Breathing is an important aspect of yoga. Over the years, breathing techniques have been incorporated into…
Ashtanga Yoga is one of the most popular yoga classes today. It’s a challenging series rooted in tradition. The Ashtanga Yoga sequence is very specific and traditionally never altered, especially by yoga teachers who trained in Mysore where this style of yoga was created and developed.
This yoga sequence is not for beginners and many traditional classes and teachers will not offer any pose variations. It’s therefore recommended to practice this class with caution and only under the guidance of an experienced Ashtanga Yoga teacher who has received authorization to do so in Mysore, India, the home base of Ashtanga Yoga.
K. Pattabhi Jois and Ashtanga Yoga
K. Pattabhi Jois learned what is now the Ashtanga Yoga sequence from a teacher he studied with in Tibet for seven years. That teacher was Rama Mohan Brahmachari, who introduced him to a scripture, which has since been lost, called the Yoga Korunta. This supposedly 5,000 year old text contained details on the entire system that Jois developed later on.
T. Krishnamacharya, who was nicknamed the father of modern yoga, also knew this text. When Jois became his student, he taught him in the Yoga Korunta method. Jois later established his school and home base in Mysore, India, and his system became popular among royalty, local yoga practitioners, and foreigners, all of whom flocked to Mysore.
He has since fallen into ill repute for showing sexually inappropriate behavior towards female students over many years. His grandson, Sharath Jois, who is continuing his legacy and still running the school in Mysore, has apologized publicly on behalf of his grandfather.
While there are six Ashtanga Yoga Series created by Jois, many find the Primary series to be a complete and challenging enough practice in and of itself. Jois’ primary Ashtanga Yoga sequence builds the foundation of the practice, which allows yoga practitioners to become familiar with the Vinyasa system.
Many teachers introduce the sequence in sections and don’t let students progress to the next asana until they master the first ones in the series. Today, the tradition of passing on the teachings is strictly adhered to and the yoga teachers who consistently and repeatedly return to Mysore to learn and practice at some point become authorized as so-called “lineage holders”.
Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series Poses aka Yoga Cikitsā
Yoga Cikitsā can be translated as Yoga Therapy. Jois developed this series of yoga asanas as a way to purify and heal the body. It consists of 41 asanas that are threaded together by Vinyasa.
The Ashtanga Yoga practice begins with an opening mantra that has historical significance. It’s meant to elevate your inner frequencies to align with all yogis of the past and present – unifying us all with one of the most important aspects of the yogic practice: breath.
Vande gurunaam chaaranara vinde
Sandar shita swaatma sukhava bhode
Nishrey yase jaangalika yamane
Samsara haala hala moha shantye
Abahu purusha karam
Shankha chakraasi dharinam
Sahasra shirasam shvetam
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Gurus
which awaken 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.
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads and who has, as far as
his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword.
After the opening chant, the physical practice begins with the Sun Salutation Vinyasas.
5 rounds Surya Namaskar A
5 rounds Surya Namaskar B
After warming up with the Sun Salutations, the practice is divided into the Fundamental Postures, Standing Postures, Seated Postures, and Finishing Postures.
Although “cheat sheets” are available to help with memorizing the sequence of the asanas and provide guidance on the proper and safe way to practice the Ashtanga Yoga series, yoga practitioners are advised to only memorize and regularly practice up until the point where they’ve received proper instructions from a yoga teacher.
Each pose is to be held for five long deep breaths and after each pose a Vinyasa is performed in order to reset before transitioning into the next pose.
Primary Series Fundamental Postures
Utthita Trikonasana A
Utthita Trikonasana B
Utthita Parsvakonasana A
Utthita Pasvakonasana B
Prasarita Padottanasana A
Prasarita Padottanasana B
Prasarita Padottanasana C
Prasarita Padottanasana D
Primary Series Standing Postures
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana A
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana B
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana C
Ardha Baddha Paddmottanasana
Primary Series Seated Postures
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana
Triang Mukhaekapada Paschimattanasana
Janu Sirasana A
Janu Sirasana B
Janu Sirasana C
Primary Series Finishing Postures
Savasana (10 to 15 minutes)
Finally, the practice finishes with a closing mantra after Savasana.
Svasti praja bhyaha
Pari pala yantam
Nya yena margena mahi mahishaha
Go brahmanebhyaha shubamastu nityam
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
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
Despite the controversy surrounding its creator, the Ashtanga Yoga Sequence is a traditional modern postural yoga style that stays true to the way Pattabhi Jois learned it from his teacher and later developed it in Mysore, India.
It’s not a series for novices and should be practice only after a yoga teacher has properly explained the asanas in the Ashtanga Yoga sequence. When practiced regularly, it offers many health and spiritual benefits in the tradition of yoga and connects you with all the past, present and future practitioners of this yoga style.