What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Whether you are in India or Nicaragua, Ashtanga Yoga is a set sequence of postures that links breath with movement.  There are 6 series to work through.  It was developed in the 50s in Mysore, India by Sri K. Patthabi Jois and is now taught worldwide (yes, even in Nicaragua) with very little deviation from how the practice was intended.

Ashtanga Yoga has 4 features that are applicable to each of the 6 series.

  • Bandhas
    These are locks within the body that work with the movement of energy.  Mula Bandha is the root lock and will provide an uplift of energy from the base of your spine.  Uddiyana Bandha is your stomach lock and protects your lower back as well as allowing for deeper access into the postures.
  • Breath
    Ashtanga Yoga is known for its Victorious Breath, Ujjai Breath. This is the hissing sound that is created as you exhale.  If you become familiar to this rhythm, it will allow you to induce a meditative state.  If your breath becomes forced or unsteady, you can use this as a benchmark to say that you have gone too deep into the posture.  We continue to breath in and out of the mouth in order to retain the heat in the body.  This helps us to be more flexible and rid the body of toxins as we sweat.
  • Drishti
    This is simply the focal point of each of the postures. There is a focal point for each and every posture.  This will help to keep the focus on the mat and avoid checking out what is happening around you.  It encourages sense withdrawal which is necessary for meditation.
  • Vinyasa
    The vinyasas link the postures together allowing the sequence to flow fluidly. The Upward and Downward Dog help to reset the body like counter postures. The Chaturanga Dandasana, press up position, will help build strength and shoulder stability.  The vinyasa will undoubtedly help build the necessary heat that you need in your body to complete the backbending part of the series.

The practice should be considered as a Movement Meditation.  This means that there is a point of focus throughout your time on your mat.  This will vary depending on how familiar you are with the sequence.  If you are new to the sequence, your point of concentration will be to remember the order and integrity of each of the postures.  If you are more familiar, you will focus on these 4 things and allow your body to move automatically through the sequence be it the Primary Series or one of the later series.

Ashtanga Yoga is a 6-day practice and should be completed before breakfast, early in the morning.  And yes, whether in India or further afield, in Nicaragua it is always a pleasure to have completed this traditional practice.

Join me in January for 200 hrs YTTC in Ashtanga and Restorative Yoga,
an exploration of strength and flexibility.


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