Article by Ara Hovsepian
Ashtanga Yoga (or eight-limbed yoga) is a system of yoga made popular in in the middle of the 20th century by K. Pattabhi Jois. This system of yoga emphasizes movement and breath as opposed to static yoga postures. The focus is not on perfect body alignment as is practiced in Hatha yoga, the most common form of yoga practiced in the West. Instead, Ashtanga pays great attention to breath and the transition and journey between each posture.
In Ashtanga, for every movement there is one breath. Each posture may be made up of several breaths and movements that create heat to help the blood circulate freely throughout the body and remove impurities through sweat. There is a predefined number of breathes for every pose. The breathing is a style that maintains a relaxed diaphragmatic style characterized by an ocean-like sound which resonates from the throat. Throughout the practice of Ashtanga, this breathing style is maintained in agreement with the movements that are being performed. Mental focus is maintained through a cycle of inhales and exhales.
Ashtanga Yoga is different from many of the yogas of the West in a number of ways, including the fact that that the order of poses and positions are predetermined and defined. The session is made up of four main parts: an opening, one of the six main series, a back-bending sequence, and a set of inverted postures, which is also called the finishing sequence. At the end the savasana, or resting pose, is performed.
Daily and/or regular practice is highly emphasized in yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally taught in a style of supervised self-practice. Each student moves through the session at his or her own pace and level. An experienced practitioner of Ashtanga might take between one and two hours, depending on their speed and expertise. A beginner, however, will most likely have a much shorter practice, usually ranging from 30 minutes to an hour.
Ashtanga is a much more intense experience than the common Hatha yoga. It is taught by very few teachers and the practice tends to be controlled by the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Ashtanga yoga offers a number of advantages over other forms of yoga. By the fact that it is a much more demanding practice, requiring much more of a persons body and mind. The experience is much more intense and engaging than static poses. The more intense nature of the practice makes more effective for quieting particularly hyperactive minds, reducing stress and teaching active and extroverted personalities to channel their energies toward a more internal experience.
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