Ashtanga vinyasa yoga

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Ashtanga yoga
FounderK. Pattabhi Jois
Established1948
Practice emphases
Employs Vinyāsa, or connecting asanas.
Related schools
Iyengar yoga
K. Pattabhi Jois teaching Ashtanga yoga with Larry Schultz, mid 1980s.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a style of modern yoga created by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century, often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga.[1] The style is hot and energetic, synchronising breath with movements. The individual poses (asanas) are linked by flowing movements (vinyasas).[2]

Jois established his Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in 1948.[3] The current style of teaching is called Mysore style after Mysore, India where the practice was originally taught.[4] Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is popular in America, where it has given rise to various spinoff styles of Power Yoga.

Background[edit]

Ashtanga Yoga students are expected to memorize a sequence and to practice in the same room as others without being led by the teacher. The role of the teacher is to guide as well as provide adjustments or assist in postures. In other locations, led classes are taught twice per week in place of Mysore style classes, and the teacher will lead a group through the same series at the same time. The led classes were only introduced in Pattabhi Jois's senior years.[5][6]

Sequences and series[edit]

Advanced (A) Series

Usually an Ashtanga practice begins with five repetitions of Surya Namaskara A and five repetitions of Surya Namaskara B, followed by a standing sequence.[7] Following this the practitioner progresses through one of six series, followed by a standard closing sequence.[7]

The six series are:

  1. The Primary series: Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy [8]
  2. The Intermediate series: Nadi Shodhana, The Nerve Purifier (also called the Second series)
  3. The Advanced series: Sthira Bhaga, Centering of Strength
  1. Advanced A, or Third series
  2. Advanced B, or Fourth series
  3. Advanced C, or Fifth series
  4. Advanced D, or Sixth series[7][9]

There were originally four series on the Ashtanga syllabus: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, and Advanced B. A fifth series of sorts was the "Rishi series", which Pattabhi Jois said could be done once a practitioner had "mastered" these four.[10][11]

Method of instruction[edit]

According to Pattabhi Jois's grandson R. Sharath Jois, one must master poses before being given permission to attempt others that follow.[12] However, Manju Jois disagrees.[13][14] According to Jois's son Manju Jois, students were occasionally allowed to practice in a non linear format.[15]

In the 21st century, a "new generation" of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga teachers have adopted Sharath's new rules, teaching in a linear style without variations. Practice takes place in a strict Mysore environment under the guidance of a Sharath-approved teacher. How-to videos and workshops, detailed alignment instructions and strength-building exercises are not part of the method, neither for the practitioner nor for the teacher.[12] However, most teachers who claim to have been taught by Sharath teach the above methods, exercises, and postures.[12]

Principles[edit]

Ashtanga vinyasa yoga emphasizes certain main components, namely tristhana ("three places of action or attention", or the more physical aspects of poses) and vinyasa (the alignment of breaths with movement).[16]

Tristhana[edit]

Tristhana means the three places of attention or action: breathing system (pranayama), posture (asana), and looking place (drishti). These are considered core concepts for ashtanga yoga practice, encompassing the three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and the mind; and are supposed to be "performed in conjunction with each other".[16]

The asanas in ashtanga yoga follow a set sequence as described above. Their stated purpose is to increase strength and flexibility of the body.[16] Officially, the style has very little alignment instruction.[17] However, many of the earliest teachers trained by Pattabhi Jois did emphasize precise alignment and detailed instructions for each posture, based on information they gathered outside of Pattabhi Jois's direct instruction. Sharath's teachers followed a similar trend, however unlike Pattabhi Jois' students, attribute all their knowledge to Sharath. This stands in contradiction to the fact that Sharath does not teach or speak about alignment at any point in his instruction of students or teachers.[12]

Breathing is ideally even and steady in the length of the inhale and exhale.[16]

Drishti is the location where one focuses the eyes while practicing asana. In the ashtanga yoga method, there is a prescribed point of focus for every asana. There are nine dristhis: the nose, between the eyebrows, navel, thumb, hands, feet, up, right side and left side.[18]

Vinyasa[edit]

Vinyasas are flowing sequences of movements to connect each asana with the next.[19][20][21] Modern vinyasa yoga in addition coordinates the breath with the vinyasa transition movements between asanas.[22]

According to Sharath Jois, the purpose of vinyasas is to purify the blood, which is otherwise heated and supposedly contaminated by the practice of asanas.[18]

Breath[edit]

Although Ashtanga yoga keeps a general principle of steady and even inhales and exhales, the specifics of breath during the asanas are debated.

In his book Yoga Mala, Pattabhi Jois recommends staying five to eight breaths in a posture, or staying for as long as possible in a posture.[23] Breathing instructions given are to do rechaka and puraka, (exhale and inhale) as much as possible.[23] "It is sufficient, however, to breathe in and out five to eight times in each posture."[23] In an interview regarding the length of the breath, Pattabhi Jois instructs practitioners to (translated quote), "Inhale 10 to 15 seconds then exhale also 10 to 15 seconds".[24] He goes on to clarify, "(As) your breath strength is possibly 10 second inhalations and exhalations, you do 10, 15 seconds possible, you do 15. One hundred possible, you perform 100. 5 is possible, you do 5".[24] His son Manju Jois also recommends taking more breaths in difficult postures.[13]

Various influential figures have discussed the specific process of breathing in Ashtanga. Pattabhi Jois recommended breathing fully and deeply with the mouth closed, although he did not specifically name this as Ujjayi breathing.[23] However, Manju Jois does, and refers to breathing called "dirgha rechaka puraka, meaning long, deep, slow exhalations and inhalations. It should be dirgha... long, and like music. The sound is very important. You have to do the Ujjayi pranayama".[13] In late 2011, Sharath Jois stated that Ujjayi breathing as such was not done in the asana practice, but that asanas should be accompanied by deep breathing with sound.[25] He reiterated this notion in a conference in 2013 stating, "You do normal breath, inhalation and exhalation with sound. Ujjayi breath is a type of prāṇāyāma. This is just normal breath with free flow".[26]

As far as other types of pranayama in Ashtanga, the consensus seems to be they should be practiced after the asanas have been mastered. Pattabhi Jois originally taught pranayama to those practicing the second series, and later changed his mind, teaching Pranayama after the third series.[27][28][29]

Sharath Jois recently produced a series of videos teaching alternate nostril breathing to beginners. This pranayama practice was never taught to beginners by his grandfather, and is one of the many changes Sharath has made to the Ashtanga Yoga method of instruction.[17]

Bandhas[edit]

Bandhas are one of the three key principles in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, alongside breath and drishti. There are three principal bandhas which are considered internal body locks:

Both Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois recommend practicing Mula and Uddiyana bandha even when not practicing asana. Pattabhi Jois has this to say: (translated quote) "You completely exhale, apply mulabandha and after inhaling you apply uddiyana bandha. Both bandhas are very important... After bandha practice, take (your attention) to the location where they are applied and maintain that attention at all times, while walking, talking, sleeping and when walk is finished. Always you control mulabandha".[30]

Connection between breath and bandhas

Sharath Jois says, "Without bandhas, breathing will not be correct, and the asanas will give no benefit".[18]

Mantras[edit]

The Ashtanga practice is traditionally started with the following Sanskrit mantra:[31]

Sanskrit Translation
vande gurūṇāṁ caraṇāravinde saṁdarśita svātma sukhāvabodhe
niḥśreyase jāṅ̇galikāyamāne saṁsāra hālāhala mohaśāntyai
ābāhu puruṣākāraṁ śaṅ̇khacakrāsi dhāriṇam
sahasra śirasaṁ śvetam praṇamāmi patañjalim
I bow to the lotus feet of the gurus,
The awakening happiness of one's own self revealed,
Beyond better, acting like the jungle physician,
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.

Taking the form of a man to the shoulders,
Holding a conch, a discus, and a sword,
One thousand heads white,
To Patanjali, I salute.

and closes with the mangala mantra:[32]

Sanskrit Translation
svastiprajābhyaḥ paripālayantāṁ nyāyena mārgeṇa mahīṁ mahīśāḥ
gobrāhmaṇebhyaḥ śubhamastu nityaṁ lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhinobhavantu
May all be well with mankind,
May the leaders of the Earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path.
May there be goodness for those who know the Earth to be sacred.
May all the worlds be happy.

History[edit]

Pattabhi Jois claimed to have learned the system of Ashtanga from Sri T. Krishnamcharya, who in turn claimed to have learned it from a supposed text called Yoga Kurunta by an otherwise unknown author, Vamama Rishi.[33] This text was imparted to Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s by his Guru, Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari. Jois insists that the text described all of the āsanas and vinyāsas of the sequences of the Ashtanga system.[34] However, the Yoga Kurunta text is said to have been eaten by ants, so it is impossible to verify his assertions.[34] Additionally, it is unusual that the text is not mentioned as a source in either of the books by Krishnamacharya, Yoga Makaranda (1934) and Yogāsanagalu (c. 1941).[34]

According to Manju Jois, the sequences of Ashtanga yoga were created by Krishnamcharya.[35] There is some evidence to support this in his book Yoga Makaranda, which list nearly all postures of the Pattabhi Jois Primary Series and several postures from the intermediate and advanced series, described with reference to vinyasa.[36]

There is also evidence that the Ashtanga Yoga series incorporates exercises used by Indian wrestlers and British gymnasts.[37] Recent academic research details documentary evidence that physical journals in the early 20th century were full of the postural shapes that were very similar to Krishnamacharya's asana system.[38] In particular, the flowing Surya Namaskar, which later became the basis of Krishnamacharya's Mysore style, was in the 1930s considered as exercise, not part of yoga; Surya Namaskar and Krishnamacharya's yoga were taught separately, in adjacent halls of the Mysore palace.[38]

Etymology[edit]

Ashtanga yoga may owe its name to Ashtanga Namaskara, a pose in an early form of Surya Namaskar, rather than to any connection with Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga.[38]

Jois elided any distinction between his sequences of asanas and the eight-limbed Ashtanga Yoga (Sanskrit अष्टांग asht-anga, "eight limbs") of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs of Patanjali's scheme are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.[39] It was Jois's belief that asana, the third limb, must be practiced first, and only after that could one master the other seven limbs.[40] However, the name Ashtanga in Jois's usage may derive from the old name of Surya Namaskar in the system of dand gymnastic exercises, which was Ashtang dand, after one of the original postures in the sequence, Ashtanga Namaskara (now replaced by Chaturanga Dandasana), in which 8 body parts all touch the ground, rather than Patanjali's yoga.[38]

Tradition[edit]

There is a lot of debate over the term "traditional" as applied to Ashtanga Yoga. The founder's students noted that Jois freely modified the sequence to suit the practitioner.[41] Some of the differences include the addition or subtraction of postures in the sequences,[7] changes to the vinyasa (full and half vinyasa),[27][42][43] and specific practice prescriptions to specific people.[41][44]

Several changes to the practice have been made since its conception. Nancy Gilgoff, an early student, describes many differences in the way she was taught ashtanga to the way it is taught now.[10] According to her experiences, some of the differences include: Pattabhi Jois originally left out seven postures in the standing sequence, but later assigned Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana before the Intermediate Series was given; Utkatasana, Virabhadrasana A and B, Parivritta Trikonasana, and Parivritta Parsvakonasana were not in the series at this point; and Jois did not give her vinyasa between sides of the body poses or between variations of a pose (e.g., Janu Sirsasana A, B, and C were done together, then a vinyasa. Likewise Baddha Koṇāsana, Upavishta Konasana, and Supta Konasana were also grouped together without vinyasa between them, as were Ubhaya Padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana.[10]

According to Gilgoff, Pattabhi Jois prescribed practicing twice a day, primary and intermediate, with no vinyasa between sides in Krounchasana, Bharadvajasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Eka Pada Sirsasana, Parighasana, and Gomukhasana in the intermediate series. Shalabhasana to Parsva Dhanurasana were done in a group, with a vinyasa only at the end. Ushtrasana through Kapotasana also were done all together. The same went for Eka Pada Sirsasana through Yoganidrasana. The closing sequence included only Mudrasana, Padmasana, and Tolasana until the completion of the Intermediate sequence, when the remainder of the closing sequence was assigned. Urdhva Dhanurasana and "drop-backs" were taught after Intermediate Series. She states that the original Intermediate series included Vrishchikasana after Karandavasana and ended with Gomukhasana. She also notes that Pattabhi Jois added Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana as well as the seven headstands when another yogi asked for more; these eight postures were not part of the Intermediate Series prior to this.[10]

Power Yoga spinoffs[edit]

Power Yoga began in the 1990s with "nearly simultaneous invention" by two students of K. Pattabhi Jois, and similar forms led by other yoga teachers.[45]

Beryl Bender Birch created what Yoga Journal calls "the original Power Yoga"[46] in 1995.[47][48]

Bryan Kest, who studied Ashtanga Yoga under K. Pattabhi Jois, and Baron Baptiste, a Bikram enthusiast, separately put their own spins on the style, and branded it. Neither Baron Baptiste's Power Yoga nor Bryan Kest's Power Yoga are synonymous with Ashtanga Yoga. In 1995, Pattabhi Jois wrote a letter to Yoga Journal expressing his disappointment at the association between his Ashtanga Yoga, and the newly coined style "power yoga", referring to it as "ignorant bodybuilding".[49]

Risk of injury[edit]

In an article published by The Economist, it was reported that "a good number of Mr Jois's students seemed constantly to be limping around with injured knees or backs because they had received his "adjustments", yanking them into Lotus, the splits or a backbend".[50] Tim Miller, one of Jois's students, indicates that "the adjustments were fairly ferocious".[51] Injuries related to Jois's Ashtanga Yoga have been the subject of discussion in a Huffington Post article.[52]

In 2008, yoga researchers in Europe published a survey of practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga, indicating that 62 percent of the respondents had suffered at least one injury that lasted longer than one month. However, the survey lacked a control group (of similar people not subject to the treatment, such as people who had practised a different form of yoga), limiting its validity.[53][54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Ashtanga Yoga". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  3. ^ Lewis, Waylon (18 June 2009). "Pattabhi Jois, Founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Passes Away at Age 93". Huffington Post.
  4. ^ "Mysore Style". Jois Yoga. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Mysore Style". Mysorestyle.ie. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  6. ^ YJ Editors (12 April 2017). "Style Profile: Ashtanga Yoga". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 19 May 2019.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b c d Swenson, David (2000). Ashtanga yoga : the practice manual. Ashtanga Yoga Productions. ISBN 978-1-891252-08-2. OCLC 46344188.[page needed]
  8. ^ "Ashtanga Primary Series list". Yogateket. Yogateket. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  9. ^ "AYI.info - The International Ashtanga Yoga Information Page". Ashtangayoga.info. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d "Articles by Nancy — House of Yoga and Zen". House of Yoga and Zen. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Ashtanga Yoga Therapy | Biography". Archived from the original on 24 December 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d Jois 2013.
  13. ^ a b c Clark, Richard (7 February 2005). "Manju Jois" (PDF). Australian Yoga Life (12): 42–45.
  14. ^ "Manju Jois Mini Interview". Loveyogaanatomy.com. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Ashtanga Yoga Shala NYC - Manju Jois - New York 2000". Aysnyc.org. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d "THE PRACTICE | SHARATH JOIS". sharathjois.com. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  17. ^ a b Yoga Breathing for Stress Relief with Sharath Jois
  18. ^ a b c "Sharath Jois". Kpjayi.org. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  19. ^ Krishnamacharya 2006, p. 146.
  20. ^ Singleton 2010, pp. 176, 184-190.
  21. ^ Maehle, Gregor (2007). Ashtanga yoga : practice and philosophy : a comprehensive description of the primary series of Ashtanga yoga, following the traditional Vinyasa count, and an authentic explanation of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. New World Library. p. 294. ISBN 978-1-57731-606-0. OCLC 776703947. Sequential movement that interlinks postures to form a continuous flow. It creates a movement meditation that reveals all forms as being impermanent and for this reason are not held on to.
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  23. ^ a b c d Jois 2002, p. 108.
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  27. ^ a b "Ashtanga.com Articles: Tim Miller Interview by Deborah Crooks". Ashtanga.com. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  28. ^ Anderson, Sandra. "Interview with K Pattabhi Jois: Practice Makes Perfect". Archived from the original on 24 May 2015. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  29. ^ Guy. "Ashtanga Yoga Shala NYC - David Williams - Maui 2001". Aysnyc.org. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
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  31. ^ "SHARATH JOIS". Kpjayi.org. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  32. ^ "SHARATH JOIS". Kpjayi.org. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  33. ^ Eddie Sterne, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students
  34. ^ a b c Yoga Body
  35. ^ "Ashtanga Yoga Shala NYC - Manju Jois - New York 2000". Ashtanga Yoga Shala. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  36. ^ Krishnamacharya, T. Yoga Makaranda, 1934
  37. ^ Cushman, Anne. "New Light on Yoga". Yoga Journal.
  38. ^ a b c d Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body : the origins of modern posture practice. Oxford University Press. pp. 175–210.
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  43. ^ Lino Miele, Astanga Yoga Book - The Yoga of Breath
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  45. ^ Pizer, Ann (8 January 2019). "Power Yoga History and Health Benefits". Very Well Fit. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  46. ^ "Power Yoga". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 28 April 2019. The original Power Yoga was developed and founded by Beryl Bender Birch, but is now a term used to describe many vigorous vinyasa styles.
  47. ^ Singleton, Mark (2010). Yoga body : the origins of modern posture practice. Oxford University Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-19-539534-1. OCLC 318191988.
  48. ^ Birch, Beryl Bender (17 January 1995). "Power yoga: The total strength and flexibility workout". ISBN 978-0-02-058351-6.
  49. ^ "A letter from Sri.K. Pattabhi Jois to Yoga Journal, Nov. 1995". Ashtanga Yoga Library. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  50. ^ "Pattabhi Jois". The Economist. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  51. ^ McLean, Bethany (April 2012), "Yoga-for-Trophy-Wives Fitness Fad That's Alienating Discipline Devotees", Vanity Fair, archived from the original on 12 January 2013
  52. ^ Cahn, Lauren (3 August 2009), "Five Words That Do Not Belong In Yoga", Huffington Post, archived from the original on 28 August 2012
  53. ^ Broad, William (2012). The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards. New York, USA: Simon & Schuster, Inc. pp. 133–134. ISBN 9781451641424.
  54. ^ Mikkonen, Jani; Pederson, Palle; McCarthy, Peter William (2008). "A Survey of Musculoskeletal Injury among Ashtanga Yoga Practitioners". International Journal of Yoga Therapy (18): 59–64.

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