Ashtanga Yoga – Good Practice Guide
Ashtanga means, in literal terms, eight limbs. The reference is to the eight different aspects of Yoga that are explained and practiced in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. If you are planning to take up Ashtanga Yoga, you should take note of these tips for good practice:
- Never practice on a full stomach. Always wait, at the very least, 3-4 hours after you have eaten before practicing any Yoga. You may drink small amounts of water or an herbal tea before but not during or for at least 30 minutes after.
- Evacuate your bowels and bladder before starting. To help with this, practice the Sun Salutations, inverted and standing poses. If you have been ill with a cold or the flu, make sure you fast for one day to ensure your body is more flexible.
- Be clean. Whether you are attending a class or doing Ashtanga at your own home, you should bathe and wear clean clothes for every session. Have clean mats or rugs. Cleanliness is one of the eight aspects – it brightens your mind and calms you.
- Be comfortable. Always wear comfortable stretchy clothing, such as leggings, t-shirts and shorts. These allow for freer movement of the body without any restrictions. No jewelry must be worn and no socks.
- Be prepared to sweat. A lot. Instead of wiping the sweat off though, massage it into your body. Do not drink anything – if you have a dry throat, saliva should be sufficient.
- Never force yourself. Try to relax your facial muscles and do not hold on to any frustration or anger – the postures will come easier. Yoga is about working with the emotions not against them.
- Be aware of your breathing. This is vital for asana during which Uljayi breathing is used. Relax and open your throat – every breath should produce a sound. Your breathing must be deep, strong and soft and will help to expand the lumbar area, diaphragm and chest, as well as the back.
- Learn Drishti. This is an important part of Ashtanga Yoga and is connected with breathing. Each position has different gazes – end of the nose, belly button, between the eyebrows, etc. It takes years to get the practice to the stage that simply gazing will balance and relax you.
- Use Mula Bandha during practice. This is the Root Lock. Also, use the abdominal lock – Uddiyana Bandha. The root lock is contracting the anus, which, in turn contracts the pelvic floor. Abdominal lock is contracting the lower abdomen back to the spine.
- Vinyasa. Learning to synchronize breathing and movement is vital. How you enter a posture and leave it is a part of the Yoga and must be smooth and balanced.
At the end of every session, there is a relaxation stage. This is one of the most important parts and must be done. The relaxation stage helps you enter into meditation and helps to stave off headaches, tiredness and irritability.
Ashtanga Yoga should be practiced 6 days a week with one day off. During menstruation, women must rest up for the first three days and must not enter inter inverted postures.