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Ashtanga Yoga: Where the Physical Practice Began

Ashtanga Yoga: Where the Physical Practice Began

This week we highlight Ashtanga Yoga. Sit back, take a sip of your favorite beverage, and allow us to share the fascinating history of this vigorous practice. Ashtanga is the eight-limbed yoga path as outlined in Patanjali’s seminal text, the Yoga Sutra. In order to truly appreciate the place Ashtanga Yoga holds in the yoga world, we’ve got to look back about one hundred years.

At that time, yoga in India was primarily seated meditation.

Instead of simply studying and meditating, the Father of Modern Yoga, T. Krishnamacharya, developed a series of asanas combined with pranayama, in a vigorous set sequence of flowing asanas. For the first time in yoga practice, the physical postures and the controlled breath were part of a moving meditation. This shift transformed yoga into what we primarily see in the West today. Krishnamacharya had four famous disciples, Iyengar, Patthabi Jois, Indra Devi, and his son, T.K.V. Desikachar. These teachers influenced the styles of yoga we practice today.

Sri Pattabhi Jois is credited with bringing Ashtanga yoga to the West from Mysore, India, and emphasized that one of the primary foundations of Ashtanga is Vinyasa Krama, which means to place in a special way. A yoga practice must be correctly organized with an intelligent sequence of asanas and pranayama. Yoga Sutra II:46  Sthira Sukham Asanam teaches that the posture must be strong and comfortable and this principle is key to an effective practice.

Most students stay with the Ashtanga Primary series, which is well-rounded and feature many forward bends, for several years. All the series are taught utilizing bahdhas or locks to intensify the postures, drishti gaze to maintain a single pointed focus, and Ujjayii pranayama to create inner heat.

Most Vinyasa and Power yoga classes are based in Ashtanga, but deviate from the set rigorous sequence and allow for variety in the standing and seated postures. If you’ve never tried Ashtanga, here’s your opportunity to dive in to the practice. Get ready to quiet your mind, work your body, and soothe your soul. You’ll find this traditional practice can be the moving meditation you’ve been seeking on your mat.

Enjoy Ashtanga yoga right now!

Everyday Ashtanga with Blair Bradley

Ashtanga Standing Postures with Jack Cuneo

Pranayama, Dristi, & Banhdas in Ashtanga Yoga with Alik Brundett

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