The Ashtanga yoga primary series is the first of six Ashtanga yoga series. It’s Sanskrit name “Chikitsa” can be broadly translated as Yoga Therapy. The aim of this primary series is to heal and purify the body and prepare your mind for the more advanced levels of Ashtanga.
Whilst postures in the other five series are more complex, the Ashtanga yoga primary series is widely considered the most challenging, as everything is new. The other series use most of fundamentals of the primary series, with a few new postures here and there. The latter series should only be performed if you are highly experienced in yoga.
It takes time to learn the postures of the primary series, as well as practice the Vinyasa system of matching each posture with your breath. Only really when this has been mastered are you sufficient enough to move onto the other series. However, the second series is not really deemed more difficult as such, just a different style.
Some people can in fact spend a lifetime just learning and perfecting the primary series.
Ashtanga yoga benefits – why choose Ashtanga?
Ashtanga yoga is one of the traditional yoga practices. It is powerful and proven to give great benefits to those who practice.
Not only is Ashtanga yoga physically demanding, enabling you to build strength and flexibility, it also requires great focus, which in turn strengthens the mind.
Inner transformation can occur each time you practice.
Through the primary series you will learn how to synchronise your breath with each posture. This produces an internal heat and a purifying sweat to detoxify your organs and muscles. The result of this is improved circulation and a calm mind.
Some poses may seem difficult at first. However, Ashtanga yoga is suitable for all levels – it is about learning to work with your self.
Mysore style Ashtanga practice
Once you are familiar with the basic postures and the sequence, you can start to make your practice your own. The “Mysore Style” of Ashtanga yoga is considered the best way to practice.
Mysore is a town in southern India from where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the Ashtanga Guru, lived and taught for his entire life. This way of self-practice is considered the safest and most effective way for students to practice Ashtanga. Here, you work through the poses according to your own body rhythms and it allows you to fully focus internally, rather than always following the call of a teacher.
By adopting the Mysore style of Ashtanga self-practice you can experience a much deeper practice.
A “led” primary series class
Of course, when you are a beginner to Ashtanga is is essential to have tuition to enable you to learn the postures safely. Joining an Ashtanga yoga class ensures you understand the correct technique and alignment from the beginning. It will help you fully get to grips with the sequence of the Ashtanga yoga primary series before you perhaps consider self-practice, or a Mysore class.
As mentioned before, many yogis choose to remain in a led-class for many years, as they perfect their technique.
Ashtanga yoga primary series poses
To view each of the 41 poses visit this website, this Ashtanga Yoga website. It is a good resource.
The Ashtanga practice starts with Surya Namaskar A, the sun salutations, performed in 5 repetitions. Alternatively, practice can start with Surya Namaskar B, which is an extension of the first sun salutations, with 5 repetitions of 17 poses.
- Padangusthasana (big toe pose)
- Pada Hastasana (hands under feet)
- Trikonasana (triangle)
- Parivritta Trikonasana (revolved triangle)
- Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle)
- Parivritta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle)
- Prasarita Padottanasana (wide leg forward fold)
- Parsvottonasana (side intense stretch)
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (extended hand to big toe)
- Ardha Baddha Padma Uttanasana (half bound lotus intense stretch)
- Virabhadrasana I (warrior)
- Virabhadrasana II (warrior)
- Dandasana (staff pose)
- Paschimottanasana (west intense stretch)
- Purvottasana (east intense stretch)
- Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (half bound lotus version of paschimottanasana)
- Trianga Mukaikapada Paschimottanasana (1 leg folded back, forward fold)
- Janu Sirsasana (head to knee pose)
- Paripurna Navasana (boat)
- Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand)
- Bhujapidasana (arm pressure pose)
- Kurmasana (tortoise)
- Supta Kurmasana (reclining tortoise)
- Garbha Pindasana (embryo in the womb)
- Kukkutasana (rooster)
- Baddha Konasana (bound angle)
- Upavista Konasana (wide angle seated forward fold)
- Supta Konasana (reclining angle pose)
- Supta Padangustasana (reclining big toe pose)
- Ubhaya Padangustasana (both big toes pose)
- Urdvha Mukha Paschimottanasana (upward facing paschimo)
- Setu Bandhasana (bridge building pose)
- Urdvha Dhanurasana (upward bow)
- Paschimottanasana (intense stretch)
- Savasana (corpse)
- Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)
- Halasana (plow)
- Karnapidasana (ear pressure)
- Urdvha Padmasana (upward lotus)
- Pindasana in Sarvangasana (embryo)
- Matsyasana (fish)
- Uttana Padasana (intense stretched feet or legs)
- Sirsasana (headstand)
- Balasana (child’s pose)
- Baddha Padmasana (bound lotus)
- Yogimudrasana (energetic lock or seal)
- Padmasana (lotus)
- Tolasana (the uplifting – scales)
- Savasana (corpse)
List taken from: Yogawiz