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Spotlight on Yoga; Ashtanga

There’s no doubt about it; Ashtanga is one of the most challenging forms of yoga out there. For those readers and followers of our blog that like to sweat, this practice is for you! Geared towards everything from cardio, to balance, to focus, to strength building and toning, Ashtanga is a full body work out that is sure to deliver a dynamic experience.

Ashtanga was introduced to modern society by Sri Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) from the system recorded by sage Vamana Rishi. Literally meaning “eight limbed yoga”, it is a concept that reaches towards self study, meditation, breath control, posture, moral study, absorption in the Universal energy, sense control, and concentration. In other words, Ashtanga combines all aspects of a traditional yoga practice into one complete system.

The sequence of postures in Ashtanga is set, allowing for Vinyasa between postures. An asana can be held for approximately five breaths on one side of the body, a Vinyasa sequence is taken, and then the asana is held on the other side of the body for another five breaths. The Vinyasa is repeated, the next asana is held, and so on. There are three series of Ashtanga asanas, each requiring a strong focus and breath support to move through them. As a result, this form of yoga can sometimes be a challenge for many practitioners.

Because its constant movement, Ashtanga releases a pure, detoxifying sweat that cleanses the skin, muscles, and organs. Unlike Hot Yoga, which relies on external factors to produce heat, Ashtanga creates an internal heat with consistent flow and strong, held postures. This sensation can be uncomfortable for people who are not familiar with experiencing a powerful sweat. Remember that the key with any challenge, whether it be mental or physical, is breath. This is why ujjayi breathing is very strongly encouraged during this practice. By connecting this deep, grounded form of breathing to the movements in Ashtanga, you are providing a foundation for your practice and firming your ability to move through the sequences with confidence.

When attending practice, it’s important to bring a bottle of water. When you sweat a lot, you tend to become dehydrated. Have the means to nourish your body frequently so that you will be able to carry through more easily. In addition to this, some students like to have towel handy to wipe sweat or to place over their mat. If this is something that would make you more comfortable, be sure to take one with you to class. You may find it very helpful.

Because of its intensity, Ashtanga is not frequently recommended for beginners. It can be challenging, and so it is best to build your practice gradually before getting to an Ashtanga class. As rewarding as this practice is, it can be easy to injure yourself, even if you are an advanced practitioner. Be gentle with your body, build strength, and then take your time with Ashtanga. Remember that even in a sequence of set postures, there are always ways to modify. If it becomes too overwhelming, remember to speak to the instructor or take a rest posture that feels right for you.

Our studios offer Ashtanga classes to fit every schedule. Be sure to join us at one or any of our locations!

Source: A special thanks as well to Kim Hasselfeldt for additional coaching and information!