Ashtanga yoga is an ancient system of yoga recorded by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. Shri. K. Pattabhi Jois was taught this method by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya during his studies started in 1927.
These are the important aspects of Ashtanga yoga according to Pattabhi Jois.
Pattabhi Jois focused on the purification of the six poisons that surround the heart- Kama, krodha, moha, lobha, matsarya, and mada which translated are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy, and sloth. When a yoga practice is practiced with dedication and devotion over a long period of time, the heat generated burns away these poisons and allows our inner light to shine through- us at our true nature.
This method emphasizes Vinyasa, meaning a movement either has one inhale or one exhale. This is meant to cleanse the blood, detoxifying all of the toxins that create disease. The body becomes light, healthy, and strong through the use of Vinyasa. Sweat is a by product of practicing as through the release of toxicities in the sweat, the body becomes purified and cleansed.
There are three main components to an Ashtanga yoga practice- physical posture, looking point, and breath. These three are always performed in conjunction with one another.
Asanas are the physical postures that we practice on the mat. Asana targets the external as well as the subtler internal parts of the body. The outer appearance of the postures is based on alignment and the internal engagement is created by bandhas, the physical and energetic locks located in the center of the body. Flexibility, strength, and purification of disease is a result of practicing.
Drishti is where we look when we perform the postures. Each posture in the Ashtanga method has a specific spot where we direct our attention and let our eyes focus. Drishti stabilizes the wandering actions of the mind.
Breath is breathing with sound while keeping the mouth closed. When rechaka and puraka, inhale and exhale, are performed steadily and evenly, this helps with purification. Each inhale and exhale should be the same amount of length. Since the breath allows us to create space in the internal body, the bandhas, or internal locks, provide movement for the inner space. As you cultivate a practice and watch it grow with time, your bandhas become more apparent and allow you to control your body and posture with ease.
After purifying the body, it is possible to purify the nervous system and sense organs. This requires a great deal of determination and diligence. Once this is accomplished, mind control comes automatically.