Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – a practice that I love! ‚̧

There are many kind of yogasana being practiced all around the globe. I have tried quite a few styles and fell in love with Ashtanga eventually. I felt so connected to the practice compared to other practices available out there. So, why may you ask that I connect more with Ashtanga style? First, I think as many other Ashtangis out there believe, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a great system, a wholistic system that combine the beauty of physical exercise with the spiritual side of our being. Through the practice, we will begin to experience the intimate connections of our physical being to our inner voices and our spirituality. Ashtanga Yoga practice might look challenging at first, but truly it is designed for everyone from the beginner to advanced yogi.

In the next few minutes, reading through this article, you will realize the beauty of this practice even more.

Ashtanga is not like any other typical vinyasa flow classes out there with teacher guiding every next few poses you go into. Ashtanga is a practice with a set of postures that will be the same for each class. The routine of this class is what teaches you to be discipline. The routine is what allows you to enter the meditative state during the practice. Instead of having to focus on the outside of what will be the next pose, you can focus on bringing your attention inward with your breath.

There are a few Series when we practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from the Primary Series, Intermediate Series, and then lastly the 4 stages of Advanced Series.

The Ashtanga Primary Series: Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy.

The basic, the most common practice available to beginners up to advanced level yogis. The Primary Series is a practice that is grounding and supposed to make you feel like coming home to yourself. You can see that most Vinyasa Flows out there consist of asanas deriving from the Primary Series.

For beginner, usually you will begin learning Half Primary and as you build upon the Half Primary, the teacher will add more poses to assist you completing the Full Primary Series. The asanas in Primary Series are so smartly designed to build upon each other as you progress through the practice. You basically need the asana before every next asana to be able to help you flow with ease through the whole series.

This Primary Series is designed to purify and tone the body, as well as to bring the focus to the mind. As you detox during the process, you may begin to notice that you may not like the things that’s in your mind and what you discover about yourself. That’s why the teachers will usually tell you that the Primary Series is probably one of the most basic, easier to learn compared to the next few series, but simultaneously the hardest as well because this is the beginning of discovering your inner truth, your inner journey.

Primary Series.jpg

The Ashtanga Intermediate Series: Nadi Shodhana, The Nerve Purifier

Only when you completed and are fully comfortable with Primary Series that you can proceed to the next series, the Intermediate Series. This series focus more on the cleansing of the nervous system, and cover a lot more backbends and headstand variations. The backbends consist of asanas that will help to preserve the spine and the suppleness of the back. Our nervous system runs through our spine, and the second series helps open the subtle channels so that ‘Prana’ (life-force energy) may flow freely through these channels, thus allowing the detoxification of the nervous system.

The Intermediate Series starts out the same as Primary Series from Surya Namaskar A to the end of standing postures, and ends with the same closing postures. The difference comes in the middle part, which is the sitting sequences for Primary Series, it will be modified in the Intermediate Series.

The gatekeeper to the Intermediate Series is Pasasana (noose pose), a balancing twist that looks easy but extremely challenging pose to get into (TRUST ME, NO JOKE!). Pasasana is an ego check that ensure you to hang your ego before proceeding as it will challenge you to get a reason to practice other than collecting asana trophies. Ultimately, your teacher will be the one that knows best when you are ready to begin the Intermediate Series.

Intermediate Series.png

The Ashtanga Advanced Series: Sthita Bhaga, Centering of Strength

I have yet to even experience this series, but as what I discovered, this Advanced Series is definitely one that needs six-day-a-week practice and be proficient in the Intermediate Series to begin. This series will definitely need the guidance from an authorized teacher. All I can say from what I read, the lesson from the Advanced Series is that we need to go through the burning of our ego & pride to be able to go through this series.

Third Series

Teaching Styles of Ashtanga Tradition

There are 2 styles to receive the teaching of this amazing practice: the led class or the Mysore style class.

The Mysore style is great for the fact that you can learn to follow your own breath and move into meditative state during your own practice. In this practice, you will come in and do your practice at your own pace. The linkage of breath to movement is the core of this practice. This style is best to develop your self-discipline, self-reliability, and self-accountability. The teacher will be around in the class to assist and offer advice or to adjust your alignment.

The led class is great for new beginner to start learning the sequence and having the teacher to help motivate you. This style will get everyone to breath and move together to help you bond with other fellow yogis in the class.

Summary

Ashtanga is a definite choice of my practice because I know it is a life-long practice. It is going to always be something that I can learn from not just on the mat, but also to help me develop myself going through this life. The inner journey of practicing Ashtanga is a big challenge to me even after 2 years of practice. #practiceandalliscoming ūüôā

I have always admired many Ashtangis out there as it is the most basic, traditional form of yoga practice that requires a lot of discipline and determination to carry through. I pray that the impossible will be possible to me one day soon enough. Enjoy this amazing The Impossible video by my favorite teacher, Laruga. ‚̧

 

Advertisements

What Kind of Yoga are you?

before-yoga

One day, you’ve decided to finally start doing yoga, but after Googling classes, you’re confused. What is Ashtanga or Iyengar or Vinyasa or Kundalini or Yin? Why are there such an array of options? Which one will suits my need? These choices themselves might confuse and scare newbies off the mat.

Well, don’t worry! Like cross training, you might want to consider incorporating a variety of yoga into your regular practice to keep you in balance. I always love telling my students, go out and try different teachers, studios or styles. Find out what you like. Even for myself in the beginning, I tried almost all the classes with different teachers in my current studio to familiarize myself which kind of yoga will appeal more to my body. Once you know what style resonates with you more, dwell more time to practice that certain style/s.

Yoga is not necessarily a ‘one-size-fits-all’ practice. A 20-year old and a 70-year old person might need different workout and so are those hyper-mobile and flexible person will need different practice compared to those who are muscular and stiff.

So, when you are spoilt for choices, where do you start? Inhale and exhale, calm yourself, keep your Ujjayi breath, and choose smartly! I am going to share a few styles that I am more familiar with, some I tried before and some I’ve never done before, but I will try to be as informative as I can.

 

Hatha Yoga   urdhvahastasana-unicorn

About: Slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation

Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing

Best For: Beginners. Those wanting to learn the basics of yoga

Vinyasa   vinyasa

About: Emphasizes the sun salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement matches breath. Flow from one pose to the next without stopping. Move with the breath. Emphasis on standing poses, which are often held for long period of time.

Benefits: Helps improve strength, flexibility and abdominal muscle toning. Reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance. Beginners can first try the slower movement classes to get a feel of the flow. This is suitable for people who wants to strengthen their bodies. Intense exercisers might enjoy this style because of the faster pace. Endurance athletes too are drawn to this type for its continuous movement to increase the heart rate just like performing cardio exercises.

Iyengar   warrior-01-unicorn

About: Focuses on body alignment. Props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Each poses are hold for a period of time.

Benefits:¬†Bring the body into alignment. Helps improve balance. Speeds up recovery from injury (with doctor’s advise of course). Builds up body strength.

Best For: Beginners. Those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions such as arthritis. Detail-oriented yogi will enjoy this style because the class teaches precisely about anatomy, movement, and form.

Ashtanga   twisted-unicorn

About: Considered as a form of power yoga. Fast-paced and intense with lots of lunges and push-ups. This a form of yoga that is challenging yet orderly in its approach. Consisting of 6-series specifically sequenced yoga poses, you will flow and breath through each pose to create internal heat. The same poses will be perform in the exact same order in each class. Most modern studios will have teachers calling out the poses while if you go to Mysore style, it will be an unguided class.

Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss.

Best For:¬†Beginners, Intermediate, Advance.¬†Various level of experiences suited for fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina. Type-A folks will love this style. Perfectionists will love Ashtanga’s routine and strict guidelines.

Bikram/Hot Yoga   uncorntee_teaser

About: Also known as Hot Yoga at times, practiced in a 95-100 degree F room. For Bikram specific yoga studio, every class follows the same sequence of 26 poses. It is usually a 90-minute  sequence. The practice can be strenuous as it is under pretty hot room so hydrate before and after.

Benefits: Speeds up recovery from injury, enhances flexibility cleanses the body.

Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance.Best for amateurs who are newer to yoga because of its predictable sequence. Also will be loved by sweat lovers who really look for a tough workout that will leave them drenched.

Kundalini    chair-pose-unicorn

About:¬†It is pretty different from typical yoga class as it is physically and mentally challenging. There’ll be kriyas (cleansing), repetitive physical exercises, coupled with intense breath work – while also chanting, singing and meditating. The goal is to break through the internal barriers to releasing the untapped energy residing within you and bringing you to a higher level of self-awareness.

Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, elevating spiritual experiences and mindfullness, improves breathing.

Best For: Intermediate, Advance. For someone who will be looking for a more spiritual practice. Those who are seeking something more than just a workout session.

Yin/Restorative Yoga    childs-pose

About:¬†Healing the mind and body through simple poses held for up to several¬†minutes. Uses props such as bolsters, pillows, and straps. This is a meditative practice designed to target the deeper connective tissues and fascia, restoring length and elasticity. Props are used to release into the posture instead of actively flexing or engaging the muscles. Like meditation, it may take most people a few classes to be able to release into the poses easily without feeling antsy and realize the practice’s restorative powers.

Benefits: Help with ailments such as stress, chronic pain, migraines, and insomnia.

Best For: Intermediate, Advance. Those seeking relaxation and flexibility. Not very suitable for people who are super flexible (might overdo some poses) or anyone who has connective tissue disorder. It may be pretty challenging for beginners but it will be a good practice for anyone who has a hard time slowing down, experiencing insomnia or people with anxiety. Also great for athletes who are on recovery mode.

Aerial Yoga    aerial-unic

About: Yoga postures and movements performed while suspended off the ground by a hammock-like piece of cloth.

Benefits: Increase flexibility by relieving compression, which releases tension, straighten the shoulders, and elongate the spine

Best For: Beginners, Intermediate, Advance. Very good for someone who is looking to increase flexibility and experience being upside down.

I personally am an Ashtanga and Vinyasa practitioner more than other style. I love doing Yin Yoga, but it’s not easy to look for a real good Yin teacher around my area in Singapore. So, I do it only when I feel my body really needs Yin practice more than the Yang. In terms of teaching, I do teach Ashtanga, Hatha, and Vinyasa. I’ve tried other styles like Bikram/Hot Yoga before, but not really something I resonate with myself. I’ve never tried Iyengar and Kundalini though, so I can’t comment much on those 2 styles. As for Aerial Yoga, I tried it couple times, but I guess it wasn’t really my style too. However, it will definitely be good for someone who would love to increase their flexibility, test their strength and experience being upside down. Besides, being in a hammock-like piece of cloth feel kinda fun too.

My daily practices alternate between Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga. I love the internal heat created within my body to help me sweat. I always feel so good to sweat and stretch especially in the morning. My practice usually will start with a 10 minutes meditation and that will help me clear up the mind before going into my asana practice.

For all those who is looking for any yoga style to practice with, go and experience those you have available within your areas. Pick and choose which styles you like most and practice them regularly to get all the amazing benefits yoga could offer you.

“Truth is ONE. Paths are many.”

one-truth-many-paths