Ashtanga Yoga

"3 methods are there. This is Tristhana" Shri K. Pattabhi Jois


Ashtanga Yoga is Patanjali Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga can be considered tbe the actualisation of the "8 Limbed" Ashtanga Yoga as set out in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The method was taught to the late Vidwan Yogacharaya Shri K. Pattabhi Jois by modern Yoga master Shri T. K. Krishnamacharya.

The name "Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga" is often used to describe the postural Yoga method and some maintain it is distinct from Patanjali Yoga. The late Vidwan Yogacharaya Shri K. Pattabhi Jois was unequivocal in dispelling this notion stating emphatically "Ashtanga Yoga is Patanjali Yoga".

A 24 Hour Long Daily Practice

Shri R. Sharath Jois teaches that the practice comprises the first 4 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga:

        Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama

Yama and Niyama are incorporated into daily life and practiced throughout the day. Pranayama is taught after steadiness in Asana has been attained. The visible practice (that may be observed "on the mat") comprises Asana (and eventually Pranayama). However the unseen bulk of the practice ongoing throughout the day (both on and off the mat) consists of Yama and Niyama. In Sri R. Sharath Jois' words "Asana is the foundation but it is not the end of Yoga, it is just the beginning of Yoga".

Within the context of Ashtanga Yoga if the first 4 limbs of Patanjali Yoga:

        Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama

  are practiced according to the correct method then the final 4:

        Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi

arise sponateneously for the practitioner.

The 3 Methods of Tristhana

The name "3 Method Space" is a reference to the principle of Tristhana that characterises Ashtanga Yoga. Tristhana is a sanskrit word interpreted as the three places of attention or action of the Ashtanga Yoga practice. These are Breath, Asana and Drishti.

The Vinyasa of an Asana

Within the dynamic system of the Ashtanga method of Yoga an Asana is not a single static posture. Instead it comprises a pre-determined sequence of movements. Each movement is itself an asana allocated a single specific breath either an inhalation or exhalation. A coupling of breath and movement is known as a Vinyasa (a Sanskrit word meaning to place in a special way) with one particular Vinyasa considered the state of the Asana. A practitioner may stay in the state of the Asana for as many full breaths (a full breaths an inhalation and an exhalation) as required to receive the benefit of the Asana. For most practitioners this is generally between 5 and 8 breaths however it is considered useful to take more breaths in the state of the Asana if an Asana is found challenging. Each Vinyasa in the sequence of an Asana is associated with a number (traditionally counted in Sanskrit) ordering it within the sequence. Every Vinyasa is also allocated a specific Drishti and the sequence for an Asana begins and ends with Samasthitihi.

For example the Asana Surya Namaskar 'A' has 9 Vinyasa with the state of the Asana being the 6th Vinyasa Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog).

vinyasa surya namaskar A

Removing the Shackles of Samsara

The 5th Book of The Ramayana - The Sundarakanda tells of the Arishadvargas, 6 passions or "inner enemies" clouding the mind obscuring the Divine Light reinforcing the shackles of Samsara:

        • Kama - Lust     • Krodha - Anger     • Lobha - Covetousness
        • Moha - Delusion     • Mada - Pride     • Matsarya - Jealousy

Guruji called these the 6 Poisons surrounding the heart and said that the purifying effects of the correct method removes them allowing the Divine Light to shine through.

The Garland of Yoga

The practice of Ashtanga Yoga includes many exquisite Asana whose outward beauty belies their deeply beneficial therapeutic effects. In this method the states of Asana can seen as flowers interspersed with the beads of the Vinyasa, both thread upon the string of the breath whose the ends join at Samasthiti creating a transformational garland or mala of Yoga.

Vina Vinyasa Yogena asanadih na karayet
"O yogi, do not do asana without Vinyasa"
Vamana Rishi