Ashtanga yoga is an assertive discipline of yoga that was classified and promoted by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Ashtanga means eight limbs or branches, referring to the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
The word Ashtanga is derived from Sanskrit, which means eight limbs. Each limb (anga) describes an aspect that helps the yogi follow the path to attain the most profound state of conscious awareness and thus live in harmony with the universe.
The principles of Ashtanga yoga are based on the ancient texts of India, specifically the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. These texts outline the basic tenets of yoga practice, including meditation, asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathwork), and more.
Being an excellent form of yoga, Ashtanga yoga provides many varied benefits to the yogi or the practitioner. Some significant benefits are listed here:
Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
There are many benefits of practicing Ashtanga Yoga. The main advantage is that it helps to cleanse and detoxify the body. Ashtanga yoga is a very physically demanding form of yoga, and as such, it helps to improve strength, flexibility, and stamina.
It also helps to improve concentration and focus and promotes a sense of calm and peace. Ashtanga yoga is also said to help boost the immune system and promote overall health and well-being.
Top 10 Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
1. Improves Strength, Flexibility, and Stamina
2. Promotes a Sense of Calm and Peace
3. Helps to Detoxify and Cleanse the Body
4. Boosts the Immune System
5. Improves Concentration and Focus
6. Reduces Stress Levels
7. Regulates Hormones
8. Improves Digestion
9. Relieves Pain
10. Promotes Overall Health and Well-Being
Sequences of Ashtanga Yoga
There are three main sequences of Ashtanga yoga: the primary, secondary, and advanced series. The primary series is meant for beginners and focuses on building strength and flexibility.
The secondary series is more advanced and focuses on refining the asanas (yoga poses) learned in the primary series. The advanced series is the most challenging and focuses on mastering difficult asanas and pranayamas (breathwork techniques).
The principles of Ashtanga yoga are based on the ancient texts of India, explicitly the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. These texts frame the fundamental principles of yoga practice, which includes asanas (yoga postures) and meditation.
Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series
The Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series is called Yoga Chikitsa, which means “yoga therapy.” This series is intended for beginners and focuses on building strength and flexibility. The primary series includes 75 asanas (yoga poses) and is traditionally done in the morning.
Ashtanga Yoga Secondary Series
The Ashtanga Yoga Secondary Series is known as Nadi Shodhana, meaning “nerve cleansing.” This series is more advanced than the primary series and focuses on refining the asanas learned in the primary series. The secondary series includes 60 asanas and is traditionally done in the afternoon.
Ashtanga Yoga Advanced Series
The Ashtanga Yoga Advanced Series is also known as Sthira Bhaga, which means “balance of the energies.” This series is the most challenging and focuses on mastering difficult asanas and pranayamas. The advanced series includes 36 asanas and is traditionally done in the evening.
What are the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga?
The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga are:
1. Yama: moral restraints including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, and sexual continence
2. Niyama: positive duties, including self-study, contentment, austerity, and devotion to God
3. Asana: physical postures
4. Pranayama: breathing techniques
5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of all the senses from the objects
6. Dharana: concentration
7. Dhyana: meditation
8. Samadhi: absorption with the higher self or union with supreme
The Ashtanga yoga practice includes all eight of these limbs and is a comprehensive system for physical, mental, and spiritual transformation.
Where did Ashtanga Yoga begin?
Ashtanga yoga originated in India with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, often called “Guruji.” Guruji was born in Karnataka, India, in 1915 and began studying yoga at the age of 12 with his teachers, Krishnamacharya and Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. He later taught Ashtanga yoga at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India.
In the 1960s, he began travelling to the West to share his knowledge of Ashtanga yoga, and he eventually settled in Mysore, India, where he founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. He continued teaching and practicing Ashtanga yoga until he died in 2009.
What is the purpose of Ashtanga Yoga?
The purpose of Ashtanga yoga is to purify the body and mind through the correct alignment of breath, gaze and movement (tristhan) and, by doing so, develop a meditation practice that ultimately leads to self-realization.
The asanas (yoga poses) are designed to cleanse the body and improve health. At the same time, breathing techniques (pranayamas) and meditation practices (dhyana) are meant to calm the mind and develop concentration. Ultimately the goal is to calm the fluctuations of the mind so that the practitioner can reach his true nature, i.e., the higher self.
How can Ashtanga Yoga benefit me?
There are many benefits to practicing Ashtanga yoga, including improved strength, flexibility, and stamina; increased concentration and focus; reduced stress levels; regulated hormones; and improved digestion.
Additionally, Ashtanga yoga promotes a sense of calm and peace, helps to detoxify and cleanse the body, boosts the immune system, and relieves pain. Ultimately, Ashtanga yoga supports overall health and well-being.
Fundamental and yoga practices
Ujjayi pranayama is a breathing technique that is used in Ashtanga yoga. This technique involves exhaling and inhaling through the nose while constricting the throat muscles. Ujjayi pranayama helps to control the breath, calm the mind, and focus the attention inward.
Bandhas are energy locks that are used in Ashtanga yoga. These body locks are recommended to strengthen the core stability throughout the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.
There is four main bandhas:
• Mula bandha (root lock)
• Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock)
• Jalandhara bandha (throat lock)
• Maha bandha (great lock)
Also, these bandhas help to improve circulation, increase energy levels and prevent injuries.
Drishti is a Sanskrit word that means “gaze” or “sight.” In Ashtanga yoga, Drishti refers to the eyes’ focus during asanas. Different asanas will have different Drishti, but generally speaking, the gaze should be soft and steady. Drishti helps to improve concentration and prevent injuries.
Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word that means “to place especially.” In Ashtanga yoga, vinyasa refers to the linking of breath and movement. Each asana is linked with an inhale or an exhale, and the transitions between asanas are consistent and smooth. Vinyasa helps to improve coordination and develop a sense of rhythm.
Ashtanga yoga is a comprehensive physical, mental, and spiritual transformation system that can benefit your life. By practicing the asanas, breathing techniques, and meditation practices of Ashtanga yoga, you can improve your health, increase your concentration and focus, reduce stress, and find inner peace.
The principles of Ashtanga yoga
There are six principles of Ashtanga yoga which are known as the shat-karmas. These principles are as follows:
1. Dhauti – This principle involves cleansing the digestive system by swallowing a long cloth soaked in warm water.
2. Basti – This principle involves cleansing the urinary tract by holding the breath and contracting the abdominal muscles.
3. Neti – This principle involves cleansing the nasal passages with a saline solution.
4. Trataka – This principle involves gazing at a fixed point without blinking in order to improve concentration and focus.
5. Nauli – This principle involves twisting and churning the abdominal muscles to cleanse the digestive system.
6. Kapalabhati – This principle involves rapid inhalation and exhalation of breath so as to purify the respiratory system.
In Ashtanga yoga, practitioners are encouraged to remember the sequence they are following so that they can individually work through the sequence during class. The yoga teacher helps to accommodate and support rather than guide the individual’s practice.
Hence, practitioners set their own rhythm as per their capacity and practice with other students in the class. The teacher however, supports and encourages them regularly. They must master each pose in sequence before moving on to the next.
Ashtanga yoga is therefore considered suitable for students who want a systematic and rigorous yoga practice.
Can beginners do Ashtanga yoga?
Yes, Ashtanga yoga is suitable for beginners. However, starting with an introductory Ashtanga yoga class is recommended before progressing to a more advanced class.
Why is Ashtanga yoga called advanced yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is called advanced yoga because it is a more physically demanding form of yoga. Ashtanga yoga is based on the principle of vinyasa, or linking breath and movement.
Every yoga posture is linked to inhalation or exhalation, and the transition between asanas is smooth and in a specific order. Because of this, Ashtanga yoga can be pretty challenging for beginners.
However, with regular practice, Ashtanga yoga can help to improve strength, flexibility, and stamina. If you’re looking for a workout that will physically and mentally challenge you, Ashtanga yoga is the perfect practice.
Difference between Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga
The main difference between Ashtanga and vinyasa yoga is that Ashtanga yoga is a more physically demanding form of yoga. In contrast, vinyasa yoga is a more simple and gentle form of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga is based on the principle of vinyasa, or linking breath and movement. This implies that each asana is associated with an inhale or exhale, and the movement between asanas occurs in a smooth and continuous flow.
Because of this, Ashtanga yoga can prove to be challenging for beginners.
On the other hand, Vinyasa yoga is a slower-paced form of yoga that focuses on holding each asana for a period of time.
This type of yoga is ideal for beginners looking to build strength and flexibility. If you’re looking for a workout that will physically and mentally challenge you, Ashtanga yoga is the perfect practice.
However, vinyasa yoga may be a better option if you’re looking for a more relaxed and gentle form of yoga.
How can Ashtanga yoga help to improve your health?
There are many ways in which Ashtanga yoga can help to improve your health. Ashtanga yoga is based on the principle of vinyasa, or linking breath with movement.
This means that each asana is linked with an inhale or an exhale, and the transitions between asanas are performed in order and flow smoothly. Because of this, Ashtanga yoga can be relatively challenging for beginners.
However, with regular practice, Ashtanga yoga can help to improve strength, flexibility, and stamina. In addition, Ashtanga yoga can also help to improve your cardiovascular health, as well as reduce stress and anxiety levels.
If you’re looking for a workout that will physically and mentally challenge you, Ashtanga yoga is the perfect practice.
How can Ashtanga yoga help me in my daily life?
Ashtanga yoga can help your daily life by improving your physical health, mental well-being, and emotional balance. By practising asanas, breathing techniques, and meditation, Ashtanga yoga can help to improve your strength, flexibility, and stamina.
Ashtanga yoga can also help increase concentration and focus, reduce stress, and find inner peace. In other words, Ashtanga yoga provides a comprehensive system of physical, mental, and spiritual transformation that can bring many benefits to your life.
Therefore, Ashtanga yoga can be a perfect practice if you are looking for a physically and mentally challenging workout that can also bring many benefits.
How often should I practice Ashtanga yoga?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends entirely on your objectives and level of involvement. If you are a beginner, starting with the basic Ashtanga yoga class is recommended before progressing to a more advanced class.
If you are more experienced, you should practice Ashtanga yoga more frequently in order to continue improving your strength, flexibility, and stamina. No matter what your goals or experience level, Ashtanga yoga can provide many benefits.
Final Thoughts on Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a plan of yoga that was ordered and advanced by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Ashtanga means eight limbs or branches, referring to the eight limbs of yoga as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The principles of Ashtanga Yoga are based on the ancient texts of India.
If you are interested in learning more about Ashtanga yoga, or other types of yoga, there are many resources available online and in bookstores. Apart from this, many yoga studios across the country offer classes for all levels of yogis, from beginner to advanced levels.
If you are ready to challenge yourself physically and mentally, then Ashtanga Yoga could be your best practice.
Thus Ashtanga Yoga helps its practitioner to touch the broader and more profound dimensions that connect him with pure consciousness.