Ashtanga yoga is a type of yoga that originated in the ancient Indian scriptures known as the Yoga Sutras. The word "ashtanga" means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit and refers to the eight limbs of yoga outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. These eight limbs are:
Yama: ethical restraints or moral disciplines
Niyama: personal observances or religious duties
Asana: physical postures
Pranayama: breath control
Pratyahara: sense withdrawal or control of the senses
Samadhi: enlightenment or a state of ecstasy
Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding practice that incorporates a set series of postures performed in a specific sequence. This sequence, known as the Primary Series, is meant to purify the body and prepare the practitioner for meditation. The practice is often characterized by a strong focus on the breath, which is used to link the movements in the postures.
One of the unique aspects of Ashtanga yoga is that it is traditionally taught in a one-on-one setting, with a teacher guiding the student through the series of postures. This allows for a personalized approach to the practice and allows the teacher to provide individualized adjustments and modifications for the student.
In addition to the physical benefits of increased flexibility, strength, and endurance, Ashtanga yoga is said to have mental and spiritual benefits as well. The focus on the breath and the repetition of the postures is said to calm the mind and promote concentration and mindfulness.
Overall, Ashtanga yoga is a rigorous and challenging practice that can be highly rewarding for those who are dedicated to it. It provides a unique approach to yoga that combines physical exertion with mental focus and spiritual contemplation.