Ashtanga - for those seeking a more dynamic style of
'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
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.
Pantanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, described
the eight aspects of yoga as limbs of a tree (ashta
= eight, anga=limb, yoga=
- 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
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
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.
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
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!
contains extracts from David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga "The Practice
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Last modified: May 31, 2020