Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a type of yoga interpreted and popularized by Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. It is derived from: 1. ashtanga , or “eight limbs” of yoga, which refers to the eight spiritual practices stated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; and 2. vinyasa, which refers to the breath-synchronized movement, enabling the student to do a smooth flow from one asana (yoga pose) to the next.
Ashtanga is a sequence with a series of yoga poses that begins with five sets of Sun Salutation A and five sets of Sun Salutation B, followed by the standing sequence. This is then followed by one of the six series, and ends with the closing sequence.
The 6 series of Ashtanga Yoga:
The Primary series – Yoga for Health
The Intermediate series – The Nerve Purifier
Third series – Advanced A
Fourth series – Advanced B
Fifth series – Advanced C
Sixth series – Advanced D
Most yoga students regard ashtanga vinyasa yoga as a traditional yoga practice compared to the other modern-day styles of yoga. While some of today’s students prefer the more modern type of yoga, there are still several practitioners who are loyal to this traditional practice.
By regularly practicing the series, the student learns to master the sequence of postures and to build a flow that cleanses and opens the body to make the other limbs of yoga more accessible. A committed ashtangi is recommended to practice 6 days a week, and resting on “moon days” (during new moon and full moon) every month.
Ashtanga Yoga does not only focus on one’s body – it also works on the mind and the spirit.
Here are 8 of the many things that a dedicated yoga student will discover and learn from practicing this ashtanga yoga:
No matter how physically flexible and strong you are, ashtanga yoga is not considered easy. The practice of ashtanga lets you learn to expand your patience from time to time, as it only allows its students to advance into a sequence when they are ready – that is, when you have already mastered the poses and the series by heart.
Also, you will have to be patient with yourself because not all poses are easily executed. You will meet certain obstacles blocking your path, such as tight hamstrings and awkward balance, and you have to know how to overcome them. With this, you will learn that patience indeed is a virtue.
Regular practice of ashtanga teaches the students to be humble. You will fall a few times. You will find some poses difficult. You will feel tired and even frustrated several times. And so you will know that you have your weak spots and vulnerabilities, and learning humility and acceptance is the only way towards opening the path to advancement.
At some point, you will notice that you begin to lose your ego and find your true self with the help of constant repetitions of the sequence.
By showing up on your mat six days a week without excuses, you will begin to implant a certain kind of discipline to your being. The practice then becomes a regular part of your lifestyle, as normal and mandatory as taking a bath, or brushing your teeth, or combing your hair, or eating and drinking.
4. Proper and Mindful Breathing
Breathing may just be a normal, no-need-to-think-about-it task – but how many times in a day do we perform mindful breathing?
Ujjayi pranayama is the kind of breathing exercise being used for the practice of ashtanga yoga. This is also known as the “victorious breath” or the “ocean breath”. It is done by letting the air vibrate at the back of the throat for every inhalation and exhalation, mimicking the sound of the ocean wind. This sound helps us to have more focus. This kind of breathing practice helps in creating more body heat, which is needed during the tough asana practice in ashtanga.
Mental clarity and deeper kind of focus is built through constant and regular practice of ashtanga yoga. This begins with your point of gaze, also known as drishti. Your drishti is the connection that bridge your external world to the inner landscape of your subconscious, deep into pure consciousness.
You will also learn dharana, or the ability to concentrate. This lets you master your focus despite the distractions from the outer world, letting you move deeper into your inner self during and even after your practice.
6. A Sense of Calm
The vinyasa part of ashtanga lets you synchronize your breath with each movement, creating a smooth fluidity with the flow. This “smooth fluidity” creates a sense of calm in the mind, body, and soul. Along with mindful breathing and focus, you will learn to master your thoughts and bring calmness within despite the stressful environment.
7. Build Inner Strength
The practice of ashtanga yoga teaches you to work on the bandhas or “locks”, it focuses on the pelvic floor muscles, abdominal muscles, and throat. This allows the student to build inner strength and properly channel the flow of energy.
Because repetitive sequence of yoga poses is done every time you do ashtanga, you will definitely notice progress in your practice. You will notice that your hamstrings become less tight, and your spine becomes a lot bendier compared to the first time you did it. Doing the same poses repetitively allows your body to become more open and physical and mental development will become more obvious.
Having the Right Intention
A meaningful yoga journey always begins with the right intention, a heartful dedication, a committed mind, and a strong discipline. If you want to embark on this kind of yoga journey rich with philosophy and progressive yet challenging physical movement, Ashtanga Vinyasa might just be the right choice for you.
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