Ashtanga yoga is a practice and philosophy that develops one’s psychological, physical and spiritual strength and health. It is derived from ancient teachings and transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), R. Sharath Jois and Saraswathi Jois at the KPJAYI (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) in Mysore, India.
The practice of Astanga yoga is characterized by a sequence of flowing postures which are linked together by using a specific breathing technique, internal body locks and gazing points. The practice develops strength, flexibility and vitality in the body, and calm and clarity in the mind.
The word ‘Astanga’ translates into ‘eight limbs’. According to the philosophy behind it there are eight aspects to yoga. What in the beginning may feel like a mere physical practice is ultimately a gateway for the development of more subtle reflective, ethical and meditative qualities.
There are six sequences of asanas in the Ashtanga Yoga system. Primary Series, which is known as Yoga Chikitsa (yoga therapy), detoxifies and realigns the body; Intermediate Series, which is referred to as Nadi Shodana (nerve cleansing), acts to further purify the nerve and spinal energies; and the Advanced A,B,C and D (or 3rd through 6th) series, which are known as Sthira Bhaga (divine grace), continue to refine and clear the internal body while requiring greater levels of humility and concentration to undertake.