What is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga is a traditional but modern form of Yoga founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009). It is one of the more intense forms of Yoga as the Asanas (the poses) are connected through a movement called a Vinyasa. The aim is to re-align your breath through movement as you breathe in when you extend and exhale when you fold. The constant flow of breath and movement connects and clears the mind which, and if practiced regularly, will eventually encompasses complete bliss with the Self and the universe.
Ashtanga = 8 limbs or steps you need to perform to keep the body strong & healthy
The eight steps comprise of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The main focus of practice in Ashtanga is the Asanas which is the third limb.
1. Yama – 5 social ethics: kindness, truthfulness, nonstealing, moderation, generosity.
2. Niyama – 5 personal practices: purity, contentment, austerity, self-study, surrender.
3. Asana – Postures: Easy comfortable positions of the body, that connect mind, body and spirit.
4. Pranayama – Breathing: Honoring the breath to uncover the light within.
5. Pratyahara – Turning inwards: Providing inner point of attraction through the breath and chakra, in order for the senses to go inwards.
6. Dharana – Concentration: Attention and focus.
7. Dhyana – De-Concentration: The ability to drop all thoughts and let go.
8. Samadhi – Pure bliss: Constant and complete bliss with the Self and the universe
What Are The Benefits Of This Practice?
No matter what Yoga you choose to study they all have health and wellness benefits.
In Ashtanga Yoga, the practice of the Vinyasa in between the poses increases your body temperature and keeps the blood flow moving. Thus, cleansing and purifying your body from toxins. It aids flexibility as your joints are warm from the constant flow of movement. Also increases your concentration levels as you focus on the breath and the motion of the moves.
Yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as low back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Just to name a few…
What Are The Different Stages Of Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga comprises of three stages, beginners, intermediate and advanced. Within the intermediate stage there are four series which in total makes up six series all together.
1. The Primary Series – Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga for Health and Yoga Therapy
2. The Intermediate Series – Nadi Shodhana, The Nerve Purifyer (Second Series)
3. The Advanced Series – Sthira Bhaga, Centering Of Strength
(1) Advanced A, or Third Series
(2) Advanced B, or Fourth Series
(3) Advanced C, or Fifth Series
(4) Advanced D, or Sixth Series
How Do I Practice Ashtanga Yoga?
The idea of Ashtanga Yoga is that you learn the set sequence in order to practice at your own pace and it will take some time to master the Vinyasa’s and the Asanas.
To start you will practice Sun Salutation A and B for 5 rounds followed by the standing sequence and then the Primary Series. After you have mastered the primary series you will move on to the intermediate stage but you will always begin with Sun Salutation A and B and the standing sequence.
It is important that you have guidance from an instructor that has studied and taken the examinations for each series. According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, you can only start practicing the advanced and intermediate stages when the instructor sees fit.
What Do I Do To Get Started?
If this Yoga practice appeals to you I would advise finding a qualified instructor in your area. Ashtanga Yoga is not easy and you will need to have patience. Having a good instructor will help you modify the moves until you are more flexible to achieve them on your own. However, once you start to master the flow the benefits are beyond rewarding. 🧘♀️