The Primary Asana of Ashtanga Yoga

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MARIA VILLELLA

In the Ashtanga Yoga system, the First or Primary Series is performed by all beginners and also intermediate and advanced students on Fridays. There is a designated day of the week to practice each of the six series and Friday is the day for Primary.

Primary Series is known for it’s hip-openers, forward bends, full and half lotus positions. There are many repetitions of chaturanga, updog and downdog to link the postures together. These are the same as the fourth, fifth and sixth vinyasas of Surya Namaskara A. Each seated posture of the Primary Series (most of them are seated) also includes Ashtanga Yoga’s trademark vinyasa sequence of ‘jumping back’ and ‘jumping through’. More on jumping back and jumping through soon!

To practice the Primary Series, first five Surya Namaskara A’s and B’s are done, followed
by the Fundamental Asana which are often referred to as the “standing postures”.

Next comes the Ashtanga Primary Series. These asana are ‘strung’ together as a series. The first posture: Utkatasana begins in Samasthiti and includes the first six vinyasas from Surya Namaskara A. Most of the subsequent postures, in the series, begin from the seventh vinyasa.

When there are right and left sides to a posture (as with Janu Sirsasana), the fourth, fifth and sixth vinyasas from Surya Namakara are used to link them together.

Half Primary refers to practicing up to Navasana, and then proceeding to the Finishing Asana.

  1. Utkatasana
  2. Virabhadrasana A and B
  3. Paschimattanasana
  4. Purvattanasana
  5. Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattasana
  6. Tiriang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimattasana
  7. Janu Sirsasana A, B and C
  8. Marichasana A, B, C and D
  9. Navasana
  10. Bhujapidasana
  11. Kurmasana
  12. Supta Kurmasana
  13. Garbha Pindasana
  14. Kukkutasana
  15. Baddha Konasana
  16. Upavistha Konasana
  17. Supta Konasana
  18. Supta Padangusthasana
  19. Ubhya Padangusthasana
  20. Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana
  21. Setu Bandhasana
  22. Urdhva Dhanurasana

The Vinyasas of the Primary Series

Utkatasana:
~ Samasthiti ~

  1. Inhale: Hands up
  2. Exhale: Fold forward into Uttanasana
  3. Inhale: Head up
  4. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  5. Inhale: Up dog
  6. Exhale: Down Dog
  7. Inhale: Jump into Utkatasana and hold for five breaths. Gaze upward. After five breaths, inhale then exhale and put your palms on the floor.
  8. Inhale: Up
  9. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  10. Inhale: Up dog
  11. Exhale: Down Dog

Virabhadrasana:

  1. Inhale: Step your right foot up between your hands, left heel down on the floor and hands up gaze upward. Hold for five breaths.
  2. Exhale: Turn to the left side. Hold for five breaths
  3. Inhale: Spread your arms into Virabhadrasana B. Gaze at your fingertips. Hold for five breaths.
  4. Exhale: Right side. Hold for five breaths.
  5. Inhale: Put your hands on the floor and pick yourself up with one leg bent and one leg extended.
  6. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  7. Inhale: Up dog
  8. Exhale: Down Dog

Paschimattanasana

  1. Inhale: Jump through. Sit down with straight legs. Hands on the floor on either side of your hips. Hold for five breaths. Then inhale and grab your big toes.

Variation A:

  1. Exhale: Fold forward and hold for five breaths. Inhale and grab the sides of your feet.

Variation B:

  1. Exhale: Fold forward and hold for five breaths. Inhale and lock your hands around your feet.

Variation C:

  1. Exhale: Fold forward and hold for five breaths.
  2. Inhale: Cross your feet and pick it up.
  3. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  4. Inhale: Up dog
  5. Exhale: Down Dog

Purvattanasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through. Sit down and straighten your legs. Put your hands on the floor approximately one foot behind your hips. Exhale.
  2. Inhale: Lift up into Purvattanasana. Hold for five breaths
  3. Exhale: Lower back to sitting
  4. Inhale: Cross your feet and pick it up.
  5. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog

Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattasana, Tiriang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimattasana, Janu Sirsasana A, B and C follow this vinyasa pattern:

  1. Inhale: Jump through. Sit down and get into position.
  2. Exhale: Fold forward and take five breaths. Gaze at your foot.
  3. Inhale: Look up and lengthen your spine. Exhale.
  4. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  5. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog
  8. Inhale: Left Side. Jump through, sit down and get into position.
  9. Exhale: Fold forward and take five breaths. Gaze at your foot.
  10. Inhale: Look up and lengthen your spine. Exhale.
  11. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  12. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  13. Inhale: Up dog
  14. Exhale: Down Dog

Marichasana A:

  1. Inhale: Jump through. Sit down and get into position.
  2. Exhale: Fold forward and take five breaths. Gaze at your foot.
  3. Inhale: Look up and lengthen your spine. Exhale.
  4. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  5. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog
  8. Inhale: Left Side. Jump through, sit down and get into position.
  9. Exhale: Fold forward and take five breaths. Gaze at your foot.
  10. Inhale: Look up and lengthen your spine. Exhale.
  11. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  12. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  13. Inhale: Up dog
  14. Exhale: Down Dog

Marichasana B:

  1. Inhale: Jump through. Sit down and get into position.
  2. Exhale: Fold forward and take five breaths. Gaze at the tip of your nose.
  3. Inhale: Look up and lengthen your spine. Exhale.
  4. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  5. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog
  8. Inhale: Left Side. Jump through, sit down and get into position.
  9. Exhale: Fold forward and take five breaths. Gaze at the tip of your nose.
  10. Inhale: Look up and lengthen your spine. Exhale.
  11. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  12. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  13. Inhale: Up dog
  14. Exhale: Down Dog

Marichasana C and D:

  1. Inhale: Jump through. Sit down and get into position. Hold for five breaths. Gaze to the side. Exhale and put your hands on the floor.
  2. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  3. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  4. Inhale: Up dog
  5. Exhale: Down Dog
  6. Inhale: Left Side. Jump through. Sit down and get into position. Hold for five breaths. Gaze to the side. Exhale and put your hands on the floor.
  7. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  8. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  9. Inhale: Up dog
  10. Exhale: Down Dog

Navasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through, sit down in Navasana and hold for five breaths. Exhale and put your hands on the floor.
  2. Inhale: Up.
  3. Repeat the seventh and eighth vinyasas for a total of five times. The seventh vinyasa is repeated from the Navasana position. No jumping through necessary, except on the first Navasana.

  4. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  5. Inhale: Up dog
  6. Exhale: Down Dog

Above: Maria Villella demonstrates part of the Ashtanga Primary Series from this footage for our upcoming DVD

Bhujapidasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump your legs around your arms. Cross your feet, keeping your arms straight.
  2. Exhale: Bend your arms and, without touching your feet on the floor, lower your chin or head to the floor. Hold for five breaths.
  3. Inhale: Straighten your arms and return to the seventh vinyasa position.
  4. Exhale: Keeping your arms straight, bring your legs into Bakasana position.
  5. Inhale and Exhale: Float yourself back to Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog

Kurmasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump your legs around your arms. Lower yourself to the floor and straighten your arms and legs. Lift your heels off the floor. Chin to the floor. Hold for five breaths.
  2. Kurmasana leads right into the next posture: Supta Kurmasana.

Supta Kurmasana:

  1. Exhale: Bend your arms. Take your arms behind your back and clasp your hands together or grab your wrist.
  2. Cross your feet. Hold for five breaths.
  3. Inhale: Straighten your arms and lift yourself up off the floor with both feet crossed behind your head.
  4. Exhale: Keeping your arms straight, bring your legs into Bakasana position.
  5. Inhale and Exhale: Float yourself back to Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog

Garbha Pindasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and sit down with your legs straight.
  2. Cross your legs in Padmasana. Stick both your arms ‘through’ your Lotus all the way past your elbows, and then come to balance on your sit-bones/buttocks with hands on your cheeks or ears. Take five breaths.
  3. Roll back on your spine and inhale to roll forward. Continue rolling in a clockwise circle until you come back to center. Remember to exhale when rolling back and inhale when rolling forward.
  4. Garbha Pindasana leads right into the next posture: Kukkutasana.

Kukkutasana:
.. From Garbha Pindasana

  1. Inhale: Roll right up onto your hands. Hold for five breaths. Exhale and come down and retract your arms from inside your Lotus.
  2. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  3. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  4. Inhale: Up dog
  5. Exhale: Down Dog

Baddha Konasana A and B:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and sit down. Bring your feet together in Baddha Konasana.
  2. Exhale: Fold forward chin to the floor. Hold for five breaths.
  3. Inhale: Come up to sitting.
  4. Exhale: Fold forward again, this time round your back and head to feet. Take five breaths.
  5. Inhale: Come up to sitting. Exhale.
  6. Cross your legs and pick it up.
  7. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  8. Inhale: Up dog
  9. Exhale: Down Dog

Upavistha Konasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and sit down with straight legs spread wide apart. Grab the sides of your feet.
  2. Exhale: Fold forward touching your chin and chest to the floor. Hold for five breaths.
  3. Inhale: Head up. Exhale.
  4. Inhale: Holding the side of your feet come up to balance on your buttocks or sit-bones. Hold for five breaths.
  5. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  6. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  7. Inhale: Up dog
  8. Exhale: Down Dog

Supta Konasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and lay down with your feet together. Exhale.
  2. Inhale: Bring both your legs up and over your head. Grab your big toes. Hold for five breaths.
  3. Inhale: Roll up to balance on your buttocks/sit-bones. And then with an exhale, gently drop forward, legs, chest and chin to the ground.
  4. Inhale: Head up. Exhale.
  5. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  6. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  7. Inhale: Up dog
  8. Exhale: Down Dog

Supta Padangusthasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and lay down with your feet together.
  2. Inhale: Right leg comes up. Catch your toes with your right hand.
  3. Exhale: Touch your chin to your leg. Hold for five breaths.
  4. Inhale: Head down.
  5. Exhale: Right leg out to the side. Hold for five breaths.
  6. Inhale: Right leg up to center again.
  7. Exhale: Touch your chin to your leg again.
  8. Inhale: Head down.
  9. Exhale: Right leg down.
  10. Inhale: Left leg comes up. Catch your toes with your left hand.
  11. Exhale: Touch your chin to your leg. Hold for five breaths.
  12. Inhale: Head down.
  13. Exhale: Left leg out to the side. Hold for five breaths.
  14. Inhale: Left leg up to center again.
  15. Exhale: Touch your chin to your leg again.
  16. Inhale: Head down.
  17. Exhale: Left leg down.
  18. Inhale: Roll back (Chakrasana) and then exhale into Chaturanga Dandasana
  19. Inhale: Up dog
  20. Exhale: Down Dog

Ubhya Padangusthasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and lay down with your feet together. Exhale.
  2. Inhale: Bring both your legs up and over your head. Grab your big toes. Exhale.
  3. Inhale: Roll up and come up to balance on your buttocks or sit-bones. Hold for five breaths. Exhale.
  4. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  5. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog

Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and lay down with your feet together. Exhale.
  2. Inhale: Bring both your legs up and over your head. Grab grab the sides of your feet. Exhale.
  3. Inhale: Roll up and come up to balance on your buttocks or sit-bones.
  4. Exhale: Fold and touch your chin to your legs. Hold for five breaths.
  5. Inhale: Head up. Exhale.
  6. Inhale: Cross your legs and pick it up.
  7. Exhale: Jump or step back into Chaturanga Dandasana
  8. Inhale: Up dog
  9. Exhale: Down Dog

Setu Bandhasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and lay down with your feet together. Exhale.
  2. Inhale: Arch your back placing the top of your head or your forehead on the ground. Draw up your feet and spread them out ‘Charlie Chaplin-like’. Arms folded across your chest. Exhale.
  3. Inhale: Come up into Setu Bandhasana. Hold for five breaths.
  4. Exhale: Release and lower down slowly.
  5. Inhale: Roll back (Chakrasana) and then exhale into Chaturanga Dandasana
  6. Inhale: Up dog
  7. Exhale: Down Dog

Urdhva Dhanurasana:

  1. Inhale: Jump through and lay down with your feet together.
  2. Exhale: Prepare by placing your hands and feet into position.
  3. Inhale: Come up into Urdhva Dhanurasana. Hold for five breaths.
  4. Exhale: Release and lower down slowly.
  5. Repeat three times.

  6. Inhale: Roll back (Chakrasana) and then exhale into Chaturanga Dandasana
  7. Inhale: Up dog
  8. Exhale: Down Dog

It is customary to perform Paschimattanasana once more after backbending. Holding for ten breaths rather than five.

The Primary Asana of Ashtanga Yoga, 4.4 out of 5 based on 8 ratings
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Related posts:

  1. The Finishing Asana of Ashtanga
  2. The Fundamental Asana of Ashtanga Yoga
  3. Surya Namaskara
  4. What is Vinyasa?
  5. Learning the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series

Comments

  1. Luna Diega says:

    Garbha Pindasana – Roll clockwise to the right, not counter-clockwise to the left.

    • admin says:

      Luna, you are correct:) Thanks for the catching that one!

      • Pete says:

        In the video (wearing green/yellow top) Maria says roll down right side of spine, swivel and up the left. But it looks like she is rolling pretty much straight down the back, then when on shoulders, gives a little twist and comes straight up the back to sitting position. Am I seeing it wrong? thanks

        • admin says:

          Maria is alternating the pressure from side-to-side as she rolls. It’s a very subtle movement and difficult to see.

  2. ravi says:

    you mentioned 5 breaths in every asana. but somebody can stay for more than 5 breaths.so we shouldn’t count breath in practice.

    • admin says:

      Yes, you can stay longer than five breaths. We say five breaths in certain poses here because in the vast majority of Led Ashtanga Primary classes, the count will be five in those poses.

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