What is Ashtanga?
Ashtanga Yoga as taught by the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute follows a fixed sequence of postures. In the traditional style of teaching students are taught postures one at a time on an individual basis. As a student memorizes and becomes proficient with postures (asanas) they have learned, new asanas are added. In this way students become steady and independent in their practice and they gradually build strength, flexibility and stamina.
The Ashtanga method is a vigorous moving mediation designed to help the student develop a strong, healthy body and a quiet, steady mind. Ashtanga Yoga is performed utilizing the Tristhana Method in which breath is synchronized with the movements (vinyasa) of a progressively more challenging series of postures (asana) and a specific set of gazing points (drishti). In this way, the practice produces intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies the body. By practicing the Trishtana method the student is able to develop mental focus and over time the practice develops into an internal practice, rather than simply a set of external exercises.
As with all traditional yoga practices, Ashtanga Yoga is taught within parampara, which is knowledge that is passed in succession from teacher to student. It is a Sanskrit word that denotes the principle of transmitting knowledge in its most valuable form; knowledge based on direct and practical experience. It is the basis of any lineage: the teacher and student form the links in the chain of instruction that has been passed down for thousands of years. In order for yoga instruction to be effective, true and complete, it should come from within parampara. (Taken directly from KPJAYI website)