As promised I wanted to spend a little time writing about Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga most often refers to the system taught by Indian yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, and is sometimes called Ashtanga vinyasa yoga.
Ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:
Yama [moral codes]
Niyama [self-purification and study]
Pranayama [breath control]
Pratyahara [conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses]
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is different from many yoga classes in the west in that the order of asanas is completely predefined. A practice will comprise four main parts:
- an “opening sequence” Sun salutations
- one of the six main “series”
- a back-bending sequence
- a set of inverted asanas, referred to as the “finishing sequence”
This type of yoga is not trivial and can have 75 or more asanas taking 1 to 2 hours to complete. The main series actually has 6 different levels if you will from:
- Primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa
- Intermediate or second series is called Nadi Shodana
- four advanced series are called Sthira Bhaga
Those performing Ashtanga yoga are encouraged to practice 6 days a week, preferably in the morning, and to take rest on Saturdays as well as the days of the full and new moon (commonly referred to as moon days by ashtanga practitioners). This form of yoga is very athletic and challenging so be prepared to work hard to complete your sessions. You will not only build flexibility but also strength, which are a couple of reasons why Ashtanga yoga is so popular.
This is by no means a comprehensive explanation of Ashtanga yoga, and I would encourage you to do some additional research. What I determined is that this is not appropriate for those of you who have very limited time to devote to a yoga practice, but at the same time it can be done by a novice and is something that you can grow into because it does have different levels. Probably the best way to get started is to seek out a yoga studio that teaches Ashtanga and talk to a teacher, and you can also check out books or DVD’s at Amazon who seem to have a pretty extensive offering to choose from.
A quick update, I just purchased this book from Amazon because it addressed the Primary series and because it was rated so high.