Find out about the history of Ashtanga Yoga.
"Originating in Mysore, India, the system of Astanga Vinyasa yoga was pioneered by the late Sri K Patthabi Jois. It is one of the more athletic and physically challenging forms of yoga, which has also been shown to help build strength, improve flexibility, relieve stress, therefore creating a general state of calmness, well-being and ease."
Astanga Yoga is an ancient method of Yoga that was first taught by Vamana Rishi and citied in the Yoga Korunta scripture. This system was passed on to Sri T.Krishnamacharya by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari in the early 1900s and then to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, during his studies with Krishnamacharya from 1927. Pattabhi Jois – also affectionately known as ‘Guruji’- developed the discipline and set up the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore in 1948. Westerners first began to study with him in the 1960s and 70s, as yoga became more popular in the West. Since Guruji’s death in 2009, his grandson Sharath Rangaswamy took over the role of Director of the AYRI in Mysore.
Astanga Vinyasa Yoga is a moving meditation – a system of flowing postures, linked by breath – and this powerful connection at the heart of the discipline. Like beads of a yoga mala, the breath is the thread connecting beads (or postures) to one another. The focus is on a daily physical practice to strengthen, purify and energize the body, eventually leading to a steady, controlled mind and a healthy nervous system.
By developing a practice of correct breathing (Ujjayi Pranayama), postures (Asanas), energy locks (Bandha) and gazing points (Dristi), one may gain greater control over the senses whilst increasing physical and mental awareness. By maintaining this discipline with regularity and devotion, greater strength, calmness, clarity and a heightened sense of awareness will arise.
Following a precise sequential order, postures (or asana) are organised in six different series – Primary (Yoga Chikitsa) which detoxifies and aligns the body; Intermediate (Nadi Shodhana) which purifies the nervous system; and the Advanced A, B, C and D (Sthira Bhaga) integrating strength and refinement of the practice. Each series of postures needs to be proficiently learnt and practiced before proceeding to the next.
The 8 limbs of Astanga
‘Astanga’ literally means ‘8 limbs’ and was devised by the great sage Patanjali: he was the first to coin a systematized approach to yoga through the Yoga Sutras, one of the foundational texts of (all methods of) yoga. These 8 ‘limbs’ are an ordered set of steps, which support each other and work together to guide practioners towards the pathway of Yoga – the divine union of mind, body and soul, leading towards a state of self realization and liberation.
Patanjali describes the 8 limbs as: Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (contemplation).
Each of these branches support each other in a sequential order. For instance, a dedicated Asana practice must first be established for proper practice of Pranayama, but is also key to the development of the Yamas and Niyamas. It is only once the four more superficial limbs are firmly established, that the last four internal limbs may be developed – and this can only happen through time and practice.
Please Note: It is important to learn Astanga Vinyasa Yoga from a trained teacher who follows the traditional lineage of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. For further information, please visit the Astanga Yoga Research Institute website: http://www.kpjayi.org/