A little about the background...
The Ashtanga yoga, a system emphasizing vinyasa (breath-movement coordination), drishti (focus point) and bandhas (internal locks), The methode was taught to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900's by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari. The system was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927. From 1948 on Pattabhi Jois was teaching Ashtanga yoga from his yoga shala, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore. When the first western students started to arrive in India in the early 70´s, he quickly gained fame for his methode and the number of students kept increasing. You now find "Ashtangis" and Ashtanga Shalas all over the world. After Pattabhi Jois passed away in 2009, his grandson, Sharath Jois has been charge of the institute.
Ashtanga yoga literally refers to the "eight-limbed yoga," outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras:
Yama [moral codes]
Niyama [self-purification and study]
Pranayama [extension of the breath]
Pratyahara [internal withdrawal of the senses]
Dharana [one pointed concentration]
LEARNING ASHTANGA YOGA
In the traditional style of learning Ashtanga yoga the emphasis is on repeated practice under the surveillance of a qualified teacher (5 - 6 days a week is recommended). You are taught to practice a set series of movements coordinated with your breath (vinyasas) going at your own pace. As you learn the series by heart (by counting your breaths), you are able to focus on the moment, and investigate the ever-changing flow of mental and physical events. By focusing on every breath and movemnt you take, you gradually build the strenght and consentration span to sustain a full 90 minutes session. The result is that you become a yoga practitioner, a person in charge of your own practice with a deep relationshop to your own body and mind. With the understanding that the aim of the practice is the path itself, you find grounding and comfort in going through the same movements again and again and progressing slowly. With time and patience you will master even the most challenging postures - all while remaining calm and connected with your breath. This releases deep inner tension, increeses your tolerance for stress and gives a feeling of "lightness" to the body. On a physical level the practice strenghtens the core of the body and brings about a perfect balance between strenght and flexibility.
This methode of guided self-practice, which is the hallmark of Ashtanga Yoga is called"Mysore style," named after Pattabhi Jois´ hometown. Most students who have started to practice in this way become so fond of their practice and their "sense of flow" that they never want to revert to a uniform lead class!