Ashtanga Yoga

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in Svastikasana.
Image via Wikipedia

Ashtanga yoga comes from an ancient text called Yoga Korunta, written by Vamana Rishi. It was then passed on to the famous yoga teacher T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s by his own teacher, Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari. A student of Krishnamacharya, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, now called Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, in the Southern Indian city of Mysore in 1948.

Pattabhi Jois, or Guruji as his students call him, passed away on the 18th of May 2009 in Mysore at the age of 93.

The Practice Of Ashtanga Yoga
A central part of the Ashtanga Yoga practice is Vinyasa, breath synchronized movement. For each movement there is one breath: an inhalation or an exhalation.

A part of the breathing system are bandhas or “seals”: Mula bandha “root lock” and or Uddiyana bandha “abdominal lock,” which are used to seal energy and make the practice strong and light.

Together these elements produce heat, and sweat is a visible part of an Ashtanga practice.

The Eight Limbs Of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga has a reputation for being a very physical form of yoga. However, physical postures are only one of the “eight limbs” of Ashtanga Yoga, which are described in The Yoga Sutras written by the Indian sage Patanjali approximately 2000 years ago.

There Are Four External Limbs:

Yama, abstinences
Niyama, observances
Asana, postures
Pranayama, breath control

The practice of the external limbs leads to…

The Four Internal Limbs:

Pratyahara, withdrawal of senses
Dharana, concentration
Dhyana, meditation
Samadhi, contemplation


Ashtanga Yoga has six series of postures, which are always done in the same order.

The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa or yoga therapy) purifies the physical body

Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana) cleanses the nervous system.

The Advanced Series A, B, C and D (Sthira Bhaga) are progressively more and more challenging.

Practicing Ashtanga Yoga Mysore Style
The traditional method of studying Ashtanga Yoga is self-practice or “Mysore style”. When studying Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore, students practice at their own pace and within their own limits. Postures are taught one by one, and new postures are added to the practice only when a student can do the previous ones and remember the sequence.

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