Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a traditional meditative practice that links breath and postural movements in a methodical and mindful way. The postures, or asanas, are but one of eight aspects of the system laid out by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the guru of modern Ashtanga Vinyasa practice said, that although asana is the third limb, it is the foundation for all the limbs of Patanjali’s yoga-for it is through the gross level, the level of the body that we can come to know the deeper and more subtle aspects of the science of yoga.
With practice, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga becomes a moving meditation. Through the use and cultivation of breath, gazing point and bandhas we learn to practice mindful awareness, as well as build heat, or tapas, in the body which has a detoxifying effect. Physically, the practice tends to build and balance flexibility, strength and steadiness in the body which in turn prepares one for the exploration and opening of the other limbs of the practice. With the body as the vehicle, our awareness practice hopefully extends beyond the mat and we begin to observe and see changes in how we interact in the world, to ourselves and others. We may notice changes in breathing, concentration, and an ability to draw our attention inwards, where in a state of stillness we can come to know the true nature of ourselves beyond the mind.