Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Yoga can heal the body and mind through workouts that re-energize you to deal with life better. It reduces stress and makes a person more flexible helping them to achieve physical strength and spiritual peace. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – or often known simply as Ashtanga Yoga – is a form of yoga that links body movement to breath with progressive movements that follow the breath pattern. It is also sometimes called ‘Power Yoga‘ due to it being slightly more vigorous than some of the other types of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the most popular types of yoga. While most forms of yoga are relaxing and easy to perform, this type of yoga is vigorous and intensive. It is usually performed by athletes and people who want to attain endurance and flexibility.
What is Ashtanga Yoga?
The name Ashtanga is a Chinese word and it refers to eight limbs. This is because Ashtanga yoga focuses on strengthening all of the eight limbs, or steps, of yoga:
- Yama : Morality
- Niyama : Personal observances and self purification
- Asanas : Body posture
- Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara : Control of the senses
- Dharana : Concentration
- Dhyana : Devotion and deep meditation
- Samadhi : Union with the object of meditation
The yoga is best practiced under the moon or in a quiet place so a person can concentrate. It is believed that the moon has direct impact on our bodies and our minds and as such it drives us to rethink our commitment in life.
Is Ashtanga Yoga suited for you?
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is suitable for most people regardless of age and sex. If you are one of those people who love order and independence, then this is likely for you. It can be vigorous and students must be willing to practice its strict poses on a daily basis. The yoga requires its students to have fierce discipline and loyalty.
Those from 15 years to 70 years or even more can practice these asanas without any complications. In fact even pregnant women benefit greatly from these asanas and the birthing process becomes easier. Obese people lose weight and the anxious gain peace of mind when they practice the Vinyasa yoga asanas regularly. However, certain precautions like not practicing yoga on a full stomach or on a very hard floor should be followed. People with cases of hernia can avoid the stretching out to the fullest and make it a bit more relaxed. Consult your doctor for advice if you have a specific health problem.
Ashtanga yoga is also commonly used to increase endurance and strength. This is achieved because of the quick movement required between different poses. Besides watching the pose, students are required to control breathing. This is because the right breathing can produce a calming effect. This in return increases oxygen and blood circulation in the body.
What are the health benefits of Ashtanga yoga?
This form of yoga has two main benefits – internal and external. The first four limbs which are targeted in Ashtanga yoga help you connect with the outside world (external). This in return helps you to get rid of stress, attain flexibility, strength, endurance and coordination. There are some claims that the yoga can help to get rid of digestion problems and joint pain.
There are also internal benefits of Ashtanga yoga which are achieved by exercising the other four limbs. They are meant to help you control anger, envy, sloth, desire, delusion and greed. With time these sins which are commonly referred to as the six spiritual poisons will disappear helping you to attain internal cleansing.
Ashtanga yoga can help alleviate menstrual cramps, backache and fatigue. To perform poses for relieving cramps, lie on a mat with your legs and arms stretched. Next, bend your knees towards the buttocks while holding the ankles. Lift your feet from the mat and also lift your thighs. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and remember to keep breathing while doing these exercises.
Some basic Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga stretches to warm up
Prior to practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, it would be a good idea to work out some asanas, or poses, to loosen the muscles and prepare your body for the major asanas. More focus should be given to the back and the shoulders as these require intense work out in this yoga.
Backbone: It would be a good idea to start on all fours with the hands kept under the shoulders and the knees under hips. Then try to arch your back just like a cat does and then let your pelvic region tilt forward so that your backbone curls down like a cow. Try to practice forward bending too for warming up the back and the legs. While bending forward, reach down and touch the floor with your finger tips while keeping your legs straight.
Shoulder: Roll the shoulders, forwards and backwards. Then bring together the palms and clasp them together. Next raise them above your head as far as they would go. Then clasp the hands behind your back and try to take them upward as much as possible.
Wrists: During the Vinyasa asanas, a lot of pressure is applied on the wrists so they have to be prepared in advance. Rolling the wrists outwards and then inwards helps to loosen them up. Stretch out your arms forward and then rotate the wrists. Then put your arms up and rotate again.
Vinyasa Yoga asana – saluting the sun
The foundation of Vinyasa yoga practice is sun salutation. A sequence of asanas pay homage to the sun. The asana is begun by standing in a straight posture with hands by the sides. Then lift your arms up and then bend forward while sweeping the arms down. During the bent position inhale deep and stretch the spine. Then try and stretch your nose to the shins as much as possible. The next posture is to keep the feet in plank position and the body in one straight line. Then lower the body in the way of a triceps push up, known as chaturanga. Keep the arms straight and assume a cobra pose with the upper torso with curved backbone. The legs are lifted off the floor and you are just balancing on the toes now. Next push your body backward like a dog facing downward. Next step your feet and go to the mat’s front and do another forward bending. With the arms swept above the head, exhale and bring the arms back to your sides. This completes the Vinyasa asana.
As with most exercise, you will require to be patient if you want to see results. Dedication is another thing that is important hence you must be ready to perform these exercises regularly. Be sure to consult your doctor before you begin any exercises so he can advise you whether they are suitable for you. In addition, look for a qualified instructor in your area and if you can’t find one, you can search for online videos or classes.
As you can see, Ashtanga yoga provides a great way to achieve physical strength and mental peace also.