Ashtanga Yoga is the system of hatha yoga taught by the late and legendary Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India. Today his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, and his daughter, Saraswati Jois, continue the Ashtanga lineage, teaching at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute.
This method is a powerful, flowing practice that involces synchronizing breath and movement thorugh a progressive series of postures. This process produces intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs.
Ashtanga yoga is a powerful meditation-in-motion that while vigorous and physically demanding, produces a deep inner focus. When this method is practiced with patience, diligence and faith, the result is a light and strong body, increased vitality, greater inner peace and a calmer mind.
There are three groups of series in the Ashtanga system. The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) detoxifies and aligns the body. The Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana) purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the energy channels. The Advanced Series A, B, C, and D (Sthira Bhaga) integrate the strength and grace of the practice, requiring higher levels of concentration, strength, flexibility and humility.
Each series is fully developed before proceeding to the next. In the same way, the sequential order of asanas (postures) is followed, since each asana, like each series, grows out of the asana before it and is preparation for the next.
The Primary Series can be a sufficient challenge for most people taking a long time to master. Other students will move more quickly through the sequences. There are a number of factors that determine the speed of progress through the sequences, including the age, state of health, dedication to practice and degree of flexibility of the student.
However, it is important not to focus on progress through the sequences and the acquisition of poses as a measure of one’s success. What we are aiming to achieve with the practice of asana, is improved health, strength, stability, clarity of mind and, more than anything, happiness and contentment. This practice leads to the alleviation of suffering.
Ashtanga Yoga is meant to be practiced daily under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Traditionally, rest is taken on Saturdays or Sundays and the days of the Full and New moon. Also, for women, “Ladies’ Holiday” is taken during the first three days of menstruation.