Ashtanga Yoga isn’t just about asanas. The physical postures are only one small part. Ashtanga means 8 limbs–Ashta means eight, and anga, limbs. Asanas will keep the body healthy. You will develop focus, discipline, and strength. These keys of Ashtanga will help you through the rest of the seven limbs of practice.
In Ashtanga yoga, you start with the Primary series as the asana practice. Primary is grounding. It’s not easy. The majority of the practice is externally built on forward folds, leg work, shoulder and hip opening, core strength and a little back bending. There are four seated twists too, within the Marichyasana series. Internally, you are working on activation of the bandhas, keeping the breath even and flowing, and dristhi (gaze point). You hold the poses for a count of 5 breaths. This time can be used to simply get into the pose, and then work towards internally scanning the body. How is the breath? Where is your drishti? Do you have the bandhas active? Is the mind present in the pose, or wandering?
My Ashtanga Practice
Today I practiced ashtanga led half primary, after taking a week off. It was a good, focused practice that left me feeling energized and ready for the rest of my day. Oddly, Marichyasana D was not possible for me on right or left sides. I was able to do this pose a few weeks ago, but after my workshop with Kino Macgregor, the pose disappeared. This experience is normal. Usually, I find when a pose leaves, the body is getting ready to open up for a new asana or to to go deeper into another asana. The asana will come back when it is ready.
There is a point when you learn that even the most normal things can be quite strange when you stop to think about them. That’s when studying becomes interesting.