Ashtanga yoga translates as “eight-limbed yoga” (ashta=eight, anga=limb) and refers to the eight limbs outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, which include moral and ethical guidelines, postures, breathing work, sense withdrawal, concentration, and meditation. These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life
This is a powerful and playful flowing yoga practice which focuses on the synchronisation of movement and breath. Ashtanga yoga creates heat in the body and strengthens the body while calming the mind.
It’s an energising, dynamic, fast-paced and challenging practice that results in strength, flexibility and stamina through a continuous flow of postures connected together with the ujjayi breath.
An Ashtanga Yoga class always starts out with 10 Sun Salutations to warm you up, and once you hit the seated postures, you’re doing what’s called vinyasas (mini Sun Salutations) between each posture. This keeps your body warm, which enables you to get deeper into poses. Vinyasas are the link between postures that make this type of yoga more like a fluid dance, and the constant moving not only works your muscles but also helps to quiet your mind.
The fitter you are, the more likely you’ll enjoy Ashtanga yoga, which revolves around repetition of athletic poses and leaves almost no time for catching your breath. The vigorous sessions involve standing and seated poses, back bends, and inversions – holding the head below the heart. You won’t build bulky muscles, but you will increase muscle density. It’s a very intense form of yoga, and because it’s so demanding, it does require consistent, steady and regular practice to see the benefits.”
Ashtanga yoga ensures that you not only obtain a calm and peaceful mind but also a strong and toned body. In fact, it is widely practiced these days as an effective weight management and core strength building routine.
When practicing ashtanga yoga you not only improve overall flexibility but also stamina and endurance. Moreover, ashtanga yoga also helps in building muscle strength, which is often ignored in other forms of yoga. In addition, in comparison to other muscle building routines, ashtanga yoga does not give you a bulky look. It is ideal for toning and strengthening the body, while remaining lean. Thus, it is often regarded as a complete fitness program as it helps to increase the body’s strength, endurance, and flexibility as well as calming and disciplining the mind and soul.
The benefits may be grouped into four categories: physical, emotional, mental and intellectual benefits.
The physical benefits consist of making the body free of disease, making it light and strong so that it can be a suitable vehicle on the path to freedom. Through yoga the body is made to absorb and retain prana, which extends the life span.
The emotional benefits consist briefly in being able to not be a slave to one’s emotions but to remain the witness. Most of our suffering is caused by emotions. These emotions may become unbearable by identifying with them and often may cause negative results if we follow their urge. It’s important to know the difference between emotions and feelings. A feeling is an authentic sensation arising in the present moment such as love. An emotion is a reliving of a previously imprinted condition. For example because we have been hurt in the past we are acting in the present moment not out of love but out of jealousy or fear. Whenever we are emoting, we are in the past; whenever we are feeling, we are in the present. Yoga makes you feel more intensely, because it removes layers of old conditioning.
With yoga, the mind is seen as a computer, which analyses sensory data. It projects all objects cognised in the past onto a present object that needs to be identified. If it achieves what it believes to be sufficient congruency it signals that it has ‘recognized’ the object as one of the objects previously cognised. This is the whole tragedy of the human being. Mind is an application, which projects past onto the future. As long as one is in the sway of the mind, one is, according to yoga, a living corpse. Recognizing oneself as the immortal, infinite consciousness is to be alive for the first time.
Intellect, similar to the egoic body/mind and the world of objects, is something that grows and evolves as opposed to consciousness/awareness/self, which exists in an eternal state of perfection. Everything that grows and evolves however is, according to yoga, made up of the various combinations of the three elementary particles (guna) of nature (prakrti), which we may call mass (tamas), energy (rajas) and information/intelligence (sattva). An intellect with preponderance to tamas is too dull to recognize the truth, whereas the intellect with preponderance to rajas contains too much frenzy to penetrate to the truth. It is only the intellect, which has been made sattvic through the practice of higher yoga, visualization, meditation and Samadhi, that is capable of seeing the world as it really is (prajna).