yoga history

Ashtanga Yoga with Elliot Workshop

I am honored to present you with my upcoming workshop series on Ashtanga Yoga. You can sign-up on the events page here.

Ashtanga Yoga with Elliot Poster
Ashtanga Yoga with Elliot Poster

You can also sign-up on Facebook, if you so desire. Drop-ins are welcome, but you will be missing out on additional information on the series and future events.

Practice the Primary Series by yourself, wherever you want.

The idea behind the workshop is to bring yoga home with you. The primary series could be thousands of years old, no one truly knows. But the grandfather of modern yoga Krishnamacharya expounded this method to BKS Iyengar and Patthabhi Jois in Mysore, India when they were teenagers. This method has evolved to become what we know today as Ashtanga yoga.

Youtube reference video of the Primary Series

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"Swami Vivekananda-1893-09-signed" by Original uploader was Dziewa at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekanada was born in 1863 into an aristocratic Bengali family and was heavily influenced by his guru Ramakrishna while he taught concepts and philosophies of Hinduism around the world. He was a charismatic and well-known man who traveled the world speaking on Hinduism and bringing its form of spirituality to the west. He was spiritual from childhood and continued to become one of the most influential Hindu speakers in India, but throughout his life he focused his mind on god. Throughout the beginning of the 19th century he toured India teaching Hinduism and intercultural awareness to his fellow Indians and later he would teach the concepts of Hinduism to the western world until he died in 1903 at 39.

Vivekananda was born Narendranath in Calcutta. His mother’s religious attitude and father’s rational attitude helped to form his thinking until he began his tutelage under after a lecture from William Hastie. Ramakrishna a mystic and yogi who pledged himself to Ma Kali, but experienced samadhi and followed a path towards the Hindu concept of Moksha in service to others, the philosophy which  Vivekanada also followed. However, Vivekanada did oppose Ramakrishna’s idol worship, polytheism, and obsession with Kali. After renouncing everything following his father’s death and the bankruptcy of his family his took up Ramakrishna as his guru in the pursuit of realizing god.

Ramakrishna died in 1886 and after his death Vivekanada founded a new monastery in the memory of his old guru. The disciples would spend hours in meditation and practicing rituals each day and eventually Vivekanada and eight other disciples swore religious vows to live as Ramakrishna had and Narendra changed his name to Swami Vivekanada. He continued to travel teaching as he went.

There is no doubt that Swami Vivekanada was an excellent public speaker. He is probably best known for this speech to the Parliament of World Religions where he called Americans brothers and sisters to a tremendous uproar of approval. He traveled through the western and eastern world and eventually claimed to be a new buddha to the west. He traveled around the world for fourteen years speaking on Hinduism, meditation, and founding monasteries and ashrams.

Swami Vivekanada’s health began to decline in 1899 when he developed insomnia, diabetes, and asthma. He died in 1902 after meditating for several hours that day and died while meditating, after the rupturing of a blood vessel in his brain. After his death, Vivekanada is recognized for revitalizing Hinduism inside and outside of India, in particular his doctrine that each living being is divine. He also stated that all paths within Hinduism lead to the same goal, but some view this as oversimplified.

Vivekanada was an excellent writer and produced songs, poems, lectures, and other forms of art. His influence allowed the printing of over 19 books, some published posthumously. He wrote on everything in Indian culture from defying the caste system to treating all other people as brothers. He was a powerful figure in modern Hinduism and Indian nationalism and helped to pave the way for yoga to later become a powerful influence in the West.

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"Patanjali Statue" by User:Alokprasad - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -


Patanjali was the author of the Yoga Sutras, one of the most influential yoga texts in the modern world. He is also believed to have a snake-human form during his teaching. He with his human form used to perform daily routines and then transformed to half human – half snake shape covered by a curtain so that the students weren’t able to see him while he would explore the mystical techniques of ancient wisdom.

Probably a group of people…

Despite what modernized and idealistic yoga blogs and sites will tell you, it was most likely a group of people who lived about 1600 years ago, but could be as old as 2500 years. I say that it was likely a group of people because of the amount of knowledge contained in the sutras and the way that people functioned in groups thousands of years ago. We like to attribute knowledge to one author, rather than recognizing the multitudes of authors, time periods, and influences that a piece of work contains. This is particularly true of the Christian bible.

Panini was likely involved in this group of people; he is considered a father of modern language and contributed significantly to Sanskrit and compound noun theory, as well as syntax and phonology.

Patanjali is the not father of modern yoga. That title can be given to Krishnamacharya. Patanjali was more of a founder; the group of people took works from their respective time period and before, then compiled them into digestible teachings that students and teachers could reference on their yoga journeys. He created a framework that Krishnamacharya would later use to create the modern poses, sequences, and specific techniques. Where Patanjali’s yoga begins is in the traditions that Krishnamacharya learned from his father and his father before him. Until yoga became modernized and everyone could start a daily practice of yoga.

As humans we love to idealize about the past and one figure completing this vast amount of infrastructural work for practitioners of yoga, but Patanjali is not a figure that we need to deify or put on a pedestal. There were likely multiple people with the name and likely multiple people who authored the yoga sutras. However, Patanjali’s work on the sutras is enough to keep us busy thinking about our own humanity instead of focusing on the origins of the text, because Patanjali did not seem to claim any credit for the contemporary authors of the yoga sutras.

The 196 sutras, or short teachings from the yoga sutras are fantastic in their comprehensive philosophical scope. They are also written in Sanskrit, which is a great administrative language and is very specifically used in philosophy. They were, however, lost to time in the 12th century until the 19th century when they were revived by modern Indian scholars. During the 19th and 20th century the texts rose in popularity and prominence over the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha, and other literature on Hatha yoga.

There are four parts to the yoga sutras:

  1. Samadhi Pada – describes oneness with the divine and Samadhi
  2. Sadhana Pada – describes practices and Ashtanga
  3. Vibhuti Pada – describes “supernatural” effects of yoga
  4. Kaivayla Pada – describes moksha, liberation, or enlightenment

Each of the four chapters is an invigorating review of conscious experience and systematic functionality of the human mind. The second chapter is probably the most concrete in terms of advice for actually practicing yoga, rather than philosophy and it is where the eight limbs of yoga or Ashtanga is explained.

Ashtanga is not only a system of acrobatic yoga propagated by Pattabhi Jois, but a philosophical system for achieving Samadhi and Moksha, also known as enlightenment. The eight limbs of yoga are described as scaffolding, or a framework for ascending into the heights of the yoga of knowledge, or Raja yoga, which BKS Iyengar described to be infinite. The eight limbs are as follows

  1. Yamas – ethics and restraints
  2. Niyamas – virtues
  3. Asanas – physical postures
  4. Pranayamas – breathing exercises
  5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
  6. Dharana – single pointed meditative focus
  7. Dhyana – meditative awareness of oneness
  8. Samadhi – unison and oneness with the divine in bliss

These are the scaffolding that Patanjali assembled to assist individuals in realizing their self. Many of these concepts cross-over into Buddhist ideals of meditation, as you may have already noticed. Once the self is realized, liberation and freedom from the cycles of death and rebirth is afforded to the practitioner.This modernization of Hinduism was very well received in the western world.

In reviewing the history of something as old and popular as yoga it is important to understand that we have only theories and hypotheses about what was happening 1500-2500 years ago. No one really knows the group who made up the author named Patanjali, how old they are, how they compiled their information, or what exact sources they used. Instead we can guess, which is more fun anyways.


  1. Wikipedia – Panini[1]
  2. Wikipedia – Morphology in Ancient India[2]

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"Tirumalai Krishnamacharya" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -


Krishnamacharya is one of the more interesting figures in the paradigm of modern yoga’s founders. He probably had the greatest effect on the types of yoga that we practice today in the west and he healed many people during the course of his life. He used Ayurveda in conjunction with yoga to restore health and well-being to the individuals he treated and he wrote four books on yoga. He might have invented vinyasa flow as we know it today.

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya lived for 100 years; was born in 1888 and died in 1989. During his lifetime he taught many of the world’s most renowned yoga teachers: BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, TKV Desikachar (his son), and A.G Mohan (worked alongside Desikachar).

Krishnamacharya had a traditional childhood; when he was six he underwent upanayaya when he learnt to write and read Sanskrit, chant the Vedas, and learnt asana and pranayama from his father. When he was 10, Krishnamacharya’s father died and his family moved to his grandfather’s house in Mysore. In Mysore Krishnamacharya attended more advanced schooling and began traveling around India when he was in Mysore.

When he was 18 he moved to Benares to study logic and sanskrit, but would visit Mysore again at 21 to study at the university of Mysore. He would continue to study and practice his yoga in Mysore and Benares until he walked 2 and a half months to the base of Mount Kailash in Tibet, where Brahmachari lived with his family. Krishnamacharya spent 7 & 1/2 years studying under his guru and took payment of teaching yoga, having a family, and maintaining a household.

Krishnamacharya returned to the world and traveled to Varnasi, where he did menial labor for a time until his knowledge was recognized and he was introduced to various nobility for his healing and yogic knowledge and skills. The Maharaja of Mysore took particular interest in Krishnamacharya and installed the yoga teacher in his palace in Mysore. Krishnamacharya would move on to perform lectures all over India, stimulating interest in yoga and eventually was able to start a yoga shala in Mysore.

While in Mysore, Krishnamacharya authored several books and taught yoga consistently, a guru to many of the world’s future gurus. Many scholars also place emphasis on some of  Krishnamacharya’s sources, saying that he used books referencing western gymnastics in many of his exercises. In 1946 India gained its independence, but this was bad news for Krishnamacharya; he was forced to travel to find students and to support his family. His yoga school eventually closed in 1960.

The remainder of Krishnamacharya’s life was spent in scholarship; he viewed himself as an eternal student. When he was 96 he fractured his hip, but refused surgery to treat himself while in bed. He lived and taught in Chennai until he died in 1989, at the ripe age of 100. Even though Krishnamacharya’s teachings radically changed the world he never left his homeland of India. He is one of the most influential figures in yoga; it is possible that he even invented modern yoga as it is known today; he was a learned scholar with degrees in philosophy, logic, divinity, philology, and music; and you might have heard of him. He is certainly one of the most influential individuals of the modern age.


  1. Shreehariyoga – Krishnamacharya
  2. Wikipedia – Krishnamacharya

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k pattabhi jois

Krishna 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.


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Lakshmi_goddess of wealth

Lakshmi | Lakṣmī | लक्ष्मी

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, love, fortune, and is considered the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife of Vishnu and carries his active energy. Her fours arms represent purusartha, or the four primary aims of human life: Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha and representations of her can be found in many Jain monuments as well. In Nepal and Southeast Asia, Vasudhara mirrors Lakshmi with some minor differences. She is Vishnu’s source of strength while maintaining the universe.

When Vishnu incarnated on Earth, Lakshmi took form as Sita (when Vishnu became Rama), Radha (Krishna’s lover), Rukmini, and Satyabama. In ancient Hindu scripture all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage between Lakshmi and Vishnu is the paradigm for Hindu religious wedding ceremonies. Their relationship forms the basis for partnership in Hinduism.

Archeologists suggest that Lakshmi’s worship may have originated around 100BC. Statues and iconography have been dated from the second half of the first millennium CE. In modern India, Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth and Diwali and Sharad Purnima are festival celebrations held in her honor.

Lakshmi is another great example of a deity that evolved in the ancient Hindu texts and was mentioned only once in the Rig Veda as a kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune. In the later Arthara Veda, she evolved into a deity with multiple incarnations and large amounts of plurality and is associated with good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success, happiness, and the good. Later, she is regarded as the incarnation of beauty, and the goddess of fortune and was associated with Vishnu. In later myths, she is associated with the creation of the universe, giving diverse gifts to many of the other gods (ie Indra gets force and Sarasvati receive nourishment). In the later epics, such as the Mahabharata, she personifies wealth, riches, beauty, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm, and splendor.

The word Lakshmi is derived from lakṣ (लक्ष्) and lakṣa (लक्ष) which mean to perceive, observe, know, understand and goal, aim, or objective. This together form knowing goals, or perceiving and understanding objectives.

Lakshmi is usually sitting or standing on a lotus flower and carries a couple in her hands which represent the ability to grow beautifully from dirty or filth in circumstances. She is also seen with elephants (symbolizes work, activity, strength, rain, fertility, and abundance) and an owl (symbolizes striving to observe and discover when surrounded by darkness, that also becomes blind in daylight, a reminder to refrain from greed and ignorance after knowledge and wealth is acquired).

Lakshmi also has a multitude of other names: Padma, Kamala, Padmapriya, Padmamaladhara devi, Padmamukti, Padmakshi, Padmahasta, Padmasundari, Vishnupriya, Ulkavahini, Ambika, Manushri, Mohini, Chakrika, Kamalika, Aishwarya, Lalima, Indira, Kalyani, Nandika, Nandini, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Samruddhi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, alaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya, Maheshwari, Madhu, Madhavi, Paramaa, Janamodini, Tripura, Tulasi, Ketaki, Malati, Vidhya, Trilochana, Tilottama, Subha, Chandika, Devi, Kriyalakshmi, Viroopa, Vani, Gayatri, Savitri, Apara or Aparajita, Aparna, Aruna, Akhila, Bala, Tara, Kuhu, Poornima, Aditi, Anumati, Avashyaa, Sita, Taruni, Jyotsna, Jyoti, Nimeshika, Atibha, Ishaani, Kalyani, Smriti and probably her most used abbreviation, Sri.

In Eastern Indian traditions, Lakshmi is regarded as a form of Devi, along with Durga or Shakti. Lakshmi, Parvati, and Saraswathi are regionally considered to be from of Durga in West Bengal and Odisha, which are usually considered separate in India. She is the personification of spiritual fulfillment and is the embodiment of Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers, and uplifts the individual.

It is obvious that Lakshmi represents an elusive and evolving subject of wealth and prosperity as well as the divine feminine aspect of spiritual energy. She is a powerful symbol in Hinduism and is worshipped often in modern India with statues and symbolism apparent in many of the places that I am currently near in Mysore. Her evolution is as interesting as her origins and I continue to find tremendous insight in the symbolism applied to her forms.


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yoga styles_krishnamacharya

The Different Styles of Yoga

The origins of yoga date back to the beginning of civilization (read my article here)

We live in a world that is highly evolved and diversified; yoga is no exception. Yoga has evolved rather quickly, since Krishnamacharya trained Iyegnar and Jois in the 1930s and 40s. With the astounding rise of the popularity of yoga, combined with the lack of organization, clear history, and methodologies, many individuals and groups of people have developed methods for specific purposes, or to target certain systems in the body.

Patthabi Jois and Iyengar were two students of Krishnamacharya that developed their own specific styles. Jois developed a gymnastic, cardiovascular and demanding practice with strict guidelines called Ashtanga; Iyengar deviated from his teacher, Krishnamacharya’s demanding practice and developed a softer, knowledge and alignment based style of yoga named after him. Ashtanga, in particular, is the building block for all vinyasa yoga in the west; but Hatha yoga shares many of Ashtanga’s principles and esoteric philosophy. There is even more overlap as the yoga becomes more diversified and dispersed throughout the globe.

This list is very short compared to the amount of styles that have been developed to practice yoga. Yoga is something that is personal, so multiple interpretations of the same truths was inevitable. There is no one style that is better than another, though there are definitely discrepancies in difficulty, objectives, anatomical focuses, and mental effects. The things to remember is that yoga is not dogmatic, or canonical; there are only guidelines and yoga is a technology for unlocking the mind and body through control of the nervous system with breath and respiratory manipulation and it should be personalized.

I think this is the biggest reason why yoga is so challenging for many people to wrap their heads around. 30 million in the US people practice yoga now, but that is only 10% of the total population and in reality, everyone can benefit from meditation, stretching, and movement based breathing exercises. I am absolutely missing some styles (let me know in the comments!), but these are the styles of yoga that are most popular and used in the US right now.


Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is the system of yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois that is thought of as a lineage of classical indian yoga. The eight limbs refer to Patanjali and the 8 limbs of yoga which are spiritual yogic practices. There are six sequences designed to be practiced over 6 days, with Saturday off and a day off for the full moon. This is a controversial form of yoga that tends to have high injury rates, but also many highly dedicated yogis. Kino MacGregor is a modern teacher of the system with more of a inspirational view on her own practice to emphasize the incredible intensity and reward of the daily Ashtanga practice.


Supposedly founded by Shiva, the Hatha yoga asanas are the basis for yoga in the world today. Usually, it refers to the text written by Yogi Swatmarama written in the 15th century that expounds details of yoga philosophy and physical aspects of the postures. Hatha yoga is often used to mean physically oriented and static yoga postures. Hatha tends to be a broad category and oriented towards mostly physically oriented asana.


Yin yoga has an extremely interesting lineage, grounded in Taoism and founded by Paulie Zink, but is popularized because of Sarah Powers and Paul Grilley. Yin yoga emphasizes longer stretching and the connections of joints through ligaments and tendons and a more passive side of yoga. The flow of qi through the meridian centers is increased according to the Chinese philosophy of the practice and the practice is more focused on regeneration and acceptance into the union of the universe. Yin yoga is traditionally meant to compliment traditional yang yoga, though there is a lot of work being done to widen the spectrum between the extreme lows of 15 minute stretches and then adding more and more movement. Bernie Clark is an excellent propagator of the practice and I highly recommend his videos for beginning a Yin oriented practice. It is a great way to wake up and fall asleep.


This style is named after Bikram Choudhury and 26 poses that he developed at the yoga college of India, where he was also the world champion for 3 straight years. Bikram yoga has concepts taken from Hatha yoga, which Bikram used as an influence to create his 26 postures. One of the great additions Bikram has made to the yoga community is the heat of the room; this heat can help to remove toxins from the body and the increase the metabolic speed and rate at which the body replenished tissue. The Bikram practice is powerful, each posture is done twice and there are two great breathing exercises as well as a lot of balancing work. However, you won’t find many arm balances, or inversions, which are a cornerstone of many of the more traditional systems of yoga. Tony Sanchez is a teacher to pay attention to, though I don’t have any personal experiences with his asana practice, though he trained with Bikram for 20+ years.


Vinayasa yoga is oriented around the practice that was propagated by Patthabhi Jois as classical Indian yoga, involving sun salutations, jumping through arms, gymnastic oriented exercises such as handstand, forearm stands, and arm balances. All vinyasa yoga is adapted from his method, because of the foundation of sun salutations in the West, but movement aligned with breath is a far older meditational practice than Jois’ practice based on Krishnamacharya’s teachings. Vinyasa is now a broader category, and emphasizes cardiovascular and single breath movements.

BKS Iyengar

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar played a huge role in bringing yoga to the West.

BKS Iyengar_Light on Yoga

This is the man to learn from, he was one of the original students of Krishnamacharya along with Patthabhi Jois. Practiced, knowledgable, but unfortunately, he passed in 2014, right before I was able to make it to India in 2015. However, his source book is incredible and I have used it for literally hundreds of hours of asana. He describes poses with full depictions where he demonstrates the hardest and most dedicated of yoga postures. He is an incredible teacher who split from Patthabhi Jois’ Ashtanga method, instead creating his own style after deciding to go solo when Krishnamacharya would not help him to customize his own practice to suit his body type and needs. His practice is personal, fulfilling, gentle, mentally brutal, and extraordinarily fulfilling. His softer, gentle, and customized approach will continue to spread throughout North American for the next decade.


Anusara is classified as a type of Hatha yoga, originally started by John Friend in 1997 who was heavily influenced by Iyengar. The practice emphasizes universal principles of alignment and is grounded in tantric tradition. Friend explained the name of the practice as “flowing from grace”. John was involved in a scandal in 2012 that led to him stepping down from Anusara after admitting affairs with teachers and allegedly founding a wicca coven where he would engage with the women of the coven sexually. Suffice to say I don’t practice Anusara, but I do take significant influence from Iyengar, who influenced friend. Anusara has some great concepts of alignment, but the practice doesn’t resonate with me personally.


This is a style of yoga developed by David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984. It combines elements of Hatha, Ashtanga with emphasis on moral alignment in tune with vegetarianism, animal rights, social activism, and adherence to five central tenets: shastra, bhakti, ahimsa, nada, and dhyana. I am not at all familiar with the method, but each month there is a new theme with new chanting and practices, with an emphasis on progression in the yoga practice. This type of yoga tends to be popular among celebrities and can have focuses on having a personal teacher that massages during Savasana and a whole host of other assistant type activities.


Kripalu is a non-profit based retreat center in Massachusetts. The 16,000 square foot building in Stockbridge is the largest holistic center in the country and can hold up to 650 people for a single night. This style of yoga concentrates on inner focus, meditation, breath work, and development of a quiet mind. Amrit Desai is the founder of the method and center and began it to provide yoga classes and teacher trainings. He named the Kripalu system after Swami Kripalvananda whom Desai met in India. However, in 1994 Desai resigned after admitting to sexual intercourse with followers.


Kundalini is based on a 1935 treatise with Sivananda Saraswati and is heavily influenced by tantra and Shakta schools of Hinduism. The practice combines prana-yama, asana, meditation, chanting, and meditation to excite the nervous system to extraordinary levels. This is a type of yoga that you should absolutely try if you are at a good level of health. It is called the yoga of awareness and aims to cultivate the creative and spiritual potential of the yoga by focusing on truth-speaking, karma, and spirituality.


Power yoga is the adapted version of Ashtanga to fit the Western practice of yoga, Bryan Kest is currently advertised as the founder, though I am really not sure who is. I like to think that Kest is, because he practiced with David West in Hawaii and was a student of Patthabhi Jois, which Baptiste was not. Though I honestly have no idea where it came from, but today it is a popular term for intense vinyasa yoga, sometimes occurring in a heated room. The primary propagators of this practice are Bryan Kest, Baron Baptiste, Larry Schultz, though it really refers to the style of yoga propagated by Bryan Kest and Baron Baptiste focusing on Ashtanga based meditational yoga. Bryan Kest is far and away my favorite teacher of this type of yoga, though the practice is certainly rewarding in and of itself.


Bhakti yoga is traditional and devotional by tradition, but is being grown into a specific type of vinyasa (power yoga) by Rusty Wells with a focus on spirituality, love of god, and devotion. It is also described as a path of yoga, different from Raja yoga from which Ashtanga is derived and doesn’t necessarily involved asana, but incredible amounts of time in prayer and meditation. This type of yoga focuses on a personal god and aspires to unify each step along the path of Dharma with the divine. practices include chanting and meditation with an emphasis on love. This is a growing style that I have really only seen on the West coast, but has ancient traditions in Hinduism.

Mysore Style

Mysore style is personal practice of the Ashtanga primary series, with a focus on individual asana performance and the warm-up of the primary series. Daily practice with a day of rest on Saturdays and for the full and new moon. This is the practice I will be learning a lot more about in India when I travel to Mysore, with an emphasis on the Ashtanga method.

It will be interesting to see how this article might change over the next few months and years, I will likely rewrite it later.

Notable Yogis: KrishnamacharyaPatthabi Jois, BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikachar, Tony Sanchez, Bikram Choudhury, John Friend, David Life, Bryan Kest, Baron Baptiste, Rusty Wells, Kino MacGregor

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