While often Ashtanga is referred to as the yoga series or practice itself, Ashtanga actually means the “eight limbed path” – the eight limbs which guide us toward the ultimate experience of samadhi or oneness with the divine. Laid down by Patanjali, the great yogi philosopher, it includes the Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharama, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Ashtanga yoga, also known as “Power yoga” uses a sequence of asanas that are linked with the breath. It generates heat which facilitates flexibility and gives a great sense of wellbeing. Techniques include the deep, resonant ujayi breathing, the activation of the bandas (internal points of engagement and focus, such as mula and uddiyana bandas) which direct the energy upward and helps keep focus, as well as the use of dristi which directs the eyes to fix on specific points. These techniques help to eliminate external distraction and to direct our energy inwardly. The vinyasa or link through flowing movement done between asanas, also gives an uninterrupted continuity or a “moving meditation” as it were.
It is not only intended as a fitness system – its fiery series of vinyasa are intended not only to detoxify, stretch, and strengthen the body, but also to stoke the fires of prana (life-force energy) and channel the amplified energy up the spine, creating a state of meditative bliss.
Through the practice of Ashtanga yoga we gain control of the senses and a deep awareness of our selves. By maintaining this discipline with regularity and devotion, one acquires steadiness of body and mind.