BY ADITHI MATHEWS
Among the many forms of traditional Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga Mysore Style is known as a dynamic practice which weaves the movement of asana together with breath. This style of Yoga was founded by Sri K Pattabi Jois in Mysore, a city in Southern India. As legend goes, Jois learnt the practice from none other than the father of modern Yoga, Sri T Krishnamacharya, under whom he practiced from the tender age of 12. Jois, is said to have called the practice as Ashtanga Yoga after Sage Patanjali’s ‘Eight limbs of Yoga’ (Ashtanga Yoga).
The Ashtanga Yoga tradition has a total of six series or levels- and a student must master the primary series to proceed to the intermediary and further that up with the advanced set of series. Each of the series is a sequence of fixed postures, where the asanas are practiced in a certain order based on the ability of the practitioner. The practice always begins with a warm up which consists of Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B, which is followed by the standing sequence. Post this, the student practices either the primary, intermediary or advanced series and always ends the practice with the finishing sequence.
The primary series in the Ashtanga Yoga is known as Yoga Chikitsa or Yoga therapy. This series is an introduction to the Ashtanga practice as it detoxifies and aligns the body, while allowing the Ashtangi to get accustomed to a daily routine or practice. The second series called as Nadi Shodhana which translates to nerve cleansing. Both the primary and intermediate series begin and finish in the same manner, but have different posture sequences which are both challenging and intense. The 3, 4, 5 and 6th series are also known as advanced A,B,C & D, and is more challenging than the first two.
Apart from the fact that Ashtanga Yoga is a dynamic approach to the physical practice of Yoga, it also stresses on Tristhana or three places of attention during asana practice. These three places of attention are – breath (Ujjayi breathing), bandha (internal locks) and dristhi (point of focus or gaze). Ashtanga Yoga also incorporates the element of Vinyasa, where the practitioner uses his breath to sync and move continuously from one posture to the other. This tradition also recommends practitioners to have a six days a week practice with breaks on new moon and full moon days.
The beauty of Ashtanga Yoga practice is that the student is given individual attention and progresses in their practice based on their own pace. Beginners in Ashtanga Yoga are made to practice the Surya Namaskar A & B and given one single asana to practice and perfect before moving further into the practice – be it the standing sequence, the series or the final sequence. This makes it a deeply personal practice, allowing the teacher to personally watch and guide a student through. In other words, the Ashtanga Yoga Mysore Style still holds the true the essence of the Yoga practice as it was practiced in the ancient India.
Today R Sharath Jois is carrying forward the legacy of his grandfather at the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Gokulam, Mysore. Every year, Ashtangi’s the world over flock to Mysore to practice with Sharath and keep the Ashtanga tradition that Jois started alive. According to the institute’s website, they are the only single authority on Ashtanga Yoga and teaching credentials are given to students who have dedicated time to practiced at their shala.
Know more about Ashtanga Yoga in our book – Zu den Quellen des Yoga (To the source of Yoga) published by Random House. Find out more about the traditional lineage of Ashtanga Yoga, its history and an interview with Sharath R Jois. Elaborated in the video below is the beginners Ashtanga Yoga practise which highlights the Surya Namaskar A&B and the finishing sequence.
Adithi Mathews is a writer and yoga practitioner currently living in Germany. A former Radio Jockey, TV Journalist and Web Editor, she was introduced to the practice of Yoga at the age of 13, but settled into a serious practice only much later. Her thirst to learn, led her to The Sivananda Vedanta Danwantri Ashram in Kerala where she completed her Teachers Training and Advanced Teachers Training Course. Connect with Adithi via Facebook or Twitter.