The term "ashtanga" comes from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the compendium referring to the classical practice of the 8 (ashta) limbs (anga) of yoga. It consists, then, of the eight progressive stages on the path to self-realization. A path of discovery built perfectly as it offers all the necessary tools, it is a kind of compendium of inner discovery encoded for all. Regardless of age, circumstance, disease state, sex, gender, options, ideals. To achieve where, after all, we all desire. Happiness, conscience, equanimity.
We can divide the 8 limbs into two parts.
The first four are the external pillars that include both inner (yamas) and social (nyamas) behaviors; Two technical chapters, the asanas or postures (the third in the list) and the pranayama, the breathing techniques. Without observance of these steps there is no yoga. There may be a more beautiful and flexible body but there is no understanding of the transformation.
The final 4 come naturally after the first ones are established. They are internal practices: pratyahara (senses withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (contemplation).
The practice of Ashtanga Yoga as constructed by Sri K. Pathabi Jois is then a method of complete and life-changing learning and transformation, giving practitioners an ideal tool for inner growth and awareness. It is a practice for life.
Yoga means union in Sanskrit, between the spirit and the body. Its practice leads to a balance of the body, and the focus on breathing, ultimately calms the nervous system and creates a clearer, coherent, structured mind. The practitioner feels a vital energy that in time becomes consciousness. About life, about us, about who we are, what we eat, what we wish, our purpose.
With regular practice the transformation occurs. This happens following the method of coordination between movement of the postures with breathing and concentration that is called vinyasa. Vinyasa means breathing system and movement - for every movement, there is a breath.