What is Ahtanga yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is also known as power yoga. This is one of the ancient and truest form of yoga which is still in existence. The word Ashtanga in Sanskrit means the ‘eight limbs’. Ahstanga yoga follows specific breathing patterns combined with a series of movements. These movements combined with breathing increase the temperature of the blood. This in turn results in the thinning of the blood, resulting in better blood flow and purification of the body.
As the name derives it, this yoga aims at purifying the body through the eight steps or limbs of yoga. The first two steps which are the yama and niyana lead to controlling and rules of conduct of the body. These steps are followed by the third step which is the asanas and fourth step which is pranayama (the breathing techniques). These are the most important limbs of the ashtanga yoga. The later four steps are associated with mediation and attaining grace and tranquillity. They include Pratyahara (sense control), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (universal absorption).
Benefits of Ashtanga yoga
Since Ashtanga yoga is one of the oldest forms of yoga the benefits associated with it are immense. They are associated with the three different aspects of human life: the physical, mental and spiritual being. The yoga also involves three different sequence groups: the primary series, intermediary series and the advance series. Every step has to be mastered by the individual before moving to the next step. You don’t need an instructor to tell you if you have attained the mastery in a particular series. It is your body that decides if you can move to the next level. Each series and the ashtanga yoga as a whole has several benefits which are listed as follows:
- This yoga realigns the spine and helps build strength, flexibility and stamina.
- The breathing techniques involved detoxify the body.
- It improves the functionality of the nervous system.
- Helps in weight loss and developing toned muscles
- Relieves joint pains and rids the body of any stiff and sore muscles
- This is an energetic and athletic form of yoga designed for those with a sense of order and independence.
Apart from the physical benefits listed above, ashtanga yoga is also known to have both mental and spiritual benefits.
- This form of yoga helps build the ability to focus mentally and rid the body of any negative tension.
- Helps reduce stress and anxiety.
- Helps deal with emotional disorders like depression.
- This is a form of yoga that also carries a spiritual benefit with it along with the physical and mental benefits. Meditation is the ultimate and final step for this yoga. This helps in bringing out the energy from the centre of the heart and ultimately leads to achieving eternal bliss.
Poses and postures in Ahstanga yoga
There are over 200 different classical yoga asanas within ashyanga yoga. These asanas are then grouped into different series. As mentioned earlier in this article the three different groups include the primary, intermediary and advanced levels. It is also very important to master one series before moving into another.
- The first series involves therapeutic yoga. It is also called ‘yoga chikitsa’. It detoxifies, corrects and strengthens the body.
- The second series which is more intense in comparison to the first series, strengthens and cleanses the nervous system. It is also called the ‘nadi shodhana’.
- The third series which is the most advanced for of ashtanga yoga helps develop higher strength, flexibility, grace and endurance. It is also called ‘sthira bhaga’. It is also known that this series leads to eternal bliss and enlightenment.
Each series of the ashtanga yoga heats the body (especially the sun salutations), standing positions, forward bends, body twists and poses which help improve balance and strength. The final positions include the cooling of the body and relaxation.
Thus ashtanga yoga helps you understand your body mechanism and plan your workout accordingly. It helps you understand the developments and progression within your body. You will know exactly when your body is ready for the next level and this helps in self realisation and control.