Ashtanga Yoga, an ancient practice, is considered one of the most challenging types of yoga that have been practiced for decades. However, this strenuous form of yoga is one of the best ways to learn about your mental and physical strength and understand yoga at deeper levels.
Even though Ashtanga is referenced around 200 to 50 BC, it was popularized by the late Pattabhi Jois in 1948. This vigorous style of yoga consists of advanced postures done in a set sequence or order and focuses on how the breath is linked to movements. Ashtanga yoga is divided into six levels- Primary series, secondary series, and four advanced series. These six series levels have various standing and sitting postures, and each practice begins with a sun salutation. A beginner will have to start from the primary series and move on to the advanced ones once they have mastered the sequence.
Before looking more into Ashtanga, you need to understand its three pillars.
Three Principles of Ashtanga yoga
The practice of Ashtanga yoga is based on the concept of tristhana, which focuses on introspection, making it a form of meditation. The three principles of Ashtanga are:
Breathing is the foundation of this yogic practice and uses the breathing method called ujjayi pranayama, or ocean breath, to improve the body’s oxygen level.
While doing this yoga, you must follow a series of sitting and standing postures in a defined order. This asana is performed to unlock the three points in the body- the Mula bandha (point in the spine), the uddiyana bandha (located below the belly button), and the jalandhara bandha (located near the throat).
This element of tristhana is where you bring use your mind into practice. This will improve focus and self-awareness as you breathe and move.
How to practice Ashtanga Yoga
When practicing this yoga, you must follow the primary series that includes a sun salutation, a standing sequence, a backhanding sequence, and a finishing sequence. In addition, while practicing Ashtanga, you can follow some general tips.
Remember to move at your own pace.
Ashtanga is a challenging yogic practice that needs intense discipline. As this can be very strenuous, it is best not to overdo it when you start. Instead, you need to start small, understand each movement, and ensure that you are comfortable with every posture before jumping into the entire session.
Once you have memorized all the yoga postures, you need to start practicing. First, practice all the poses and ensure your body feels comfortable with the movements. Also, learn when to breathe. If you do the practice incorrectly- misaligned the spine or improper backhand- yoga won’t be effective, and you may even get injured.
Instead of focusing on how your posture looks, concentrate on breathing. Refrain from comparing your improvement with the other students. Instead, try to be mindful and improve yourself.
Ashtanga yoga suits more advanced yogis who want to strengthen their practice. But at the same time, newbies can benefit from the structure, postures, and self-discipline that are the foundation of this yoga style.