September 2004 – Pattabhi Jois and his Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Pattabhi Jois and his Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga was not developed by Pattabhi Jois, but transcribed and taught by him. The source is the Yoga Karunta (Korunta means groups), an ancient manuscript found in the archives of the Calcutta Library by Pattabhi’s guru, Krishnamacharya. This manuscript outlines different groupings of asana, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras and philosophy. Up to this point yoga was handed down verbally from master to student, having a documented text that was thousands of years old showing what is believed to be the true form was exciting.
There were 4 series + the Rishi Series (now broken into 5 series):
1. Primary Series – Detoxifies (cleanses and purifies) and aligns the body. Teaches breath and movement synchronization.
2. Secondary Series – Opens the heart, works on the joints, liver, and hips. You will find your structural problems with this series
3. Advanced A -very challenging (the most challenging series of all) Rips body apart! you take apart yourself to build yourself back up — pulls the muscles off the bones (like reiki) – this series transforms you. Builds core strength. In Third series we do not do standing poses, all your energy is needed for this practice.
4. Advanced B – tight spinal twists (“crazy postures, sit again”) and meditation. This practice takes you to other places
5. Rishi Series – by this point you know what you need, chooses 10 postures and hold each one up to ONE HOUR.
Now Advanced A series is broken down into two series, so there are a total of 6 series.

Each series (except where noted) begins with Sun Salutes, Standing postures (which work on the external body opening the hamstrings and such), and ends with closing sequence.

Do your practice and all is coming.
I am going to relate a little from my experience. I have had the opportunity the past three years in a row to take classes with Pattabhi Jois when travels to NYC. In 2001 he was teaching in NYC in September during the 9/11 attacks. I went to NYC 6 days after the attack to take classes with him. The classes had been stopped during the week of the attack, I arrived for the first resumed class Sept. 17, 2001. As I sat waiting for class to begin I was having expectations of him saying something (however brief) about the attacks. What did he say? “Samasthithi”!
This reminds me of one of his sayings, “Do your practice and all is coming.” That is pretty much his response to anyone who asks him questions about why this or when this . . . What could anyone say that would change what happened in 9/11, what could we say that really makes a difference? Save your breath and do your practice. Change yourself because you can, changing ourselves is how we change the world.

Through repetition the magic is forced to rise
What makes Ashtanga different from other forms of yoga is that it follows a set series of postures in the same order every time. When you practice the same postures in the same order every time you begin to find the harmony in it, you detect the little hidden nuances in yourself.
The practice of Ashtanga remains the same, what changes is you, you are growing and changing all the time, when you are committed to the Ashtanga practice these changes are reflected in your body and mind. You can watch your body open and become more malleable, you can watch your breath become deeper and steadier, maybe you can even observe your mind growing more focused.
Instead of continually seeking stimulation through change, you can heighten your sense of awareness through the same set of postures. You can put more Yoga into your yoga by turning your attention away from the physical posture and into the bandhas and breath.
Finding the magic in repetition is unexpected –and unexpectedly satisfying.
Persevering in the repetition even when it seems unbearably frustrating and you feel inadequate, when you want more than anything to just quit and walk away– is when the magic rises. When you practice regularly you begin to discern the mental limitations you place on yourself. Over time, through repetition your willingness to take chances, to surrender to doing things you didn’t think you were capable of, increases. That is when the breakthroughs happen –when you are least expecting them.
Pieces of above paragraph were taken from Katherine Pew’s article Repetition and Realization printed in the August/September 2001 issue of Yoga International.

Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.
Just as a good knowledge of culinary sciences does not satisfy hunger, neither will the benefits of yoga be realized fully by mere understanding of the science of its practice. Thus the scriptures only show us the right path, it is up to us to understand them and to put them into practice. By the strength gained in this practice, we can come to know the method for bringing the mind and sense organs under control. Thus we can achieve yoga.
Excerpt from Yoga Mala, written by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Ashtanga Yoga inside out
Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga is called Yoga Chikitsa. Chikitsa means Therapy and is designed to cleanse and purify the entire body. Each posture has specific benefits. By synchronizing breath and movement we build internal heat which purifies the body by releasing toxins as well as beneficial minerals and hormones.
Ashtanga yoga gives concern to cleansing the internal body. When you compare a pose from Ashtanga yoga to other forms of yoga such as basic Hatha or Iyengar, remember these forms of yoga work on the external body. Ashtanga performs the poses differently to effect the internal organs and to remove disease from the body. Many of us need to start on an external plane to prepare the body to go deeper in the poses to get the internal work. If we stay on the external plane we will not receive the internal detoxification of the organs

Do not mistake the method for the goal
The method of Ashtanga Yoga is sound. However, the goal or essence of any Yoga practice is elevation of consciousness. There are many methods to do this. The methods also bring about benefits (what I call the by-product of the method) such as; improved health, stress relief, flexibility strength, breath, and much more.
The magic is not in the pose, or in how you do the pose, or in whether or not you practice Ashtanga, Iyengar, or Sivananda. The magic is in you, in you day after day, week after week, returning to your practice. That is the magic.

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