Yoga has been used to mean union, union between body, mind, and heart. It is a philosophy and a lifestyle, which is meant to bring the practitioner vibrant health by way of physical postures, breathing, and internal awareness. Ashtanga Yoga is the name given to the system of hatha yoga currently taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a renowned Sanskrit scholar and yogi in Mysore, India. However the historical definition of Ashtanga yoga is “eight-limbed yoga” as originally outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. THE EIGHT LIMBS ARE:
- Yama – Ethical Relationships. Non-violence, Truth, Non-stealing, Moderation—not abusing your sexual energy, Non-possessiveness.
- Niyama – Internal Awareness. Cleanliness (of body and mind), Contentment, Austerity (discipline), Self Study, Surrender to God.
- Asanas – Postures. Asanas are physical exercises that bring steadiness, health and lightness of limb. A steady and pleasant posture produces mental equilibrium and prevents fickleness of mind. According to B K S Iyengar, asanas have been evolved over the centuries so as to exercise every muscle, nerve and gland in the body. They secure a fine physique, which is strong and elastic without being muscle-bound and they keep the body free from disease. Indeed the yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit.
- Pranayama – Breathing awareness.
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of senses from the thinking brain to create internal awareness of what is actually present and real.
- Dharana – Concentration, focus
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Samadhi – Bliss, “Nirvana”
This variety of limbs ensures that one will not become distorted and ungrounded by Yoga practice. The first four limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are like roots, they make one’s practice grounded and real. They allow you to function well in the real world. You can wash the dishes, take out the garbage and relate to yourself and others honestly and happily. The last four limbs (the inner limbs) sprout spontaneously from the first four. They are easy and natural, when the first four are nurtured well. The inner meditative limbs return the favor, and they make the outer limbs deep and true. (Above paragraph adapted from Richard Freeman www.yogaworkshop.com.)
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Yoga through physical postures (asana), movements synchronized with the breath (vinyasa), gaze points (drishti), and internal awareness (bandhas). This practice is described by the sage, Vamana in the Yoga Korunta. The text was re-discovered in the 1930’s in Calcutta, India by T. Krishnamacharya and his student Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Pattabhi Jois from Mysore, India (affectionately known as Guruji) made translating and teaching this form of Yoga his life endeavor. There are a total of five (old method) or six (new method) series of Ashtanga Yoga; Primary Series, Secondary Series, and the Advanced Series. They cover a broad spectrum of postures, combinations of postures, and linking movements. Importance is given to the breathing and moving system in all the series, the breath is the most important element to place your awareness in. Progression through the series is not based on the ability of your body to perform postures, progression is based on consistency of your practice, familiarity of the pose and your body in the pose, or therapeutic needs.
The practice of primary series (known as Yoga Chikitsa or Yoga Therapy) is designed to cleanse and purify the entire body — specifically the organs. Each posture has specific benefits. By synchronizing breath and movement we build internal heat which purifies the body by releasing toxins so organs can operate optimally, as well as releasing beneficial minerals and hormones into our blood stream.
Second Series is known as Nadi Shodhana and means nerve cleansing. Second series counterbalances the forward bending of primary series with backward bending, deeper forward bending and some inversions. In second or intermediate series we purify the nervous system.
The advanced series are known as Sthira Bhaga which means constant divinity; this series is only for those who want to adopt a full yogic lifestyle — most yogis will be practicing Ashtanga yoga a minimum of 5-6 years (or more) before they are ready for this challenging series. In the advanced series you build strength—both in body and mind. Primary series healed and detoxified the body, second series purified the nervous system, with third series the body is ready for strength— kind of like giving the car some gumption!
The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system places emphasis on the breathing and moving synchronicity first and foremost. Strength, flexibility, and stamina are developed equally through this practice.
RECOMMENDED READING On the practice:
Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Surya Namaskara by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Astanga Yoga
The Yoga of Breath by Lino Miele
Ashtanga Yoga by Manju Jois and Gregg Tebb
Ashtanga Yoga Anusthana by R. Sharath Jois
Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch
The Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual by David Swenson
Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy by Gregor Maehle
Ashtanga Yoga As It Is by Matthew Sweeney
Guruji by Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern
Other aspects of yoga:
Ashtanga Yoga Primer by Baba Hari Dass
Krishnamacharya; His life and teachings by A.G. Mohan
Yoga Rahasya by Krishnamacharya
The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar
Beyond Power Yoga by Beryl Bender Birch
Yoga for the three stages of life, vinyasa yoga By Sri Vatsa Ramaswami
Moola Bandha, the master key by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Healing, Health, and Beyond by Desikachar and RH Greens
Yoga of Heart by Mark Whitwell
Pranayama by Andrew Van Lysbeth
The Textbook of Yoga Psychology by Ramamurti S. Mishra M.D. (this is on the Sutras)
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Bihar School of Yoga / Swami Muktibodhananda
The Bhagavad Gita (my favorite interpretations are by Eknath Easwaran, Gandhi, and Stephen Mitchell, and also a study book by Rev. Stephanie Rutt titled “An Ordinary Life Transformed”)
Authentic Yoga The ancient science and teaching of the Gheranda Sahmhita
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Other Great Books:
Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss
You can heal your life by Louise Hays
The Illuminated by Rumi
Tao te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell
The Gift, by Hafiz
Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama
Paths to God by Ram Dass
Going Home by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Das Energi by Paul Williams
Woman’s Bodies Woman’s Wisdom by Cathrine Northrup, MD
Anatomy Coloring Book by Wynn Kapit / Lawrence M. Elson
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by David H. Coulter
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
On Ayurveda & Functional Medicine:
Ayurveda the science of self healing by Dr. Vasant Lad
Body Mind and Sport by Dr. John Douillard
3 Season Diet by Dr. John Douillard
Perfect Health for Kids by Dr. John Douillard
The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies by Dr. Vasant Lad
The Yoga of Herbs by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad
Eat Fat to Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman
A Mind of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan
Whole Detox by Dr. Deana Minich
A good article on yoga: The Philosophy of Yoga – An Aesthetic Appraisal http://www.exoticindia.com/article/yoga