Alignment and Strength through Ashtanga Yoga
Wellness through breath and movement
Nathalie Daou, Ashtanga Yoga teacher, KPJAYI Authorized level 2 and founder of the Shala Dubai
You might think, well of course she will recommend her own sister. As a matter of fact, I am actually the best person to be able to recommend or not recommend my own sister Nathalie, as I know her inside out and I have been maybe her most difficult undecisive student.
While being very kind and fair, I am also very critical and highly value people who genuinely do the work first on themselves with discipline and consistency then on others.
Many of her students will tell you that her hands are magical, something so healing in her touch and her presence. It is surely true.
Even with our eight year difference of age, me being the eldest, she has been my continuous inspiration and mentor, as the ship of life has thrown me on different adventures, painful and joyful. She inspires me to stay grounded, mindful, humble, truthful to myself and committed to my growth.
I was and am a witness of her life as she evolves consistently and continuously. And oh Gosh! I have never encountered anyone as self-disciplined while at the same time kind to the self. This is truly a skill one takes a lifetime or more to achieve.
I was never a ‘yoga person’, the best I did was power yoga twenty years ago. I loved high intensity exercises and weight work. I even took a full personal training course in fitness so I can Personal Train myself. This is how mad I was about training and fitness.
When I struggled with my health I could not do any of the heavy exercises and had to be gentle with my body. Workout is stress to the body afterall. Around seven years ago, Nathalie suggested a few classes of Ashtanga yoga. What I thought was dull and boring was actually really tough and challenging! And I love challenges!
What I love about Ashtanga yoga is that it is a practice that is kind, empathetic and loving. It doesn’t matter where you stand in your physical strength, Ashtanga focuses on your whole wellbeing and helps you build up strength and mobility with understanding. It is somehow life in all its essence. It teaches you to understand your body, to work your feelings, go past mental and physical blockages with grace and wisdom. It helps you get centered and mindful.
There are many great teachers for sure, I don’t know too many of them and not in a place of comparing anyone, each has his or her style, growth and techniques of teaching, however what resonated most with me through Nathalie’s teachings is her ‘realness’, rawness and genuine self. Never different on and off the mat reflected in all areas of her life. Her teachings also come through a deep understanding of others and a selfless passion to serve. Above all her self-discipline and dedication are contagious.
It is normal to feel intimidated to attend the Mysore* classes, which are almost daily sessions, where the main teacher and assistant teachers are there to assist every student. Every student can step into the class at their time of their convenience, so it doesn’t have to be from the start and there is no obligatory amount of time you need to practice, the whole point is that you decide somehow, how long and when. When you enter the class, you will see everyone doing their sequence. Ashtanga yoga is all about a series of sequences you need to learn and repeat. As you build strength the same sequences get more challenging with advanced poses.
All you need to do is to show up and someone will guide you through the whole process. You might start with just a few postures. That is alright. Trust your Ashtanga teacher and the process, you will see progress interestingly real quick. However, I highly suggest you take the beginner's short classes when you have the chance too, not because you will understand the sequences but it will help you understand the philosophy of Yoga as well. Don’t worry much about the postures as they are learnt through repetition.
The word Ashtanga is composed of two Sanskrit words, “Ashta” and “Anga.” “Ashta” refers to the number eight, while “Anga” means limb or body part. Ashtanga is the union of the eight limbs of yoga, into one complete, holistic system. These eight-limbs of yoga represent the various branches of the philosophy of the yoga sutras that form the foundation in the Ashtanga Yoga School. The Ashtanga philosophy is to integrate all of the eight limbs of yoga, which include:
Yama (moral codes)
Pranayama (breath control)
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
Samadhi (oneness with the self).
As Nathalie describes it best:
The oldest remaining specific text was written by Patanjali, who summarized Ashtanga Yoga in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali’s teachings embraced the eight limbs of yoga.
The modern history of Ashtanga Yoga comes to us through Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who learned the practice from his teacher Rama Mohan Brahmachari, who lived in the Himalayan Mountains near Lake Manasarovar. Krishnamacharya was also able to track down an old copy of a document known as the Yoga Korunta in the old National Archives of India in Calcutta, which detailed philosophies, asanas, bandhas and many other elements of Ashtanga yoga. This was passed down to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who spent many years studying and teaching under him.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is widely regarded as having popularized modern Ashtanga Yoga, establishing the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, KPJAYI. and devoting his life to the practice before passing away in 2009. The teaching was then passed down to his grandson, my teacher R. Sharath Jois who is currently in India/Mysore. Sharath Jois opened the Sharath Yoga Centre in 2019 and continues to spread the teachings of yoga.
This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures, a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. The traditional teaching form is called Mysore Style. It is named after the town of Mysore, located in the South of India.
You can find more about her and her classes on www.nathaliedaou.com
*The Mysore class I am referring to is the Mysore Dubai classes by Nathalie Daou or any Ashtanga yoga class by a certified Ashtanga teacher by Sharath Jois.