Embarking on the Ashtanga Journey: A Guide for Beginners and What to Expect in Class

Embarking on the Ashtanga Journey: A Guide for Beginners and What to Expect in ClassAshtanga Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, is a popular style of yoga that was developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the early 20th century. It is a physically demanding practice that involves synchronizing breath with a progressive series of postures, or asanas.

The word "ashtanga" literally means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, which refers to the eightfold path of yoga as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The eight limbs include yama (moral codes), niyama (self-purification and study), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).

Ashtanga yoga is typically practiced in a structured series of poses, which are designed to increase strength, flexibility, and balance. The primary series, also known as yoga chikitsa, or yoga therapy, is a set sequence of postures that is traditionally practiced six days a week. The secondary series, also known as nadi shodhana, or nerve purification, builds upon the primary series and is typically practiced two days a week.

A List of Ashtanga Poses Found In A Practice 

The Primary Series includes the following postures:

  • Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A and B)
  • Standing poses (Utthita Trikonasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, etc.)
  • Seated poses (Pashimottanasana, Janu Sirsasana, etc.)
  • Backbends (Bhujangasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, etc.)
  • Inversions (Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, etc.)
  • Closing sequence (Padmasana, Utpluthih, etc.)

The Secondary Series includes the following postures:

  • Intermediate Series Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara C and D)
  • Backbends (Ustrasana, Kapotasana, etc.)
  • Inversions (Pincha Mayurasana, Vrschikasana, etc.)
  • Arm Balances (Bakasana, Parsva Bakasana, etc.)
  • Finishing sequence (Supta Padangusthasana, Savasana, etc.)

Getting Started With Ashtanga

If you are interested in trying Ashtanga yoga, it is recommended that you find a qualified teacher who can guide you through the practice. Look for a Mysore-style class or an led class, depending on your preference and experience level.

In a Mysore-style class, you will receive individual attention and guidance from the teacher, which can be helpful for beginners. The teacher will assist you in learning the sequence and making modifications as needed to accommodate your abilities.

In an led class, the teacher will lead the class through the sequence of postures, which can be helpful for beginners who are still learning the sequence.

If you are new to yoga or have limited experience, it may be helpful to start with a beginner-friendly yoga class before diving into Ashtanga. This will help you to become familiar with basic yoga postures and breathing techniques, which will make it easier to transition into an Ashtanga practice.

How To Practice Ashtanga 

Ashtanga yoga is typically practiced in a Mysore-style class, which is a self-led, instructor-assisted class. Students practice at their own pace, with the teacher providing individual adjustments and modifications as needed. The teacher may also introduce new postures and variations as the student progresses in their practice.

It is recommended that students have some experience with yoga before beginning an Ashtanga practice, as it can be physically demanding. However, modifications can be made to accommodate different levels of experience and ability.

When & Why You Should Add Ashtanga To Your Practice

Ashtanga yoga can be practiced at any time of day, but is traditionally practiced early in the morning before breakfast. The practice is designed to create heat in the body and generate internal energy, which can help to improve overall health and well-being.

Ashtanga yoga is a great option for those looking for a challenging, structured yoga practice that emphasizes breath and movement. The practice can help to improve strength, flexibility, and balance, and can also help to reduce stress and improve mental clarity.

Overall, Ashtanga yoga is a powerful and transformative practice that can help to cultivate physical and mental resilience, as well as a deeper connection to oneself and the world around us.

Is Ashtanga Beginner Friendly?

Ashtanga yoga can be challenging for beginners, but it is also a highly accessible practice that can be modified to accommodate different levels of experience and ability. The practice is designed to be progressive, meaning that you will gradually build strength, flexibility, and endurance over time.

In a Mysore-style class, the teacher will provide individual adjustments and modifications as needed to help you find the right variation of each posture for your body. You can also work with the teacher to develop a personalized practice that meets your specific needs and goals.

Overall, Ashtanga yoga can be a highly rewarding practice for beginners who are willing to commit to a regular practice and work with a qualified teacher. With dedication and patience, you can gradually build strength, flexibility, and balance, and experience the many benefits of this powerful and transformative practice.

In conclusion, Ashtanga yoga offers a profound journey of self-discovery and transformation, making it an appealing practice for those seeking physical and mental growth. While it can be challenging, especially for beginners, the rewards of dedication and perseverance are immeasurable.

As you step onto the mat to embark on your Ashtanga journey, remember that progress is not about achieving perfection in every pose, but about embracing the process with patience and compassion. Listen to your body, respect its limitations, and be open to the guidance of a qualified teacher who can support your growth.

Through the dynamic interplay of breath and movement, Ashtanga yoga becomes a moving meditation that calms the mind and strengthens the body. It cultivates resilience, fosters self-awareness, and ultimately brings harmony to the mind, body, and spirit.

So, whether you are new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, consider exploring the world of Ashtanga. Embrace the eight limbs of yoga, surrender to the rhythm of your breath, and dive into the sequence of postures, discovering the transformative power of this ancient practice.

As you progress, you may find yourself experiencing a profound connection with your true essence, uncovering hidden strengths, and gaining a greater sense of inner peace. Allow yourself to be present in each moment, relishing the beauty of the journey, and let Ashtanga yoga become a guiding light on your path to overall well-being and spiritual growth.

Let the essence of Ashtanga infuse your life with a sense of harmony, grace, and vitality. Trust in the process, and as you explore this dynamic practice, may you find that the union of breath, body, and spirit leads you to a place of profound balance and serenity.

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