This intense, fast-paced yoga style was found in the 1960s by Pattabhi Jois. It involves performing a set series of yoga poses continuously in the same order. Ashtanga is very physically demanding and requires lots of strength because of the transition from one yoga pose to the next as well as the emphasis on practicing on a daily basis.
In yoga evolution, Ashtanga yoga has influenced a lot of individuals over the last 30 years, it was among the first yoga styles that was accepted by a large population of western students.
You can also spell Ashtanga as Astanga, in Sanskrit, this translates to “eight limbs,” i.e., the eight limbs of yoga found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ashtanga yoga emphasizes on practicing vinyasa flow on a daily basis using mula bandha, ujjayi breathing, drishti, and uddiyanabandha. Ashtanga series have 6 different types that allows student practice or progress according to their pace.
T. Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois used an ancient text known as “Yoga Korunta” in interpreting the Ashtanga method of practicing asana. According to the interpretators, it described a unique hatha yoga system created by Vamana Rishi.
Pattabhi Jois – Founder
Pattabhi, K. Jois (1915-2009) started studying yoga at age 12 with Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India. Pattabhi became the number one practitioner and instructor of this yoga style which comprises of a set series of yoga poses performed in a flowing vinyasa style.
His treatise concerning Ashtanga yoga, “Yoga Mala” was published in 1962. He received his first Western students early 1970; through these students, his yoga style became popular in western countries and greatly influenced today’s yoga practice.
Ashtanga Yoga Series of Poses
“Yoga Mala” describes the primary or first series of this style. The primary series, referred to as Yoga Chikitsa means yoga therapy. The aim of this series is to improve flexibility, strength and stamina, realign the spine, and detoxify the body.
This series comprises of about 75 yoga poses; it going to take one and half hour or two hours to finish the poses in this series, it starts with sun salutations (Surya namaskara A & B) and moves or progresses to poses that requires standing, sitting, inversions, and backbends before you relax.
The second or intermediate series is known as Nadi Shodana, it means purification of the nervous system. This style helps in cleaning and improving the nervous system as well as the subtle channels of energy in the body.
Students can only practice this series after mastering the primary series. The progression of this series is the same as the primary series, the difference is that is comprises of new variations and poses.
Sthira Bhaga, which is the four advanced series of this yoga style represents divine stability. Two intensive advanced series was outlined by Pattabhi Jois, but the advanced series was later subdivided into four series so people can access them more.
The four advanced series lays emphasis on difficult arm balances, this series is more suitable for extremely advanced yoga students. Only few students practice these yoga style beyond the intermediate or second series.
Ashtanga Yoga Classes
Most yoga studios provide headed Ashtanga classes, i.e., the students follow the directions and instructions from the teacher who leads the class following the poses order, either primary or intermediate series. If the student chose to, he or she can opt for the Mysore style or self-led practice; this allows them practice at their own pace, convenience, and ability level, but they do this in the present of other students, following their teacher’s advice and encouragement.
The Mysore method requires each student to master the poses in sequence, they are introduced to fresh poses to practice when they are fit or ready. Ashtanga style can be a suitable foundation for those practicing at home once they learn the poses sequence.
Who is Ashtanga for?
This yoga style is very popular and its stimulates strong loyalty in students practicing it. If you like to do things by yourself and love following order, you will find this vigorous, athletic yoga style very interesting.
However, you need to get yourself familiar with the vocabulary used with Ashtanga so you will be comfortable with the terminologies used.