“Practice, practice, all is coming.” Sri K. Patthabi Jois
Through the practice of Ashtanga yoga, simultaneously using Vinyasa, Bandhas and Tristana, the poisons that surround the spiritual heart will be burned away and the light of our true self will shine through. Patanjali writes that yoga should be practiced consistently and with faith. With regular and devotional practice one acquires strength, steadiness, and openness of the mind and body. The mind becomes clear, precise and lucid. Only through practice are we able to realise truth.
The modern method of approaching Ashtanga yoga is known technically as the Ashtanga Vinyasa system, which was passed to Sri T. Krishnamacharya by his guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari and subsequently to his loyal disciple, Sri K. Patthabi Jois in the early 20th century. The Ashtanga Vinyasa system is known for its power, attention to detail, and dedication to the tradition. The integrity of the lineage is maintained through parampara, or, the unbroken transmission of knowledge from teacher to student.
The practice of the Ashtanga Vinyasa system of yoga is comprised of three powerful groups of asana sequences in ascending order of difficulty that effectively purify, strengthen and open the body in preparation for higher yoga and meditation. The three groups of Asana sequences in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system are referred to as series. The sequences of asanas function like a combination lock. When preformed correctly, with correct alignment, and in the proper order, the body and the mind open.
The first sequence is known as the Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga Therapy). Primary Series functions to heal, detoxify and align the body, with focus particularly on the realignment of the spine. Through consistent practice of the first series, foundational strength, endurance and flexibility are built in preparation for fully accessing the benefits and effects of the subsequent series.
The second sequence is known as Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana, cleaning of the Nadis). With the appropriate preparation through practice of the first series, the second series purifies and balances the nervous system. By opening and clearing the subtle energy channels and the chakras, the second series purifies the complex nadi system and balances the duality of energies within us.
The third sequence is known as Advanced Series (Sthira Bhaga, Divine Stability), which is divided into four parts (A,B,C,D) to make it more approachable. The third series combines the lessons of the previous two series. It integrates the power and grace of the ashtanga practice into divine balance, which requires high levels of determination and humility.
The sequential order of each asana is to be followed systematically within the series, developing the appropriate strength, balance and openness before move further to the next asana. The series themselves should also be practiced in sequential order, ideally with the guidance of a teacher. The practitioner should fully integrate the physical and energetic lessons of each series, often requiring years of consistent practice, before proceeding to the next series.