Astanga Yoga practice starts with a simple, highly effective method of aligning movement with breath (vinyasa). Each vinyasa links a sequenced number of held postures (asanas) known as a series. Learning a series incrementally and then repeating it regularly commits the practice to memory. By working in this way the student is able to progress at a pace that is appropriate for him or her. This makes Astanga Yoga suitable for all levels of practitioner including complete beginners
The heat created by vinyasa has been described as ‘stoking an internal fire’ with sweat as a detoxifying bi- product. The sequenced series of asanas, practiced regularly, can improve strength, stamina, balance and flexibility. Asana practice is a tonic for joints and muscles, but also the nervous and digestive systems.
Regulating the breath can create a strong sense of well-being. The breath is a bridge between the body and the mind. If we are relaxed, so is our breathing. When we are agitated or fearful our breath can become rapid or shallow, often without our realizing. Taking control of the breath can change these default settings and improve mental health.
There are generally two ways in which Astanga Yoga is taught in the UK.
In some places, the sessions are ‘led’ like other yoga or exercise classes. A teacher stands at the front of the room calling out instructions which everybody follows. This can be a good workout. It can also be a bit hard for beginners to follow, and a little intimidating if you feel less ‘able’ than those around you. This is a pity, because Astanga yoga is supposed to be incredibly straightforward for beginners to understand.
Mysore style, aka ‘self-practice’ is the traditional way of learning the Astanga Yoga system. Mysore is the town in India widely regarded as the birthplace of this method.
Self practice focuses on teaching each student individually, albeit within a group setting. The student works at his or her own pace and receives adjustments and guidance from the teacher when appropriate.
For more about Astanga Yoga, please click here