Yoga is what you don’t see. The powerful movements of ashtanga are only the exterior surface of an internal spiritual journey. “Behind the strength of the body, is an energy, which is spiritual and which keeps us alive. To achieve access to the spirituality, you must first understand the physical. This body is our temple and in this temple is Atman – God”
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois *
Ashtanga means «eightfold path», as was outlined by the sage Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras in 200ac. This eightfold path, the eight limbs of yoga are:
- Yamas : Ethical attitude/ rules towards others
- Niyamas : Ethical attitude/ rules towards our self
- Asanas : Physical postures
- Pranayama : Life force/ breath extension
- Pratyahara : Internal focus/Sense withdrawal
- Dharana : Concentration
- Dhyana : Meditation
- Samadhi : Awareness of unity with the Absolute
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga integrates the four middle limbs (from asana to dharana) in one whole practice.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga represents a system of yogic study, as established by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). Guruji taught the method incomparably for more than 70 years, first in the Sanskrit College of Mysore in 1937, and later in the humble space of his own home at Lakshmipuram in 1948, where he founded the Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam. As he often stated, paying tribute to his guru Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), «I teach as I was taught».
The main components of Ashtanga practice are the following:
- Vinyasa: synchronization of movement with the breath. This boosts the «inner fire»; the body gets warmer, blood circulation also increases and impurities are removed, gradually granting a healthier, stronger, more flexible, and purified body. The breathing practice used is ujjayi. The steady rhythm of the breath together with the consequent even sound, guide the attention inside, so that movement becomes meditative and the mind is brought under control.
- Tristhanam: the (three) points of focus and action during practice, notably the physical postures (asana), the breathing schema (ujjayi) and the point of gaze or focus (drsti), which correspond respectively to the body, the nervous system and the mind.
- Bandhas: the (three) energy locks (mula, uddiyana και jalandhara bandha), assist in the regulation of pranic flow, while simultaneously supporting both the breath and the body during the practice of asanas. The body, through the activation of bandhas, becomes both stronger and lighter, yielding the accomplishment of challenging postures almost effortless.
The system of Ashtanga Vinyasa today consists of six series:
- The first series (Primary series) is called “yoga chikitsa” (therapeutic) or “roga chikitsa” (disease therapy), which means “yoga therapy”, because it detoxifies and strengthens the body. It is the fundamental series as well as the base for the next levels, and is considered highly important.
- The second series (Intermediate series), called Nadi Sodhana (nervous system purification), gives emphasis in its first part in backbending postures, which purify the body and the nervous system, while in its second part focuses on strengthening and also on more restorative postures.
- The Advanced series includes four individual series: Advanced A, B, C, D (sthira bhaga), aiming at developing body and mind stability (steady strength).
The classes are open to all those with a regular yoga practice. Starting from the first series, and under careful guidance, every practitioner will be able to walk the path of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois used to say: “Practice and all is coming!”
For more information about Ashtanga Vinyasa, you can trace back to the following sites :