Ashtanga is one of the most challenging and strenuous types of yoga. It includes asana series and progression that one has to follow to achieve wellness. Unlike the typical image of relaxed yoga, Ashtanga requires a person to stretch a lot and do body-defying poses. Some of these postures can be really tough that you need a mat to avoid any accidents. Ashtanga yoga mats are important to protect the joints and the skin from the friction of the floor.
If you have a brand new mat or looking for poses to do on your planned purchase, here are some that you shouldn’t miss:
1. Apanasana (Knees-Chest-Chin)
Knees-chest-chin is one of the most iconic poses in Ashtanga, which belongs to the Sun Salutations series. This posture targets to strengthen the spine, neck, and chest. Knees-chest-chin also helps invigorate the limbs from the upper body down to the lower extremities. This also improves balancing and weight distribution.
Even if it has many benefits to the body, this pose is critical and will need a lot of dexterity and guidance of a teacher. This knees-chest-chin pose requires a mat since you’ll press body parts into the floor. If you practice this without Ashtanga yoga mats, there’s a high chance that you’ll get injuries.
To do this, start with a planking position and slowly tuck your knees to the ground. Hug your elbows and make sure that your hip is lifted from the floor. Your chest should be pressed into the mat as well as your chin.
2. Janu Sirsasana A (Head to Knee Forward Bend)
Janu Sirsasana is applicable to all Ashtangi levels and it helps on stretching your hamstrings, spine, and groin. It’s one of the basic Ashtanga poses and even pregnant women can do this up to their second trimester. Aside from that, Janu Sirsasana A targets to strengthen the back muscles.
Since you’ll be doing this in a seating position, it’s actually required to use a mat. Stretching on the plain floor can injure your skin, not to mention the difficulty of stretching in the rough surface. However, this is not advisable to yogis currently suffering from diarrhea and asthma. If you have a knee injury, you should avoid flexing the hurting joint and just cushion it with folded fabric instead.
To do this pose, start in a seating position with a folded blanket cushioning your buttocks. Fold the other leg inward then reach for the straight leg with both hands. Do this with your thumb on the sole of your foot.
3. Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose)
When translated, the Sanskrit “Kurma” means tortoise. The pose actually resembles the pose of a tortoise on the ground. This requires a high level of flexibility to tone the stomach muscles. Kurmasana also helps remove belly fats. Since it utilizes the whole body, this asana improves both the respiratory and digestive systems.
While it improves the frontal muscles, the bent spine also helps flex the back muscles. Kurmasana is helpful for people who want to strengthen their backs after an injury. The most important thing when doing this pose is to stimulate the organs in the midsection.
For this pose, you have to sit with outstretched legs with heels touching the floor. After that, slid your arms under each leg while your body moves forward. Your palms should be touching the ground but this may change depending on the variation. Just remember that you should do this with Ashtanga yoga mats to avoid injuries.
4. Marichyasana A (Sage Forward Bend)
Marichyasana came from the Sanskrit word “Marichi”, which means “ray of light”. It’s indeed a bright pose with benefits like calming the mind and body while serving as a massage to the internal organs. It includes a lot of stretching in the torso and lower limbs. This, in turn, creates a mild twisting on the pelvis and the upper body.
There are many variations of this pose. Remember that you shouldn’t perform this if you’re experiencing migraines or headaches. Back injuries and blood pressure issues will prevent you from practicing this asana.
To do this, seat with one leg outstretched. The other leg should be bent with a foot planted on the ground. After that, lean forward while putting your arms to the back. Your forehead should touch your shin part. Remember to use Ashtanga yoga mats for this.
5. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
The triangle pose is another popular Ashtanga pose that focuses on improving the blood flow in the entire body. Trikonasana also stretches the hamstrings and hips that are important when you’re doing heavy workout or activities. If you’re doing this to lose weight, the Triangle pose targets excess fats in the waist and things.
However, you shouldn’t do this asana if you have blood pressure issues or spinal injuries. I highly advise that you practice this with a yoga instructor.
Start in a standing position with feet separated widely. Afterward, turn a leg at a 90-degree angle while you bend toward it with the aligning hand reaching for the toes. The other hand should be raised while you look in the upper direction. Not everyone uses a mat here, but if you’re a newbie, I suggest that you do.
6. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
Most Ashtangis recognize this pose easily. Downward Facing Dog is beneficial in reducing menstrual pain as well as easing the symptoms of menopause. It also prevents the onset of osteoporosis, indigestion, insomnia, and fatigue. Even people with high blood pressure, asthma, and sciatica can practice this as long as they use Ashtanga yoga mats.
It’s better to do this with a partner assisting your back. However, you should avoid this asana if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome since this will require prolonged hand pressing. Also, don’t practice this pose if you’re already heavily pregnant or if you have diarrhea.
Lower yourself to the floor with hands and knees planted on the ground. Slowly lift your knees from the mat while your heels also lose contact with the floor. After a slow succession of movements, you should form a triangle-like posture in your body with palms and soles on the ground and buttocks pointing on the ceiling.
The ideal mat choice for these Ashtanga poses
Aside from a flexible body, what makes an asana well done is a reliable mat. If you’re planning to do these postures or any intricate Ashtanga asanas, you should consider buying a Heathyoga mat. This works in harmony with every yoga position since it has a Body Alignment System. It’s just a thin sheet, but it can help your hands and feet adjust well to different movements. Here are more of Heathyoga’s wonderful benefits:
It comes in extra large sizes
Most Ashtanga yoga mats nowadays are small that it can only cater a few yogic positions. For Ashtanga, it needs a wider platform due to the many asana variations. Heathyoga mats can be as large as 72×26 inches with a thickness of 6mm.
When it comes to buying yoga mats, I always give a lot of attention to the smell and material. Since I’ll be pressing my body into it, I don’t want to smell rubbery. The good thing is that Heathyoga mats are made from non-toxic PVC that’s odorless and have no harmful chemicals. The basic logic about choosing a yoga mat is to get an eco-friendly one. If it’s safe for the environment, it’s safe for you.
I’m not really a fan of cheap mats that keep on sliding my soles during a Downward Facing Dog posture. Heathyoga has double layer technology that brings a non-slip feature. The material is also SGS certified, so you’re sure that you get the safest sheet.
Maximizing poses on your Ashtanga yoga mats is perfect if you’re practicing on the best sheet. If you’re looking for asanas to test your mat, you should try those I listed above. And if you want to pair it with the best mat, I suggest that you get one from Heathyoga.