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.  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 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.