Here is a short video which gives a quick intro to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga so you know what to expect when you come to a class:
Or read on below:
Ashtanga (Vinyasa) Yoga
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic yoga practice which synchronises breath and movement to produce an internal heat designed to purify the body. The practice, which originated in India, is practised worldwide, so whether you’re in New York, London, Moscow or Aberdeenshire, if you learn the Ashtanga yoga method you’ll be able to practice it anywhere.
The word vinyasa means movement between poses in yoga and in Ashtanga yoga it refers to a specific strength building posture that’s done when transitioning from one posture to the next. You may get to love those vinyasas once you learn them!
Ashtanga (Vinyasa) Yoga Sequence
Ashtanga Yoga follows a set series of postures, which are practised in designated order. The whole sequence (known as the Primary Series or yoga chikitsa i.e. yoga therapy) takes approximately 80-90 minutes to complete and the idea is that eventually you’d practice daily or work towards a daily practice. That’s quite a big ask for many due to busy family and/or work lives, so the practice is designed to meet you where you are.
You only go as far as you are able to in any posture and you can also adjust the length of your practice, so initially you may practice for just 30 to 45 minutes when you start. It doesn’t take long to start noticing the many health benefits that the practice brings and little and often is better, than a sporadic practice.
How do I start?
You start at the beginning with the Primary Series. Don’t let the word “Primary” make you think that it’s easy/basic! It might be easy/basic for a very few and typically it requires quite a bit of commitment, especially in the beginning. However the more you practice, the easier it becomes (as with most things in life) and the benefits most people experience such as increased energy, better flexibility, more strength and the greater desire to make better overall life style choices far outweigh the physical challenges. Yoga can help towards helping you feel happier and healthier in your mind and body.
How Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is (best) practised?
I currently teach the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Primary Series.
The classes I teach can be led or practised at own pace (which is referred to as self-practice or Mysore). When people initially start to learn Ashtanga yoga, the natural preference for most students is typically be to be led by a teacher. Whilst I do offer led classes, I veer towards encouraging students to learn the Primary Series sequence and start to lead themselves in their yoga practice (with my assistance/guidance).
What’s the point of coming to class if I’m practicising on my own?
I know that may sound counter intuitive, but one of the main arguments for self-practice is that you know your own body best and you will get to know it even better when you practice at your own pace, according to your own motivation, capabilities and desire.
The possible downsides to being in a led yoga class (if you don’t know the sequence)
Once you learn the sequence, you can practice anytime and you can drop into class to keep inspired and enjoy being part of a group. In group non Ashtanga Vinyasa led yoga class, you don’t always know which pose is coming next and whilst you work out how to get into that posture, the teacher may have moved onto the next posture and you may not get the full benefit of that posture.
Meeting you where you currently are
If you’re open to learning the postures one by one that means that you can tailor your practice to your current capabilities as well as your energy levels and the time you have available on the day you practise. In addition, it also means that you can get individual help from a teacher in a group setting thus ensuring that you get into the posture safely and most importantly you use the correct form avoiding any unnecessary injuries. Self practise is one of the safest way to practise yoga.
There are thousands of people who practise Ashtanga yoga around the world and they were all beginners once, I’m sure they also forgot poses and struggled with certain postures (it’s a progressive yoga practice, so ultimately we all get better as our bodies soften and become stronger). In my mind, it’s definitely a win win for those who commit.
You know your body best
With time you will also connect with your own body more and you may choose to practice just one small part of the sequence daily or every second day and slowly as you learn more of the practice (and maybe even fall in love with it, like I have), you may choose to make it a more regular part of your life. That’s when the real magic happens.