The Practice of Ashtanga
What is Ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga is a demanding discipline with a huge potential for personal transformation.
This system was developed in Mysore, South India, by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and works at different levels, physical, mental and nervous, cleansing the practitioner form the inside out.
According to the Eastern tradition, there are six poisons around the spiritual heart that mud our inner light: kama (desire), krodha (anger), moha (ilusion), matsarya (envy) and mada (sloth).
A diligent practice sustained during a long period of time results in increased discipline, awareness and compassion, which burn away all these poisons holding us back, so our real self can shine through.
What to expect in an Ashtanga class
Strong physical practice & Profuse sweat
The movement and breath interlaced, or vinyasa, which is on the basis of the ashtanga system, produces an intense internal heat that results in sweat. This way we can practice safely while ensuring deep physical purification.
The practice of Ashtanga will challenge the student at every level, constantly avoiding comfort zones and forcing to work in areas that otherwise would be averted.
This helps develop awareness, discipline, compassion and sense of humor, rather useful in daily life!
The body will become limber and lighter with an increased strength and stamina, and the mind will become more stable as the discipline of the practice is established. At the same time, the mechanisms of the ego will be gradually uncovered and weakened, allowing space for self-awareness and inner peace.
About the Ashtanga Sequence
There are three series that conform the practice: Primary, Intermediate and Advanced. Each of them works specifically on mind, body and nervous system.
The Primary Series or Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy) focuses on cleansing and purifying the body and on cultivating both strength and flexibility. The Series targets the organs of digestion, which according to Indian medicine are at the root of every disease, tones the body and prepares the mind for Intermediate Series.
The initial parts of this sequence can be learned in introduction or led classes. Once memorized by the student, postures are taught one by one in a Mysore environment.
It is rather usual to spend a few years studying the Primary Series before moving to Intermediate.
The Intermediate Series or Nadhi Sodhana (nervous cleanse) works on stabilizing the nervous system. The first part focuses on deep spine extensions (backbending), the second on intense spine flexions and the third is a dynamic test of stability and range of motion, where strength and further mind control play a central role.
Due to the difficulty of Intermediate Series, students are required to have consistently practiced the full of the Primary Series for at least 1 year and a regularity of at least 5 days a week. There are also some milestones, such as attaining some proficiency in postures like Marychasana D or Supta Kurmasana or coming back up in Urdhva Dhanurasana, that the teacher will look at before progressing the student any further.
The Intermediate Series is exclusively taught in Mysore classes. Postures are introduced one by one, ensuring a proper mastery and understanding of each posture before moving forward.
The Advanced series or Sthira Bhaga is broken up in A, B, C and D. It is usually introduced when the student has completed the full Intermediate Series.
The only teachers that can teach the advanced series are those Certified by KPJAYI, the landmark institution that regulates yoga worldwide, or Sharath Jois, his director.
In Europe there are only two certified teachers: Hamish Hendry, director at Ashtanga Yoga London, and Tomás Zorzo.