Ashtanga yoga was created by K. Pattabhi Jois, and it means "eight-branch yoga" in Sanskrit. It is a very dynamic and demanding practice that synchronizes the breath with a progressive set of postures. The goal of the practice is to produce intense internal heat that helps to detoxify and purify the body. The series of postures are generally guided by a teacher and help to strengthen the sheathing and tone the muscles. The physical practice (asana) is only a part of the eight-branch Ashtanga practice. It also includes moral and ethical principles, breathing work, sensation control, meditation and concentration. However, it is felt that it is necessary to start with the physical practice before moving on to the more advanced aspects of the practice.

Once students have memorized the Sun Salutation Series A and B, as well as the traditional standing postures, they can move on to the Mysore format, which is a stand-alone Ashtanga practice with a yoga teacher present to make corrections.

Regular practice can bring many physical and mental benefits!
physical benefits ashtanga

On a physical level:

  • Increases sheathing and strengthens the body
  • Improves stability
  • Flexibility aid
  • Weight loss
  • Detoxifies and purifies the body

On a mental level:

  • Helps reduce stress
  • Increases the feeling of calm
  • Improves mental focus

How your first class will go:
Classes usually begin and end with a traditional song in Sanskrit. You will begin with several Sun Salutations before performing the primary series of postures, which takes about 60-90 minutes. Students will not be able to move on to intermediate practice until they have fully developed and refined their primary series. The teacher can try to "help" you to deepen a posture or assist you with your technique. If you do not want any help, be sure to let him/her know before class; some centres offer "no help" pads that you can place in front of your mat. It is possible that you may not be able to achieve certain postures, and that's okay! Everyone develops their Ashtanga practice at their own pace, try to remain humble and be kind to yourself. Finally, classes can warm you up even if they won't be as hot as Hot Yoga, or Bikram. Be sure to drink plenty of water before class to keep you hydrated and expect to sweat!

What you need to practice:
A mat: Choose a non-slip mat and a towel to absorb your perspiration.

Leggings or shorts: Leggings may be preferable to absorb your perspiration and help you slip out of a posture when your legs are glued to your arms.

Tops: Choose a comfortable, breathable and tight-fitting top so that it doesn't get in the way during your practice.

Equipment: Bricks and straps can help you adopt certain postures if you are not yet fully developed.

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