Astanga yoga is a dynamic form of yoga which follows a set sequence of postures ‘asanas.’ Movement is combined with the breath generating heat and stilling the mind to bring focus, flexibility and stamina. There are great benefits to be achieved from this practice and with perseverance one can achieve changes both physically and emotionally. Physically the primary series realigns the muscular skeletal system working as a yoga therapy. Astanga develops strength and flexibility of the muscles and joints. The health and efficiency of internal organs will improve as we detoxify the system, increase lung capacity, regulate the hormones and strengthen the nervous system.
As students progress more deeply into the practice the body will become healthy toned and flexible. The practice requires focus, and in time the body learns to flow in a rhythm with the breath to a ‘moving meditation’ which stills the mind and improves our ability to concentrate. A quiet sense of achievement and confidence is attained on the mat which can filter into our everyday lives.
There are six series of astanga yoga. The primary series takes on average seven years to master. Everyone’s bodies are different; we all work with different strengths and weaknesses. Yoga is a personal journey and a lifetime practice. We must enjoy each and every practice and do so with consideration of tomorrows practice. There are forty postures ‘asanas’ in the primary series which are linked together with the vinyasa to create the flow. Vinyasa is what distinguishes astanga from other forms of yoga. It is a unique system of breath and movement to form a continuous flow. Each posture has to be followed in order as it prepares us for what is to come. Movement through the sequence of asanas generates a heat which is maintained through the vinyasa.
The practice is divided into four sections:
1. Beginning with sun salutations Surya Namuskara A and Surya Namuskara B. Here we warm up the body, stretch and strengthen the arms and legs, hands, feet, wrists and ankles. The spine and hips, chest shoulders and quadriceps are all prepared for the practice.
2. The standing sequence develops awareness alignment and balance. The internal organs are stimulated and the work of the practice begins.
3. The seated sequence begins the ‘primary series’. The internal organs are purified and cleansed and the muscular skeletal system is toned and realigned.
4. The finishing sequence includes backbends and inverted postures which revitalize the system, reactivate a sluggish circulation and help concentration and sleep. The whole sequence ends with Savasana where we lay still on the mat allowing the body and breath to settle after the intense work of the practice. It is important to give the body time to heal and the mind the time to process what has been learned with each practice.
Astanga vinyasa yoga was learned from the great teacher Tirumalia Krishnamacharya. Patthabi Jois began his study in the 1930’s with Krishnamacharya at the age of 12. He founded the Astanga Yoga Resarch Institute in Mysore, India and continued to teach into his 90’s until his death in 2009. We are grateful for his teaching and for the gift of astanga yoga.
“99% Practice and 1% Theory”
The word Astanga translates as ‘eight limbs’ which are a basis of many forms of yoga, an ancient art practiced for over five thousand years. The eight limbs are derived from the yoga sutras which describe how yoga can overcome the afflictions of the mind to attain a state of detachment and ultimate enlightenment. The ultimate purpose of yoga is to have the ability to sit in ’lotus’ with a still mind. Samadhi is complete spiritual absorption, self realisation
we offer two methods towards learning the astanga practice:
1. A guided class. in a guided class you receive guidance and instruction throughout the class. You are supported throughout with gentle adjustments and a watchful eye to ensure correct alignment, improved posture, greater flexibility, focus and strength.
2. A Mysore ‘self practise’ class. We recommend a course of guided classes first to familiarise yourself with at least the standing sequence. A Mysore class gives you the opportunity to work at your own pace and receive one to one assistance from the teacher. This practice allows you to progress at your own pace liberating you from the need for constant instruction and guidance. This shift quietens the mind and allows deeper more profound changes to arise as you tune into your own needs offering a refuge of quiet introspection.
“Practice and all is coming” Patthabhi Jois.(1915-2009)