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Ashtanga Adventure – The Eight-Limbed Expedition

woman in advanced side plank ashtanga

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Ashtanga yoga is one of the most famous types of yoga practice in the world. Following ancient yoga tradition, Ashtanga connects mind, body and soul. If you practice yoga, you’ve almost definitely heard of Ashtanga. It’s one of the most established types of yoga, rooted in repetition and breathwork. It consists of set series of poses, each new sequence harder than the one before. It takes patience and hard work, but it’s worth it for the benefits that it brings. Ashtanga yoga aims to connect breath and movement in an easy, flowing manner. The poses are connected in a set sequence, split into three series.: primary, intermediate, and advanced. You can only continue to the next series once you’ve mastered the one before. And don’t let the name fool you. The primary series is very challenging and not suitable for beginner yogis. Repeating the same sequence is a great way to see your progress. Of course, it means that Ashtanga practitioners have to put emphasis on daily routine. The practice requires focus and dedication. Instructors will usually ask those practicing to try to remember the movements, giving them time for free flow, in order to make their way through them at their own pace and in sync with their breath. The poses are linked with a Vinyasa sequence:
    • Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
    • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
    • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
When practicing Ashtanga, it’s also important to master focusing your gaze on a single point while holding poses. This concept is known as drishti.

History of Ashtanga Yoga

In Sanskrit, the word Ashtanga comes from ashta (“eight”) and anga (“limb”). The name of this practice is a reference to the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the very foundation of yoga philosophy. The repetition and rigorous effort help Ashtanga practitioners achieve the ultimate goal of enlightenment. In Ashtanga, postures go along with ethical and moral guidelines one must follow on the path to a more meaningful, purposeful life. In the 1930s, a former student of the famous K. Pattabhi Jois used his personal practice as a blueprint to create what is now known as Ashtanga. The initial practice involved a series of poses performed with a significant emphasis on the breath. It had no need for atmospheric influences, like music and lighting. In fact, it demanded the opposite, encouraging yogis to dive deep within their minds, to remain completely present in the moment.

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

If you want to perfect your Ashtanga sequence, you have to practice it regularly. Some yogis go as far as practicing their current series every day. The repetition allows you to get better at asanas and transitions. It also makes it easy to track your progress. Ashtanga features many powerful poses that require the use of several muscle groups at once. It makes your body strong, flexible, and durable. Holding challenging poses while breathing deeply improves blood circulation to your limbs, vital organs, and brain.  As well as training your body, it trains your mind to let go of mental tension and find peace. As you practice, you automatically de-clutter your mind, leaving room for more positive and inventive thinking. There is a reason why Ashtanga is one of the most famous styles of yoga. 

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