Astanga yoga - Breathe, Focus, Move
What is Mysore style Astanga Yoga?
Mysore style Astanga yoga is a traditional method of yoga, that consists of a dynamic and challenging sequence of yoga postures, or asanas, linked with the breath, that flow one after the other. This ancient method of Yoga was passed down to Sharath R. Jois' grandfather Sri K. Pattabhi Jois during his time of study in Mysore in India with his teacher, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, one of the most acclaimed yogis of the 20th Century. It is therefore named after the city of Mysore where the practice originated.
The process of moving consciously with your breath through yoga postures produces heat and sweat, that detoxifies and strengthens the muscles and organs of the body, resulting in a more balanced, calm and clear mind and a good health that affects positively all aspects of the being.
In the Mysore class the sequence of yoga asanas are taught to and practiced by the student at one's own individual pace, with the guidance and support by a ashtanga yoga teacher, the way it is taught in Mysore, India by the Jois family. This allows the students to develop a deep understanding and connection with the method, as they are able to focus on their own practice and progress at their own pace.
As Mysore class is not a led group yoga class, students are being taught individually one-on-one. Each student has their own individualized practice, which is tailored to their specific needs and abilities. This means, the yoga classes are OPEN FOR ALL LEVELS, absolute beginners and advanced students alike, who practice together in the same Mysore room at the same time, with the yoga teacher giving every one individual assists and instructions.
It blends the best of all worlds: supporting group energy (no competition!), one-on-one attention honoring individuality, and a self-paced practice which facilitates self-confidence, independence, self-esteem and a deep inquiry offering a mirror to discover and truly know ourselves.
If you are new to Astanga yoga, it is recommended that you start with the introduction week or a personal introduction class. At the intro, you will be taught the basic principles of the Astanga method and in that way will lay the foundation for the best start for your future practice. You can read more about the learning steps here and see astanga yoga poses presented by yoga master Paramaguru Sharath Jois here
Benefits of the Astanga Yoga practice
- Develops physical strength and flexibility
- Improves concentration and mental clarity
- Increases energy and vitality
- Reduces stress and promotes relaxation
- Improves respiratory function
- Enhances cardiovascular health
- Improves digestion and elimination
- Increases self-awareness and self-confidence
- Promotes a sense of well-being and inner peace
- Helps to cultivate a regular yoga practice and establish a healthy lifestyle
- Provides a personalized and tailored practice for each student.
- Allows for a deep understanding and connection with the Astanga yoga system.
- Builds strength, flexibility, and concentration.
- Allows for self-paced progress.
- Provides verbal adjustments and assistance from a teacher.
- Develops a memorization of the sequence, so you can always pracice independently.
- Helps to synchronize movement with breath.
- Offers a structured and systematic approach to practicing yoga.
- Can improve physical and mental well-being.
- Provides a sense of accomplishment as students progress through the various asanas.
- Personalization: In Mysore style Astanga yoga, each student has their own individualized practice, which is tailored to their specific needs and abilities. This is in contrast to other styles of yoga, where the teacher typically demonstrates the entire sequence for the class.
- Self-paced progress: In Mysore style Astanga yoga, students progress at their own pace, rather than following the teacher's pace or the pace of the class. This allows for a deeper understanding and connection with the practice, as well as a sense of accomplishment as students progress through the various asanas.
- Sanskrit counting system: Mysore style Astanga yoga uses a traditional counting system in Sanskrit to help students memorize the sequence and to synchronize their movement with their breath. This is not typically used in other types of yoga asana practice.
- Verbal adjustments: In Mysore style Astanga yoga, the teacher provides verbal adjustments and assistance to students as needed, rather than demonstrating the entire sequence for the class. This allows for a more personalized and supportive approach to practicing yoga.
- Focus on the Astanga system: Mysore style Astanga yoga is specifically designed to teach the Astanga yoga system, which is a structured and systematic approach to practicing yoga that involves a progressive series of asanas linked with the breath. Other types of yoga may not follow this specific system.
- Nasagrai (tip of the nose)
- Urdhva or antara(upward)
- Hastagrai (hand)
- Parshva (side)
- Angustha Ma Dyai (thumb)
- Bhrumadhya (middle of the eyebrows)
- Padhayoragrai (feet, big toe)
- Nabi (navel)
- Agya (third eye)
- Mulabandha - root lock
- Uddiyana - upward flying lock
- Jalandhara - chin lock
Benefits of the Astanga Yoga Mysore practice
Yoga video guide
See the Yoga asana video guide here.
What are the difference from other yoga styles?
There are several key differences between Mysore style Astanga yoga and other types of yoga asana practice:
What are the different series?
The primary series
The primary series of Astanga yoga, also known as the Yoga Chikitsa, is intended to realign the spine, detoxify the body, and build strength, flexibility, and stamina. It is also designed to prepare the practitioner for the more advanced series of Astanga yoga. The series takes an hour and a half to complete, beginning with sun salutations (surya namaskara A and surya namaskara B) and moving on to standing poses, seated poses, inversions, and backbends before relaxation. It is traditionally practiced in the morning on an empty stomach.
The intermediate series
The intermediate series of Astanga yoga, also known as the Nadi Shodhana, meaning nervous system purification. It cleanses and strengthens the nervous system and the subtle energy channels throughout the body, and prepares the practitioner for the more advanced series of Astanga yoga. This series is only introduced when the student has mastered the primary series. It follows the same progression (sun salutations, standing, sitting, etc.) as the primary series, but introduces new poses and variations including deeper backbends and more challenging inversions.
The advanced series
The four advanced series are called Sthira Bhaga, which means divine stability. Pattabhi Jois originally outlined two intensive advanced series, but later subdivided them into four series to make them accessible to more people. These series emphasize difficult arm balances and are only appropriate for advanced students, and are traditionally practiced after the intermediate series has been mastered.
What is Vinyasa?
In Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa refers to the specific sequence of movements that is used to transition between asanas (yoga poses). The Vinyasa sequence typically involves moving from one pose to the next by flowing through a series of movements that are linked together by the breath.
In Ashtanga Yoga, the Vinyasa is an important part of the practice, as it helps to create a flow and rhythm to the practice and helps to link the poses together in a cohesive way. The Vinyasa also serves to heat the body and build strength and stamina.
A specific Vinyasa sequence that is used in Ashtanga Yoga, is moving from Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose) to Upward-Facing Dog Pose to Downward-Facing Dog Pose. This sequence is known as the "Ashtanga Vinyasa" and is performed multiple times throughout the Ashtanga Yoga practice.
In addition to the Ashtanga Vinyasa, there are many other Vinyasa sequences that can is used in the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. The use of Vinyasa is a way to create a fluid and dynamic practice that helps to cultivate strength, flexibility, and mindfulness.
What is Tristhana - the three places of attention?
In Ashtanga Yoga, Tristhana refers to the three places of attention or effort that the practitioner is encouraged to focus on during the practice. The three elements of Tristhana are: asana (yoga pose), pranayama (breathing technique), and Drishti (gazing point).
Asana refers to the physical practice of yoga poses. In Ashtanga Yoga, the asanas are performed in a specific order, and the practitioner is encouraged to focus on proper alignment and form in each pose.
Pranayama refers to the practice of controlled breathing techniques. In Ashtanga Yoga, the pranayama practice is typically integrated into the asana practice, and the practitioner is encouraged to focus on the breath and use the breath to help regulate the flow of prana (life force energy) in the body.
Drishti refers to the specific gazing points that the practitioner is encouraged to focus on during the practice. The use of a Drishti is believed to help improve focus and concentration, as well as to help improve balance.
By focusing on these three elements, the practitioner is able to cultivate a state of concentration and awareness that is necessary for the practice of yoga. Tristhana is an important aspect of the Ashtanga Yoga practice and is something that the practitioner is encouraged to focus on throughout the entire practice.
What is Drishti?
In Ashtanga Yoga, Drishti is a specific gazing point that is used during the practice of asana (yoga poses). The purpose of using a Drishti is to help the practitioner maintain focus and concentration, as well as to help improve balance. The use of a Drishti is believed to help quiet the mind and allow the practitioner to enter a deeper state of meditation. In Ashtanga Yoga, there are nine traditional Drishtis, which are specific points on the body or in the environment that the practitioner is encouraged to focus their gaze on. These Drishtis are:
What is Bandhas?
In Ashtanga Yoga, Bandhas are specific energy locks that are used to control the flow of prana (life force energy) in the body. There are three main Bandhas in Ashtanga Yoga: Mula Bandha (root lock), Uddiyana Bandha (upward flying lock), and Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock). Each of these Bandhas is associated with a specific area of the body and has a specific physical and energetic effect on the body and mind.
Mula Bandha is associated with the pelvic floor and is activated by contracting the muscles of the perineum or anus. This Bandha help cultivate stability and support in the lower body, creating a feeling of grounding, as well as to help improve digestion and regulate the menstrual cycle.
Uddiyana Bandha is associated with the abdominal muscles and is activated by exhaling and drawing the abdominal muscles in and up towards the spine. This Bandha is believed to help cultivate strength and flexibility in the core, as well as to help improve digestion and stimulate the organs of the abdomen.
Jalandhara Bandha is associated with the throat and is activated by drawing the chin towards the chest and pressing the back of the neck against the spine. This Bandha is believed to help regulate the flow of prana in the head and neck, as well as to help calm the mind and improve concentration.
In Ashtanga Yoga, the Bandhas are an important part of the practice. They are typically activated during most asanas (yoga poses). The Bandhas are also an important part of the practice of pranayama (breathing techniques) in Ashtanga Yoga.
Sun Salutation A
Astanga Yoga Mantra
Ashtanga Yoga Opening Mantra
वन्दे गुरूणां चरणारविन्दे सन्दर्शितस्वात्मसुखावबोधे ।
निःश्रेयसे जाङ्गलिकायमाने संसारहालाहलमोहशान्त्यै ॥
आबाहुपुरुषाकारं शङ्खचक्रासिधारिणम् ।
सहस्रशिरसं श्वेतं प्रणमामि पतञ्जलिम् ॥
vande gurūnāṃ caraṇāravinde sandarśita-svātma-sukhāvabodhe |
niḥśreyase jāṅgalikāyamāne saṃsāra-hālāhala-moha-śāntyai |
| ābāhu-puruṣākāraṃ śaṅkha-cakrāsi-dhāriṇam |
sahasra-śirasaṃ śvetaṃ praṇamāmi patañjalim ||
I bow to the two lotus feet of the gurus,
Through which the understanding of the happiness in my own Soul has been revealed.
My ultimate refuge, acting like a snake doctor,
For the pacifying of the delusions caused by the poison of cyclic existence.
Who has the form of a human up to the arms,
Bearing a conch, a discus and a sword.
White, with a thousand heads,
I bow to Patañjali.
Ashtanga Yoga Closing Mantra
स्वस्ति प्रजाभ्यः परिपालयन्तां न्यायेन मार्गेण महीं महीशाः ।
गोब्राह्मणेभ्यः शुभमस्तु नित्यं लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ।
svasti prajābhyaḥ paripālayantāṃ nyāyena mārgeṇa mahīṃ mahīśāḥ |
go-brāhmanebhyaḥ śubham astu nityaṃ lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino bhavantu ||
Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ |
May the rulers of the earth protect the well-being of the people,
With justice, by means of the right path.
May there always be good fortune for cows, Brahmins and all living beings
, May the inhabitants of all the worlds be full of happiness.
Oṃ Peace, Peace, Peace!
“Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”
Narendra Modi, the General Assembly of the United Nations June 21, 2014