Ashtanga yoga (otherwise spelled aṣṭāṅga) is a traditional system of exercises originating from India, specifically from the city of Mysore. It is a system of comprehensive sets of positions (asanas) that is based on Patañjali's yoga sutras (K. Pattabhi Jois). The word Ashtanga in Sanskrit means "having 8 limbs" or "8 parts". According to Patañjali, these 8 parts (limbs) mean 8 degrees, which help a person to achieve physical and mental balance.
- yama – these are five activities that we should avoid in life, both in relation to others and to ourselves. Sometimes they are referred to simply as "restrictions" or "prohibitions". These include non-violence (ahimsa), non-lying (satya), non-appropriation/non-stealing (asteya), non-possessiveness or non-attachmenand (aparigraha) and moderation - right use of energy (brahmacharya)
- niyama – five activities that we should do instead. Sometimes referred to simply as "commands". These include purity/cleanliness (saucha), contentment (santosha), self-discipline/burning desire (tapas), self-study/self-reflection (svadhyaya) and worship/surrender to a higher power (isvarapranidaha)
- asanas – body poses, i.e. yoga positions
- pranayama – work with prana - life energy, generally referred to as conscious breathing exercises
- pratyahara – withdrawing the senses from distractions, bringing the attention inward
- dharana – focus, concentration
- dhyana – meditation
- samadhi – contemplation, union, the highest state of meditative absorption and mental concentration.
In Western European countries, Ashtanga is considered a more physically demanding style of yoga , nevertheless, although Ashtanga really is a rather dynamic exercise, it's a shame that people are often afraid of it. In today's society, we are used to categorize everything and expect results immediately. But Ashtanga yoga teaches us the exact opposite. Much more important than what exactly we practice is the attitude with which we practice and who our teacher is, as Manju P. Jois (son of Pattabhi Jois) claims. It also teaches us patience.
Ashtanga yoga seamlessly connects individual asanas (positions) with breath, whereas in each position we stay for 5 breaths. Positions and their order are given in series, where the difficulty increases with each higher series. The whole system contains 6 series.
It is a dynamic form of yoga connecting individual positions with breath, through which a person gains awareness of his own body and mind. The individual asanas are connected by so-called vinyasa – a movement that, in conjunction with a special way of breathing, helps to keep the body warm and helps to exercise more intensively.
The exercise may feel more challenging, but is manageable for anyone interested in getting to know their body and mind.
Although looking at a picture showing the Ashtanga series (especially the advanced ones) can be demotivating, just like when practicing any other yoga, Ashtanga yoga is not about mastering as many poses as possible in the shortest time, doing all the poses perfectly, let alone comparing yourself with others, the most important thing is your own experience from the exercise.
Effects of Ashtanga yoga
- like any other exercise, yoga significantly helps to improve physical as well as mental condition
- regular practice increases flexibility
- thanks to the improvement of breathing habits, accelerated regeneration and an increase in immunity occur in the body
- exercise and proper breathing help to get rid of tension and stress, relax tight muscles, which also leads to an increased ability to concentrate
- calming the body and mind
Who is Ashtanga yoga suitable for?
Basically, just like any other yoga, Ashtanga can be practiced by absolutely everyone, at least to the extent that their own physical condition allows. As it is a more dynamic form of yoga, it is best suited for younger, more energetic people who like the dynamics of movement. Even if you have never practiced yoga, there is nothing to fear - we will teach you everything :-).