Ashtanga is one of the most traditional styles of yoga and the original vinyasa system. It is the foundation of the western vinyasa, power and flow styles. Unfortunately, with these westernized versions, students lose the personal attention that makes traditional Ashtanga Yoga so effective in creating positive change in people’s lives.
Ashtanga Yoga was passed down from the father of modern yoga T. Krishnamacharya to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who began to teach students from the West. The teaching style he used became known as “Mysore,” named after the city in India where Pattabhi Jois lived and taught.
Mysore closely resembles the one-on-one teacher/student relationship that Pattabhi Jois shared with Krishnamacharya. In a Mysore “class”, students receive individualized instruction within a group setting. Led by Arielle Nash, this tradition has been carried on at Ashtanga Yoga Victoria since 2009.
Teaching Mysore style Ashtanga requires years of consistent personal practice and continuous learning from specialized sources. All of Ashtanga Yoga Victoria’s teachers commit to a daily practice and only those who have studied in Mysore India, are allowed to teach Mysore classes.
As we developed this article, Arielle was on her annual study trip to Mysore at K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) with R. Sharath Jois. Sharath is Pattabhi Jois’ grandson, Arielle’s direct teacher and the current world authority in Ashtanga. In her correspondence to us she writes;
“…I come here to be a student, to learn more about the practice and myself. It can be intense. It is always a positive experience and a blessing to spend time with Sharath. His dedication to his duty as a teacher and holder of the lineage is unsurpassed. His devotion is something you can’t help but respect and admire…”
In the Mysore classes, students come at a time convenient for them, and a teacher guides each with individual instruction. If the student is new or does not remember the sequence, the teacher will show them. Eventually, students practice a sequence from memory. As the student learns the practice, the teacher assists by adjusting postures and progressing the student when necessary.
The Primary Series (the first series of six in Ashtanga Vinyasa) is known as “therapy” or “cleansing” yoga for its ability to help re-align both body and mind. As Arielle points out, many people initially come to the practice as a form of fitness and soon discover something much more. On the surface, it may appear to be only physically centered, but on a deeper level, this style of yoga practice emphasizes self-improvement and focus.
A testimonial from one of Ashtanga Yoga Victoria’s students;
“Ashtanga is a powerful, flowing, and transformative yoga…It doesn’t matter how strong or flexible you might be.
Teachers make gentle adjustments to help you refine and deepen your poses based on your particular body and level. It’s through these physical adjustments from a qualified teacher that you learn to feel the opening/deepening of each pose gradually and safely. I’m very grateful to my teachers for their incredible patience and insight…
I know that there is an intellectual hurdle to overcome when trying to decide on a yoga lineage and studio. You should give Ashtanga Yoga a try.”
Ashtanga’s physical benefits follow with what one would expect from any well-balanced regular physical exercise routine – improved stamina and endurance, strength and flexibility, as well as a decrease in bodily pain. Beyond that, on a physiological level, the linking of breath with specific movements works to flush oxygen-rich blood through the organs, thus “cleaning” the body. Also, heat is generated from within, rather than externally, causing toxins to exit the body through our sweat and elimination. Finally, the nervous system is trained to better enable us to handle daily stresses and allow emotional healing.
Yes, this practice is challenging. But working through difficult postures is one of the ways the internal growth happens. Practice gives students the opportunity to become aware of their behaviors and patterns and make affirming choices. Arielle says, “The Ashtanga practice is a tool we use to get to the real work of yoga – self-inquiry and transformation.” However, like any positive change, it requires consistency, which is why students are encouraged to practice at least three times a week.
For more information about Ashtanga Yoga Victoria see visit their website http://ashtanga-yoga-victoria.com/.
560 Johnson St #203, Victoria