Meaning of Ashtanga
The meaning of “Ashtanga” in Sanskrit is “eight limbs”. Thus Ashtanga yoga means the yogic exercise done for the benefit of eight limbs.
This is the type of yoga which synchronise the breathing with the progressive series of postures. The Ashtanga yoga takes care of the alignment of body with the help of right attitude and regular practice. The use of right muscles in specific yogic posture prevents and heals any type of injury. The practice of Ashtanga yoga requires respect, awareness and conscious humility. Since every day is different, therefore, each day brings in new experiences. Some days the body may be more fluid while on other days the body might experience certain stiffness. Usually the yoga teachers tell the students to respect their body’s state and be satisfied with whatever the body is capable to do on that particular day. This process produces intensive internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat which detoxifies muscles and organs. The result of this yoga is improved circulation as well as a strong and light body along with a peaceful mind.
According to yoga masters the ancient Vamana Rishi was the first person to record this set of yogic postures.
Different Parts of Ashtanga Yoga
There are seven parts of Ashtanga yoga. They are:
- Surya Namaskar A.
- Surya Namaskar B.
- Six standing poses, the fundamental position for Ashtanga yoga.
- The Finishing Sequence: The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice ends.
- Primary Series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga or Yoga Chikitsa.
- Nadi Shodana: The Intermediate series of Ashtanga Yoga.
- Ashtanga Yoga Advanced A Series: Sthira Bhaga-For Advanced only.
- Surya Namaskar A: It is the first Sun salutation which is performed in five rounds at the beginning of the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. It consists of nine movements. In sequence it is “Urdhava Vrksasana”, Uttanasana A, Uttanasana B, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva-Mukha-Svanasana, Adho-mukha-Svasana, Uttanasana, Urdhava vrksasana and Samasthitih.
- Surya Namaskar B: It is a set of 13 movements, like: Utkatasana, Uttanasana A, Uttanasana B, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva-Mukha-Svanasana, Adho-Mukha-Shvanasana, Virabhadrasana A, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva-Mukha-Svanasana, Adho-Mukha-Shvanasana, Virabhadrasana A, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva-Mukha-Svanasana, Adho-Mukha-Shvanasana, Uttanasana B, Uttanasana A, Utkatasana and Samasthitih.
- Six Standing Poses: The Fundamental poses for Ashtanga Yoga: They are, Padangushthasana, Pada-Hastansana, UtthitaTriconasana, Parivritta Triconasana, Utthita Parshvakonasana, Parivritta Parshvakonasana, Prasarita Padottanasana A, Prasarita Padottanasana B, Prasarita Padottanasana C, Prasarita Padottanasana D and Parshvottanasana.
- The Finishing Sequence (the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Practice Ends): This consists of Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana, Karna Pidasana, Urdhva Padmasana, Pindasana, Matsyasana, Uttana Pdasana, Shirsasana A, Shirsasana B, Urdhva Dandasana, Balasana, Badha Padmasana, Yoga-Mudra, Padmasana, Utplutih and Shavasana.
- Primary Series Of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (or Yoga Chikitsa): This consists of Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana, Utthita Parshvasahita, Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana B, Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, Utkatasana, Virabhadrasana A, Virabhadrasana B, Dandasana, Pashchimottanasana A, Pashchimottanasana B, , Pashchimottanasana C, Pashchimottanasana D, Purvottanasana, Ardha Badha Padma Pashchimottanasana, Tiryam-mukha Eka-Pada Pashchimottanasana, Janu Shirshasana A, Janu Shirshasana B, Janu Shirshasana C, Marichyasana A, Marichyasana B, Marichyasana C, Marichyasana D, Navasana, Bhuja Pidasana, Kurmasana, Supta-Kurmasana, Garva Pidasana, Kukkutasana, Baddha Konasana A, Baddha Konasana B, Baddha Konasana C, Upavistha Konasana A, Upvistha Konasana B, Supta-Konasana, Supta-padangushthasana, Supta Parshvasahita, Ubhaya Padangushthasana, Urdhva-Mukha Pashchimottasana, Setu-Bandhasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana, Chakrasana and Pashchimottasana.
- Nadi Shodana or the Intermediate Series of Ashtanga Yoga: It is the process of clearing the energetic channels consisting of Pashasana, Krounchasana, Shalbhasana A, Shalabhasana B, Bhekasana, Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Ushtarasana, Laghu-Vajrasana, Kapotasana A, Kapotasana B, Supta-Vajrasana, Bakasana A, Bakasana B, Bhadwajasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Eka-Pada Shirshasana, Dvi-Pada Shirshasana, Yoga-Nidrasana, Tittibhasana, Tittibhasana A, Tittibhasana B, Tittibhasana C, Pincha Mayurasana, Karandavasana, Mayurasana, Nakrasana, Vatayanasana, Parighasana, Gomukhasana A, Gomukhasana B, Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana, Mukta Hasta Shirshasana A, Mukta Hasta Shirshasana B, Mukta Hasta Shirshasana C, Baddha Hasta Shirshasana D, Urdhva Dhanurasana, and Pashchimottasana.
One of the series which is known as “yoga mala” also known as “yoga therapy” consist of a combination of certain exercises as inversions and sitting postures which provide therapy to ailing parts of human body. The second part is called “nadi shodana” meaning purification of nervous system. This system comprises of different stand and additional poses and provides relief to the nervous system. There are series which have been broken in four parts known as “Sthira Bhaga” or “Divine Stability”. Such exercises are stability exercises usually reserved for very experienced practitioner. Very few people practice yoga session in these categories. Ashtanga yoga can be practiced at home under the guidance of an experienced teacher. A teacher normally conducts lessons in the 1st and 2nd series till the students understand the basics. Afterwards the students can practice independently.
Eight Spiritual Practices
The Ashtanga Yoga is made up of eight spiritual practices- Yama or moral codes, Dhyana or meditation, Dharana or concentration, Pratyahara or sense control, Pranayama or breath control, Asana or posture, Niyama or self-purification and study and Samadhi or absorption into the universe.