Pattabhi Jois developed and refined Ashtanga yoga after translating ancient texts on the technique. This particular discipline involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures.
The result is an intense internal heat and profuse sweating, which detoxifies both the muscles and the organs. Adherents of Ashtanga yoga, which is the most vigorous form practised, claim that the results include improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.
Fans of Ashtanga yoga include Sting and Madonna. There are more than 10 million practitioners in America and increasing numbers in the UK.
According to founder Pattabhi Jois, synchronising movement with breathing while practising a set sequence of postures purifies the muscles and organs, expels unwanted toxins, and releases hormones and minerals which nourish the body.
This is a very physically demanding practice targeted at focusing the mind and body, based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga (referred to as ashtanga or Raja Yoga). The origin of this is believed to lie in the ancient text Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi, which the guru Krishnamacharya passed on to Pattabhi Jois.
The postures or Asanas are exactly the same as in other disciplines, the difference being that they are performed in a set sequence, and you first heat up the body with a series of dynamic movements which allow you to stretch more fully. You do not have to be super fit to practice - indeed as many women as men participate. Regular practice lengthens your muscles and can also give you a flat stomach due to the abdominal massaging postures and the internal "locks" or bandhas that you practice.