Ashtanga yoga, as explained in Yoga Sutra by yoga guru Patanjali stands for “eight-limbed yoga”. It comprises 8 steps, that lead to the path of self discovery and internal purification. These 8 steps are-
- Yama (righteous behavior)
- Niyama (self-purification and study)
- Asana (yogic posture)
- Pranayama (breathing technique)
- Pratyahara (self discipline)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (oneness with the Universe)
It is not easy to master the art of Ashtanga yoga, as you’re required to sync one breath with one movement which requires practice; I mean it requires patience, but once you learn and start practicing it, it helps you attain an equilibrium; i.e. good health of the mind, body and the subconscious.
In Ashtanga yoga one follows a sequence of postures; one posture prepares the body for the next, thus creating an environment for complete wellness. This is the reason why it is often recommended that one learns or practices Ashtanga in the supervision of a Guru or master.
Ashtanga yoga is also considered as the most vigorous form of yoga which lays emphasis on building muscle strength and stamina. It is attained by mastering the art of breathing and synchronizing it with different Yogic postures as mentioned earlier. While other forms of yoga-asanas emphasize on achieving a healthy body, calm, emotionally balanced mind, and spiritual awareness; Ashtanga yoga lays emphasis on weight management, muscle strength, and endurance building routine.
Fundamentals of Ashtanga Yoga: Performing a series of vigorous yoga postures and synchronizing it with breathing produces powerful heat which purifies muscles and other organs; improves circulation, which helps the body to get rid of negative toxins. The sweat released while performing Ashtanga Yoga also contains good hormones & minerals that nourish the body. This is the reason that after session or yoga our gurus tell us not to wipe the sweat, instead let it get absorbed back into the skin.
There are certain misconceptions attached to Ashtanga Yoga; majority of them are about having a typical mind-set I’d say. Myth no. 1 is that to practice Ashtanga yoga you have to be strong, physically fit and young. This is not true. Anyone at any age can do Ashtanga yoga; even a sick person can learn it to improve his/her health. Another misconception is that it is very strenuous and difficult, this is partly true. It is strenuous but it’s an amazing challenge for your mind and body and if you emerge a winner, you’re a winner for life!
Another myth is that it can cause injury; again it’s the way you look at it. You have to accept that we are at a risk of injury even while walking, crossing the road, jogging, cycling etc. So don’t let that discourage you! Another hurdle is that some people find the Ashtanga Yoga sequence too rigid. This is again a lot to do with mind-sets. If you enrol into a gym with focus on building muscles, packs and biceps, wouldn’t the trainer take you through a series of vigorous exercises? Ashtanga Yoga does the same, it helps you build muscles and stamina and hence you may be required to go through a series of more complex or advanced postures.
Once you are on the roll, you will become aware of all kinds of physically pains and problems and learn to overcome them. Ashtanga yoga works on you on the whole; you become stronger in mind and in muscles!