Ashtanga yoga is an ancient system of yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya beginning in 1927.
Sharath Jois and Saraswathi, the grandson and daughter of Sri K Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) are currently teaching Ashtanga Yoga at KPJAYI, Mysore India.
“Asta” means eight and “anga” is a limb. The eight limbs of Ashtanga be described as eight disciplines. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra describes it as:
Yama: Self restraints
Asana: Physical practice of yoga postures
Pranayama: Breath control exercises
Pratyahara: Control of the senses
The first steps of the practice are the four externally oriented limbs:
Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama.
To begin with, the third limb, asana (yoga postures), is the most important for us to practice, and through it we can understand the other limbs. The daily asana practice of Ashtanga yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of poses and relevant gazing points. This process produces intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The results are improved circulation, a light and strong body and a calm mind.
Ashtanga yoga is traditionally taught in the “Mysore” style: a supervised and assisted self-practice. The same series of asanas (poses) are practiced each day. New poses are introduced by the teacher once the student memorizes and becomes proficient in the previous asanas in the sequence.
People of all ages and health levels can practice Ashtanga yoga. A student works with the teacher to progress at his or her own pace to develop flexibility, strength and stamina via the set series.