Ashtanga Yoga is a highly structured vinyasa-style class that works through a set series of yoga poses (or ‘asanas’), aiming to perfect each pose and therefor the sequence as a whole through repetition over time. The result of regular Ashtanga Yoga practice is improved circulation, a strong body, and a calm mind.
What is the ‘Primary Series’?
There are six ‘series’ in the Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga system: Primary, Intermediate and Advanced A, B, C, and D. Each of these encompasses a specific series of ‘asanas’ of varying difficulties. Students must always learn to perfect one series before moving onto the next, beginning with the Primary.
The Primary Series starts with ten sun salutations (which you may be familiar with from Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga) followed by a series of standing poses done on each side, and finishes with a set of inversions and seated poses.
What are the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga?
Increase in strength
Many movements in Ashtanga require considered weight bearing. Working with your own body weight is a great way to strengthen your muscles.
Increase in Flexibility
Being flexible is extremely important for our bodies as it helps to protect against injury and enables faster muscle recovery after working out. Ashtanga practice increases your flexibility over time through holding and repeating stretching movements.
Increase in aerobic fitness
As a more rigorous form of yoga, Ashtanga will increase your heart rate, build heat in the body and cause you to break a sweat.
Many studies have proven the positive effect of yoga and meditation on the mind. Maintaining focus on your breath allows you to quiet the mind and encourages an overall sense of calm.
How does it differ from Vinyasa Flow Yoga?
There are many similarities between Ashtanga and Vinyasa FlowYoga, both practices move through a series of poses (asana’s) that build heat and strength in the body. They key difference is that while Vinyasa Flow classes offer more freedom and variation, Ashtanga follows a set sequence that remains constant in every class and strives to perfect each ‘asana’ over time.
What can I expect from an Ashtanga Yoga class?
In each class you will move through the same sequence of asanas in a continuous flow, aiming to improve your technique over time with the help of your teacher’s verbal and physical demonstrations and corrections. You will be encouraged to move and participate at a pace that suits you.
Is it suitable for beginners?
Yes, though some knowledge of any Vinyasa style yoga will help! Due to the pace of the style, and its lack of hands-on demonstration it can often seem intimidating to beginners but everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re feeling particularly nervous, let the teacher know and they can make sure to adjust and explain certain poses as you go along.
Ashtanga Yoga is typically recommended to those who prefer fast-paced and more rigorous styles of yogic practice. It’s not that you really have to do the poses quickly after one another, but the flow of the poses is definitely more challenging than in regular yoga practices.
Where can I start?