BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Ashtanga yoga quite literally brings the heat from your head to your feet. Yes, it’s not any ordinary lazy man’s form of stress reduction and postural Zen. If you’re looking for a challenge, it’ll give you one.
Ashtanga yoga aims to harmonize breath with movement to achieve meditation and purification. Its literal meaning is “eight limbs of yoga.” Through this intense breath-movement harmonization, students achieve immense physical, and psychological benefits.
This yoga form may be one of the most demanding practices of yoga. It was birthed in an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta, which was written by Vamana Rishi. From there, it made its journey from one guru to the other. Eventually, it was passed down to Pattabhi Jois who is credited for popularizing it.
The eight limbs in ashtanga yoga:
1. Yama (moral restraints)
2. Niyama (observances)
3. Asana (posture)
4. Pranayama (breath extension)
5. Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (meditative absorption)
The role of the limbs in yoga is both physical and spiritual. The first four limbs are internal yoga. The fifth is a transition between the external and internal limbs. The remaining limbs are displayed through “divine grace.”
Yoga students are able to practice the external limbs of yoga, whereas the internal limbs are birthed through sincere and continued practice. Nevertheless, the limbs are interconnected and facilitate one another.
By referring to ashtanga, people are referring to “asana” – the physical sequence of postures.
Before enlisting in an ashtanga course, make sure you are willing to sweat it out. I mean, really.
Ashtanga yoga is physically demanding and produces internal body heat, which is meant to cleanse the body. It is an excellent means of toning and strengthening the body.
The philosophy of ashtanga yoga is a spiritual path that leads to harmonization with the individual self and a connection with the universe and God.
This type of yoga is a commitment that requires a great deal of discipline, conviction and regularity in practice. Its benefits are wholesome and may be cause for its increasing popularity.
Many believe that ashtanga yoga rids the body of disease and strengthens it for the absorption of “prana,” which extends longevity.
Physical benefits of ashtanga yoga:
- Relieves muscle tension
- Tones muscles
- Massages internal organs
- Lubricates joints
- Manages weight
- Increases blood flow and circulation
- Strengthens immunity
- Decreases cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Balances the nervous system
Like almost every form of yoga, ashtanga seeks to relieve oneself from the worries and confines of a conflicted mental state. It’s quite incredible to think that a simple form of yoga can achieve such profound results for the mind and body.
Pattabhi Jois believed that when movement and breathing were synchronized in the practice of ashtanga yoga, it “boils the blood” and leads to the removal of pain, toxins, and disease since boiled blood circulates with ease.
What can you expect to do in an ashtanga yoga class?
There are no specific poses for ashtanga yoga. It does, however, follow a series of poses that are designed to be progressively harder. Each pose is meant to prepare you for the next one.