Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is the toughest dynamic type of yoga. This style comprises asanas and vinyasas. Vinyasas are certain repetitive movements that follow asanas. Pranayama (breathing exercises) is also an integral part of the practice. This style includes three main bandhas and nine drishti on which we should focus our attention.
Ashtanga is classical yoga which is not easy for anyone. It helps to make body and spirit strong. However, it will be difficult for beginners to start practicing yoga with ashtanga vinyasa.
In fact, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a subtype of Hatha Yoga. It also adheres to an orientation toward physical development. The teachings of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga appeared in the second half of the twentieth century. Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois has founded this school. He was a student of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya for three decades. After the death of the school’s founder, his daughter and grandson have continued his teaching.
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is a very complex system of difficult physical exercises, as Jois wanted it to be. He insisted that the practice should fully comply with the oldest traditions. Active people who seek to achieve physical perfection will be interested in this type of yoga.
The difference of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
So, as we already mentioned, the special movements (vinyasas) and pranayama follow asanas. Vinyasa allows the yogi to stay focused while he moves from one asana to another. All asanas go together with a certain number of vinyasas. The minimum number of vinyasas for one asana is five, the maximum is eight. Vinyasas help to warm up the body. When performing vinyasas, the blood gets warmer. It eliminates harmful substances and toxins from all organs and itself. In addition, more blood comes to the muscles and joints; therefore, asanas become easier and more comfortable to perform.
In Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga three main body locks (bandhas) are used. They create and hold the inner fire, the energy of the body. These bandhas are: Uddiyana Bandha, Mula Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha. During the practices the yogi uses also drishti. Drishti is a gazing technique. It is useful for being focused while performing asanas. In total, there are nine drishti: on the nose, on the navel, on the palms, on the feet, on the thumbs, on the “third eye”, as well as looking up, looking to the right, looking down. Each drishti follows a particular vinyasa.
This style of yoga includes six levels of difficulty; each level is a sequence of poses. Each following sequence is more difficult than the previous one.
By tradition, the class begins with the singing the mantra. After that students perform warming exercises Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). It is good to keep breathing Ujjayi during the practice.
Beginners perform the exercises slowly; and the teacher gives detailed explanations. The initial sequence consists of ninety poses. Beginners are able to perform only a small part of them, but gradually the number of asanas increases. Those who managed to master one level, move to more difficult ones, and the pace of their performance accelerates.
When a student masters all ninety asanas from the first sequence, he continues to practice them regularly and adds asanas from the next series of exercises. At the end of the class, a headstand Shirshasana is performed as standard.
The main effect of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is purification. “The fire” starts inside the body and removes all harmful substances from the body with abundant perspiration. The nervous system and sense organs return to normal.
If a yogi practices Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for a long time, his body becomes incredibly strong and flexible, and his mind is calm and focused.