Ashtanga means 8 limbs, which are the basic principles of the yoga practice as stated by Patanjali in the book "The Yoga Sutras." These principles include the 3rd limb which is called Asana or posture. The Asanas of Ashtanga yoga are a set sequence. Upon mastering each posture or Asana in the sequence the student is taught a new posture to add on to the sequence. As the student develops in their Asana practice, the postures become more challenging. Over time the body is cleansed internally and the mind begins to fluctuate less. As the Asanas develop, with daily practice, the other 7 limbs are introduced to be incorporated into daily life so as to reach an eternal state of bliss, or what is called Samadhi.
There are 2 types of Ashtanga Classes. The most common is the Led Ashtanga Class where students are taught a chunk of the poses all together at the same pace as the teacher leads the class. This can be challenging for beginners as all the students are expected to keep pace with the Vinyasas or breath counts.
The traditional manner of learning Ashtanga yoga is the Mysore Style. Mysore is the city in South India where Ashtanga was originally taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and is now taught by his grandson Sharath Jois. In this style, the student is taught only one pose at a time and develops mastering a chunk of the sequence at their own pace. It may take months and even years for a student to be able to master the Primary Series, with is the first sequence learned in Ashtanga Yoga. Once the student masters some of the most basic poses, they are taught more advanced poses. The student, with a consistent, daily practice, will in time be able to see measurable results and will notice internal and external changes over time. This is the preferred method to learning Ashtanga Yoga as it is suitable for students at varying levels of ability.
Maureen Dinkins has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga since 2007 after making her first trip to Mysore, India to study with the Jois Family. She began her yoga journey in 1999 and discovered and fell in love with the path of Ashtanga in 2002. She teaches regular classes in Orlando, as well as workshops abroad. You can learn more about her at maureendinkins.com or by email at email@example.com.