Ashtanga yoga, cad é?

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Ashtanga yoga, cad é?

Ashtanga yoga is dynamic yoga, but above all a philosophical system that Krishnamacharya, Sage and Yogi developed after traveling to the Himalayas around 1916. For seven years he learned Ashtanga Yoga from Master Sri Ramamohan Brahmachari. In the 1930s he passed this knowledge on to many Indian and Western students. Among the best known are Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, BNS Iyengar, Indra Devi and his son TKV Desikachar. This practice was then popularized in the West 30 years later. But what is Ashtanga yoga, what are the basic principles, the benefits, the differences with traditional yoga, its history?

Definition of Ashtanga Yoga

The term Ashtanga comes from the Sanskrit words “ashtau” which means 8 and “anga” which means “members”. The 8 limbs refer to 8 essential practices in Ashtanga yoga that we will develop later: rules of behavior, self-discipline, body postures, the art of breathing, mastery of the senses, concentration, meditation and l ‘illumination.

Ashtanga yoga is a form of Hatha yoga in which the postures are accompanied by stretching to give energy, strength to the body; and contractions (Bandas) aiming to accumulate the vital breath (prana) in the deep parts of the tissues of the body via a synchronization of movements with the respiration (vinyasa). The particularity of Ashtanga lies in the fact that the postures are linked according to predetermined series, and that they are more and more difficult to achieve. As long as a posture is not acquired, the individual does not realize the one that follows. This allows him to acquire patience.

The body is energized by the breath, which increases the body temperature and helps detoxify the body. The practice brings tonicity, energy and the strength necessary to find comfort without the pains setting in, provided it is carried out with patience, humility and compassion to find there the way of Wisdom. The practice of yoga aims to open the mind to meditation in order to promote a calming of the psychic state, but also to make the individual aware of his spiritual potential.

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The Basic Principles of Ashtanga Yoga

The principles of Ashtanga yoga are based on the eight limbs developed by Patanjali in his collection entitled “Yoga-sutra”, they constitute a kind of philosophy of life which involves:

Rules of behavior (yamas)

The yamas are about our relationships with others and external things. There are 5 yamas that the individual must respect: do no harm, be honest, do not steal, be faithful or abstinent (brahmacharya) and not be greedy. The first form of yama is ahimsa which means to cause no pain to any creature, do no harm, do not kill by any means and never. Which involves becoming a vegetarian, vegan or vegan.

Self-discipline (niyamas)

The second member refers to the rules that the individual must apply to himself. The niyamas are: cleanliness inside, cleanliness outside, contentment, knowledge of the sacred texts. The latter can lead to surrender to God if the individual truly engages in a spirituality (sadhana) filled with benevolence, bliss and compassion.

Body postures (asanas)

The postures make it possible to energize the body, to make it more flexible and to bring stability and self-confidence. The aim is to nourish the body with the vital breath (prana) in each posture, in order to lead to a meditative state of letting go. The postures are essential in Ashtanga yoga since they allow to correct imbalances and to stabilize in order to unite the body and the mind, as in all other yoga practices.

La riospráid (pranayama)

This includes the vital breath, the length of time in a breath cycle, the restriction of the breath, and the expansion or stretching of the breath. Practicing pranayama helps to purify the channels essential to life on earth and to eliminate stress and physical and mental toxins, In physical practice breathing helps raise the body temperature, which promotes the elimination of toxins. The inspiration and the expiration must be of the same duration and be done through the nose by a breath called ujjayi. In Ashtanga yoga and in all postural practices, breathing is very important since it is linked to emotions.

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Mastery of the senses (pratyahara)

It is the control of the senses that can lead to inner stability, this is possible by directing one’s concentration on the respiratory rhythm. Seeking to calm and control his mind without being affected by one or more of our five senses helps the individual to progress towards concentration until they are blocked. The individual no longer pays attention to external things in order to concentrate on himself and his internal sensations.

Concentration (dharana)

The individual’s attention must be focused on an external object, a vibration or a rhythm within oneself.

Meditation (dhyana)

The work on concentration allows the practice of meditation, which consists in ceasing all mental activities, where no thought exists.

L’illumination (samadhi)

This last stage constitutes the alliance between the self (atman) and the absolute (brahman), in Buddhist philosophy it is called nirvana, it is the state of full consciousness.


The benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga allows you to:

  • Reduce toxins: The practice of Ashtanga yoga causes an increase in internal temperature causing an increase in sweating. This allows for the elimination of toxins from the body.
  • Strengthen the joints of the body: the use of varied and dynamic postures promotes proper functioning of the joints.
  • Increase endurance and flexibility
  • Lose weight: a study of 14 children aged 8 to 15 at risk of developing type 2 diabetes showed that Ashtanga yoga was an effective ally for weight loss.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Meditation and breathing exercises are good for better stress management as well as reducing anxiety.
  • It balances the Doshas in Ayurveda.

What are the differences with traditional yoga?

In Ashtanga yoga, individuals stay in one posture for a shorter time because each posture is linked to a defined number of breaths (5 or 8), which allows a rapid sequence of several postures. It therefore requires more physical investment and makes yoga more dynamic than traditional yoga. In addition, the breathing technique is special and the duration of inspiration and expiration are decisive in the transition of postures.

The history of the Ashtanga

The origins of Ashtanga yoga are said to come from an ancient text entitled “Yoga Korunta”. This text was written by Vamana Rish between 500 and 1500 BC and rediscovered by Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in a university library in Calcutta. A specialist in ancient Sanskrit, he understood that this text was part of a much older oral tradition (between 3000 & 4000 BC), he began to teach it to Pattabhi Jois in 1927 when he was 12 years old. Patanjali conceptualizes Ashtanga Yoga in the Yoga Sutra comprising no less than 195 Aphorisms dating from the 2nd century BC or 400 years after.

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In the book II and III of the Yogas Sutras, the techniques of Ashtanga are stated, these are linked to purely yogic activities and aim to provoke asceticism: purifications, attitudes of the body, breathing techniques. Patanjali puts a slight emphasis on postural practice, indeed, these must be transmitted by Masters or Guru and not by voices of description. They should also provide stability and reduce physical effort to avoid fatigue and nervousness in certain parts of the body. They stabilize physiological processes to allow attention to focus on the fluid part of consciousness. At first, the postures may seem uncomfortable, even unbearable. But with courage, regularity and patience the effort becomes minimal until it disappears: this is of capital importance because the meditation posture must become natural in order to facilitate concentration.

Ashtanga Yoga, a derivative of Hatha Yoga

There are not really any derivatives of Ashtanga since Ashtanga, today known in its physical and postural form, is itself derived from Hatha yoga, just like Vinyasa yoga or Iyengar yoga. Today, there are different schools designating yoga but we must never forget that yoga is above all a philosophy, and that the body is an instrument allowing us to better act on us and around us.

Where did Ashtanga Yoga go?

This form of yoga is mainly intended for individuals who wish to maintain their physical condition and discharge their negative energies, to acquire more positive ones. In addition, it is preferable that the individual is motivated since Ashtanga yoga takes all its interest when it is practiced over the long term.


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