Health & Wellness Blog

    

Ashtanga Yoga: A Deeper Practice

Yoga helps your body and mind. It keeps you healthy and helps you rediscover your fullest potential spiritually and psychologically. Yoga has three basic practices that help you gain awareness and control of self. These are Ujjayi Pranayama (proper breathing), asanas (postures) and driste (gazing point).

Whether you're a beginner, or practice yoga regularly and are considering a yoga retreat in the future, there's immense benefits to be gained. In essence, you will get steadiness of mind and body if you are devoted and you perform Yoga regularly.

Ashtanga Yoga for Health

The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

The term Ashtanga literally translates to 8 limbs. This refers to:

* contemplation or Samadhi

* abstinences or Yama

* observances or Niyama

* breath conrol or Pranayama

* sense withdrawal or Pratyahara

* postures or Asana

* concentration or Dharana

* meditation or Dhyana

The different limbs have to be used together. The asana (posture) practice is pivotal in pranayama and the development of niyamas and yamas. Asana, pranayama, niyama and yama, the 4 externally-oriented limbs, are the most important since the 4 internally-oriented limbs spontaneously evolve with the passage of time.

Get Your Flow On

Vinyasa refers to movement that is breath-synchronized. Breath-synchronized movement is very important in Ashtanga. You generate intense internal heat when you practice locks (Uddiyana Bandhas or Mula together with the breath-synchronized movement. The intense heat is important because it purifies organs and muscles.

This has the effect of nourishing the body, achieved through the massaging of sweat back into your skin, the release of beneficial minerals and hormones and the expulsion of unwanted toxins. Breath-synchronized movement helps in the regulation of the vinyasa and it ensures there is efficient blood circulation. This ensures that your body is light and strong.

The Ashtanga system is made up of 3 sequence groups. The first (primary) series in the sequence is Yoga Chikitsa. This works by detoxifying and aligning the body. Nadi Shodhana is the second (intermediate) series. It works by purifying the nervous system through the opening and the cleaning of energy channels. The last (advanced) series in the sequence is Sthira Bhaga works by integrating grace and strength of the Ashtanga system. It requires great humility and flexibility.

One Step at a Time

It is important that you develop in each level/series fully before you go to the next one. It is also important that you follow the correct order of asana since the postures are arranged in such a way that one prepares the way for the next. You will not have the necessary balance and strength if you go to advanced postures without mastering the easier ones first.

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of deep and even breathing while practicing Ashtanga Yoga. Breathing is important in that it feeds your actions and these actions feed your posture. With proper breathing, your movements will be precise and gentle and you will have great balance.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sri T. Krishnamacharya in their ‘Breath is Life’ teach us that proper breathing has a divine essence, with inhalation being inspiration from God and expiration being movement towards him. It is only through practice that you will achieve the results you need in Ashtanga Yoga. Contrary to how Westerners view yoga, Ashtanga Yoga is actually accompanied by sweat, stamina and strength.

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