Ashtanga Makes My Blood Boil: Health Benefits of Yoga (part 1)

According to AYRI:

The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. Breathing and moving together while performing asanas makes the blood hot, or as Pattabhi Jois says, boils the blood.

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Sharath & Guruji looking especially healthy

The benefits of boiled blood are numerous. Thinner (boiled) blood circulates more freely, so it’s better able to remove pain, impurities and disease.

The sweat generated by Ashtanga practice is also beneficial, because it removes the toxins brought out by the boiling blood.

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John Berlinsky helps a student
(photo courtesy of Govinda Kai)

In Yoga Mala, Sri K. Pattabhis Jois discusses in great depth the benefits of Ashtanga in general as well as the benefits of each asana. For example, for Prasarita Padottanasana (A-D), Pattabhis Jois writes:

[If learned from a Guru], the anal canal will be purified, the bad fat in the lower abdomen will dissolve, the waist will become thin and strong, and the body will become light and beautiful. This asana also cures constipation, and purifies the top part of the spinal column and the waist.

I think anyone who’s practiced Ashtanga (or any yoga) for a while would say that practice has numerous physical, emotional and mental benefits. My friends who do not practice yoga express interest primarily because of the “stretching” and “relaxation” benefits they perceive yoga will provide. So there’s this general, yet anecdotal, perception that yoga, including Ashtanga yoga, is beneficial.

However, being a curious, analytical type of person with an interest in health and science, I was wondering what kind of medical or scientific research exists about yoga, particularly Ashtanga?

So, in a brief series of upcoming posts, I’ll be highlighting some of what I’ve learned.

With that, I invite you all to please comment freely and include any resources you have about the benefits of yoga.

From Yoga Mala:

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Turbinado sugar. Yum.

Some people even have of fear of practicing it [yoga] altogether. But this is little different from the opinion of those who look for the faults of sugar without knowing its sweetness. Once they taste it, its sweetness becomes apparent. Similarly, once we practice yoga, we come to realize its ananda [bliss].

Despite my analytical bent, I fully endorse tasting the sugar.

8 thoughts on “Ashtanga Makes My Blood Boil: Health Benefits of Yoga (part 1)

  1. susan

    How about the latest study noted in Yoga Journal, that states that even yogis participating in “vinyasa style” yoga are only getting a mild aerobic workout.
    Likening it two taking something like 3 light aerobics classes a week. They can’t be talking about ashtanga vinyasa yoga….
    I have seen ashtanga yogis, and I have seen aerobics enthusiasts.
    No comparison, ashtangis win hands down in my non scientific/medical opinion.

  2. Jody

    When I first read Yoga Mala I was skeptical about some of the claims that were made, specifically about UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA and its firming abilities. After a years study and an actual focus on this asana I can tell you it really does work. The problem, I think, with the general conception of yoga is that its passive, and it can be, a vinyasa can contain very little effort if you want it to. I think you have to actually engage your entire body to see the benefits.

  3. tracy Post author

    If anybody has the link to the YogaJournal article Susan mentioned, can you send it on? I can’t find it. Thank you!

    I think one thing to remember when comparing Ashtangis (or other yoga practitioners) to other exercisers is that yogis tend to adopt a healthier lifestyle concurrent with practice, which can make a big difference. I’m thinking primarily about diet here, but other lifestyle differences could lead to Susan’s astute observation!

  4. tracy Post author

    Jody,

    I incorporated your thought, “a vinyasa can contain very little effort if you want it to”, into my practice yesterday and it helped. Thank you.

    According to “Yoga Mala”, the benefits of Utthita Parshvakonasana are:

    “Utthita Parshvakonasana purifies the ribs and lower abdomen, dissolves the bad fat at the waist, and softens the limbs so that subsequent asanas can be more easily practiced.”

    I wonder where the “good” fat is?

    cheers,
    t

  5. Handy Bendy Gandhi

    “Good fat” is everywhere in our bodies. For example, each nerve fibre is encased in an insulating sheath of fatty tissue. If we didn’t have this good fat, our brains would short-circuit! As a second example, the delicate kidneys are encased in a protective capsule of fat. Without this casing, our kidneys would be easily damaged and we would pee blood!

  6. Christina

    Reading the comments I was impressed with the thoughtfulness in each comment, reminding me of the mental benefits, clarity of mind, and I love the meditative state I can achieve in a mysore class, that I cannot quite achieve in my own practice.

  7. George

    Ashtanga yoga helps purify our bodies through utilization of the breath, which generates heat. This purifying heat, releases any blockages, calcifications, improves flexiblity, burns fat, tones the muscles etc. Together with the asanas, drishtis (gaze points) and breath one can achieve incredible mental focus and concentration. The quitening of the mind’s chatter is something which takes years of practice to achieve.

    Remember that we as yogis have a responsiblity to ourselves and to our students, afterall Ahimsa (one of the Yamas of the eight-limbed path of yoga) means Non Violence; non violence to ourselves and to our students. Practice compassionatley and with love.

    Namaste
    George

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