Types of yoga: Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Conscious TV

September 29, 2020

Ashtanga Yoga: the yoga of eight limbs

Ashtanga yoga, also known as ashtanga vinyasa, is a type of yoga with its own specific movements. Ashtanga was the inspiration for other forms of yoga, including power yoga, vinyasa yoga or flow yoga. Ashtanga means "eight limbs", alluding to the eight limbs of yoga used in the Yoga Sutras.

What are the classes like?

Generally, an ashtanga practice begins with a mantra, followed by ten sun salutations (5 Surya Namaskar A, and 5 Surya Namaskar B). This is followed by a standing sequence. What follows depends on which of the following series is next:

  • The primary series (Yoga Chikitsa: yoga for health).
  • The intermediate series (Nadi Shodhana: purification of the nerves) also called the second series.
  • The advanced series (Sthira Bhaga: focused on the Force).
  • Advanced A (also called third series).
  • Advanced B (also called fourth series).
  • Advanced C (also called fifth series).
  • Advanced D (Sthira Bhagah) (also called sixth series).

The classes are tough and require concentration, strength and flexibility. Sun salutations are performed at the beginning of the session and then one must remain in each posture for at least five breaths.

There is another style of ashtanga yoga called mysore, where each yogi goes at his or her own pace and breathing. The teacher is not present to guide the class but to adjust or help with the correct performance of the asanas.

What are the benefits?

It is a demanding style that provides great physical and mental benefits. Its goal is to reach the ultimate challenge which is Samadhi, a state of ecstasy and unlimited freedom. As it is physically hard and each series presents more challenges, the body improves its strength, flexibility, digestion, balance, posture and even longevity. Like all types of yoga, the benefits to the mind are numerous and change with each person, although many people agree that ashtanga yoga has lowered their stress level and increased their happiness and gratitude.

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Is it good for beginners?

The class may seem intimidating to a beginner because it starts with a somewhat unfamiliar mantra, sun salutations with sparse instructions and follows with a series that many already initiated students have memorized. However, it is important not to get discouraged as you will feel more comfortable in the next class. If you are a beginner, make sure you don't start with a mysore style class: it is much better to start with one from the primary series. Don't worry, even after years of practice there are many people who cannot complete the intermediate sets correctly and there is no shame in this, as it is quite a complicated routine.