What Is Ashtanga Yoga? (Ashtanga Primary Series Poses)

by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Lifestyle Columnist

Published in Lifestyle on 11th April, 2019

Many who try out yoga can find that it's an addicting exercise. It's something that not only involves creating more strength, but also tests your ability to flex and balance. On top of that, there are often mental and emotional aspects that can play into the overall experience.

Among those yoga styles, Ashtanga yoga is one that is gaining in popularity. While it can be a very tough style of yoga to master, it's also one that can help you with increasing your discipline as well as creating a stronger body and mind.

ashtanga yoga practice

Let's take a look into this type of yoga, and what it has to offer those who attempt it.

What Is Ashtanga Yoga?

There are many different kinds of yoga out there, including Yin, Kundalini, Ashtanga and much more.

Each of these styles can have some different focuses and varying ranges of difficulty. Ashtanga yoga is one of the more difficult options out there, which focuses on structure quite intensely.

Within this style, there are several different series that you'll have to master before you can move onto the next.

This rigid structure is something that can deter many, but those who are deeply involved in yoga can find it to be a very rewarding practice. It's just a matter of creating the discipline needed to get through each series.

Principles Of Ashtanga Yoga

Most kinds of yoga have their own principles. Depending on the goals for a specific type, those principles may be different from one another. The following are some of the principles that are specific to Ashtanga yoga.


Overall, the Vinyasa seeks to keep control of the combination of movements and breath that occur while you're doing Ashtanga yoga. The idea behind the practice is one of internal cleansing, helping the body to do away with what is seen as "dirty, thick blood" in favor of thinner blood that flows more easily.


The Bandhas relate to various positions that help with centering yourself and drawing focus in. These Bandhas are made up of the Uddiyana Bandha, the Mula Bandha and the Jalandhara Bandha.

Each is used at certain times to bring your attention to a specific place on your body, such as the throat, sternum or abdomen.

The Breath

The breath is an important aspect in just about any kind of yoga. Many positions include focusing on the breath and sometimes breathing in different ways.

In Ashtanga yoga, it's generally expected to keep your breath even, which can be difficult when you're engaged with the more difficult positions.


The concept of Tristhana involves keeping your attention on the core concepts of Ashtanga yoga. These concepts are typically made up of your posture, your breathing system and your focus.

When combined, these three factors can help to keep you more tuned in as you move through the positions.

Ashtanga Yoga Series

At this point, there are a number of series included within Ashtanga yoga. Depending on where you study it, there can be anywhere from four to six different series that you'll need to go through. Often, it's also expected that you master one before moving onto the next.


The initial series that you'll enter into can be known by a variety of names, but it will usually include some of the easier, more basic poses. That said, don't expect Ashtanga yoga to be highly easy as a practice, as this is one designed to create focus in intense ways.

ashtanga yoga primary series


Once you have gotten a firm handle on the primary series, you'll be able to move onto intermediate options. This series is thought to be one that focuses on energy, and can include somewhere around 40 different exercises or positions.

These positions are by no means easy, which can lead some to wonder just how much more difficult it gets!v


Like with the intermediate series, there can be several steps within the advanced Ashtanga yoga series. One such example includes around 25 poses, all of which test your muscle, balance and focus greatly. When you've gotten through the advanced series, you'll know you're truly a yoga pro!

How Difficult Is Ashtanga Yoga?

In short, this is a very difficult style of yoga. It's not a style that is typically recommended for beginners, as it can be highly intimidating and hard. Generally, this is a kind of yoga that experienced yogis will take on when they have mastered less difficult types.

In addition to being difficult, each series can also be very long. Whereas lighter kinds of yoga can be done in twenty or thirty minutes, Ashtanga yoga series can take around an hour and a half. That's a lot of time to dedicate every day to your yoga routine!

ashtanga yoga

For those who have the time and the willpower to spend on the series, Ashtanga yoga can also be very rewarding. You'll reach higher levels of balance, flexibility and strength than you might with most other types. It's worth considering if you're quite adept at other yoga types.

What Benefits Come With Ashtanga Yoga?

You can gain benefits from just about any kind of exercise, and yoga is no different. What tends to set yoga apart from something like jogging or cycling is that it includes an entire perspective including unique, spiritual views on how the body works, handling energy and much more.

Ashtanga yoga is one that includes its own views. It's also an option that tends to be a bit more intense than other types of yoga out there. On top of things like building physical strength, this type of yoga can also help you to become stronger in a variety of other ways.


Unlike some other types of yoga out there, Ashtanga focuses on a combination of poses and movement. Because of this, it's a useful kind of yoga for providing healthy cardio exercise on top of providing greater levels of balance and strength.

Mental Strength

Ashtanga yoga is good for the mind as well as the body. It's an exercise that can assist in emotional, spiritual and mental healing and strengthening as well as giving your muscles some attention. You'll learn how to focus better and clear away negative energy as you work through the poses.

Physical Strength

If you take a look at some of the poses included in the different series within Ashtanga yoga, you'll be able to see in what ways this activity can help to provide greater physical strength. While many may view yoga as gentle, easy stretching, this style will really include some muscle capability!


Much like other types of yoga, your flexibility can benefit from the poses within Ashtanga yoga. In addition to building up your balance, you'll learn how to move your body in brand new ways and build flexibility in your joints, which are all beneficial no matter what you do outside of yoga time.

ashtanga yoga dani sa

Should You Do Ashtanga Yoga?

Not all yoga types are meant for everyone. However, there are types of yoga that work well for most people. Ashtanga yoga is something that works best for people who are interested in pushing their body further. If you don't mind doing the same set every day, potentially for years, this may be a good choice.

However, Ashtanga yoga isn't ideal for those who have issues with joints or who generally need something a little less intense. If you're completely new to yoga, it may be worth at least trying out an easier style to get a feel for yoga as a whole.

When you've gained a little experience, you always have the option of turning to Ashtanga yoga for more of a challenge.

For those who already have some yoga experience and feel they can handle it, you may find that you love the intensity of Ashtanga yoga.

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