Literally translated to “Yoga Therapy” from Sanskrit, the Yoga Chikitsa poses are a sequence of Ashtanga Yoga asanas known as the Primary Series. Admired as a traditional, reliable and rigorous Ashtanga ritual, these poses prepare the yogi for a journey that’s sure to challenge, strengthen and change them for the better. In this post, we’ll look at the many advantages to practicing Yoga Chikitsa and how its therapeutic power aligns the mind, body and breath in seamless harmony.
In Ashtanga Yoga, there are six total series of poses, with Yoga Chikitsa being the first, followed by the Intermediate Series and Advanced Series A, B, C and D. In the Ashtanga practice, asanas adhere to a set flow performed in sequential order, allowing the body to unlock naturally, as each pose builds upon the one before it.
One principal thread in all Ashtanga Yoga Series is the opening practice of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) A and B. This flow is designed to warm up the body by linking breath to movement, stretching the spine and preparing the body for more rigorous practice.
Another staple in each Ashtanga Yoga Sequence is a uniform closing series that focuses on inversions, hip openers and a final rest in Savasana.
It is the middle section of the Ashtanga Yoga Series that differs, depending on the level of practice. The Yoga Chikitsa series may be your focus here to work on alignment, endurance, strength and flexibility. In it, the yogi moves through 75 different poses in 1.5 - 2 hours. It’s considered the least advanced of the Ashtanga Yoga Series, but don’t let that fool you! Its challenges and benefits are immense!
For a visual overview of all the Primary Series poses, check out this awesome graphic by YogiTish!
Since Yoga Chikitsa is the yogi’s introduction to Ashtanga, approach it from the perspective of a beginner. This comes with its own set of difficulties, but mostly some major perks! The “Beginner’s Mind” is a clean slate. It builds a foundation for learning, requiring open observance and a limitless commitment to self-growth. While there may be obstacles along the path, this first step is full of light and the promise of endless possibilities!
Because the sequence was designed to achieve specific effects, each asana brings its own set of health benefits. When practiced as a combined flow, Yoga Chikitsa poses help to balance the body, allowing for detoxification, alignment and an overall calming effect. This fusion builds mental and physical perseverance. Bonus: through dynamic movement, energy channels known as “Nadis” are freed from blockages in their path—from tight muscles to rigid minds or stuck breath. All are evicted from the body, freeing the yogi in a powerful and therapeutic way.
Once the physical body is free, the “prana,” or breath, flows more effortlessly. Prana is often translated to “life force” or “life energy,” and its effects are transformative! Deep breathing is known to calm the central nervous system, that pesky part of human anatomy that can hurl us into fight-or-flight mode at a moment’s notice. Powerful prana is proven to reduce stress hormones. From this tranquil state, the yogi can tap into their full potential, on and off the mat.
When the series is complete, the yogi is primed and ready to advance their Ashtanga practice, exploring deeper asanas and challenging themselves to complete the next levels! As they continue their journey, they’ll re-experience beginner’s mind, evolve into more advanced series and grow their practice to profound new heights. What doesn’t challenge us doesn’t change us!
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