Ashtanga Adventure: Yoga with Laura Olson

about-laura-olsonHappy weekend, friends. Intense rain seems to have given way to a break in the clouds here on the east coast, so I’ve been enjoying every balmy moment today.

I wanted to take a quick break to tell you about a yoga class I took in NYC some time ago. I haven’t been writing about yoga much this year, but it has remained as important as ever to me. I can’t imagine what my post-bacc would have been like without a steady practice to sustain me. You can expect more yoga talk here on the blog in the coming weeks. Let’s start with Laura Olson’s ashtanga class at YogaWorks Soho.

Most of the time, I do hot vinyasa or power yoga. But I’ve learned that it’s important–crucial even–to vary the types of yoga and teaching styles I experience. It’s easy to fall into autopilot, and while I do like the familiar nature of yoga sequences, new challenges keep me conscious and nimble. When Laura, who has been a blog reader for a long time, invited me to her ashtanga class in New York a few months ago, I was delighted. I’d only don’t a handful of ashtanga classes at the time, and I’d had a hard time adjusting to the final sequence, with its athletic jump through poses. I was excited to try again.

Laura’s class (7am on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at YogaWorks on Broadway and Grand) is athletic indeed, but Laura guides the class with a calm tone and lots of gentle adjustments. As a newcomer to ashtanga, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t know the sequence well enough, but I had no trouble following along–thanks to Laura’s clear and accessible instruction.


(Image courtesy of Jen of PeanutButterRunner, who is an impressive yogi!)

At first, I missed my usual vinyasa/power experience–the playful music, the rhythm, the continuity, the feeling that I’m engaged in a dance. Astanga feels, at first, a little strict. But as class went on, I started to appreciate the ordered quality of the led astanga class. I could imagine how repeating the sequence over and over–ultimately reaching a level of familiarity that enables a self-led practice–could feel remarkably liberating and playful, too. And as hopeless as I am at jump throughs, they’re fantastic for strength building.


Image source

By the end of Laura’s class, I felt much stronger and energized. It was a great way to start my day–almost as great as breakfast at LPQ with Laura after!

Laura, for the record, has a blog of her own, as well as a website where she gives offerings of health coaching, branding, or private yoga lessons, which she offers both in NYC and in Woodstock, or via Skype/FaceTime. As someone who has both taken Laura’s class and gotten to know her personally, I can say that she’s generous, kind, thoughtful, and very balanced. Her approach to “healthy living” encompasses body and spirit both, and is very inspiring. If you find yourself in NYC at any point, I recommend checking out Laura’s ashtanga class, and chatting with her after. She’s lovely.

I’ll see you tomorrow with a crowd-pleasing drink for summer entertaining!


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  1. As a strong-flow Vinyasa practitioner, I’ve never taken a full Ashtanga class, but I have taken many Ashtanga-based classes and I always really love them. There is a flow to Ashtanga that I find lacking in the more arm balance- and inversion-heavy classes I normally take (I don’t actually do arm balances and inversions, which means I rest during those times, and I don’t have to do that as much in Ashtanga-based classes). It’s also nice that Ashtanga teachers generally count the length of each hold. That seems to steel my resolve to continue holding because I know when we’ll move on to the next pose. However, I think the repetition of a full Ashtanga class as my only practice wouldn’t appeal to me. I appreciate a blend of Ashtanga on occasion.

    • Agree on the blend idea! An in between between the freewheeling quality of vinyasa and the non-stop quality of ashtanga.

  2. Gena! Your “vinyasa/power experience–the playful music, the rhythm, the continuity, the feeling that I’m engaged in a dance.” That sounds perfect. That sounds so perfect. Music! Oh, once I’m for true settled somewhere…

  3. Gena, thanks so much for this sweet and thoughtful post! I look forward to taking a more “dancy” class with you one day, and following it up with a green juice!

  4. Thanks for sharing your ashtanga experience! The only exposure I’ve had to it was one sample class that I had during my yoga teacher training. I really loved it though! Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an ashtanga studio near where I live now. Your post is inspiring me to seek one out in Philadelphia, where I’ll move in a few months! You are so right in saying that it’s important to switch up the routine. I find that unless I go into my own practice with pre-planning, I just end up doing essentially the same sequence each time. After I get tired of the repetition, it becomes hard to really appreciate the poses. So thank you for the reminder!! 🙂

    Iris @ Anatomy & Intuition

    • A lot of studios offer at least one ashtanga class, even if they aren’t an ashtanga studio, per se. Totally worth looking into!

  5. Getting into yoga has been a goal of mine for an embarrassing long amount of time. I can’t tell you how many times I say to people, “I really want to make an effort to start doing more yoga.” I’ll end up taking a class or two, and then I won’t go again for a really long time. I think I get discouraged because I’m a beginner, and sometimes I feel totally lost. In spin classes and the typical gym environment, I feel like a queen. I can rock it on a spin bike or in a weight room. In yoga, not so much. I guess (just as you’ve experienced with trying different types of yoga), if I keep trying I’ll grow to love it and feel more comfortable. Do you have any advice for a beginning yogi?

    • Oh, tons of advice. The first is not to expect it to be like the conventional exercise you’re used to. The difficulty isn’t always apparent as you’re learning, and it’s not till you’re a bit deeper into it that you really start to understand how challenging yoga is.

      I also do recommend taking classes at first, rather than videos. A home practice is great, but it is really hard to push yourself and be coached in proper alignment, at first, without a pro to help you. Be patient–yoga is all about patience! I’m the opposite of you in that I’m not a lover of spinning or fitness classes, but I live for yoga. It wasn’t always that way, though, and I’m so glad I stuck with yoga when it didn’t immediately speak to me.

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