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Five tips for those who want to practice Ashtang yoga

ashtangayoga - yoga - mindfulness

Yoga has grown big here in the West and with it, also several different types of yoga styles. Ashtang yoga is one of the most physically demanding, but above all the most structured and disciplined form of yoga, which cleanses both body, mind and soul!

History of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtang yoga originally comes from Hatha yoga, which is the physical part of yoga's six pillars. It was developed by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India during the mid-20th century. In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means eight parts , which refers to the eightfold path in the Yoga Sutras which constitute an important text in the philosophy and foundation of yoga.

What attracts people to Ashtang yoga?

What makes Ashtang yoga unique in comparison to other forms of yoga is that it is a set series. You simply perform the same positions, in the same order, every time you practice Ashtang yoga. This gives you great opportunity to develop and deepen your practice over time.
When you practice Ashtang yoga, you also get the opportunity to work with three cornerstones, so-called Tristhana: the breath ( Ujjayi ), body lock ( Bandhas ) and gaze focus ( Drishti ). These tools help us to land correctly in the positions, in the body and in the present.

Where do I start?

There are six series in Ashtangayogan. When you start practicing Ashtanga, you start with the first series. It's okay to stay here and continue practicing the same streak indefinitely. Otherwise, when you have become more experienced and learned to master the different positions in the first series, you can move on to the second series. The first series is called Yoga Chikitsa and focuses on cleansing and strengthening our physical body. The second series is called Nadi Shodana , which instead focuses on balancing our nervous system. The remaining four series are called Sthira Bhaga and consist of very advanced positions.

The execution of the first series begins with five sun salutations A and sun salutations B. Here we warm up the body from the inside out. Then comes the standing sequence which transitions into the seated sequence with many forward folds and twists. In these positions we stay for 5 breaths and between the sitting positions a vinyasa is done to maintain circulation in the body. Then comes the closing sequence focusing on backbends, inversions and of course everything ends with savasana , our resting position.

My best advice for those who want to start Ashtang yoga

1. Give it an honest shot. As it is a set series, we get into the movements quite quickly and that's when the magic of Ashtangayogan comes into the body. So don't stop after the first or second time you try it.

2. Listen to your body. Adapt the movements to your body. If your body tells you to back off, do it, don't run over it, it will only lead to injury. All will come with time.

3. Use your muscles. If you have a tendency to overextend your joints, it is especially important to think about activating the muscles. It is easy to "hang" in the positions, but it wears on the joints and is not sustainable in the long run. Listen to the instructor's guidance.

4. Sthira sukham asanam . In Sanskrit this translates to "A position ( Asana ) should be stable ( Sthira ), comfortable and compliant ( Sukham )". So you should never go deeper in a position than you can have an intact and controlled breathing, a stable and strong body and be able to stay in the position for a while (about 5-10 breaths) without jerking your breathing or body control.

5. Have respect for your teacher, but ... (At the risk of getting a lot of Ashtanga yogis against me now.) There is a lot of pride and tradition in Ashtanga yoga, for better or for worse. You can meet some teachers where everything must be done in the traditional way. That's one way of looking at it, maybe it suits you. Other teachers have a more humble view of the body and yoga as a practice. They will teach Ashtanga in a different way. In my opinion, nothing is right or wrong. So listen to your teacher and if you don't resonate with what he/she teaches, respect him/her and move on. There is a teacher for you out there.

My most important lessons from Ashtangayogan

Yoga was introduced into my life in 2012 and I have been practicing Ashtang yoga since 2016. The practice has given me a strong and durable body over time, but unfortunately also a lot of injuries before I learned to actually listen to my body. Because we perform the same positions each time, we can quickly see progress, but it also makes it easy to push too hard. Ashtanga yoga is unfortunately known for its "injury risk". I myself have encountered it in several places in the body. It is important to have respect for this form of yoga, which is very strict and in my opinion is very connected to our masculine energy. As it is a set series, tough positions and very traditional and with little room for "playfulness".

But what I absolutely love about Ashtang yoga is that once you know and recognize the movements, it really becomes like meditation in motion. It makes me feel such a strong connection to my body, my strength and my limitations.
Tip! Do you want to invite your feminine energy to contrast with the masculine energy of Ashtanga yoga? Try performing a playful Vinyasa instead!

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

There are many benefits to this form of yoga, just some of them are:
  • A stronger body
  • Strength and flexibility
  • Calmer mind
  • Cleanses the body of waste products
  • Increased ability to concentrate
  • Better sleep
  • Better oxygen absorption and increased blood circulation
  • Increased energy
  • Stronger immune system
The article is written by Josefin Söderby who is a certified yoga teacher! Do you also want to write an article for the platform? Email us!

``I am a certified yoga teacher in several yoga styles, such as Ashtang yoga, vinyasa yoga, yin yoga and mantra yoga. Yoga is something for everyone, you just need to find your way - I organize workshops, offer PT yoga and teach several sessions a week in Stockholm. I also run the Landa pä mattan podcast (although on hiatus at the moment), but there are 100 wonderful episodes for those of you who want to immerse yourself in the world of yoga.´´
- Josefin Söderby

Josefin's Instagram

For more tips on how you can bring more mindfulness into your everyday life, read this article!

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