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 son, Sharath Jois. Since Pattabhi’s passing in 2009, his grandson Sharath continues the training in Mysore (KPJAYI).
At present, two paths of Ashtanga Vinyasa have emerged, one being “traditional”, as taught by Sharath Jois, and the other path a more contemporary approach led by “senior” teachers who originally 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. I follow the contemporary approach.
For the most part, there are nominal differences between these first and second paths. Some poses have slight variation, some of the 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 only Sharath Jois can authorize teachers to teach Ashtanga. I have not been authorized by Sharath Jois.
Ashtanga means “eight limbs” and the asana practice, or 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. Ashtanga can be modified for any level and is open to beginners, as well as those with advanced practice.