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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