Ashtanga yoga


In India in the 1920s, Pattabhi Jois (1915 - 2009), the creator of Ashtanga yoga, was introduced to yoga as a child. As a disciple of Sri Krishnamacharya (1888 - 1989), he experienced the holistic benefits of yoga and learned fixed series of postures developed by Krishnamacharya, based on the ancient manuscript Yoga Korunta. Pattabhi Jois developed these series further, paying particular attention to the dynamic aspect of the practice. This style of yoga was given the name Ashtanga yoga. Pattabhi Jois founded an institute in Mysore (India) where this style of yoga has been taught since 1937.

Vanaf de jaren 60 reisden steeds meer westerlingen naar India om kennis te maken met de Indiase wijsheden en cultuur en kwamen zo in contact met Pattabhi Jois en zijn yogastijl Ashtanga yoga. De opgedane ervaringen werden doorgegeven in Europa en Amerika. In 1975 verbleef Pattabhi Jois samen met zijn zoon R. Sharath Jois voor het eerst in Californië. Vanaf die tijd ging Pattabhi Jois regelmatig op wereldtournee om Ashtanga yoga te verspreiden en bezochten steeds meer westerlingen zijn instituut in Mysore

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What is Ashtanga yoga and for whom?

Ashtanga yoga is a way of life based on the eightfold path (Ashtanga means eight), as described in the second volume of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. In this volume, Patanjali describes guidelines for leading a meaningful and purposeful life. A practitioner of Ashtanga yoga (Ashtangi) lives life according to this path which consists of 8 branches to ultimately experience a state of enlightenment, oneness (Samadhi): The first branch, called Yamas, are precepts on how to deal with the world around you with integrity. They are 5 ethical standards:
The second branch, called Niyamas, are 5 precepts on how to deal with yourself on the way to spiritual growth:
The third branch of the eightfold path are the asanas, the physical yoga postures. In Ashtanga yoga this consists of practising fixed series of postures. The fourth branch is pranayama, the control and manipulation of breathing.

In the fifth branch, Pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses is practised to bring the attention fully within.
Dharana, the sixth branch, is concentration. This is practised by focusing on one aspect, such as an object, sound, body part. This state of complete concentration leads to the next branch, Dhyana. The state of meditation, of full awareness.
The last branch, Samedhi, is a state of ecstasy, fully connected with your true essence, where complete oneness is experienced, also called Enlightenment.

The asana practice of Ashtanga yoga is dynamic and consists of a fixed series of postures where each posture is a preparation for the next in the series. There are six series of which the Primary series, the first of these six, is the most practised and must be mastered before the next series is practised. This series, consisting of 41 postures, is called 'Yoga Chikitsa' in Sanskrit, which translates as yoga therapy and has a cleansing and healing effect on the body and mind. Because it is a fixed series of postures, there is room to turn inwards and meditation in movement arises. The breath is essential in this practice; breath and movement are synchronised. This creates a flow to the rhythm of the breath.

Ashtanga yoga

Watch a preview of an Ashtanga yoga practice here

 The three pillars of Ashtanga yoga are:

These three pillars, together called Tristana, help to create stability and an optimal focus and presence of mind.

By practising the fixed series of postures over and over again, an ashtangi practices being comfortable in the uncomfortable. By repeatedly assuming an uncomfortable posture and breathing into it with attention, blockages are dissolved and trust in the body and mind is created. This style of yoga is therefore suitable for people who want to turn inwards, are prepared to recognise patterns and break through them in order to grow personally and spiritually.
The practice of Ashtanga yoga is a healing practice that requires dedication and surrender. 

This style of yoga is taught in two forms: Ashtanga led classes and Mysore style classes. In a led class, the teacher guides the whole group vocally through the series of postures and the group moves in the same rhythm. This type of class is suitable for both beginners and experienced yogis, noting that the class is quite intensive. In Mysore classes, each student practices individually. The teacher walks around and guides the students with their postures and their process. This class form is suitable for both the beginner and experienced yogi. 

Effects of Ashtanga yoga