The Ashtānga Yoga system is a living lineage that dates back thousands of years in an unbroken line of teachers, sages and gurus that culminates in the life of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, his grandson R.Sharath Jois and every Ashtanga practitioner today. This direct transmission of knowledge from teacher to student is known as “parampāra” and contains unparalleled wisdom.
This ancient system of yoga was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. The text was imparted to Sri TKV Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s by his Guru, Rama Mohan Brahmachari and later passed down to Pattabhi Jois. Pattabhi Jois in turn taught the system to his grandson Sharath, the most advanced practitioner in the world.
“Ashtānga” literally means “eight-limbs” and by practicing each of the limbs all the impurities in the body and the mind are destroyed. The first four limbs are externally oriented and include the various ways we behave in the world (the yamās and niyamas), the control of the body through āsana (poses) and the control of the breath through prānāyāma. The last four limbs follow on spontaneously after many years of practice and include pratyāhāra (sense withdrawal), dhāranā (single-pointed focus), dhyāna (meditation) towards samādhi (liberation).
The āsana technique is known for being quite rigorous and energetic. There are six series of āsanas and each series comprises a set sequence of poses that is followed exactly. In the first, or primary, series there are 30 poses. This is the most important series called “Yoga Chikitsa” or yoga therapy.
The foundation of Ashtānga yoga is breath, āsana and drsti (gazing point). Vinyāsa, moving with breath, is central to the practice. In each pose there is a specific gaze, which among other things helps to keep the focus within and cultivates a steady mind.
The purpose of this yoga is to bring stability to the mind.
Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.
Or as our Guru R.Sharath Jois puts it: “Silence of the mind is yoga”
For more information please see kpjayi.org/the-practice
“The eight limbs of yoga are
yama, niyama, asana, pranāyama, pratyahara, dhārana, dhyāna and samādhi”
यम नियम असन प्राणायाम पर्त्यहर धारण ध्यान समाधि ॥२९॥