How to Build An Ashtanga Practice

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Session 20-21 - The 15 Minute Short Form

Short forms are great for fitting in a complete practice in a short amount of time. Perfect for busy schedules. The 15 minute short form is great for not only fitting in a practice in a very busy schedule, but also for building familiarity with the fundamentals of the practice, building strength, flexibility and endurance in scale with where you are in the practice.


I want you to practice the 15 Minute Short Form as you continue on in your Ashtanga journey as a means of laying the base for your practice. You start to understand the layering of the different series within the larger Primary Series.  In the coming weeks we will examine and practice the full Standing Series, Floor Series and the Finishing Series on our way to the full Primary Series practice.


Let’s look at the structure of this 15 Minute Short Form


Sun Salutations

We start with a combination of Sun A and Sun B to get the body ready for the work to come.  A total of 8 salutations to get you warmed up and strong to go into the seated and finishing poses that make up this practice sequence.

Sun A - 5 times

Sun B - 3 times


There are no standing poses in the 15 Minute Short Form.


Seated Series - 3 Poses - Use the Principles of Folding/Bending

Seated Forward Fold (Pachimottanasana B) - Sustained Forward Folding

Seated Twist (Marichyasana C) - Sustained Twist

Boat Pose (Navasana) 2 times - Abdominal Strengthening


These seated poses are basic poses that move and strengthen the spine. They also help to prepare you for the more intricate work that will come in a wider variety of seated poses.  Sun A and Sun B prepared you for this with the folding and stretching of Sun A and the twisting and abdominal strength of moving in and out of Warrior 1 in Sun B.  I will go into more detail on these poses when we get into the Seated Series in a few weeks.


Finishing Series - 3 poses - Use the Principles of Back Bending

Bridge/Wheel (Urdhva Danurasana) - Back Bend

Seated Forward Fold (Pachimottanasana B) - Sustained Forward Folding as a counter balance

Lotus (Padmasana) as a deep hip opener


The finishing poses help us see the journey we have just traveled on our mats.  We are warm enough now to go into deeper back bending and deeper hip work.  I will explain more about these finishing poses as we work through the Finishing series in a few weeks.


Another reason for practicing this short form is to begin to establish a rhythm in your practice.  As you become familiar with the sequence, you can give yourself more freely into the flow and determine how to scale the practice to meet your needs - slow, consistent and methodical for when you need that, and with a little more vigor when you need more heat and energy. Briskness is something to grow into with awareness so you don’t get carried away in momentum and lose your ability to be present and feel what you are doing in a compassionate way.  


Remember, even in short forms, you still start your practice with a few moments of inner reflection and observation to know where you are starting and directing your practice toward what you need when you get off your mat.


In this section of our journey, I encourage you to watch the annotated video of the 15 minute short form poses. I am not breaking down the Sun A and Sun B parts of this practice since we have already covered them in a previous lessons.