Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of yoga, as applicable and beneficial to us today as it was thousands of years ago. Ashtanga Yoga is a method of practice, recently refined and taught to the world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a yoga master of Mysore, India. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is affectionately referred to as ‘Guruji’ by countless thousands of practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga around the world, whose hearts have been touched by his presence. Today the Ashtanga Yoga tradition continues to be taught in Mysore by Guruji’s grandson R. Sharath Jois, as well as Guruji’s daughter R. Saraswathi Jois. Meanwhile, this method of Ashtanga Yoga is taught by devoted students who serve as teachers around the world.
The system of Ashtanga Yoga is based upon Tristhana, in which there are three primary focuses in practice – asana (a given pose), breath, together with dristhi (gaze). The practice is based upon a vinyasa, or flow, through various poses, linking our breath with movement in between selected poses which are held to a specific breath count.
It is said that yoga, self realization, can occur when there is complete absorption, when our concentration is entirely undisturbed.* The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is based upon a principle of concentration, our tools in striving to attain this is Tristhana. In the system of Ashtanga Yoga we are concentrating on a particular pose [or movement], and through the vinyasa, we are linking multiple single points of concentration.** Guruji taught that we have mastered a pose if our breath in such pose is correct.**
The Ashtanga Mysore practice is a self practice, ideally performed under the guidance of a qualified and dedicated Ashtanga Yoga teacher. Traditionally, a practitioner in a Mysore room performs their specific practice, as guided by the teacher based upon suitability for, and capability of, the practitioner. As background, the full Ashtanga Yoga sequence of poses is segregated into various progressing series, including but not limited to Primary Series, Intermediate Series, followed by Advanced A as well as B Series. The first of these series is Primary Series, which is practiced for health. *** The second series, Intermediate Series, is practiced to purify and balance our subtle body.
An Ashtanga Mysore teacher gives new poses within the set sequence of poses, or series, to students as such students are ready to receive such. As Guruji would say, ‘Practice, and all is coming’.
Through the practice of yoga we generate a very special heat known as Tapas. Yoga is unique in that this heat is being generated by linking breath with movement. In the system of Ashtanga Yoga we vinyasa (flow) in between held poses to keep up the heat. It is this heat that burns impurities.*
One day each week an Ashtanga Led class is taught by the teacher, affording an opportunity for a given practitioner to fine tune their practice ensuring that their breath count, holding given poses and flowing through given poses is performed in a correct manner, consistent with a particular stated breath count. It is important that a given Led class be performed in a particular time frame so as to generate sufficient heat. ****
Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga is generally practiced Sunday through Thursday mornings of a given week, early each such morning as energy is said to be auspicious and particularly high prior to and during sun rise. An Ashtanga Yoga Led class is generally practiced on Friday morning of a given week. An exception to this is that we traditionally do not practice on a new or full moon day, each of which typically occurs one time per month, as energy on such days is uniquely off center. (Not centered) Saturday is traditionally a day to take rest from the practice.
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga, hearing and feeling your breath amidst that of others within otherwise silence of a Mysore practice room is a truly beautiful and magical experience, something so profound which one must experience first hand to fully understand.
* Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
** Eddie Stern
*** Guruji, R. Sharath Jois
**** R. Sharath Jois
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