Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
ASHTANGA VINYASA YOGA
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as a physical practice is said to have been methodised in the ancient text The Yoga Korunta approximately 4000 years ago by the Vedic seer Rishi Vamana. These texts are known to be the foundation of what makes up the Ashtanga Yoga sequences today. They were allegedly re-discovered by the Indian Yoga master Shri T Krishnamacharya and passed on to several of his students, including Shri K Pattabhi Jois.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a dynamic and progressing sequence of postures linked together by the breath. Through practice of breathing (Ujjai), postures (Asanas), and gazing point (Dristi), we cultivate awareness of the body and senses, which brings about deep internal consciousness. Regular practice of Ashtanga Yoga purifies, strengthens and balances the body and mind. This gives us a light and strong body and a steady and peaceful mind, enabling us to experience our lives as more whole and unified beings.
ASHTANGA YOGA – THE EIGHT LIMBS
The term Ashtanga Yoga derives from the Sanskrit words Astau meaning eight and Anga meaning limb. Ashtanga Yoga refers to the eight limbs as taught by the great sage Patanjali who was the first to systematise an approach to classical Yoga in his Yoga Sutras (200 BC). These limbs are steps through which the practitioner can progress to reach a state of Yoga or self-realisation. The beauty of the eight limbs is that they teach us to integrate all aspects of Yoga since each limb addresses a different aspect of personhood. They are all interrelated and can be practised simultaneously, but they also map out a logical progression in which each limb prepares the practitioner for the next.
The first two limbs are the Yamas & Niyamas. They consist of ten universal principles teaching us how to relate to ourselves, others and our environment. The very first Yama is Ahimsa, or non-violence, which is the foundation for the entire yoga philosophy and basis of any Yoga practice. The third limb is Asana, which is the physical practice many westerners associate with Yoga. The Asanas are designed to purify, balance and stabilise the body and the energy channels to allow the breath and Prana (life-force) to move freely. Pranayama, the fourth limb, takes this transformational process a step further as these yogic breathing techniques teach us to harness, direct and channel the pranic energy. The first four limbs lead the practitioner towards the Pratyahara, the fith limb or ‘the bridge’ between external and internal Yoga. Pratyahara is when we no longer experience what we perceive as sense-objects separate from everything else, but as part of the whole. Dharana –concentration, Dhiyana –meditation and Samadhi –a state of integration or self-realisation, are the last and inner limbs which have a potential to naturally unfold as we become established in the first four limbs.
Ultimately the 8 limbs is a process of clarification that allows us to experience the truth of who we are beyond assumptions and habitual patters. In this state of complete clarity, Vidya, we are able to remain fully present with life just as it is. It is this unconditional wakefulness to the present moment, that reveals the nature of reality.