Ashtanga is one of the most challenging types of yoga. The practice not only develops a strong and healthy body, but also a flexible and stable mind. Ashtanga Yoga practiced with correct breathing purifies the physical, mental and emotional body. The First Series (of Asanas) not only heals the physical body but also the spirit. It allows you to develop and intensify your concentration, controlling and purifying thoughts.
A regular practice leads to joy, inner peace and balance, and supports self-transformation and self-realization. They are obtained with dynamic exercises (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation. It differs from other forms of yoga by the use of vinyasa (synchronisation of breathing with movement), of ujjayi breathing (a pranayama), of bandhas (energetic locks) and of dristis (focusing points) in combination with the practice of asanas (postures). These elements help the practitioner to concentrate and increase energy throughout the practice.
Mysore self-practice is the traditional way of practising ashtanga yoga, the teacher does not lead the students through the class with generalised instructions or demonstrations. Instead, experienced students turn up and practice the series they have learned so far by them self. Beginners are taught the sun salutations and then the postures of the standing sequence. When they have learnt this, the teacher adds a new posture when he or she feels you have memorised the sequence so far and you are competent in it.
The class is carried out in silence and the teacher assists the students adjusting their positions and help with any problem. Therefore this style is suitable for everyone, since it is taught according to the individual capacity of each person.
The term "Mysore Style" refers to the Indian city of Mysore, where guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for more than 60 years in this particular style.
"Adjustments" are an important part in an Ashtanga class. This is where experienced teachers use their hands to guide your body into the posture to correct alignment. Students are dealing with distractions and a wandering mind and need to learn to mantain a focused state, instead of passively listening to a teacher or watching others. This makes it a more internal practice; a meditation in motion.
Ashtanga means literally "eight-limbed" and was outlined in the book The Yoga Sutras by the Indian sage Patanjali about 2000 years ago. Patanjali defines the goal of yoga as "controlling of the mind activities" and the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga work together to reach this goal.
Yama and Niyama form the moral and ethic base for the yoga practice. The physical practice of Asanas make the body healthy, strong and flexible. In addition of cleansing the body and a purification of the mind the breathing exercises of Pranayama lift the practitioner to a higher spiritual level.
These first four limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are called outer yoga as they prepare mind and body optimally for the other limps. The limps of the inner yoga – Pratyahara (withdraw of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Shamadhi (enlightenment) – work on the spiritual and intellectual development of man as they discipline the mind and create harmony between body, mind and soul.
If you want to learn more about the philosophy and practice of Ashtanga Yoga you can read my comprehensive introduction to Ashtanga Yoga.
The book presents the practice, theory and philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga. It describes in a short and concise way its historical development and philosophical background. It studies the goals of Ashtanga yoga but looks equally closely at the theory and the environment of yoga practice. The detailed description of the ancient system of Ashtanga yoga is compared with modern scientific findings. One chapter discusses also obstacles to the practice of yoga and how to overcome them.