Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga: Wikis


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Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga of Pattabi Jois
Religious origins: Hinduism
Regional origins: Mysore, India
Founding Guru: Krishnamacharya of Mysore, Satguru of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Mainstream popularity: Growing from the late 20th century
Practice emphases: Employs Vinyasa, or connecting postures.
Derivative forms: Vinyasa Yoga; Flow Yoga - Employs connecting postures, without use of specific series'
Related schools
Iyengar Yoga

Sivananda Yoga

Other topics

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is an ancient system of yoga popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois.[1] Pattabhi Jois began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12, and by 1948 had established an institute for teaching the specific yoga practice known as Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") Yoga.[2]



Vinyasa Yoga is characterized by a focus on viṅyāsa, or a dynamic connecting posture, that creates a flow between the more static traditional yoga postures. Vinyasa translates as linking and the system also implies the linking of the movement to the breath. Essentially the breath dictates the movement and the length of time held in the postures. Unlike some Hatha yoga styles, attention is also placed on the journey between the postures not just the postures themselves. The viṅyāsa 'flow' is a variant of Sūrya namaskāra, the Sun Salutation. The whole practice is defined by six specific series of postures, always done in the same order, combined with specific breathing patterns (Free breathing with the ujjāyī sound).

A standard viṅyāsa consists (for example) of the flow from caturaṅga, or plank, to caturaṅga daṇḍāsana, or low plank, to ūrdhva mukha śvānāsana or upward-facing dog, to Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward-facing dog. The purpose of viṅyāsa is to create heat in the body, which leads to purification of the body through increased circulation and sweating. Ashtanga Vinyasa brings in the principles of Agni and inversion to purify the entire body. [3] It also improves flexibility, as well as tendon and hard tissue strength, allowing the student to practice advanced āsanas with reduced risk of injury.

There are six series altogether. Each sequence typically begins with 10 Sun Salutations and the standing poses. This is referred to as the "opening sequence". The student then moves to either the Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, B, C, or D, depending on his or her skill level, a back-bending sequence, finally closing with a set of inverted postures, referred to as the "finishing sequence". Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally taught in Mysore style (supervised self practice), where each student moves through the practice at his or her own pace and level. In the West, it is more common to find classes devoted to a specific series, often at a standardized pace, and guided by an instructor.

History and legend

The Ashtanga Vinyasa series is said to have its origin in an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta, compiled by Vamana Rishi, which Krishnamacharya received from his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari at Mount Kailash in the early 20th century.[4] In addition, there is evidence that the Ashtanga Vinyasa series incorporates exercises used by Indian wrestlers and British gymnastics.[5]

Krishnamacharya has had considerable influence on many of the modern forms of yoga taught today. Among his students were many notable present-day teachers such as K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi, and Krishnamacharya's son T.K.V. Desikachar. Krishnamacharya was well known for tailoring his teachings to address specific concerns of the person or group he was teaching[citation needed], and a vinyasa series for adolescents is a result of this[citation needed]. When working under the convalescing Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnamacharya set up a shala, or yoga school in the palace grounds and adapted the practice outlined in the Yoga Korunta for the young boys who lived there[citation needed]. Vinyasa has since been thought of as a physically demanding practice, which can be successful at channeling the hyperactivity of young minds. This system can also be used as a vessel for helping calm ongoing chatter of the mind, reducing stress and teaching extroverted personalities to redirect their attention to their internal experience.

The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga

The sage Patanjali outlined eight aspects—or "limbs"— of spiritual yogic practice in his Yoga Sutras:

The first four limbs—yama, niyama, asana and pranayama—are considered external cleansing practices. According to Pattabhi Jois, defects in these external practices are correctable while defects in the internal cleansing practices—pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi—are not. Pattabhi Jois thought these internal defects to be potentially dangerous to the mind unless the correct Ashtanga Yoga method was followed.[7] Thus Pattabhi Jois emphasized that the "Ashtanga Yoga method is Patanjali Yoga." [8]

Higher level practices within Hatha



There are three bandhas which are considered our internal body locks, prescribed in the different postures. The bandha is a sustained contraction of a group of muscles that assists the practitioner not only in retaining a pose but also in moving in and out of it. The Mūla Bandha, or root lock, is performed by tightening the muscles around the pelvic and perineum area. The Uḍḍīyāna Bandha, often described as bringing the navel to the base of the spine, is a contraction of the muscles of the lower abdominal area – this bandha is considered the most important bandha as it supports our breathing and encourages the development of strong core muscles. Jālaṅdhara Bandha, throat lock, is achieved by lowering the chin slightly while raising the sternum and the palate bringing the gaze to the tip of the nose.


Drishti (dṛṣṭi), or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. The most common is Ūrdhva, or upward gazing, where the eyes are lifted, with the spine aligned from crown to tailbone. This technique is employed in a variety of postures.

There are, in total, nine drishtis that instruct the yoga student in directing his or her gaze. Each pose is associated with a particular drishti. They include:

  • Aṅguṣṭha madhyai: to the thumb
  • Bhrūmadhya: to the third eye, or between the eyebrows
  • Nāsāgrai: at the tip of the nose (or a point six inches from the tip)
  • Hastagrai: to the palm, usually the extended hand
  • Pārśva: to the left/right side
  • Ūrdhva: to the sky, or upwards
  • Nābhicakra: to the navel
  • Pādayoragrai: to the toes


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

vande gurūṇāṁ caraṇāravinde saṁdarśitasvātmasukhāvabodhe

niḥ śreyase jāṅ̇galikāyamāne saṁsāra hālāhala mohaśāntyai

ābāhu puruṣākāraṁ śaṅ̇khacakrāsi dhāriṇam

sahasra śirasaṁ śvetam praṇamāmi patañjalim

which is roughly translated into English as:

I bow to the lotus feet of the gurus,
The awakening happiness of ones 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:

svasti prajābhyaḥ paripālayantāṁ nyāyena mārgeṇa mahīṁ mahīśāḥ

gobrāhmaṇebhyaḥ śubhamastu nityaṁ lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu

which is roughly translated into English as:

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.

A more literal translation:

May the welfare of citizens be protected,
with the path of law and justice by rulers and administrators;
May good fortune befall all;
May all the worlds be happy and comfortable.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jois, Sri K. Pattabhi. Yoga Mala. New York: North Point Press, 2002.
  3. ^ Gannon, Michael. "Importance of Inversions in Ashtanga Yoga". 
  4. ^ Cushman, Anne. "New Light on Yoga". Yoga Journal. 
  5. ^ Cushman, Anne. "New Light on Yoga". Yoga Journal. 
  6. ^ Scott, John. Ashtanga Yoga: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Dynamic Yoga. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000. Pp. 14-17.
  7. ^ Stern, Eddie, and Deirdre Summerbell. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: A Tribute. New York: Eddie Stern and Gwyneth Paltrow, 2002. P. 35.
  8. ^ Flynn, Kimberly. "FAQ." Ashtanga Yoga Shala: Articles. 2001. 11 June 2003. [1].

Further reading

  • Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (2002). Yoga Mala. 3rd Edition. Patanjali Yoga Shala, New York.
  • Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (2005). Sūryanamaskāra. Ashtanga Yoga, New York.
  • Gregor Maehle (2006). Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy. Kaivalya Publications.
  • Lino Miele (1994). Ashtanga Yoga: Including the Benefits of Yoga Chikitsa. AYRI.
  • John C. Scott (2001). Ashtanga Yoga: The definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Dynamic Yoga. Crown Pub.
  • David Swenson (1999). Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual. Ashtanga Yoga Productions, Austin, Texas.

See also

External links


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