In the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali , Ashtanga Yoga is described as eight-limbed path of yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga in the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has a practical approach. It is a dynamic hatha yoga form, where asanas (postures) are carried out in a set sequence and are connected by vinyasas (movement synchronised with the breath).
A devoted regular practice of these asana sequences with the use of a specific breathing technique (ujjayi), energy locks (bandhas) and the observance of fixed focal points (drishtis) can lead to a moving meditation.
Ashtanga Yoga is made up of three series. You always begin with the primary series, Yoga Chikitsa, (yoga therapy) which detoxifies and rebalances the body. The intermediate series, Nadi Shodana, cleanses the nervous system. Sthira Bhaga samapta, the advanced series, means strength and grace and is divided into four parts: A, B, C and D. This series requires a high level of strength, flexibility and humility. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is the root of all modern dynamic hatha yoga stiles.
Ashtanga Yoga is not gymnastics or a teamsport but the method to bring our mind and senses under control. This is the basis for the path to the true self - to yoga. We cannot learn yoga from books and old scriptures. They can merely point the way. Yoga has to be practiced to be experienced and understood.
„Do your practice and all is coming“ - Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois
The breath is the core of Ashtanga Yoga. A deep and controlled breath will develop with regular practice. The mind becomes still and focussed, thoughts will slow down and every movement flows softly and precisely from asana to asana.
When breath and movement are in perfect harmony and flow without effort, the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice can transcend into a moving meditation.
The breathing technique of Ashtanga Yoga is called Ujjayi (victorious breath). In this technique, the glottis is slightly tightened which creates a soft „rushing“ sound as the throat passage is narrowed. Ujjayi is a thoracic breathing method and should be soft, deep and steady.
Asanas are body postures that are performed in a set sequence and held for at least five breaths. They are connected by Vinyasas, which means synchonisation of movement and breath.
The sequence of the asanas has to be observed as every asana is a preparation for the next. Only through regular practice of an asana can you slowly develop the strength and flexibility needed for the next one.
Bandhas (Mulabandha and Uddyanabandha) are energy locks that should be activated throughout the asana practice. Mulabandha is activated by contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor. Uddyanabandha is the pulling up and in of the lower belly. Both actions should be carried out gently and steadily.
The interaction of the bandhas with the breath stabilises the torso, creates length in the spine and room for movement. The result is increased core strength. Activated and steady bandhas are the basis for doing asanas and pranayama.
Drishtis are fixed focal points: tip of the nose, between the eyebrows (third eye), bellybutton, hand, thumb, toe, forward, up or sideways. They improve concentration, balance and have a relaxing effect on body and mind.