- Increased Strength
- Increased Flexibility
- Increased Stamina and Vitality
- Improved Balance
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels
- Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
- Changes Hormone Levels bringing them into balance.
- Increases Lung Capacity for fuller, deeper breathing. Slower, deeper breathing increases oxygenation in the body for greater tissue vitality and the elimination of metabolic waste.
- Calms down the body and quiets the mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Improves your relationships.
- Experience greater happiness.
By early 2005, I was performing so many massages one after the other that it began taking its toll on my physical well-being. I didn’t fully realize just how inflexible my body was at the time, but I could feel the aches, and I knew that my posture was stooped-over and out of balance. I had developed many unhealthy physical patterns and routines. I couldn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but, my body mechanics were inefficient and causing me to exert greater effort than should have been necessary.
I knew that yoga could help me regain my physical, mechanical health. So I found the perfect yoga studio for a beginner, and in March of 2005, I began my yoga practice in earnest. The results for me were immediate. As my body regained flexibility and range of motion, I also became stronger at the core of my physical being. In an ironic twist, as the benefits of my yoga practice emerged, I found that I was actually able to perform more massages than before, and with less effort!
But the truly amazing thing about yoga is this wonderful secret that was revealed. There is a magic that emerges from inside the person who practices yoga. I became more grounded and integrated in my whole being: body, mind, spirit, and emotion. As the observer inside of me emerged with greater clarity, my mind became calmer and more relaxed. As the energy began to flow and move through me in the yoga postures, I became more aware of my body and my feelings. And best of all, my connection to my higher self, that inner wisdom and guidance, became stronger.
I highly recommend yoga to anyone who is considering it. Please realize that not all yoga classes, and not all yoga teachers are the same. It may be necessary to experience a number of different studios and/or teachers before you find one that resonates with you.
Excellent article: Yoga and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – An Interview with Bessel van der Kolk, MD
The Ashtanga practice has a set sequence of postures that flows uninterrupted, with a slow, steady breath, from one posture to the next. This flowing style is known as Vinyasa, and Ashtanga is the basis for all yoga classes that are called Vinyasa yoga, Power yoga, or Flow yoga. Ashtanga yoga is the most beautiful asana practice because it is so complete. The sequence of the postures is so brillantly and intellegently composed, that by the end of the practice, the body sings like a finely tuned instrument. It is a demanding and rigorous practice, but for those who can overcome it’s obstacles, Ashtanga yoga offers strength, purpose, vitality, and radiant health.
Ashtanga is founded upon the ancient esoteric teachings recorded in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali in the first or second century AD. Patanjali explains that yoga has eight limbs. Asana, or the yoga postures, is just one of the limbs. The other seven limbs are Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Asta means eight and anga means limbs; as Ashtanga yoga emphasizes all eight limbs of yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras.
Ashtanga yoga isn’t just exercise. It’s a moving meditation. There are five characteristics that make the Ashtanga yoga practice unique. The first characteristic is the focus on the breath. The breath is regulated using the Ujjayi (victorious) breathing technique so that the inhalation and the exhalation have the same length and quality.
Next, we have the asanas, or yoga postures. In the Ashtanga practice, the poses are performed sequentially one after the other in a constantly flowing movement that is connected to the breath. This movement system is known as vinyasa, the third unique characteristic of Ashtanga yoga. For each movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namskar there are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms over your head, and putting your hands together; the second is exhaling while bending forward, placing your hands next to your feet, etc. In this way all asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas.
The forth unique characteristic of the Ashtanga yoga practice is the engagement of the deep core muscles known as the bandhas, or locks. These locks operate more like valves that regulate the flow of prana (life force energy) through three main areas in the body. Like water spraying from a garden hose that is bent and then released, the body energy is regulated through mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha.
Lastly, in the Ashtanga yoga practice we have the dristi, or “looking place.” The eyes are always open and the gaze is constantly fixed upon set points in a focused but relaxed manner.
The asanas, vinyasa breathing system, and dristi together form what is known as tristhana, the foundation of Ashtanga yoga practice. Consistent practice will purify the body and mind, making the consciousness ready for the revelation of God.
ASHTANGA YOGA BOOK LIST
FREE! PDF Yoga Makaranda by Sri T. Krishnamacharya, Mysore Samasthan Acharya. 1934, English translation 2006.
FREE! PDF Yoga Makaranda Part II by Sri T. Krishnamacharya, as offered by A. G. Mohan.
Clicking on any book title (or book image) below will take you to Amazon.com where you will find more information about that book:
by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Yoga Mala-a “garland of yoga”-is Jois’s authoritative guide to Ashtanga. In it, he outlines the ethical principles and philosophy underlying the discipline, explains important terms and concepts, and guides the reader through Ashtanga’s Sun Salutations and the subsequent primary sequence of forty-two asanas, or poses, precisely describing how to execute each position and what benefits each provides. It is a foundational work on yoga by a true master. Ashtanga Yoga Institute’s website
Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual
by David Swenson
This book is an extremely user-friendly book for beginner and advanced persons doing Ashtanga yoga. It contains the entire Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga Yoga with three options for every asana. It is spiral bound to easily remain open while practicing. It contains over 650 photos with clear instructions and commentary. It has choices of practices; full practice of Primary and Second Series or the short forms of 15 min., 30 min., and 45 min. practices for those on the go. It is a great book for all levels of practitioners to enjoy and teachers will find it to be an invaluable tool for teaching their students. David Swenson’s website
Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy
by Gregor Maehle
Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy is the first book of its kind, presenting a comprehensive guide to all eight limbs of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Join author Gregor Maehle, a seasoned yogi and compassionate teacher, as he guides you through the history and lineage of yoga; the fundamentals of breath, bandhas (energy locks within the body), drishti (the focal point of the gaze), and vinyasa (sequential movement); a detailed breakdown of the asanas of the Ashtanga Primary Series, following the traditional vinyasa count; a lively and authentic rendering of the complete Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, yoga’s ancient sacred text; and a glossary of yoga terminology.
In the asana section, Maehle describes each posture with clear, meticulous instructions, photographs, anatomical illustrations, and practical tips. Information on the mythological background and yogic context of specific postures brings further insight to the practice. In the philosophy section, Maehle illuminates the Yoga Sutra using the major ancient commentaries as well as his own insights.
This volume makes the entire path of Ashtanga Yoga accessible to modern practitioners. Both practical guide and spiritual treatise, Ashtanga Yoga is an excellent introduction to the eight limbs of yoga and an invaluable resource for any yoga teacher or practitioner. Gregor Maehle’s website
Ashtanga Yoga: The Intermediate Series
by Gregor Maehle
In this much-anticipated follow-up to his first book, Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy, Gregor Maehle offers a detailed and multifaceted guide to Ashtanga Yoga’s Intermediate Series. An expert yogi and teacher, Maehle will guide you to your next level with an unprecedented depth of anatomical explanation and unparalleled attention to the practice’s philosophical and mythological heritage. You will learn:
* The background and applications of each of the three forms of yoga: Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana
* How to use Indian myth and cosmology to deepen your practice
* The importance of the Sanskrit language to the yogic tradition
* The mythology behind the names of the Intermediate Series postures
* The functions and limitations of body parts integral to the Intermediate Series, including the spine, the sacroiliac joint, the shoulder joint, and the hip joint
* How to reap the full benefits of practicing the Intermediate Series
Maehle meticulously explores all twenty-seven postures of the Intermediate Series through photos, anatomical line drawings, and practical, informative sidebars. He also discusses the philosophical and spiritual background of Ashtanga Yoga and places the practice within the context of Indian cultural history. With passionate erudition, Maehle will prepare you to reap physical, spiritual, and mental fulfillment from your evolving practice. Gregor Maehle’s website
Astanga Yoga As It
by Matthew Sweeney
Astanga Yoga As It Is by Matthew Sweeney is much in demand, since it is the only resource that fully details the primary, intermediate and advanced A & B series of Astanga Yoga. In the text portion of the book the type is small and the information dense. In Matthew’s clear, precise and matter of fact style he covers important aspects of pranayama, the role of warming up, details on core postures and traditional and novel ways to approach the practice. There are nearly 2000 photographs in the posture sequences of traditional Astanga Vinyasa Yoga on durable heavy weight stock for years of reference and enjoyment. It is sized to fit at the head of your mat in a coiled binding so the pages open flat for easy visibility and reference. Matthew’s description follows: Astanga Yoga As It Is – A comprehensive guide to the first four sequences of Ashtanga Yoga: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B as taught by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois. The book details relevant techniques on breathing, asana, bandha and drishti. It offers insight into the practical application of Yoga philosophy with information on the chakra, granthi, nadi and the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. The photographic section includes the asana for each sequence plus all of the variations for the movements and breaths between each posture. This is a one of a kind map to the traditional vinyasa method. Astanga Yoga As It Is provides an exploration of both the physical and mental aspects of the practice. It aims to shed light on some core yoga concepts and relevant self development principles. However, this book is not a “how to do it” manual. It does cover the main points of the tradition including many of the unspoken conditions that dominate the Mysore method. As It Is aims to promote a questioning attitude to the practice, to examine and integrate its many qualities. As the physical practice evolves there should be a natural and healthy interest in the mental and emotional processes that go with it. Matt Sweeney’s website
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by BKS Iyengar
For each of the 196 aphorisms, Iyengar gives first the Sanskrit, then the Sanskrit in transliteration. Then he breaks down the expression into its individual words and gives an English translation of each word. Indeed he often gives several possible English equivalents for each Sanskrit word. Then he gives his English translation of the aphorism. In this way the reader can judge the fidelity of Iyengar’s expression. Better yet, the reader can have reference to another translation and compare the results, and in doing so, come to a fuller appreciation of Patanjali’s sometimes enigmatic words. Finally there are Iyengar’s commentaries on each of the aphorisms, some of which cover several pages. Occasionally Iyengar gives tables for further clarification; indeed there are 18 tables and diagrams spread throughout the text. The sutras and commentary are framed with an Introduction, an Epilogue and four Appendices. There is a Glossary and an Index. BKS Iyengar’s website
This is a wonderful book of instructive and encouraging daily meditations centered on the practice of yoga. Gates synthesizes his experiences as a yoga student and teacher, former army ranger, and recovering alcoholic, and explores the practice of yoga in a fresh, relevant manner perfect for American readers. Each day’s reflection begins with a thought-provoking quote and then explores one intriguing aspect of yoga philosophy. Gates weaves stories of his own remarkable healing and growth with the yoga sutras of Patanjali, and provides illuminating and moving explanations of how yoga teachings apply to real-life situations. With the help of accomplished writer Kenison, Gates succeeds in taking readers beyond the mat, and showing them how yoga works as a tool for transformation. Candid and engaging, Gates will inspire both readers currently practicing yoga and those who are thinking about it. Rolf Gate’s website
IT’S IN YOUR HANDS
Left to its own organic devices, without the exertion of sensibility and will, protoplasm will simply respond to local forces, bad as well as good. We are sol/gel, semi-solid, fluid crystal, and when we are not actively firming ourselves up into functional structures we are sagging and slipping. Our flesh is like silly putty that distorts when it is ignored. We are constantly obliged to actively participate in its formation, or else it will droop of its own weight and plasticity.
This incessant formation we cannot stop. We can only make the choice to let it go its own way – directed by genetics, gravity, appetites, habits, the accidentals of our surroundings, and so on – or the choice to let our sensory awareness penetrate its processes, to be personally present in the midst of those processes with the full measure of our subjective, internal observations and responses, and to some degree direct the course of that formation.
We do not have the option of remaining passively unchanged, and to believe for a moment in this illusion is to invite distortions and dysfunctions. Like putty, we are either shaping ourselves or we are drooping; like clay, we either keep ourselves moist and malleable or we are drying and hardening. We must do one or the other; we may not passively avoid the issue. Like Job, we must learn to take our flesh in our own teeth, put our lives in our own hands, and actively participate with the subtle and awesome forces which weave the web of our existence.
From Job’s Body : A Handbook for Bodywork
by Deane Juhan
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
©1927 Max Ehrmann