THE PRACTICE

Ashtanga Yoga can be practiced by anyone, whether young, old, very old, healthy or sick. Even so, the way in which a young person is taught will differ in manner from the way in which an old or sick person will be taught. Therefore, each student must be considered as an individual and taught at a pace that is suitable for their situation in life.


All students commence their instruction in the same manner in which on the first day of class they are taught Surya Namaskar A, followed by Padmasana and deep breathing, and a few minutes of rest to conclude their first day of practice. The next day after Surya Namaskar A has been performed, Surya Namaskar B is taught, and one then again concludes in the same method as the previous day, with Padmasana, deep breathing, and rest. After both of the Surya Namaskar have been learned correctly, each of the various asanas are added one by one. When one asana is correct, the next one is taught. Depending on the age and ability of the student, it can take anywhere upwards of 3 months to learn the primary series.


The format of the practice always remains the same; one always begins practice with Surya Namaskar, concludes with Padmasana and rest, and the various asanas gradually fill the space between these two poles. Learning yoga in this traditional manner benefits the student on many levels. It is possible for one to gain independence and confidence in their sadhana (spiritual practice), as well, something truly becomes one’s own when they learn it by heart. It is through the daily practice of Ashtanga Yoga that we draw it into ourselves, understand it, and become proficient in its methods, thereby reaping its wide range of benefits. For this to be accomplished, a slow, dedicated and patient approach is best.

 

Ashtanga Yoga is characterised by its therapeutic and progressive set sequences of postures. In the Vinyasa method taught by Sri Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the postures are combined in a series which vary in difficulty and effect. The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) is therapeutic, detoxifying and aligning the body.  The Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana – Nerve Cleansing) continues this but goes deeper, purifying the nervous system by opening and cleansing the energy channels (nadis). The Advanced Series (Sthira Bhaga) works still deeper, integrating strength and grace through higher levels of flexibility and humility.

 

At AYSJ, we teach the traditional Mysore Style wherein each student is taught individually as part of a group and practices up to a point in the sequence according to their ability and experience, and as the postures are given by the teacher.

Advanced and beginner students practice side by side within the same class. New poses are given by the teacher as the student becomes ready. The teacher gives hands on adjustments to assist students with alignment and to move deeper into poses. Mysore style classes give yoga practitioners the chance to focus on the rhythm of their own breath synchronizing it with movement and postures in a meditative way.

 

 

GETTING STARTED

BEGINNERS COURSE OR MYSORE CLASS

We offer 2 ways to start your practice.  The first is to join our Beginners Course and the second is to start in a Mysore Class.  The Mysore Class is the traditional way to learn this method, and we think is the best way, as each student is taught individually through verbal cues and hands on adjustments in a group setting.  This class is for everyone; from complete beginners to advanced practitioners.

 

The Beginners Courses are given a few times each season.  Please check our Courses page to see the schedule.  All classes are taught in English.

LEARNING PROCESS

Postures are given, one by one, but in a certain sequential order. The structure of the class depends on the teacher being able to keep track of what every student is doing with a quick glance. If you attempt something out of sequence, the teacher will have a harder time helping you in the appropriate way. If you have trouble with a particular posture, the teacher can offer you a modification that is consistent with the intention of the practice. One by one also means that once you are given a new posture, you practice the sequence through until you get to that posture, then wind down your practice with backbends (if appropriate) and the finishing sequence. The teacher will give you the next posture in the sequence when she feels it is appropriate for you.

When you practice yoga in the Mysore-style setting, it is important to wait for the teacher to give you each new posture. The act of waiting gives your teacher the opportunity to teach you the posture correctly or adjust you in it. Waiting also is an opportunity to express respect for your teacher and the practice. The longer you do this practice, the more you will realize that yoga knowledge is a gift from your teacher—the way that yoga is a gift to humankind from the sage Patanjali.

In India, a student has only one teacher or guru, so there is no issue of which teacher is in charge. Here at our shala, visiting teachers may be invited for workshops which provide a glimpse of what’s ahead and often as inspiration. A visiting teacher may allow you to progress farther in the series than you have in your daily practice. However, your regular teacher is usually the more accurate judge of the dedication and intention of your practice, so it is better to follow their instruction when you return to your daily practice . Likewise, when you travel and attend Mysore-style classes taught in other yoga studios, the
protocol is to stop and wait for the teacher to give you postures beyond the Primary Series or whatever is your posture in your daily practice.

If you get confused about the correct sequence of postures or need help with a particular posture, you should let your teacher know at any point during the practice. We are happy to help.  It will not take long, and you will memorize your practice easily provided you are consistent, methodical, and disciplined.  If you are new to Ashtanga or accustomed to led classes, the Mysore-style setting can seem strange at first. But with commitment and a little patience, you will be amazed at how quickly you can learn to do yoga as a self-practice!  And the practice is yours for life.  You can practice anywhere.  

COMMITMENT:

The Ashtanga method is intended to be a daily practice and students are encouraged to make a commitment to practice at least 3 times a week for a month at a time. The restorative and healing power and efficacy of the Ashtanga Yoga system is in the consistency of the practice and the steadiness of the teaching.

Traditionally, we practice every day except for Saturdays and Moon Days, which occur about twice monthly.  Currently, the day off has been changed to Sundays in Mysore. 


It may be very difficult at first to commit to a daily practice, and it often takes one or two years to establish this. So don’t be discouraged if you’re “only” practicing twice a week at first. Regular attendance is encouraged, although in some cases 2-3x’s per week combined with a self-practice at home is sufficient. Drop-ins are allowed for those with a regular home practice and out-of-town visitors with an established practice.  You may write to us if you would like to drop-in for a class or a week.  Class cards are also only for those with a regular practice. 

We encourage the cultivation of the 4 D's to support correct practice: Devotion, Dedication, Discipline and Determination.

ASANA (CHEAT) SHEETS

If you have a diagram of the Ashtanga yoga postures, we encourage you to review and study the postures at home instead of bringing it to class. Over time, you will memorize the sequence of postures by doing them regularly in class under the guidance of your teacher. We also highly recommend that you learn and know the names of the postures in Sanskrit. It just has a nice vibe when you know what you are doing!

PRACTICE TIPS:

Please...-do not eat for at least three and a half hours before practice

-do bath or shower before practice

-do mention any injuries or illness to your teacher, or any prescription medication you are on.

-do inform your teacher if you become pregnant

-keep your practice space clear, have a towel, yoga rug, or block if necessary beside you.  Please keep your bag or yoga bag neatly  by the wall

-no water bottles or cell phones please


Things to remember:

it is not a competition

it is not a race

it is a moving meditation on breath, bandhas, drishti

cultivate sthira and sukkham in all postures (stability and ease)

 

It’s about being grounded and rooted, and with that, you find ease and freedom to cultivate fluidity in your movements and transitions, always guided by breath to balance strength and flexibility evenly. Cultivate equanimity (equal-mindedness) in your practice.

Before you begin your practice, take a moment of silence for yourself, and set your intention.  If you cannot think of one, ask your self what is your purpose for being on the mat today, and let your answer inform your intention.  This will help to guide your practice when your mind wanders off.  It will help your body-mind open to change, growth and transformation. 

Observe your thoughts and feelings throughout your practice and your connection to breath.

 

Be vigilant and honest. Practice Yamas and Niyamas on the mat when in doubt, the key is the breath with bandha foundation, awareness on the center line of the body.


Do not struggle with the “hard and fancy stuff”.   Do your practice consistently and let those things “COME TO YOU...”

Nuts and Bolts:

Ashtanga Vinyasa is designed to purify the body, enhance proper functioning of the digestive system, build physical and mental strength, and foster optimal healing and wellness. Ashtanga yoga utilizes ‘vinyasa’ and ‘tristhana’.Vinyasa is dynamic movement of postures linked with the breath. For each movement, there is one breath. The purpose of Vinyasa is for internal cleansing.Tristhana refers to the following 3 places of attention and action:
    •    Breath (with sound)
    •    Drishti (gazing point)
    •    Asanas (postures and bandhas)
The 3 components are intricately woven together throughout the entire practice, leading practitioners on the path of self-discovery with complete awareness and presence, transforming the physical asana into a moving meditation. By maintaining these fundamental principles, the Ashtanga practice produces internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies the body and enhances a calm and steady mind.




 

MYSORE PRACTICE GUIDELINES

FOR THE JOURNEY

These are a few guidelines to follow in a Mysore room:
    •    Wear light clothes that allow free movement throughout your body.
    •    On your first class introduce yourself to the teacher and let them know what your regular practice consists of and who your regular teacher is.
    •    Inform the teacher about any injuries, medical concerns, or pregnancy.
    •    Be clean and considerate.  Arrive freshly showered, in clean clothes, and on a clean mat.  The room is often filled with sweating breathing bodies, and uncleanness can be very displeasing to others around you to smell.  Saucha, cleanliness, is one of the Niyamas, yogic principles for living. 

    •    Refrain from wearing strong perfumes. 
    •    Be silent at all times and respectful of others space and mats.  A Mysore class provides a rare opportunity for quiet focus and meditation in motion.  The room is largely silent, except for the sound of the breath.  In case you need to talk to the teacher, please keep your conversation minimal and to the point.  If you have an injury or practice issue, talk to the teacher before you start.
    •    Do not step on other student’s yoga mat.
    •    Only practice the Ashtanga sequence as it is currently taught by R.Sharath Jois in Mysore. Do not add or skip poses. Please let the teacher know If you have any doubts about the sequence.  Do not ask for postures.  They will be given  to you when the teacher sees that you are stable and able and as they feel you are ready to assimilate them for your best therapeutic result. 
    •    On your first class, only practice Primary series.
    •    Bring:
    ◦    a Yoga mat,
    ◦    a cotton rug or mat towel
    ◦    and a hand towel.    
    •    Do not attempt any poses that have not been given to you by a qualified teacher.
    •    It is advised for female practitioners to rest and abstain from practice on the first 1-3 days of their menstrual cycle.

  • Attend every day, or nearly every day

  • This practice is intended to be 6 days a week, minus full and new moons.  It is too demanding a practice to attempt casually.  Beginners often need some time to get to 6 days a week, but once you are deep into the practice it is extremely helpful.  It isn’t fair to your body to expect it to put your legs behind your head part time or occasionally.  That would just be shocking and not therapeutic.  If you experience pain with your practice, ask yourself if you are practicing often enough.  If you have, ask yourself next what other things you do with your body, like excessive sitting, driving, lifting, intense sports, running, working, etc.  Please keep in mind that the Primary Series is known as Yoga Chikitsa, Sanskrit for Yoga Therapy. 

PHILOSOPHY

The term "Ashtanga yoga" is taken from the "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali", one of the most important classical yoga texts. "Ashtanga" means eight limbs. Patanjali describes them as follows:
    •    1. Yama: Universal morality (your behavior in relation to others). The five yamas are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence, self-restraint), and aparigraha (non-greed).
    •    2. Niyama: Personal observances (your behavior in relation to yourself). The five niyamas are sauca (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), and ishvara-pranidhana (devotion to God).
    •    3. Asanas: Postures
    •    4. Pranayama: Breath control
    •    5. Pratyahara: Sense withdrawal
    •    6. Dharana: Concentration
    •    7. Dhyana: Meditation
    •    8. Samadhi: Union with the divine / self-realization

 

The first four externally oriented limbs must be established in order for the last four internally oriented limbs to evolve. In Pattabhi Jois’ system of yoga, you begin by focusing on the third limb - asana, but through the Vinyasa technique, you are introduced to pranayama, pratyahara, and dharana also.  Without observing the yamas and niyamas, the asanas become just a form of physical exercise.  So, all the limbs are intertwined and all must be practiced in order to reach the state of yoga.

More information on the practice and philosophy can be found here:  http://sharathjois.com/the-practice/

For in-depth study of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali click here:  http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras.htm

 

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