The benefits of Ashtanga Yoga are significant to the mind, body, and spirit. When it comes to incorporating an all-encompassing exercise into your life, Ashtanga offers benefits to all aspects, both in and outside of the studio or classroom.
Ashtanga Yoga is a traditional method of yoga with its roots going back thousands of years. It was internationally popularized in the twentieth century by yoga teacher K. Pattabhi Jois. Its longstanding relevance in the world of yoga has proved its ability to connect us with a world far beyond our own while still offering applicable modern uses.
Importance of Ashtanga Yoga
By incorporating a substantial list of challenging postures with a strong flow of breathing and a deep focus on meditation, you can build positive influences into all aspects of your life.
The traditional practice of Ashtanga Yoga is a daily ritual and this makes it more than just a yoga class—it’s truly a lifestyle. With such an emphasis on consistent practice you will quickly notice improvements. Soon those challenging poses will become second nature and your body will build up the physical and mental strength needed to practice each day.
Physical Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga postures can offer great physical benefits by engaging all areas of your body. Improving flexibility and building muscle are just the start: by incorporating a strong breathing flow into your practice, you are also improving cardiovascular strength and lowering your blood pressure.
An Ashtanga [AS1] course can be demanding. While this might be intimidating at first, it can be highly rewarding once you familiarize yourself with the routine. Building muscle will probably be the first benefit you notice from Ashtanga Yoga, as many of the asana feature challenging positions utilizing arm strength to maintain balance. These poses put an emphasis on your upper body strength as well as your core, as they must be engaged when holding these positions.
Improved flexibility is another wonderful benefit. By putting your body into these strenuous positions, you are also pushing your body to stretch in new ways. Yoga pushes the body’s flexibility, but Ashtanga is particularly challenging. With each class offering a physically demanding session at least a few times a week, you will notice your flexibility improve in a matter of weeks. If you are someone who has always felt their flexibility was lacking, Ashtanga Yoga might be the most efficient and healthy way to achieve improvements.
Breathing plays a central role in yoga—it is the connector between the physical and mental actions being performed in a session. Having a consistent breathing flow gives you a centering point when it comes to meditation, but it also fuels your body with the oxygen needed to perform each posture. During a session, your lungs are constantly working to provide a consistent breathing flow, and this is what makes yoga such a great cardiovascular exercise. By developing a strong breathing technique, you are training your body to efficiently pump blood to all extremities. This has many health benefits such as improving your heart’s function, strengthening blood vessels, and lowering blood pressure. These are critical elements of our health that we might not consider unless our doctor has already addressed them as needing improvement. Incorporating yoga into your everyday life is a great way to preemptively improve and maintain your health.
Mental Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
It might not be as easy to notice improvements with your mental strength, but this is another fantastic benefit of Ashtanga Yoga. Once you have learned the sequence of postures utilized in your Ashtanga class and have determined how your body feels in each pose, you can start to focus on the mental aspects of the practice. This is when you truly start to look inward and reap the mental benefits.
As you set out to begin an Ashtanga Yoga class, know that you will require mental fortitude. The patience, attention, and determination developed in the classroom will help you improve your Ashtanga practice, but they can also help improve aspects of your everyday life.
Meditation is the act of stilling the mind. By removing yourself from the external forces present around you, you can focus on yourself. Through meditations you can build many great mental skills, from managing stress and anxiety to developing decision-making capabilities. The way in which we typically rush through our busy lives does not allow for dedicated time to reflect and focus on ourselves. Ashtanga Yoga is a great place for you to incorporate some time for reflection into your life; a place where reflection is not only allowed but encouraged. Stress and anxiety are forces that influence our lives more than we realize. If you let stress and anxiety overcome your life, they can have a lasting influence on your mental and physical health. Whether they inhibit your ability to operate within your own life or they negatively reflect on those around you, the relationship we have with stress and anxiety is something we should spend more time understanding.
Meditation in Ashtanga is wonderful for reinforcing those reflective skills that can be wielded in other areas of life. While in the classroom, you won’t be challenged with any immediate problems other than achieving each posture. Take this time to practice building mental patience and understanding what you need to do to achieve the goal before you. This way, when you are outside of class and are challenged with a difficult situation, you can apply those same mental skills and navigate them with composure.
Being able to minimize stress and anxiety can help clear your mind of negative influences, making way for constructive thought processes. This is when you can develop positive skills like focus, creativity, and improved decision-making. By removing external distractions, you are free to focus on accomplishing the challenge at hand. Whether it’s completing a project, coming up with new ideas, or making a difficult decision, Ashtanga can be the physical practice that helps improve mental aspects of life as well. (And, we can all find uses for a more efficient mental state in our personal and professional lives!)
Whatever your reason for undertaking an Ashtanga Yoga practice, you will most assuredly achieve physical improvements and mental growth. By strengthening the body and mind, you may also find a deeper spiritual connection to that which you hold in life’s golden light.