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Ashtanga Yoga: Are You Ready for the Challenge?

Ashtanga yoga is a specialized branch of hatha yoga which is more demanding than most.

Ashtanga yoga consists of six different phases through which a student progresses either individually or under the direction of a teacher. Vinysa flow, or controlled deep breathing, practice is an important component of Ashtanga yoga.


Ashtanga Yoga Postures

Yoga Chikitsa for Building Strength and Endurance

The first phase of Ashtanga yoga is called yoga chitkitsa. It involves a series of seventy-five different poses which take from ninety minutes to an hour to finish. These beginning poses in ashtanga yoga serve several purposes:

  • They build strength.
  • They increase stamina and flexibility.
  • They remove toxins from the body.
  • They bring a realignment of the spine.

Some of the postures included in this phase of ashtanga yoga are the sun salutations, back bends, standing poses, inversions, and seated poses. Many of these can be quite challenging for even the most adept student.

As the student moves from one pose into the next, he or she must synchronize the inhalations and exhalations with the poses being performed.

Nadi Shodana for Purifying the Nervous System

The second phase of ashtanga yoga is a purification of the nervous system called nadi shodana. Students should not attempt these poses until they have mastered those in the yoga chitkitsa.

Through doing the nadi shodana poses, the student will work toward a new calm and will work to develop an awareness of the pathways of energy that run throughout the body. Several new poses are added to the ashtanga yoga series during this phase.

Sthira Bhaga for Divine Stability

The last four phases of ashtanga yoga are those which bring the student to divine stability, or sthira bhaga.

Intended for the most dedicated, advanced students, sthira bhaga poses involve hours of practice in order to master the most challenging arm balances. The strength developed during the first two phases is needed for the last stages of this series, but athletes find the balance and strength gained from these levels to be invaluable. Once students reach this level, they are expected to practice self-teaching and no longer need an instructor.

Clearly, ashtanga yoga is one of the more exacting forms of this exercise discipline which affects both the mind and body. It requires persistence, patience, and intensive training, but through it, the mind and body can learn to work together flawlessly.

If this ancient Oriental exercise sounds mysteriously challenging to you, the following pages are sure to be intriguing. Read more to discover other ways ashtanga yoga can be beneficial to your health.

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