Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is a practice of asana (postures) sequenced in a fixed order and traditionally practiced in the early morning. It is a dynamic yoga practice that is characterised by each posture being linked by a joining movement – a vinyasa. When practiced with a sound integration of the breath and movement together the practitioner will flow seamlessly though the series of postures in a dance like nature, building internal heat and, gradually over time, increasing their strength and flexibility.
Ashtanga yoga is further distinguished from modern flow styles of yoga such that it also uses focused gaze points ‘drishti’ (from the Sanskrit root Drs = to see) and bandhas (energetic locks) that produce awareness of internal energy flow and generate heat. Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is perfectly designed to realign, detoxify and purify the body and the nervous system.
There are six series of postures sequences in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system. It is designed such that each posture builds upon the previous one, and each series builds upon the previous series. Many of the poses of the Ashtanga system are present in classical Hatha Yoga – just without the vinyasas between the poses.
Traditionally Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is practiced in the early morning to balance the three ‘doshas’ (humors) of the body. Planetary ‘prana’ (vital life energy) is at its highest in early dawn. Adopting the habit of practicing in the early morning is a great way to increase your vitality levels. The dynamic movement (vata) and heat (pitta) from asana practice bring balance to early morning sluggishness (kapha) of the body. In other words it is a fantastic way to begin your day! The morning style of practice has been coined ‘Mysore’ and is named after the city Mysore in India.
I teach Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga in the spirit of T Krishnamacharya, and in the ‘Mysore’ tradition of K. Pattabhi Jois. While many students begin with asana practice (yoga postures) as a foundational yoga practice I encourage students to understand and embrace yoga as a life science and eventually integrate other practices such as pranayama and meditation into their daily lives.