Bodily perfection manifests as beauty, grace, a diamond like glow, and supreme strength – Yoga Sutra 3.46

Photo of Sharon Moon and Manju JoisAshtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga, literally means eight-limbed yoga, as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. This eight-limbed yoga theory was explained by Indian sage, Patanjili in the Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs are: yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), prathyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (contemplation or bliss).

Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of yoga passed down from Sri T. Krishnamacharya to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois beginning in 1927. Pattabhi Jois (known affectionately as Guruji) is the master of the Ashtanga Yoga system. Guruji lived in Mysore, India and was head of the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute until his passing May 18, 2009. He was responsible for Ashtanga’s transmission to the west. His grandson Sharath Rangaswamy taught with his grandfather and is now the director of the Institute.

Ashtanga Yoga is a powerful sequence of Hatha postures practiced continually (vinyasa) in combination with bandhas (internal muscle contractions), ujjayi breath and drishti (focused gaze). Ashtanga is a challenging practice that enhances mental focus, builds strength and endurance and increases lung capacity. This practice creates a deep internal heat and a relaxed, meditative state. If you enjoy regular Hatha or flow yoga, Ashtanga will take you deeper and give you a much more intense experience.

There are six series in the Ashtanga system. Each series prepares the student for the next one. Students practice Series One (Primary Series) until proficient and then begin the study of Series Two (Intermediate Series). Each series unlocks a particular aspect of the body and mind. The Primary Series, called Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy) is said to realign, rehabilitate and detoxify the physical body. The Intermediate Series, called Nadi Shodana (Nerve Cleansing) purifies and strengthens the nervous system and the subtle energy channels that link the seven chakras. The four advanced series are known as sthira bhaga (Divine stability). These sequences take further the aspects of strength, flexibility, concentration and energy flow begun in the Primary and Intermediate Series. It is the Primary Series that is taught in led classes. The Intermediate Series is taught in the Mysore style classes. The advanced series must be learned from senior teachers certified by Guruji Pattabhi Jois or Sharath.