What is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga brought to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009) although its lineage goes much further back. The Ashtanga style of yoga involves synchronising the breath with a progressive series of postures. The postures are linked by vinyasa’s (flowing movements which are initiated by the breath).
Although it can be a strong and dynamic practice, it can also be modified to make it accessible to all levels and abilities. David Swenson (one of the worlds foremost practitioners and instructors of Ashtanga Yoga) teaches Ashtanga yoga to students in their nineties!
Ashta (eight) anga (Limb) yoga (union)
Yama – Ethical disciplines
Niyama – Self observation
Asana – Postures
Pranayama – Breath control
Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal
Dharana – Concentration
Dhyana – Meditation
Samadhi – A state of joy and peace
Ashtanga – Primary Series
The primary series of Ashtanga Yoga is made up of a set sequence of yoga postures.
The practice begins with Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara), 5 of variation A and 5 of variation B. The standing sequence of postures follows and the series ends with the finishing sequence.
The practice is designed to flow with the breath – one breath, one movement, making it a moving meditation.
The Ashtanga Primary Series is called Yoga Chikitsa, meaning yoga therapy, because of the cleansing and toning effect it has on both body and mind. On a physical level the postures of the Primary Series build strength and flexibility in the body, loosening tight muscles and realigning and detoxifying the body and nervous system.
On a mental level, regular practice improves focus, willpower, mind-body awareness and mood. On a subtle level the Primary series works to clear the body’s energy channels or Nadi’s allowing energy or prana to flow more freely.
What is Vinyasa Yoga?
All Vinyasa Yoga heralds from Ashtanga Yoga. Vinyasa implies flow so a Vinyasa class will be more dynamic than some other styles of Yoga yet accessible to all levels of ability including beginners. As with the Ashtanga practice, the use of the breath is all important in the Vinyasa class and the space between the postures as important as the postures themselves.
Ashtanga Standing and Finishing sequence