To some people Ashtanga is the physical origin of vinyasa flow, but to others it is the physical limb of Raja Yoga. There is truth to both sides of the story, but I will briefly try to answer the question: “What is Ashtanga?”
Ashtanga Yoga, the ancient style on which Power Yoga is based, stresses synchronization of the breath with a series of progressive postures in order to build internal heat and cleanse the body. Introduced by Sri K. Patytabhi Jois to contemporary society, Ashtanga’s lineage dates back to a manuscript known as “Yoga Korunta,” meaning “book about Yoga.”
The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga
The literal meaning of “Ashtanga” is “eight-limbed Yoga,” as described in Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras.” The eight branches embrace the following disciplines:
1. Yama (morality)
2. Niyama (self-reflection and purification)
3. Asana (physical exercise, or poses)
4. Pranayama (controlled breathing)
5. Pratyahara (control of the senses)
6. Dharana (concentration or focus)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (union with the divine)
The first four of these limbs are considered to be external cleansing processes while the latter four are internal.
The Six Sequences of Ashtanga
Authentic Ashtanga consists of six series, each of which is always performed in the same order. Each set grows increasingly more difficult. As a result, some instructors change the flow to make the system more practical for 21st century students who are unable to commit to intense daily practices.
The Two Subgroups of Ashtanga
• Primary Ashtanga
The first two series of postures make up the primary practice. The first sequence involves mostly forward bends while the second concentrates on backbends, with the addition of inversions and arm balances.
• Advanced Ashtanga
Each of the remaining four series grows increasingly more difficult. Like other Yogic disciplines, Ashtanga has changed with the times, making specific names and sequences harder to define.
The Purpose of Ashtanga
Ashtanga Yoga raises the body’s core temperature through the precise execution of specific postures in predetermined sequences. A vigorous practice best suited to fit individuals, Ashtanga requires steady, consistent practice for visible results. Some teachers recommend four to seven hours per week.
Those who pursue the Ashtanga path can expect to cleanse their bodies, tone their muscles, enjoy better circulation, process emotional baggage, and sharpen their mental faculties. Their commitment may be compensated by longer lives.
© Copyright 2013 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
Are you considering becoming a certified yoga instructor? See our selection of affordable yoga teacher training programs.