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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 occurs.

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.

Poses

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 Niyama.

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 (envy).

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.

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