What is Ashtanga YOga?

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga passed down to the late K. Pattabhi Jois by his guru Krishnamacharya and now taught by his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, at his Yoga Institute in Mysore, India.

The practice links asanas or yoga postures in movement with the breath in what’s known as vinyasa.  There are three series of Ashtanga Yoga and each is learnt in sequential order starting with the primary series. 

The practice works on three levels; the yoga postures build strength, stamina, and flexibility; the breath works to purify the nervous system; and the Drishti steadies the mind. When practiced over time, the mind gradually becomes less distracted and more able to focus, we become calmer and more resilient, and the body becomes healthy and vibrant.

Ashtanga literally means eight limbs, and the eight limbs of yoga according to Patanjali are yama (ethical living), niyama (positive habits/observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (complete stillness of the mind). The first five limbs are external meaning we actively practice them. We practice asana, pranayama, and pratyahara daily on our yoga mats, and should endeavour to live according to yama and niyama as we conduct ourselves in the world. The final three limbs of Ashtanga yoga arise spontaneously from sustained practice of the previous limbs, leading the practitioner to discover their highest human potential.

Who can practice it?

If anybody can breathe, they can do Yoga.
— T Krishnamacharya

This quote is for anyone who has ever considered practicing yoga but for some reason or other decided it wasn’t for them.  As long as you can breath you can practice yoga.  Even if you’re not able to touch your toes or sit down on the floor, there is always something you can do. The beauty of the Mysore environment is that everyone can have a practice tailored specifically to their needs.