Tristhana refers to the union of “three places of attention or action in yoga practice: posture, breathing system, and looking place. These three are very important for yoga practice, and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other” (“Ashtanga Yoga”).
Posture: The method for purifying and strengthening the body is called asana. In Ashtanga yoga, asana is grouped into six series. “The Primary Series [Yoga Chikitsa] detoxifies and aligns the body. The Intermediate Series [Nadi Shodhana] purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the energy channels. The Advanced Series A, B, C, and D [Sthira Bhaga] integrate the strength and grace of the practice, requiring higher levels of flexibility and humility.
Ashtanga requires that each level be fully developed before proceeding to the next and the sequential order of asanas be meticulously followed as each posture prepares for the next, developing the strength and balance required to move further.
Breathing System: Ujjayi Pranayama, the breathing technique performed with vinyasa [victorious breath, which consists of puraka [inhalation] and rechaka [exhalation]. Both the inhale and exhale should be steady and even, the length of the inhale should be the same length as the exhale. Over time, the length and intensity of the inhalation and exhalation should increase, such that the increased stretching of the breath initiates the increased stretching of the body. Long, even breathing also increases the internal fire and strengthens and purifies the nervous system.
The true Yogic Path is the one set the intention to take to develop to their fullest potential. It is the path to self realization. That path is prescribed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as the Eight Limbed Yoga Path. The eight limbs of that path begin with the Yamas and Niyamas. These are the standards of behavior and personal observances. There are five principles that make up the Yamas as the standards for our behavior in relation to people. The first Yama is Ahimsa- The observance and practice of non violence or non harming.
Through the practice of tuning in we may begin to witness thoughts inside us that rooted in negativity, separation, anxiety, and fear. Yoga reminds us to listen, pause, take a breath, and let go. When we act and embody Ahimsa (non-harming) we emit harmonious vibrations, therefore encouraging others to live peacefully as well. Embodying a state of Ahimsa while we are on our mats creates a powerful channel for attuning to our most peaceful self.
The Bandhas are also essential to the breathing sytem. Bandha means “lock” or “seal”. The purpose of bandha is to unlock pranic energy and direct it into the 72,000 nadi [energy channels] of the subtle body. Mula bandha is the anal lock, and uddiyana bandha is the lower abdominal lock. Both bandhas seal in energy, give lightness, strength and health to the body, and help to build a strong internal fire. Mula bandha operates at the root of the body to seal in prana internally for uddiyana bandha to direct the prana upwards through the nadis. Jalandhara bandha is the “throat lock” which “occurs spontaneously in a subtle form in many asanas due to the dristi (gaze point), or head position. This lock prevents pranic energy [from] escaping and stops any build-up of pressure in the head when holding the breath. Without bandha control, breathing will not be correct, and the asanas will give no benefit.
Looking Place: Dristhi is the gazing point on which one focuses while performing the asana. There are nine dristhis: the nose, between the eyebrows, navel, thumb, hands, feet, up, right side and left side. Dristhi purifies and stabilizes the functioning of the mind. In the practice of asana, when the mind focuses purely on inhalation, exhalation, and the drishti, the resulting deep state of concentration paves the way for the practices of dharana and dhyana, the six and seventh limbs of Ashtanga yoga.
Only when this state is achieved does the lotus blossom of Ashtanga yoga unfold its petals.