Ashtanga Yoga Poses

One of the popular yoga forms practiced today is ashtanga yoga. Often yoga poses are a part of sun salutations, which normally makes for the base of this form of yoga...
FitnessVigil Staff
Ashtanga yoga is an ancient form of yoga, which is also called ashtanga vinyasa yoga. It was popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, who trained under Krishnamacharya. The term ashtanga stands for eight limbed in Sanskrit. It helps in developing stamina and strength. There is quick movement between the different ashtanga yoga poses, which helps in building strength, stamina and flexibility. Vinyasa forms the basis of ashtanga yoga, which is the right composition of movement and breath as a person moves from one pose to another. It is with the breath and movement, that the static yoga postures are converted into dynamic poses. There is another meaning attached to the term vinyasa. It stands for a specific series of poses, which are repeated between different poses in the series. Often the different ashtanga poses are included in the Sun Salutations, also called Surya Namaskar.

Throughout the practice, attention is also paid to the breathing style as one moves from one pose into another, also called vinyasa flow. Since the breath follows a steady cycle of inhalation and exhalation, it has a calming effect on the person. When the yoga poses are combined with the right breathing technique, it helps in creating heat in the body, which helps to purify the body through increased circulation of blood and oxygen in the body and sweating. When one is practicing different yoga poses, the practice goes through four main parts, namely opening sequence, back bending sequence, inversion sequence and finishing sequence. The last pose of the practice is always the corpse pose, called savasana in Sanskrit.
Ashtanga Yoga Poses Guide
If one has to see the yoga poses chart, one will see that it is made up of some standing, sitting and lying poses. Not all the poses can be practiced by a beginner. However, with regular practice over a period of time, the person will be able to practice the poses with ease. It is important to note that the practice of ashtanga yoga starts with sun salutations. Often about 5 to 7 sun salutations are performed, before different asanas (poses) are included in the series. In the chart given below the yoga poses, practiced in ashtanga school of yoga, are given in English as well as Sanskrit for better understanding.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog yoga
To do the most well-known of the yoga poses, come down on your hands and knees. Your knees have to be placed exactly below the hip joint and your hands have to be placed a little ahead of the shoulders. Make sure your fingers are pointing forward and are spread out. Exhale and lift up, curl the toes under, extend your arms and your legs. Your tailbone should be pointing to the sky. When you are into the position, make sure you are not collapsing in your shoulders. You should be looking behind with your head placed between the upper arms. This pose will be used in a number of other poses as well.
Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)
Side plank pose
Go into downward facing dog and gradually rotate on the ball of the left foot and place your right foot either in front of you or stack it up on the left foot. Now gradually lift your right hand off the floor and place it either on your hips or extend it up in the air. The weight of the body has to be supported on the outer edge of the left foot and left hand. When you are doing this yoga pose, make sure your hands are placed a little ahead than they are in the normal downward facing dog pose. To come out of the position, release the leg and place it next to the left foot and place your right hand below your shoulder joint.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose
This is one of the most relaxing, yet one of the most active of the yoga poses. Lie on your yoga mat in a supine position. Bend your knees and place your feet at about half feet distance from your buttocks. To check if the feet have been placed properly, try to touch the heel of the legs with your hands. If you are able to touch the heel, then it is a sign that the feet are placed properly. Exhale, press onto the ball of the feet and lift your buttocks off the floor. Now gradually bring the hands closer to one another and interlace the fingers. When you are in this pose, your thighs should be kind of parallel to the floor. If you feel pressure in your knee joint, press into your legs and contract the buttock muscles. Release your hands and slowly come out of the pose.
Plow Pose (Halasana)
Plow pose
Lie on your mat in a supine position with the legs extended out straight. Place your hands under your torso and interlace your fingers. Lift your legs off the floor and try to reach them behind your head. Once you are into the position, your torso should be perpendicular to the floor. Continue to press your hands into the floor for added support. To come out of the pose, lift your legs off the floor and extend them out straight, as you lower them gradually.
Full Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Full boat pose
This is a seated yoga pose. Sit on the floor with your legs extended out straight. Place your hands behind you, but at a little distance. Now gradually shift your weight onto your hands, as you lean on them. Exhale as you bend your knees and lift your feet of the floor. Gradually extend your legs out straight in the air and throw your hands in front of you, as you balance your weight on the sit bones and the tailbone. Hold the position for as long as you can. Slowly place your hands behind and lower your legs to come out of the position.
Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Yoga Salamba Sarvangasana
When you are doing this yoga pose, your neck has to be supported. Fold a blanket and place it under the edge of the yoga mat. Lie on the yoga mat such that your shoulders are on the edge of the yoga mat and your head is off the mat on the floor. Extend your hands out to the sides into a 'T' position, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Gradually lift your feet off the floor and try to bring your knees towards your chest. Now lift your buttocks off the floor and extend your legs up in the air. Slowly lower your hands and try to support your spine with your hands. If you find it difficult to lift your buttocks off the floor, you can support your spine with your hands. When your legs are extended into the air, press the balls of the feet into the air for better support. Now keep your shoulder blades stable and move your sternum towards the chin. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds initially and over a period of time, you will be able to hold the position for a longer period of time.
Crane Pose (Bakasana)
Crane Pose
Although this seems to be a simple pose, it is actually one of the advanced yoga poses. It does take a lot of upper body strength. Come down into a complete squat with your feet hip width apart. Place your hands in front of you at a little distance, but make sure your fingers are spread. Now place your knees on your upper arms and gradually try to shift the weight from the legs into the hands and lift your feet off the floor. Initially you will only be able to lift your heels of the floor and then only one foot at a time, but with practice, it will become easier. The trick when you are doing this exercise is to continue to squeeze the legs against the arms and keep your palms firmly pressed into the ground.
Before you start doing the yoga poses, it is important that your consult your physician about the same. Once you have a go ahead from your physician, you can start practicing with your yoga teacher. A tip before I end this write up is not to get disheartened when you are not able to do a particular pose. With practice, it will become easier for you to perform.