Ashtanga Yoga Louisville Is The Only Studio Of Its Kind In Kentucky

Owner Catherine Followell shares her inspiration and motivation for opening her business.

May 8, 2024 at 12:06 pm
Ashtanga Yoga Louisville Is The Only Studio Of Its Kind In Kentucky
Ashtanga Yoga Louisville

In May 2023, Catherine Followell opened Ashtanga Yoga Louisville (AYL), the first — and still only — Ashtanga exclusive yoga studio in Kentucky. The Ashtanga practice integrates all eight limbs of yoga: Yama (moral codes), Niyama (self-discipline), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (oneness with the self).

Surrounded by fellow students and teachers from around the globe in Mysore, India, the source of Ashtanga, Followell realized there was a void in her hometown of Louisville: An Ashtanga Yoga studio. "I've practiced in Ashtanga Yoga studios from Denver to Amsterdam," she says, "And there is something different about being at a studio with a direct connection to the source of its lineage."

In November 2022, Followell received Level 2 authorization, meaning she has been given the guru's blessing to teach Ashtanga. She soon decided that she wanted to offer the same authentic experience in Louisville. "We've had students from New Orleans and Chicago, to Ireland and Columbia visit AYL because of our recognition as an Ashtanga studio. It’s a great honor to be the first and we take the responsibly very seriously to uphold the tradition of this practice."

Because Ashtanga Yoga is a system, poses are done in a sequence, and become increasingly difficult. Before a student can move on to a subsequent, more challenging pose, they must first be proficient in all the poses that come before it. This requirement does not allow students to skip parts of the system they might not enjoy or be proficient in. The practice of trying and failing in Ashtanga helps students develop resilience. "Not only have I experienced this process in my own yoga practice, but I see it every day in the students at AYL," Followell says. "Although many times in the studio you'll hear grunting, disappointed sighs, grumbles of 'I can't' or 'it's too hard" or even some flagrant cursing out of frustration, the students keep coming back, and I think that's a real testament to the transformative power of this yoga."

Classes at AYL are unlike those in the typical yoga studio. Rather than 75–90 minutes of synchronous movement led by an instructor, students at AYL may arrive any time within the 2–3 hour open practice period and move through a sequence of postures at their own pace, while the studio is overseen by the instructor. There are five teachers at AYL, four of whom have traveled to Mysore to study with the guru of Ashtanga’s lineage. Lineage is important in yoga to ensure that teachings are passed down consistently and remain unchanged over time.

There are only 160 Authorized Ashtanga teachers in the U.S. and 860 worldwide. "This is a tremendous honor and why I felt called and inspired to open a space where I can pass down the teachings just as I've learned them from my experiences in India," Followell says. AYL is situated in a studio on the third floor of Mellwood Art Center, where four large windows offer a view of downtown Louisville. Followell invites anyone and everyone to join AYL for a class, and the first class is always free.

Ashtanga Yoga Louisville
Mellwood Art Center, Third Floor
1860 Mellwood Ave.