I was asked this in an email this week.
'By the way, did you start doing Ashtanga gradually or if not how? If it does not bother you that I ask I would be very interested in your first days and weeks. I am curious and I feel I could also learn from that'.
I think I pretty much dived in. My flat had been burgled in February 2007 and seven saxophones stolen. Although I managed to get five of them back I was angry about the whole affair and was annoyed with myself for being so angry about it. I decided to get back into Meditation, I'd practiced a little Zen years before. I came across the ZenCast podcast with Gil Fronsdal http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Religion-and-Spirituality/-/Zencast-Podcast/6825 and began to practice Vipassana meditation. Reading around the practice I found that a lot of meditators were also doing yoga so I picked up a book from the library. The book turned out to be Total Astanga: The Step-by-Step Guide to Power Yoga at Home for Everybody by Tara Frazer http://www.amazon.com/Total-Astanga-Step-Step-Everybody/dp/1844831132/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240514267&sr=8-1 I think it had looked the best laid out and the least embarrassing to take up to the Library counter.
I practiced with that book for about a month, practicing in the mornings, before work, in the living room with my chinchilla looking on. If I remember correctly I got as far as the Standing sequence in that time which would take me about half an hour to forty minutes, stopping every now and again to turn the page or check the book. I used to use blocks, or rather books as blocks, for Utthita Trikonasana as I couldn't reach my hands to the ground. I was what, 44 weighed 94 kilo and hadn't done any exercise for about four years. I had a bit of a belly and was feeling generally unhealthy.
I remember really enjoying getting up in the mornings to practice alone in the dark. I loved Surynamaskara A , B exhausted me. I was frustrated that I couldn't straighten my legs in forward bends and having to hold on to the wall in Utthita hasta etc. Virabhadrasana A and B were agony, as was Utkatasana, I couldn't imagine being able to do Ardha baddha padmottanasana. I would Ache all over for most of the day but it was a good ache and it became the highlight of my day. Sometimes it felt like the day was over as soon as I finished my practice and I couldn't wait for the following morning to come around. I still feel like that occasionally, after a particularly good practice followed by my morning grapefruit and coffee.
Next: First DVD Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series Mark Darby