Mastering the Ashtanga Primary Series: A Comprehensive Guide to Poses, Philosophy, and Practice for Beginners and Beyond

Ashtanga Primary Series

The Ashtanga Primary Series, also known as Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy), is a set of postures created by K. Pattabhi Jois, a well-known yoga teacher from Mysore, India. This potent practice is known for its fast-paced vinyasa flow, which helps to build strength, flexibility, and internal heat. Whether you are an experienced yogi or a curious beginner, mastering the Ashtanga Primary Series can be a life-changing experience.

What is the Ashtanga Primary Series?

About 75 postures make up the Ashtanga Primary Series. It begins with Sun Salutations and progresses through standing, sitting, backbends, inversions, and closing poses. Vinyasa, a dynamic flow of breath and movement, connects each posture, resulting in a practice that is both rhythmic and internally heating.

Opening Sequence

  • Creating uniform training standards: Yoga Alliance sets standards for RYSs that encompass a range of philosophies and lineages. This guarantees a minimal standard of excellence and uniformity in yoga instruction.
  • Keeping up a database of certified yoga instructors (RYTs): This searchable database aids students in locating certified instructors and lends legitimacy to RYTs looking for teaching positions.
  • oga Alliance is a community advocacy organization that works to have yoga recognized and safeguarded in legal and educational contexts.

Opening Sequence

  • Samasthiti (Equal Standing)
  • Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A)
  • Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B)
  • Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)
  • Padahastasana (Hand to Foot Pose)
  • Standing Poses: Utthita Trikonasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana, Utthita
  • Parsvakonasana, Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
  • Prasarita Padottanasana A, B, C, D
  • Parsvottanasana

Primary Series Main Sequence

  • Dandasana (Staff Pose)
  • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
  • Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)
  • Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (Half-Bound Lotus Seated Forward Bend)
  • Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana (Three-Limbed Forward Bend)
  • Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)
  • Marichyasana A, B, C, & D (Various Seated Twists)
  • Navasana (Boat Pose)
  • Bhujapidasana (Shoulder-Pressing Pose)
  • Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose)
  • Supta Kurmasana (Reclining Tortoise Pose)
  • Garbha Pindasana (Embryo in Womb Pose)
  • Kukkutasana (Rooster Pose)
  • Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
  • Upavishta Konasana (Seated Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
  • Supta Konasana (Reclining Angle Pose)
  • Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Finishing Sequence

  • Sirsasana (Headstand)
  • Baddha Hasta Sirsasana (Bound Headstand)
  • Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
  • Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose)
  • Karandavasana (Duck Pose)
  • Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)
  • Nakrasana (Crocodile Pose)
  • Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana (Reclining Upward-Facing Thunderbolt Pose)
  • Bakasana (Crow Pose)
  • Koundinyasana A & B (Arm Balance Poses)
  • Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)
  • Eka Pada Sirsasana (One-Legged Headstand)
  • Yoga Nidrasana (Yogic Sleep Pose)

Closing Sequence

  • Balasana (Child’s Pose)
  • Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
  • Uttpluthih (Raised Lotus Pose)
  • Savasana (Corpse Pose)
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Advantages of Ashtanga Primary Series Practice

There are numerous advantages to the Ashtanga Primary Series for the body and mind.

  • Enhanced strength and flexibility: Your muscles and joints will be gradually challenged by the sequence, which will improve your overall physical fitness.
  • Increased cardiovascular endurance and stamina: The vinyasa flow raises your heart rate and improves cardiovascular health.
  • Purification and detoxification: The practice generates heat internally, which aids in the removal of toxins from the body.
  • Focus and mental clarity are fostered by the practice's disciplined repetition, which also promotes mindfulness.
  • Reduction of stress and relaxation: Stress is reduced and deep relaxation is encouraged by the emphasis on movement and breathing.

Ashtanga Sequence for Beginners

Beginner Tips

  • As your strength and flexibility increase, start with shorter holds and gradually extend them.
  • Listen to your body and honor its signals. Don't push yourself to discomfort or pain.
  • To assist with alignment and to deepen the pose safely, use props.
  • Pay attention to your breathing and your inner feelings. Breathe smoothly and steadily the entire hold.

What are the key poses in the Ashtanga Primary Series?

  • 1. Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskaras: Warm up, energize, and align movement and breathing.
  • 2. Standing Pose: Increase strength, enhance equilibrium, and stabilize the body. Important positions include Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), and Virabhadrasana I, II, and III (Warrior Poses I, II, and III).
  • 3. Seated Poses: Improve digestion, loosen up the hips, and increase flexibility. Important positions include Marichyasana I, II, and III (Twisting Poses), Paschimottanasana (Forward Fold), and Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose).
  • 4. Backbends: Stretch the spine, enhance posture, and open the chest. Important positions include Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), and Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose).
  • 5. Inversions: Boost energy flow, strengthen the core, and enhance circulation. Important postures include Pincha Mayurasana (forearm balance), Sirsasana (headstand), and Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand).
  • 6. Final Sequence: De-stress, incorporate the exercise, and locate calmness. important poses: meditation, pranayama (breathwork), and savasana (corpse pose).

Breathing Pattern in Ashtanga Yoga

The role of Ujjayi breath in Ashtanga: Mastering Ujjayi

  • Gently tighten your throat by imagining that the back of your throat is “gurgling.”
  • Breathe smoothly and evenly while you inhale and exhale through your nose to maintain a steady rhythm.
  • Link breath to movement: Align each inhalation and exhalation with a particular movement within the poses.
  • Exercise mindfully: Allow your practice to be guided by your body’s sensation of the breath.
  • Remain in the moment: Distract yourself from thoughts and feelings, and just pay attention to your breathing and how it affects your body and mind.

Primary Series vs Intermediate Series

As your Ashtanga practice develops, you may find yourself wanting to learn more. At this point, the Primary Series begins to give way to the Intermediate Series, which offers a more difficult task. Let’s delve into the differences:


Primary Series: Yoga Foundations. emphasizes increasing internal heat, flexibility, and strength. Poses are generally simpler and linked with vinyasas.

Intermediate Series: More complex poses featuring deeper backbends, more difficult inversions, and demanding balancing acts. Vinyasas become faster and more complex


Primary Series: Gradually increases heat, appropriate for both novice and seasoned practitioners.

Intermediate Series: Much harder, requiring more mental concentration, strength, and endurance. It can be physically and mentally taxing for unprepared practitioners.


Primary Series: Has a predetermined sequence and a recognizable structure for predictability.

Intermediate Series: More postures and variations are introduced, necessitating greater memorizing and focus on detail.

Choosing Your Path:

primary Series: Before moving on to the Intermediate Series, make sure you understand the basics. Exercise patience and establish a solid base.

Only try the Intermediate Series after putting in a lot of practice in the Primary Series and under the supervision of a certified teacher. Listen to your body and respect its limitations.

Duration for Each Asana

To fully benefit from the Primary Series, it is important to hold each pose with awareness and intention. Here are some rules to follow:

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Recommended times

  • Standing poses: 5-8 breaths
  • Seated poses: 3-5 breaths
  • Backbends: 3-5 breaths, or as comfortable
  • Inversions: 5-8 breaths, or hold for shorter durations with modifications

Dietary Considerations for Practitioners

Though Ashtanga yoga does not have any strict dietary guidelines, adhering to some mindful eating practices can enhance your practice and improve your overall health:

Particular Limitations?

No, there are no strict dietary requirements associated with the practice. In the end, what you put on your plate is determined by your requirements, tastes, and any ethical or religious constraints.

Accept Whole Foods: Give fresh produce, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds top priority. These high-nutrient foods give you long-lasting energy, fiber, and vitamins that are good for your general health and endurance.

Hydrate Like a Yogi: Maintaining healthy organ function, controlling body temperature, and eliminating toxins all depend on adequate hydration. Aim for 8–10 glasses of water a day, taking the climate and intensity of your practice into account.

While occasional indulgences are acceptable, practice mindful moderation by avoiding processed foods, sugar, and excessive alcohol. These can impede your progress and cause energy crashes and stomach problems.

Listen to Your Body: Observe the effects that various foods have on you. Adjust your diet based on your individual needs. Avoid foods that make you feel drowsy or uncomfortable and instead choose ones that give you energy and focus.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Ignoring your breath

Tip: Breathe deeply during the entire practice, connecting each movement with an inhale or exhale.

It is forcing flexibility.

Tip: Respect your body’s limits, modify postures with props or alternatives, gradually increase flexibility with safe alignment.

Ignoring internal heat.

Tip: Listen to your body temperature, take breaks, adjust intensity, and stay hydrated.

Rushing the sequence.

Tip: Focus on internal awareness and smooth transitions, move with intention and control.


In conclusion, the Ashtanga Primary Series is an incredible practice that can be life-changing for beginners and seasoned practitioners alike. It improves strength, flexibility, endurance, and mental clarity while also promoting mindfulness and relaxation. Whether you are looking for a physical challenge or a journey of self-discovery, Ashtanga Yoga can provide both. It is important to start with the basics and listen to your body, honoring its signals and using props if necessary. Embrace the transformative power of Ashtanga Yoga, and enjoy the journey of self-improvement and discovery.

Sajan Negi
Sajan Negi

Posted: 17 January, 2024

Renowned for his expertise in yoga and its philosophy, Sajan Negi brings over 15 years of experience in guiding individuals on their transformative journey towards holistic well-being. With a Master’s degree in Yoga and a life dedicated to personal growth, Sajan Negi combines ancient wisdom with modern insights to inspire physical strength, mental clarity, and spiritual peace in his students.