Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” –B.K.S lyengar
What is it?
Ashtanga Yoga was founded by K. Pattabhi Jois, and it means “eight-limbed yoga” in Sanskrit. It is a very dynamic and challenging practice that synchronizes breath with a progressive set of poses. The goal of the practice is to produce an intense internal heat that helps detoxify and purify the body. The series of poses help develop core strength and tone muscles, which are generally guided by an instructor. The physical (asana) practice is only a portion of the eight-limbed Ashtanga practice. There are also moral and ethical guidelines, breathwork, sense control, meditation and concentration. However, it is believed that one needs to begin with the physical practice before conquering the more advanced aspects of the practice.
Once students memorize the Sun Salutation A and B sequences, as well as the traditional standing pose sequence, they can participate in the Mysore format, which is a self-guided Ashtanga practice with a yoga teacher present for corrections.
A regular practice can have many physical and mental benefits!
- Increases core and body strength
- Improves stability
- Improves flexibility
- Weight loss
- Detoxes and purifies the body
- Helps minimize stress
- Increases sense of calm
- Enhances mental focus
What to expect in your first class:
Generally classes begin and end with a traditional chant in Sanskrit. You will begin with 10 sun salutations before moving on to the primary series of poses, which take between 60-90 minutes. Students don’t move on to the intermediate practice until they have fully developed and refined their primary series. The instructor may try to “assist” you to go deeper into a pose, or help you with your technique. If you don’t want them to assist you, make sure to tell them before class. There may be some poses that you are unable to do, and that’s okay! Everyone develops their Ashtanga practice at their own pace, try to stay humble and be kind to yourself. Finally, classes can be warm but not quite as heated as Bikram or Hot yoga. Be sure to drink lots of water before class so you are well-hydrated and expect to get sweaty!
What you need to practice:
- A mat: Choose a mat that is grippy, and a towel to help absorb your sweat.
- Leggings or shorts: Leggings can be better to help absorb your sweat, and also help you from slipping out of poses where your legs connect with your arms.
- Top: Choose something that’s comfortable, breathable and form-fitting so it won’t get in your way during your practice.
- Equipment: Bricks and straps can help you into poses if you are not quite there yet.
Enjoy your practice!