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YOGAaccessories Blog

All Things Yoga Blog

 

What Makes Ashtanga Yoga Different?

10/7/2013

Recently I've been attending classes at a strictly Ashtanga-style studio. Ashtanga is a school of yoga, and the first few classes, I didn't notice much of a difference between Ashtanga and typical “vinyasa flow". Honestly, I thought Ashtanga was just the name of the studio. Then I started to notice the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences…

Vinyasa, joins the breath and movement together. Breath is very important and should be concentrated on more fiercely than asana positioning. Swift movement produces sweat. Sweating rejuvenates the skin and releases toxins. Ujjayi breath is utilized which, when performed with asanas, creates internal heat which purifies all humors of the body. Ashtanga vinyasa differs from most other types of vinyasa in that it is a predetermined set of asanas, rather than improvised.

Mysore, named after the Indian city in which it originated, is a marked characteristic of Ashtanga. Daily practice of Ashtanga yoga is encouraged. As a result, Mysore practice was developed. Mysore is a style in which practitioners flow with supervision, but with limited instruction, so yogis can practice at the pace of their own breath and needs. Postures are given one-by-one by the teacher, and the poses are sequential - to be followed at the practitioner's own pace. Teachers help with adjustments. Classes are typically almost silent. Less experienced Ashtanga practitioners may only practice Mysore for 20-30 minutes, while advanced practitioners practice for around 2 hours.

Emphasis on Tristhana: posture (body), breath (nervous system), and drishti (mind). Drishti concerns the fifth limb of yoga: Pratyahara. It essentially means a draining of the mind which comes through meditation or concentrating very hard. Drishti is a focused gaze, or gazing point, and is a way of withdrawing other senses by narrowing or concentrating the gaze onto sight, staring intently on one spot or non-moving object.

Body locks ('bandha') are also emphasized. This is the joining of limbs in postures. This helps facilitate Ujjayi breathing and helps gain control over your own mind. After all, yoga literally means 'yoke' or 'to join', and by binding and joining the body, maximum benefit can be expected by joining as much of the body at once as safely possible.

Mantras are further incorporated into the beginning and/or end of a class as opposed to other schools of yoga. They are written and repeated in Sanskrit. Of course, followed by an Aum. Don't worry, Savasana is customary in every type of Ashtanga.

By: Jessica Adams (G+)

 

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Comments
Melissa Date 10/24/2013
this is not correct: Bandha: "This is the joining of limbs in postures" The main thing about Ashtanga that is totally overlooked in this article is 1) it was created by the late Sri Pattabhi Jois in Mysore and then his students brought it to the West and 2) It is a specific sequence to be mastered one series at a time. Beginners start with Primary Series and are not allowed to move on until it has been mastered, then they can learn Second Series, etc. Yous should fact check your articles with an expert or research well if you are going to use yoga terms to educate people. Thank you Melissa
Nonny Date 10/24/2013
Melissa, my Ashtanga teachers allow anyone to attend level 2 and Vinyasa 2 classes without "leveling up". Attendees might not be prepared for the class, and might feel out of place, but it is not their place to stop anyone from practicing yoga. Your Ashtanga studio might be different. Since when has yoga had so many rules? Thanks.
Danielle Godfrey Date 10/24/2013
As far as I know, I have never met a yoga police in all my 15 years of practicing!
Puramaya Date 10/24/2013
Kudos to YA for helping us understand the many varieties and flavors of yoga available since Vivekananda's first visit to the US in 1893. Namaste, OM shanti.
jennifer Date 10/25/2013
Melissa is correct. Whether or not your teacher allows newbies to join level 2 is her own doing. SHRI SHRI Pattabhi Jois instructions were clear. It.is hard to.describe Yoga styles sometimes, I'm not aware of.rules per.se but guide lines are defiantly laid down to reach those 8 limbs in this life time. Namaste
jennifer Date 10/25/2013
Melissa is correct. Whether or not your teacher allows newbies to join level 2 is her own doing. SHRI SHRI Pattabhi Jois instructions were clear. It.is hard to.describe Yoga styles sometimes, I'm not aware of.rules per.se but guide lines are defiantly laid down to reach those 8 limbs in this life time. Namaste
joann Date 10/26/2013
It is good to have this discussion. My experience has been that it is a good idea to have built a foundation, strength, flexibility in ones body before going full on with many postures, especially inversions. Just because you can get in a pose doesn't mean you should. I've had a few injuries, one of which took three months to recover from pushing my body before it was ready, or the foundation was in place. No police just common sense and a wise & compassionate instructor.
Brunosonio Date 11/21/2013
There are two schools of thought in US Ashtanga practice. The more traditional teachers will allow you to only go as far as you can master in the Primary Series before sending you home for the day. In their eyes if you cannot get past a certain asana without doing it correctly then your body is not ready for the next posture in the series. The more lenient teachers will give you 3 or 4 modifications for each pose so that you can actually get thru the entire Primary Series in one class. They will also allow you to do the Secondary Series if you wish to experience the backbends inherent in that sequence. There are pros and cons to both approaches in terms of physical safety. A great teacher and good self awareness are most important either way.
 
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