ashtanga yoga

Ashtanga is a breath-centered, healing method of yoga. The heartbeat of the practice is the synchronization of breath and movement called vinyasa. Each breath literally leads each movement. This yoga method follows a set sequence of postures starting with the Primary Series. Through conscious breathing (breath), purposeful movement (posture/bandha), and concentration (drishti), the practice gradually creates steadiness in body and mind.

  • Opening Chant
    vande gurunam charanaravinde sandarsita svatmasukhava bodhe nihsreyase jangalikayamane samsara halahala mohasantyai abahu purusakaram sankhacakrasi dharinam sahasra sirasam svetam pranamami patanjalim om

  • Closing Chant
    om svasthi praja bhyaha pari pala yantam nya yena margena mahim mahishaha go brahmanebhyaha shubamastu nityam lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu shanti shanti shantihi
The Primary Series, or Yoga Chikitsa, means yoga therapy. This set sequence of postures purifies and aligns the body while calming the mind. Each asana prepares for the following. The more one becomes familiar with the series, the more practice becomes a moving meditation.

Vinyasa is the synchronization of breath and movement. Each breath literally leads each movement. The continuity of breath-syncronized movements build internal heat that detoxifies the body and calms the mind.

Breath is key. Inhales and exhales should be even, steady and of equal length. Breathe in and out of the nose, creating a gentle hissing sound in the base of the throat. Smooth, deep breathing helps rid our bodies of toxins and calm the nervous system.

Asana means posture. All asanas are connected to each other and prepare for the next in series. One should practice mindfully and go at their own pace gradually building strength, stability and health. Aim for quality, not quantity. A relaxed, easy attitude is key in this process.

Dristhi is the gazing point; the place you rest your eyes when practicing. There are nine places of dristhi in the asana practice. Keeping the eyes still helps focus the mind and improve concentration. This creates greater awareness and presence that can carry over into daily life.

Bandha literally means "to close" or "seal". Bandhas are energy locks used simultaneously with the breath to direct energy in practice. This is achieved primarily through mula bandha (root lock, or lifting of the pelvic floor) and uddhiyana bandha (lower abdominal lock). Engaging bandhas throughout practice seals in energy and gives lightness and strength to the body.

Tristhana refers to three places of action, or awareness, during yoga practice: posture, breathing and gazing point. These should be observed and performed simultaneously. In doing so, purification takes place on three levels: the body, nervous system and mind.

Ashtanga literally means eight limbs (ashta=eight, anga=limb). Ashtanga Yoga is a path of eight limbs, or steps. These are described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as: yama (restraints), niyama (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (deep realization).

To take a closer look at the eight limbs, including more on the yamas and niyamas, read on.

References: Astanga Yoga Anusthana, R. Sharath Jois.


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the eight limbs