Ashtanga - for those seeking a more dynamic style of yoga!

Ayoga4u ... picture loading .......


Ashtanga Yoga History

'Ashtanga Yoga' was compiled from a manuscript written on a bundle of palm leaves, the Yoga Korunta. The Yoga Korunta was a collection of verses discovered in the 1930's by yoga master and Sanskrit scholar Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his disciple K. Pattabhi Jois while researching Sanskrit texts at a Calcutta university library.

The manuscript is dated to be between 500 and 1,500 years old.  Krishnamacharya and Jois translated and reconstructed the ashtanga yoga series (originally there were six sequences of postures) and Pattabhi Jois, with the encouragement of Krishnamacharya, took the instructions as the basis of his practice and teaching.

Pattabhi Jois is still teaching this method today in Mysore, India. Ashtanga taught by Pattabhi Jois is a form of hatha yoga which focuses on asana (posture) and pranayama (breath control). Many people call this Ashtanga vinyasa yoga in order to distinguish from Patanjali's original eightfold system as outlined below in the extract from David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga "The Practice Manual", that is recommended reading for all Ashtanga Yoga students.


The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Pantanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, described the eight aspects of yoga as limbs of a tree (ashta = eight, anga=limb, yoga= union - The Eight Limbs of Yoga).

Patanjali's analogy is the perfect image.  Wisdom and spirituality unfold in the same manner as a tree grows.  Nature is steady and gradual.  The world of yoga, with its myriad style and approaches, may be likened to a forest filled with variety and color.  Every tree in a forest has the same goal: to reach toward the light.  One trees method is not better than anothers.  Each species has individual characteristics which enable it to grow to its greatest potential.  The various yogic systems are unique, yet all have the same purpose: to grow toward enlightenment.

The particular system of yoga described is derived from the teachings of K. Pattabhi Jois.  He is the director and founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India.  He learned this dynamic method from his teacher, Krishnamacharya, and in turn has handed it down to thousands of students around the world.  The approach is based on a specialized sequencing of postures and focused breathing techniques.

When practiced with regulation and awareness, the tree described by Patanjali begins to sprout.  Practice is the only means of feeding it. K. Pattabhi Jois is fond of saying, 99% practice and 1% Theory.  Only through practice may we taste the fruits of the yoga tree.  Without it we are left to speculate or theorize.  If one wants to know the qualities of an apple, it would do no good to draw diagrams and look at apples in a jar.  But to bite into the fruit itself, one would gain an immediate experience of its essence.  The nutritious effects of the apple would also be readily absorbed and assimilated as we enjoy its qualities.  To know Ashtanga Yoga, it must be tasted through practice.

Through regulation of practice, the eight limbs are nourished.  Personal insights begin to manifest.  We become aware of what we put in our bodies and how we interact with the world around us.  From this type of introspection, the qualities of Yama (ethical disciplines) and Niyama (self observation) begin to develop.  Asana (posture) and Pranayama (breath control) grow when focused awareness of the breath is applied while practicing each posture.  As we keep the mind fixed on the sound and quality of our breath, the senses are encouraged to turn inward and the element of Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) manifests.  As we improve our abilities of controlling the senses from wandering during practice, the subtle quality of concentration deepens in the form of Dharana (concentration).  In time, the practice moves further internally and refinement of concentration develops as our ability to remain present is enhanced.  The practice then grows into a deep resounding meditative experience known as Dhyana (meditation).  At this stage, we are creating potential to explore the finest realms of yoga known as Samadhi (a state of joy and peace) in which are realized the pure essence of all that exists.

The development of these limbs does not unfold in a linear fashion.  They sprout when the time is appropriate.  There is no way to rush the growth of a tree.  It will expand as our understanding of the depths of yoga matures.  Patience may be the greatest tool to assist in our journey down the scenic path of Ashtanga Yoga.  It winds through all facets of life.  Ashtanga may be utilized as a method of keeping physically fit or it may be traversed as a pathway to explore the subtle realms of spirituality. Whatever purpose we choose, there is only one method to reap its benefits:  Practice!


The above contains extracts from David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga "The Practice Manual".




Click here for Table of Contents


Up Next 

   Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2006 Ayoga4u - ashtanga yoga for you 
Last modified: May 31, 2020