Ashtanga

Ashtanga Yoga shares the same origin and postures as Vinyasa but follows a strict sequence which must be committed to memory and mastered with classes often held for guided self-practice.
Ashtanga
Year founded
1948

The History of Ashtanga

Indian teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is credited as being the father of modern yoga and the architect of Vinyasa. Although the practice of Vinyasa-Krama dates back to the Vedic age around a thousand years ago, Krishnamacharya has had the largest influence on how it is practiced today. The main concept of Vinyasa was to bring together yoga’s different facets, from mudra and meditation to asana and pranayama.

The story of Ashtanga is not without it's twists. Written 5,000 years ago by Vamana Rishi, The Yoga Korunta was given to Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s whereby he learnt it and then taught it unmodified to Pattabhi Jois. Neither transcribed the document and the original was subsequently destroyed by ants. Jois then developed Ashtanga from the teachings of Krishnamacharya, although there are no official texts or documents remaining. Pattabhi Jois began teaching Ashtanga yoga in 1948.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga was born from Vinyasa and the two share asanas and vinyasas, however they are independent practices. In Ashtanga Vinyasa a student will learn a series of postures, working on their breathing and alignment and perfecting this before they may move on to the next series. The sequence will always be the same with Mysore-style classes being self-led at the student’s own pace.

There are several 200 hour teacher training courses available in the UK for those wanting to teach Ashtanga Yoga, although they aren’t as prevalent as Vinyasa teacher training courses.

On average it takes ninety-minutes to complete the Full Primary Series in Ashtanga Yoga. Classes will either be led by a teacher using a counted system where breath and movement are synchronised, or it will be Mysore-style where you will be allowed to self-practice as the teacher observes, correcting or adjusting your alignment. Traditional Ashtanga Yoga is practiced six days a week, and not taught on moon days. A plant-based diet and practicing early in the morning is also recommended.

Who Can Practice?

Ashtanga Yoga is not for everyone and can require a greater amount of dedication and tenacity than a Vinyasa class. However, it does come with great health benefits for both your body and mind including increased flexibility and strength, a reduction in stress, anxiety and body fat, and improved cardiovascular health and muscle tone. The focus you gain from working through the movements and listening to your breath can also help calm the mind and aid creativity.

Ashtanga Classes

When practicing Ashtanga Yoga it’s best to wear something comfortable that you can move in. You should avoid drinking water during class as the focus of the practice is to perfect the series of postures without breaking from the cycle of your breath. Props like a block, strap or bolster can be used to aid in achieving better alignment, although some teachers may frown on this, especially passed a beginner level. When taking a Mysore-style class you will be expected to practice at your own pace under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

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