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What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga?

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a subset of Hatha Yoga originated by the teachings of Yogi Vamana explained in his text ‘Yoga Kuranta.’

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is not Ashtanga Yoga. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras first mentioned “Ashtanga Yoga” and this is a lifestyle comprising eight different factors.

Eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are mentioned below:

1. Yama 2. Niyama 3. Asana 4. Pranayama 5. Pratyahara 6. Dharana 7. Dhyana 8. Samadhi

These eight dimensions of the practice make the Ashtanga Yoga practice which is a lifestyle.

What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga?

Among eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali, Asana is the third limb. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a subset in the asana section. All asana practice methods, be it Traditional Hatha Yoga,

Iyengar’s Yoga or Vinyasa Yoga all are different forms of Hatha Yoga. All these different asana practice methods have evolved on their own over the period of time and became popular.

Every asana practice method has its own perspective. But in the end, all are different forms of Hatha Yoga.

Why do we call Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as Ashtanga Yoga then?

Pattabhi Jois, the master teacher who taught this practice method all over the world has always mentioned it as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

However, this longer name got its short form and became Ashtanga over time. Patanjali calls his eight limb Yoga as Ashtanga Yoga and often people get confused to think that both are the same.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga while Hatha Yoga is a first step in the practice-philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali.

Is there any sequence that we practice in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga?

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has six series of asanas. The asanas are placed systematically and the students are supposed to practice the asanas in the same sequence.

The first or the primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa and the second or intermediate series is called “Nadi Shodhana”. The next four series have one name altogether and it is “Sthira Bhaga”.

These series are intensive and difficult as you move from one asana to another asana, one series to the next.

The students are always guided by the teacher and only after the teacher’s recommendation, the student is allowed to take the next asana as well as the next series.

The advanced series of asanas is so difficult that even Yoga practitioners for decades often can’t manage to practice them.

What is “Mysore Style” of Ashtanga Yoga?

Mysore style is a method generally used in the ancient Indian system of teaching. Instead of making the class a mass practice, individual attention is given.

The student in Ashtanga Vinyasa will start the practice on their own and the teacher will guide depending on the level of the student.

As there is no guided class system during the Mysore method, it becomes easier for the teacher to offer a tailor-made approach towards each student.

Benefits of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

As you start practising Ashtanga Vinyasa series, you will be repeating the same asanas.

This method helps in the following ways:

  1. Repetition of the asana gives a sense of the alignment of the physical body properly

  2. You can measure the progress in each asana every day

  3. You can find the subtle changes in the physical body in that particular asana

  4. The real sense of deepening the practice prevails

  5. The temptation to find new asanas without proper depth in the practice is curbed

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