"Practice, practice and all is coming"
Sri K Pattabhi Jois
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Explained
Yoga is a philosophy for life that has its origins in ancient teachings from India which go back some 4,000 years. It is a complete system that incorporates many elements, not just the postures, known as Asanas, that have defined much of the yoga taught in the west today. By practicing asana regularly and with awareness many of the other elements of yoga also begin to unfold and the practice becomes one of transformation, with the awareness expanding beyond that experienced on the yoga mat and into our daily lives.
Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, which was developed originally in Mysore India by the late Pattabhi Jois, is a system of Hatha yoga that synchronises breath and movement in a flowing sequence of asanas (postures). Each asana has a unique choreographed number of movements into and out of it. When practised regularly, it develops strength, flexibility, stamina and eventually a still and focussed mind. It is ultimately a moving meditation.
Poses (asana) flow one after another in a sequence with each held for a number of breaths (typically 5) breaths before transitioning through a specific series of movements (Vinyasa) to the next pose. This is why it is important to practice them in the correct order and not to ‘rush’ before you are ready for the next one in the sequence – asanas are traditionally given by your teacher ‘one by one’. By practising the asanas in sequence we are opening and reprogramming patterns and energy channels in the body, with each working to prepare body and mind for the poses to come. There are 6 sequences in total in the Ashtanga system which can take many years of practice to complete and we start with the first one, the Primary Series, known as Yoga Chikitsa.
Can anyone practice?
Anyone can benefit from this system of yoga, no matter what age or level of physical fitness, as long as it is practised regularly, with awareness and patience and taught under the guidance of an experienced teacher. This dynamic practice can lead to an increase in flexibility, strength , balance and an all-round feeling of well being. We recommend attending one of our Beginners’ Courses if you are new to this system of yoga practice.
It can ultimately be a strong practice and should not be forced or rushed. You should always respect any physical weaknesses or injuries so that you work with the body and the breath. There is no rush and what is important is the process of practicing itself and not any end result. By practising yoga asana sensibly we can develop strength, stability and flexibility and most importantly become tuned to our breath and the more subtle ‘felt sense’ of our body moving.
Opening & Closing Mantras
vande gurunam caranaravinde sandarsita svatma sukhavabodhe
nihsreyase jangalikayamane samsara halahala mohasantyai
abahu purusakaram sankhacakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam pranamami patanjalim
Om shanti shanti shanti
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awakens insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence). I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).
nyayena margena mahim mahisah
gobrahmanebyah subhamastu nityam
lokah samastah sukhinobhavantu
Om shanti shanti shanti
May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue
For protecting the welfare of all generations.
May the religious, and all peoples be forever blessed,
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Om peace, peace, perfect peace