Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has its roots in Mysore, India, beginning with a teacher named Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s, and made popular through Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, his daughter Saraswati and his grandson, Sharath Jois. Since Pattabhi’s passing in 2009, Sharath and Saraswati continue to teach in Mysore.
At present, two paths of Ashtanga Vinyasa have emerged, one taught by Sharath Jois, and the other path led by “senior” teachers who practiced and were taught by Pattabhi (Guruji), including, but not limited to Richard Freeman, Eddie Stern, Paul Dallaghan, David Swenson, David Williams, Nancy Gilgoff, etc. Having studied with Paul Dallaghan and Ty Landrum (who was taught by Richard Freeman), I follow this path.
For the most part, there are nominal differences between these paths. Some poses have slight variation, some of the Vinyasa count is different, but mostly, the approach to the student is the notable difference. In my approach with students, I work to create less austerity, less hierarchy, and more compassion. It is worth mentioning that in the ‘Traditional Format’, it is understood that at present, only Sharath Jois can authorize teachers to teach Ashtanga. I have not been authorized.
Ashtanga means “eight limbs” and the asana practice, or the physical practice, is what we explore primarily in class. This form of yoga is an intense practice with a set sequence of poses that flow together through vinyasas, or “linking poses”. We also practice a deep, calming breath called “ujjayi” which is meant to bring awareness and focus to your practice. An additional form of focus is developed through the “drishti”, or gaze point, so that you further focus the mind. Ashtanga can be modified for any level and is open to beginners, as well as those with advanced practice.