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Ashtanga yoga

This is how Ashtanga Yoga works

The early morning time is generally best for Ashtanga yoga. Immediately after getting up, the body is not distracted with the digestive process. The exercises also lead to a good body feeling and strengthen the nerves. However, if you don't have time in the morning, you can easily do the training in the evening. The advantage of the late training time: the muscles are more flexible in the evening.

Ashtanga Yoga is practiced in a set order. There are a total of six series, each of which has an increasing level of difficulty. Each series consists of a fixed sequence of asanas. Founder Pattabhi Jois compares the principle of Ashtanga Yoga with a garland or a wreath. Just as flowers are drawn up one after the other on a wreath, in Ashtanga Yoga the asanas are lined up according to a certain pattern.

The image of the wreath illustrates the cyclical aspect of Ashtanga Yoga, explains the author. Every single session is a kind of life cycle. It ends with Shavasana, the corpse pose. If you rise from it, it's like a kind of rebirth. Even after a session, you usually feel reborn. Yogis exude toxins, the mind clears and the thoughts calm down.

The first series is called Yoga Chikitsa, which means something like yoga therapy. The focus is on the healing effects of yoga. The second series, the Nadi Sodhana, is about promoting body and mind by harmonizing the nervous system. The third series is called Sthira Bhaga. Its task is to intensify the life energy, the prana. It is divided into a total of four parts. This completes the six rows.

Usually an hour begins with a breathing exercise. It consists of 24 deep inhalations, exhalations or alternating breaths. Often students come to the lesson from a stressful everyday life. The ten minutes of silence allow them to calm down and prepare for the session.

This is followed by the entry mantra. In some cases there are other preparatory exercises to open the hips or flex the toes. After the initial mantra, body work begins with the sun salutations. This is followed by the standing and sitting positions as well as the final sequence. The bodywork concludes with the Ashtanga final mantra, before the session ends with a relaxation exercise lying down.

This is followed by the entry mantra. In some cases there are other preparatory exercises to open the hips or flex the toes. After the initial mantra, body work begins with the sun salutations. This is followed by the standing and sitting positions as well as the final sequence. The bodywork concludes with the Ashtanga final mantra, before the session ends with a relaxation exercise lying down.

The Mysore technique in Ashtanga Yoga

In Ashtanga Yoga, the yogis do not move synchronously. Rather, everyone does the set asana sequence at their own pace. The advantage of this so-called Mysore technique is that everyone can take their time with the asanas that are difficult for them. It is only necessary to know the basic sequence at all. A teacher is there to support the lesson, walks through the ranks, corrects and gives assistance.

Ashtanga Yoga is also occasionally offered as a guided class. In this case, the courses are called Led Class or Talk through. With them the teacher announces all asanas including inhalation and exhalation. The point behind it is to promote the fitness of the practitioner.

The Vinyasa principle in Ashtanga Yoga

In Ashtanga Yoga, all asanas are linked to one another in a precisely defined sequence. The interaction between breathing and movement is precisely defined. The goal of the vinyasas is internal purification. The idea behind it: through the combination of breath and movement, the blood boils. The heat that yoga generates is said to purify the blood and make it more fluid. This allows it to more easily circulate through the body, reach internal organs and connective tissues, and thereby eliminate physical ailments.

Ujjayi breathing in Ashtanga yoga

The breath plays an important role in Ashtanga Yoga. Ujjayi breathing is used throughout the training. Translated it means something like "victorious breathing". It helps to gain dominion over the rib cage.

Ujjayi breathing is always done through the nose. Typical of Ashtanga yoga is the sound that is made when breathing. It is sometimes compared to the "wind rustling in the branches" or to the sound of a cobra. Specifically, it arises from the narrowing of the glottis. This happens when the tongue is rolled back so that the tip hits the roof of the mouth.

Focusing on this tone is an important way to train attention and gain awareness of the moment.

Bandhas in Ashtanga Yoga

In Ashtanga Yoga, breathing is always directly linked to the activation of the so-called bandhas. Literally translated, bandha means something like lock or fetter. The goal of a bandha: By contracting certain muscles, the energy is to be held in the body. This creates a beneficial effect.

The Mula-Bandha plays an elementary role in Ashtanga Yoga. Behind this is the so-called root lock or the root foundation. Specifically, it is about pulling the anal sphincter towards the navel. The pelvic floor and the lower digestive organs experience a strengthening.

The Uddiyana bandha is considered to be the most dynamic bandha. Uddiyana translates as "flying upwards". The focus of this energy management exercise is on controlling the abdomen. This creates an ideal foundation for inhalation.

The Jalandhara bandha is also known as the closure of the throat. It occurs primarily during pranayama (breathing exercise). It prevents pressure in the head from increasing while the breath is being held. It should also prevent energy from leaving the body.

Drishti: the focus of Ashtanga Yoga

Drishti means point of view. The aim is to focus the mind on one point. The attention should be directed away from other objects and more and more inward, in order to prepare for the spiritual levels of the eightfold yoga path. There are a total of nine different points of view:

  • nasagrai (the nose)
  • brumahya (the third eye, which can also be called the inner eye)
  • angushta ma dyai (the thumbs)
  • nabi chakra (the navel)
  • urdhva (to the ceiling)
  • hastagrai (at hand)
  • padhayoragrai (to the toes)
  • parshva (to the right or to the left side)

Tristhana: the unity of posture, breathing and focus

The unity of posture, breathing and focus is called Tristhana. It triggers an energy through which the energy of the five Ayurvedic elements can develop in the body. These are:

  • Earth:It is given by Mula-Bandha and strengthens the stability and down-to-earthness of the body.
  • Water: Through physical exertion, it comes to the body in the form of sweat, where it remains as energy.
  • Air: The interplay of bandhas and ujjayi breathing give the body lightness.
  • Fire: All of the preceding elements stimulate Agni, the digestive heat.
  • Ether: He presents Prana, the life energy that remains as the sum of everything