Ashtanga Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga developed by the late Sri K. Patabbhi Jois in conjunction with his teacher Sri T. Krishnamacharya, the father of Western yoga. The practice is said to be adapted from the 8-limbed Ashtanga yoga system outlined in Yoga Korunta, an ancient yoga text by Vamana Rishi. Pattabhi Jois began studying yoga at the age of 12 and went on to be a great Sanskrit scholar devoted to the practice and teaching of yoga. Today the practice is carried on by Jois’ grandson Sharat and his daughter Saraswati in India, and by his son Manju in California.

The Ashtanga asana practice is centered around vinyasa—the link between breath and movement. Every movement in the practice corresponds to a specific breath. Every pose is linked to the next by a flowing, cohesive breath and movement practice. The vinyasa is designed to heat the body for detoxification via sweat.

Ashtanga yoga utilizes the Trishtana Method—focus of attention or action on three main places: pose (asana), breathing (pranayama), and gaze (dristhi). Asanas purify, strengthen, and give flexibility to the body. Breathing must be steady, with an even inhalation and exhalation, and performed using correct energetic locks (bandhas). And by fixing the gazing point, the mind is stabilized and becomes less distracted.

The practice begins with the primary series—a set sequences of postures, each building on the previous toward the next. Although there are six series in total, most people find the primary and intermediate series challenging enough for a lifetime of practice. The exacting Tristhana Method of the Ashtanga practice creates a reliable container in which the practitioner can surrender. Once the practice is memorized, the mind calms and can more easily go inward. The practice is designed for that

According to the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, “When yoga practice is sustained with great diligence and dedication over a long period of time, the heat generated from it burns away these poisons [desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy, and sloth], and the light of our inner nature shines forth.”