Yoga enriches our lives and provides an immense amount of benefits to the mind and body. Having been around for centuries, yoga has proven to be capable of transforming the way we live and enables us to improve the quality of life.
Ashtanga yoga is a form of yoga that has a variety of health benefits, including healing our body from the inside out. During the Ashtanga yoga routine, our body and mind reap these benefits through performing the specific asanas involved in the routine.
Origin of Ashtanga Yoga
Brought to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya in 1948, Ashtanga yoga is now a popular form of yoga that involves synchronized breathing with vigorous poses that help our body sweat and detoxify our organs and muscles.
Taught and practiced by millions around the world, Ashtanga yoga focuses on the vital components that promote overall well-being in our day-to-day lives.
How Is Ashtanga Yoga Performed?
Ashtanga represents ‘eight limbs’ in Sanskrit. This form of yoga focuses on a daily flow of Vinyasa, the harmony of moving and breathing.
The eight limbs that form the vital part of yoga are:
- Yama: Moral disciplines
- Niyama: Positive perception
- Asanas: Posture
- Pranayama: Breathing techniques
- Pratyahara: Withdrawal of senses
- Dharana: Focus and concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Bliss or Enlightenment
Ashtanga yoga is performed using the following four important components:
- Ujjayi breathing (breathing by hissing)
- Mula Bandha (interior root lock of the body)
- Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock)
- Drishti (point of focus)
Types of Ashtanga Yoga
There are six different series of Ashtanga yoga (primary, intermediate, and four advanced series) and each series have their own sequences of poses and postures.
Students have the option to practice these series at their own pace and can layer up to challenge themselves after they have completed the beginner-friendly sequence.
Depending on your individual pace and control, the following asanas can be performed:
1. First Series – Yoga Chikitsa
Due to the toning and cleansing effects that Yoga Chikitsa has on our body, this type of series is also known as yoga therapy.
The first series focuses on the following:
- Realignment of the spine
- Detoxification of the entire body
- Enhance stamina, vigor, and flexibility of the body
The first series involves a routine with about 75 poses and the practice can last anywhere from one to two hours. The asanas begin with sun salutations or Surya Namaskaras, followed by sitting, standing, inverted and backbend poses.
Regular practice of this series of Ashtanga yoga can improve our willpower, self-awareness, and self-confidence to overcome any obstacles that we may encounter in our lives.
On a more spiritual level, Ashtanga yoga therapeutically works to help our Prana energy flow more freely through our body and mind to help us work more efficiently during the day.
2. Second or Intermediate Series – Nadi Shodana
The second series is called Nadi Shodana, which means nerve cleansing in Sanskrit. This series concentrates on purifying the central nervous system and is practiced to cleanse and open up the energy channels within the body.
Starting with sun salutations followed by more intense poses than the first series, the second series involves various poses such as backbends, hip openers, and handstand variations, and are performed until the student is able to induce relaxation within their body and mind.
3. Four Series – Sthira Bhaga
The fourth series represents the first two out of four sequences known as Sthira Bhaga, or the advanced series. In Sanskrit, Sthira means stability.
The fourth series combines difficult poses with meditative poses to further the development of the advanced series’ emphasis on inner strength and self-realization. Sthira Bhaga is done only after the student excels in the first two series.
The last four series along with Sthira Bhaga work in tandem to arrive at overall physical and emotional stability.
Ashtanga Yoga – Led and Self-Led
Ashtanga yoga promotes strength, loyalty, and independence among practicing individuals. In a typical session or class, the teacher guides his or her students to perform various asanas under supervision in order to teach the student the correct alignment during poses and postures.
An Ashtanga studio is also known as Shala. Ashtanga yoga can be practiced throughout the month except during the moon days, where you will find the studio to be closed.
If you are interested in practicing Ashtanga yoga, talk to your yoga practitioner or doctor in order to explore the possibilities of the tremendous benefits that come with practicing Ashtanga yoga.
1. How many Ashtanga yoga series are involved in the practice?
There are six different series of Ashtanga yoga (primary, intermediate, and four advanced series).
2. How often should you perform Ashtanga yoga?
It is important to listen to your body when engaging in any form of exercise. Speak to your doctor or a yoga practitioner to see how much you can get out of your practice and how to do it the right way.
3. How many calories does Ashtanga yoga burn?
Because of the strenuous and physical nature of this form of yoga, a 140-pound person can burn about 328 calories during a one-hour session of Ashtanga yoga.
4. How can you practice Ashtanga yoga at home?
If you are looking to take this practice to your home, make sure to consult a yoga practitioner to help guide you during your practice and supervise you until you are ready to perform the routine on your own.
Updated by Siya Rajan on 05/21/2018