Tag: asana

Ashtanga Yoga

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.  

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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]
Asana [posture]
Pranayama [breath control]
Pratyahara [conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses]
Dharana [concentration]
Dhyana [meditation]
Samadhi [enlightenment]

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.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Ashtanga-Yoga-Peace–Includes/dp/1611800056/

Namaste

Yoga Sunset

History of Yoga

history of yoga

I’ve been doing some reading to find out just how yoga came into being, and the answer is not clear.  A number of sources claim that yoga predates the written word and is over 5,000 years old.  The evidence of this comes from archaeological dig sites where yoga poses have been found.  There is some conjecture that yoga evolved from Hinduism but Hinduism’s religions structures  were developed much later and incorporated yoga but did not create it.  Initially yoga was passed down from teacher to student through oral instruction and by demonstration.

One of the earliest texts on yoga came from a scholar named Patanjali, who created a book named Yoga Sutras anywhere from the 1st or 2nd century B.C. to as late as the 5th century A.D.  Patanjali wrote about a system called “Ashtanga Yoga,” or the eight limbs of yoga.  There are many (hundreds) schools, styles, and types of yoga but some of the more common include:

  • Hatha Yoga: The physical movements and postures, plus breathing techniques. This is what most people associate with Yoga practice.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There’s no time for adjustments—you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose.
  • Bikram Yoga: This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system.  Usually this form of yoga is done at temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the idea is that you will sweat out the toxins in your body.
  • Raja Yoga: Called the “royal road,” because it incorporates exercise and breathing practice with meditation and study, producing a well-rounded individual.  Raja yoga was first described as an eightfold or eight-limbed (aṣṭanga, ashtanga) path in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.
  • Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom; considered the most difficult path.
  • Bhakti Yoga: The practice of extreme devotion in one-pointed concentration upon one’s concept of God.
  • Karma Yoga: Of the four paths to realization, karma yoga is the process of achieving perfection in action. Karma yoga is derived from the spiritual life. Karma yoga is said to be the most authentic way to progress in the spiritual life. Found in the Bhagavad Gita karma yoga is a part of nature. Karma yoga is taught by teachers of zen who promote tranquility.
  • Other styles include: Iyengar, Power Yoga, White Lotus, Kali Ray TriYoga, Jivamukti, Viniyoga, and on and on and on.

downward facing dog

Even by these definitions one can see that it is difficult to separate the exercise component of yoga from the meditative aspect.  The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” bringing the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.  The system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation; all three components must be in harmony to properly practice yoga.  My next post will begin to focus in on Ashtanga one of the forms of yoga mentioned above in more detail.  Remember you can make up your own sequence of asana’s for your practice, but understanding a few of the more popular disciplines will help you gravitate to what suits your personality and desires.

Namaste

Namaste

Benefits of Yoga

benefits-of-yoga

I was just reading an article on the health benefits of Yoga, and wanted to add my two cents to the topic.  We all do yoga for different reasons and often a set of common reasons.  The health benefits of yoga mentioned in the article below include:

  • The personal time you spend on yoga reduces stress and boosts your immunity
  • Yoga poses done correctly combine exercise and breathing allowing you to control your mind and breathing
  • Yoga poses and sequences like sun salutations have a slimming effect on the body helping to keep you lean
  • Yoga poses strengthen and lengthen your muscles improving your sitting and standing posture
  • Yoga combined with meditation makes you happier, more joyful, and loving

Yoga Sunset

Let me throw in a few of my own benefits of doing yoga:

  • Many of us work in an office, spending much of our day sitting in a chair which tends if anything to constrict or tighten muscles in your back and hamstrings for instance.  Yoga can combat this situation by elongating those muscles reversing much of the damage done by sitting all day.  Many yoga poses also help you elongate the spinal column, and other joints like your knees and shoulders.
  • Yoga has many things in common with meditation in that to perform an asana correctly you must stop thinking about other things and focus on the pose and your breathing.  For this reason you begin to let go of other thoughts and relax your mind and your body.  For most of us this doesn’t happen for but a few moments during the day, and yoga can help you just be in the moment.
  • There is a great efficiency to doing yoga in that it takes maybe 20 – 30 minutes to perform a fairly extensive routine where you start to realize the benefits mentioned above.  So yoga is a very efficient form of exercise for both the mind and body.  This is meaningful for those of you have so much to to do, and for all of you who have other fitness interest like running, biking, and strength training for instance.
  • Yoga complements other fitness activities by stretching the muscles helping runners and strength training devotes alike, keeping their muscles loose and helping with recovery.  You won’t find too many runners or serious weight lifters who don’t stretch.  Yoga provides a more comprehensive opportunity to really stretch all the body parts in a very structured way helping the runner or strength trainer to stay healthy and manage pain.

What benefits have you received from you your yoga practice?

Health benefits of yoga:  http://www.healthcaremagic.com/insights/why-yoga-is-important-to-your-health/40