Ashtanga is a type of Hatha yoga, which means that it focuses on moving your body rather than sitting still and meditating.
It is a series of movements and poses that are performed with synchronized breathing to connect your mind and your body.
Ashtanga is made up of 6 different series or levels. You must master each level before moving onto the next.
The primary level is the one that you need to start with. Here is a guide to the best postures and forms that are included in the primary level of ashtanga.
Samasthiti is a standing pose. It is also called Tadasana or tree pose. You stand with your feet together and your body upright and it is a great position to begin your practice and connect with your breath.
The breathing exercises done in this pose should focus on the abdomen and diaphragm.
2. Chaturanga Dandasana
Chaturanga Dandasana, also called the four limbed staff pose, is part of the sun salutation. It begins in plank position, with your shoulders in line with your wrists and your hips in line with your body, forming a straight line from your crown to your heels.
From the plank position, shift your shoulders forward and lower yourself towards the ground by bending your elbows.
Your core should be engaged and you should keep your back straight and your hips in line. If you don’t have the strength to hold this position then you can bring your knees to the ground.
Bhujangasana is also called cobra pose. It is easy to transition from chaturanga dandasana into bhujangasana. All you need to do is roll over your toes and bring your legs to the floor, anchor your pelvis to the mar and bend your elbows at your sides.
You will feel the stretch in your abdomen and your back. You can also straighten your arms and roll your shoulders back to continue the flow into urdhva mukha savanasana – upward facing dog.
4. Adho Mukha Savasana
This pose is one of the most popular yoga poses. It is also called downward facing dog. It is used in lots of different yoga flows including the sun salutation.
You can transition into a downward facing dog from Bhujangasana or a number of other poses, or you can use it to start your practice.
Begin on your hands and knees – your wrists and shoulders should be in line and your hips and knees should be in line. Roll your toes underneath your feet and use your hands to push backwards, lifting your hips off the mat and straightening your legs.
To ground yourself to the mat, spread your fingers and push into the mat from your forearms.
From this position, you need to concentrate on opening up your body. Rotate your upper arms outwards to broaden the collar bones and focus on your shoulders pushing away from your ears towards your hips.
Shift your weight from your arms to your upper legs and sink your heels towards the floor. Make sure that you are not holding your weight in your ankles.
Bring your abdomen in towards your spine to engage your core. Spend some time breathing in this pose before exhaling and coming back onto your hands and knees.
5. Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana
This is also called extended triangle pose, and it is an important part of the primary series of ashtanga. Stand up straight with a wide gap in between your feet.
Your left foot should be at a 45 degree angle pointing straight ahead, and your right foot should be pointing away from you towards the short end of your mat.
Engage your legs so that your weight is evenly spread between them, and roll your right thigh outwards so that that your right knee is inline with your toes.
Engage your core and lengthen your waist. And put your arms out to your sides so that they are parallel with the floor.
Reach your left arm up towards the sky and bend your right side over your right leg, placing your right arm on your leg or your ankle. You can also place it on the mat beside your leg.
Exhale and rotate your ribs towards the ceiling. Keep your feet firmly pressed to the floor. Take a few long breaths in this pose, then return to the center and repeat on the opposite side.
This is the warrior pose. There are actually 5 different warrior poses, but we are going to focus on warrior pose 2. Begin in samasthiti, standing at the front of your mat.
Take a big step backwards with your left leg, pointing your toes inward. Ground yourself to the mat by pressing your feet to the floor, and make sure that you are holding your weight in your legs.
From this position, take a deep breath in and bring your arms out to your sides so that they are parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders down and extend your neck. Exhale and bend your right knee so that it is over your right ankle.
Take some time to adjust the position and shift your weight until you feel balanced. Bring your abdomen into your spine to engage your core and lengthen your back and align your neck with your spine.
Take a few deep breaths in this position before returning to the center and repeating on the opposite side.
Kurmasana, also called the tortoise pose, is more challenging than some other ashtanga forms in the primary series. However, it looks more complex than it actually is.
Kurmasana is a great form to take if you want to stretch out your back, hips and legs. The poses relaxes the mind and the body and is perfect for relieving stress.
Sit on your mat with your back straight and your legs extended outwards in front of you. Point your toes upwards and press your thighs into the mat.
Move your legs shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly so they are a little off the ground. Put your arms out in front of you between your legs.
Slowly bend your torso forwards towards the ground, sliding your arms underneath your legs. Your elbows should be locked and your arms should remain close to the ground.
Open up your shoulders and bring your chest and head down until your chin touches the ground. Keep your feet in a flexed position and straighten out your legs. Spend some time breathing in this position.
8. Upavishta Konasana
Upavishata Konasana is also called the seated angle pose. Begin in a seated position with your back straight and your legs out in front of you. Your toes should be pointed upwards.
From here, spread your legs out either side as far as is comfortable. The more often you practice this pose, the deeper you will be able to get into the stretch.
Once your legs are stretched as far out as you want them, take a deep breath in and lift your arms up towards the sky. Exhale and lower your arms towards the floor.
You can keep your body upright or lower it to the floor- whatever feels most comfortable. Stretch out your fingers and keep your palms flat to the floor, reaching forwards to deepen the stretch. Take some time to breathe in this pose.
9 . Setu Bandhasana
Setu Bhandhasana is also called the bridge pose. It is simple but effective. Begin by lying on your back. Bend both knees and keep your feet flat on the floor, in line with your hips.
Your arms should be alongside your body with your palms facing down into the ma, your fingertips just in reach of your heels.
In this position, take a deep breath in and press your feet into the floor as you lift your hips. You should roll your spine off the floor in a fluid motion. Engage your thighs to keep your knees hip width apart.
Lift up your chest by pressing down into your shoulders and arms. Bring your hands together in a central position underneath you. You can keep the palms pressed to the mat or clasp your hands together.
Shavasana, also known as corpse pose, is a great form to finish off your practice. It is a restorative pose and is a neutral position for doing breathwork and meditation.
Lie down on your mat and relax your legs with your arms loosely at your sides. You can use pillows or blankets to ensure that you are warm and comfortable.
Once you are in a comfortable position, take some deep breaths through your nose. Let your body become soft and heavy and feel it sinking down into the floor. Spend some time breathing in this position.
There are lots of poses and forms that make up ashtanga yoga. These forms are great for beginners and can be used in your practice to improve your flexibility.
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