Ashtanga Yoga Postures: A Calorie Burning Exercise
Ashtanga yoga is a form of yoga popularized by Sri. K Pattabhi Jois in the later part of the last century. It is a highly energetic form of yoga that synchronizes breath and movement. While yoga is typically a quiet activity with poses performed slowly and held for a long period of time, ashtanga yoga postures are performed in a rhythmic manner. It is an intense, sweaty workout that cleanses, purifies and detoxifies the body. Modern forms of hot yoga such as power yoga are derived from it. Ashtanga yoga is also defined by its adherence to the teachings of Patanjali and his book of yoga sutras written around the second century BC.
Unlike other forms of yoga, ashtanga yoga postures follow a predetermined sequence. Four main parts make up a typical routine. First is the opening sequence. This very often consists of ten Sun Salutations. The Sun Salutation is a sequence of poses performed in a flowing manner which takes about a minute to perform.
The next part is one of a series of six groups of poses known as Yoga Chikitsa. Yoga Chikista means yoga therapy. Its purpose is the cleansing and purification mentioned earlier. A typical series consists of 75 poses and can take an hour and a half to two hours to complete. The Sun Salutation is followed by standing and sitting poses, inversions, twists, balancing poses and backbends and forward bends.
The second series is the intermediate series known as Nadi Shodana. It follows the main series of postures but adds new ones that require more strength and flexibility. The aim in this series of postures is to strengthen and purify the nervous system and subtle energy channels in the body.
The last is known as Sthira Bhaga, which translates as ‘Divine Stability.’ These exercises are extremely difficult and can take years or decades to master. While balance poses are found in all forms of hatha yoga, they are most pronounced here with a particular emphasis on arm-balancing postures.
Ashtanga yoga postures make use of what is known as bandhas. Bandhas are interior body locks that close off a part of the interior body. Used in conjunction with various poses and breathing techniques, bandhas cleanse, tone and energize the interior body and organs. There are three bandhas- Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jhalandara Bandha. When all three bandhas are performed together it is known as the Maha Bandha or Great Lock.