Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a dynamic form of Hatha Yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is characterised by its focus on vinyasa (synchronised breath and movement), that creates a constant flow between the more static, traditional yoga postures. It is a dynamic system that emphasises the connection between breath and movement through a series of postures specifically designed to balance strength and flexibility, whilst simultaneously focusing and calming the mind. Through its flowing style and use of the ujjayi breath and bandhas (gateways that regulate the flow of energy around the body), Ashtanga creates heat in the body that stimulates the nervous system and burns through blocks in the body to release latent life force energy.
"Ashtanga yoga, though familiar to some as strictly a series of postures accompanied by specific patterns of breathing and gazing, is actually the broad system of yoga that forms the context for posture and breathing practices. Ashtanga means eight limbs, implying that there are many different interrelated approaches within this school that are used to develop a laser-like focus of the mind. This focus is utilized to explore any and all physical and mental phenomena that arise in order to reveal that they are composites of their backgrounds and not anything separate or eternal. This revelation or insight leads the ashtanga practitioner on and on to deeper states of insight into the nature of the mind and the world, and eventually to liberation from conditioned existence"
~ Richard Freeman, The Mirror of Yoga ~
The Ashtanga Vinyasa practice was passed down through an ancient lineage of gurus to Sri Krishnamacharya – known to many as the grandfather of yoga – by his guru Sri Brahmachari during 7 years of study in a cave at the foot of Mount Kailash. This wisdom later passed to his student of 25 years Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who at the age of 92 still teaches the Ashtanga system to thousands of students from across the globe every year from his home in Mysore, India.
Traditionally Ashtanga Yoga is taught in a Mysore-style environment, where each student practices the sequence according to their own individual capacity. Practice is based upon each person’s physical ability, so it accommodates all levels. Beginner students will likely have a much shorter practice than more experienced ones, and then slowly, when the teacher sees that the student is ready, additional poses are added to the routine, building stamina, strength, flexibility and concentration but without overexertion or risk of injury. Over time as the breath and mind become strong the Ashtanga practice becomes a meditation in motion.
Although Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice it is not directly affiliated with any one religion, so you do not need to alter your belief system to enjoy yoga.
When we begin to practice yoga it is inevitable that we will compare our abilities with those of others, but yoga is not about competition. You cannot be ‘good’ at yoga, nor can you ‘succeed’ at yoga, everyone is different and everyone will practice yoga differently. True yoga is a journey of self-discovery and a profoundly individual experience. It teaches us to surrender our ‘ego’ and move beyond our limitations into a whole new way of experiencing life.