The following are my Top 5 benefits of practicing regular Ashtanga Yoga:
1. (Mysore) Ashtanga Yoga improves your understanding of the practice.
Just like the concept of learning through regular practice, you will find that once you are not constantly reminded of the asanas (poses) by an instructor, you will remember them better. In time, they will become an automatic recall from your memory and you can then focus more on other factors such as the asana itself and of course, your breath.
2. Develops your strength and flexibility while toning your muscles.
Due to the moving nature of this practice, there are both cardiovascular and muscle strengthening benefits. Although not highly demanding in nature, a respectable amount of physical energy is required during the 1 to 1.5 hour duration of practice. Many of the poses require that you move your body weight though cyclic motions and as such, the repetitions of this yoga "workout" is similar to that of a weights training session at the gym!
3. Helps with weight loss.
The Vinyasa (interlinking movement between asanas), encourages an increased heart rate which burns more fat. Who would have thought - a fat burning workout from yoga!
4. Improves mental clarity and promotes inner peace.
Ashtanga Yoga is unique in that is follows a sequential order. The asanas of the Primary Series (there are actually 6 in total, but I refer only to the Primary Series at this stage) are designed to prepare for the next and as such it is best to always follow this sequence when you practice to get the most benefit, and reduce injury. This is a bonus, as when you go to practice you know what you have to do each time, allowing yourself to be engrossed by the rhythm of your breath and the grace of your movement. It is widely recognised that yoga is a useful means of meditation. In fact, meditation is one of the 8 Dhyana or "arms" of yoga.
5. It's a great way to meet super friendly people!
It's true! One of the greatest benefits to attending taught yoga classes is the social atmosphere. My Saturday morning classes come complete with delicious home-made Chai tea and plenty of warm smiles that start my weekend off on a big positive note! You get to share your yoga experience with others, learn from all that practice, and be part of a group that share a common interest - a love for Ashtanga Yoga! Go on, get out there and find a studio that you can join. Don't be shy!
Have fun with your journey, and enjoy these benefits!