Ashtanga yoga: go with the flow
Ever feel like life is going at a speed where you need to make an appointment to catch your own breath? We are a busy society with access to technology that allows us to do everything from start our cars with the click of a button, enter our homes with the swipe of our finger, even be able to “check” to see if our kids have done their homework with our cell phones! Whatever happened to “going with the flow?” If your life has been on fast forward, Ashtanga Yoga gives you the opportunity to take a moment, breathe, and “go with the flow of life,” literally!
The Ashtanga method of yoga is one which allows the mind and body to slow down and strengthen all areas of the body using breathing techniques and flow practice to build strength, flexibility, and stamina. If you’re having visions of twisting yourself into a pretzel, or, even more worrisome, that you’ll be permanently ‘fixed” into a pretzel position and have to call the paramedics because either a. you’re hyperventilating (the exact opposite of what yoga promotes!) or b. your “yin” is in conflict with your “yang”, just relax and say “om.” There are six different series through which a student can progress at his or her own pace. Just make certain to look for a studio that teaches classes that are suitable to your goals, and where you feel most physically comfortable starting the practice.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the most popular forms of yoga taught today. It is a vigorous, athletic style of practice and appeals to those who like a sense of order and who like to do things independently. Most studios and instructors offer beginner courses in Ashtanga as well as all practices of yoga, and also typically offer a refresher course for those who may have taken a class at some point in time but need to refresh the mind as well as the body.
Ashtanga yoga is a series of poses, with each building off of one another to create a more challenging experience when the student is ready. The first or primary series, called Yoga Mala, is focused on spine realignment, detoxification of the body and building strength, stamina and flexibility. The series always begins with sun salutations, then progresses to standing poses, then seated poses, inversions and backbends, and completes with relaxation and meditation.
Remember, working at your own pace is a must. There is no competition in yoga, only self-awareness and self-discovery. If you make the commitment and follow through, you’ll be surprised how much your mind can coach your body into doing things you thought you never could.
The second or intermediate series, called Nadi Shodana, means “purification of the nervous system” and follows the same format as the beginner series, only with more challenging poses and variations. It is introduced only when the primary series is strong. The final four advanced series are called Sthira Bhaga, which means divine stability. These series emphasize difficult arm balances and are only appropriate for extremely advanced students.
Each class takes about an hour and a half to two hours to complete (and yes, you DO deserve the time. Your kids will survive, the cell phone won’t self destruct and your work will still be there afterward, only you’ll feel more energized to do it!). Ashtanga yoga is a perfect solution for those seeking to slow down the pace of life while still being challenged from a physical aspect. Namaste!