What is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga is a powerful system of practice designed to purify the body, nervous system and mind. One of the main distinguishing features of Ashtanga yoga is that it links a set series of postures together in a flowing sequence that is synchronised with the breath. This is called vinyasa.
The purpose of vinyasa is to build heat in the body, to warm and thin the blood. This improves circulation and removes impurities from the internal organs. These impurities are then eliminated in a profuse, purifying sweat.
The resulting purification of the body and nervous system is aided by a special system of deep breathing called ujjayi pranayama, or ‘victorious breath’. Internal muscular locks called bandhas are integral to this style of resonant breathing. The bandhas also help to stabilise the spine, bringing lightness and health to the body.
To realise the full purifiying effects of Ashtanga Yoga it is important to slowly learn the sequence step by step. This takes great patience and steadfastness of mind to accept where the body is in a posture and allow the body and posture to unfold over time. It is not uncommon for it to take months or years to understand and be able to safely do a posture (asana). In our rush to ‘achieve’ and get somewhere postures can be skipped or skimmed over. This watering down of the traditional practice may be more user friendly and help the ego to fell that something is being accomplished. However practicing in this way we may lose many of the profound benefits of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
Finally, Ashtanga yoga steadies the mind by focusing the gaze on specific dristhis or ‘looking places’. This focus on posture, breath and gaze is called Tristhanam and is what purifies the body, nervous system and mind.
The home of Ashtanga Yoga is Mysore, India.
A typical Ashtanga Yoga class may be a led class or a Mysore style class. In led classes the teacher verbally instructs each pose for the class to perform together. Once students are familiar with the sequence they move on to the traditional teaching format – Mysore style classes. Here everyone practices the sequence in silence according to the rhythm of their own breathing while the teacher instructs and ‘adjusts’ students individually. This is a powerful form of practice that helps cultivate internal awareness and external sense withdrawal.
Since we repeat the same series of postures each day, eventually the practice becomes a mirror for our ever-fluctuating body, mind and emotions, allowing us to come to better know ourselves and ultimately awaken to our true nature.
Ashtanga Intro Course (6 weeks)
This once-a-week class introduces you to the Ashtanga system.
It covers the dynamic sun salutes, standing and seated postures, inverted postures, core muscular locks (bandhas) and active breathing (ujjayi).
A good way to begin practicing Ashtanga yoga particularly as a prelude to Ashtanga Led classes.
More info and bookings here