Nestled in the south of India, the city of Mysore has now become the source for many teachers and students worldwide to deepen their knowledge about the Ashtanga method. The Ashtanga practice is learned within a "Mysore-style" setting, named after its place of origin. The tradition and lineage of original teachings from Sri K Pattabhi Jois (student of Sri T Krishnamacharya) continues to be shared today by his entire family: his son Manju Jois , his daughter Saraswati Jois (Director of KPJAY Shala), his grandson Sharath Jois (Director of the Sharath Yoga Centre), and granddaughter Sharmila Jois.
Ashtanga yoga is known as the eight limb path that is described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The eight limb path is a series of guidelines practitioners can live by which can purify the body and can help cultivate a steady mind. It is a practice about moving inwards into the self. Ashtanga is a discipline of yoga that is much more than the physical practice (Asana: the third limb). It can be a therapeutic practice for both the mind and body. When the practice is learned with patience and a healing approach, it can be started at any age and be practiced for life.
The physical practice of Ashtanga is traditionally learned within a Mysore-style class setting. Mysore-style is a self led class within a group environment. This means, each practitioner moves at their own breath pace with an understanding of the sequence of postures they have memorized and have learned from a teacher. At different points in their practice they will receive individual guidance and support (only if necessary) from a teacher based on their needs.
The relationship between the practitioner and teacher is one that grows slowly over time. As with all relationships in our life, it is a relationship built on respect, trust and honesty. Each practitioner is welcomed regardless of their knowledge of or experience in yoga. Mysore-style class allows for the teacher to support each practitioner, wherever they may be in the physical practice. Instruction and guidance is always provided with kindness, compassion, and encouragement. Other than the sound of the breath, minimal talking and silence within the Mysore room is encouraged. This allows for each practitioner s' focus and concentration to be undisrupted and gives them an opportunity to connect deeper with their breath.
Ashtanga yoga can be practiced by anyone. The physical practice begins with breath.
There are six series in Ashtanga and each series is made up of a set sequence of postures, each building onto the previous one. Each series is designed to cleanse the body, organs, and nervous system.
The practice is done with a steady rhythm of nose-only breathing with sound. The breath (an inhale or exhale) is linked to specific movements and fixed gazing points (Drishti). When a practitioner is able to connect these elements, the physical practice becomes a form of moving meditation. Over time each practitioner has the ability and opportunity to become their own self healers. Practicing the first two limbs of Ashtanga (Yamas and Niyamas) is also important to do both on and off the yoga mat.
These two limbs are made up of ethical principles that can guide how practitioners relate to themselves, to others, and to their environment.
It is important to remember the physical practice takes time and patience. As our lives change the practice naturally evolves with it. We welcome all practitioners at any stage of life.
Traditionally, Ashtanga practitioners will take rest from their physical practice on new moon and full moon days. To learn more about the reasoning behind this, Tim Miller has a wonderful explanation here on Ashtanga Yoga Centre's website . For the current moon day schedule please visit the following page.
For female practitioners, it is important to honour what rest is appropriate for you during your menstrual cycle. How one approaches the practice during this time is very individual and does evolve during different life stages. During the period of flow it is advisable inversion postures are left out and perhaps taking a longer than usual rest after practice. Each series in Ashtanga works directly on the nervous system in a powerful way. It is encouraged all practitioners take ample rest post practice and also ensure they nourish and hydrate adequately.