Ashtanga Yoga is a form of yoga that was developed and taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India. Jois learnt it from his teacher T. Krishnamacharya who in turn had received the knowledge of the practice from his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari. Today the practice and its tradition is 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 form 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. During the yoga process one produces an intense internal heat that results in a sweat which is said to purify the body and the nervous system. Regular practice leads to improved concentration and increased awareness of inner thought and behavioural patterns; of how we treat our bodies and how we interact with the world around us. The practice often leads to healthier living and a more fulfilled life.
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) all eight limbs should be practised. R Sharath Jois often underlines that asana practice (making shapes on the yoga mat – which is he third limb) only takes 2 hours a day, while yoga practice is done around the clock.