Ashtanga is a sequence of postures threaded together with a continuous breath. The Ashtanga Yoga system, is a very intelligent form of exercise that opens the body pose by pose, helping to detoxify and to purify the entire nervous and circulatory systems. It gives us a discipline that helps to train the mind because it makes the body strong and the mind clear, if it is practiced with awareness and effective breathing. The alignment of key postures is therapy for the skeletal system and the vinyasa system brings movement and breath together with flow and grace. This linking of postures with breath (vinyasa) creates an intense internal heat which detoxifies the muscles, purifies the nerves and relaxes the mind.This flowing and dynamic practice, when done properly in sequence quite rapidly causes a transformation, more so than a static approach.The physical benefits of regular Ashtanga practice include improved circulation, increased oxygenation of the blood, greater strength and flexibility in muscles (especially core muscles) as well as spinal flexibility and improved posture.
Ashtanga literally means eight limbs, the first four are meant to challenge you to become grounded and real, they allow you to function well in the real world and relate to yourself and others honestly. The last four, the inner limbs, emerge spontaneously from the first four. The last four allow for a contemplative and meditative awareness to unfold.The standing asanas particularly focus our awareness on balancing weight equally on both legs, extending the spine and opening out the chest. This in turn encourages us to breathe more fully and to release tension in the neck. Emphasis is paid to the gaze, or dristi, and so in each posture the gaze rests softly on a particular point. This encourages focused attention and a quiet mind.
Connection to the core through effective breathing activates internal locks, or bandhas, the most important of which is the moola bandha. Here the muscles of the perineum are subtly drawn upwards, thus sealing the energy within the body and guarding against injury of the lower back and groin.
Bandhas, breath and flowing sequence of asanas combine to create considerable internal heat which increases physical flexibility and facilitates the internal purification through the sweating out of toxins.