6 Simple Ashtanga yoga sequences for beginners

Are you curious about Ashtanga yoga but don’t know where to start? This beginner-friendly guide is just what you need.

Ashtanga yoga, a dynamic form of yoga, offers a balanced blend of strength, flexibility, and mental focus.

It stands out for its structured sequences that progress through set poses. This practice not only enhances your physical health but also promotes mental clarity and emotional balance.

Whether you’re looking to improve your fitness, reduce stress, or find a moment of peace in your busy day, these sequences provide a great starting point.

Plus, practicing yoga regularly can bring long-term benefits, such as improved posture, better sleep, and increased energy levels.

What are the basics of Ashtanga yoga?

This beginner-friendly guide will help you ease into the dynamic world of Ashtanga yoga, a practice known for its ability to enhance physical health [1], mental clarity, and emotional balance.

Here, we present six simple sequences specifically crafted for beginners. Each sequence is straightforward and introduces you to the essentials of Ashtanga yoga.

Sequence 1: The sun salutation (surya namaskar)

The sun salutation is a graceful sequence that energizes the body and synchronizes breath with movement:

  1. Stand tall with your feet together and hands in prayer position.
  2. Inhale and stretch your arms up, arching your back slightly.
  3. Exhale and fold forward, bending from your hips.
  4. Inhale, lift your torso halfway up, lengthening your spine.
  5. Exhale and step back into a plank, then lower yourself in a controlled motion.
  6. Inhale into an upward-facing dog, opening your chest.
  7. Exhale into a downward-facing dog, hips high.
  8. Hold for a moment, then jump or step your feet forward.
  9. Inhale and rise to standing, arms up.
  10. Exhale, returning to the starting position

This sequence, when repeated a few times, creates a perfect warm-up or a complete practice on its own.

Sequence 2: Standing poses

Standing poses in Ashtanga yoga are fundamental for building strength and stability [2]. They’re perfect for enhancing balance and posture. Here are a few to start with:

  1. Stand tall with feet together, arms at your sides. Engage your legs, reach your arms down, and lengthen your spine.
  2. Step one foot back, bend your front knee, and lift your arms. Keep hips facing forward for alignment.
  3. With feet wide apart and arms extended, tilt at the hip to touch your front toe with the opposite hand, reaching the other arm skyward.

These poses lay the foundation for a solid Ashtanga practice, improving your overall yoga experience. Remember, focus on your breath and move with intention.

standing poses

Sequence 3: Seated poses

Seated poses in Ashtanga yoga are great for enhancing flexibility and calming your mind. They’re especially beneficial for the hips and lower back. Here’s a snapshot:

  1. Sit with legs extended, back straight. Hands rest beside hips, supporting an upright posture.
  2. From Staff Pose, inhale to lengthen the spine, then exhale and fold from the hips towards your feet. It stretches the back and legs.
  3. Sit with feet together, knees out to sides. Hold your feet and gently encourage knees towards the floor.

These poses are excellent for winding down and focusing inward. Remember to breathe deeply and move gently into each pose.

Sequence 4: Backbends for beginners

Backbends are a fantastic way to open up the chest and shoulders, bringing energy and rejuvenation. Here are a couple of beginner-friendly backbends:

  1. Lie on your stomach, hands under your shoulders. Gently lift your chest off the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body. This pose strengthens the spine and opens the chest.
  2. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press into your feet, lifting your hips towards the ceiling. Clasp your hands under your back for added support. This pose stretches the front of the body and strengthens the back.

Approach these poses with care, listening to your body’s limits. They’re great for improving posture and flexibility. Remember to breathe deeply as you enjoy the stretch!

Sequence 5: Finishing poses

Finishing poses in Ashtanga yoga help to cool down your body and relax your mind. They are essential for rounding off your practice. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Kneel on the floor, sit back on your heels, then fold forward with your forehead touching the ground and arms extended. It’s a great pose for relaxation and relieving tension.
  2. Lie on your back and rest your legs vertically against a wall. This pose is excellent for calming the nervous system and reducing stress.

These poses provide a peaceful end to your yoga session, allowing you to absorb the benefits of your practice [3]. Take this time to breathe deeply and let go of any remaining tension.

Sequence 6: Relaxation and meditation

Relaxation and meditation are key components of Ashtanga yoga, allowing you to integrate the physical and mental benefits of your practice. Here are some tips:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs slightly apart and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, relaxing every part of your body. This pose is perfect for deep relaxation.
  2. After Savasana, sit up comfortably. Close your eyes, focusing on your breath or a mantra. This practice helps calm the mind and reduces stress.

Use this time to let go of distractions and immerse yourself in the present moment. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on your practice and appreciate the peace it brings. Remember, consistency is key to deepening your meditation practice.

How to practice Ashtanga yoga?

Practicing Ashtanga yoga safely and consistently is key to reaping its full benefits. Whether you’re a beginner or have some experience, there are important guidelines to ensure your practice is both effective and enjoyable.

Warm-up is crucial

A good warm-up is essential in Ashtanga yoga. It prepares your body for the session ahead, reducing the risk of injury. Here’s why it’s important:

  • Gentle stretches and movements increase blood flow to your muscles, making them more pliable.
  • Warm muscles can stretch more easily, helping you achieve better poses.
  • A proper warm-up can enhance your strength and balance, improving overall performance in your practice.
  • Warming up reduces the chances of strains and sprains.
  • It helps shift your focus from daily stress to your yoga practice [4].

Remember, a good warm-up sets the tone for a safe and effective yoga session. Make it a non-negotiable part of your routine!

Focus on breath

Focusing on your breath is a cornerstone of Ashtanga yoga. It connects your mind and body, enhancing the benefits of your practice. Here’s why it’s so important:

  • Your breath guides the rhythm of your poses, ensuring fluid and controlled movements.
  • Focusing on your breath helps maintain concentration, keeping you present in each moment.
  • Deep, mindful breathing calms the nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Effective breathing increases the oxygen supply to your muscles, aiding in endurance and strength.
  • Conscious breathing helps in achieving a deeper connection with your body.

Remember, your breath is a powerful tool in Ashtanga yoga. Let it guide you through your practice for a more fulfilling experience.

Maintain a regular practice

Maintaining a regular Ashtanga yoga practice is crucial for progress and well-being. Consistency is key, and here’s why:

  • Regular practice helps gradually increase your strength and flexibility.
  • It establishes a routine, making yoga a natural part of your daily life.
  • The more you practice, the deeper your understanding and skill in various poses.
  • Consistent practice offers a reliable way to manage stress and maintain mental clarity.
  • Sticking to a regular schedule enhances self-discipline, beneficial both on and off the mat.

Set a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Even short, daily sessions are more effective than occasional long ones. Remember, consistency is what turns practice into habit.

Dress comfortably

Dressing comfortably is essential in Ashtanga yoga. What you wear can significantly impact your ability to move and focus. Here are some tips:

  • Opt for materials that allow your skin to breathe and wick away sweat.
  • Wear clothes that fit well – not too tight, not too loose. You want to move freely without distractions.
  • Depending on the climate, layer your clothing so you can adjust as needed.
  • Yoga is typically practiced barefoot to enhance balance and posture.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum to avoid discomfort or injury.

Comfort in clothing enhances your yoga experience, letting you focus on your practice, not your outfit.

dress comfortably

Stay hydrated and nourished

Staying hydrated and nourished plays a vital role in your Ashtanga yoga practice [5]. Here’s how you can ensure this:

  • Drink water before and after your practice to keep your body well-hydrated. Sipping small amounts during your session can also be helpful.
  • Choose light, nutritious meals or snacks before yoga. Heavy meals can make you feel sluggish.
  • After your practice, opt for a balanced meal with a good mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats to replenish your body.
  • Pay attention to your body’s hunger and thirst cues, and respond accordingly.

Proper hydration and nutrition support your physical exertion and aid in recovery, enhancing your overall yoga experience.

Conclusion

Remember that Ashtanga yoga is more than just a series of poses; it’s a holistic approach to wellness that harmonizes the body, mind, and spirit.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to deepen your practice, the key is consistency, mindfulness, and a willingness to grow.

Ashtanga yoga is a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Every session is an opportunity to explore the depths of your physical and mental capabilities.

So, embrace this beautiful practice with an open heart and mind. The benefits you will reap are not just limited to your yoga mat; they will spill over into every aspect of your life.

FAQs

What are the basics of Ashtanga yoga?

The basics of Ashtanga yoga include mastering the primary series, which focuses on detoxifying and aligning the body, and integrating the three core elements of the practice: breath (Ujjayi Pranayama), posture (asanas), and focal points (drishti) for concentration.

Can you do yoga even if you’re not flexible?

Absolutely! Ashtanga yoga is suitable for all levels, and flexibility improves over time with consistent practice.

What is the correct sequence of Ashtanga yoga?

The correct sequence of Ashtanga yoga typically begins with the Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A and B), followed by a series of standing poses, seated poses, backbends, a set of finishing poses, and ends with the Corpse Pose (Savasana) for relaxation.

How often should Ashtanga be practiced?

Aiming for 3-4 times a week is ideal, but even practicing twice a week can yield significant benefits.

[1] https://fitathletic.com/benefits-ashtanga-yoga/
[2] https://www.yoganatomy.com/ashtanga-yoga/
[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/restorative-yoga-poses
[4] https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/yoga-stress.html
[5] https://omstars.com/blog/practice/unlocking-the-ashtanga-primary-series-a-step-by-step-guide-for-beginners/

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