What is Ashtanga Yoga?


Photo: Mere Koert

Photo: Mere Koert

Ashtanga yoga is a traditional series of postures performed in the same order every time. It’s incredibly structured and, after just one class, you’ll know exactly what to expect. The predictability allows some studios to offer classes where students move through the Ashtanga series without guidance.

The majority of poses you work through in a traditional Vinyasa class are the same ones you’ll find in an Ashtanga class. However, in Vinyasa our teachers have the creative liberty to build unique sequences each time. They can vary their sequences to match the class composition and desire for that day. As students move through a Vinyasa class, they warm up, often work toward a peak pose, then slow down with stretching and an opportunity to recover.

Ashtanga Asana Series

There are five Ashtanga asana series, and students must master each pose of the first series before moving onto the second.

The first one—the Primary Series—begins with ten sun salutations, moves into a series of standing poses, and finishes with a set of inversions and seated poses.

The Intermediate Series focuses on backbend asanas designed to encourage and maintain the suppleness of the spine by focusing on your nervous system.

Finally, there are four Advanced Series that are only reached once a yogi has mastered the primary and intermediate sequences.There are 35 difficult asanas to learn, practice and master with Vinyasa in between, and it can only be mastered completely with the assistance of an experienced teacher.

Benefits of Ashtanga

Ashtanga brings all the benefits of Vinyasa yoga practice, including strength, flexibility, stress management, and inner peace. In the traditional practice, Ashtangis are expected to practice about six days per week.

Your entire body will work hard in this practice. Yet, it’s completely open to beginners and there’s no need to research or memorize the sequence ahead of time. Ashtanga instructors guide practitioners through each and every pose, with the eventual goal being that you can move through at your own pace.

It involves syncing your breath with a progressive series of postures, resulting in improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.

As with Vinyasa styles, the essence of yoga is that through the practice of postures, breathing, and focal points, you can gain a direct experience of your inner self. While it might sound boring to perform the same postures over and over again in Ashtanga yoga, this repetition is what helps you tap into your inner being.

It brings me great joy to draw upon the incredible talent of our instructors to bring varying styles of yoga to our community. Join Elaina on August 4 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. for a short form version of Ashtanga’s Primary Series and a portion of the Finishing Series.

Space is limited, so sign up today!