The Ashtanga yoga practice, develops in three sets of sequences:
The first series or Primary series, “Yoga Chikitsa”, which means: yoga or yoga therapy of purification. This series allows: cleaning, toning up and alignment of the body and mind. The energy channels in our subtle body, in yoga they are called: “Nadi”, where vital energy circulates called: “Prana”. Along the path of Nadi, for many reasons, energy blocks can form, called: “Granthi or knots. The Ghranti, may remain hidden to us up to the point when, with practice, they begin to open up and we can feel some minor pain in the body – sign of these blocks. Through regular practice, the Ghranti are freed and the Prana begins to flow freely and the pain vanishes. To experience the profound benefits of this series, it is important to practice with confidence, patience and consistency.
Intermediate series Nadi Sodhana that means: purification, cleaning; “Nadi Shodana” is the purification of nerves. This series, goes even deeper, allowing a deep cleaning and opening of the energy channels, which are directly related to the nerves in the physical body.
Advanced Series A – B – C – D, “Stira Bhagah Samapta”. These series integrate strength with grace of movement, require considerable flexibility and humility. They increase strength, balance, stability and the opening of the body.
Surya Namaskara A and B, “Surya” means Sun and “Namaskara”: greeting. The practice starts with Surya Namaskara. Through the dynamic Asana sequence comprising Surya Namaskara in sync with your breath, you capture the rhythm and the right mental and physical attitude for the practice of first, intermediate and advanced series. The practice starts with Surya Namaskara A, which has nine Vinyasa and is generally repeated three to six times. Then it continues with Surya Namaskara B, which has seventeen Vinyasa, with the same number of repetitions. In most practices, the greeting to the Sun in repeated five times, but being like a mantra or a prayer that has its own sequence number also, it is best to repeat it to a number of six or twelve in total.
In the “Guided Practice”, the Ashtanga yoga instructor, guides the whole group of students simultaneously and does this by calling the name of each Asana before it is executed, calling the precise number of each Vinyasa and counting the number of breaths for each posture. The “Guided Practice” is critical to learning the correct rhythm and Vinyasa to be taken in the sequence of Asanas. New students should join the “Guided Practice” as long as they have memorized the sequence of Asanas, and also for those who already practice for long time, it is recommended occasionally to take a “Guided Practice” to mantain the correct rhythm between breathing and movement.
Self Practice or Mysore
In the tradition of Ashtanga yoga, students learn the sequence of Asanas gradually and progressively, each person at his/her own time, under the guidance of a teacher. Without group instruction, in a Mysore class each student receives personal directions, according to his/her abilities developed gradually with the regular practice. Each posture, in sequences, prepares the body for the next and the teacher will decide when the student is ready to advance in the practice, which is then learned slowly and incrementally, each Asana is introduced at the right time. The practice is done 6 days a week with a day of rest (normally Saturday or Sunday).
“Adjustments” are hands-on touches that are given to the students by the teacher or his/her assistants. Through the “adjustments” proper alignment and correct posture are promoted in a safe way, so the student can experience the final posture. The “adjustments” are typically given in the “Self Practice” classes, and generally not in beginners classes.
“Relaxation”, as with all yoga practices, is a fundamental aspect of Ashtanga yoga. The “relaxation” time allows you to let go of every little tension accumulated and is a total regeneration time always performed at the end of the practice.
Ashtanga Yoga Opening Chant
Ashtanga Yoga Mantra
Vande Gurunam Caranaravinde
Sandarsita Svatma Sukhava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohasantyai
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time)
and a sword (discrimination)
Ashtanga Yoga Closing Chant
Swasthi Praja Bhyah Pari Pala Yantam
Nya Yena Margena Mahi Mahishaha
Go Brahmanebhyaha Shubhamastu Nityam
Lokaa Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu
Shantih Shantih Shantihi
May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue
For protecting the welfare of all generations
May the religious, and all peoples be forever blessed
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Om, peace, peace, perfect peace
Guidelines for a good practice
– Step on your mat to start your practice!
– Practice on an empty stomach, usually 3 or 4 hours after a meal; you can drink some water or herbal tea before, but avoid drinking during or immediately after the practice.
– Wear comfortable and stretching clothes, like shorts and a tank top; practice is barefoot. Remove rings, necklaces, watches and chains before practice.
– Be prepared to sweat, this is part of the process of purification of the practice; arrive clean and without perfume on the body; a small towel to absorb any excess sweat during practice is very handy to have with you.
– It is best to avoid showering immediately after practice, wait at least 30-60 minutes from the end of the practice, because through sweat are brought important nutrients to our skin
– Better practice in the morning to bring the energy throughout the day; in case you practice in the evening. after working hours or other commitments, the practice will help you removing tiredness and feed the body with a new energy.
– Awareness of breathing is fundamental to the practice of Asanas and the transition from an Asana to another. Practicing Ujjayi breath deep and soft. Breathing is complete when the lungs are emptied or filled completely. It is important to hear that exhale ends below the navel and that inhaling expands across the back and chest.
– The gaze, Drishti, is important both during the Asanas and in between the asanas. The breath, the attention, the direction of movement and alignment of Asanas are closely connected to the gaze of your eyes.
– During practice use Mulabandha and Uddyanabandha. Keep in mind that Uddyanabandha promotes Mulabhanda. Full awareness and good use of Bandh typically requires years of practice. The Bandhas promote inner strength, allowing to hold the energy that develops during the practice. They are essential to perform movements with minimal muscle strength and give that feeling of “flying” to your practice.
– The movement between one side and the other side of a posture or in between consecutive postures, are an integral part of the practice. The breath and gaze are synchronized with the movement also during these transitions.
– The Asanas have their own order and a specific sequence. Every Asana or group of asana prepare to the next one or to the next group.
– At the end of practice, lay down for a deep relaxation for at least 10 minutes, covering the body with a blanket.
– The practice is done 6 days a week with one day off, usually on Saturdays or Sunday. On the day of the full moon or new moon, refrain from the practice or make it lighter; during these days the instructor will avoid making the adjustments.
– Women in the first few days of their menstruation cycle may abstain from the practice, or at least they should avoid inverted positions (shoulder stands and head stands).
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said:
“99% of practice and 1% of theory”
“practice practice practice and all is coming”