Ashtanga Yoga

By Sat Inder S. Khalsa

Ashtanga Yoga; this may bring to mind the eightfold philosophy of yoga or possibly a classical yoga discipline consisting of powerful asanas dynamically liked together with the breath. I’m here to discuss the latter.

I began this practice in 2000 and quickly realized that it was for me, being the first physical activity I’d engaged in during my then 30 years on the planet. I quickly looked into the Ashtanga lineage. It turned out that master teacher of this system of yoga, Shri K. Pattabbi Jois was on tour in the US and I was able to study personally with him both in Boulder, CO, and again in Maui.

Pattabhi Jois learned this system from his teacher T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s and taught it in Mysore, India until he left his body in 2009 just before turning 94 years old. At the time I studied with him he was 85 and his level of energy, vitality and strength were amazing for someone of that age!

Ashtanga Yoga consists of six sequences of postures which increase in difficulty as they progress. The first sequence, or Primary Series, is referred to as Yoga Chikitsa, or yoga therapy, because it is designed to align your spine, detoxify your body/mind and build strength and flexibility.

Integral to the Ashtanga system is its systematic flow of postures known as vinyasa and used between postures to help sustain a level of heat in the body. The meaning of vinyasa is to envelop all movement with breath. The practice also includes strong points of focus for your gaze and deep internal work with energetic locks called bandhas. These three aspects of the practice guide the focus of the practitioner, facilitating a strong, moving meditative state.

I’m planning a trip to Mysore, India early next year. I plan to study at the yoga school Pattabhi established with his grandson as my teacher. When I return I hope to bring a deeper sense of tradition and knowledge back to St. Louis.

Yogasource is holding a benefit to help fund my trip to India on October 20th at the studio on Big Bend in Richmond Heights, MO. 3pm will be an Intro to Ashtanga course and 5pm will be a potluck dinner after the course, come to one, or to both. Suggested donation is $50 and up!

Sat Inder S. Khalsa teaches at YogaSource and at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market.