#YogaEveryDamnWay: Ashtanga Yoga – The Rigid Eight-Limbed Practice

Ashtanga Yoga – The Rigid Eight-Limbed Practice

Name Meaning: 

Ashtanga is Sanskrit for "having eight parts," referring to the eight-limbs or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

It was popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois and is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga.

"Power yoga" and "vinyasa yoga" are generic terms that may refer to any type of vigorous yoga exercise derived from Ashtanga yoga.

[Related: #YogaEveryDamnWay: Vinyasa Yoga - Go With the Flow]

Origin + Founder: 

Ashtanga Yoga is considered the modern-day form of classical Indian yoga and was popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, who began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12. By 1948, he had established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute for teaching the Ashtanga Yoga practice. 

It has its roots in the ancient Yoga Korunta, written by Vamana Rishi, which was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his guru, Rama Mohan Brahmachari. Later, it was passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927.

Today, Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga is a traditional method of practice in which students practice at their individual pace while being supervised and adjusted by the teacher. According to Green Path Yoga, new postures are taught sequentially to the student as individual strength, proficiency, commitment and humility evolve.

The 411: 

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a yoga practice where breath is united with movement and attention to create a meditative and purifying style of yoga. It's said tahat practiced for a long and continuous duration, physical and mental afflictions dissolve, vibrant health and Self-awareness arise.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is the source of most all vinyasa, power and flow style yogas that are popular in the West today, which essentially is most styles of yoga in the West.

Central to the Ashtanga Yoga practice is the breath, drishti, the bandhas, vinyasa, daily practice (practicing six times per week with women taking a break while menstruating).

Jois' grandson Sharath says "Without bandhas, breathing will not be correct, and the asanas will give no benefit."

Central bandhas to the Ashtanga practice are:

  1. Mūla Bandha, or root lock at the pelvic floor 
  2. Uḍḍīyāna Bandha, drawing back the abdomen, two inches below the navel
  3. Jālaṅdhara Bandha, throat lock, is achieved by lowering the chin slightly while raising the sternum.

Typically an Ashtanga practice begins with five Surya Namaskar A and 5 B, followed by a standing sequence. Following this the practitioner begins one of six series, followed by the closing sequence.

The six series are:

  1. The Primary series (Yoga Chikitsa: Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy),
  2. Intermediate series (Nadi Shodhana: The Nerve Purifier) (also called second series),
  3. The Advanced Series (Sthira Bhaga: Centering of Strength):  
  1. Advanced A (also called third series),
  2. Advanced B (also called fourth series),
  3. Advanced C (also called fifth series) and
  4. D (Sthira Bhagah) (also called sixth series)  

Ashtanga Yoga is much more rigid in structure and tradition than vinyasa yoga, requiring a specific structure.

[Related: #YogaEveryDamnWay: Vinyasa Yoga - Go With the Flow]

Fun Fact: 

Ashtanga Yoga typically begins with this mantra:

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.

Ashtanga Yoga typically ends with this mantra:  

May prosperity be glorified,
may rulers (administrators) rule the world with law and justice,
may divinity and erudition be protected.
May all beings be happy and prosperous.

Photo Cred: India.In