The study and practice of Ashtanga yoga has been life changing for me in so many ways. From the changes I’ve noticed in my physical body to my improved mental wellbeing I have become the biggest advocate of the practice, mostly because I want others to be able to share in the same benefits that I have!
Ashtanga yoga is typically one of the most physically challenging forms of yoga. In its most traditional form it involves a very long sequence of postures with a vinyasa in between each. This demands a lot of strength and stamina to complete, especially in a warm room surrounded by other sweaty practitioners!
While this style won’t suit everyone I have found it to be a cleansing and healing practice that has taught me a great deal about myself. If you are considering starting an Ashtanga asana practice, here are my top 10 reasons that you should jump in and do it 🙂
As with most forms of yoga, Ashtanga will gradually improve your flexibility over time. Although it’s important to listen to your body and never push too far too fast, I’ve found that the flexibility benefits started showing themselves after just a few weeks of attending classes. Can’t touch your toes? Start Ashtanga yoga and I guarantee you will be able to touch the floor within a month if you work hard!
There are sixty vinyasas in the Ashtanga yoga primary series (that’s the flow you do between every posture). For a lot of the movements you are working to hold your body weight up on just your hands or you are balancing on one leg – this builds a ton of strength in your core and increases your overall body strength.
Increase muscle tone
All that increased strength is possible because whilst doing those movements you are building muscle all over your body. YOGA GIVES YOU ABS, I promise – it happened to me! My arms and shoulders also look more firm and toned (if I do say so myself!)
Improve cardiovascular fitness
If you’ve ever made it through a full counted led primary series class then you will know how much you sweat in Ashtanga. The constant vinyasas between each pose keep your heart rate up throughout the practice so you’re not only building strength and flexibility but you’re also working your cardiovascular system.
Reduce body fat
What happens when you build more muscle and do cardio? You burn fat! Since committing to a daily Ashtanga practice I’ve noticed less fat on my arms and around my stomach area, which is always a good thing (up to a certain point of course!)
Reduce stress and anxiety
Some people think that doing the same sequence of postures every day is too repetitive and they lose interest. Everyone is different of course but I have found that performing the same sequence everyday enables you to become so familiar with the physical movements that you can solely focus on the breathing throughout the practice even whilst performing some advanced asanas.
This makes your practice more of a moving meditation and leaves you feeling relaxed and stress-free.
Increase focus and creativity
When you are totally relaxed and calm, without stressing about the future or dwelling on the past, your mind becomes clear and you are free to completely enjoy the present moment. In this state I have experienced the most creativity than ever before in my life!
I’m not generally an arty person so my creativity comes in the form of inspiration for new business ideas. It almost sounds counter-intuitive that if you’re in the present moment you are thinking about future business plans, but it’s just that your mind israrely empty so these ideas never have space to emerge unless you make space for them!
Lower blood pressure
In Ashtanga yoga we practice a breathing technique known as Ujjayi. This involves a slight contraction of the glottis at the back of the throat to make the sound of the ocean as you breathe in and out of your nose, extending your inhalations and exhalations to create long, deep and calm breaths.
Many studies suggest that the long-term effect of this kind of breathing is the lowering of blood pressure.
If you practice Ashtanga in a safe, mindful way, you will develop a strong, flexible body that is much less prone to injury. This means it can be a great complementary activity for other forms of sport.
As you get older your body becomes more prone to injuries and practicing yoga is a great way to stay fit and supple so you can enjoy a better quality of life for longer.
The Ashtanga Primary Series (and beyond) has been designed by the experts to gradually open up different parts of your body safely and sequentially. Practising the same sequence every day you will notice changes in your body much more quickly than in other forms of yoga because your body becomes accustomed to the postures. This can help keep you motivated to keep coming back to class!
I would love to hear your own experiences of the practice and any benefits you have gained! Namaste yogis xxxx