Originally, Ashtanga yoga was known as Vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a structured Vinyasa style of yoga that focuses on asanas and breathing. Vinyasa yoga refers to techniques that link breath with movement, creating a swift, flowing sequence.
A TRADITIONAL PRACTICE WITH ORIGINAL ROOTS IN INDIA, ASHTANGA YOGA is also known as ASHTANGA VINYASA YOGA, MILITARY YOGA, or ORIGINAL POWER YOGA. YOGA KORUNTA, a 5000-YEAR-OLD yogic text written by Vamana Rishi, is the source of its origins. PATANJALI compiled this ancient writing between 200 and 400 CE when he created the YOGAS.
Ashtanga yoga was developed and popularized by Pattabhi Jois when he opened the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore in 1948. With Yoga Mala, he outlined the Ashtanga yoga method. When he taught his first workshop in California in 1975, he introduced it to Western societies. Since then, it has continued to be practiced and taught.
There are six Ashtanga yoga series. First comes the primary or yoga chikitsa series, and the next is the intermediate one. These are followed by four advanced sequences with a set of postures to be performed in the same order each time. Starting with Sun Salutations (or Surya Namaskar) which is repeated five times. The Sun Salutations B variation is repeated three to five times. A standing sequence then follows. All six series share this pattern, with only the middle section of poses changing between them but they all practice in Mysore style meaning new, more complex poses are taught when appropriate.
In Ashtanga yoga, a specific philosophy and wisdom of teachings are followed. Ashtanga means eight limbs. They are practices that guide you in making your life meaningful by teaching you moral and ethical lessons about yourself. These eight limbs are arranged in a logical sequence. They consist of the following steps:
Yama: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Ateya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (continence), and Aparigraha (non-covetousness) are the five Yamas.
Niyama: The second limb deals with spiritual observance and self-discipline. Niyamas include saying grace before a meal or taking nature walks alone. Saucha (cleanliness), Samosa (contentment), Tapas (heat; spiritual austerities), Svadhyaya (study of the sacred scriptures and oneself), and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to god) are the five Niyamas.
Asana: We develop a deeper concentration and discipline by practicing asanas, which prepare us for the next limbs of yoga.
Pranayama: In general, pranayama is a form of breathing control. The purpose of pranayama is to gain control over the respiratory system by recognizing the connection between breathing, mind, and emotion.
Pratyahara: By detaching from the senses, you can observe your internal thoughts and see them differently. The fifth limb is to withdraw from external distractions and bring your attention inward.
Dharana: At this point, you will be relieved of outside distractions and focus on concentration. Here, you will learn to slow down your thinking process by drawing your attention to only one object. Meditation occurs naturally when you can focus on a single point for extended periods.
Dhyana: The uninterrupted flow of concentration (Dharana) is also known as meditation. At this point, you will be awake without any focus. Reaching this state of stillness requires strength and stamina. Although it is a part of the process, you will benefit from it as you work towards your goal because it is part of the process.
Samadhi: As the eighth and final limb of Ashtanga, Samadhi is described by Patanjali as ecstasy or bliss. The person meditating will transcend the self altogether during Samadhi. The experience of being at one with the universe will give them an overwhelming sense of euphoria and connectivity with all living things.
Here are four health benefits you may reap from practicing Ashtanga vinyasa yoga regularly:
Enhances psychological well-being: A 12-week Ashtanga vinyasa yoga program enrolled twenty children with anxiety and depression in a peer-reviewed study to reduce stress and anxiety. Four out of five children improved their self-esteem and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression after completing the program.
Strengthens and improves flexibility: Ashtanga poses require you to balance on one leg or hold your body weight on your hands. Ashtanga yoga builds core strength and increases your general body strength. It tones your muscles and improves flexibility.
Weight loss: Weight loss is possible with Ashtanga yoga, a vigorous cardiovascular workout that burns calories through strength training and muscle-building postures. You can also lose weight by relieving stress through asanas. To lose weight, you need to practice regularly or daily.
Blood pressure control: Several studies indicate that regular practice lowers blood pressure. Ashtanga practice uses the breathing technique Ujjayi pranayama, which is used to lower blood pressure. As you breathe through your nose, you contract your throat and make a whispering sound. According to many peer-reviewed studies, this breathing technique lowers blood pressure. Ashtanga yoga is also a great cardiovascular workout, which stabilizes blood pressure as well.
Boat pose (Navasana): You should sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your inner thighs and core, lift your feet to knee height, and bring your arms parallel to the floor. Straighten your legs if you feel comfortable and well-balanced. Hold for several breaths. Exhale and return to a seated position while bringing your feet to the ground.
Benefits: As well as strengthening the abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and spine, it can also improve digestion.
Risks and Contraindications: Generally safe, you should not practice boat pose if you have a headache, low blood pressure, or diarrhea. Moreover, people with asthma or heart problems should softly practice the Half Boat Pose rather than the Full Boat Pose.
The wheel pose or upward bow pose (Chakrasana): This posture requires dedication, strength, and flexibility. Start by lying on your back, feet flat on the floor, heels near sit bones. Bend elbows, place palms beside your head, fingers facing shoulders. Press feet and palms into the ground then exhale and lift buttocks, firming them off the floor. All body parts should remain parallel. Remain in the pose for up to ten seconds, then repeat from three to ten times.
Benefits: Besides stretching the chest and lungs, this posture strengthens the arms, wrists, legs, buttocks, abdominals, and spine. Moreover, it stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands, increases energy, counteracts depression, and is beneficial for asthma, back pain, infertility, and osteoporosis.
Risks and Contraindications: You should avoid this posture if you have a back injury, headache, heart problem, carpal tunnel syndrome, diarrhea, shoulder problems, or high or low blood pressure.
Headstand (Sirsasana): For those new to headstands, start with a modified version using a wall and mat. Begin in thunderbolt posture and measure the appropriate elbow width by placing your hands at the base of your upper arms. Place your elbows down and interlace your fingers, bringing the tips of your pinkies together while opening the palms and thumbs. Rest the top of your head on the mat and lift your hips while straightening your legs. Walk your feet closer to you as you raise your hips over your shoulders, bringing your knees close to your chest. Take several seconds to find balance before extending into a full headstand.
A version of the hurdle pose (Eka Pada Kaundinyasana II): Begin in a lunge with your right leg forward, and your arms outstretched ahead of you. Lift your right heel, shifting your shoulder under your leg, then lower the heel and place your hands on the floor on either side of the front foot. Raise your torso away from the floor and take the front leg off the ground. Stretch out your right leg in front, using your toes to balance as you shift forward, attempting to lift both feet away from the floor. See if you can find an equilibrium point that allows both feet to be suspended off the ground before touching back down and transitioning to a downward-facing dog position.
Benefits: Stress, anxiety, and depression are alleviated by headstands, which also stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands and lymphatic systems. If practiced regularly, it can strengthen the upper body and enhance lung capacity. It may prevent headaches, boost digestion, and alleviate menopause symptoms.
Risks and Contraindications: A neck, shoulder, or back injury can occur during this pose. Furthermore, inversion therapy isn't safe for everyone. If you're unsure if this pose is right for you, we recommend speaking to your doctor first. While in the pose, your blood pressure will rise, and your heart rate will slow. If you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, glaucoma, osteoporosis, a fractured back or leg, or a hernia, do not perform headstands or other inversion positions.
If you are a new student, do not perform anything uncomfortable, even if it is incorporated into the sequence, as these yoga poses are for experienced practitioners.