Ashtanga means 8 limbs and is also known as Raja Yoga. It follows the ancient text “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” the foundational text of Yoga. It is believed that Patanjali is not the creator of Yoga but he organized it into 8 steps that people can follow to achieve Samadhi (bliss, self-realisation, a higher consciousness). The sutras provide Yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical basis and it clarifies the important concepts of Yoga.
8 limbs or steps of Yoga
- Yamas – Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-lust, non-attachment.
- Niyamas – purity of body and mind, modesty, enthusiasm to learn and understand, self- study and observation, to have faith.
- Asana – Postures. This is most commonly thought of as “Yoga” but as you can see it is only one part of the eight limbs. Asana helps open up the physical planes and energy channels, removes toxins and impurities and strengthens our foundation.
- Pranayama – Life force. Breath is essential to life and a lot of us do not breath properly. Pranayama is practicing control of breath.
- Pratyahara – Sense withdrawel. Shutting the external and internal distractions off.
- Dharana – Concentration. Holding attention onto one particular object such as breath, sound, visualization or a candle.
- Dhyana – Meditation. Having such intense concentration on one object that no other thought intrudes.
- Samadhi – Absorption. The object, surroundings and oneself are together as one with no perceived separation.
Reccommended reading “The Four Chapters of Freedom: Commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”.
The aim of meditation is to create peace and stillness in the mind and body. This allows time for you to actively rest allowing your autonomic nervous system to act without interruption. Your body can focus on maintaining homeostasis, allowing time for efficient breathing, digesting, balancing hormones and healing the body. The body does this during sleep as well but many people have interrupted sleep, poor quality sleep or have trouble sleeping and the body doesn’t have a chance to balance itself.
With the pressures and stresses of modern day life it is a great skill to be able to pause, become calm and relaxed within. Stress and anxiety can cause a lot of problems in the body and the mind and we often don’t even realize what it is doing to us. Tension in our muscles is often due to emotional holding patterns in our body and mind from past experiences. Meditation and Asana (Yoga postures) can help you let go of the tension and holding patterns you have in your body.
At first meditation will be about finding a comfortable seated position that you can stay in for the duration of the meditation. This can take time and the asana (posture) classes will help you with this. Then it is focusing the mind on one thing and not letting the mind wonder. Thoughts may enter your mind but it’s about acknowledging them and then letting them go. With practice and dedication you will be able to achieve this.
Benefits of meditating
- Calms the mind
- Improves sleep
- Gives the Autonomic Nervous System time to work efficiently- breathing, healing, digesting and balancing hormones.
- Improves self-discipline
- Improves focus and concentration
Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow Class
Vinyasa flow classes were designed for people who had a family or business to attend to and who did not have enough time to spend up to 10 hours a day practicing the full works of Yoga. So the practice has been condensed into a sequence that includes elements from all 8 limbs. The asana flows from one posture to the next and the postures are held for 5-10 deep breaths, not held for a long time. The aim is to do every posture with focus and awareness. Every posture has a Drishti (gaze) point so you are not looking around at other people and comparing yourself you are only focused on yourself and your breathing.
Benefits of Ashtanga Vinyasa
- Cleanses the body of toxins and impurities
- Improves focus
- Strengthens the body
- Opens energy pathways
- Removes emotional/habitual holding patterns
- Promotes deeper and efficient breathing
- Calms the mind and body
- Lifts the mood
Relaxing and calming to the body and mind. It is gentle, safe and supportive so suitable for everybody. You can completely relax into a stretch or posture. Good for people who may suffer from:
- Chronic/Long term pain
- Restless mind
Yin Yoga is a slower form of Yoga done from cold. You gradually and gently go into and out of poses holding for longer periods of time to allow the connective tissue to release and lengthen. It causes change to muscles, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments. It also has a meditative element due to the long held postures it works on calming the mind, focusing on breath and body awareness whilst holding the postures.
Who is it for?
- People who find Vinyasa or Ashtanga Yoga too much or too fast at the moment
- Those with tight muscles that need time to allow the deep tension to release
- Those with particular issues that may need modifications or variations using props etc.