Asthanga Yoga is a non-religious style that sees dynamic physical exercises and a fit and healthy body as the base for higher spiritual development, which is achieved with breathing techniques (Pranayama) and meditation. In Asthanga there is a strict form of exercises (e.g. Primary Series) in which we use vinyasas (synchronization of breath and movement), drishtis (gazing points) and bandhas (energy locks). This way we not only train the body but also our mind. Done regular this practice leads to joy, inner peace and balance and supports self-transformation and self-realization.
Ashtanga is one of the most challenging types of yoga on a physical level. This style consists of a series of postures that are practiced in a specific sequence, with a total of six sequences.
In the Mysore style, postures are learned in a fixed order and there is no teacher guiding the class as they do in other styles. The students practice the sequence, which they gradually learn from their first class on, while the teachers give instruction and adjustments at the individual level, adding new positions to the student's practice at the moment they consider necessary. One of the advantages of the Mysore style is that students practice their own sequence each one at their own pace and level.
The class is carried out in silence and the teacher assists the students adjusting their positions and help with any problem. Therefore this style is for everyone, since it is taught according to the individual capacity of each person.
The term "Mysore Style" refers to the Indian city of Mysore, where guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga yoga for more than 60 years in this particular style.
Ashtanga means literally "eight-limbed" and was outlined in the book The Yoga Sutras by the Indian sage Patanjali about 2000 years ago. Patanjali defines the goal of yoga as "controlling of the mind activities" and the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga work together to reach this goal.
Yama and Niyama form the moral and ethic base for the yoga practice. The physical practice of Asanas make the body healthy, strong and flexible. In addition of cleansing the body and a purification of the mind the breathing exercises of Pranayama lift the practitioner to a higher spiritual level.
These first four limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are called outer yoga as they prepare mind and body optimally for the other limps. The limps of the inner yoga – Pratyahara (withdraw of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Shamadhi (enlightenment) – work on the spiritual and intellectual development of man as they discipline the mind and create harmony between body, mind and soul.
If you want to learn more about the philosophy and practice of Ashtanga Yoga you can read my comprehensive introduction to Ashtanga Yoga.
The book presents the practice, theory and philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga. It describes in a short and concise way its historical development and philosophical background. It studies the goals of Ashtanga yoga but looks equally closely at the theory and the environment of yoga practice. The detailed description of the ancient system of Ashtanga yoga is compared with modern scientific findings. One chapter discusses also obstacles to the practice of yoga and how to overcome them.