Ashtanga Yoga Flow:
Do you practice yoga and want to know more about Ashtanga Yoga flow? Most likely the answer to the latter is yes, that’s why you’re here, right! However, don’t be fooled by this very controlled type of yoga practice. Ashtanga yoga is, and can be a vigorous style, increasing in difficulty as you proceed through its phases.
Yoga is a philosophy, a millenary science that throughout history has created the basis for the birth of many different styles. Practiced today all over the world, yoga can be presented to every type of person and personality. For example, from the most meditative styles to very intense and dynamic ones. In fact, yoga has went through a lot of modifications throughout history. Like many practices, it has evolved.
Let’s Talk More About Ashtanga Yoga:
One style that includes dynamic and intense movement (sequences) and tremendous self-knowledge is Ashtanga Yoga. This is a physically demanding style of yoga, having deep roots in India even today. Believed to be developed by T.Krishnamacharya in the early 20th century, Ashtanga yoga has stood the test of time. Thus, remaining and becoming a very popular style of performed yoga in the late 1900’s and 2000’s.
The basis of the practice includes a sequence of continuous asanas, that is linked through breath. Such sequences are extremely structured, having to master one pose in order to proceed to the next. At it’s core, Ashtanga yoga is a more intense from of Hatha yoga, made up of six levels. These levels are further made up of a series of fixed postures. Meaning the sequence and asanas do not change. Oftentimes, it is compared to Vinyasa flow for the very nature of the flowing movement.
Consequently, one way in which it differs from other styles of yoga is it’s structure. Many other styles and classes include a “mixed bag” of asanas. Ashtanga yoga sequences, do not change.
Although the practice is physically demanding, at it’s root, promotes mind benefits as well. This includes mental clarity, inner peace and strength.
What does Ashtanga Yoga mean?
In Sanskrit, the word Ashtanga literally means Eight-limbs. “Ashta” referring to the number 8. “Anga” meaning limb. Thus, identifying the steps the yogi must take to achieve himself/herself. This includes making the body healthy, proceeding to better controlling of the mind.
- Yama – the conduct in social life or the actions that are performed towards others;
- Niyama – the individual conduct or actions towards yourself;
- Asanas – positions, postures;
- Pranayama – breath control;
- Pratyahara – the withdrawal of the senses;
- Dharana – deep concentration;
- Dhyana – meditation;
- Samadhi – liberation, awakening, self-awareness, the ultimate goal of yoga itself.
Benefits To The Practitioner:
Although not specific to Ashtanga, yoga in and of itself effects the autonomic nervous system. Helping to calm your system. Consequently, even leading to a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
Research suggests that that yoga can be used effectively for individuals that have an increased risk of falls. These benefits include;
- improved posture control;
- improved flexibility of body and mind;
- and a decrease in anxiety and stress
In addition, Ashtanga yoga therapy has shown promise in postural stability in the visually impaired.
There have been various studies indicating the use of yoga for individuals suffering from chronic lower back pain (CLBP). Some of the studies when compared to physical therapy, showed yoga to be “non-inferior” for the purposes of “function and pain”.
Furthermore, studies have indicated the ability of yoga to have benefits on increasing core strength. Consequently, having effects in reducing pain and disability in CLBP sufferers.
Improving Strength & Flexibility:
Research has supported (specifically, in regards to Hatha yoga), it’s ” favorable” effectiveness on cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance and flexibility.
Other touted benefits include; promoting concentration, increase in energy, mental relaxation, helping recover or strengthen spirituality, strengthening joints and spine, respecting and promoting the natural alignment of the body, reducing nervous hyperactivity, reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
Through the practice of Ashtanga yoga, many have found both balance and fulfillment. This can be in relation to the body, mind and spirituality.
Ashtanga Yoga Flow Series/Levels:
Ashtanga consists of six series. Within these series you’ll experience an increase in difficulty. Each series has a set number of asanas, performed in the same order.
The first series is called Yoga Chikitsa. This, (the Primary Series) means the “therapy” of yoga. This series includes a sequence of Ashtanga yoga asanas that aim to cleanse and detoxify the body, helping it to heal and maintain health. The “Primary Series” consist of 75 poses. Furthermore, can take upwards of 2 hours to complete in it’s entirely. Within these poses includes standing, seated, inverted and back-bend poses.
These ananas are performed in a way to work the whole body in a coherent way. Many, will have heard of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A & Surya Namaskara B) which occur at the beginning of Chikitsa. Ending with another well known pose, Corpse Pose.
Once you have mastered the first series, you’ll move onto the “Secondary Series”, or Nadi Sodhana. This translates to “cleaning the channels”, “cleaning the nerves”. Specifically, aimed at cleaning the “energy channels”, where prana (life force energy) flows. Once the second series has been perfected, we move on to the third, and so on.
The final series is called “Sthira Bhaga”. This translates as “divine stability”. In addition, it’s referred to as “The Advanced Series”. Consequently, comprises of many asanas for extremely devoted practitioners of the art.
We’ve briefly touched upon “the breath”. However in truth, when performing each pose, the importance of breathing is of utmost importance. Thus, is a critical component of keeping focus and concentration, along with “Banha” (muscular lock) and “Drishti” (focal point). In addition to it’s importance, is the type of breathing technique utilized. In Ashtanga yoga, Ujjayi breathing is used throughout. Otherwise known as “victorious breath”. However, in more advanced practice of Ashtanga, other forums of breathing techniques are often utilized.
Nonetheless, make sure you explore Ashtanga yoga with some amount of practicality. Respect your limits, embracing what you can do, and acknowledging what you still need to achieve. Live in the moment and experience each asana at the time, noticing how your body reacts to it.