K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009), just like Iyengar, was a disciple of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is often referred to as the Father of Modern Yoga. It was at the age of 12 that Jois first attended a demonstration by Krishnamacharya, who asked him to be a disciple shortly after. The discipleship lasted for 30 years. These 30 years of daily multi-hour yoga practice made him one of the world’s top teachers, with yogis from across the globe turning to him for practice and to then share his teachings. K. Pattabhi Jois taught yoga for a long period of time at the Sanskrit College in Mysore. In 1949, right in his own home, he established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, where he started making use of yoga’s therapeutic aspects.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a vigorous, dynamic style wherein asanas are performed in the form of sequences. It’s by emphasizing the continuous nature of many a practice (dancing, music, singing) that the style’s proponents make their case that it’s the most natural style to follow. Yogis stay 5-10 breaths in each posture before moving into the next asana. Vinyasa implies breath synchronized with movement. It must be deep, continuous, and conscious. Your usual Ashtanga practice incorporates the bandhas (muscle locks/internal body locks), to ensure better energy control, and the dristhis (where you focus your eyes while in the asana), to ensure better concentration.
K. Pattabhi Jois believed that the student should be adapted to fit yoga rather than yoga adapting to “fit” the student. Ashtanga Vinyasa is one of the hardest types of yoga, as it requires being in top physical condition and going at it all the way during practice. There are six levels (series) in the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa. Usually an Ashtanga practice begins with five repetitions of Surya Namaskara A and five repetitions of Surya Namaskara B, followed by the main asanas and concluded with a long and well-settled Shavasana. The set of asanas may vary depending on class and teacher, but the overall difficulty level is pretty much the same.
Primary (Yoga Chikitsa)
Yoga Chikitsa can be translated as “yoga therapy”. The first, primary, series is intended to cleanse and revitalize your body and awaken your strength and suppleness. Your physical body starts recovering and is on its way to its natural condition. Some of the asanas are pretty hard to do and it may take years of practice before you master this series in full.
Intermediate (Nadi Shodhana)
The thorough working of your physical body is followed by work with your energy. Nadi Shodhana (“nerve cleansing”) cleanses your nervous system and your energy channels. The practitioner opens up to enable the right circulation of the flows of prana. The asanas get harder. Bends, extensions, and twists are focused on working your spine, where your central nervous system is known to be “kept”.
Advanced (Sthira Bhaga)
The Sthira Bhaga series, translated as “divine stability” or “strength and grace”, is divided into four sub-series, A to D. This is the highest level for those practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and very few manage to ever nail it absolutely perfectly. At this stage, the hardest (and most gorgeous!) asanas now serve as just a form wherein your true goal is achieved – attaining spiritual power.
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