Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic and physically demanding style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is characterized by a continuous flow of movement linked with breath. Here are some key features and characteristics of Ashtanga Yoga:
- Vinyasa Flow: Ashtanga is known for its emphasis on Vinyasa, the synchronization of breath with movement. Each movement is linked to either an inhalation or exhalation, creating a flowing and continuous practice.
- Fixed Sequence: The practice follows a predetermined series of postures, and each series has a specific order. The primary series, also known as Yoga Chikitsa, is the foundational sequence, and practitioners progress to more advanced series as they master each level.
- Three Series: Ashtanga is traditionally divided into three series – Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa), Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana), and Advanced Series (Sthira Bhaga). Each series builds upon the previous one, offering increasing levels of challenge.
- Breath and Bandhas: The practice incorporates Ujjayi breath, a specific breathing technique that produces a sound similar to ocean waves, helping to build internal heat and focus the mind. Bandhas, or energy locks, are engaged to enhance breath control and maintain stability during challenging poses.
- Drishti (Gaze): Practitioners are instructed to focus their gaze on specific points, known as drishtis, throughout the practice. This helps in maintaining concentration, balance, and a meditative state.
- Mysore Style: In a traditional Ashtanga class, students often practice in a Mysore-style setting, where they move through the series at their own pace, and the teacher provides individualized guidance and adjustments. This allows for a personalized approach to the practice.
- Daily Practice: Consistency is key in Ashtanga Yoga. Practitioners are encouraged to establish a daily practice, and progression through the series is typically based on mastery of each posture rather than time spent practicing.
- Spiritual Aspect: Ashtanga Yoga is not just a physical practice; it incorporates spiritual elements. The combination of breath, movement, and concentration is believed to purify the body and mind, leading to a deeper connection with one's inner self.
Ashtanga Yoga is well-suited for individuals who enjoy a structured and disciplined approach to their yoga practice, as well as those seeking physical and mental challenges through a consistent and progressive series of postures.