Ashtanga Yoga: Differences, Benefits, Teaching Methods
What Is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, is a yoga style which was developed by the sage Patanjali and was made famous by K. Pattabhi Jois. The name “Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga” is derived from the eight limbs of yoga which is cited in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Power Yoga and Vinyasa yoga are derivatives of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
The term Vinyasa means synchronization of breath and movement, which turns static postures into dynamic movement. The duration of one inhale or exhale decides the amount of time needed in changing between asanas. The postures or asanas in Ashtanga Yoga are held for a number of breaths which are defined previously. Unlike in Hatha yoga where the focus is on achieving the perfect body alignment, in Ashtanga Yoga, the main focus is on the breath and the changes between the asanas.
Vinyasa also signifies the specific sequence of movements which are often done between each posture/asana. This Vinyasa 'flow' is a deviation of Surya namaskar (Sun Salutation) and can be seen in other yoga styles also.
Ujjayi is the breathing style used in Ashtanga Yoga, which is actually a relaxed style of breathing done using the diaphragm. The feature of this type of breathing is a sound which reverberates in the throat. This specific style of breathing is maintained during the entire Ashtanga yoga in harmony with the movements. The regular sequence of inhaling and exhaling makes you calm and gives you a focal point. Other than this, the combination of Ujjayi and Vinyasa generates internal heat resulting in enhanced sweating and circulation, which in turn detoxifies the body.
Another important belief of Ashtanga Yoga is muscle contraction/locking known as bandha. This allows you to concentrate your energy in your body and is associated with breathing. There are many types of bandhas in Ashtanga Yoga.
How Does Ashtanga Yoga Differ From Other Yoga Styles?
The difference between Ashtanga Yoga and other types of yoga is the predefinition of the order of asanas. Each session ends with a savasana (corpse pose).
A single session comprises of 4 primary parts which are:
- Opening sequence.
- One part of the 6 primary series.
- Back-bending sequence.
- A series of inverted asanas which is also known as "finishing sequence."
What Are The Benefits Of Ashtanga Yoga?
Other yoga styles benefit you by improving your body’s flexibility and invigorating your mind; Ashtanga yoga does all this and more. It focuses on increasing your physical endurance and stamina through muscle training. Ashtanga yoga not only gives you a calm and relaxed mind, but also gives you a strong and well toned body. As a matter of fact, Ashtanga yoga is practiced all over the world as a means of losing and managing weight along with building your core strength.
Ashtanga yoga other than increasing your overall flexibility also increases your stamina and helps in building the strength of your muscles without making you look bulky. This is not done in other styles of yoga. This makes Ashtanga yoga an ideal way to tone, strengthen and achieve a lean appearance. Therefore, it is considered as a complete fitness program because it not only increases your strength and flexibility, but also disciplines and calms your mind and soul.
Teaching Methods In Ashtanga Yoga:
The two teaching techniques in Ashtanga Yoga are:
This method is famous all over the world and is a great way to get initiated to Ashtanga yoga.
This is the traditional teaching technique which was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from Mysore, India. This method imparts you the technique of developing Yoga Practice which is independent. In Mysore Style, you are taught about one posture at a given time and after you have become proficient in that particular posture/ asana in terms of the required strength and flexibility of mind and body; then only you are promoted further into the next posture or asana. The student- teacher relationship in the Mysore style is the heart of true Yoga teachings and Yoga traditions.