The health benefits of Yoga have been brought prominently to public attention during recent years offering both physical and mental well-being.
Ashtanga Yoga which means “eight-limbed yoga,” is the Patanjali’s Yoga. There are six series of postures in this practice, and the idea is for every student to master each posture and series before moving on to the next.
10 things you should know about Ashtanga Yoga:
1. The teacher guides each students breaths for every pose.
Five even inhalations and exhalations for every pose keep me in close touch with my breath. Strong teachers pace the breath calls in a progressive way to help stretch each inhale and exhale. This really helps you get the feel for each posture and allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the connection between breath and asana.
2. It’s a very disciplined practice.
All students of the class breath & move in synchronicity which really does help maintain extraordinary focus. Even if you haven’t come to class to draw on the sense of community or togetherness you will leave feeling enhanced by the bond you develop during the practice.
3. It’s a really physical challenge! All of the Ashtanga series require a degree of strength and flexibility and I see this challenge as one of the defining elements of practice. At first it can seem overbearing however you quickly learn to embrace the challenge and even welcome these feelings. Ashtanga gives me an incredible total body workout & I base a lot of my own practice on the feelings I experience during a teacher led class.
4. The practice demands deep concentration.
I can’t tune out while doing Ashtanga yoga. My mind never drifts at any moment! If I’m stressed or have a lot on at work or home I know Astanga practice will help me refocus my mind and completely distress. To keep pace with the class there is nothing else I can think about other than what I am doing at any given moment which is really the essence of Yoga.
5. Ashtanga makes me sweat!
Ashtanga practice creates an intense internal body heat that carries you through practice so there’s no need for us to switch on the heaters to induce the sweat.
6. The repetition of postures improves my muscle memory. There is a certain amount of repetition throughout the Ashtanga practice, which greatly improves my muscle memory. The result? You really can monitor your practice and grow through the sequences.
7. It’s a balanced practice.
Ashtanga sequences are include a perfect balance of salutations, standing poses, seated postures, forward bends, twists, back bends, hip openers, inversions, arm balances, leg extension and flexion, and shoulder opening. There isn’t a single part of my body that ever feels left out of this practice.
8. The power of the inward journey.
With Ashtanga yoga I can truly be with my self and get to know my spirit because pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, enables me to shut out everything external to my mind and body. This is essential to any yogi and anyone in need of stress relief and a little calm- which let’s face it includes us all.
9. It’s an Eye Opener
The teacher often reminds students to find and keep his/her eyes on a single point. The focused soft gaze is a significant part of the Ashtanga practice. An astute Drishti (point of focus, the gaze) keeps my eyes from wandering, which prevents a large amount of distraction (80% of what we perceive through our senses comes through our eyes; and, our memories are 80% imagery).
10. It’s Infinite
There’s always room for improvement. Regardless of how advanced a practice may be, Ashtanga is a life-long practice. Most bodies and certainly my own (which is quite strong and fairly flexible), need at least a lifetime to master the practice.