Ashtanga Yoga is is a highly structured vinyasa-style class. There are five Ashtanga asana series and each student must master every pose of the first series before moving onto the second series. Ashtanga Yoga came to the west through students of Sri Pattabi Jois, who passed away in 2009 after establishing his yoga center in Mysore, India.
The first series begins with ten sun salutations (five A and five B), continues with a series of standing poses done on each side, and finishes with a set of inversions and seated poses, which are linked by a vinyasa sequence.
Ashtanga Yoga Overview
Beginners beware! This is a tough class. You may want to try some other asana classes in order to learn the basic poses before jumping into an Ashtanga practice. If you do fancy trying out an abundance of different practices before you settle on Ashtanga, why not try the free 30 Day Yoga Challenge. It’ll give you the opportunity to try different variations, so you can test out what feels right in your body.
Here is a video of Pattabi Jois teaching the first Ashtanga series to a group of advanced students, many of whom went on to become major teachers in the U.S.
Purpose Of Ashtanga Yoga
The ultimate purpose of the Ashtanga practice is purification of the body and mind. By moving so quickly and powerfully, you will get a lot of tapas and everything extra, physical and mental, will have to get out the way. This practice has a strong sense of purpose and you are forced to focus and grow.
Benefits Of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga comes with all the benefits of a regular yoga practice--strength, flexibility, stress management, and inner peace. Because the series is so demanding (and in traditional practice you're expected to practice most days) you will get really strong really fast. There is no part of the body that doesn't work hard in this practice.
Is Ashtanga Yoga For Me?
Ashtanga yoga is for you if you want a challenge and you love structure. The practice is identical from day to day, and it takes most people years to move up a level. If you have sensitive muscles or joints, this may not be the practice for you. There is a strong emphasis on "getting" each pose, even if your body is not necessarily ready to move there in a graceful way.