Ashtangi is a multimedia practice guide for Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Through its elegant and minimalist interface, it invites you to study every breath, posture and movement pattern in the Primary and Second series. With beautifully crafted videos, reference quality photos, and poetic annotations for each form, this practice guide reimagines the traditional practice for our pixelated times. Ashtangi is available as an app for both Iphone and Android. There is nothing else like this online.
My hope is that this practice guide supports many aspiring Ashtangis to practice, and established practitioners to feel more deeply into the forms. If you have ideas for further development, or if you are moved to share your reflections on this work, please drop me a line. I would love to hear from you. This is a bespoke project, with no outside funding or crowdsourcing, and apps are not cheap! So if you like the app, please give it a positive review on the Apple Store or Google Play, and that will help support the evolution of the project.
To give you a taste of the app, two samples entry below. But you can also access the entire app on the Apple Store (iOS) and or Google Play (Android) for a 7-day grace period, without being charged.
SURYA NAMASKAR (A)
Spread the toes and balance the weight over the feet. Draw the breath in and feel the center of your being expand. Release the breath out and feel the center dissolve. As you continue to breathe, feel how those movements depend on one other, how each begins with the imprint that the other leaves behind.
Hold yourself in the liminal space between these movements, which is to say, between projection and reception, expansion and contraction, emptiness and form. This is the razor’s edge of embodied experience. See if you can abide here, with full attention, as the breath continues to flow.
(V1) (INHALE) Allow the attention to rise with the ascending currents of the breath. Trace them from the arches of the feet up the inner legs and through the center of the pelvic floor. Feel them slide up the psoas lines under the lifted belly and into the open expanse of the heart. Express that inner radiance by reaching toward the heavens and gazing into the infinite. Sustain a sense of balance by feeling the heavenly light streaming back down, breaking over your head and pouring onto your back, as if you were standing under a waterfall of stars.
(V2) (EXHALE) Dive the pubic bone back and leap off the edge of your inspiration. Keep the arms reaching forward and the gaze held high as you dive gracefully into the unknown. Spread the heart wide and open the soft palate like a parachute to slow your fall. Keep the coccyx heavy so the belly stays hollow. Near the midpoint of the fall, allow the hands to drop to the floor, and when you reach the bottom, draw the elbows back and use the arms to squeeze yourself into the fold.
(V3) (INHALE) Roll with the currents of the ascending breath as they rise up from the depths of the pelvis and slide over the front of the spine. Imagine your deepest and most entrenched desires releasing from their objects and, their vital energy moving upward toward the heart. Open the chest and allow gentle streams of prana to spread out into the ether. Lift the head and gaze softly forward and down.
(V4) (EXHALE) Press the hands into the floor and step or glide back. To create a sense of weightlessness, lean forward and allow the hips to lift with the ascending currents of the breath. Keep the legs straight and the toes pointing back. At the top of the movement, allow yourself to fall. Do not lose your inner structure or resolve, but send the feet back, and draw the toes up. Keep the legs straight, the belly hollow and the heart pulled under the hood of the ribs as you return on all fours to the ground. Meet the earth with a firm but forgiving bounce and hope that it meets you with the same. Gaze softly forward and down. This is LOW PLANK.
URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA
(V5) (INHALE) Press the hands again into the earth to lift your planked spine. Shift the weight back and raise the sitting bones high, like a mongrel ready to strike. Then drop the tail and lift the belly to roll the breath up the front of the spine. Allow the breath to ripple through you, undulating the spine like a wave. Feel the apana, the emptying and dissolving force, rising from the center of the pelvis to the roots of the navel and merging with the prana, the expansive and aspiring force, in a profusion of sensation that radiates outward like the heat of the Sun.
As the breath moves into heart, roll the shoulders back and straighten the arms. Hold the heart lifted here, with a regal but tender gaze, as the inner Sun continues to rise. Allow its brilliant solar rays to move upward and outward from the center of the heart, and then to curl back down and return into the heart. This is UPWARD DOG.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
(V6) (EXHALE) Release the palate and feel the undertow starting to pull you back and down. Pull forward a little to make space, then lift the pubic bone way up and back to roll over the toes. Allow all images and attachments to be uprooted from the heart and to slide out as your pelvis pulls back into the depth of the form. Keep the head up and continue to gaze out above the horizon until the pelvis reaches the crest of the wave, then drop your head down into the trough.
Breathe deeply here. Or better, allow the solar force to breathe deeply through you. That is, allow it to spread itself out on the currents of the breath, and saturate your experience with loving awareness. Gaze downward and inward with tender gratitude and admiration. This is UPWARD DOG, which is the blossom of SURYA NAMASKAR (A). Stay here for 5 breaths.
(V7) (INHALE) Bend the knees and look up, as you empty yourself out. Then step or spring forward, sending the hips high over the shoulders, with the legs straight and only slightly lifted. Keep pressing the hands firmly into the earth, and know that it will support you. Hang precariously in the atmosphere, if the present body allows, with the pelvic floor high over the heart, then softly bring the feet back down. As the toes sink into the earth, firm up the legs and begin to inhale. Roll the breath up the spine again into the center of the heart, and feel its tendrils reaching into you, and embracing you, with warm loving light.
(V8) (EXHALE) Empty yourself out once again and fold all the way down. Release any imagery of the breath that you might have formed on the inhale, so that you make space for the breath to appear as it is, and to spill over any preconception that you might have formed.
(V9) (INHALE) Press the feet into the earth and drop the tail as you move the hips back and roll the breath up the front of the spine once more. Allow the hands to leave the earth and reach strongly forward with the arms to elongate through the spine. Keep the tail heavy as you ascend, but also lift the head, open the heart, and roll the collar bones back. As you rise, feel closely and carefully into the balance of the pranic and apanic patterns. At the top of the upward movement, push the shoulders forward and reach through the arms and fingertips into the infinite. Feel the infinite reaching back into you, and connecting you to the grounding force of the earth.
(EXHALE) Stay with the trace of the ascending breath as you bring the arms slowly back down to the sides, even as you rise from the center back to where it all begin. You have taken 10 brilliant and vital breaths now. Embrace any feelings of nobility that may arise.