The oldest remaining specific text was written by Patanjali, who summarised Ashtanga Yoga in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali’s teachings embraced the eight limbs of yoga.
The modern history of Ashtanga Yoga comes to us through Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who learned the practice from his teacher Rama Mohan Brahmachari, who lived in the Himalayan Mountains near Lake Manasarovar. Krishnamacharya was also able to track down an old copy of a document known as the Yoga Korunta in the old National Archives of India in Calcutta, which detailed philosophies, asanas, bandhas and many other elements of Ashtanga yoga. This was passed down to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who spent many years studying and teaching under him.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is widely regarded as having popularised modern Ashtanga Yoga, establishing the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, KPJAYI. and devoting his life to the practice before passing away in 2009. The teaching was then passed down to his grandson, my teacher R. Sharath Jois who is currently in India/Mysore. Sharath Jois opened the Sharath Yoga Centre in 2019 and continues to spread the teachings of yoga.
This method of yoga involves synchronising the breath with a progressive series of postures, a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. The traditional teaching form is called Mysore Style. It is named after the town of Mysore, located in the South of India.
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:
The Tristhana method is often described as the distinguishing characteristic of Ashtanga Yoga. Tristhana refers to the union of "three places of attention or action": breath, posture and Dristhi [looking place]. These three are very important for yoga practice, and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other". The actual breathing technique used during practice is simply called “deep breathing with sound.” Deep breathing with sound has a soothing effect on our nervous system, helping us to stay calm and focused during the physical, mental, and emotional stress often brought upon by challenging asana.
Posture, or asana, is the second pillar of the Tristana Method. Asana is an ideal vehicle for to focus our attention on the subtle sensations within the body. Focusing your attention on the bandhas, the contraction on the pelvic floor and drawing in of the low belly, is a wonderful way to tune inward into the subtle sensations
The third pillar of the Tristana Method is drishti, or gaze. Each posture in the ashtanga yoga system has a specific drishti.
There are 9 drishtis: upward, nose, naval, thumb, fingers, toes, third eye, left, or right. The gazing point of each posture depends on the position of the body and the intended direction of energy. As with each of the pillars of the tristana method, there are both practical reasons to focus our gaze, and spiritual ones.
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