Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a style of yoga popularized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century. Ashtanga actually means eight limbs (or branches), where asana or a physical yoga practice is just one branch and pranayama is another. We will go more into detail about the eight limbs in another post, but for today we are going to tell you about Ashtanga Yoga.
There are two ways to practice Ashtanga Yoga, one way is through a guided class like most yoga classes and another way is the more traditional method known as “Mysore Style” which comes from the city Mysore in Karnataka, India. In this method, students are expected to memorize the sequence and practice in the same room, without being led by the teacher. The teacher provides adjustments and assists in the postures.
If you want to take your yoga practice to a more ‘serious’ level, “Mysore style” is a way to instill diligence and consistency as well as deepen your practice. In this style, students are expected to practice their own portion of the Ashtanga sequence, at their own pace, 6 days a week.
Every Ashtanga practice begins with 5 repetitions of Sun Salutations A and Sun Salutations B, followed by the fundamental asanas. Afterwards, the practitioner begins one of six series, depending where they are in their practice and finishes with the closing sequence. Each student is given their portion of the sequence according to their ability. Normally, beginner students tend to have a shorter practice than those with more experience. As one gains more strength, stamina and flexibility, additional asanas are given (in a sequential order) to the student, from their teacher.
The six series of Ashtanga go as follows:
The most challenging postures of the primary series are easily, Supta Kurmasana and Garbha Pindasana. Marichyasana B and D can be very challenging for many practitioners as well. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t fly through the series very fast, there is no race in who can finish the series first. Each body is different and we shouldn’t compare our practice to others. We are all on our own yoga journey. The most important thing that we must remember is to just keep practicing and our body will slowly open up to more and more possibilities. Just like Pattabhi Jois would say, “Practice and all is coming.”
This series opens with 40 yoga asanas, many of which are quite advanced for a beginner student. Although, as we mentioned above, with a consistent practice, it is possible to safely execute each posture, with time, patience, awareness and moving with your breath. Remember to be conscious and aware during your practice and don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Listen to your body and everything will come when you are ready.
3. The Advanced Series
a. Advanced A or Third Series
b. Advanced B or Fourth Series
c. Advanced C or Fifth Series
d. Advanced D or Sixth Series
As for the third to sixth series, the level and sequence of these postures are almost all very advanced, that to find a copy of the sequence online is quite difficult. We will leave you here with a link to a very inspiring video by Laruga Glaser, which includes advanced postures from the third series.
We hope this information is useful for you in deciding whether you would like to start a practice in the Ashtanga Yoga method. Some people find the practice to be repetitive and rigid (since the sequences don’t allow for much creative variation) and some people find this kind of practice to be the best way to focus their concentration. Depending on what kind of yoga you would like to pursue, each will always have their own style and everyone will have their own opinion on what is best for them and their bodies. Take your time and keep an open mind to all that is out there. Most important of all, enjoy the journey! 🙂