Ashtanga Yoga is a series of yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois emerging from the lineage of Krishnamacharya. Ashtanga Yoga means eight-limbed yoga as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs are: Yama (ethical behavior); Niyama (self restraint); Asana (physical poses); Pranayama (breathing exercises); Pratyahara (sense withdraw); Dharana (concentration); Dhyana (meditation); Samadhi (state of absorption).
The Ashtanga practice as taught by Pattabhi Jois has three basic components:
1. Vinyasa, a breathing and movement system. For each breath there is a corresponding movement. The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing
2. Dristhi, the gaze where the attention is focused while holding a pose
3. Asana, a specific sequence of poses designed to purify and strengthen the body and the nervous system
Breathing and moving together while performing asanas makes the blood hot, or as Pattabhi Jois says, boils the blood. Thick blood is dirty and causes disease in the body. The heat created from yoga cleans the blood and makes it thin, so that it may circulate freely. The combination of the asanas with vinyasa movement and breath make the blood circulate freely around all the joints, taking away body pains. When there is a lack of circulation, pain occurs. The heated blood also moves through all the internal organs removing impurities and disease, which are brought out of the body by the sweat that occurs during practice.
Long even breaths will strengthen our internal fire, increasing heat in the body, which in turn heats the blood for physical purification, and burns away impurities in the nervous system as well. Long even breathing increases the internal fire and strengthens the nervous system in a controlled manner and at an even pace. When this fire is strengthened, our digestion, health and life span all increase and our mental stability also strengthens. Uneven inhalation and exhalation, or breathing too rapidly, will imbalance the beating of the heart, throwing off both the physical body and autonomic nervous system.
When yoga practice is sustained with great diligence and dedication over a long period of time, the heat generated from it burns away impurities, and the light of our inner nature shines forth, and we achieve equanimity.
For more information on Ashtanga Yoga, visit: http://kpjayi.org/