Ashtanga Yoga - (Eight Limb or Step Yoga)
What Is ‘Ashtanga’ Yoga?
"The eight limbs of yoga are: respect toward others, self-restraint, posture, breath control, detaching at will from the senses, concentration, meditation & contemplation.When harassed by doubt, cultivate the opposite mental attitude" Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, 11.29 - 11.33.
The above quotation is an apt summary of Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga literally translates into ‘Eight Limbs’ which is a reference to the eight limbs of Yoga, as outlined above.
Ashtanga Yoga can be practiced in a Shala, an Ashtanga yoga studio, in which followers are led by an instructor and the class follows the same series of poses. Or you could opt for a Mysore style of Ashtanga yoga which is self-led, and allows you to progress to more challenging Ashtanga asanas at your own pace.
Stages Of Ashtanga Yoga
This challenging yoga type consists of 6 series of poses that each Ashtanga follower can master at their own pace. These series consist of primary, intermediate and the four advanced series.
Yoga Chikitsa, the primary series, literally translates into yoga therapy. It consists of 75 different asanas starting from sun salutations and then progressing on to numerous inversions, backbends, seated poses, standing poses and finally relaxation asanas.Yoga Chikitsa focuses on building up your strength and flexibility, enhancing the detoxification process of the body and realigning your spine.
Nada shodana, the intermediate series, literally means purification of the nervous system. It too starts with sun salutations and progresses on to slightly more challenging asanas. Ashtanga followers only start this series when they have mastered the primary series. Nada Shodana focuses on strengthening and purifying the nervous system and the body’s energy channels.
Sthira Bhaga, the four advanced series, focuses on achieving divine stability. This last stage is only performed by those followers who have achieved perfection in the primary and intermediate series since it consists of highly challenging arm balance asanas.
Health Benefits Of Ashtanga Yoga
This yoga type is one of the more challenging yoga forms and thus, has numerous health benefits that match the time and effort it takes to master Ashtanga asanas.
- Builds up your body’s core strength and enhances your stamina and endurance level.
- With Ashtanga yoga you not only obtain a calm, composed mind, but also a strong, toned body.
- Aids in amplifying muscle strength without giving your body that bulky, muscular look that it could get with other muscle building exercises.
- The challenging asanas enhance the natural detoxification process of the body, removing toxins from your muscles and organs.
- Ashtanga yoga is a great cardio workout, and promotes optimal cardiovascular health.
- Enhances your body’s sense of balance and stability.
- Enhances your body’s blood circulation leading to well-oxygenated muscles and organs, and a rejuvenated body.
Possible Health Concerns – Just To Be On The Safe Side
Ashtanga yoga requires dedication, patience and perseverance. Do not skip asanas just so that you can finish a particular series, as this can increase your chances of injury as you move onto more challenging postures. Ashtanga yoga is not recommended to individuals with blood pressure problems. If you have a particular health problem, consult your doctor before you begin practicing Ashtanga Yoga.
Background Of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is believed to have been originally formulated by Vamana Rishi, and recorded in an ancient manuscript known as Yoga Korunta. The techings of Yoga Korunta were passed on to Sri T.Krishnamacharya who then imparted these teachings to his student Pattabhi Jois. In 1948 Pattabhi Jois began teaching this yoga form from his Yoga Shala, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, and since then the popularity to Ashtanga yoga has spread far and wide.