HomeHealth and FitnessPower of Ashtanga Yoga: Origins, Practice, and Global Impact
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Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Origins, Practice, and Global Impact

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In today’s hectic world, finding moments of peace and balance is more crucial than ever. Yoga, with its ancient roots and modern adaptations, offers a pathway to both physical and mental well-being. Among the various styles of yoga, Ashtanga yoga shines for its structured approach and dynamic movements. In this blog, we focus on Ashtanga yoga, exploring its origins, practice, benefits, precautions, and global influence.

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Origins and History

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Writings penned by Patanjali between the second and fourth centuries BCE contain indications of Ashtang Yoga techniques. It is still unknown, though, for how long humans have been practicing this style of yoga.

Early in the 20th century, T. Krishnamacharya developed Ashtanga Yoga as a customized practice for his young, enthusiastic student, K. Pattabhi Jois. It is said that the fast-paced sun salutation routines were inspired by the workouts performed by Indian gymnasts and wrestlers. As a committed learner, Jois advanced and popularized this novel approach and quickly started instructing others. These intense and difficult posture routines later gave rise to a wide variety of hot yoga, flow yoga, Vinyasa yoga, and power yoga forms. They were intended to cleanse the body and provide mental tranquility.

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Ashtanga Yoga: Series and Sequences

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After five repetitions of Surya namaskar A and B, respectively, an ashtanga vinyasa practice of asanas usually starts with a standing sequence. After completing one of six series of postures, the practitioner performs a traditional closing sequence. The series are:

  • The primary series: Yoga chikitsa, yoga therapy, or yoga for health
  • The intermediate series: Nadishodhana, the nerve cleanser
  • The Advanced series: Focusing on strength, or Sthira Bhaga

The Ashtanga Vinyasa syllabus initially comprised four series: primary, intermediate, advanced A, and advanced B. The “Rishi series” was a fifth series that Pattabhi Jois claimed could be done once a practitioner had mastered the four series before it.


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The Primary Series

All further levels and sequences of Ashtanga Yoga are built upon the Primary Series. Despite looking the simplest, this level is the hardest of the six. Ideally, this is the Ashtanga Yoga series that beginners learn and practice first. It is a daily practice and is also considered a foundation practice for the series that follows. Strength, stamina, and flexibility are all enhanced, and all barriers are removed by the energy that passes via the Nadis.

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The Intermediate Series

In Sanskrit, the second series, or Ashtanga Intermediate Series, is called Nadishodhana. Given the emphasis on backbend poses, it signifies nerve cleansing. The Intermediate Series postures include inversions (legs overhead) and deep backbends. These asanas expand the energy pathways to permit Prana to flow freely while also enhancing and maintaining the spine’s flexibility and suppleness.

The Advanced Series

The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Advanced Curriculum, commonly known as Advance A, is the third of six parts of the curriculum. The Advanced Series is practiced in four stages: A, B, C, and D. It is also known as Sthira Bhaga or Divine Stability. The practice is incorporated in this series in a way that calls for increased humility, flexibility, and endurance. Only after mastering the primary and intermediate series can you move on to the advanced series.

How to Practice Ashtanga Yoga

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Ashtanga yoga follows a specific sequence of postures divided into six series, each building upon the previous one. The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) is the foundation, focusing on realigning the body, detoxifying, and purifying the nervous system. It begins with sun salutations (Surya namaskar A and B), followed by standing, sitting, and finishing asanas.

To practice Ashtanga yoga:

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  1. Find a quiet, well-ventilated space with a non-slip yoga mat.
  2. Begin with the opening mantra and chanting.
  3. Start with the sun salutations to warm up the body and synchronize breath with movement.
  4. Progress through the sequence of postures, following the prescribed order and breathing rhythm.
  5. Maintain focus on the breath (ujjayi pranayama), drishti (gaze), and bandhas (energy locks).
  6. Conclude the practice with relaxation and the closing mantra.

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Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga is great for your body, mind, and spirit. It helps make you stronger and more flexible, and it increases your stamina. Doing the sequences gets your blood flowing, which is good for your heart and helps you sweat out toxins. It also helps you feel more focused and calm, reducing stress and worry.

Practicing Ashtanga yoga regularly teaches you to be disciplined and patient and helps you understand yourself better. It makes you feel more balanced and peaceful inside, and it helps you deal with life’s ups and downs better. Overall, it’s a way to feel healthier and happier in body and mind.

Precautions

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While Ashtanga yoga offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to approach the practice mindfully and with caution, especially for beginners. Here are some precautions to consider:

  • Listen to your body: Respect your physical limitations and avoid pushing yourself beyond your capacity. Honor any discomfort or pain as a signal to modify or rest.
  • Seek guidance: Practice under the supervision of a certified Ashtanga yoga instructor who can provide personalized guidance and adjustments.
  • Pace yourself: Progress gradually through the series, allowing your body to adapt and strengthen over time. Avoid rushing or attempting advanced postures prematurely.
  • Modify as needed: Modify poses as necessary to accommodate injuries, physical conditions, or limitations. Use props like blocks, straps, or blankets for support and alignment.
  • Cultivate awareness: Cultivate mindful awareness throughout your practice, tuning into subtle sensations and signals from your body. Avoid competing or comparing yourself to others, and embrace your unique journey.

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Impact on a Global Level

Ashtanga yoga’s influence has transcended geographical boundaries, cultural barriers, and generations, captivating a diverse spectrum of practitioners worldwide. Its structured approach, transformative potential, and emphasis on tradition have resonated with individuals seeking a holistic path to well-being.

From bustling metropolises to remote villages, Ashtanga yoga studios and communities have proliferated, fostering a sense of kinship and shared purpose among enthusiasts. The practice has also gained visibility through social media, online platforms, and international yoga festivals, reaching audiences far and wide.

Moreover, Ashtang yoga has inspired a new generation of teachers, practitioners, and scholars committed to preserving its lineage and disseminating its teachings. Through dedicated practice, workshops, retreats, and teacher training programs, the legacy of Guruji Pattabhi Jois continues to thrive, thus perpetuating the transformative power of Ashtanga yoga for generations to come.

Conclusion

To sum up, Ashtanga yoga is an amazing form of yoga that has many health advantages for the body and mind. Ashtanga yoga offers a way to achieve greater well-being and inner peace, regardless of your goals—whether they are to strengthen your physical fitness, lower your stress level, or strengthen your spiritual connection. So grab your mat and begin your Ashtanga yoga journey towards a happier, healthier version of yourself right now!


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FAQ’s

Is Ashtanga Yoga suitable for beginners?

Ashtanga Yoga can be challenging for beginners due to its rigorous and structured nature. However, with proper guidance from a qualified instructor and starting with the Primary Series, beginners can gradually build strength, flexibility, and understanding of the practice.

How often should I practice Ashtanga Yoga?

Traditionally, Ashtanga Yoga adheres to a six-day-per-week practice schedule, with Saturdays designated as rest days, and abstention from practice on full or new moon days. Nevertheless, practitioners may tailor the frequency of their practice to align with personal objectives, availability, and physical well-being. Achieving the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga hinges upon maintaining a steady commitment and unwavering dedication to the practice.

What are the benefits of practicing Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga Yoga provides a wide array of benefits such as enhanced strength, flexibility, stamina, and mental clarity. It aids in detoxification, stress reduction, and better posture, contributing to overall well-being. Regular practice fosters discipline, self-awareness, and a profound sense of self-connection.

Can I modify the poses in Ashtanga Yoga?

Certainly, poses within Ashtanga Yoga can be adjusted to accommodate individual requirements, limitations, or injuries. It’s crucial to communicate openly with your instructor regarding any issues or necessary modifications. Utilizing props, variations, and adjustments ensures that the practice remains inclusive and safe for all participants.

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