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Written by Mylene C.

Entrepreneure nomade. Yogini. Hypersensible et perfectionniste.

October 5, 2023

History of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient approach that has its origins in yoga philosophy. It is a dynamic and demanding method that combines synchronized breathing with fluid and precise movements. This practice has a long history. It has evolved over time to become a popular form of yoga around the world.

Throughout the centuries, many yoga masters have contributed to the evolution and popularity of Ashtanga Yoga. Among these masters, we can cite Patanjali, the father of yoga philosophy. He wrote the Yoga Sutras, an essential text for the practice of yoga. Ashtanga Yoga has also been influenced by other forms of yoga, such as Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga. These influences have enriched the practice by introducing new postures, sequences, and breathing techniques.

Today, Ashtanga Yoga is practiced by millions of people worldwide. It is valued for its numerous benefits, such as physical strength, flexibility, concentration, and relaxation. It is valued for its numerous benefits, such as physical strength, flexibility, concentration, and relaxation. Many yoga studios offer Ashtanga Yoga classes. The courses are adapted to all levels, allowing everyone to benefit from the benefits of this practice.

Ashtanga Yoga is a tradition rich in history. It is constantly evolving. Thanks to her unique combination of movements, breathing and philosophy, she continues to attract many followers around the world.

Key Teachings of Patanjali

The philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga is based on the teachings of the sage Patanjali. These sutras describe in detail the eight limbs or stages of yoga. Each of the members are essential to progress on the path of yogic practice.

  1. The Yamas, which are ethical recommendations, guide us in our interactions with others. They help us cultivate healthy and harmonious relationships.
  2. Niyamas, on the other hand, are personal observances that allow us to develop positive qualities and cultivate a compassionate attitude towards ourselves.
  3. Asana, which focuses on physical postures, allows us to strengthen our body. Asanas allow us to improve our flexibility and increase our balance.
  4. Pranayama, or breath control, enables us to regulate our vital energy and calm our mind.
  5. Pratyahara, which involves withdrawing from the senses, helps us detach ourselves from external distractions. It helps us focus on our inner world.
  6. Dharana, or concentration, allows us to focus our attention on a specific object. Knowing how to focus better is essential to achieving a deep meditative state.
  7. Dhyana, or meditation, offers us the opportunity to calm our mind. Meditation allows us to cultivate presence and develop our consciousness.
  8. Samadhi, a state of higher consciousness, is the ultimate culmination of yogic practice, where the individual realizes unity with the universe and experiences profound inner peace.

Ashtanga Yoga integrates these fundamental principles into its practice. This style of yoga can help yogis find harmony and balance in all aspects of their lives. Whether on the yoga mat or off it, Patanjali’s teachings guide us on the path of personal growth, wisdom, and self-realization.

Transmission from Generation to Generation

The history of Ashtanga Yoga dates back to the Vedic yogi Vamana Rishi. He is said to have transmitted this practice to another yogi named Vasishta. This knowledge was then transmitted from generation to generation until it reached Sri T. Krishnamacharya, a renowned yoga master. Krishnamacharya taught Ashtanga Yoga to his most famous student, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Jois later popularized this practice in Mysore, India. He founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in the 1940s. Since then, Ashtanga Yoga has become increasingly popular around the world. This practice attracts thousands of passionate practitioners, who benefit from the physical and spiritual benefits of this ancient discipline.

The recent history of Ashtanga yoga

Died on May 18, 2009 in Mysore, India, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois contributed to the popularization of Ashtanga Yoga. His dedicated teaching left a lasting imprint on the practice of yoga around the world.

The policy of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute is to gradually build each student’s capacity. No one therefore learns advanced postures unless they have spent at least 3 to 5 years consolidating the practice. As well as demonstrating a reasonable level of consistency and dedication. The last two series are surrounded by much mystery, especially the final one. Rumor has it that some of the “exercises” involve stopping one’s own heart rate, or other extreme levels of physical control, over muscles as well as internal organs.

Since the passing of his grandfather, Sharath Jois has taken on the role of director at the institute. He is a respected teacher and continues to perpetuate the teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Sharath Jois is respected in the yoga community for his dedication to teaching. It preserves the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga. He is also known to have traveled the world teaching this practice. We must highlight its contribution to its global expansion.

Technique of Ashtanga Yoga

According to this system, a person can learn six predefined sequences of postures, also known as series. Each series has an average of 25 asanas. It includes a specific sequence of postures which are linked by fluid movements synchronized with breathing. The vinyasa sequences are progressive and become more challenging as the practitioner advances. The first series, called Yoga Chikitsa (yoga therapy), aims to purify and strengthen the body. The following series, called Nadi Shodhana (purification of energy channels) and Sthira Bhaga (strength and grace), deepen the practice. They open new horizons for the practitioner.

Only a few people in the world have mastered sequences beyond the third level and have never attempted the later sequences. They involve advanced contortion exercises with deep back bends, twists and intense stretches. They have a radical impact on the organs and the body, the mind and the nervous system.

The first series

The asanas in the first series aim to realign and balance the physical body. They first facilitate an awakening to better health, then to increase the circulation of energy throughout the body. The postures eliminate stagnation in the ankles, knees, hips and spine. They contribute to better well-being and better circulation.

The second series

The second series, Nadhi Shodhana (the purifier of the nerves), works more in depth. It attempts to create more length in the spine and further strengthen the organs. There are many back opening postures here. See twists, sequences with the legs behind the head or simple arm balances. But also, more twisting, followed by a variation of the headstand posture. They serve to balance the new flow of energy in the central axis and increase blood circulation to the brain.

More advanced Ashtanga series

The last four series are the advanced sequences A, B, C and D. In Sanskrit called Sthira Bhaga (Centering the force). These postures aim to center the body, mind and nervous system. They aim for greater inner stability, but these postures should only be attempted after years of practice.

The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is not suitable for everyone

Without a solid foundation in practice, it is easy to cause more harm than good to the body, due to the intensity of the postures. These advanced exercises are, of course, a far cry from what is typically taught in health clubs, fitness centers and yoga studios around the world. But it’s interesting to note that many of the “power yoga” and other styles of “fitness yoga” that flourished in gyms and health clubs around the world 10 to 20 years ago, all refer to to the primary series.

Most students never attempt anything beyond the primary series. What all practitioners seem to have in common is their love for their practice and the embodiment of better health and well-being, which shines brightly through their skin and eyes and is clearly reflected on their faces.

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is often seen as a physical challenge, but it goes beyond the physical aspect. It offers an opportunity to cultivate mental and emotional discipline, as well as a deep connection with oneself. By practicing Ashtanga Yoga regularly, practitioners can develop mental strength. They may also feel increased clarity of mind and body awareness. This has been the case for me, as I mention in the article “Here is what Ashtanga does for me”.

It is important to practice Ashtanga Yoga with kindness towards yourself. Each individual is unique and has different physical abilities. It is essential to listen to your body, to respect its limits. You must adjust your practice accordingly. Ashtanga Yoga is a personal and evolving journey. It is important to focus on the process rather than the results.

To conclude…

In conclusion, Ashtanga Yoga is a comprehensive practice that combines deep philosophy, rich history, and precise technique. By practicing with kindness, Ashtanga Yoga practitioners can develop not only physical strength but also mental and spiritual strength. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, Ashtanga Yoga offers a path to explore your full potential and find inner balance.

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