Derived from traditional Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga is one of the central types of yoga today.
Fast sequences of movements that are physically very demanding: That is what Ashtanga Yoga is all about. Sweat that happily runs its lengths and strong muscles are guaranteed here in any case.
What is Ashtanga Yoga?
In Ashtanga Yoga, the asanas, as the exercises or poses are called in yoga, are performed as connected flows.
This means that the individual exercises are connected by flowing transitions, as is known, for example, from the “sun salutation”. The positions are changed quickly, the breath synchronized with the movement.
Ashtanga Yoga is an advanced form of Hatha Yoga. The asanas that are common there are powerfully connected to flows and practiced stringently again and again during the lesson.
The special thing about it: Everyone does the sequences given by the teacher at their own pace and breathing rhythm.
In Ashtanga Yoga there are six predetermined series of exercises from which the teacher can choose one in each lesson. This is also the fundamental difference to Vinyasa Yoga, in which the teacher puts together the asanas freely.
Ashtanga was developed and shaped by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in the South Indian Mysore style.
That is why Ashtanga Yoga is often taught in the “Mysore style”. Today, Ashtanga is used by many as a form of meditation through movement and is the ancestral form of all dynamic yoga styles.
Benefits and Effects of Ashtanga Yoga
By synchronizing breath and movement, the strength, balance and ability to concentrate of the yogi or yogini are trained.
Due to the high dynamics, endurance, strength and mobility are also improved – Ashtanga is a real all-rounder!
Insiders say that through the intense body experience and recurring routine, practitioners also learn how to find inner peace and let go. Nice side effect too, right?
Who is Ashtanga suitable for?
Although Ashtanga Yoga can be very strenuous and sweaty, it is suitable for both beginners and advanced yoga practitioners.
Because: The yoga teacher specifies a concrete sequence of asanas as a flow, but in the hour every yoga fan practices for himself: at his or her pace, at the right intensity, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, depending on the day’s condition.
This “Mysore style” makes it possible for beginners and advanced students to practice in a group. However, you should definitely bring a basic level of fitness with you. It also helps if you already know the advanced exercises.
What level of practice is required for Ashtanga Yoga?
Anyone who wants to keep up the demanding asanas and fast flows straight away, synchronize their breath and maintain balance and concentration needs yoga experience.
However, no master has fallen from the sky and a little patience is always worthwhile in yoga: In yoga practice you can constantly improve.
So Ashtanga is not for impatient sports muffles who otherwise value relaxation, meditation and chanting. Anyone who has already tried Hatha Yoga and feels like challenging yoga that moves the whole body, Ashtanga Yoga is definitely the right thing for you.
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If Ashtanga Yoga is too much for you, Hatha Yoga or Vinyasa Yoga are better suited – the asanas are very similar, but are not changed so quickly.
The difference is that they are usually not taught in flows, but rather are carried out statically individually. This allows you to take breaks to take a deep breath.
Vinyasa Yoga is a little freer and less strict. It has the advantage of being dynamic just like Ashtanga and the breathing is synchronized.
Here the teacher can also compile the exercise series himself and is not bound to a fixed exercise sequence.
This is the sequence of an Ashtanga yoga class
Ashtanga Yoga is great if you really want to burn off some energy during yoga:
- The class starts with a relaxed chanting of a mantra.
- This is followed by the warm-up with five sun salutations each (A and B).
- Then it starts with a given series of exercises. Each student practices the sequence at their own pace and according to their ability. Meanwhile, the teacher walks through the rows and gives tips or comments on posture. So everyone can improve their flows a little bit.
- In order to calm the circulation and lower the heart rate, the strenuous flows are followed by a so-called “finishing sequence” in which the yoga practitioner assumes various static positions, such as a headstand or lotus position.
- The yogi or yogini then lies down in the “corpse position”, i.e. very calmly on their back, in order to practice “shavasana”, i.e. pure relaxation.
- At the end of this deep relaxation, a mantra is chanted again and the students are released.
Which Ashtanga exercises are characteristic?
Each Ashtanga class teaches one of six flows that have existed since the yoga style was created.
The start is always warmed up with sun salutations. The following flows typically include the following asanas:
What do you need for an Ashtanga yoga class?
As already mentioned, Ashtanga Yoga involves sweating a lot – and that’s a good thing! In yoga practice, however, you should be prepared with the right equipment.
In other words: a non-slip yoga mat, a yoga or mat towel and a small towel are recommended. It is also advisable to choose a rather airy outfit made of moisture-wicking functional materials.
You should avoid socks so that you can get a better grip on the mat (here our yoga mat test).