Explore the Ashtanga Intermediate Series: Master Challenging Asanas with Our Comprehensive Guide

Description of Ashtanga Intermediate Series

The Ashtanga Intermediate Series is a challenging yoga practice that builds upon the postures from the Primary Series. This series includes 28 poses that are designed to deepen your practice by opening up energy channels and allowing prana to flow more freely throughout the body.

The Intermediate Series is the second of six series in Ashtanga Yoga, and it is considered to be more advanced than the Primary Series. This sequence includes deep backbends, twists, and leg-over-head poses that require greater flexibility and strength.

While some of the postures in the Intermediate Series are also included in the Primary Series, the majority of the series is comprised of new postures. These asanas include Padangustasana to Parsvottanasana, as well as other challenging poses like Eka Pada Sirsasana and Pincha Mayurasana.

StandingPadangusthasana A/B, Padahastasana, Utthita Trikonasana A/B, Parivrtta Trikonasana A/B, Utthita Parsvakonasana A/B, Parivrtta Parsvakonasana A/B, Prasarita Padottanasana A/B/C/D
SeatedDandasana, Paschimottanasana A/B, Purvottanasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana, Janu Sirsasana A/B, Marichyasana A/B/C/D
BackbendsBhujangasana A/B, Salabhasana A/B, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Kapotasana A/B
Leg Over HeadEka Pada Sirsasana, Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana, Tittibhasana A/B
Arm BalancesParsva Bakasana, Bakasana B, Astavakrasana, Pincha Mayurasana
InversionsSirsasana, Sarvangasana

It is important to note that the Intermediate Series is not meant to be mastered quickly. It can take months or even years to develop the strength, flexibility, and endurance needed to complete the entire series. In fact, many practitioners spend years focusing solely on the Primary Series before moving on to the Intermediate Series.

In addition to the physical benefits, the Intermediate Series can also have a profound effect on the mind and spirit. This challenging and intense practice can help you develop focus, discipline, and determination. As you work through the series, you may also experience a sense of purification and release, as the postures help to release tension and stored emotions from the body.

Are you a seasoned practitioner of Ashtanga yoga looking to take your practice to the next level? Consider exploring the Intermediate series! This challenging set of asanas builds upon the foundation of the Primary series and offers a range of intense backbends, hip opening poses, and headstand variations to deepen your practice. Here’s what you need to know about the poses in Ashtanga Intermediate series:

Modifications of Primary series poses

The Intermediate series incorporates adaptations of some of the poses from the Primary series, such as Dhanurasana (Bow pose) and Ardha Matsyandrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes pose). These modified versions of the poses provide a greater challenge and help to refine your alignment and stability.

Backbends, hip openers, and headstands

The Intermediate series features a wide range of asanas, including intense backbends like Kapotasana (Pigeon pose) and Ustrasana (Camel pose), hip opening poses like Pasasana (Noose pose), and headstand variations like Baddha Hasta Sirsasana (Bound Hand Headstand). These asanas help to build strength, flexibility, and balance in your practice.

Popular Intermediate series poses

PasasanaA twisting pose that requires deep hip and shoulder flexibility.
SalabhasanaA challenging backbend that requires significant spinal flexion.
KapotasanaA deep backbend that stretches the thighs, abdomen, and chest.
UstrasanaA deep hip opener and backbend that strengthens the spine and abdominals.
BakasanaAn arm balance that requires significant core and arm strength.

Final pose

The final asana in the Intermediate series is Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow pose), which involves lifting off the back and curving the spine into a dramatic arc. This asana requires significant strength and flexibility and is a satisfying challenge for advanced practitioners.

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Preparation for Intermediate series

Before practicing the Intermediate series, it’s essential to practice the Primary series consistently for at least two years. This foundation provides necessary strength, flexibility, and alignment to progress safely into the Intermediate series. Remember to listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and never force a pose beyond your current ability.

So there you have it—the ins and outs of the Ashtanga Intermediate series! While this practice is challenging, it also offers a wealth of benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing. So if you’re feeling up for a challenge, give it a try with the guidance of a skilled teacher.

Importance of Backbend in Ashtanga Intermediate Series

The Ashtanga Intermediate series is a physically demanding yoga practice that requires patience and consistency. This series is designed to build on the foundation of the Primary series and deepen the practitioner’s understanding of the body-mind connection. The Intermediate series comprises 40 asanas, including a set of challenging backbends.

There are different schools of thought concerning progression to the Ashtanga Intermediate series, with some placing emphasis on proficiency in backbends, and others aiming for a more balanced approach between forward folds and backbends. However, it is widely recognized that backbending asanas are a focus of the Intermediate series, as they activate the suppleness of the spine and open energy channels.

The Intermediate Series, known as Nadi Shodhana or Nerve Cleansing, focuses on backbend asanas to maintain the suppleness of the spine and open energy channels. Backbends offer various physical and mental benefits, including:

  • Strengthening the spine, shoulders, and legs
  • Improving flexibility in the spine and shoulders
  • Relieving tension and pain in the back, neck and shoulder region
  • Stimulating the nervous system and improving circulation
  • Activating the energy centers or chakras
  • Boosting mood and confidence

The second series of Ashtanga yoga is called Nadi Shodhana, or Nerve Cleansing, due to its focus on backbends. This series works on the deeper levels of the body, including the energy channels or nadis, by opening the heart and throat chakras. The asanas in the Intermediate series help to unlock the emotional and mental patterns that are held in the body, promoting a deeper sense of self-awareness and emotional release.

Some of the key backbend asanas in the Intermediate series include Bhujapidasana, Kurmasana, Supta Kurmasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Kapotasana, and Viparita Dandasana. These poses require significant strength and flexibility, and should only be performed under the guidance of a qualified teacher. It is essential to warm up the body before attempting any backbends, and to listen to your body’s limits to avoid any injury.

Progression to Ashtanga Intermediate Series

Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic and physically demanding style of yoga that follows a set sequence of postures. The practice is divided into two series, the Primary Series and the Intermediate Series. While the Primary Series is considered the foundation, the Intermediate Series builds upon it with more challenging asanas, including deep hip openers, arm balances, and backbends.

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Requirements to Progress to the Intermediate Series

  • Consistent Practice: A basic requirement for someone to progress to the Ashtanga Intermediate series is that they have a consistent practice of the Primary series, six days a week for at least a year. This consistent practice helps develop the strength, flexibility, and endurance to take on the Intermediate Series.
  • Foundational Poses: It is important to learn with an experienced teacher and focus on the foundational poses of the Primary series. This means understanding the alignment and correct breathing techniques for each posture in the sequence.
  • Patience: Practitioners may stay with the Primary Series for several years before bringing in poses from the Intermediate Series. Building a strong foundation and developing the necessary strength and flexibility takes time and dedication.

What to Expect in the Intermediate Series

The Ashtanga Intermediate Series, also known as Nadi Shodhana, or nerve cleansing, continues to move the practitioner deeper into the physical and meditative aspects of yoga. The sequence includes more challenging postures such as backbends, arm balances, and deep hip openers.

Some of the key postures in the Intermediate series include:

Bhujapidasana (Shoulder Pressure Pose)Strengthens the arms, shoulders, and core. Helps to develop balance and stability.
Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose)Stretches and strengthens the shoulders, hips, and spine. Helps to improve flexibility.
Eka Pada Sirsasana (One-Legged Headstand)Strengthens the upper body and core. Develops balance and focus.
Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)Strengthens the arms and shoulders. Develops balance and stability.
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose)Opens the chest, shoulders, and hips. Stretches the spine. Increases energy and vitality.

As with any physical practice, it is important to listen to your body and work with a qualified teacher to progress safely and effectively. Consistent practice, patience, and a willingness to challenge yourself are key to progressing from the Primary Series to the Intermediate Series in Ashtanga Yoga.

Recommended Books and Resources for Ashtanga Intermediate Series

If you are looking to deepen your practice of Ashtanga yoga and move on to the intermediate series, there are a variety of resources available to help guide you. Here are some recommended books and online classes to consider:


  • Kino MacGregor’s “The Power of Ashtanga Yoga II”
  • Gregor Maehle’s “Ashtanga Yoga The intermediate series”
  • Petri Räisänen’s “Nadi Sodhana”

Each of these books provides comprehensive instruction on the Ashtanga intermediate series, including detailed explanations of the postures and recommended modifications. They also offer insights into the philosophy of yoga and how it relates to this particular practice.

Online Classes

If you prefer to learn through online classes or tutorials, there are a number of teachers who offer instruction on the Ashtanga intermediate series on EkhartYoga. Here are a few to consider:

Tashi DawaTashi has been teaching yoga for over 20 years and has a strong foundation in Ashtanga yoga. Her classes focus on using the breath to connect with the body and mind.
Nichi GreenNichi is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who specializes in working with students with injuries or physical limitations. Her classes provide modifications and options to make the practice accessible to everyone.
Joey MilesJoey has been practicing Ashtanga yoga for over 20 years and has traveled extensively to study with some of the world’s most renowned teachers. His classes explore the subtle nuances of the practice and offer insights into the philosophy behind it.
Clayton HortonClayton is a dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner and teacher who has studied with Sharath Jois in Mysore, India. His classes focus on building strength and flexibility through the Ashtanga practice.

Regardless of which resources you choose to use, it is important to approach the Ashtanga intermediate series with patience and persistence. This challenging practice requires dedication and a willingness to push through physical and mental barriers in order to grow and evolve. But with the guidance of experienced teachers and informative books, you can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for this powerful practice.

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Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic and physically challenging practice, consisting of a set sequence of postures that are performed in a specific order. The Intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga builds on the foundation of the Primary series, focusing on deepening the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the practice.

Benefits of Practicing Ashtanga Intermediate Series

The Ashtanga Intermediate series offers a range of benefits that can help you to develop a deeper connection to your body, mind, and spirit. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Strength and Flexibility: The Intermediate series features a range of challenging postures that build strength, flexibility, and endurance. Practicing these postures regularly can help you to build a stronger, more resilient body.
  • Nervous System: The Intermediate series works strongly on the nervous system, helping to calm the mind and regulate the breath. This can be particularly beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety, stress, or insomnia.
  • Spine Health: The Intermediate series features a range of backbends and twists that can help to improve the health of your spine. By improving the mobility and flexibility of your spine, you can reduce your risk of injury and improve your overall physical wellbeing.
  • Internal Cleansing: The Intermediate series incorporates a range of postures that help to stimulate and detoxify the internal organs, including the liver, kidneys, and digestive system. This can help to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
  • Meditation Practice: Cultivating other aspects of the Ashtanga practice, such as meditation or pranayama, can complement the physical practice. By incorporating these practices into your routine, you can cultivate a deeper sense of peace, mindfulness, and self-awareness.
  • Savasana: The Intermediate series should end with a long Savasana, which is a deep relaxation pose. This is an essential part of the practice, as it allows the body to fully integrate and absorb the benefits of the postures.

Ashtanga Intermediate Series is a rigorous yoga practice that builds upon the primary series with more advanced postures such as backbends, arm balances, and inversions. It is important to approach this series with respect and patience, listening to your body and progressing gradually. Here are some tips and advice to enhance your Ashtanga Intermediate Series practice:

Encourage Suppleness and Open Energy Channels with Backbends

Backbends are a key component of the Ashtanga Intermediate Series, and they offer many benefits such as loosening tight muscles, increasing overall flexibility, and improving posture. They also encourage suppleness of the spine and help to open energy channels in the body, promoting overall health and wellbeing.

Practice in the Morning to Build Energy

Practicing Ashtanga Intermediate Series in the morning has many benefits. It can help to build energy for the day, making you feel more alert and focused. However, it is important to ground that energy with the finishing postures, which include gentle twists and forward folds to cool down the body and bring it back into balance.

Focus on Ujjayi Breath, Bandha, and Drishti

With long-term practice, Ujjayi breath, Bandha, and Drishti become deeper and more refined. Ujjayi breath is a powerful pranayama technique that involves breathing through the nose with a slight constriction in the back of the throat, creating a gentle ocean sound. Bandha refers to energy locks in the body, which help to control the flow of prana, or life force energy. Drishti is the practice of gazing at a fixed point, which helps to cultivate focus and concentration.

Use Props as Needed

Props such as blocks, straps, and blankets can be very helpful for beginners or those with injuries or tightness in certain areas. They can provide support and stability, allowing you to access deeper stretches and postures safely. Don’t be afraid to use props as needed and listen to your body’s needs.

Take Rest When Needed

It is important to listen to your body and take rest when needed. If you feel fatigued or overwhelmed, take child’s pose or simply lie down in savasana for a few moments to reset and rejuvenate. It is better to practice with mindfulness and intention than to push through pain or discomfort.

Benefits of Ashtanga Intermediate SeriesPrecautions
  • Improves flexibility and range of motion
  • Strengthens muscles and joints
  • Enhances cardiovascular health
  • Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Promotes overall health and wellbeing
  • Listen to your body and progress gradually
  • Avoid pushing through pain or discomfort
  • Consult with a healthcare provider if you have any health concerns or injuries
  • Use props as needed for support and stability

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