Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures-a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body and a calm mind.
Ashtanga literally means ‘eight limbed yoga’, as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:
- Yama (moral codes)
- Niyama (self purification and study)
- Asana (posture)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Pratyahara (sense control)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (absorption into the Universal)
To perform asana correctly in Ashtanga Yoga, one must incorporate the use of vinyasa and tristhana. Vinyasa means breathing and movement system (for each movement there is one breath).
The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing’’ (‘’Ashtanga Yoga’’). Synchronizing breathing and movement in the asanas heats the blood, cleaning and thinning it so that it may circulate more freely. Improved blood circulation relieves joint pain and removes toxins and disease from the internal organs. The sweat generated from the heat of vinyasa then curries the impurities out of the body. Through the use of vinyasa, the body becomes healthy, light and strong (‘’Ashtanga Yoga’’).
Tristhana refers to the union of “three places of attention or action: posture, breathing system and looking place. These three are very important for yoga practice and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and the mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other ‘’ (“Ashtanga Yoga”).
- Posture: The method for purifying and strengthening the body is called asana” (Pathabi Jois 2002)
- Breathing: The breathing technique performed with vinyasa is called ujjayi (victorious breath). Equal long inhale and exhale from the nose. Long and even breathing increases the internal fire and strengthens and purifies the nervous system. Bandhas are essential components of the ujjayi breath technique. Bandha means ”lock”. The purpose of bandha is to unlock pranic energy and direct it into the nadis (energy channels) of the subtle body.
- Looking place: Dristhi is the gazing point on which one focuses while performing the asanas.