As our blog evolves into the full spectrum of our lives through social media outlets, we consider sharing the way we balance food, fitness, family and faith, and with that sharing we are left with people asking, what is an Ashtangi?
It’s not a club or a membership, there’s nothing to join and I’m not selling anything, it’s clean mental and physical fitness. It’s no secret that we love food, we spare no expense on ingredients and live within no bounds of caloric or carbohydrate intake. We believe food is good for the soul and it should always be experienced guilt free, with that being said we also believe in respecting our bodies. Jacob is a boxer so his body is in good condition but I am hands down opposed to “working out” to lose weight, if it resembles a chore in any way, count me out. After following a couple dozen inspirational fitness guru’s on Instagram and doing the appropriate research, I have recently become a diurnal pupil of Ashtangi. In the past I’ve taken Yoga classes at the gym and have done the P90x3 Yoga video but none of those practices fit my needs. For me it is not about burning calories in hot yoga or becoming a human pretzel; for me it’s about finding a source to expend my energy in a focused routine, to center my body and mind while challenging my very being. My body has gone through stress, anxiety, depression, weight gain, weight loss, growth spurts, and child bearing. Albeit ironic, Yoga is my way to show God how grateful I am for this body he has given me through persistent travails and concentrated strengthening.
So what exactly do I do? Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga was popularized by Krishna Puttabhi Jois in the past century. I’ll attempt to explain it in the most rudimentary way possible… Ashtanga is a gymnastic style yoga where alignment and movements coincide with the free flow of breath. The asanas, or poses, are held for a predetermined number of breaths, and each series of asanas works on maintain a calming mental focal point to aid in meditation. Ashtangis are encouraged to practice 6 days a week which is a perfect opportunity to start the day off equalized between body and mind. Ashtanga is a Royal Yoga in the form of Rājayoga. This style of Yoga is not to be confused with the popularly practiced style of American Power Yoga called Vinyasa. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga isn’t for everyone, there is a very high risk for injury when making adjustments and deepening asanas, and if you’re anything like me you aren’t practicing Hinduism or vegetarianism however those are some of the founding principles.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga follows a specific set of Series and Sequences:
1. Opening Series (8-10 sun salutations)
2. 1 of the 6 main series’
3. Back Bending sequence
4. Finishing sequence (inverted asanas)
•”bandha” a practice of contacting the muscles sequentially with loud deep nasal breaths
•”dristhi” where each asana, or pose, has a designated predetermined focal point, there are 9: The 3rd eye (Broomadhya) The tip of the nose (Nasagrai) The navel (Nabi Chakra) The hand (Hastagrai) The toes (Padayoragria) The thumbs (Angusta Ma Dai) Up to the sky (Urdva) To the side (Parsva), both left and right.
I hope this answers the question at hand. If this practice interests you and you’d like to know more, the best resources I’ve found were the books Yoga Mala: The Original Teachings of Ashtanga Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois , Gregor Maehle’s Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy and lastly look up Miami instructor Kino MacGregor on YouTube or Instagram under the username KinoYoga and watch out for her upcoming book.
Maybe Ashtanga would be good for you or maybe it seems too routine, but it doesn’t have to be. After my practice I always safely play around with my asanas and change them up a bit with inversions. Here is a quick video of a series that I practiced to work on strength, stamina, flexibility, concentration and to just let go and have fun.