Ashtanga yoga is an ancient form of yoga practiced primarily in India. It was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), who taught his system of practice to students around the world. The word “ashtanga” means eight limbs, referring to the eight steps of the series of postures used in this style of yoga.
The primary goal of practicing ashtanga yoga is to develop strength, flexibility, balance, and concentration. Students learn to control their breathing during meditation sessions, which helps them focus their attention inwardly. They also learn to use their breath to calm themselves when they feel stressed out.
Ashtanga yoga has been studied extensively since its inception. Researchers have found that practitioners of the method experience significant physical benefits such as improved lung capacity, increased muscle tone, reduced stress, and better blood circulation.
Ashtanga Yoga Definition
The word Ashtanga is made up of two Sanskrit words: "Ashta", which refers to the number 8, and "Anga," meaning limb or body part. So together they make up one complete yoga system: eight limbs united into a single practice
Yama – Moral or ethical codes and disciplines
Niyama – Self observation
Asana – Posture
Pranayama – Breathing control
Pratyahara – Control/withdrawal of the senses
Dharana – Concentration
Dhyana – Meditation
Samadhi – Fully integrated supreme consciousness
Yama and niyama are the two main parts of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The first part of this sutra deals with ethical conduct (yama), while the second part deals with concentration or meditation (niyama). These two aspects of yoga are often taught separately, but they are actually interrelated.
For example, if you have a strong sense of self-discipline, then it will be easier for you to meditate because your mind won't wander off into other thoughts. On the other hand, if you lack discipline, then it may be difficult for you to concentrate in meditation.
The difference between Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga?
In ashtanga, the poses are performed in a set sequence. In vinyasa, students choose their own poses and create their own flow of movement from one to another. Ashtanga classes end with Sanskrit mantras chanted by everyone; vinyasa classes tend to play music throughout instead of chanting at the end like traditional yoga schools do.
Characteristics of Ashtanga Yoga
It is recommended that a yogi practice six days per week, with Saturday being the day off. Days of the full and new moon are also considered rest days, so women often refrain from practicing during menstruation.
Here are some characteristics of Ashtanga Yoga that will help you understand how it differs from other forms of yoga.
- Ujjayi pranayama: is a breathing technique that is often used in Ashtanga yoga. The Sanskrit word ujjayi means "to conquer" or "to be victorious."This breathing technique is also sometimes called "ocean breath" because of the sound that it makes when you do it.
- Drishti: is a Sanskrit word that means "sight" or "gaze". In yoga, drishti refers to where you focus your gaze during a yoga pose or meditation. In each asana, a specific drishti or focal point is used to help create a more focused and meditative practice.
- Bandha: is a Sanskrit word that means "to hold" or "to bind". In the context of Ashtanga yoga, it refers to the four main energy locks that are used to control and direct prana, or life force, throughout the body. The engagement of bandhas, or body locks, is encouraged throughout the class to seal in prana and create core stability.
- Vinyasa: Is a sanskrit word that means “to place,” The breath is synchronized to the movements of the body in a way that creates a continuous flow of movement from one posture to the next.
Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is an exercise that focuses on muscle training and develops physical strength. It makes you stronger, toned, and flexible.
The movements involved in Ashtanga yoga are challenging, but they also help you build endurance and stamina. The practice encourages you to push yourself beyond your baseline level of fitness and flexibility. This can be a challenge for beginners who haven't been regularly exercising before starting the practice. But it will pay off!
Ashtanga yoga is great for your emotions. It emphasizes emotional and mental flexibility, and it affects your emotions in a way that enables purification.
The practice of Ashtanga yoga can help you find balance between feelings and emotions. It helps you deal with your negative emotions without suppressing them or dwelling on them. Instead, you learn to observe them and let them go so they don't build up inside of you.
When you reach emotional equilibrium, your organs and whole body will work more efficiently. You'll see how intimately connected mind and body are.
Ashtanga yoga is a moving meditation that will help you to connect with the breath and focus on your body. Through this practice, you will gain better awareness of how your muscles work together in coordination with the breath. This sort of movement will keep your body moving while also relaxing it and allowing you to alter patterns of unwanted behavior.
The practice of Ashtanga yoga is ideal for anyone who wants to experience mental healing through physical activity.
Because Ashtanga yoga is so physically demanding, many people are intimidated by the practice. Yet just as repeating sequences of mathematical equations can strengthen your mind, repetition in yoga has its benefits both physical and spiritual.
The first four limbs focus on interacting with the external world and learning to cleanse your body. The next four help you withdraw from that interaction, focusing on cleansing your mind.
Through the practice of postures, focus points and breathing, you will gain a better understanding and mastery of your inner self.
Effective cardio workout
It's no secret that Ashtanga is an effective cardio workout. If you're looking to get in shape, manage your weight, and stay fit without having to do a bunch of high-intensity sprinting, Ashtanga the perfect option for you.
The movements are long and slow, which means they'll help you breathe deeply while still raising your heart rate. You can do these movements swiftly, and they'll still help you burn calories faster than many other forms of exercise!