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Ashtanga Yoga Principles -by Shweta Thakur-
Foundation is important to build a strong structure similarly there are five principles which builds the foundation for a strong ashtanga yoga practice.
They are as follows :
1) Breath:- It is the source of prana in all living beings.
We all breath regularly but we are never attentive to our inhalation and exhalation.The system of breath control known as ujjayi breathing is an integral part of the physical practice of ashtanga yoga.Its a thread from which the poses hang.Breath should be drawn in and released only through the nose.By contracting the epiglottis you create a soft snoring sound at the back of the throat.This technique regulates the flow of breath,bringing awareness to your breathing.
Breath is a combination of the gross element of air and the subtle life force known as prana,which is omnipresent throughout the Cosmos.Prana is believed to flow throughout the subtle body by means of Nadis.Through breath control or pranayama the yogi clears the nadis of obstructions and is able to control the flow of prana. Increased prana leads to increased awareness and vitality.
2)Bandhas:- Bandhas or internal locks,are the muscular contractions that aid yoga practice.Two internal locks that are essential to the successful practice of Ashtanga yoga are known as Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha.By contracting certain muscle groups,you affect the physical,pranic and psychic bodies.Through the force of internal locks you awaken you awaken dormant cosmic energy(kundalini)which is the vehicle of expansion of conciousness.As it rises it begins its journey up the sushumna nadi,it pierces the psychic knots(granthis)located in each energy centre(chakra).Other bandhas are jalandhara,pada and hasta bandha.
3)Drishti:- Holding the mind steady by fixing your gaze on a single point and not being distracted by seductive sounds,smells,tactile impulses or stray thoughts comprises part of the sixth limb (pratyahara) is incorporated in ashtanaga through the drishti or steady gaze. Intrinsic to each pose is a particular focal point.Following are the nine drishti points A)nabi chakra(navel). B)nasagrai(tip of the toes) C)padhyasangrai(toes) D)Ajna chakra(third eye) E)hatstagrai(tip of the fingers) F)Parsva drishti(far to the right) G)Parsva drishti(far to the left) H)angusthan ma dyai(thumb) I)urdhva ,antara drishti(upto the sky).
By concentrating on your breath and keeping your gaze fixed,you gain the ability to observe thoughts witouht being involved and distracted.In time,the mind begins to settle down and a degree of equanimity develops for you are no longer affected by your own emotinal response to situations.
4)Vinyasa:- In sanskrit nyasa denotes “to place “and vi denotes “in a special way”.
It denotes a flowing, dynamic form of yoga, connected to breath or pranayama in which yoga and mudra transitions are embodied as linkages within and between asana.Correct vinyasa is important in order to receive full benefits from your yoga practice.
5)Intention:- Every action has an intention.Similarly for every yoga practice you need to put an intention so that you have a purpose directing you throughout the practice.Always practice with the right intention.In order to know your intention you can do an introspection.This will bring your inner desires and motives to your awareness so that you are not only aware of them but you also start working towards achieving it by making it an intention for your each practice.After all God can only help those who know what they want.
Asthanga Yoga principles -by Rebecca Minor-
There are 5 principles to Ashtanga Vinyasa and all are equally important. Although it can be difficult, each of the principles should be bought to every practice and considered throughout.
Within Ashtanga Vinyasa we use what is called the Ujjayi breath. This style of breathing is important in the practice as it creates heat within the body, relaxes the mind and calms our body. The Ujjayi breath is also responsible for circulating the prana entering our body. When breathing with Ujjayi breath, both the inhale and exhale are through the nose, keeping the mouth closed and creating an oceanic sound at the back of the throat. The inhale and exhale should be equal lengths, usually for a minimum of 4 seconds each. Ujjayi breath is used in conjunction with asana creating a flow throughout our practice. There are many benefits to the yoga practice when using the Ujjayi breath including creating internal heat, rhythmic routine, oxygenating the blood, calming the brain and mind and regulating prana.
Bandha is the Sanskrit word for binding. In Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga they are referred to as the body locks, when activated they help to maintain the prana within the body. By controlling our muscles that form these locks throughout practice we help to control the flow of energy within the body and locking it in particular areas when needed. The bandhas are also used to help protect our bodies, for example our lower back, help to create balance, create a smooth flow in and out of postures and strengthens our core muscles. The 5 bandhas are as below:
- Mulabhanda – Referred to as the root lock, the Mulabandha is activated by tightening the muscles around the pelvic and perineum areas. By locking this bandha it stops energy escaping. This area is also where our kundilini energy is lying dormant, when we activate the bandha it helps to awaken the energy.
- Uddiayana Bandha – Located around the navel and lower abdominal area, the Uddiayana bandha is activated by contracting the muscles in this area and pulling the navel in towards the spine. This bandha, when locked, helps protect our lower back in postures, create balance, straightens the spine and strengthens our core muscles.
- Jalandhara Bandha – Also referred to as the throat lock, the Jalandhara bandha is activated by lowering the chin towards the collar bone. The benefits of the Jalandhara Bandha is the control of breath, seals in the energy within the body, supports the neck and is widely used in pranayama exercises.
- Pada Bandha – In Sanskrit Pada means feet. When activating the Pada bandha the feet and toes must be grounded, the toes spread with the foot gripping the ground. This bandha is essential in certain postures such as balancing poses.
- Hasta Bandha – Hasta means hands and as with the Pada Bandha when activating the Hasta Bandha the hands must be spread like a fan on the ground getting good grip with a suction type action. When activated the Hasta bandhas help create efficiency in asanas such as downward dog.
Although we are actually looking internally, the drishti is the gaze at which we look during each asana. The gaze generally follows the direction of the pose and helps us to keep an internal focus throughout our practice rather than being distracted by our surroundings. The Drishti also links to Pratyahara, the 5th limb in the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga – sense withdrawal, blocking out the distractions around us.
In yoga, Vinyasa is the dynamic flow linking movement of asana in a particular order with the breath. The word Vinyasa is broken down in Sanskrit, Nyasa meaning ‘to place’ and vi meaning ‘in a special way’. Vinyasa helps to create heat, focus and rhythm.
For each practice a yogi should set their intention ensuring that the intention is clear, correct and positive. An intention is the purpose or meaning to your action or thought. When practicing yoga we should all accept our body’s limitations without forcing ourselves, have positive attitudes and thoughts, be selfless in our actions and set a good intention.
Ashtanga Yoga Principles -by Ben Aldridge-
There are five principles of ashtanga yoga. The first is the breath.Ashtanga yoga is practiced with a particular type of breathing which
is called ujjayi breath. Ujjayi breath is a diaphragmatic breath and involves breathing in and out through the nose. By narrowing the throat passage, a sound is produced, but more importantly it provides a point of focus and builds internal body heat. By focusing on it during practice, you will be able to notice when it becomes uneven or broken and thus potentially when you are struggling or perhaps pushing too hard in an asana.
The next principle is that of the bandhas, which are locks. There are five of these in particular which are important: the foot and the hand locks, but also the throat lock, the root lock, and uddiyana bandha. The locks redirect the flow of energy in the body but also they prevent damage and mobilising uddiyana bandha and mula bandha during practice stabilise and strengthen the core muscles.
The next principle is that of the drishtis, which is the gaze point. Each asana has a corresponding focus or gaze point. They are an important tool in terms of quieting the mind – it is difficult to still the mind when the eyes are looking about, and although the drishti gives you an external point of focus, the real point of focus is the internal aspects of the practice.
The next principle is vinyasa, which is the way in which the various asanas are linked together in practice, in a flowing manner. It gives rhythm to the practice, helps to create heat and provides a counter pose between postures.
Finally, there is intention. Intention has been called “a conscious gesture to align your mind, heart, imagination, and body with whatever act you’re about to begin”. Yoga unites the mind, body and spirit and bringing your intentions into focus helps to achieve its and the practitioner’s goals.
Ashtanga Yoga Principles -by Andrea Brady-
Yogic breath commonly referred to as Ujaii breath or the victorious breath is an essential component to any style of yoga class. Without the breath the class has no direction so there should be an awareness/connection to the breath at all times. The breath has many uses, not only does it act a guide, or to strengthen lung capacity but we can use it to focus on to gain control our minds and use it as a meditative tool. The breath helps us to determine where our boundaries are in an asana, therefore when we feel like we have gone as far in a stretch as we possibly can, we will find the breath will help us find more rotation in the pose. An example of this would be a twisted posture, but the same applies to any posture. When we feel tension in a posture, we direct the breath to this area. Breath should be inhaled in and out through the nose, and the inhales should be equal to the exhales. We can compare the breath to the ocean, a natural process that occurs when waves lap onto the shore, not forced but free flowing. If control of the breath is lost during yoga, as a result of a difficult posture or a distracted mind, ultimately the posture will suffer. Regaining composure means finding a reconnection with the breath. Breath tools are available to us in the form of Pranayama, because the breath is related to the mind, by practising controlled breathing techniques, we are ultimately regulating the breath, which soothes the nervous system and regulates the mind. Its benefits are plentiful, it also relieves anxiety, creates internal heat, reduces stress hormones and it re-oxygenates our bodies.
There are five Bandhas in total, Mulabanda, Uddiyanna Bhanda, Jalandhara Bhanda, Pada Bhanda, Hasta Bhanda. These are located in various different parts of the body and cannot be seen, but they are felt. I like to think of Bhanda’s as internal energy locks which can be contracted by us to ensure we remain light during practice, when being utilised properly they gives the illusion that we are floating. Its very east to forget about engaging our bhandas, we have to be aware to remind ourselves to switch them on. By switching them on we are able to strengthens our core muscles and it ensures our practice will benefit and our posture should improve.
Each posture ultimately has a drishti point, I think the one people tend to think of first is our third eye located on the forehead. A drishti is a point of gaze or focus yet it has little to do with our physical sight. It can be the point where the eyes settle in a posture or when the eyes follow a stretch, but this point is a resting place for the eyes. Any images within this focal point should not be scrutinised. The drishti should help us to direct our attention to within.
This can be referred to as a cycle… it means “to put in order” everything in life/nature has a cycle, vinyasa within yoga is no different. It’s like creating a tempo within the class which involves, linking breath, movement, postures, internal heat, energy flow. The postures are put in a particular order and they link with the points mentioned above in order for the sequence of movements to flow seamlessly.
A considerate intention with a positive outlook should always be set before practice. An intention is putting meaning behind an action, it’s thoughtfulness, selflessness, positivity. Anyone can practise yoga, but if we set an intention before the class, it gives the achievements of the class meaning and depth. An intention can be something to focus upon and remembered throughout the practice, these can vary and can include anything from focusing on ones Bandhas, or acceptance of what is about to happen, except how your body feels and how you feel today. Intention just means that there is some meaning attached to what you’re doing. This is what makes yoga different to other forms of exercise, it has meaning behind it.
The 5 principles of Yoga -by Shikma Jacoby-
The way we breathe while practicing Yoga is very different to the way we usually breathe. While practicing Yoga we use a spacial breathing technic called ‘Ujjai Breath’. The most important thing about breathing while practicing Yoga is the flow. The breath has to be an non separate part of the physical movement. It should feel as we are riding the breath.
The breath dose not only gives us the amount of oxygen and energy we need for the physical practice, it help us produce heat as well.
The breath is synchronised with the the posture we are doing, so when opening the body we inhale and when ‘closing’ we exhale. As well the breath and especially Ujjai breath helps to get to a meditative state which is a crucial part of the Yoga practice.
The bandhas are ‘locks’ that are located in different areas of the body. There are 3 major ones (Mulla, Uddiyana, Jalandhara) each one is located in a key point in the body and are very important for the practice as they are helping to regulate the energies in our bodies while we practice. The Bandhas can be used to keep and store energy or release it, two of the bandhas should be locked throughout our practice and one is dynamic- locked or open in different stages of the practice.
The bandhas are an important key for a stable and strong pose, they act like a concrete foundation for our body keeping the spine protected, the center of the body strong and the energy focused in one area. Keeping the Uddiyana Bandha locked throughout the practice helps practicing the postures correctly and more importantly preventing the body from compensating and using the wrong muscles while doing a pose.
The Gase. The drishti is the direction we look while in a pose. The gase has a few important aspects, firstly it indicates the direction our body needs to aim to in every pose. The gase ‘follows’ the pose and helps us understand the core of a pose. Secondly the drishti is focusing us while we are steady in a pose, thou the gase should not be focused but more of a soft look on certain point while we gase we are less destructed from all that is around us and it is easier for us to be in a meditative state.
For me the Vinyasa is the most important principle of Ashtanga Yoga as it is one of the main aspect which makes Ashtanga so dynamic and it is the main reason why I love it so much.. The principle of Vinyasa is the flow of movements with the flow of the breath, so the in each inhalation and exhalation the body goes from one pose to other or deepening in a certain pose. When practiced correctly, the flow of the vinyasa is like a trance and the practice becomes meditative and rhythmic.
Yoga is a philosophy and a way of life, although it involves a lot of physical work, Yoga is so much more than that and it has different goals, the main one is to prepare the Yogi for the state of meditation. While we practice Yoga we should remember this, we should remember the first limb, we should practice from ‘the heart’, practice with our body with our mind and with our soul. We should learn to leave the past behind and give no meaning to the future as those are out of our reach, and be here now.
Put our intentions into the practice, take this beautiful energy that we have while practicing and lift it to another level. We should always practice with intention, positivity and pureness and our practice will always be strong and productive- not only on the physical side but on the spiritual side as well. This what makes Yoga so powerful.
The five principles of Ashtanga yoga -by Charlotta Lidstrom-
- Breath: in Ashtanga yoga you use a special breathing technique called ujjayi breath, it is used to create heat in the body to make the practice easier and safer. Ujjayi breath also calms the mind and promotes sense withdrawal-pratyahara, and keeps prana in the body. The breath is the pace of the rhythm in your practice as every move is synchronized with an inhalation or exhalation.
- Bandhas: means binding, the bandhas are muscular energy blocks in the body used for strength, protection and directing prana in the body. There are five main bandhas they are: mulahbandha, uddiyana bandha, jalandhara bandha, Pada bandha and Hasta bandha. Mulabandha and uddiyanabandha should be activated throughout the entire practice.
- Drishti: The drishti is a point of gaze in every asana through the practice. The drishti varies in different asanas. The drishti is meant to direct your attention inwards, to keep the focus on the practice and not get distracted by things happening around you.
- Vinyasa: is the flow in which you move from an asana to an other linking them together using the breath. Together with the breath it creates a rhythm in your practice.
- Intention: is the motivation for the practice, the reason.
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