Ashtanga Yoga is a practice method that developed in Mysore, India from the teachings of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who in turn had received the knowledge of the practice from his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari. It was brought to the West by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the 1970-80’s and today the teachings are continued through Pattabhi Jois’s daughter Saraswati Jois and his grandson R Sharath Jois in Mysore, as well as by many certified/authorised teachers around the world.
The method includes a dynamic flow of yoga postures (asanas) which involves synchronizing breathing and movement (vinyasa krama) in a progressive series of yoga asanas. Ashtanga Yoga puts equal emphasis on strength, flexibility and endurance, and these qualities are balanced throughout the various postures and series. The physical practice and breathing method causes the production of an intense internal heat that results in a sweat which is said to purify the body and the nervous system. Regular practice may lead to improved concentration and increased awareness of thought and behavioural patterns; of how we treat our bodies and how we interact with the world around us.
Yoga practice is more than just physical exercise. Ashtanga is a Sanskrit word that means “eight limbs /parts” whereof each limb is equally important to yoga practice. The eight limbs are described in the Yoga Sutras (one of yoga’s basic texts) by Patanjali:
• Yamas: moral, ethical principles or guidelines
• Niyamas: self-study and self-purification
• Asana: physical movement /yoga postures
• Pranayama: breathing exercises, breath control
• Pratyahara: to focus ones attention inward / control of the senses
• Dharana: concentration
• Dhyana: meditation
• Samadhi: yoga’s ultimate state of mind, happiness, self-fulfilment
To reach the goal of yoga, to still the mind (yoga citta vritti nirodah) and become more balanced in life all eight limbs should be practiced. Asana practice (making shapes on the yoga mat – the third limb) only takes about 2 hours a day, while yoga practice is done around the clock.