The History of Ashtanga Yoga

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The first mention of ashtanga yoga seems to have occurred in Pantanjali’s yoga Sutras. The literal translation is “eight-limbed yoga.” Ashtanga yoga embraced eight spiritual principles including moral restraint, posture, breath control, and meditation.

However, as practiced today in the West, ashtanga yoga has come to mean something different. Today, ashtanga yoga is sometimes referred to as power yoga. Its emphasis is less on the spiritual than on the physical ability to assume a set of complicated postures, such as the sun salutation, swiftly and gracefully. Ashtanga yoga places a strong emphasis on breathing techniques. Because if provides a full-body workout, it has found favor among many athletes and other celebrities who must keep their bodies strong and flexible.

Ashtanga yoga requires many difficult movements. Amateurs and even professionals may inadvertently injure themselves by pushing too hard or by forcing themselves into a posture they are not sure how to do. Therefore, people wishing to try ashtanga yoga are advised to take several classes to master the principles before trying to practice alone. It is also a good idea to purchase a yoga sticky mat or a rug to keep from slipping and falling while performing the postures. Some practitioners prefer rugs for doing ashtanga yoga, because the rugs absorb sweat better than mats do.

Celebrities Who Practice Ashtanga Yoga

As mentioned above, ashtanga yoga is the darling of celebrities who practice it for fitness. One such celebrity is singer and actress Madonna, who has been practicing ashtanga yoga since the early 1990s. Another is model Christy Turlington. Other celebrities include actors Woody Harrelson and Willem DaFoe as well as athletes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Randal Cunningham.

Power Yoga and Ashtanga yoga

Often, the terms ashtanga yoga and Power yoga are used interchangeably; however there are some slight differences between the two programs. Although power yoga is based on ashtanga yoga, it has been somewhat Westernized. For instance, the primary series of ashtanga yoga asanas can take over two hours. power yoga has shortened this sequence considerably. Power yoga also utilizes a heated room to increase flexibility and allow students to sweat out toxins.

Ashtanga yoga has achieved the reputation of providing a formidable workout while still focusing on the principles of controlled breathing and mindfulness that has made yoga so popular. It is an excellent choice for the experienced athlete or even the beginner who is starting out in great shape. However, beginners who are not in good shape might be better served by starting out practicing the gentler Hatha yoga.


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