This article (Orlando Sentinel) was written about my classes when I taught in Orlando:
Yoga Party: Fit and Fun
Ashtanga Yoga is a high-energy path to strength, flexibility
By Greg Dawson
Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs", is the name of the yoga Lewis Rothlein teaches at (name of studio), but to someone unschooled in yoga who's watching Rothlein twist himself into shapes mother nature never intended, it looks like Pretzel Yoga.
In the course of teaching a nonstop 90-minute Ashtanga class, Rothlein seems to spell out every letter of the alphabet with his Gumby-like arms, legs, head and torso. His students still are working on the ABCs.
"When I started doing yoga I was a joke," said Rothlein. "I was less flexible than anyone in this room. Even a simple thing like sitting on your heels, which even people who don't do yoga can do, was almost impossible for me."
Today, thanks to yoga -- especially the Ashtanga style he has practiced -- Rothlein can search for loose change on the floor of the back seat and keep one hand on the steering wheel.
That's only a slight exaggeration. Rothlein can do things with his body which, at first glance, appear anatomically impossible to the flexibility-challenged. But the elasticity of a Star Trek shape-shifter is just one of Ashtanga's payoffs.
"It combines strength, flexibility and conditioning," Rothlein said. "It's good for athletes but also for people looking for one physical activity that covers all the bases.
"I used to run marathons, and I don't need to do that anymore. I used to work out in the weight room, and I don't need to do that anymore.
"Ashtanga is a high-heat, high-energy workout. You're moving all the time, sweating," Rothlein said. "Some styles of yoga are very gentle -- they emphasize stretching. If you like to work out hard, you gravitate toward this."
In Ashtanga yoga, breathing is synchronized with a series of postures -- those pretzel shapes -- "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," according to an Ashtanga site on the Internet.
One result, according to Pat Fluno, is "I spend a lot of time with my toes."
She's not complaining. Before taking up Ashtanga six months ago, Fluno couldn't do what she was doing last week in Rothlein's class -- touching her face to the toes of her outstretched legs.
"Pat's our forward-bending queen," Rothlein said.
Fluno, 50 and admittedly no athlete, turned to yoga after an injury.
"I had a frozen shoulder," she said. "Now I have all the movement back and more. Plus I'm getting strength which I never had before. I can't think of a body part you don't hit with Ashtanga -- abs, quads, pick a part."
The continuous 90-minute workout consists of a series of movements, postures and breathing that take on a dreamlike rhythm. At the end Rothlein closes the shades and plays soft New Age music as the students lie on their backs with their arms out, as if floating.
"Allow your breathing to deepen... bring your consciousness back to the present," Rothlein said as the music faded.
"Sometimes we hear some snoring if the music goes longer," he told a reporter, not entirely joking.
Joseph Montemurno, 32, joined Rothlein's class three months ago. He's a convert from the weight room.
"It's a very unique feeling," Montemurno said after the class. "Something is going on -- I don't want to say spiritual or psychological -- but everything seems rebalanced across the board."
The next best thing to hearing about Ashtanga is trying it.