Ashtanga Workshop: Primary Series Practice w/ Elliot

ashtanga workshop w/ Elliot cover

Ashtanga Workshop:
Practice the Primary Series w/Elliot

This Ashtanga Workshop for intermediate yogis is designed to help you transform your yoga practice into a more personal and healing ritual.

Practice the Ashtanga Primary series with Elliot on the first Saturday of each month at EAST WIND YOGA starting February 3rd! Sign up below…

Ashtanga Workshop designed For INTERMEDIATE to ADVANCED practitioners

This series will include additional workshops to cover various aspects of the postures and sequences that work up to the primary series, which is relatively advanced. These will accompany the primary series workshop as sister series. This is an opportunity for both practiced ashtangi and those that are brand new to the series to learn from the practice. Yogi’s should know sun salutation A and B or have practiced yoga for more than 1 year, with some regularity.

Space is Limited to 16 Spots. Reserve yours today by contacting Elliot @ [email protected]

Ashtanga Workshop Schedule:

  • 1:00-1:10 Minute Discussion, materials will have been previously provided via email
  • 1:11-1:15 Chant the Opening Mantra
  • 1:15-2:50 Practice the primary series with various modifications
  • 2:50-3:00 Questions, spare time for fall-backs, handstands, etc..
  • 3:00 Closing Mantra

The History of the Primary Series

Pattabhi Jois began teaching the primary series in 1948 in Mysore, India where I traveled in January 2015. The Jois Shala is now much larger than Pattabhi Jois’ first class capacity of 8 students. Pattabhi Jois is one of a short list of Indians who were instrumental in transmitting yoga from India to the West in the 20th century.[6]

The Roots of Yoga

Dive into the series that began the spread of yoga into the West and formed the foundation for modern-day vinyasa yoga. Move beyond the superficial western approach to yoga and into a deeper, vast ocean of personal space, discipline, honor, and care-taking of the incredible gift that is the human body.

Here are the videos I use for practicing the series:

Primary Series Video from 1989

Intermediate Series Video from 1989

Primary Series as Practiced by R. Sharath Jois

Yoga-Poses-Ashtanga-Primary

Ashtanga Primary Series Workshop Posture List:

  1. Standing Back Bend
  2. Forward Fold
  3. Half Lift
  4. Plank
  5. Chaturanga
  6. Cobra Pose
  7. Upward Dog
  8. Downward Dog
  9. Jump Through
  10. Mountains Pose
  11. Chair Pose
  12. Warrior 1
  13. Gorilla Pose
  14. Pangangustasana
  15. padahastasana
  16. Triangle Pose
  17. Revolved Triangle Pose
  18. Side-Angle Pose
  19. Revolved Side-Angle Pose
  20. Prasaraita A
  21. Prasaraita B
  22. Prasaraita C
  23. Prasaraita D
  24. Pyramid Pose
  25. Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana
  26. Arda Baddha Padmasana (w/ modifications)
  27. Utkatasana (extended hold)
  28. Virabhadrasana A (extended hold)
  29. Virabhadrasana B (extended hold)
  30. Arda Badha Padma Paschamotanasa (w/ modifications)
  31. triang mukha eka pada paschimatasana
  32. Janu Sirsasana A
  33. Janu Sirsasana B (w/ modifications)
  34. Janu Sirsasana C (w/ modifications)
  35. Marichyasana A (w/ modifications)
  36. Marichyasana B (w/ modifications)
  37. Marichyasana C (w/ modifications)
  38. Marichyasana D (w/ modifications)
  39. Navasana
  40. Bhujapidasana
  41. Upavistha Konasana  (w/ modifications)
  42. Supta konasana  (w/ modifications)
  43. Supta padangusthasana
  44. Ubhaya padanghustasana  (w/ modifications)
  45. Urdhva mukha paschimotanasana  (w/ modifications)
  46. Setu Bandhasana
  47. Salamba Sarvangasana
  48. Halasana
  49. Karnapidasana
  50. Urdhva Padmasana
  51. Pindasana
  52. Mathsyasana
  53. Uttana padasana
  54. Sirshasana
  55. Baddha Padmasana
  56. Yogi Mudra
  57. Padmasana
  58. Upplutihi

Opening Mantra:

OM
Vande Gurunam Caranaravinde Sandarsita Svatma Sukhava Bodhe Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane Samsara Halahala Mohasantyai Abahu Purusakaram Sankhacakrasi Dharinam
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam Pranamami Patanjalim
OM

Opening Mantra Meaning:

om

I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).

I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).

om

Closing Mantra:

Om

Svasthi Praja Bhyaha Pari Pala Yantam
Nya Yena Margena Mahim Mahishaha
Go Brahmanebhyaha Shubamastu Nityam
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi

Closing Mantra Meaning:

Om

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

If you want to practice the mantras, this is a great site

SIGN-UP For the Ashtanga Workshop

2/3 Auburn Sign-Up Form

[contact-form to=”[email protected]” subject=”Sign-up for 2/3 Workshop in Auburn”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″][/contact-form]

 

You will receive a confirmation email when your name has been added to the participant list. Thanks!

Krishna Pattabhi Jois

k pattabhi jois

Krishna Pattabhi Jois is the founder of the Ashtanga style of yoga and one of the most influential yoga teachers to have brought yoga to the west through the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. I studied there in January 2015.

Jois was born on a full moon in 1915 in Kowshika in southern India. His father was a member of the Brahmin caste and Jois was taught rituals and Sanskrit from the age of 5. When he was 12 he attended a demonstration from Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and became his student the following day. Jois never told his family that he was practicing yoga, but would wake up early, practice, then go to school.

When Jois was 15 he ran away from home to head to Mysore to study Sanskrit. 2 years later, he was reunited with Krishnamacharya in Mysore when the older teacher came to heal the Maharaja of a sickness that no one else could cure. He would accompany Krishnamacharya in demonstrations at the established palace shala and continued to teach the yoga sequence that he learned from Krishnamacharya, the Ashtanga yoga method and continued to study under Krishnamacharya until 1953. He also claimed to be BKS Iyengar’s guru, which Iyengar refuted.

Jois married at 18 and in 1948 moved to Lakshmipuram (a beautiful suburb of Mysore) where they had three children: Saraswathi (who I studied with in Mysore), Manju, and Ramesh. Jois was a professor at the Sanskrit college, but eventually left to teach yoga full-time. In 1964, a Belgian named André Van Lysebeth wrote a text called “j’apprends le Yoga” (I taught myself yoga) and this is what started the spread of yoga to the West. Students from all over the world would come to study with Jois including Richard Freeman, Chuck Miller, David Life, Larry Schutlz, Bryan Kest, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even Sting. Many of these people would bring yoga into the west in their own forms of the Ashtanga yoga practice.

Eventually Jois moved from his 8 person shala in Lakshmipuram to a larger shala in Gokulam, which is where I studied with Saraswathi Jois. He wrote several books and died of natural causes on May 9th, 2009 at age 93.

Jois will forever have a footprint on the world of yoga; indeed many practitioners continue to study with his grandson Sharath Jois and daughter Saraswathi at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Gokulam.

Many have claimed that Jois was inappropriate with his adjustments, but this could have been a result of major cultural differences between the cultural standards of the US and Jois’ traditional upbringing. However, it is confirmed that Jois injured several students with his adjustments, including one woman who he broke both meniscus’.

The Ashtanga method is well known for its high rate of injury, most likely due to its optimization around the Indian body type, from which there are quite large deviations, especially in the west. One survey put the rate of injury rate at 62% for Ashtanga practitioners, however, Bikram Yoga and Iyengar Yoga have both had serious backlash from the media for causing injury. Iyengar’s students also incurred injuries such as one student who wrote a letter to William J Broad for his book, The Science of Yoga: “One of the saddest and most thoughtful letters came from an elderly man who studied with Iyengar in India for 16 years. His list of personal injuries included torn ligaments, damaged vertebrae, slipped disks, deformed knees and ruptured blood vessels in his brain.” Bikram, in particular, has been known to cause large amounts of injury and the founder himself has two rape charges against him. It is undoubtable that the competitive spirit of yoga in the west contributes to this high rate of injury and lack of respect for the body’s limitations.

Pattabhi Jois helped to spread yoga to the west as one of the pioneers of the exercise. His memory will be forever remembered by the tradition he began and the students whose lives he changed with his spiritual practice of the Ashtanga method and philosophical Hindu and Sanskrit doctrines accompanying the physical yoga that he taught.

 

Adjusting Ashtanga

Ashtanga_Advanced_Series

I am a huge fan of the Ashtanga practice. The intensity, the discipline, the mindlessness, and the routine of the sequential practice makes it like a second home for me. I always know that there are mornings where I can wake up and work without thinking, push myself without thinking of how, breathing without having to plan for a destination. But there are some problems with practicing the Ashtanga practice exclusively.

The Ashtanga series were a prescription for Krishnamacharya’s Indian students, namely his most famous student Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya made them specifically for 15-year-old Indian men that were training for hours each day and that didn’t have previous injuries, or probably a lot of other sports and exercise experience.

This means that Krishnamacharya had a specific purpose in creating this sequences for young and fit Indian men and that the sequence is optimized for the Indian skeleton and definitely not for the other types of human skeletons. This becomes especially apparent when westerners begin trying lotus pose, Kukkutasana, and the Marichyasanas.

So there comes a point when one starts to realize that certain poses simply aren’t good for their body. This is half-bound lotus pose for me. The reason is that my knees are simply not strong enough to stretch my hips as deeply as the stretch requires, even though my hips are very open and I have good alignment. At a certain point, we have to realize that the body is mechanical; it has very real limitations that you will sooner or later be coming into increased contact with.

In my first two weeks, I was injured in the Ashtanga sequence. Marichyasana B, I can remember the stress of feeling injured like it was yesterday, my lateral collateral ligament snapped and I heard a very audible pop while I was in the full pose with the bind. I quickly got out of the pose and finished my sequence, then went home to look up some rehab exercises for my knee. It took a couple of days of exercises and taking it easy to let my knee heal. Not a fun few days while I was healing.

I continued my full practice for the rest of the time in India, making adjustments and skipping poses when it felt right. I did some extra work to make sure my knee was stable and working properly and avoided walking too much to make sure that the joint was getting less stress. Slowly full lotus opened up for me while I was rehabilitating my knee, though there is still quite a bit of space left to create in my hips. The injury forced me to be more conscious of what I was doing, to not accept things as they were explained, in black and white.

What is the point of that story? Every body is unique, so how can one series work for everyone’s skeleton? It can’t.

I think that there are parts of the Ashtanga sequence that are almost perfect in their ideal succession, mainly the standing series of the primary series. There is something especially cleansing about doing the poses in that order, and the inversions at the end are simply magical.

Sunday, I taught my first class back in the states. It was great, it was easy to forget how much I love teaching yoga until I was in the room again with all the wheels turning. It was a hybrid style so we warmed up slowly, with a bit of flow including some low lunges complete with back-bends, and even an extended child’s pose. Then we moved into standing postures and the full Sun Salutation B sequence, holding warrior 1 for less and less time and getting into the full back-bend in upward dog. Then we moved into the entirety of the Ashtanga practice. Instead of doing floor stretches, we did a bunch of ab work and then moved into some final yin-type stretches. I loved teaching the sequence and it felt right for the class; music was slow and complimentary more than anything else.

So if you come to my classes, except a little flair of Ashtanga. It’s evolving into something pretty cool and I think that someday soon I might help to develop a new series based on the Primary Series. It’s all an evolution 🙂

Day 48 of Ashtanga Practice (Last Day)

Mysore_electricity

My last day of practicing yoga with Saraswathi Jois was on Tuesday, but I am very happy to continue moving. I am very happy with how the trip and Saraswathi have added to my practice, though it definitely evolved much differently than I expected.

Ashtanga can be grueling at time. I think this is one of the reasons that it is so liberating; challenge makes us feel comfortable where we might not have before. I missed one morning practice because I was late (I drank beer…) and practiced myself in my room. This was one of the times when I really started to realize that I am ready to teach and am not just a student anymore. Even my arrival in Saraswathi’s class was a bit weird because my practice is very unique.

A few poses have developed significantly since I arrived; I now have a full lotus pose (always working deeper into my hips with careful attention to my overused knees), the Maricyasanas, Supta Kurmasana and I can jump through with crossed legs now. In some ways, I am very happy to progress, but at the same time I realize how unimportant my physical progress is. After all, my body will one day die and decay and no longer exist. At the same time, its fun to move through new poses, deeper variations, and I will tell you that Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana have made permanent changes to the way that I practice.

In modern yoga, there is too much emphasis placed on the sequencing of postures rather than focusing on cueing people deeper into postures. Even Ashtanga yoga can be too focused on the sequences (getting it done, rather than enjoying it) instead of the feeling of the breath moving through your body. This, in my opinion, is why yoga was invented; to increase your sensitivity to the life-force energy of breath so that you can better regulate the fluctuations of your mind. The first time I went into Supta Kurmasana, I felt like I had just placed in a prison cell full of water with barely any air to breath. It was a dark, lonely, and crushing place; if you have ever seen someone do the stretch, you can probably imagine why, but I think this first one was particularly crushing, therefore liberating for me. I won’t forget what I gleaned from those eight breaths or so in the posture; it all passes, it all changes, no matter how shitty it might be. It will change. No matter how good it can be, it will change. Just be cool and go with the flow.

I am now in Kathmandu and am so happy to have experienced India in the way that I did. Saraswathi was amazingly accommodating, very genial, and a little flexible to my unique yoga practice. I will miss practicing with her and in the shala with all of the other incredible Ashtanga yogis that wake up at the break of dawn to feel their breath coming and going.

I am thinner, lighter, and happier than when I came. Things are good, even though I was sick for a little while with food poisoning. I guess we can call the trip a success! I am very excited to come back and continue teaching and looking forward to teaching when I get back.

Ashtanga Yoga and Yoga’s Modern Lineage

ashtanga yoga creator Krishnamacharya
What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga yoga sequences are a tradition expounded by Pattabhi Jois and is currently taught by teachers in different forms across the world. It is most likely that these sequences were originally created by Krishnamacharya for Pattabhi Jois, using knowledge he obtained from his guru, Brahmachari for short, who lived in a cave with his family in isolation. Krishnamacharya created the sequence for Pattabhi Jois who claimed that the yoga koruntha (which explained the yoga system) was written on a palm leaf that was eaten by ants. This tradition was passed orally from Krishnamacharya to Jois and Iyengar, and Jois used it to create the Ashtanga system. The existence of the document is questioned and although Jois claims to be Iyengar’s appointed guru, Iyengar claims no such relationship. The modern lineage of yoga is an incredibly interesting a complex series of relationships and history.

 Here is the known lineage of the originators of Ashtanga Yoga:

Students of Pattabhi Jois include Bryan Kest, Iyengar, Larry Schultz, Richard Freeman, and Chuck Miller. BKS Iyengar was a student, but they were in disagreement whether Pattabhi was his appointed guru. Both were called Guruji.

The Ashtanga yoga lineage has expounded yoga into the west, but its traditional original can be questioned. Many of the exercises seem extremely gymnastic to be so ancient and many people discuss where the influence of the postures and sequence really come from. However, one thing is certain; Surya namaskar

krishnamacharyas yoga school in Mysore
Ashtanga Yoga School of Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India

is an incredible movement pattern that is excellent for your body’s health if properly aligned. There are also transitions in the ashtanga series that create incredible concentration and focus, but it is certainly true that no series is perfect for every skeleton. Ashtanga yoga, while exemplary, is no exception to that rule.

Balancing the intense yang posture of Ashtanga with Yin postures that counterbalance the spinal twists and shoulder openers of the primary series is completely necessary to progress properly in the primary series. This requires responsibility over your own body. The combination is powerful and relatively unexplored, but there is no reason to spent only 5 breaths in each pose and to continue to practice the exact same way, without variation.  I think that the pattern of 5 breaths for many movements is great, but some poses can be held for much longer and indeed have expanded benefits from being held.

Yoga is not a religion. There are no rules. Attempts at trying to organize it are a joke. It is a system for learning about the self and the limitations and delusions of consciousness. Rules in regard to yoga are silly, because at its best it needs to be completely personalized. Therefore its leaders are simply the people with the most experience in the field through their own practice and assisting the practices of others. This is why it takes so long to become a true guru.

ashtanga yoga designer Krishnamacharya
ashtanga yoga designer Krishnamacharya

I think it is important to realize that yoga has been passed father to son in many generations before a system like Krishnamacharyas was expounded and spread to the West. He even spent many years in poverty teaching before befriending the Maharaja and gaining the raja’s patronage for his yoga shala. It’s popularity was in decline up until this point, but Krishnamacharya would make demonstrations on his days off work, and would eventually travel with his students to demonstrate asana, then send students to become teachers in other cities. Jois and Iyengar were two of these students and both learned different lessons from Krishnamacharya because they studied with him at different times in his life.

To think you have to practice with a certain guru is silly. To think you “have” to practice Ashtanga is silly. The energy of India is great, but the primary series is the same no matter where you do it. Ashtanga yoga should absolutely be supplemented with other activities. The tradition of Pattabhi Jois is continued by his daughter, Saraswathi Jois and his grandson, Sharath Jois, both studied under his guideance in the same sequence as all other practitioners. Both

Ashtanga Yoga Propogators K. Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath Jois
Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois

are currently teaching in Gokulam, Mysore (links to when I went). It is interesting to know where styles of yoga come from, so you may want to continue by reading Krishnamacharya’s, Pattabhi Jois’, and Iyengar’s books about yoga. Iyegnar’s book is particularly interesting, though Krishnamacharya are much more detailed in interesting ways and somewhat cryptic and mysterious. Krishnamacharya’s guru, Ramamohana Brahmachari and Krishnamacharya are the only ones that we can credit with the creation of modern yoga, though it many poses from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika are much older, such as shoulder stand/sarvangasana, headstand/sirsasana, sun salutations, spinal twists, and lotus poses  They all make for very fun and interesting reads, I’m sure. Many are available online, I’ve found a bunch by searching in Wikipedia.

Modern Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Shala –

The K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Research Institute in Mysore, India http://kpjayi.org/

 

Personal Practice of the Ashtanga Primary Series

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I practice Ashtanga by myself sometimes. It can be liberating in ways that a studio can’t fulfill. Every time I complete the primary series, I feel so empowered and at peace. I learned the primary series from an instructor in Boston that I forget, but ever since then have felt like I have permission to practice it by myself. Here is what I practice:

Start with the chant to Patanjali:

vande gurunam caranaravinde sandarsitasvatma sukhava bodhe nih sreyase jangalikayamane samsara halahala mohasantyai abahu purusakaram sankhacakrasi dharinam sahasra sirasam svetam pranamami patanjalim

Then begin sun salutation A, completing 5 times with 3-5 resting breathes in Adho Mukha Svanasana each time

Samastitihi > raise hands to sun > Uttanasana > Arda-Uttanasana > jumpt to Chataranga > Urdhva Mukha Svanasana > Adho Mukha Svanasana > jump to Uttanasana > Arda-Uttanasana > raise hands to the sun > Samastitihi

Begin Sun Salutation B for 5 reps, this time taking 5 breathes in Adho Mukha Svanasana

Samastitihi > Utkatasana > Uttanasana > Arda-Uttanasana > jump to Chataranga > Urdhva Mukha Svanasana > Adho Mukha Svanasana > Virabhadrasana A (right) > Chataranga > Urdhva Mukha Svanasana > Adho Mukha Svanasana > Virabhadrasana A (left) > Chataranga > Urdhva Muhka Svanasana > Adho Mukha Svanasana > Arda-Uttanasana > Uttanasana > Utkatasana > Samastitihi

Then we begin the standing postures, doing salutations into mountain pose between each posture

Padagustasana (ragdoll) > Pada Hastasana (palms under feet) > Uttitha-Trikonasana (both sides) > Parivrtta-Uttitha-Trikonasana (both sides) > Uttitha-Parsvokonasana (both sides) > Parivrtta-Uttitha-Trikonasana (both sides) > Prasaritta-Padottanasana > Prasaritta Padottanasana B (hands to hips) > Prasaritta-Padottanasana C (hands in fist behind back) > Prasaritta-Padottanasana D (pointer and middle finger to big toe) > Parsvottanasana (both sides) > Uttitha-Hasta-Padagustasana A, B, C (hand to foot in front, rotate to side, remove hand and extend leg forward) (both sides) > Arda Baddha Padmottanasana (both sides) > Utkatasana > Virabhadrasana A (both sides) > Virabhadrasana B (both sides)

After Warrior 2, then we move into seated postures, continuing sun salutation A between each posture

Dandasana > Paschimottanasana A, B (fingers to big toes, bound hands outside feet) > Purvattanasana > Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (half bound lotus with hand outside of foot) > Triang Mukhaekapada Paschimottanasana (resting foot behind, hands bound outside feet) > Janu Sirsanana A, B, C (foot inside thigh, foot under thigh, foot facing down below thigh) > Marichyasana A, B, C, D (hands bound behind bent knee, stretched foot into thigh, rebind outside in, bend knee into bound grip) > Navasana > Bujapidasana > Kurmasana > Supta Kurmasana > Garbha Pindasana > Kukkutasana > Baddha Konasana A, B > Upavista Konasana A, B > Supta Konasana > Supta Padagustasana A, Supta Padagustasana > Ubhaya Padagusthasana > Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana > Setu Bandhasana > Urdhva Danurasana

By now you should be ready to cool down, this is an enormous amount of postures and the full sequence can take over 2 hours. Finish with:

Salamba Sarvangasana > Halasana > Karnapidasana > Urdhva Padmasana > Pindasana > Mathsyasana > Uttana Padasana > Sirsanana A > Sirsanana B > Yoga Mudra (double bound lotus) > Padmasana > Utpluthih > Savasana

Now you can take a closing chant, which tend to be very powerful:

svasti prajabhyah paripalayantam nyayena margena mahim mahisah go brahmanebhyah subhamastu nityam lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

And the practice is concluded.

Adorned Krishna at Patanjali Temple-Bellur India
Adorned Krishna at Patanjali Temple-Bellur India (Photo credit: Keith “Captain Photo” Cuddeback)