Monday, June 05, 2006

What is Ashtanga?

Of all of the descriptions and definitions of "Ashtanga Yoga" that I have ever seen, this is, to me, the clearest and most illuminating:

"Ashtanga Yoga is the system of Yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. This method of Yoga involves synchronizing the breath with progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind." - from

When you put it that way, what's not to love?



Sergio said...

They should warn people about the huge amount of discipline it requires to follow the system and how physically demanding it is and how frustrating it can be at times. It's not happy and pink, you know.

yoga chickie said...

Well, it's implicit, right? If it makes you strong and light, then it must be physically demanding. And anything that involves synchronizing the breath must be frustrating, at least sometimes. No?

Sergio said...

I think it's obvious for us ashtangis but whenever people see the word yoga they think of crossing their legs and saying om. It's a common misconception.

yoga chickie said...

Ahhhh...I totally see your point. Nowhere in this statement does it say that it IS physically demanding. One who knows nothing of the practice might read it and think it's a lot of hooey - "oh, yeah, if I breathe the right way, I'll work up a sweat and lose weight and build muscle...sure..."

Sergio said...

That's it. Whenever I tell people I do yoga to stay fit (more precisely, that I'm fit because I do yoga) they ask "isn't yoga like, soft?". Ashtanga? Soft? Ha. But it's nevertheless rewarding - otherwise we wouldn't do it!

yoga chickie said...

Soft! Ha!!!

Ash said...

It sounds nice enough but it just perpetuates the widespread and mistaken notion that Asanas = Yoga.

Given the source (and the potential audience)it's careless and loose.

Actually, This is a decent enough definition of the 'System of Asanas taught at AYRI'. But it's hardly a definition of 'Ashtanga Yoga'.

As Mr. Iyengar has it 'All Yoga is Ashtanga Yoga'. Guruji himself would readily admit this.

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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