Yoga Traditions in India:Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga Tradition
                                                                Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga Tradition

Ashtanga yoga, which can easily be considered as the modern day form of classical Indian yoga, became popular in the 20th century by K. Pattabhi Jois. The word Ashtanga means eight limbs or branches. Each of the eight branches of the Ashtanga yoga signifies:

  • Yama (abstinence)
  • Niyama- (Observances)
  • Asana (postures)
  • Pranayama (breath control)
  • Pratyahara (sense of withdrawal)
  • Dharana (concentration)
  • Dhyana (meditation)
  • Samadhi (contemplation)

Each of the eight branches of the Ashtanga yoga supports each other and is interconnected. Ashtanga yoga is one of the most ancient forms of yoga which was taught by Rishi Vamana in the Yoga Korunta. The texts of Korunta were passed down to Sri T. Krishnamacharya by his guru in the early 1900 and were later imparted to Pattabhi Jois during the course of his yoga education with Krishnamacharya.

  1. Pattabhi Jois is the man who developed the vinyasa style yoga known as Ashtanga yoga. He was born in the village of Kowshika, near Hassan, Karnataka on 26th July 1915. Since his father was a priest, from a very young age he was taught in Sanskrit and rituals like any other Brahmin boy. He established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, currently known as Shri Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India.

His real journey of becoming a great yoga master started at the tender age of 12 when he attended a lecture and demonstration by T. Krishnamacharya and became his disciple the very next day. Everyday Jois would get up early in the morning to practice yoga with his guru and then would go to school. This continued for two years without the knowledge of his family. At the age of 15, he ran away from his home to Mysore where he further studied under the guidance of Krishnamacharya and later taught asanas in his yoga shala.

While in Mysore he started teaching yoga at the Sanskrit College of Maharaja from 1937 to 1973. He became a vidwan in 1956 and was also the honorary professor of yoga at the Government College of Indian Medicine from 1976 to 1978. Until 1973 he taught there before devoting himself entirely to teach yoga at his yoga shala.

Jois went ahead and established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in 1948 in Laxmipuram. But things took a remarkable turn in the year 1964 when a Belgian student came to learn Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from him. The Belgian student of Jois later wrote a book, in which he mentioned his experience with Jois as well as his address. If was after this that a lot of westerners started coming to him to study yoga.

He made his first trip to the west in the year 1974, which was to deliver a lecture at the international yoga conference. After this, he stayed in the US for four months and in the coming 20 years, he traveled back and forth several times to deliver yoga classes. He would also travel to Sydney very often as he had some of his advanced students situated there.

Until his death in on 18th may 2009, he kept teaching yoga at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore.

Ashtanga Yoga- The know-hows

In order to perform the asanas correctly, it is important to make vinyasa and tristhana a part of your Ashtanga yoga practice. For each movement you make, there is one breath. In Ashtanga yoga, this is how it is, for each asana there is a definite number of vinyasas.

While performing ashtanga yoga the sequence of the asanas is completely predefined, which is unlike any other yoga style. A complete ashtanga yoga practice comprises of four parts:

  • The opening series
  • A main series
  • A back bending sequence
  • A finishing sequence

The opening series starts with 10 sun salutations and a number of standing asanas. Based on the skill and the experience the yogi can choose from the six different kinds of main series. One of the best parts about ashtanga yoga is that it is taught in the Mysore style which means that each student can go at his/her own pace. The yoga instructor will instruct the students as they move through the poses. But once the student gets the hold of the sequences, they can practice the poses on their own.

The regular practice of Ashtanga yoga strengthens, provides flexibility, helps with stress management and enhances inner peace. Since the series of asanas is so demanding and you are supposed to practice on most of the days, the body starts getting strong really fast. Not even a single part of the body is left untrained during the practice of Ashtanga.