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What Is The Meaning Of Ashtanga Yoga

Okay But Whats The Ashtanga Yoga Practice Like

What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga?

The Primary Series is known as Yoga Chikitsa which means yoga therapy. The aim of this sequence is to remove any obvious physical issues that may prevent you from having a healthy body. For most of use, that means opening up the hips and lengthening the hamstrings! The Primary Series is very effective at doing this.

It is also said to work on an emotional and psychological level and is certainly reported to have many benefits for your mental well-being .

Let me describe the practice in brief:

The structure of the Primary Series is like so:

  • 5 sun salutation A and 3-5 sun salutation B
  • A set of standing postures including forward folds, twists and balances
  • A set of seated postures including a lot of forward folding, hip opening and twisting. And many of the signature Ashtanga vinyasas jumping back and forward through a flow to keep the heart rate up and to build strength!
  • Finishing sequence including a deep backbend, shoulderstands and headstand

Meaning Of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Ashtanga means eight limbs or branches, which purpose is to create a union among body, mind, and spirit. But, the eight limbs come from the foundations of yoga philosophy in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois, his grandson, encourage the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, and that means all eight limbs. The first limb is Yama, and it has five moral codes, includes behavioral attitudes and abstentions. These codes allow us to be in harmony with ourselves and our social interactions with the rest of the world. The second limb of Patanjalis eight-limbed yoga system contains the five internal practices of Niyama. The practices extend the ethical codes of conduct provided in his first limb, the yamas. One support the other, Niyama and Yama are part of one same ethical system, the union, and practice of these limbs take you to Asanas. After the integration of your mind and spirit of Yama and Niyama codes, there comes the third limb of yoga, Asana.

You Might Wonder Why Do We Need All The 8 Limbs Here Is Why

The answer rests in the arrangement of these 8 limbs itself these are in ascending hierarchal order which means each limb leads to the next. Every limb needs to be mastered before practicing the next one. Let us know them one by one.

Yama and Niyama

Just as we need to clear our primary, secondary school education before following higher studies, the same way the Yamas and Niyamas helps the person to become mentally and physically ready for the postures to be adopted in asanas.


The Asanas retrain our musculoskeletal system to be still and steady for prolonged time. To remain still in one posture, complete concentration is needed wherein the mind becomes so focused that the asanas can be performed slowly and effortlessly, ones awareness becomes intensified and can experience infinity.


When one masters his musculoskeletal apparatus, he is now ready for Pranayama . When the breath is controlled, one can control the mind. When the breath is extended and controlled, there is cessation of activity in the mind.


Hath Pradipika, a classic manual on yoga says Chale vate chalam chittam nischale nischalam bhavet, meaning when the mind gets steady and thoughtless, Pratyahara begins where we shut off external sense organs and look inwards.


After focusing inwards, one comes to Dharana .

Dhyaan and Samadhi

As one becomes adept and Dharana intensifies, Dhyaan and Samadhi of meditation take place.

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Counted Led Ashtanga Yoga Classes

If youre practising 6 days a week, the tradition is to do 5 days Mysore-style and 1 day counted Primary Series.

In this class, everyone practises the Primary Series at the same time as the teacher counts the breaths in each pose and gives adjustments. This is more like a modern group yoga class, although its definitely not suitable for anyone who hasnt already learned the Primary Series in a Mysore-style setting!

Its an opportunity for you to do the series whilst your teacher keeps you in time, reminding you to keep up the pace and rhythm in order to experience a nice flow-like state.

Precautions For Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga: Benefits, Teaching Methods, Differences

As we have already mentioned in the article that Ashtanga yoga is not a yoga asana, but a basis of yoga, in which Jnana yoga is awakened through karma yoga. Consequently, the attainment of samadhi in the end, so Ashtanga yoga practice is not a one-day task. It may take several months or years to practice all its stages. Therefore, before doing Ashtanga yoga these things should be taken care of.

  • Try carefully and diligently to cross each step of Ashtanga Yoga.
  • Proceed in a phased manner. Do not attempt to proceed to the next stage before one stage is proved.
  • Keep the mind at ease and believe in yourself that you can practice all the parts of Ashtanga Yoga.

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Our Commitment To Holding A Safe And Supportive Space For Everyone Who Comes To Practice

It is our aim and responsibility as teachers to hold a safe space for people to practice. ;We believe that integrity is a key principle in yoga and all of our teachers and trainees have a responsibility to ensure their personal and professional behaviour is congruent with these;values.

A regular, holistic yoga practise can have significant impacts on a persons health and wellbeing. In the hands of a well-trained and capable teacher this can be an extremely positive impact. The practitioner/teacher relationship is a partnership. Both the practitioner and the teacher hold specialised information. The teacher has knowledge and experience based on specialised training in yoga theory and practice and associated disciplines along with lived experience as a practitioner and numerous applied teaching experiences.The student holds information about their own history and current experience. ;We believe in working with clarity and integrity to ensure a professional and supportive practitioner teacher relationship.

Origin Of Ashtanga Yoga:

The origin of Yoga was about five thousand years BC and is depicted in Vedic philosophy and tantras. Ashtanga was initially coined by an ancient renowned saint Patanjali the author of the book ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutra’ He has depicted this as the eight-fold path or the eight limbs.

About ashtanga yoga practices:

The fundamental series is represented as the ‘Yoga Chikitsa’ meaning ‘Yoga therapy‘. The prime goal is to release your body from any physical problems and provides you with good physical health. It functions on the well-being of any psychological or emotional level and possesses several other benefits.

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History Of Vinyasa Yoga

The ancient text named as the Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in around 1990 which outlines a proper sequence of yoga poses called the Vinyasa Krama suggesting a way to connecting mudras , Pranayama , Bandhas , Meditation, Asana , Drishti and Japa .

Sri T. Krishnamacharya with one of his students Patthabi Jois later popularized the Vinyasa Ashtanga style of yoga during the 20th century in Mysore in India and brought Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga to the western world.

Also, read our post on How To Start Acro Yoga.

What Does Ashtanga Mean

The Real Meaning Of Yoga |Ashtanga Yoga | Dialogues With Daaji | Heartfulness

Ashtanga is a Sanskrit word that means 8 limbs.

This practice borrows the name because the focus of the practice is not just a series of poses but on all eight limbs of yoga.

These are:

The asana, pose or posture practice is one of the three limbs. But the teaching of Ashtanga really extends to all eight.

There is a strong sense of practicing the yamas and niyamas. And you find over time that the more you practice these the more focus you have in the physical practice.

Breath control is a huge part of the Ashtanga practice each breath is counted and measured.

Withdrawal of the senses is accomplished by bringing attention to the internal self. And Focus is achieved by focusing on the practice and focusing on a visual point, a Drishti or focal point throughout the class.

There are moments of contemplation after the class and the whole idea is to build to the state of bliss.

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S To Do Ashtanga Yoga

To perform this Yoga, it is very important to understand its organs as well as the sub organs involved in them, only then the entire Ashtanga Yoga can be incorporated into life. Come, all the organs and sub organs included in the Ashtanga Yoga Sutra

Through each of its stages is closely understood.

1. Yama Yama has five sub-organs, Ahimsa, Satya, Astaya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha. Including these five sub organs in ones own life is the first stage of Ashtanga Yoga. Let us understand in some detail how to include them in life.

This means that one who will be able to incorporate these five sub limbs of Yama into his life, while the Ashtanga will be able to cross the first phase of yoga i.e. Yama Anga.

Dont forget to read them

2. Rule- After practicing Yama, it comes to the rule. It also has five sub organs of defecation, contentment, austerity, self-study, and god worship. The second phase of Ashtanga yoga can be overcome by incorporating these rules into life. Let us also understand their detailed meaning.

In this way, by following Yama and Niyam, a seeker will be able to pass the second phase of Ashtanga Yoga.

5. Pratyahara Pratyahara means to withhold or withdraw. this yoga emphasizes the control of unnecessary energy spent due to senses. Meaning that actions like speaking, listening, eating, seeing, and feel should be in a balanced state. The unnecessary energy of the body is not destroyed through these actions.

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What Is Ashtanga Yoga Explaining The 8 Limbs


Sometimes yoga words can be complicated. Especially if youre a new yogi.

Complicated words and descriptions mean people get overwhelmed and uncomfortable when they think about doing yoga. And thats definitely not what myYogaTeacher is all about!

Yoga is a practice that incorporates philosophy, meditation, breathwork, behavioral principles, and physical exercise into ones life. Its a lifestyle.

We want everyone who comes to us, from young to old, from out of shape to fitness fanatics, to feel like our virtual yoga studio is a safe space to learn about and practice yoga. No judgement. Every question is a good question.

Thats why I wanted to talk to you about ashtanga yoga. What does that word mean anyway, you ask?

Im going to explain what it is and why its even important to know what it is. If youre interested in experiencing ashtanga yoga in action, I invite you to try my Ashtanga Yoga Class on myYogaTeacher!

The Sanskrit word ashtanga means 8 limbs. Lets explore what those are so we can understand and deepen our yoga practice!

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What Is Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga

In Mysore style Ashtanga classes there are no spoken instructions. Students self practice the sequence at the pace of their own breath, synchronising their breath and movement. There is a larger focus on teachers providing individual guidance and adjustments where necessary. For many practitioners, a deeper understanding of the sequence is developed. In Mysore Style practice, one is able to build a deep internal awareness due to fewer external stimuli, and there is no need to modify the pace of breath to match the rest of the class.

Key Principles And Yoga Practices

Beginners Guide to Ashtanga Yoga

There are several key principles that underlie the practice of Ashtanga. This multiple-pronged approach promotes physical health and mental wellbeing. These five principles are necessary for a successful ashtanga practice.

  • Ujjayi pranayama: This specific breathing technique is used throughout the practice. The victorious breath is a slow audible breathing technique used to warm, energize and increase focus and concentration. Additional pranayama techniques are only taught to advanced students.
  • Drishti: A specific drishti, or focal point, is used in each asana. This helps create a more focused and meditative practice.
  • Vinyasa: The core of the practice is synchronizing the breath to the sequence of postures and transitions in the series.
  • Bandha: The engagement of the bandhas, or body locks, is encouraged throughout the class to seal in the prana energy and create core stability.
  • Daily practice: A six-days-per-week routine is encouraged, with Saturday as the rest day. Moon days, the days on the full and new moon are also rest days, and women often refrain from practicing during menstruation.
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    What Are Yamas Niyamas And Ashtanga Yoga Of Patanjali

    Milk may exist in the udders of the cow, but we need a means or process to extract it Vacaspati Mishra on Ashtanga Yoga

    This rather awkward and somewhat amusing statement actually carries a profound meaning behind it. Vacaspati Mishra was a prolific and influential scholar of the 9th century who wrote extensively on Indian Philosophy, including the Yoga Sutras. He made the above statement to explain that the capability of achieving the highest form of Yoga may exist in all of us, but we need a process to extract this potential. So, what is that process?

    This process which helps us extract our highest potential is called Ashtanga Yoga and was revealed by Sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. The term Ashtanga Yoga can be confusing as it also refers to a form of hatha yoga asana practice which originated in Mysore. The practitioners of this powerful form of yoga believe that the physical practice itself helps them achieve all eight limbs. But essentially Ashtanga Yoga refers to the following eight limbs of Patanjalis yoga sutras:

    What Is The Difference Between Vinyasa And Ashtanga Yoga

    In a vinyasa yoga class, the teacher creates a different sequence each time. Often there is a focus on strengthening or opening a specific area of the body. There is usually a slower warm up followed by a stronger sequence of asanas leading to a âpeakâ of the class, and then cooling postures. Classes are more or less vigourous depending on the teacher.Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic yoga practice synchronising breath and movement. The same sequence of asanas is followed each time allowing the body to realign and detoxify. As students progress they move to more advanced sequences. The first sequence is known as the Primary Series and focuses on building foundational strength and flexibility, including forward bends, twists and hip openers.

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    How Many Postures Are There In Ashtanga

    The Advanced Series is known as Sthira Bhaga, sthira means to stabilize and bhaga means radiance. The Advanced Ashtanga Series develops inner strength and cultivates compassion to leave you feeling empowered and awakened. There are over 100 yoga postures in the Advanced Series. Below are a few examples.

    How Does Ashtanga Yoga Compare To The Other Forms Of Yoga

    What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? with Kino MacGregor

    Ashtanga encourages sweating, as its believed this is how the body rids itself of toxins and helps heal itself. Ashtanga can be fast-paced and is grouped into six series, increasing in difficulty as they progress. Youre encouraged to focus on your breathing as you move seamlessly from pose to pose, and while it is physically demanding, it still provides a complete mental and spiritual workout. Ashtanga also performs the same poses in the same order, meaning Ashtanga classes should follow the same sequence all over the world. Its more traditional than many other forms of yoga, with some modern iterations stemming from Ashtanga. Meditative focus is encouraged in Ashtanga, and upper body strength has more of a focus than some other varieties.

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    Series Of Ashtanga Yoga

    Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is also a great way to incorporate the meditative side of yoga by having a set progression throughout the practice. With this, you can focus more on the breath and concentration of the mind, making a connection with your body.The Primary series of Ashtanga consists of the asanas that you will see in most typical Vinyasa Flow classes. The yoga poses in the Primary series build upon each other as you progress through the series as well. This series means to purify and tone the body and also bring focus to the mind. As the detoxification process progresses.The Intermediate series is the focus to cleanse the nerves. This series has more backbends and headstand variations. Since our nervous system runs through our spine, the second series helps open the subtle channels so that prana or life force energy, may flow freer. This allows the cleansing of the nervous system. The backbends are there to preserve the spine and the suppleness of the back. The series starts as the Primary with Surya Namaskar A and B and the standing postures. Also, it ends with the same closing postures as the Primary, the main difference comes in the middle. Although the Intermediate series is a compliment to the Primary series, the idea of when to start the Second series still varies.

    Advance Series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

    What to Wear to Practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

    Practice for Life

    Why Do We Chant

    Richard Freeman answered this very question:

    Chanting and mantra recitation have accompanied yoga practice for thousands of years. Chanting is of course both the in-toning of the rich vibratory sounds and the simultaneous listening to them. The deep listening naturally suspends the normal movement of the discursive mind and allows contemplation of the patterns of sensation, emotion, and imagination.

    If you have ever chanted or been to a kirtan, you may have noticed that the mind becomes quiet as we are experiencing the chant, both body and mind, and then we are asked to repeat what we just heard, not only the words but also tone and melody.

    Trying to explore this a little deeper, I had a look to see if there are any academic studies on chanting and its benefits. And I was surprised to find there were some.

    Chanting may have a positive influence on peoples memory and attention. A 2006 study examined the effects of Vedic chanting on the hemispheres of the brain. The researchers found that chanting influences both the hemispheres of the brain resulting in good memory and attention.

    It is worth noting that the Vedic chants were passed on from generations in an oral manner without the help of writing them down.

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