Ashtanga yoga is a modernized form of ancient Patanjali yoga by K. Pattabhi Jois. It involves series of postures which synchronize with breath along with the postures. It heats the internal body, leading to profuse and purifying sweating that removes toxins from the body. It results in healthy circulation with a pure body and peaceful mind.
Astanga yoga means eight-limbed yoga. It works with eight limbs outlined by Patanjali. It includes techniques which purify and reveal us to the Universal self. The involve eight spiritual practices. They are:
- Moral codes: Yama.
- Self-study and purification: Niyama.
- Postures: Asanas.
- Breath control: Pranayama.
- Sense control: Pratyahara.
- Concentration: Dharana.
- Meditation: Dhyanam.
- Absorption of self into the Universal Self: Samadhi.
The first four play a significant role in cleansing the external aspects of human. The last four are responsible for internal cleansing.
In Ashtanga yoga, the initial poses bring our body and senses into control. The later poses move inwards and play a significant role in handling and controlling our mind. With mind and body are in control, one can perform his daily activities and attain spiritual benefits without obstacles.
Breathing in Ashtanga yoga
As mentioned earlier, breath is vital in Ashtanga yoga. Breathing along with movements heat the blood, thinning and cleaning the blood. It results in improved blood circulation and removing toxins from all corners of the body. Each asana shall involve inhalation and exhalation with every single moment. The first movement in a posture begins with inhalation and followed by exhalation. One shall increase and deepen the breathing at over a period. Increasing and deepening the breath enhances the flexibility and stretching of asanas and helps in removing the deep rooted toxins from the body.
Gazing point in Ashtanga yoga
Looking place or gazing point or Dhristi while practicing Ashtanga yoga is also important. While postures and breathing purify the body and nervous system, a looking place purifies the mind. Primarily, there are nine gazing points. They are: between the eyebrows, nose, thumb, hands, navel, feet, right side, left side and upside.
Pranayama is the breathing technique that is practiced in Ashtanga yoga. It involves series of deep inhalation and exhalations. These pranayama techniques are practiced along with bandhas.
Bandhas in plain language are locks or seals. Bandhas are as crucial as any other technique in Ashtanga. They are done along with ujjayi breath technique. Bandhas unlocked pranic energy and circulated them into the 72,000 nadis or energy channels in the body. The essential bandhas or locks are given below.
Mula bandha or Anal lock seals the energy in the body.
Uddiyana bandha or Lower abdominal lock directs the energy upwards through energy channels.
Jalandara band or Throat lock prevents energy from leaving the body and also removes the pressure build up in the body.
These bandhas control and balance the flow of breath in the body during asanas. It is important in enhancing the benefits and removing pressure blockages in the body.
Astanga yoga involves series of postures. Following are the primary Ashtanga yoga poses.
Standing Astanga yoga poses
- Standing Still: Samasthiti.
- Sun salutation: Surya Namaskara.
- Thumb to foot poses Padangushtasana.
- Hand to foot pose Pada Hastasana.
- Extended triangle poses Utthita Trikonasana.
- Revolved extended triangle pose Pavitra Trikonasana.
- Extended sideway angle poses Utthita Parshvakonasana.
- Revolved Extended sideway angle pose Parvritta Parshvakonasana.
- Spread feet stretching pose: Parasarita Padottanasana.
- Sideways stretching pose: Parshvottanasana.
- Extended Triangle pose Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana.
- Half bound lotus poses: Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.
- Uneven pose: Utkatanasana.
- Warrior poses Virabhadrasana.
Sitting Ashtanga yoga poses
- Four-limbed staff poses Dandasana.
- West back stretching pose. East front extended pose: Pachimattanasana.
- Half bound lotus forward poses: Ardha Baddha Padma paschimatanasana.
- One foot is transversely facing back forward stretch: Triangle Mukhaekapada Paschima ttanasana.
- Head to knee pose: Janu Shirshasana.
- Ray of light poses (of sun or moon): Marichyasana.
- Boat pose: Navasana.
- Arm pressure pose: Bhujapidasana.
- Tortoise pose: Kurmasana.
- Sleeping tortoise pose: Supta Kurmasana.
- An embryo in the womb pose: Garbha Pindasana.
- Rooster pose: Kukkutasana.
- Bound angle pose: Baddha Konasana.
- Seated angle pose: Upavishta Konasana.
- Sleeping angle pose: Supta Konasana.
- Lateral sleeping thumb to foot pose: Supta Padangushtasana.
- Thumbs to foot pose: Ubhaya Padangushtasana.
- Upward facing forward stretch pose: Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana.
- Bridge configuration pose: Setu Bandhasana.
- Elevated bow pose: Urdhva Dhanurasana.
- West bank stretching pose: Paschimattanasana.
Finishing Ashtanga yoga poses
- All limb pose: Salamba Sarvangasana.
- Plow pose: Halasana.
- Ear pressure pose: Karnapidasana.
- Elevated lotus pose: Urdhva Padmasana.
- Embryo pose: Pindasana.
- Fish pose: Matsyasana.
- Extended foot pose: Uttana Padasana.
- Head standing pose: Shirshasana.
- Bound lotus pose: Baddha Padmasana.
- Yoga gesture: Yoga Mudra.
- Lotus pose: Padmasana.
- Sprung pose: Uth Pluthi (Tolasana).
- Corpse pose: Shavasana.
Ashtanga yoga clears and removes six core toxic and poisonous factors from body and mind. They are:
- Karma or desire.
- Krodha or anger.
- Moha or delusion.
- Lobha or greed.
- Matsarya or sloth.
- Mada or envy.
Without these factors or elements in our body and mind, the path is clear as crystal. It enriches our daily life and without obstacles, it becomes easier to achieve our goals and spiritual path.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the important practices of yoga in the modern world. These asanas along with pranayama bring the mind and body into control. It provides complete purification of mind and body. It enhances and alleviates the spiritual path.
It helps in attaining a thorough knowledge of the world and spiritual optimism. You all by now know that these properties are the best tools one could have. Not only to achieve spiritual enhancement and worldly pleasures, but also in knowing the rights and wrongs and choosing the best options.