So, what exactly is Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga?

Yes, that was the question that was really puzzling before signing up for 200hr Teacher Training Certification Course. I believe most of you think likewise.
First, let’s dive into the definition of the word “Ashtanga Vinyasa”. In Sanskrit language, “Ashta” means eight and “anga” means limbed. In short, it is named under the eight-limbs of yoga mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, codified and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois. The eight limbs, namely YAMA, NIYAMA, ASANA, PRANAYAMA, PRATYAHARA, DHARANA, DHYANA and SAMADHI, are interconnected to each other and equally as important. Yoga practitioners also practice the study of Mantras, traditionally to give thanks and respect to Patanjali. Many would think, “wow, she is so flexible, she could do a Bakasana, wow she could do a Sirsasana”. In actual fact, it is way more than that.
The focus of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is not the final pose, rather, the importance lies in the dynamic flow that allows movement from one static pose to another. That flow, is the essence. Vinyasa, simply refers to the method of aligning movement and breath, completing the journey with a strong asana at the end before moving on to another. It may also refer to a specific set of movements that are done between each asana, or a switch between the left and the right sides.
Breathing, greatly affects the flow during the transitions between asanas. Ideally, it is recommended to have slow and steady breaths, depending on individuals, the length of inhalation should equate to the length of exhalation. There are many kinds of Pranayamas (breathing techniques), namely Ujjayi, Anuloma Viloma, Nadi Shoddhana, Bastrika, Sheekari, Sheetali and many more. Most commonly, free breathing with sound, Ujjayi, is recommended to be used when holding positions. When the breathing is steady, your mind and body will follow, enabling you to stay focused in that asana for a long time.
Another important thing to note is the Bandhas locks, that brings energy focus to the body and is closely tied to the breath. There are three Bandhas, commonly prescribed in different asanas, namely, Mula Bandha (root lock), Udiyana Bandha (navel to spine, contraction of the muscles of lower abdominal area) and the throat lock, Jalandhara Bandha. By locking and contracting a certain group of muscles, yoga practitioners are able to retain an asana as well as having the ease of moving in and out of them.
With regulated breathing and proper Bhanda locks applied, practitioners will also slowly need to develop a means of concentrated intention, the Drishti (focused gaze). This helps them to stay centered and hold their pose elegantly and steady for a long period of time. In total, there are 9 Drishtis;
1) Between the eyebrows/third eye
2) Right Thumb
3) Left Thumb
4) Right Big Toe
5) Left Big Toe
6) Corner of Right eye
7) Corner of Left eye
8) Navel
9) Nosetip
On a final note, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga requires lots of self discipline and is both physically and mind-challenging. Practitioners have to condition their bodies as well as prepare themselves with strength, flexibility and stamina. I am intrigued by the history as well as the teachings.
Please refrain from practicing yoga when you are not feeling well, sufficient rest is essential for your body. Rest well, eat well and get back on the practice when you have recovered.
Do remember, safety comes first, always!
“Yoga is like music, the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul, create the symphony of life.” ~ B.K.S Iyengar
‘Posh (200YTTC/HathaAshtanga/weekday/Nov14)

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