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Ashtanga Poses Every Yogi Should Know

When you think of yoga, you typically think of the foundational yoga poses like up dog, down dog, warrior, and tree pose. With Ashtanga yoga, it is more than standard poses. Through the harmony of mind, body, and breath, Ashtanga yoga allows you to accomplish some pretty tough yoga positions!

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Upward Facing Dog

Drishti: Urdhva (Up to the Sky)

Ashtanga Yoga

In the Ashtanga yoga primary series, you perform this pose, or asana, every time you finish Chaturanga Dandasana, four-limbed staff pose. I honestly could not tell you how many times I have done this asana in one practice. But hey, the more you practice, the more flexible you become! I love this pose because it makes me feel like a fierce warrior as I lift my chest up high. 

Benefits: strengthens spine and back muscles while improving posture, stretches the chest while expanding the lungs and abdominal organs, and eases symptoms of asthma, sciatica, and fatigue


Parivrtta Trikonasana B

Revolved Triangle Pose

Drishti: Hastagrai (Fingers)

Ashtanga Yoga

This is one of my favorite Ashtanga poses because it feels bizarre. Don’t worry — it’s completely fun, too! It’s actually an amazing standing pose because you deepen the bend each time you practice. I remember when I was a beginner yogi and I tried this. Surely it goes without saying, but I fell often. It does require balance and, back then, I did not have the flexibility, strength, or balance to hold this asana. 

Today, when I hold this pose, I feel strong and connected to the ground on which I practice. I am thankful for this pose the primary series gave me. Practice this yoga pose every single day and you too might feel strong, like me. 

Benefits: the deep twist opens the chest, strengthens the lower back, legs, and groin, stretches the hamstrings, hips, chest, and improves balance 


Parivrtta Parsvakonasana B

Revolved Side Angle Pose

Drishti: Hastagrai (Fingers)

Ashtanga Yoga

If it twists, it’s one of my favorites. This asana is a must because once you master this yoga pose, it is like holding a pose you never want to hold again. That’s right, there is a love hate relationship with this pose! I love this one because it makes me feel strong and flexible. I love that I can do this without falling. On the other hand, I hate it because it makes me feel like I can’t breathe due to the deep twist in the chest. Even though the twist is difficult, it is extremely relieving and a detoxifying yoga posture. I honestly believe it helps ease my anxiety

Benefits: strengthens the hamstrings and hips, stretches the spine, hamstrings, hips, and chest, and improves balance. 


Marichyasana A

Marichi's pose A

Drishti: Padayoragrai (Toes)

Ashtanga Yoga

Oh how I love this asana! The intense stretch within the hip flexors is an amazing way to increase flexibility quickly. When I first tried this one, I was pretty much upright with no bend. It’s amazing how far I have come by practicing Ashtanga poses.

The bend is primarily at the hips while you slowly move forward putting your chin to your shins. You should definitely get familiar with this pose because your hip flexors will love you! It really opens up the space within the lower body to continue with even more flexible asanas. 

Benefits: increases flexibility in hips, hamstrings, lower back, and calves, improves alignment with hips and spine, and eases anxiety.


Eka Pada Sirsasana 

Foot Behind Head Pose

Drishti: Urdhva (Up to the Sky)

Ashtanga Yoga

My absolute favorite asana of Ashtanga yoga is putting my leg behind my head. And no, it does not hurt! I promise, when your body becomes flexible enough for this pose, you simply put your leg there and that is it. Of course, you have to prepare the hips and hamstrings beforehand with other poses to avoid a common yoga injury like a pulled hamstring. 

Now, why familiarize yourself with this pose? Because it is an intense and beautiful experience. Whenever I perform this asana in my practice, I feel a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders, any frustrations are let go, and I ultimately am proud of what I can do. It has taken me six years of practice to accomplish many intense asanas. I believe you must be proud of the things you can do and this pose is certainly one of them!

Benefits: increase flexibility in hips and hamstrings, opens the chest through practice, releases negative emotions.

About the Author

woman yoga

Brianna is an Indiana University Graduate who works as a Registered Behavioral Technician and conducts therapy for children with Autism. She loves to meditate, paint, garden, and hike with her family of three dogs. Her passion is sharing her story of anxiety and depression, as well as, her journey of self-love through the practice of yoga for going on six years.
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