Ashtanga Yoga, like all forms of yoga, is structured around a certain way of living. It is based on a philosophy of being attuned to the world around you in a way that does not separate you from the things that you see and feel. Ashtanga yoga instills a philosophy of complete interconnectedness and wholesome mind and body.
The practice is specifically designed around utilizing the eight “limbs”. For those of you unfamiliar with yoga, these limbs are eight representations of what elements are strengthened and focused on during the Ashtanga practice. The eight limbs are comprised of four physical and external elements, as well as four internal elements.
The eight limbs are; Absences (Yama), Observances (Niyama), Postures (Asana), Sense Withdrawal (Pratyahara), Concentration (Dharana), Meditation (Dhyana) and Contemplation (Samadhi). Through a dedicated practice and discipline, these elements will work together to create a strengthened body and mind.
Ashtanga Yoga is a faster, more intense form of yoga than other practices. It requires a certain amount o skill and strength to work through the practice effectively. Whilst some yoga practices are more focused on breathing and easy meditation, Ashtanga yoga is more physically demanding.
Ashtanga Yoga is comprised of three different levels, each strengthening your body and mind in its own unique way. It is pivotal to remember that these levels are something to work towards, and should not be practiced without the correct preparation. The first level is known as Yoga Chikista. Its primary focus is to rid the body of any toxins and aligns the structure and energy of your body. The second/intermediate level is known as Nadi Shodhana. This level has a deep focus on opening any clogged energy channels you may have in your body and mind. Through this unclogging and clearing of negative energy, your nervous system is purified. The third level of the Ashtanga practice is one that requires discipline, strength and endurance. This level is known as the Sthira Bhaga and utilizes all that your body and mind has gained from the previous levels.
Breath in the Ashtanga Practice
Breathing and breath are pivotal parts to the Ashtanga practice. The ideology behind Ashtanga yoga is that breath is a divine act and should never be underestimated. During your Ashtanga practice, you will be instructed to breathe deeply and continuously through the entire practice. This focus on breathing and what creates a good energy and flow throughout your poses and meditations.
Discipline and Practice
It is vital to remember that in order to benefit from Ashtanga Yoga, dedication is vital. Your body and mind need time to adapt and mold to the requirements of this specific practice. This form of yoga is extremely physical and is not suited to those who are looking for a practice more focused on meditation and relaxation.
Remember that your instructor for Ashtanga Yoga needs to be specifically trained in order to be a qualified teacher. Teachers are trained to be fully equipped to ensure that your body and mind are safe and well instructed. Following the instructions of somebody who is not qualified could result in serious injury.