Ashtanga Yoga – What is it?
Ashtanga Yoga is a rigorous and challenging practice that helps build physical strength, endurance, and flexibility. It is based on a series of asanas or poses performed in a specific sequence while keeping your focus on your breathing. Getting popularity in the late 1990s, Ashtanga Yoga is one of the physically challenging workouts that you can add to your routine to become stronger physically and mentally.
Two Sanskrit words “Ashtanga” and “Anga” form the word “Ashtanga.” Where Ashta means number 8 and Anga means limb. This yoga is a holistic system that is made up of the unification of eight limbs. These eight limbs represent different philosophical branches that form the basis of Ashtanga Yoga.
Each limb of Ashtanga Yoga stands for the following:
○ Yama or moral codes
○ Niyama or observances
○ Asana or posture
○ Pranayama or controlled breathing
○ Pratyahara or sense withdrawal
○ Dharana or concentration
○ Dhyana or meditation
○ Samadhi or oneness with the self
What are the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga is an athletic form of yoga. The sweat from the heated-up muscles helps clear the toxins from the body. Apart from challenging you physically, this practice brings inner peace and mental clarity.
There are numerous benefits of practicing Ashtanga Yoga, including:
Increased muscle strength
Better balance and coordination
Increased core strength and endurance
Decreased anxiety and depression
Improved overall wellbeing
Reduced chronic low back pain
What should I expect from an Ashtanga Yoga session?
There are five Ashtanga asana series that you will learn in a sequence. You will need to master one series to move to the next one.
The Primary Series or Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy)
Yoga Chikitsa is Ashtanga Yoga for beginners. Although it is the first stage of learning, the primary series still involves demanding postures and is not easy to perform. This series has seven core parts, starting and ending with chanting mantras. Postures, even and deep breathing, and meditation are the key factors in this series.
These classes have seven parts in the following sequence:
(1) Opening mantra
(2) Surya namaskar or sun salutation A
(3) Surya namaskar or sun salutation B
(4) Standing poses
(5) Seated postures
(6) Finishing sequence
(7) Closing mantra
Each of these seven parts is repeated a specific number of times:
The Intermediate Series or Nadi Shodhana (Nerve Cleansing)
The intermediate series focuses on backend asanas. These series aim to maintain and enhance suppleness of spine and open energy chakras. You will learn backend, hip opening, and headstand poses in this series.
The Advanced Series or Sthira Bhaga (Divine Stability)
The advanced series consists of four stages: A, B, C, and D. You can only learn this series once you have mastered the primary and intermediate series. This advanced series involves complete devotion and discipline and requires a profound sense of humility, endurance, and flexibility.
The classes for this series are performed in the following sequence:
○ Sun salutation A
○ Sun salutation B
○ Standing sequence
○ Closing sequence
You can find two types of yoga classes:
Ashtanga Led: During these classes, a guide will help you through the primary, intermediate, and advanced series. These types of classes are preferred while learning Ashtanga Yoga for beginners.
Ashtanga Mysore: In these classes, you will learn the asanas and sequences at your own pace. A guide will be present during these classes to provide personal attention and hands-on adjustment where needed.
Ashtanga Yoga is a vigorous form of yoga that involves challenging and precise postures. The profuse sweating during these postures is a way of clearing your body of toxins and relax your muscles. Ashtanga Yoga for beginners is difficult to learn and requires the help of an instructor.
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