March 17, 2011

What Are the Origins of Ashtanga Yoga? ~ Marcus “Yogaman” Taylor

Photo: Barry Silver

A Look Inside the Dynamics and History of Ashtanga.

Yoga, in its broadest form, is the ancient Eastern practice of meditation. It is centred around the achievement of spiritual and mental concentration, often manifested in the perfection of physical concentration. It is in this latter manifestation that the popular Western conception of yoga is mainly found. Mastery over the movements and flexibilities of the body through these techniques is widely held to be a deeply enriching and relaxing activity, in addition to providing a gateway to the optimally supple body. Ashtanga, Bikram, Viniyoga and Iyengar Yoga focus more on these physical aspects, whereas Raja, Bhakti and Mantra Yoga concentrate on spiritual and meditative practices.

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga Yoga is also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The literal meaning of the word Ashtanga is “Eight Limbs.” This does not refer to any particular pose, but rather to eight essential practices —yama, moral restraints; niyama, observances; asana, posture; pranayama, breath extension; pratyahara, sensory withdrawal; dharana, concentration; dhyana, meditation; and samadhi, meditative absorption. The word Vinyasa is used to refer to the practice of aligning movement and breath. This practice allows static yoga postures to be turned into flowing, dynamic movements where the amount of time inhaling and exhaling determines how long is spent on the transition from posture to posture. Vinyasa may also refer to the movements made while transitioning from one specific pose to another. The Ujjayi breathing style of Ashtanga Yoga comprises a relaxed diaphragmatic breath, the steady cycle of which allows a mental focal point. Practices are composed of four main parts — an opening sequence, a predefined series of poses, a back-bending series, a finishing sequence and a resting pose, known as a savasana.

What are its origins?

The origins of yoga itself have been traced back to India as it was over five thousand years ago, in what is known as the Vedic period. Ashtanga Yoga was made popular by Pattabhi Jois, an Indian Brahmin who began his yoga studies with Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in 1927, at the age of 12. The practice is said to have its roots in the Yoga Korunta, which was compiled by Patanjali at some point between 200 BC and 250 CE. Legend has it that this ancient text was given to Krishnamacharya by Gurua Rama Mohan Brahmachari. There is some evidence to show that Ashtanga Yoga incorporated gymnastic and wrestling exercises from the early 20th century.

Marcus “Yogaman” Taylor is a yogi from London, UK. He works with Sardinia Yoga to provide beach front yoga retreats on the beautiful Costa Smerelda in Sardinia, Italy. In addition to yoga, he is fascinated by life coaching, self development, and learning about the music industry. Find Marcus at Sardinia Yoga, or on Twitter @SardiniaYoga

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