I'm starting up a new Ashtanga Yoga class at Yoga Studio Ganesha, Sundays at 11. The studio is right on the Plaza, so do a little shopping at the Farmer's Market before class. Here's my official description of the class:
Ashtanga yoga is known as a challenging yoga practice, but it is much more than that. The primary series presents an incredibly logical and opening sequence of poses, from standing to forward bends and hip openers, backbends and meditative postures. Underlying all of this is the yoga philosophy of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the path to liberation. Come learn or practice the Primary Series, coupled with a short discussion of the Sutras.The emphasis is definitely on the practice: moving with the breath through the Primary Series sequence. But my practice is clearly informed by the underpinnings of the seminal text, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which teach the process of concentration and meditation that lead to samadhi.
How do we use asana to achieve concentration or even "single-pointed" attention? Sri K. Pattabhi Jois's Ashtanga method is incredibly powerful at helping us get there. The pratice must be understood in terms of yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ -- "yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
Once you get that yoga is about mind, not flexibility or handstands, you appreciate a practice that values focus and one-pointedness. For me, ashtanga offers both a fiery physical practice and a deeply internal awareness (even if it is fueled by exhaustion.)
Having said all that, the class is appropriate for those new to Ashtanga, but are at least advanced beginning yoga students. Six months of Iyengar or "flow" classes would be ideal.