This form of yoga is intensely physical and athletic. Ashtanga yogis practice a prescribed set of asanas, channel energy through the body using bandhas (locks), and concentrate on singular points using drishti (gaze) in asanas.
Classes typically begin with an invocation to Patanjali chanted in Sanskrit.
What It Literally Means: Ashtanga Yoga translates as "eight-limbed yoga" and refers to the eight limbs outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, which include moral and ethical guidelines, postures, breathwork, sense withdrawal, concentration, and meditation.
What It Has Come to Mean: In America, Ashtanga Yoga most often refers to the system taught by Indian yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois. Sometimes called Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, Jois's Ashtanga comprises a precise series of poses done in sequential order, linked together with the breath.
Who Founded It: The practice that Jois teaches is detailed in an ancient Sanskrit text called the Yoga Kurunta, which was rediscovered early in this century by T. Krishnamacharya. Jois studied with Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India.