Astanga Yoga is a method of practicing yoga created by Patthabi Jois and made popular from various western practitioners who visited him in the 70’s and brought this blessing to the West.
Astanga Yoga is a dynamic series of repeated postures strung together with a controlled victorious breath – ujayii. Each posture has a gaze point – Dristhi (focus point) and internal locks are held within the body to keep the prana (life-force) within the body, these energetic locks are called Bandhas. When one learns a synergy of posture, breath, bandhas and dristhi, a different brain state is achieved and the practice becomes a moving meditation. The aim of yoga is to calm the mind (YOGA CHITTA VRITTI NIRODAHA)
There is a set sequence of postures we follow and repeat each practice, which eventually become a template for what lies beneath. As the postures are repeated the practice becomes a vehicle to teach you about your body, where the strengths and weaknesses are, also physiologically and psychologically, the practice brings outs psychological patterns within the physical body for you to have a look at. For instance as the practice is repeated you may have an internal dialogue which gets triggered in certain postures. Or you may eventually notice that you are pushing way to hard. (Awareness is the seed of change).
This dynamic moving meditation unbinds you from old habits, behaviour patterns, karma and anything that is not in alignment with your true authentic self. For this method to really work at this level discipline and devotion are required, I practice daily in the Mysore style myself with Hamish Hendry, Louise Newton and Corrie Ananda Preece.
Astanga Yoga translates as Eight Limbed Yoga. The asana (posture) practice is just one of the limbs and not even the first one, its the third limb
- YAMA- Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
- NIYAMA- Positive duties or observances
- ASANA- Posture
- PRANAYAMA- Breathing techniques
- PRATYAHARA- Sense withdrawal
- DHARANA- Focused concentration
- DHYANA- Meditative absorption
- SAMADHI- Bliss or enlightenment
At its highest level Astanga Yoga is a tool for self realisation. The great sage Patanjali blessed us with this map towards enlightenment with the Yoga Sutras – 196 verses on the philosophy and practice of yoga offering threads of wisdom to lead a more peaceful and joyful existence.