What is Ashtanga Yoga?
A system of Hatha Yoga that is used by many Yogis and studios around the world, this style was created from the interpretations of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Krishnamacharya. This is a vigorous, athletic type of Yoga and will appeal to anyone who enjoys a more structured Yoga session and who also likes the concept of an independent practice.
The Ashtanga system puts an emphasis on daily Vinyasa flow practice using the Yoga Bandhas, or Locks, as they are more commonly called, Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Banda; Ujjayi Breathing or hissing breath, and Drishti or focused gaze.
There are three groups, with a total of six levels of poses that comprise the Ashtanga sessions:
Yoga Chikitsa is the primary series, which is practiced and learned first. The name refers to Yoga therapy as it contributes to the health of the spine, helps the body release toxins, and increases flexibility, muscle tone and endurance. There are approximately 75 poses in primary, and each session takes one and a half to two hours to complete. The series begins with Sun Salutations, then continues on with standing poses, seated poses, inversions, backbends, and finally relaxation.
Nadi Shodana is the intermediate set of asanas, and this name refers to the ability of the postures to purify the central nervous system. This cleansing process strengthens the entire body and affects all bodily functions by modifying the primary series of poses, with the option of adding more. Nadi Shodana is only introduced when Yogis are very strong practicing the primary level.
Sthira Bhaga, is the most advanced level of Ashtanga Yoga. There are four intensive sets of poses, which put the emphasis on the most difficult type of arm balances. This is an extremely difficult form of Yoga that only a few will ever be comfortable performing.
Studios offer instructor-led Ashtanga classes as a way to teach students about this type of Yoga and acquaint them with the beginner level, Yoga Chikitsa ,series. The goal is to familiarize the students with the first series and assist them to the point that they can practice on their own. Self-led, or Mysore, sessions are the ultimate aim of Ashtanga, though some classes will be offered to students who wish to perform the series independently, but are in the same room as other students and have an instructor nearby to help if needed.
For this reason, Ashtana Yoga is ideal for the individual who prefers to practice at home. The series of asanas can be learned on video by most anyone with a moderate skill level or higher.