About Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga practice is deeply therapeutic and reduces many chronic and acute health problems: it eliminates pain and stiffness from the body, improves posture, blood circulation, breathing and digestion. It also improves balance, flexibility, concentration, detoxifies and strengthens the body and may help to alleviate depression, anxiety and stress.
Ashtanga Yoga is a physical, psychological and spiritual practice. The first stage addresses the health of the body, the second stage peace of mind. Thereafter, yoga becomes an inner journey, a path of transformation or evolution, a psychotherapeutic model leading to deep states of peace and Self knowledge.
A central feature of this traditional South Indian yoga system is the coordination of breathing and movement, which is known as vinyasa. The vinyasas are movements that link postures or asanas together into a flowing meditative practice.
The goal of asana practice is to achieve a stable comfortable seated position suitable for meditation. The path to achieving this takes the body through a healing or therapeutic process and makes the mind peaceful, calm and concentrated.
In asana practice the movements are slow and smooth and the breath is gradually trained to lengthen, soften and become full.
Once a seated position is established, the breath then becomes the central focus of attention. This next stage is called pranayama - prana means vital energy/breath/mind and ayama means to increase, lengthen or control. Pranayama means to lengthen and deepen the breath, to control the breath and eventually to hold the breath completely.
While asana practice leads to good physical health, pranayama is the beginning stage of meditation: in sitting and focusing on the breath, the mind starts to come under control. Eventually, pranayama practice leads to a completely different way of breathing - a way of breathing that supports one on the inner journey, one that naturally leads to deeper calmness and concentration.
While an interest in yoga can be purely for the physical benefits - such as good health, strength or fitness, it will be found that the psychological benefits are just as rewarding.