Yoga is a spiritual, mental and physical practice for transforming the mind and body. Thousands of years old, yoga is mentioned in ancient Indian texts: the Rig Veda and the Upanishads. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ is ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’.
Around 400 CE, Patanjali codified the practice into 196 aphorisms known as the "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" a system for controlling the mind and "moksha" (liberation or freedom). In the chapter on practice, Patanjali described Yoga as an eight-limbed path or Ashtanga in sanskrit.
Ashtanga Yoga, in the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is a method of practicing asana (poses) in precise sequences. "Vinyasa", which means breath-synchronized movement, is used to link each asana to the next.
Breath, dristhi and bandha are key elements in the Ashtanga method. Continuous deep, even breathing accompanies the poses and the movements between poses. Every inhale and exhale is precisely prescribed throughout each series. Dristhi is the gazing place. There are nine different places to fix your gaze. Tip of the nose, third eye, navel, hand, toes, far left and right, thumbs and upward. There is a specific dristhi for each pose. Bandhas are subtle energetic body locks. Mula bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha are used in Ashtanga Yoga.
There are six sequences in Ashtanga Yoga: Primary Series, Intermediate or Second Series and Advanced Series/Sthira Bhaga A, B, C and D also known as Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Series. The poses within each series requires progressively increased amounts of concentration, strength and flexibility. Each series is more demanding than the previous one. Practicing one of the series will take one to two hours to move through all of the poses.
"If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter - if we practice it without fail we will attain physical, mental and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the Self." ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois