Ashtanga Yoga is a style of great strength and intensity, it was created by master Sri Pattabhi Jois. It is a dynamic system of postures that are connected through the breath. The system, which has various series of fixed sequences, is based on the coordination of the breath with movement (vinyasa), to create a continuous flow.
Practiced in its correct sequential order, it gradually leads the practitioner to rediscover his true human potential, with his correct Ujjayi breathing, postures (asanas) and focus of the gaze (drishtis).
The body strengthens and increases its resistance; the mind becomes calm as it increases its ability to concentrate.
Ashtanga links each of the asanas through vinyasas or half vinyasas, as also groups of three or less postures are called, the same always, which serve as links between asanas or sequences and keep the body warm and fit for a dynamic flow in the practice. In these vinyasas Chaturanga, Urdva Mukha Svanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana usually come together.
One of the main functions of the Ashtanga system is to generate an intense internal heat called Agni, which produces a physical and energetic purifying effect.
This series of postures is totally predefined and is always meticulously followed, which distinguishes Ashtanga Yoga from other styles, as each posture is considered a preparation for the next. The asanas are linked in a continuous, fluid and consistent way, coordinating exactly each movement with one breath. The ultimate goal is to maintain internal concentration throughout the entire session; that is why in Ashtanga much emphasis is placed on daily or regular practice.
Ashtanga Yoga is structured in three large series or sequences of postures ordered by degree of difficulty: Yoga Chikitsa (first), Nadi Shodana (second) and Sthira Bhaga (third). Each level needs to be fully developed before proceeding to the next and it is usually the teacher who recommends the student when to advance in the series.
This style of yoga is usually taught in two main formats, on the one hand as a guided class. Here the students follow the class together at the pace marked by the teacher in a session in which usually only the first series is addressed. The intention of the class is to remember and clarify the correct movements, as well as to deepen and face the difficulties existing in practice. It is a highly recommended and important class to do at least once a week, once the students have reached a certain level in their daily practice.
On the other hand, there is the so-called Mysore style, which refers to the Indian city of Mysore, where the guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga Yoga for more than 60 years. It is a method based on self-practice. Although the students are together in the same space, each one performs the sequence at their own pace and based on their level of development. Meanwhile, the teacher and the assistants work individually with each one to adjust and add positions to the series of each student.
It should be noted that, on a theoretical level, Ashtanga Yoga literally means “yoga of eight limbs”, as indicated in the Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali. According to this work, the path of inner purification to reveal the Self is composed by the following eight spiritual practices: Yama (moral codes), Niyama (self-purification and study), Asana (posture), Pranayama (control of breathing), Pratyahara (control of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (definitive absorption in the absolute).