Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What is Ashtanga Yoga?



What is Ashtanga Yoga?
by Chris Reed

Did you know that most modern vinyasa practices stem from the Ashtanga Yoga method? Developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga is the sanskrit word meaning eight-limbs as mentioned in the yoga sutras of Patanjali. The practice incorporates breath, drishti or focus, and bandha in a fairly rigorous sequence of postures. Students usually practice the memorized sequence at their own pace in what is called "Mysore style" named after the city where Jois taught. Usually an Ashtanga practice begins with five repetitions of Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskara A and five repetitions of Surya Namaskara B, followed by a standing sequence. After this the practitioner begins one of six series and ends with the closing sequence.

Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy) or the Primary Series is the most common practiced sequence in Ashtanga yoga. Many students will spend up to a few years learning the entire sequence before moving on to second series. Postures are recommended to be held for at least five full deep breaths through the nose or whats also referred to as Ujjayi Pranayama. Where the practitioner focuses the eyes while is the posture is what is referred to as the drishti. There are few different key drishti's in the Ashtanga practice, mainly the nose, navel, between the eyebrows, thumbs hands and feet. The bandhas are energy locks within the body that we often hear teachers talk about in vinyasa classes. Ashtanga focuses on three main bandhas; the mula bandha or root lock at the pelvis floor. Uddiyana bandha is located at the abdomen 2 inches below the navel and the Jalandhara bandha is found by tucking the chin to the chest.

There are many different opinions and beliefs surrounding the "tradition" of Ashtanga Yoga. One school would say that you must "master" a posture before being given permission to move on to receive the benefit from the practice. I personally subscribe to my teacher's teacher Manju Jois (Pattabhi's son) and his more laid back approach of adjusting the practice to the practitioner. Having done a few workshops with Manju, I have experienced how this non-linear approach allows the student to complete a practice while being safe and not leave feeling completely defeated.

Join Chris for a Workshop: Balances, Bhandas, & Binds on Sunday, May 20th from 2pm-4pm at Namaste Highland Park. Sign up at namastestudios.la/workshops 
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