Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga: Shri Pattabhi Jois

Yoga means "joined together." The word comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word yug, which means "to unify." Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices all aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit and achieving a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe. Yoga is not a religion but a spiritual practice or sadhana, which does not require any specific belief system to participate. The philosophies of yoga are universal and can be incorporated within any belief system.

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of Yoga recorded by the sage Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta, an ancient manuscript "said to contain lists of many different groupings of asanas, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras, and philosophy" (Jois 2002 xv). The text of the Yoga Korunta "was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900`s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927" ("Ashtanga Yoga"). Since 1948, Pattabhi Jois has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga from his yoga shala, the Ashtanga Yoga Reasearch Institute(Jois 2002 xvi), according to the sacred tradition of Guru Parampara [disciplic succession] (Jois 2003 12).

Ashtanga Yoga literally means "eight-limbed yoga," as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:

Yama [moral codes]
Niyama [self-purification and study]
Asana [posture]
Pranayama [breath control]
Pratyahara [sense control]
Dharana [concentration]
Dhyana [meditation]
Samadhi [contemplation] (Scott 14-17)

As Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards perfection, Yogic physical exercises are designed to develop not only the body. They also broaden the mental faculties and the spiritual capacities. The Yogic physical exercises are called Asanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the Yoga Asana(or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility. The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. The spinal column houses the all-important nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. By maintaining the spine`s flexibility and strength through exercise, circulation is increased and the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen.

Yoga is the study of the self, spiritual scriptures and the divine, seeing through the illusions of life into the reality of oneness and deepen your practice and spiritual connection. By making each posture a prayer, each breath a celebration of life, we invoke the power of yoga and bring the energy of the divine into our practice. Through the exploration and awareness of the body and breath, through a constant self-exploration in the postures, we use yoga to study our bodies, minds and spirit.

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