January 28, 2024

The Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

ashtanga yoga

Ashtanga yoga combines vigorous exercise with focused breathing and meditation into a unique form of exercise, demanding students commit to practicing regularly - often 6-7 days a week - for maximum physical and psychological benefits. Not all can do it, though. For those that can, Ashtanga offers immense physical and psychological rewards.

Ashtanga asanas are designed to heat and energize the body while simultaneously purifying internal organs. Movement is coordinated with breath while bandhas (body locks) engage to stabilize core strength and increase strength. Based on Yoga Sutras compiled materials from older yoga traditions into 196 aphorisms that draw on Hinduism for inspiration, the practice offers both physical and spiritual benefits.

An avid practitioner could complete the entire primary series in approximately 90 minutes, which includes asanas accompanied by Ujjayi Pranayama or Victorious Breath and use of Drishti to facilitate mindful, meditative practice.

As they progress with ashtanga practice, students are encouraged to work up through the secondary series that emphasizes backbends and arm balances; advanced series or sthira bhaga is reserved for serious students; prattyahara or "haven of silence," described in Ashtanga's sixth limb practice is known to help reduce heart rate variability as well as improve depression symptoms, self-esteem and interpersonal functioning aspects such as assertiveness.

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