Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a traditional lineage of asana practice that is both powerful and humbling. These sequences of yoga asanas are derived from the classical Hatha yoga, and modernized and popularized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the early mid-1900s. It is comprised of 6 series–Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, B, and C–in which the practitioner advances from the first series to the next through regular and consistent practice.
Ashtanga refers to Pantajali’s “eight limbs of yoga,” whereas vinyasa means “to place in a special way.” Therefore, the practice of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is placing the asanas, the breath, and the focus point in a special way that integrates the body and the mind. It is a dynamic practice that emphasizes on the flow of the asanas interlinked with specific breathing (inhalation or exhalation) with each movement.The traditional teaching style for Ashtanga is one-on-one Mysore-style, which is a supervised self-practice in which the student moves through the practice at his own pace and level. With the recent popularization of yoga, however, Ashtanga is now often taught in led classes in yoga studios.
Ashtanga also has a philosophical aspect to its practice, which is outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the “eight limbs of yoga,” or the eight spiritual practices essential for internal purification of the body and mind. The following eight are:
Yama (moral codes for living with the self and others)
Niyama (self-purification and self-study)
Asana (posture and asana practices)
Pranayama (breath control for regulating our prana and apana)
Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses or sense control)
Samadhi (reaching a state of Oneness with the Universe)