Do you want to stay healthy without using any artificial stimulants or supplements? How about giving yoga a try? This ancient art has been a part of many different cultures around the world for centuries. Moreover, with time various yoga practitioners came up with different yoga styles which made yoga a global phenomenon. One of the prominent yoga styles that are also effective when it comes to enjoying overall well-being is Ashtanga yoga.
For yoga beginners, the word Ashtanga is broken down into two different parts namely Ashta meaning eight, and Anga means limbs. Ashtanga yoga refers to the eight limbs of yoga. This yoga style came into being over 2000 years by Sage Patanjali who wrote Yoga Sutras. However, there is a lot more to Ashtanga yoga. The yoga experts have come up with a complete guide.
Let us first find out a bit about this yoga style.
Ashtanga 8 Limbs Yoga – The History
The origin of Ashtanga yoga can be traced back to Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari who lived in a cave in the Himalayan mountains near Mansarovar in Tibet during the 1900s. He taught around 700 yoga poses from the ancient yogic text of Yoga Korunta.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was his student who came to live with him for seven years and learned this yoga style. Later, Krishnamacharya took Brahmachari’s teachings to Mysore where he taught many students, two of whom were B.K.S Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Therefore, the Ashtanga 8 limbs have quite a history to back its claim of being a powerful yoga style.
K. Pattabhi Jois continued teaching Ashtanga yoga and played a vital role in popularizing this yoga style in the west. He opened a yoga school in Mysore which is still thriving today. Some of his students who become great yoga teachers include Sharon Gannon, Bryan West, David Life, and Kino MacGregor.
Do you know the philosophy of Ashtanga yoga? Read further to know why Ashtanga 8 limbs is known as the “eightfold path of yoga”.
Ashtanga Yoga – The Philosophy
As stated above, Ashtanga yoga is also known as the eight limb path of yoga. Let us find out why is it called so.
Let us now check out what these eight limbs of the Ashtanga yoga style are.
- Ahimsa – Non-Violence
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-Theft
- Brahmacharya – Moderation
- Aparigraha – Non-Hoarding
- Saucha – Cleanliness
- Santosha – Contentment
- Tapas – Discipline
- Svadhyaya – Self-Study
- Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender to the divine
The third of the Ashtanga Limbs requires you to include the practice of yoga asanas into your daily schedule.
The art of Pranayama refers to the internal, external, and fixed movement of your breathing during the yoga practice.
This is the fourth of the 8 limbs of yoga that refers to the withdrawal of external senses so you can look within and connect with your divine self.
The word Dharana refers to focused concentration. The practice of Dharana includes exercises like visualization, focusing on your breath, or doing Tratak, which refers to candle gazing.
The 7th limb of Ashtanga yoga refers to meditative absorption. This includes focusing on the meditation part of Ashtanga. At this stage, you don’t think about meditation but enter into a meditative state without hassle.
The final and last step of the 8 limbs of yoga is samadhi which means bliss or enlightenment. After you re-assess your relationship with the external and internal world, you enter into a state of eternal bliss. You are no more controlled by preconceived notions or a judgmental mind, but view the world with an attitude of abundance and happiness.
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However, many yoga enthusiasts try to stay away from Ashtanga yoga owing to misinformation and rumors. To help you understand the magic of this yoga style, yoga experts have come up with a list of benefits this yoga style offers.
Health Benefits Of Ashtanga Yoga
Coming from the ancient yogic text of Yoga Korunta, Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga is a physically intense form of yoga. However, this is an in-depth yoga style that channels the flow of energy in your body through the body locks (Bandhas) and helps you focus on a particular point (Drishti) in yoga asanas.
Given below are seven major benefits of this yoga style that make this yoga style worth your time and effort.
1. Improves Core Strength
Your core strength is often linked to lower back pain, which is common in athletes. Daily practice of this yoga style improves your core endurance and minimizes the risk of lower back pain. It also improves your muscle flexibility. Therefore, in the long run, you develop a stronger core and abdominal muscles.
2. Cuts Body Fat
The majority of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga sessions last up to 90 minutes, needless to say, you sweat a lot during the class. Moreover, the daily uninterrupted practice of this yoga style helps you burn excess fat which helps in weight loss. It also improves your physical strength and tones your entire body. Therefore, if you want to get rid of excess fat, Ashtanga is a perfect choice.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Utilizing the numerous breathing techniques in an Ashtanga yoga session, you train the heart to pump blood more effectively without hassle. This extends your inhale and exhale, strengthens the blood vessels, and improves your heart function.
4. Develops Inner Strength
The use of Bandhas (locks) during Ashtanga yoga helps you harness the sacred Prana energy. With a focus on your pelvis, throat, belly; these Bandhas give strength and stability to your body to harness the inner energy.
5. Improves Mental Focus
Since you enter into a meditative state in the Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga style, you stop being stuck in the past and start living in the present. By taking away time from overthinking, you start living a more focused and creative life. Therefore, in the end, you develop good concentration levels and focus.
6. Keeps You Safe
Another major benefit of the Ashtanga yoga style is when you do this yoga under the watchful eye of an experienced yoga teacher; it balances your body and keeps you safe from numerous injuries and health problems.
7. Better Cardiovascular Health
As breathing is the main focus during Ashtanga sessions, this yoga style offers you an excellent cardio workout. Since you transition from one yoga asana to the next, it keeps your body in motion and helps you stay in good shape.
However, for you to reap all these benefits of Ashtanga yoga, you need to practice the right asanas. Do you know there are three different levels of the Ashtanga yoga series? Henceforth, for you to make the most of this yoga style, you must know these series.
The Ashtanga Yoga Series
In Ashtanga yoga, there are a total of six different series. There is Primary, Intermediary, and four Advanced series of yoga poses. Each of these builds upon the previous one and helps you progress through more difficult poses.
First, let us understand the primary series of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga.
1. The Primary Series
The Primary Series comprises of yoga asanas you normally practice in a Vinyasa yoga class. However, with Ashtanga yoga, the difference is you follow a sequence that does not change. In the majority of classes, you start with half primary and become proficient with time. The teacher adds more yoga asanas till you master the primary series of this yoga. Henceforth, it is only after possessing knowledge of the primary ones that you are able to pull off the advanced yoga asanas.
Yoga poses in the Primary series of this yoga style build upon one another as you progress through the series. The Primary Series of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga purifies and tones your body to help bring the focus to your mind.
As the detoxification process moves further, you discover things about yourself that might not be that comfortable and easy to accept. It is a reason why you should learn the 8 limbs under the guidance of a yoga expert.
Now, that you are done with the Primary series; it is time you move onto the next level of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga practice – the Intermediate Series.
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2. The Intermediate Series
The second in Ashtanga yoga style is the Intermediate series and its main focus is on cleaning your nerves. The intermediate series of Ashtanga 8 limbs has backbends and headstand variations. The backbends preserve the flexibility of your spine and neck.
Since your nervous system runs through the spine, this series of Ashtanga opens the subtle channels so the sacred lifeforce energy can flow without any hindrance. In the long run, it cleanses your nerves. Furthermore, this yoga style is the best when it comes to connecting with your inner self.
The Intermediate series starts out the same as the Primary series and ends with the same closing yoga postures. However, there is still a bit of confusion about when you should start the Intermediate series.
Yoga experts recommend you develop a firm grip on the Primary series before moving ahead onto the Intermediate series. Remember, the yoga teachers know the best time for you to start with this second series.
Now, let us know about the last and most intense 8 limbs yoga series – The Advanced Series.
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3. The Advanced Series
The 6-day a week Ashtanga yoga series is the Advanced Series. For you to practice this one, you first need to possess mastery over the Intermediary series. Yoga experts recommend you enroll in a certified yoga school to practice and master this series of Ashtanga 8 limbs.
To help you practice this style of yoga, yoga experts have come up with three simple tips. Read further to know more.
Beginner Tips To Practice Ashtanga Yoga
All information mentioned above has cleared one thing and that is Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga involves plenty of study and discipline to succeed.
Taking into consideration the last statement, yoga experts have come up with 3 simple tips. Henceforth, these tips would help you reap all the benefits of this powerful yoga style.
Apart from remembering the sequence of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga poses, this yoga style requires plenty of practice. You should practice every yoga asana with the right instructions. Make sure you are comfortable with how you feel and this includes using the right breathing technique.
Remember, a misalignment of the spine, improper backbends, and bad positioning of the feet lessens the effectiveness of this yoga style.
2. Move At Your Own Speed
Ashtanga’s yoga style is a bit difficult. It is best you do not overdo this yoga style. Start by doing easy poses and be comfortable with every move. Never move onto the next Ashtanga series before completing the previous one. Henceforth, this is what will help you find the perfect balance in Ashtanga yoga practice.
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3. Let Go
Practicing Ashtanga yoga in a class with more experienced yogis can make it difficult for you to keep up the pace. In moments like these, always focus more on breathing instead of how a yoga pose would look. Do not compare with other students as that will negatively impact your progress. In short, yoga experts recommend you should focus on being mindful and improving your practice every day. Therefore, if you want to experience all these great benefits, you have to first let go of everything holding you down.
However, there is a common question that every yoga teacher is asked – Is Ashtanga Yoga For Everyone? Given below is the detailed reply.
Is Ashtanga Yoga For Everyone?
As per K. Pattabhi Jois, everyone can do Ashtanga yoga except for those who are lazy. However, if you want to practice yoga solely for the therapeutic benefits it offers; you should enroll in an Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kundalini, or Anusara yoga session.
Always learn Ashtanga 8 limbs from a teacher who knows what is right for you and provides the right guidance. Experienced yoga teachers know that giving 6-days a week practice is not a wise decision. Hence, you should choose a 3-days per week program as a beginner. Therefore, a week of this powerful yoga style has some impressive benefits.
Moreover, Ashtanga 8 limbs have a global community that would help you learn everything about this yoga style. The classes are a bit longer in comparison to other yoga styles and go on for about 90 minutes. Therefore, with the right diet and schedule, you can practice Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga with ease.
Henceforth, for you to learn this yoga there are certain precautions you should remember.
Ashtanga 8 limbs Yoga Precautions
- Take extra precautions when you are in a pose. Therefore, be fully alert when you are doing Ashtanga.
- Suffering from a headache? Do not practice this yoga style.
- Have a knee or shoulder injury? Do not practice this form of yoga.
- Slip disc or hernia? Avoid doing this yoga.
- Pregnant women should not practice this yoga style.
This is a bit intense and difficult style of yoga to master. You should enroll in a certified yoga school to learn this yoga style under the guidance of highly skilled yoga teachers.
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