What Is Ashtanga Yoga?
The Ashtanga system is designed to promote proper functioning of the digestive system, build strength, and restore range of motion to the body. The method of practice taught in Ashtanga Yoga relies on linking postures with deep, even breathing and steady gazing with the eyes. The system of linking the breath with movement is known as vinyasa. The gazing point helps to facilitate a state of meditation, having a profound effect on the steadiness of the mind.
The Sanskrit word Ashtanga translates as Eight-Limbs, referring to the eight limbs of yoga as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Yamas are a set of moral principles outlining how we interact with the world around us.
Niyamas refer to personal disciplines or duties directed toward ourselves.
The Asana is the physical component of practice or yoga postures.
Pranayama is the practice of regulating the breath.
Pratyahara translates as “withdrawal of the senses” and can be practiced by withdrawing our attention from ordinary distractions.
In Dharana we consciously focus our attention on an object. With time, a benefit of practice is the ability to concentrate on just one thing for a period of time.
Dhyana is when one become completely absorbed in the focus of meditation.
In Samadhi, we succeed in becoming one with our object of meditation in an experience of joy and harmony
The Six Series of Ashtanga Yoga
There are six series in Ashtanga Yoga and each are learned in a progressive manner. All practitioners begin with the Primary Series. The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) is the most important series as it forms the basis of the entire system. After the primary series is mastered, practitioners may advance to more difficult series over a period of years or decades.
The goal of this style is not to learn the more difficult asanas but rather to learn to maintain internal focus throughout the practice by using long deep even breathing, dristhi (gazing point) and bandhas (energy locks).
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga at Birmingham Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally practiced in two forms: Mysore and Led Class. At Birmingham Yoga we run a multitude of different classes. Check them out below.
Mysore is the traditional method for practicing Ashtanga yoga. Students learn a series of postures working at their own pace with individual instruction from the teacher. In mysore-style practice everyone’s practice is unique and instruction is personalized.
All levels are welcome from new beginners to advanced practitioners. In the beginning, new students receive more attention. As you become more familiar with the practice, you are allowed more independence, getting adjustments and assistance only when needed.
Mysore is for everyone. If you have physical limitations or injuries, the instructor will work with you individually to come up with the variation of the sequence that works for you. Because everyone is working individually, you don’t have to worry about slowing down or speeding up to keep up or meet the needs of a group class.
Learn more about our Mysore-style classes HERE.
In Led Class the teacher guides the students through the sequence of postures and the students move together in sync with their breath. It is traditionally taught in Sanskrit with breath cues to guide you in and out of postures. The intention behind led class is to help students learn the traditional vinyasa count for the practice and allow synchronization of breath and movement.
You will be guided through the Primary Series in the traditional form. Students may choose to practice the entire series, stop at the halfway point (Navasana) or the last posture they practice in Mysore-style class. This class is for experienced students.
Learn more about our Full Primary classes HERE.
You will be guided through a modified version of the first half of the Primary Series. Variations will be offered. This class is suitable for those with some previous yoga experience.
Learn more about our Half Primary classes HERE.
This class focuses on Sun Salutations and basic standing postures. This class is suitable for beginners who are comfortable getting up and down off of the floor and those new to Ashtanga. The pace and structure of this class will be adapted for the group.
Learn more about our Ashtanga Basics classes HERE.