Astanga yoga is a dynamic form of yoga which follows a set sequence of postures ‘asanas.’ Movement is combined with the breath generating heat and stilling the mind to bring focus, flexibility and stamina. There are great benefits to be achieved from this practice and with perseverance one can achieve changes both physically and emotionally. Physically the primary series realigns the muscular skeletal system working as a yoga therapy. Astanga develops strength and flexibility of the muscles and joints. The health and efficiency of internal organs will improve as we detoxify the system, increase lung capacity, regulate the hormones and strengthen the nervous system.
As students progress more deeply into the practice the body will become healthy toned and flexible. The practice requires focus, and in time the body learns to flow in a rhythm with the breath to a ‘moving meditation’ which stills the mind and improves our ability to concentrate. A quiet sense of achievement and confidence is attained on the mat which can filter into our everyday lives.
There are six series of astanga yoga. The primary series takes on average seven years to master. Everyone’s bodies are different; we all work with different strengths and weaknesses. Yoga is a personal journey and a lifetime practice. We must enjoy each and every practice and do so with consideration of tomorrows practice. There are forty postures ‘asanas’ in the primary series which are linked together with the vinyasa to create the flow. Vinyasa is what distinguishes astanga from other forms of yoga. It is a unique system of breath and movement to form a continuous flow. Each posture has to be followed in order as it prepares us for what is to come. Movement through the sequence of asanas generates a heat which is maintained through the vinyasa.
The practice is divided into four sections:
1. Beginning with sun salutations Surya Namuskara A and Surya Namuskara B. Here we warm up the body, stretch and strengthen the arms and legs, hands, feet, wrists and ankles. The spine and hips, chest shoulders and quadriceps are all prepared for the practice.
2. The standing sequence develops awareness alignment and balance. The internal organs are stimulated and the work of the practice begins.
3. The seated sequence begins the ‘primary series’. The internal organs are purified and cleansed and the muscular skeletal system is toned and realigned.
4. The finishing sequence includes backbends and inverted postures which revitalize the system, reactivate a sluggish circulation and help concentration and sleep. The whole sequence ends with Savasana where we lay still on the mat allowing the body and breath to settle after the intense work of the practice. It is important to give the body time to heal and the mind the time to process what has been learned with each practice.
Astanga vinyasa yoga was learned from the great teacher Tirumalia Krishnamacharya. Patthabi Jois began his study in the 1930’s with Krishnamacharya at the age of 12. He founded the Astanga Yoga Resarch Institute in Mysore, India and continued to teach into his 90’s until his death in 2009. We are grateful for his teaching and for the gift of astanga yoga.
“Yoga is not for the flexible, its for the willing.”
The word Astanga translates as ‘eight limbs’ which are a basis of many forms of yoga, an ancient art practiced for over five thousand years. The eight limbs are derived from the yoga sutras which describe how yoga can overcome the afflictions of the mind to attain a state of detachment and ultimate enlightenment. The ultimate purpose of yoga is to have the ability to sit in ’lotus’ with a still mind. Samadhi is complete spiritual absorption, self realisation
we offer two methods towards learning the astanga practice:
1. A guided class. in a guided class you receive guidance and instruction throughout the class. You are supported throughout with gentle adjustments and a watchful eye to ensure correct alignment, improved posture, greater flexibility, focus and strength.
2. A Mysore ‘self practise’ class. We recommend a course of guided classes first to familiarise yourself with at least the standing sequence. A Mysore class gives you the opportunity to work at your own pace and receive one to one assistance from the teacher. This practice allows you to progress at your own pace liberating you from the need for constant instruction and guidance. This shift quietens the mind and allows deeper more profound changes to arise as you tune into your own needs offering a refuge of quiet introspection.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. Bhagvad Gita
In a guided astanga class you will be led through the structure of the primary series astanga practice.
A guided class is the perfect place to begin, learn and maintain your practice. We share the energy of everyone moving and breathing together with constant instruction, support and adjustment from the teacher.
We follow the traditional vinyasa method, which teaches us how to move through the sequence inhaling and exhaling in and out of postures and remaining within the ‘state of the asana’ for the correct count. This traditional method using Sankrit to count and name the postures connects us with yogis around the world who practice in the same way.
A guided class will offer you the motivation and instil the discipline required for a regular astanga practice. These classes are suitable for beginners and experienced yogis and Sarah will support your practice appropriately.
Once you have learned and established your practice you may want to move onto a more independent method of practice with a self practice ‘Mysore’ class.
‘Mixing Mysore classes with led classes can be good to keep the practice fresh. Some people prefer being told what to do and when to do it. For these people, obviously, a guided class is good. Others prefer to work independently and figure things out on their own. For them, a Mysore class is good. But perhaps another perspective is that some independent spirits may benefit from the discipline of a guided class and some more dependent spirits could benefit from the independence that the Mysore format provides. The most important thing, of course, is to practice.’ Tim Miller
Mysore (astanga self-practise) Classes
Saturday 9-11.15am (extended when busy)
Wednesday 9.15-11.15 am and 7.30-9.30pm
Thursday 9.15-11.15 ‘Moving into’ Mysore
The traditional way of practicing astanga is ‘Mysore style’ the self-practice method. The term Mysore comes from the Indian city of Mysore where the practise of astanga began and continues at K.Pattabhi Jois The astanga Yoga institute.
Mysore (self practice) is the best method to really feel a difference in your practice as we move with the breath in a moving meditation. We practise in a quiet room filled only with the sound of ujahi breath.
Some knowledge of the practice will be beneficial before you start but you don’t need to know the full sequence as we are here to assist you as you learn. Individual instruction and adjustments are given as and when needed to suit the student rather than the class as a whole making it feel more like a 1-1 class but with the support of the group energy of others in the room. A beginner will naturally be given more instruction than an advanced practitioner but both practise in the same class. Mysore Style classes are a great way to start your practise as there is no need to “keep up” with the other students in the class. Typically a beginner will practise for a shorter time 1/2-1hr to begin with and build the time as they learn the full sequence.
My aim is to guide, correct and encourage as needed and work with each student individually to enable them to get the most from their practise.
The class is open for two hours so as long as you are finished by about 1.15am you can start at any time. We often have a second class which starts at 10.30 and students filter in and out in their own time.
Advantages of a Mysore class:
1.Personal attention: Like a private class within a group, each student receives personal attention and guidance from the teacher. There is space and time for the teacher to observe students in their practice and give adjustments when needed. This personalized assistance is tailored to the students’ individual needs, which happens less frequently in led classes where generalized instructions are given.
2. Increased concentration and focus: This is a much more personal and internal way of practicing yoga. When confronted with our own practice, we have to face distractions, discomfort and the wandering mind. The physical practice aims to bring us back to that focused state, rather than passively listening to a teacher or watching others. This is a more meditative aspect of yoga.
3. Move at your own rhythm and pace: Spend more time on postures that are challenging and place a greater emphasis on making the practice your own. Besides, everyone in a Mysore style class is going at a different pace and practicing different asanas, so perhaps there can be less comparing and competing.
4. Group dynamic: There is something special about practicing in a room full of people. This may be hard to describe in an objective manner, but there is a sense of ‘energy’ in a Mysore style self practice room. A space where one simply hears the sound of breath, the movement of bodies and senses the body heat. This magical ‘energy’ often carries you on through the practice.
5. Portable: It can be practiced anywhere, anytime, by anyone. You don’t need props, belts, walls or even a mat. As long as there is space to extend your arms up and your legs back, then you can practice. This can be a reminder that yoga is not bound by material ‘stuff’. You don’t depend on anything apart from yourself – a breathing body, that’s all.
6. Deepen your understanding of the practice as it is. Feel the breath, bandhas and drishti – pay attention and cultivate awareness. There is also more potential to come into a meaningful relationship with the teacher or guru.
7. Stay in control: It allows practitioners to further refine their own practice. This is refinement in a self reliant way.
8. Watch yourself, not your neighbors, teacher, feet / toenails / pedicure. Observe your thought patterns, habits and just be a witness. A self-practice environment enables one to hear and feel body (and mental) sensations more clearly.
9. Inspiration: Although you don’t want that drishti to wander around the room, or a competitive streak to kick in, seeing other practitioners on the mat can be a source of inspiration and joy.
10. Explore… the possibilities, the layers, the depths of the practice. Be playful, but not too much, it’s Ashtanga after all…
Words: Inna Cos
In the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga, each class begins and ends with a short mantra.
The mantra, chanted at the beginning of the class, is an invocation of the sage Patanjali (the author of the Yoga Sutras) and also gives thanks to the continuous line of teachers who have come before us (from Patanjali in the 2nd century B.C. to the present day). The closing mantra brings practice to a peaceful end; sealing in the work done and offering the efforts of our practice to improve the state of the world.
Practice Mantra (opening chant)
Vande Gurunam charanaravinde
Samsara halahala mohashantyai
sahasra sirasam svetam
I pray to the feet of the supreme guru
Who teaches knowledge, awakening the great happiness of the Self revealed
Who acts like the jungle physician
Able to remove the delusion from the poison of conditioned existence
To patanjali, an incarnate of Adisesa, white in colour with a
thousand radiant heads (in his form as the divine serpent,
Ananta), human in form below the shoulders, holding the
sword of discrimination, a wheel of fire representing infinite
time, and the conch representing divine sound to him,
Svasthi Praja Bhyaha Pari Pala Yantam
Nya Yena Margena Mahim Mahishaha
Go Brahmanebhyaha Shubamastu Nityam
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi
May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue
For protecting the welfare of all generations.
May the religious, and all peoples be forever blessed,
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Om peace, peace, perfect peace