Ashtanga yoga is based on a progression of six movements. The sequence involves sun salutations, standing poses, seated poses, inversions, backbends and a concluding relaxation pose called savasana. (It's something like a power nap.)
Every position, from start to end, is aligned with the flow of the breath - a focused style known as ujjayi that comes from the diaphragm. Ashtanga Yoga originated in Mysore, India. It was introduced in the United States during the 1970s through the teachings of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, a highly regarded yogi.
Benefits of Ashtanga yoga: In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means "eight-limbed yoga," referring to the eight principles embodied by this spiritual practice: moral codes, self-purification and study, posture, breath control, sense control, intention, meditation and contemplation.
Daily (or at least regular) practice realigns the spine, builds strength, improves flexibility, prolongs stamina and facilitates weight loss.
Who Ashtanga yoga is best for: Ashtanga is a strenuous form of the art of yoga. Along with the focus on spiritual enlightenment and chanting comes an excellent workout. These poses are quick, challenging and athletic. Someone looking for a physical challenge won't be disappointed.
Getting ready: Ashtanga flows are full of energy and perspiration. Bring a towel to place atop the yoga mat to avoid slipping while in balancing poses. Wear comfortable, breathable threads.
Calories burned: The fast-paced poses performed during an Ashtanga class are known for their calorie-blasting capabilities. A 140-pound person can burn approximately 450 calories during a one hour class, though the exact number of calories will depend on the individual practitioner.
Known to lengthen, stretch and slim the body, Ashtanga has become one of the most popular styles among actresses, models and singers alike. Among its diehard fans are Christy Turlington, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting and his wife Trudie Styler.
When Madonna gave birth to her first child in the mid-'90s, the material girl began practicing Ashtanga to get back into shape and to shed her pregnancy weight.
Students are advised to go at their own pace, create their own flow and take child's pose when necessary. Doing so can help to prevent muscle strain, injury and pure exhaustion.
Who shouldn't do it: Beginners should start out with a less intensive type of yoga before participating in an Ashtanga class. Familiarizing oneself with the poses beforehand can help avoid confusion during this non-stop style.
The vigorous flow may also be unsuitable for women who are pregnant, especially during the first trimester.