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Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, also simply named Ashtanga, is a school of physical and dynamic yoga developed at the beginning of the 20th century in India (Mysore) by Shrî K.Pattabhi Jois, who has greatly contributed to the expansion of yoga in general in the world.

Pattabhi Jois died in 2009 aged 93 and since then, his grandson R. Sharath who was also his full-time assistant, became the director of Guruji’s 75-year-old institute and continues to spread Pattabhi Jois’ knowledge and teachings to thousands of students in Mysore and all over the world.

I myself had the chance to take one of these classes during one of my trips to Bali in 2019 and I will forever remember the intense energy and synergy of this beautiful class.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a rigorous, sweaty and physically demanding style of yoga that follows a specific sequence of postures and is similar to Vinyasa yoga, as each style links every movement to a breath. The difference is that Ashtanga always performs the exact same asanas (poses) in the exact same order named “series”.

There are six of them: the primary series (or Chikitsa yoga: therapeutic yoga) presented in pictures opposite, the intermediate series (Nadi Shodana: purification of the channels) and four advanced series (from A to D).

These series are made up of about fifty poses carried out in an always identical sequence. Regardless of the series, the practice begins with sun salutations and standing poses. It ends with a sequence of final poses.

Here are some other specificities of Ashtanga:

  • Each pose is held for a number of breaths, usually five.

  • The practice is accompanied by the Ujjayî breathing, "victorious breathing" which is done only through the nose, with a contraction of the throat allowing to dose the inspired and expired air in order to obtain a time of inspiration equal to the expiration

  • The gaze points (drishti: "vision", "act of seeing") is very important in each pose.

Ashtanga is considered the most difficult yoga style because you need a lot of patience and discipline to master each pose. A devoted ashtangi practices six days a week, except on full moon or new moon days.

The vision of this yoga school is a combination and progressive techniques of breath, posture, and movement which help to cleanse, stretch, and strengthen the body as well as focus and calm the mind.

Without forgetting that a deeper experience of the self becomes possible through consistent practice.

Thus Patthabhi Jois never ceased to remind people of the importance of regular practice: “Practice, practice, practice and everything will come”.

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