Ashtanga Yoga is the Style of Yoga developed by K. Pattabhi
Jois. It literally means Eight Limb Yoga and revolves in Pattanjali's
idea that the path of purification is composed of eight spiritual
practices. The first four limbs of Yoga - yama, niyama, Asana,
and Pranayama are correctable external cleansing practices while
the other limbs - pratyahara, dharana, dhyana are internal practices
which can only be corrected by proper Ashtanga Yoga method and
can be dangerous to the mind.
According to Jois, it is also not possible to practice the Eight
Limbs of Yoga and its sub-limbs of the external practices like
the yama and niyama when the body is weak and the sense organs
are plagued with hindrances. This philosophy requires the practice
of Asanas in order to improve the body's state of Health and
make it strong. In Ashtanga Yoga, Asanas are practiced with
Vinyasa and Tristhana.
One of the Principles of Ashtanga Yoga that make it distinct
from the other Styles of Yoga is the Vinyasa. Vinyasa, which
means breathing and movement, is for internal cleansing. Each
movement is accompanied by one breath. The most important product
of Vinyasa is sweat. Performing the Asanas creates heat which
makes the blood boil and bring the toxins outside the body which
are removed through sweat. Through this form of cleansing, purification
The Breathing Technique used in Vinyasa is the Ujjayi Breathing
or Victorious Breath. Ujjayi Breathing is consists of even and
steady length of inhalation (puraka) and exhalation (rechaka).
The duration of your inhalation should be the same as the duration
of your exhalation.
Another Ashtanga Yoga principle is Tristhana which is the union
of the three places of attention or action: 1. Posture; 2. Breathing
technique, and; 3. Looking Place or Dristhi. These three should
be performed in union with each other.
The Poses are used to develop the body's health and strength.
The postures used in Ashtanga Yoga can be classified into three
series with different levels of difficulty. The first is the
Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) which aims in detoxifying and
aligning the body. Second is the Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana)
which focuses on cleaning and opening the energy channels which
leads to the purification of the Nervous System. The last Series
is the Advanced Series A, B, C and D (Sthira Bhaga) which integrates
the strength and grace of the practice. This series requires
great humility and higher levels of flexibility. In doing the
Asanas, your aim should be towards the practice of Yama and
Breathing Techniques For each movement you
make, it is accompanied with one breath. The Yoga Breathing
Technique used in Ashtanga Yoga is the Ujjayi Breathing. In
this technique, the length of your inhalation should be steady
and even. The duration of breath should be prolonged after some
practice, thus you also hold your pose longer. This kind of
breathing increases your internal fire and strengthens and purifies
the Nervous System.
Dristhi or Looking Place Tristhana, in Ashtanga
Yoga, also deals with the Dristhi. The Dristhi is the point
on which you focus your attention while doing the Asana. This
purifies and stabilizes the functioning of your mind. The following
are the nine Dristhi:nose, between the eyebrows, navel, thumb,
hands, feet, up, right side, left side.
Focusing your mind on the breath and the Drishti as you practice
the Asanas will result into a deep state of concentration and
paves way for the practice of the sixth and seventh Limb of
Yoga - the dharana and dhyana. The practice of the four internal
cleansing practices brings your mind under your control. This
occurs when the purification is complete. Bringing the mind
in control makes the six poisons that surround the spiritual
heart go completely. These six poisons are: kama (desire), krodha
(anger), moha (delusion), lobha (greed), matsarya (sloth), mada
The cleansing and purification of the internal and external
sense organs lead to the full realization of Ashtanga Yoga or
Patanjali's Eight-Limbed Yoga. This results into improved circulation,
a light and strong body, and a calm mind.