Ashtanga Yoga Studio Directory

October 14, 2008

There has been a great deal of discussion about the list of teachers being created by the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysore but not much about the studios committed to the continuation of the Ashtanga yoga lineage. As of this time, there are only forty nine teachers in the United States named on the list as authorized or certified. Since I know a good number of them, I broke down list to analyze its makeup.

Among the fifteen teachers in the certified group, there are only five who currently maintain a yoga studio with regular ongoing Mysore style Ashtanga yoga classes. Of the five who do, only three actually teach more then one or two classes a week because of their other commitments such as travel, workshops, family, etc.

Among the thirty four who are on the authorized list, only twenty seven actually teach regularly scheduled Mysore style classes and they are teaching at only twenty studios in total. Since some of the teachers on the list teach at the same studio, there are really only twenty three places in the United States to learn Ashtanga yoga if you believe that only those teachers on the KPJAYI list can teach authentic Ashtanga yoga in the tradition of Pattabhi Jois. That is worth repeating…there would only be twenty three studios in the United States supporting the continuation of the Ashtanga yoga lineage. At twenty one of the twenty three studios, students can only be taught the primary series under the new teacher guidelines. That means that there are only two studios in the United States where you can regularly practice with a Certified teacher who can teach you beyond the first series according to the KPJAYI guidelines.

There are obviously more studios then currently in our count, since there are many qualified Ashtanga teachers with everyday Mysore style classes who are not on the KPJAYI list. Our goal is to compile a list of studios that students feel are truly passing on the Ashtanga yoga lineage. To help make this list a resource for the Ashtanga yoga community please write back with information you have about studios you think should be on the list and they will add to the studio section of this blog. The only requirement is that full and honest disclosure be made concerning teacher’s training, experience, and background as well as the studio’s ownership and policies.

Thanks for your help compiling this important resource for the community.

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The Ashtanga Primary Series – Yoga Therapy

September 04, 2008

The first series of the Ashtanga yoga system is known as Yoga Chikitsa, which translates as Yoga Therapy.  At a time when many try to challenge Ashtanga yoga as too hard or not appropriate for their age or body type, it is important to remember the intended use of the practice of the first series.  Taught by skilled instructors, Ashtanga yoga is appropriate for all ages and body types.  In fact I would argue that Ashtanga yoga taught in the Mysore style is the most appropriate yoga for all, because students are taught to practice only what they are capable of safely doing.  It can begin as gentle as needed and progress as the students are ready.  It is not taught to large groups who are lead through a practice together but rather to each student individually in a group setting.  Part of the practice for a student is to learn to let go of their ego that constantly cries for more difficult postures that they may not be ready to safely practice.  A teacher must also control their ego, for it may want to give students more postures so they keep coming to the class.  With egos in check, the practice is safe for all.

The therapy of the Primary Series occurs on many levels.  To be certain, correctly practicing asanas will help build strong and flexible bodies.  Proper use of breath combined with movement also builds heat to cleanse and purify the body.  In addition, most asanas have therapeutic benefits of their own.  There is another type of therapy that is also involved in the practice.  Once we have gained enough strength and flexibility to practice an asana with ease, we begin to practice bringing the breath under control as we do the asana.  This can be much more challenging then practicing the asana alone but is the center of the Ashtanga system.  According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika the method for stabilizing the mind toward the inner self is hatha yoga.  In this case hatha yoga means the process of controlling the prana (breath) through the surya nadi and the chandra nadi.  As we steady our breath, we steady our mind.  As we practice asana with pranayama, we strengthening our body, calm our mind, and grow healthy in many ways. 

We live in a scientific age where we accept only what we can see and prove.  The use of yoga postures is being explored as a form of physical therapy to alleviate back pain, correct kyphotic conditions, injury rehabilitation, etc.  There are registered yoga therapists conducting studies, publishing papers, and giving lectures at conferences around the country.   However, it is worth remembering that yoga is a much larger tradition then the practice of postures.  In fact, the path of yoga first set forth thousands of years age by the sage Patanjali in his classic Yoga Sutras was a way to merge the mind with our unchanging nature of pure consciousness (“Yoga chitta vritti nirodhaha”).  In other words, we practice yoga to gain control of our minds, and the asana is just a tool.  Certainly science is important but when it comes to yoga, we need to apply our own test to its therapeutic benefits.  Take up the practice under the guidance of a skilled teacher.  Put your ego aside and follow the guidance you are given and practice regularly.  If you do this, I am confident that you will fill better and after all, isn’t the ultimate test of therapeutic benefit whether or not it makes you feel better. 

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Pattabhi Jois on The Method of Ashtanga Yoga

July 07, 2008

A short video of a young Pattabhi Jois talking about the Method of Ashtanga Yoga can be found on youtube. You can also watch the video below. In these uncertain times of political and economic unrest both in and out of the yoga world, it helps to remind us why we practice yoga. Those of us who have practiced for some time must also help carry the simple message of yoga as an internal practice to those who have not experienced its magic. Some have made Ashtanga yoga about the physical postures only and have confused the road map for the destination. To a new comer, it can be very intimidating and to those whose body type will not allow an aggressive physical practice it can be prohibitive. An elitist attitude about being an “ashtangi” has helped push the growth of vinyasa and flow classes and lead to the proliferation of numerous modern “styles of yoga”. Let us remind ourself of the simple words of Pattabhi Jois

There is only one yoga. It is universal and does not belong to any one. It is not physical or external exercise but rather a path for internal cleaning. The goal of yoga is the acquisition of self knowledge. There is only one method and it starts with the asana. to help you develop strength and stamina. As you continue to practice regularly, your energy will increase. The method requires practice and not just talking about the practice. Practitioners should put 95% of their effort towards practicing yoga (showing up on their mat and only 5% of their energy towards the theory of yoga. Sometimes people today want there to be 99.5% theory and .5% practice but that is not good. It takes discipline to prepare your body by developing stamina through a regular daily practice. As used here, body means the three types of body: external body, internal body, and spiritual body. In order to strengthen all three, the practice of yoga must include a breathing system in the vinyasa. The breathing system is very important for without it, the spiritual body and mind will not be effected. Breathing is a very important part of the method. Without breathing there is no vinyasa. The inhale and the exhale must match the movement and be smooth and even. The length of inhale should match the length of exhale. If one is ten seconds the other should also be ten seconds. It is in this way that you practice the method of yoga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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