Ashtanga yoga is another popular form of yoga that is offered in many yoga studios and some gyms. In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means eight limbs. This is in reference to the eight limbs of yoga in the Yoga Surtas of Patanjali.
The Ashtanga method is sometimes called a unique variation of hatha yoga. Ashtanga was developed by yoga masters Krishnamachara and Sri Pattabhi Jois. They used an ancient yoga text to devise the current practice.
Ashtanga is a more athletic and vigorous form of yoga than is found in the typical hatha yoga or gym yoga class. What sets Ashtanga apart from other methods is the vinyasa flow series used in the six levels of Ashtanga practice.
Students move through the six series of Ashtanga yoga at their own pace. The six levels include the first series, which is designed to detoxify the body, increase strength, flexibility and improves spinal alignment. This is where students begin practice and move through the following levels at their individual pace.
Each of the six series, in the primary, intermediate and four advanced series, consist of a series of 75 poses. The practice takes about two hours to complete the practice.
Ashtanga yoga lends itself well to both practice with a class and individual practice at home. Most studios offer classes led by yoga teachers in the beginning series. Some offer self led classes for students in the advanced series, which allows each student to move at her own pace.
Because this form of yoga moves into a self led practice, it is particularly suited to home practice. There are books on Ashtanga yoga that go into the poses in depth to help with proper posture in the poses. I have one and it’s quite informative in its descriptions and with pictures of each asana.
However, when beginning an Ashtanga practice, it is beneficial to work with a professional instructor. The teacher can help with learning the poses and the vinyasa flow sequences. Once the student has learned the basic poses and a few of the more difficult asanas, this form of yoga is a good choice for continuing practice at home on your own.