Yoga Styles: Ashtanga Yoga | Health24

  • Ashtanga yoga is a more vigorous style of yoga.
  • Ashtanga yoga postures are set and sequences are repeated.
  • One of the most well-known sequences is the basic sun salutation.

Yoga is a discipline originating in ancient India. It has a rich history and has come a long way, but has become significantly westernized in many countries.

While originally a way of life, many people use yoga primarily as a form of exercise, and over the years many different styles of yoga have emerged.

Background

Ashtanga yoga is a more vigorous style of discipline. According to YogapediaAshtanga yoga was popularized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

It is said that the style is born with Vamana Rishi, the author of Korunta Yoga. T. Krishnamacharya studied Korunta Yoga and passed on his knowledge to his student, Pattabhi Jois.

Pattabhi Jois taught according to the Yoga Sutras, which contained the framework, philosophy and wisdom of Ashtanga yoga.

Directly translated, Ashtanga means “eight limbs”and in the Yoga SutrasPatanjali defines them as follows:

  • Yamas: This is the first member, and it refers to its moral and restrictive nature. It is said to present a better opportunity for the practicing student to live a more peaceful and healthy life.
  • Niyamas: This is the second limb described by Patanjali, and it is the inner observance recommended by his teachings and philosophy. It details the application of the ethical codes of yoga to the student for mind, body, and spirit, which helps create a positive internal environment.
  • Asanas: This is the third limb, and it is the term commonly used to talk about yoga positions and postures. Directly translated from Sanskrit, asana is the seated posture, used for meditation, but it has become the common term referring to any Hatha physical posture, found in almost every style of yoga – from Ashtanga to Vinyasa, from Bikram to Iyengar.
  • Pranayama: The fourth limb involves breathing and practices. Prana is universal energy, which is an important aspect of yoga. Breathing practice is incorporated into most asana series and precedes meditation.
  • Pratyahara: The fifth limb, usually translated from Sanskrit, is “withdrawal of the senses.” This step is highly significant before embarking on the sixth and seventh limbs because of the importance of removing oneself from outside influences.
  • Dharana: This limb refers to the concentration of the mind and the creation of an external object, such as a god, or an internal object, such as a chakra, the focal point. This sixth limb practice helps improve a student’s ability to maintain concentration, stay calm, and increase mental toughness.
  • Dhyana: Translated from Sanskrit, it means “meditation”. It is the seventh limb according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and like Dharana, this practice also requires an incredible amount of mental focus. The limbs leading to this seventh limb play a vital role in helping to strengthen the dhyana of the student.
  • Samadhi: The eighth and last member can be translated in many ways from Sanskrit to English. For some it is called “together” or “completely”, and it could mean “liberation” or “enlightenment”. Samadhi is considered the pinnacle of activity; he could be said to be in a state of complete meditative absorption after making the journey from the first limb to the eighth limb of the Sutras.

The practice

Ashtanga yoga postures are set and sequences are repeated. Although it may seem monotonous and boring, students should be reassured that there are many sequences to learn and master before they can move on.

One of the best-known sequences is the basic sun salutation, known as Surya Namaskar A. The basic sun salutation is a sequence of 12 posesbut there may be some variations, depending on the yogi:

1. Pranamasana (prayer pose)

2. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

3. Uttanasana (standing forward fold)

4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose or Low Lunge)

5. Chaturanga Dandasana (plank pose)

6. Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight Limb Salute)

7. Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

8. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

9. Ashwa Sanchalanasana (Equestrian Pose or Low Lunge)

10. Uttanasana (standing forward fold)

11. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

12. Pranamasana (prayer pose)

These aim to awaken the body and channel the energy of the sun, symbol of consciousness. There are several other sequences practiced in Ashtanga yoga, and they are usually learned and practiced in a continuous flow, which could make this style of yoga more vigorous.

Advantages

Ashtanga yoga tends to be more vigorous in its pace and therefore provides a bit more cardiovascular exercise. the style not only increases mobility and flexibility, but also improves strength and endurance.

Although this style of yoga can be a little faster in its development, it remains improved mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, and strength.

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