This invigorating practice of Yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process which produces intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Short Form Ashtanga is a shortened version of the traditional Primary Series of postures. Ashtanga is for yoga students with some experience.
Ashtanga (also spelled Astanga) means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, which refers to the eight limbs of yoga laid out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Ashtanga method of asana practice was interpreted by Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta
, which described a unique system of hatha yoga developed by Vamana Rishi.
According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:
- Yama [moral codes]
- Niyama [self-purification and study]
- Asana [posture]
- Pranayama [breath control]
- Pratyahara [sense control]
- Dharana [concentration]
- Dhyana [meditation]
- Samadhi [contemplation]
Many yoga studios offer led Ashtanga classes, meaning a teacher leads the class and instructs students in the order of the poses, usually in the primary or secondary series. Once students know the order of poses very well, they may often opt for self-led, or Mysore style practice. This is an opportunity for students to practice at their own pace and level of ability, but in the company of other students and with the encouragement and advice of a teacher, as needed. Ashtanga is also an ideal foundation for home practitioners, once they know the sequence of poses.