Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a style of yoga as exercise created by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century, often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. He claimed to have learnt the system from his teacher, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. The style is energetic, synchronising breath with movements. The individual poses (asanas) are linked by flowing movements (vinyasas).
Jois established his Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in 1948. The current style of teaching is called Mysore style after the city in India where the practice was originally taught. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has given rise to various spinoff styles of Power Yoga.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga students are expected to memorize a sequence and to practice in the same room as others without being led by the teacher. The role of the teacher is to guide as well as provide adjustments or assist in postures.
Ashtanga is an incredibly powerful and therapeutic practice that has the potential to create a vibrantly healthy body and ultimately calm the mind. Ashtanga literally means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit.
At the heart of this practice is breath synchronised with movement to create a dynamic flow, so be prepared to work hard and expect to get a little sweaty as the focus on one of the tools ‘ujjayi breath’ will generate an intense internal heat as you move around the mat.
Usually an Ashtanga Vinyasa practice of asanas begin with five repetitions of Surya Namaskara A and five repetitions of B, followed by a standing sequence. Following this the practitioner progresses through one of six series, followed by a standard closing sequence.
The six series are:
- The Primary series: Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy
- The Intermediate series: Nadi Shodhana, The Nerve Purifier (also called the Second series)
- The Advanced series: Sthira Bhaga, Centering of Strength
- Advanced A, or Third series
- Advanced B, or Fourth series
- Advanced C, or Fifth series
- Advanced D, or Sixth series
It would probably be fair to say most people stay with the Primary series in general weekly classes as the practise is notoriously vigorous.