Ashtanga Yoga – The Meaning of Life

Aug 12, 2014 by

Ashtanga Yoga, practices correctly, leads a person to discover their full potential on all levels. Through breathing, postures and gazing point, you learn to regain complete control over all your senses and to become aware of yourself once again. Regular maintenance results in a steady mind and a steady body.

Ashtanga means eight limbs and, as described by Patanjali, they are:

  • Yama – abstinence
  • Niyama – Observance
  • Asana – Posture
  • Pranayama – Breath Control
  • Pratyahara – Sense Withdrawal
  • Dharana – Concentration
  • Dhyana – Meditation
  • Samadhi – Contemplation

Each one of these supports the others. You must establish Asana for Pranayama to work and this is key to developing proper practice of Yama and Niyama. These are the external limbs and, once properly rooted, the other four internal limbs will evolve.

Vinyasa translates as “breath synchronized movement”.  Breath is the very heart of this and links the asanas in a very precise order. If you can learn to synchronize breath and movement, and practice your Mula and Uddiyana Bandhas, you should experience internal heat. This is what purifies your organs and your muscles, getting rid of toxins and is responsible for minerals and hormones being released.  When you sweat during Yoga you must massage it back in to the body as this enhances the nourishing qualities of the hormones and minerals. B

Three Sequences

Ashtanga Yoga contains three sequences:

  • Primary Series – Yoga Chikitsa –  Detoxification and body alignment
  • Intermediate Series – Nadi Shodhana – Purification of the Nervous system
  • Advanced Series – Sthira Bhaga – Integration of strength and the grace of the entire practice

Each level must be developed before you can proceed to the next one. And asana order must be followed exactly. Each separate posture prepares you for the next on, in turn developing the balance and the strength required to move forward.

Breath

Deep and even breathing are vital to Ashtanga Yoga. Breath is life and the very act is fundamental to the sequence. Exhalation is the act of moving towards God and inhalation s inspiration from God. Our very last act in life is an exhalation – total surrender.

Practice

No effort is equal to no benefit. The three “S’s” of Ashtanga Yoga are Stamina, Strength and Sweat. It is a demanding Yoga and requires dedicated practice in order to tap into the energy that flows through the body.

Mysore Self Practice

Mysore Self practice is the most traditional and effective form of Ashtanga Yoga. It is suitable for all levels, from beginners to the most experienced.

Mysore self-practice has been described as “a private class in a group environment”.  Each person can work to their own pace at the same time as receiving attention and instruction. The teacher will also note and help you make any physical adjustments.

Daily practice is necessary for self-practice to work effectively. It must also be said that, if you wish to learn ashtanga Yoga, you must consult the services of a teacher who has been traditionally trained and is fully qualified.  This is the only way to ensure that you get the guidance you need for safe and steady progress without causing any injury, to either your mind or body.

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Ashtanga Yoga – Good Practice Guide

Aug 10, 2014 by

Ashtanga means, in literal terms, eight limbs. The reference is to the eight different aspects of Yoga that are explained and practiced in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  If you are planning to take up Ashtanga Yoga, you should take note of these tips for good practice:

  • Never practice on a full stomach. Always wait, at the very least, 3-4 hours after you have eaten before practicing any Yoga. You may drink small amounts of water or an herbal tea before but not during or for at least 30 minutes after.
  • Evacuate your bowels and bladder before starting. To help with this, practice the Sun Salutations, inverted and standing poses.  If you have been ill with a cold or the flu, make sure you fast for one day to ensure your body is more flexible.
  • Be clean. Whether you are attending a class or doing Ashtanga at your own home, you should bathe and wear clean clothes for every session.  Have clean mats or rugs. Cleanliness is one of the eight aspects – it brightens your mind and calms you.
  • Be comfortable.  Always wear comfortable stretchy clothing, such as leggings, t-shirts and shorts. These allow for freer movement of the body without any restrictions. No jewelry must be worn and no socks.
  • Be prepared to sweat. A lot.  Instead of wiping the sweat off though, massage it into your body.  Do not drink anything – if you have a dry throat, saliva should be sufficient.
  • Never force yourself.  Try to relax your facial muscles and do not hold on to any frustration or anger – the postures will come easier.  Yoga is about working with the emotions not against them.
  • Be aware of your breathing. This is vital for asana during which Uljayi breathing is used.  Relax and open your throat – every breath should produce a sound. Your breathing must be deep, strong and soft and will help to expand the lumbar area, diaphragm and chest, as well as the back.
  • Learn Drishti.  This is an important part of Ashtanga Yoga and is connected with breathing. Each position has different gazes – end of the nose, belly button, between the eyebrows, etc. It takes years to get the practice to the stage that simply gazing will balance and relax you.
  • Use Mula Bandha during practice.  This is the Root Lock. Also, use the abdominal lock – Uddiyana Bandha. The root lock is contracting the anus, which, in turn contracts the pelvic floor. Abdominal lock is contracting the lower abdomen back to the spine.
  • Vinyasa.  Learning to synchronize breathing and movement is vital. How you enter a posture and leave it is a part of the Yoga and must be smooth and balanced.

At the end of every session, there is a relaxation stage. This is one of the most important parts and must be done. The relaxation stage helps you enter into meditation and helps to stave off headaches, tiredness and irritability.

Ashtanga Yoga should be practiced 6 days a week with one day off. During menstruation, women must rest up for the first three days and must not enter inter inverted postures.

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Practicing Ashtanga Yoga At Home

Aug 12, 2014 by

Practicing Yoga at home is one of the easiest things in the world. You dot need anything in the way of expensive equipment, just yourself and a room.  In today’s busy world, it isn’t always possible to make it to every Yoga class but it is important to keep your practice up.  As Ashtanga Yoga practitioners, we advocate the group environment method but we do understand that isn’t always possible so we have some tips for you to practice Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga at home.

  • Set Sequence.  Sticking with the same poses every day is a very powerful way to be consistent. It helps you to see your progress, see the changes in yourself. There’s no thinking about what to do next, you just move gracefully from one pose to the next.
  • Minimum Practice Time.  You must set a minimum time each day, even if only for 15 or 20 minutes. Anything over and above your set time is a bonus.
  • Sanctify.  Turn a set spot in your home into your practice zone and, once in that zone stay there. Focus only on your Yoga – switch off the phone, the TV, no music, no distractions. Your practice time and zone are sacred.
  • Time.  Always take the time to sit in stillness and silence. Include this a part of your practice time – it will bring about a sense of peace and fulfillment.
  • Invert.  Turn yourself upside down every day, whether it’s a headstand, shoulder stand or Viparita Karani.  It clears your head and your perspective.
  • Classes.  Make sure you do get into a class on a regular basis or a workshop. A great teacher will notice areas that need tuning and it gives you the motivation and the inspiration to continue at home.

Smart Sequencing tips

  • Get in touch with your breathing – try Uijayi Pranayama, either seated or in a child’s pose.
  • Warm up the spine and the backs of your legs very slowly with gentle stretches. Try the rag doll forward fold or gentle lunges.
  • Sun Salutations – These are vital to your sequence – Surya Namaskar A and B.  Make sure you follow the breath and be very precise when you go through the Vinyasa positions – Chaturangas are not to be skimped on.
  • Standing/Balancing Poses – Include Trikonasana or Parsvokonasna in your practice. Pay attention to your hip flexors with the Lizard or Runners Lunge or a low lunge, arching the arms back over the head.
  • Seated Poses – Make sure your practice includes twists, forward folds and hip openers and ensure you treat both sides of your body equally.
  • Focus on your core strength by using long and strong Chaturangas, the Navasana pose, and the side and forearm planks.
  • Backbends – practice when you have warned up properly – try the Camel, Locust, Bridge or Bow pose to build up strength in the spine area and to open your chest. Make sure you stay fully engaged with your Bandhas throughout your backbends and practice to ensure a strong lift at the navel to increase the space in your lower back.
  • After backbends, finish with a forward fold to neutralize the spine.
  • Finish with inversions and any other quiet pose.
  • SavasanaAllow your mind to relax and your body to become receptive to the movement
  • Meditate to finish.
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