The Ashtanga yoga system is unique due to the vinyasa (connecting breath movement) between the postures. Students start at the beginning and work their way through the series’ according to their ability. The postures are categorised in such a way that one posture works and builds towards the next creating a holistic and systematic opening of the physical, psychological and energetic body. The closing sequence always remains the same and is practiced in its entirety after any practice involving the regulation and balancing of the subtle nervous / parasympathetic system.
The second series, is called intermediate and works on nerve cleansing. It is introduced by the teacher posture by posture. At this point is is fundamental due to the depth and intensity of practice that the student is devoting 1.5-2 hrs daily 5-6 times a week to yoga. This sequence emphasises a greater degree of flexion in the spine; focusing on twists and deep backbends; which stimulate the three major energy chanels or nadis that run it’s length.
Eventually, the nervous system is considered cleansed to a degree that the practice becomes more internal still.
Advanced Series’ – Sthira Bhaga (steady strength)
The advanced series, of which there are 4 (a,b,c,d) are collectively known as Sthira Bhaga (steady strength). Demanding a greater degree of physical ability, they also work more subtly on the energy of the body, further purifying the mind due to requiring a deeper degree of humility and concentration in their performance. Pattabhi Jois has only taught the 5/6 series/advanced c/d, to his Grandson Sharath Rangaswamy, so there is some mysique around what is involved, with speculation that the final work is on slowing and controlling the heart.
“Practice, practice, practice and all is coming” Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.