“Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind. Then there is abiding in the Seer’s own form.”
― The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic form of yoga that combines breathwork, movement, and meditation. In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about Ashtanga Yoga and answer common questions like “What is Ashtanga?” and “How often should I practice?” We will also explore the benefits of starting an Ashtanga Yoga practice and offer tips for beginners who want to start practicing at home!
What is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is a system of yoga that originates in India. The word Ashtanga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It refers to the eight steps or principles of Yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras about 2,000 years ago. The first four steps are moral guidelines for living a good life, while the last four are techniques for mastering the mind and body.
The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are :
- Yama: Moral guidelines for living a good life. This includes ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (not stealing), and brahmacharya (sexual restraint).
- Niyama: Personal observances to help you live a good life, such as saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), and svadhyaya (self-study).
- Asana: The physical postures of yoga.
- Pranayama: Control of the breath.
- Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses.
- Dharana: Concentration or focus.
- Dhyana: Meditation.
- Samadhi: Liberation or enlightenment.
This yoga method is based on a set sequence of poses referred to as a series that is repeated each time you practice. Think of it as a kind of moving meditation. Your movements are coordinated with your breath as a way to steady and calm the mind.
There are six series in Ashtanga. The Primary Series, Second Series, Third Series, Fourth Series, and Fifth Series are all considered “mainstream” series. There is also a Sixth Series known as the Advanced A Series. This series is taught to advanced practitioners only.
Most people start with the Primary Series and work their way up. “The Primary Series” or “Yoga Chikitsa” detoxifies and strengthens the body, improving flexibility and overall health. The sequence is designed to be learned gradually, over time, as students progress in their practice.
How is Ashtanga different from vinyasa yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is a disciplined form of vinyasa yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures. One of the major things that sets Ashtanga apart from vinyasa yoga is the emphasis on yoga as a lifestyle. Ashtanga yoga is more than physical exercise. It is a lifestyle meant to bring you inner peace by integrating the principles of the eight limbs into your life.
Ashtanga uses a three-pronged approach to the practice called the Tristhana Method. This method teaches us how to concentrate our attention by using a combination of the breath, postures, and a single point of focus called the Drishti.
Who invented Ashtanga Yoga?
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga for the first time in 1948 in Mysore, India.
What is a Mysore style class?
Mysore refers to the city in India where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. In a Mysore yoga class, there is no teacher-led instruction. Instead, students work through a series of memorized yoga postures on their own while the teacher circulates around the classroom providing assistance and instruction to individuals as needed.
What are the benefits of learning Ashtanga Yoga?
There are many benefits to this practice. Some of the most notable include:
- Improved flexibility
- Improved strength and endurance
- Detoxification of the body
- Improved mental clarity and focus
- Improved breathing
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Improved concentration and focus
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Greater sense of well-being and contentment
Who can practice Ashtanga yoga?
Anyone can practice Ashtanga, regardless of age or fitness level. It is important to start slowly and build up your practice over time. The poses practiced in Ashtanga can all be modified to make the practice accessible to you no matter what your physical ability. If you are new to the practice, be sure to seek guidance from an experienced teacher.
How Often should I practice?
The traditional recommendation is to practice six days a week and to rest on the seventh day.
When should I practice?
Most people practice in the morning, but it can be practiced at any time of the day.
Can I practice at home?
Yes, you can! In fact, many people find it helpful to practice at home when they are first starting out. Omstars offers a number of resources including beginner Ashtanga yoga classes for people who are just starting out on their Ashtanga journey.
Are there any risks associated with practicing Ashtanga Yoga?
Like any physical activity, there are some risks associated with practicing Ashtanga yoga. It is important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. If you have any health concerns, please consult a doctor before starting or continuing your practice. When you practice always listen to your body and avoid pushing it beyond its limit.
Advice for starting an Ashtanga yoga practice …
If you are new to Ashtanga yoga, be sure to seek guidance from an experienced teacher. Start slowly and build up your practice over time. The poses can all be modified to make the practice accessible to you no matter what your physical ability. Practice six days a week for best results. Try practicing in the morning for the most peaceful and energized experience. Be sure to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. If you have any health concerns, consult a doctor before starting or continuing your practice.
You can watch this intro to Ashtanga class to get you started.
If you’re ready to start your Ashtanga yoga journey sign up for a free trial with Omstars today. With regular practice, you will soon see and feel the many benefits of Ashtanga yoga in your own body and mind. Namaste!