Ashtanga Yoga in the Tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji)
Ashtanga yoga is a style of yoga founded by K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009). In 1948, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, a city in south India. Today, his grandson R. Sharath and his daughter Saraswathi are continuing his legacy in Mysore.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the most popular yoga styles worldwide, and considered to be the most dynamic yoga method. This method of yoga combines principles to maximize concentration and inelegant movement meditative and challenging work: The Viniasa-principle connects the posters by synchronizing breathing and movement. Moreover,a unique breathing technique from pranayama art is employed: Ujjayi breathing ('victorious breath') in which the movement is synchronized with focus on the bandhas (energetic lock) in the pelvic floor area, and focus on drishti (gaze).
Ashtanga yoga contains six practice series, sophistically composed. All of the series start with intensive sun salutation sequences, following laniary sequences of standing and sitting postures, and closing sequences of invertible postures in which the body movement is slowing down until a full relaxation in the end of the practice. Primary series (Yoga Chikitsa) is focusing mainly on forward bending and is designed to heal, strengthen and reorganize the body structure. Primary series helps to strengthen the bandhas. The second series(intermediate series or Nadi Shodhana) includes also back-bands and is designed to purify the nerve system and to open up the NADIS (energetic paths of the body). The other four advanced series (advanced A B C D) "sthira bhaga sampatha" are combining strength and flexibility. Only a few yogis worldwide are able to carry out the most advanced series.
It is important to mention that the essence of Ashtanga yoga doesn't lie in the progress one may have in the advanced series. The Ashtanga practice is demanding, and requests a determined patient and persistent and deep understanding of practice techniques. Therefore, it is highly recommended to practice at least a few months to be able to observe and absorb the special experience that this style has to offer. The Ashtangi phrase "practice, practice, practice, all is coming"- indicates that the practitioners must have a persistent practice, and yet not to get attached to it's outcome.
WHAT IS YOGA?
Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodah
Yoga is the Stilling of the Changing States of the Mind
Yoga Sutras 1.2
The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will of God. ‘It thus means,’ says Mahadev Desai in his introduction to the Gita According to Gandhi, ‘the yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul to God; it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that Yoga pre-supposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.’
Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It was collated, co-ordinated and systematised by Patañjāli in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, which consists of 185 terse aphorisms. In Indian thought, everything is permeated by the Supreme Universal Spirit (God) of which the individual human spirit (jīvātmā) is a part. The system of yoga is so called because it teaches the means by which the jīvātmā can be united to, or be in communion with God, and so secure liberation (moksa).
One who follows the path of yoga is a yogi or yogin.
In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which is the most important authority on Yoga philosophy, Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna the meaning of Yoga as a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow. It is said:
‘When his mind, intellect and self are under control, freed from restless desire, so that they rest in the spirit within, a man becomes a Yukta – one in communion with God. A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow; so it is with a yogi, who controls his mind, intellect and self, being absorbed in the spirit within him. When the restlessness of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice of Yoga, the yogi by the grace of the spirit within himself finds fulfillment. Then he knows the joy eternal which is beyond the pale of the senses which his reason cannot grasp. He abides in this reality and moves not therefrom. He has found the treasure above all others. There is nothing higher than this. He who has achieved it, shall not be moved by the greatest sorrow. This is the real meaning of Yoga – a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow.”
As a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different color of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and revealing different aspects of the entire range of human endeavor to win inner peace and happiness.
Yoga has also been described as wisdom in work or skillful living amongst activities, harmony and moderation.
With so many styles of yoga and so many teachers, how can a practitioner stay grounded? How to live yoga as opposed to just 'doing' yoga? It's been said in India that 'taking more than one teacher is like taking more than one wife.' In America, it's quite different where the questioning mind is seen as a sign of intelligence and independence. We live in a time where quick fixes and fierce autonomy are the standard of living. The teacher student relationship brings it back to the simplest recipe of mutual respect and trust. It is through this vehicle that the teachings and transmission of Ashtanga Yoga are possible.
Parampara is a Sanskrit word for a system whereby knowledge is passed down through successive generations. Most importantly, it is passed down in an uninterrupted manner, a flow, a continuation. This continuation is what gives birth to tradition. Literally it means “that which was present yesterday, is there today and will exist tomorrow. If there is a break, if it is changed in any manner, it ceases to be a tradition.”
Parampara literally means “that which was present yesterday, is there today and will exist tomorrow. If there is a break, if it is changed in any manner, it ceases to be a tradition.”
Parampara reveals the fundamental manner in which knowledge is transmitted from teacher to student.
COMMITMENT TO THE PRACTICE
This system is to be practiced daily (5-6 days a week). It is through the daily practice that the benefits reveal themselves. It is easy to move and sway with the thoughts, desires, preferences and opinions of the mind. The challenge lies in remaining steady and stable through those peaks and valleys. It may be difficult at first to commit to a daily practice and may take time to get this rhythm established. That said, you will gain more benefit and experience the fruits of this system through daily practice.