Ashtanga Yoga seeks to create a union of body, mind and spirit. The practice we teach was introduced to the West through the work of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the city of Mysore, India.
The word “ashtanga” means eight limbs, and refers to the eight areas that make up yoga. All eight limbs carry equal weight, although asana, the physical practice of the postures, is for all practical purposes the best place for any student to begin. The others are yama (moral codes), niyama (self-purification and study), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (total peace). In practice we work with body, gaze and breath to purify the body, seeking to eliminate the six poisons that prevent us from seeing the divine. They are kaama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (attachment), lobha (greed), matsarya (jealousy) and mada (pride).
With the physical practice you are bound to work up a sweat and improve your fitness. While the health benefits are what attract many people to yoga in the first place, they are a happy by-product. The real goal is to create balance, allowing us to live in peace and harmony with others and the rest of creation.
The word “vinyasa” is synonymous with Ashtanga Yoga. Vinyasa means breathing and movement system; for each movement, there is one breath. The type of deep, calm breathing used in the practice is often referred to as “breath with sound”, and you’ll notice how it quiets the mind while filling the room with a sound much like the ocean.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A MYSORE ASHTANGA CLASS
The traditional approach, as taught by the late Pattabhi Jois and now his grandson Sharath Jois, is to practice six days a week and rest on the seventh. Many beginners are daunted by this challenge, and it is wise to build up your practice slowly and intelligently over time under the guidance of a qualified teacher. You will begin to learn the Primary series, Yoga Chikitsa – a set of seventy-two postures, all performed in a set sequence. However, beginners are given just a few postures to start with. As you master each pose, over weeks, months and years, your teacher will give you the next posture. In this way you learn the sequence by heart slowly and safely. This enables you to focus inwardly, listening to nothing but your own breath, and the result is a meditative moving practice.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A COUNTED LED CLASS
In this class Primary Series is taught in the traditional format where the teacher calls out the posture names and counts the breaths to encourage a seamless meditative flow. The class is steady paced with minimal instruction is given, so some familiarity with the Primary Series is needed. This class compliments the Mysore practice and emphasises details of the vinyasa method.