Ashtanga Yoga: The Power Yoga

One of the traditional yet widely utilized yoga styles, the Ashtanga yoga aims to promote the body, mind and spirit of an individual through various yoga poses, meditation and synchronized breathing.

The Yoga: Ashtanga

What is Ashtanga Yoga? In Sanskrit, “ashtanga” means “eight limbs” which are derived from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It was established by Sri K. Pattbhi Jois and T. Krishnamacharya with the help of Yoga Korunta, an ancient text of yoga essentials. In a bird’s eye view, the Ashtanga yoga emphasizes the practice of the vinyasa flow in a daily manner, with the incorporation of the six Astanga series that are all self-paced.

The Founder: Pattabhi Jois

The leading teacher and practitioner of Ashtanga yoga, K. Pattabhi Jois released a treatise about his type of yoga in a text called Yoga Mala in 1958. After years of studying in Mysore India, his first foreign students took their Ashtanga yoga classes in 1970s, which led to the viral spread of this type of yoga in the Western world during the 1980s. After Pattabhi Jois’ death in 2009, the teacher’s grandson became the leader of this practice.

The Procedure: Series of Poses

Series 1: Yoga Chikitsa. As mentioned earlier, there are six different series of poses in Ashtanga yoga. The first of these is the Yoga Chikitsa or yoga therapy. This series involved the proper realignment of the spine, as well as the appropriate detoxification of the body. In this series, stamina, flexibility and strength are also enhanced. Within a span of 1 ½ to 2 hours, there are 75 poses that should be completed. It starts with two different salutations – surya namaskara A and B- and proceeds on standing, seated poses, inversions, backbends then ends with relaxation or meditation.

Series 2: Nadi Shodana. This series literally means the purification of the nervous system. It aims to strengthen and cleanse the nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) through the body’s energy channels. Aside from the pattern followed in Yoga Chikitsa, Nadi Shodana also requires the execution of new Ashtanga yoga poses as well as novel variations.

Series 3 to Series 6: Sthira Bhaga. This includes the group of the four advanced series left in the Six Series of Poses in Ashtanga yoga. Literally, Sthira Bhaga means “divine stability”, ashtanga yoga and particularly aims to enhance the connection of a person to the divinity within him. In this group of series, tough arm balances should be executed, meaning only the advanced Ashtanga students are able to perform the Sthira Bhaga practice.

The Classes: Two Options

If you want to learn Ashtanga yoga, you have to determine whether you want to join a led class or just perform the series by yourself, in other words, a self-led session. Shala, or an Ashtanga studio, usually has an Ashtanga expert who teaches a class of students to make sure that the order or series of Ashtanga yoga poses are properly performed. This is preferable for beginners. If you are already able to follow the order of poses religiously, you may opt to stop attending the led Ashtanga classes and start your self-led sessions, which is also termed as “Mysore style” practice.

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