LEARN HOW TO BE LIGHTER...
Ashtanga is a vinyasa style set sequence of postures developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, (Guruji). There are 6 series in total starting with the Primary Series which starts with sun salutations to help warm up the body and prepare it for the rest of the postures in the series. After every posture (asana) we reset the spine with a mini sun salutation and this is called a vinyasa.
There are a few key differences between ashtanga and other types of vinyasa yoga.
Ujjayi breath can be translated as ‘breathing with sound’ is created by gently constricting the epiglottis and I think the sound resembles waves crashing on the shore. By harnessing this type of breath when we practice we help to bring oxygen into the body and focus the mind .
Mudra & Bandha
Bandhas are part of a larger grouping called mudras, meaning ‘muscle control’, ‘restraint’, ‘seal’ or ‘lock.
There are three internal locks called bandhas within the body to help stabilise us in the posture and lock in energy. Mulabandha is the root lock and can be activated during practice by gently contracting the sphincter muscle, which in turn tightens the perineum and uretha. By engaging this area we create a solid foundation and it also helps to stop the loss of energy or prana from the body during practise. It's also amazing for keeping your pelvic floor muscles in check!
Uddiyana Bandha is a complete ‘sucking in and then up’ of the lower and upper abdomen, as if your stomach is trying to touch your spine! Again it helps to stabilise the body and is a really important factor in creating lightness in your practise. It's an absolute essential for mastering the floating effect when you jump through and back. Uddiyana Bandha also helps to develop elasticity and tones the intercostal muscles and diaphragm, which enhances deep thoracic breathing.
Jalahandra bandha is a chin lock and can be activated by inhaling high into the chest and bringing it up to meet the chin. It's a lock that eluded me for many years but as my practise has developed I have realised how important it is. As mulabandha locks in energy (prana) at the root, jalahandra bandha locks in energy at the palette.
Other forms of mudra that help seal in energy include keeping your fingers together when standing in Samasthiti (Equal Standing), to stand in balanced stillness or when we bind in certain postures to create a circuit in the body within which energy can flow freely.
Drishtis are simply focal points. Every posture also has a specific place for the eyes to concentrate on. They help with alignment of the head but also keep the mind focused and stop you from looking around wondering what everyone else is up to.
There is also a counting system which is always in sanskrit. A traditional led class would normally be conducted by counting through the flow of postures in sanskrit. It not only means you can go to an ashtanga class anywhere in the world and understand what's going on but also helps to focus the mind. In self practise it is encouraged to count in your head, it keeps out unwanted distracting thoughts and turns the practise into a moving meditation.