What are the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga?
It is said that the yogi and sage Vamana Rishi recorded the Ashtanga yoga system in his manuscript “Yoga Korunta”. This ancient document came into the hands of Pattabhi Jois, who began teaching the Ashtanga tradition during the 1940s.
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Like many forms of yoga, Ashtanga includes physical postures to improve general body condition, and also mental and ethical practices in order to to evolve from the spiritual point of view.
The “Ashtanga yoga” is translated as “yoga of eight limbs”, which reflects the eight different practices inherent to its teaching. These eight practices are called yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Translated into Spanish, these words mean moral codes; self-knowledge, posture, control of the breath, control of the senses, concentration, meditation and communion with the Universe.
The first four limbs of Ashtanga yoga are considered external, since they reflect the connection with the physical world and include practices to help make those links more fluid and meaningful. Some benefits of practicing the four external cleansing limbs include stress relief and an improvement in flexibility, balance, coordination, strength and endurance. Some practitioners also claim that they help treat chronic diseases such as joint pains and digestive problems.
The second four limbs of Ashtanga yoga are internal cleansing practices, developed to help control your mind; his intention is to achieve control of the “six spiritual poisons”. These poisons, similar to the seven capital sins of Catholicism, are desire, anger, deceit, gluttony, laziness and envy. After practicing these techniques of mind control, it is said that these poisons leave the mind completely, one by one.
As with any training program, the progress to achieve the benefits of Ashtanga yoga does not consist of a simple ascent of traveling. According to Oregon yoga instructor Kerry Colette, it looks more like a succession of small hills that make evolution a slow and arduous upward path. You will feel as if you step back one step for every two achieved forward. The key, according to Colette, lies in being as patient and understanding with yourself as Ashtanga yoga practices teach you to be with others. Progress will be slow and sometimes frustrating; however, to the extent that you are consistent and practice conscientiously and with dedication, you will continue your way forward.
Working with Ashtanga yoga is a cycle of training and trials. Colette recommends attending classes twice a week, in order to receive the teachings of a qualified instructor. If you can not find an Ashtanga instructor in your area, you can find videos and instruction online.
Between sessions, practice at least 10 to 20 minutes a day; This practice is important, since it allows you to codify the Ashtanga principles and identify questions to consult when you attend the next class.