Ashtanga yoga method
Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic form of yoga asana, which links each movement of the body with the breath. Set asanas, or postures, are practiced in the same order every day, ideally six days a week. Practitioners learn at their own pace, and classes are often ‘Mysore style’ (named after Mysore, India, where the practice was developed). In a Mysore class, each practitioner learns and practices at their own pace, with the teacher assisting and adjusting them individually. Whilst Ashtanga yoga can be known to be a challenging style of yoga, when it is learned in this way the student is able to gain what they need from the practice without pushing beyond their comfortable limits, making it a practice that can be sustained throughout a lifetime.
Ashtanga yoga origins
Ashtanga yoga is attributed to Sri K Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). Jois learned and developed Ashtanga yoga with his teacher Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya also taught B. K. S Iyengar and several other prominent figures who made a significant impact in bringing yoga to the west. Legend tells it that the Ashtanga yoga method was laid out in an ancient text known as the yoga Korunta, although there is no existing record of this text, and Krishnamacharya’s copy is said to have been eaten by ants!
What is Yoga
In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, yoga’s definition and purpose are laid out in the second sutra (or thread) ‘Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah‘, which can be translated as ‘yoga is the cessation of the modifications, or fluctuations, of the mind.’
In the practice of yoga, we aim for balance and equilibrium; to not be thrown off course by the constant fluctuations and chatter of our minds. By working towards attaining a state of yoga, we gain clarity of awareness, of ourselves and the world around us. This helps us to reach our full potential, become free from the shackles of our misconceptions, and gain true insight into the underlying nature of reality. Patanjali lays out a clear guide as to how to reach this goal, in eight facets or limbs.
The meaning of Ashtanga
‘Ashtanga’ literally translates as ‘eight-limbed’ and is referring to the pathways to yoga laid out by Patanjali. In the ashtanga yoga tradition, we begin our journey towards yoga with the third limb – the practicing of yoga asanas or postures. Consistent asana practice strengthens our bodies and minds; through it, we gain a sense of stability and peace. Through practice, the other limbs can start to unfold by themselves, as our bodies, minds, and lives transform, leading to a growing sense of contentment.