand options: hands clasping elbows and secret prayer) — close out in Samastithi
I. Next is one Vinyasa (like Sun A). Only one breath in Downward Facing Dog. Option to step or jump to hands.
J. Chair (this is from the vinyasa). Stay in chair for 5 breaths.
K. Another Vinyasa. This is more like Sun B where you step into Warrior I on the exhale.
L. Hold this Warrior I 5 breaths. Keep arms where they are and look up as you pivot to the back of the mat. Again, hold Warrior I for 5 breaths. Next, cue to “T” out the arms.
M. Warrior II for 5 breaths. Keep arms out, pivot and find Warrior II.
N. Vinyasa with a Jump Through to land on butt.
4. Seated Postures. This is where I don’t exactly follow the sequence. Remember, this is for the gym population and I only have an hour. I still keep the 5 breaths.
A. Staff pose.
B. Seated Forward Folds. (There are three variations).
– Peace fingers to toes. I also cue shins.
– Hands around feet. I also cue ankles.
– Wrist grab or their favorite option from the previous two.
C. Reverse Plank.
D. Cross feet to do a Half Vinyasa. Jump through to butt.
E. Janu Sirvasana or Figure 4. Each leg.
F. Half Vinyasa with Jump Through.
G. Half Lord of the Fishes. Both sides.
H. Half Vinyasa with Jump Through.
I. Boat for 5 breaths then cross legs and Bump Up (Arm Balance) for one breath. Repeat 5 times. On last bump up, shoot legs back for Half Vinyasa with Jump Through.
J. Bridge. (15 breaths)
K. Wheel or Bridge. (15 breaths)
L. Knees to Chest. Rock up.
M. Seated Forward Fold. Their favorite variation. (15 Breaths).
5. Finishing Postures. Again, there are variations and modifications. I do anywhere from 5-15 breaths here.
A. Legs Up the Wall. I give the choice to stay here the whole time.
D. Deaf Man’s Pose.
E. Knees to chest for everyone.
F. Fish pose. I don’t do the Ashtanga version as a lot of people say that hurts them. Instead, I cue hands under hips and they can use a block if they’d like. I usually cue this for 15 breaths.
G. Knees to Chest.
H. Supine Knee Twist. Right then Left.
I. Reclined Butterfly.
So again, this is a gym version. If you pursue this and your clients are ready for more, maybe introduce some of the Ashtanga poses I’ve left out or introduce a few of the intermediate poses.
In my school, I learned about the Ashtanga sandwich. We were told to always have the two buns and the lettuce. The other sandwich fillers were optional. The above is just that.