First, I want to start with talking a about Yoga in general and then specifically about Ashtanga Yoga. This is the style that I practiced in my Yoga Teacher Training and was certified in.
A definition of Yoga from different points of view
According to Patanjali (who wrote the “bible of Yoga” a very long time ago)
- Book: Yoga sutras of Patanjali & Light on Yoga (B.K.S. Iyengar)
Yoga is the consciousness that stops the fluctuation of the mind.
When you have had enough money, success etc., then you are ready to turn in! Now the discipline of Yoga begins. When all your expectations are gone, you do your practice with your whole heart, from a state of no-mind.
Through abhyasa – constant practice – and vairagya – detachment – you can realize you are empty of thoughts and achieve a state of empty consciousness. Then you are ready to reach to the ultimate.
According to Krishna (revolutionized the perception of Yoga in the past)
- Book: Bhagavat Gita
Yoga is the art of staying in the marketplace and still being a meditator.
It could also be explained as the incorporation of yoga in your daily life. Secondly, Krishna changed the perception of yoga from a very serious subject to a happier one by including laughter, dance, music and love.
According to Abhinam Yoga School (the school where I have done my training)
Yoga is fitness for the witness!
The asanas of Ashtanga Vinyasa are the fitness part and aim to prepare the body for meditation. The word witness refers to a passively aware mind which observes and reflects like a mirror. It doesn’t get involved in any drama or emotion but rather just acknowledges them and lets them pass.
What is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is an ancient system of spiritual, physical practice that was taught by a sage called Vamana Rishi. Ashtanga literally means eightfold path or eight limbs (‚astau angani’) of yoga. These eight limbs are the following:
- Yama describes one’s behavior towards others.
- Niyama talks about one’s behavior towards oneself.
- Asana means posture or physical movements with awareness.
- Pranayama is the art of breathing or breath awareness.
- Pratyahara talks about the turning inward or gathering all energy to move into a different dimension.
- Dharana describes the power of concentration, the unwavering attention or centering of the mind.
- Dhyana is reflection or meditation.
- Samadhi is the ultimate state of superconsciousness, where all psychological problems (samadhan) are dissolved.
The asana part of Ashtanga, is the physical practice that most of us are thinking of, when hearing the word Yoga. I enjoy this type of Yoga very much, because it is a faster paced type that combines cardio, strength building and gaining flexibility. I also enjoy the aspect of the combination of breath with movement (called Vinyasa), as there is a high emphasis on the breathing technique called Ujjayi or victorious breath. A lot of other exercise forms are missing this aspect from my point of view. Furthermore, is a set sequence of postures/asanas called the primary series. This makes a lot of sense for me as it is a very good combination – first there are sun salutations, then a standing and then a seated sequence ending with some finishing poses. You always know what to expect, therefore you can focus a lot on improving and getting into a meditative flow.
Some physical and emotional benefits that you will get out of the practice are the following:
The fast pace is supposed to create an inner “fire” that burns away the toxins in your body and gets your whole metabolism going. During the practice, you will find out about hidden energy reservoirs you did not know about before. It is supposed to let you reach beyond your limits and find that second wind of energy you always have available.
Yoga also helps creating an emotional balance which is good for maintaining a holistic health. The effects are more than just physical. Although the first step is often created through a good physical health.
I hope this got you interested in the topic of Yoga and maybe you will join me for a class one day. I would love to practice with you!
Namaste & so much love,