Ashtanga yoga is a challenging system of yoga; a very highly structured and modeled in a vinyasa style kind of yoga. It revolves around the synchrony of breath and postures, resulting in a vigorous, fast-paced and challenging exercise routine. Popularised by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga yoga will purify your body, tone it, and strengthen it as well.
Ashtanga yoga has eight central spiritual practices. These are;
- Proper yoga posture
- Moral codes
- Control of sense
- Breath control
Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
- Mental relaxation and healing
Practicing yoga works on the mind, mitigating adverse effects of various psychological and psychiatric issues like tension, anxiety, and stress. Ashtanga Yoga assists in mental rejuvenation and helps alleviate tension, lower back pain, and headaches as well.
- Physical strength
Practicing this style of yoga will keep your body strong, toned, and controlled but relaxed. If you are struggling with weight management, Ashtanga yoga is perfect for you. It will enhance your flexibility, build your stamina, and work on your core strength.
- Great cardio workout
The sequence of poses in Ashtanga yoga is done in quick fluid succession and will raise your heart rate swiftly, giving you an effective cardio workout. Due to its vigorous style, it is perhaps the best style of yoga for cardio workout.
- Improves coordination
If you would like to fine tune your body and improve on your balance, coordination, and focus, then Ashtanga yoga is a great practice for you to pick up. The vigorous, intense and swift asanas will assist you to lock into a good sense of rhythm, while introducing you to the unique movement and flow of your own body.
- Emotional wellness
The Asanas in this style of yoga impacts not only the physical body, but your emotional state as well. They may aid in assisting you to work through any emotional pain and suppressed feelings, and overcome difficult emotional situations.
- Spiritual wellbeing
Ashtanga helps foster positivity, and will leave you feeling its benefits of happiness and positive energy. The repetition of sequences in a highly structured order serves to awaken the spirit, cleanse you internally and assist you to connect your inner self with your mind. This will lead to mental clarity, and help you get in touch with the limitless inner you.
Ashtanga yoga poses
The order of asanas in this style of yoga consists of four main sequences;
- The opening series
- The main series
- A back-bending sequence
- The finishing sequence
The inaugural series usually has ten sun salutations combined with some standing asanas. The sun salutations are warm-up poses that will ease your joints, promote early sweating, and increase the flow of blood to the heart. The opening series will also gently stretch your muscles and joints in preparation for the grueling poses ahead.
The vinyasas that follow can include a low plank pose, followed by an upward facing dog pose, and then a downward facing dog before the next pose. These poses are usually done after the initial 18 standing poses, and in between each pose. There can be an upward of 40 of these Vinyasas in a regular 90-minute workout. They do help in strengthening the upper body and preparing your core for the inversions to follow.
Ashtanga can be very intimidating and fierce for a newbie yogi. The key though lies in continual practice. What should you expect as an Ashtanga yoga learner?
- The learning process may be difficult, because this style of yoga is designed to challenge your focus and determination. Ashtanga challenges you from the onset to make your mind sharp. If you feel overwhelmed at the beginning do your best to embrace it, love and encourage yourself, and keep at it.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. Start off with the sun salutations, then move on to the closing poses. Add on more Vinyasas as you master the poses.
- Remember to breathe. Deep breathing with the sounds will tie your inner self and your physical body together and helps you get the most out of your practice. All the poses in Ashtanga are breathing opportunities.
- Keep in touch with your body. The purpose of yoga is to make you more aware of your body so that you can awaken your true self.
- Do not try to keep up with the Joneses. Yoga isn’t about mastering the most extreme poses, but about connecting with yourself. Every pose is designed to challenge you, and that struggle is the guidance you need to find your edge. So don’t go for extreme poses at the beginning, but instead take even the simplest at a time, to help you connect the suffering with compassion.
- Don’t give up. Every small step forward you take is a move towards wholeness. Keep at it and inspire yourself to become the best version of yourself.