Ashtanga in the heart of Cape Town
"Ashtanga is like coming home"
The words of Ulrike Lamprecht, founder of Ashtanga Yoga Cape Town (AYCT), resonated with me as I completed my first Mysore Ashtanga Practice, feeling rejuvenated and inspired. It was only just after 7am as the sun rose over the Cape Town Skyline. Although it was still so early, I had started the day feeling completely centered.
As we sat in half lotus in the sacred space of her shala, Ulrike expressed her passion for this specific style of yoga. "I find it a lot more strengthening and accessible for everyone", she explained, emphasising that Ashtanga is the only practice that brings you up against the same challenges every day.... this is what leads to transformation. It is so easy to run away when things get hard but as we face those challenges, that is when growth happens.
Ulrike strongly believes in the healing and transformative power of Ashtanga Yoga and is living proof that daily practice works. As a wife and mother of four children, she has been practicing Ashtanga for 15 years. She opened her yoga school (shala), AYCT, in 2006 where she teaches the traditional Ashtanga method as it was directly taught to her by Sharath R. Jois, grandson of the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore India.
Ashtanga yoga is a practice and philosophy derived from ancient teachings and transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), R. Sharath Jois and Saraswathi Jois at the KPJAYI (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) in Mysore, India.
The practice is characterized by a sequence of flowing postures that are linked together by using a specific breathing technique, internal body locks and gazing points. The practice develops strength, flexibility and vitality in the body, and calm and clarity in the mind. The word ‘Astanga’ means ‘eight limbs’. According to philosophy behind it there are eight aspects to yoga. What in the beginning may feel like a mere physical practice is ultimately a gateway for the development of more subtle reflective, ethical and meditative qualities.
"It is spiritual more than it is exercise." In conjunction to her physical practice, Ulrike dedicates some of her free time reading up on yoga philosophy and the yoga sutras. Through both physical and spiritual you discover what is really going on.
"It is important to find a yoga teacher that you resonate with... a teacher who practices daily." Ulrike dedicates the first 3 hours of her day to guiding and assisting her students through their Mysore practice after which she is able to perform her own self practice. Ulrike went on to explain that much of her teaching and knowledge has grown from her personal experiences in her own practice. She describes her teaching style as "strict, with good intentions". Her insights into the strengths and limitations of each student that walks into her shala ensures that she treats them individually. As I moved through the primary series I experienced Ulrike's one-on-one and hands on approach to teaching. Through physical adjustments and informative suggestions, I had learned so much in those 90 minutes. I continued to practice as fellow students had joined while others rolled up their mats to get to work. Each person in the room elevating each others practice.
Every morning, students make their way onto their mat to devote that time to their practice. "Dedicate one month of daily practice" Ulrike stated as she highlighted the importance of commitment. Ashtanga is for everyone; all ages, fitness levels and experience. Each student that steps into the shala is given the Ashtanga Primary Series chart, homework, and advice: "Do what you can". Ulrike went on to explain that beginners are often pushy at the beginning. "It is not a sprint, its a marathon." Once you have set the foundation, then you can start progressing.
There are six sequences of asanas in the Ashtanga Yoga system. Primary Series, which is known as Yoga Chikitsa (yoga therapy), detoxifies and realigns the body; Intermediate Series, which is referred to as Nadi Shodana (nerve cleansing), acts to further purify the nerve and spinal energies; and the Advanced A,B,C and D (or 3rd through 6th) series, which are known as Sthira Bhaga (divine grace), continue to refine and clear the internal body while requiring greater levels of humility and concentration to undertake.
Over the last 12 years, Ulrike has spent time in Mysore India, to further her personal practice. Through this she has had the privilege of connecting with international Ashtanga instructors who have returned with her to Cape Town to share their knowledge. Ulrike is specific about who she hosts at her Shala and always ensures that invited instructors will bring the best experience to her students.
In 2018, AYCT will be hosting Dylan Bernstein and Taylor Hunt for a variety of classes, workshops and courses. To view their weekly schedule, visit their website HERE
As our conversation drew to a close, Ulrike left me with a final phrase which summed up everything we had spoken about.
"We are all one"