in my last post I have promised a short article about an ashtanga yoga and how I see it. Here it is. Enjoy 🙂 .
What is ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is a specific style of yoga, in which practitioners ideally should be practicing
6times a week. The practice starts with Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B and continues with the following asanas, while the ashtanga yogi is supposed to stay for 5 breaths in each of these poses. The individual is moving through her/his yoga journey pose by pose, when they are done with one pose, they are ready to start the practice of the following one. All together 1st Ashtanga primary series has standing, sitting, and finishing poses. Ashtanga is focusing on asanas – poses, breath, and Drishti (point of view). Traditionally the class is led in Sanskrit used for names of poses and breath counting, we can experience chanting in the beginning and at the end of the ashtanga class. There are six ashtanga series.
Traditionally we are not supposed to use any props, but in some studios, teachers are okay with using them (blocks, etc.). Traditionally, there is also no music.
Ashtanga can be taught as a led class by a teacher, where all students are practicing together,
or as a Mysore when students are practicing more on their own and a teacher is there to support them in their growth. Ashtanga is also popular for adjustments that students are obtaining during their practice. Those adjustments can make the student feel more relaxed, more stretched, and can also give him/her new ways of doing old things more effectively. Sometimes those adjustments can feel like a massage.
Sometimes we can find ashtanga classes named ashtanga vinyasa yoga, vinyasa is just putting
an accent on using the breath to flow through asanas as they go after each other. If the class is called only vinyasa yoga, the breath has a big role, but the order of poses is not necessarily the same as in ashtanga yoga.
Ashtanga yoga can be fast or slow, depending on the practitioner, his/her needs, and zones of comfortability. With time and the structure of poses following each other, the practitioner is practicing automatically, and the practice becomes similar to active meditation. With everyday practice, or regular practice, we can learn to see the changes in our bodies, some poses can feel very different each day and by respecting those differences we are supporting and growing our mental health in the ability to see when we have the capacity to do more, and when we don’t.
Yin yoga or restorative yoga are seen as good complements to ashtanga yoga. Since we do not only need a healthy body, but also a healthy mind, that can be helped by training our ability to stay in the present moment.
Where is ashtanga from?
Ashtanga yoga is very old. The name ashtanga is made of two sanskrit words – ashtau – eight and anga – limb 1. We can see there eight limbs included in a yoga practice – attitudes toward our environment, attitudes toward ourselves, physical postures, breath, withdrawal of the senses, focus, meditation, and a complete integration2.
Into the western world, it was Patthabi Jois (Guruji), who kind of brought ashtanga as a system of practice how we know it now. He was born in Mysore, India. His teacher was T. Krishnamacharya, who was also a teacher of B. K. S. Iyengar. 1 Guruji died in 2009, his teaching is now led by his grandson Sharath Jois.
Who is ashtanga good for?
I believe, with the right teacher for a specific person, ashtanga can be good for everybody. But I also believe, not every teacher is what fits all people. If we are pregnant, we need to find a teacher who understands what the body needs during pregnancy. If we are new, we need a teacher who will start step by step. If we are older, after an injury, less flexible, we need a teacher who is not comparing a student to a student. We always need to find a teacher who resonates with us, who makes us feel welcomed, comfortable, and who is trustworthy. Because if we choose to practice ashtanga in a studio, then the teacher and the community will create a big part of our life.
Of course, we can go to the studio just once or twice a week and other days still do practice at our homes.
I was trying to write about the main things in ashtanga yoga as far, as I know about them. But please, feel free to ask for more details or other things, you are wondering about. Enjoy your journey! Namaste,