Try Ashtanga Yoga to Increase Strength and Mental Focus

As part of yoga teacher training course that I’m taking, we have a project that involves going to different yoga classes to try various styles and teachers. The aim is to broaden our horizons by immersing ourselves in different styles and to take away any pieces that resonate with us to incorporate into our own practice or teaching. As a self-professed yoga dabbler (I love trying different classes), this is an awesome project!. So I thought I’d share some of what I learn with you.

On Wednesday evening I went to an Ashtanga yoga the class. I had an inkling of what to expect having seen Ashtanga yoga videos and read about it but had never experienced it for myself.

What to Expect in an Ashtanga Yoga Class

Ashtanga yoga is a very athletic style of yoga where you move in synchronicity with your breath. Participants use a breathing technique called ujjayi which is a deep breath with an audible sound (sometimes described as Darth Vader breath). Between static poses, you will do a vinyasa  Рa set sequence of yoga postures, for example a sun salutation. This builds up internal heat which helps to purify the body by getting rid of unwanted toxins. It also helps to regulate the circulation of blood

The first series of postures that yogis learn is called the primary series. The intent of the primary series is to detoxify and align the body. This series is called Chikitsa which means yoga therapy. This first series is meant to cleanse and heal.

How Is the Ashtanga Style Different Than Other Yoga Styles?

The class I attended was very challenging. It required a lot of physical stamina. I must admit I was a bit lost throughout the practice as it moved quickly at times, but I enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the sore muscles on Thursday! Ashtanga yoga is a very dynamic form of yoga compared to other styles where poses may be taken then held for a longer time.

Ashtanga is often referred to as power yoga because it combines breathing and movement in a series of postures that is cardiovascular and also meditative. Poses are always performed in a specific order. You will start off with a sun salutation and then move through a standing sequence followed by a seated sequence and then onto finishing postures.

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

Physically, this style of yoga will make you strong and improve your cardiovascular fitness. The constant movement will make you work up a sweat. However, you are always in control of the intensity and can work at a pace that is right for you.

Due to the heat you build up, you may be able to go deeper into some poses than you otherwise could. The heat is also thought to detoxify your muscles and organs. The focus on breathing synchronized with movement helps with concentration and coordination.

Some other benefits of Ashtanga yoga include: improved circulation, relief of chronic pain by improving joint mobility and medication, helps with weight loss, develops muscle tone, promotes deeper sleep and a sense of well-being.

If you’re athletic and looking for a physical challenge then Ashtanga may be just right for you!

Have a look at the YouTube video below to get an idea of what Ashtanga looks like. These practitioners are obviously pretty advanced. Believe me, my recent practice didn’t look anything like this! However, it is beautiful and inspiring to watch.


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