Vinyasa Yoga India
Vinyasa Yoga in India, usually referred to simply as Ashtanga yoga, is a style of yoga codified and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century, and which is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Jois began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12, and by 1948 had established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute for teaching the specific yoga practice known as Ashtanga (Sanskrit for “eight-limbed”) Yoga.] Ashtanga Yoga is named after the eight limbs of yoga mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
In his book, “Yoga Mala,” about the Vinyasa Yoga India practices, Pattabhi Jois recommends staying five to eight breaths in a posture, or staying for as long as possible in a posture. Breathing instructions given are to do rechaka and puraka, (exhale and inhale) as much as possible. “It is sufficient, however, to breathe in and out five to eight times in each posture.
In an interview regarding the length of the breath, Pattabhi Jois said, “Inhale 10 seconds or 15 seconds then exhalation also 10 seconds or 15 seconds”. He goes on to clarify, “Your strength is 10 breathing is doing possible, you do 10 breathing, 15 breathing you possible, you do 15 breathing. One hundred possible, 100 you do. 5 you do, 5 is possible, 5 you do.”
Additionally, his son, Manju Jois, recommends taking more breaths in difficult postures.
Pattabhi Jois recommends breathing fully and deeply with the mouth closed. He does not specifically refer to Ujjayi breathing. However, Manju Jois does. Manju Jois also refers to breathing called “‘dirgha rechaka puraka’, meaning long, deep,slow exhales and inhales. It should be dirgha… long, and like music. The sound is very important. You have to do the Ujjayi pranayama.
In late 2011, Sharath Jois, the grandson of Pattabhi Jois, declared his feelings on the issue, stating that Ujjayi breathing was not done in the asana practice, but also stated that the breathing should be deep breathing with sound. He reiterated this notion in a conference in 2013 stating, “You do normal breath, inhalation and exhalation with sound. Ujjayi breath is a type of prāṇāyāma. This is just normal breath with free flow”.
In 2014 published on YouTube, Manju Jois dodges the question, “What is the difference between Ujjayi breathing and free breathing?” by saying that the breathing in Ashtanga should be long and deep with the sound like the ocean. He also states that if you don’t make sound, that is okay, too. However he makes no distinction between the two terms and provides no explanation.
As far as other types of pranayama practice in Ashtanga, the consensus seems to be that it should be practiced after the asanas have been mastered. Pattabhi Jois originally taught pranayama to those practicing the second series, and later changed his mind, teaching pranayama after the third series.
Sharath Jois recently produced a series of videos teaching alternate nostril breathing to the beginner.
A connection between breath and bandhas
Sharath Jois says, “Without bandhas, breathing will not be correct, and the asanas will give no benefit.”
Dristhi is where you focus your eyes while in the asana. In the ashtanga yoga method, there is a prescribed point of focus for every asana. There are nine dristhis: the nose, between the eyebrows, navel, thumb, hands, feet, up, right side and left side.
In the words of Pattabhi Jois, “Vinyasa means ‘breathing system.’ Without vinyasa, don’t do asana. When vinyasa is perfect, the mind is under control.”
Vinyasa means breathing with movement. For each movement, there is one breath. All asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas.
According to Sharath, “The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. Breathing and moving together while performing asanas makes the blood hot, or as Pattabhi Jois says, boils the blood. Thick blood is dirty and causes disease in the body. The heat created from yoga cleans the blood and makes it thin, so that it may circulate freely.
Sharath also claims that the heated blood removing toxins, impurities and disease from the organs through sweat produced during the practice. He claims that “it is only through sweat that disease leaves the body and purification occurs.”
Students are encouraged to practice six days a week, preferably in the morning, and to take rest on Saturdays as well as the days of the full and new moon. Women are also instructed to rest during menstruation, refraining from any yoga practice.
The term Mysore-style comes from the city Mysore, in Karnataka, India, where Pattabhi Jois & T. Krishnamcharya taught. Students are expected to memorize a sequence and practice in the same room as others without being led by the teacher. The role of the teacher is to guide as well as provide adjustments or assists in postures. Twice per week Mysore-style classes are substituted with led classes, where the teacher takes a group through the same series at the same time.
Sequences & Series
Usually an Ashtanga practice begins with five Surya Namaskar A and five B, followed by a standing sequence. Following this the pracitioner begins one of six series, followed by what is called the closing sequence. The six series are:
- The Primary series (Yoga Chikitsa: Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy),
- Intermediate series (Nadi Shodhana: The Nerve Purifier) (also called second series),
- The Advanced Series (Sthira Bhaga: Centering of Strength):
- Advanced A (also called third series),
- Advanced B (also called fourth series),
- Advanced C (also called fifth series) and
- Advanced D (Sthira Bhagah) (also called sixth series).
Nancy Gilgoff reports that originally there were four series on the Ashtanga syllabus: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, and Advanced B. A fifth series of sorts was the “Rishi series,” which Guruji said could be done once a practitioner had “mastered” these four. Anthony Gary Lopedota also confirms this.
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