Astanga (‘Ash-tanga’) Vinyasa Yoga is the original Dynamic (movement based) form of yoga. It’s focus is on bringing both strength and flexibility to the body by synchronising a person’s movement with their breathing.
Many variants (e.g.: Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Jivamukti) have evolved from Astanga however there is something very special about the traditional method and sequences meaning it continues to be one of the most popular forms of yoga globally.
The word Astanga literally means Eight Limbs which represent the 8 yogic elements of as set out in classic yoga texts. The practice aims to harmonise Asana (physical postures) with Pranayama (Breath Control) and Dristhi (Focus) to create a more rounded yoga practice of both the body and the mind.
For the majority of students, they will focus on the core Primary Series, a set sequence of poses linked together with controlled movements which aims to bring foundation, build core strength and stability. Postures are generally only held for short periods (typically 5 breaths) but look more at the movement from one pose to the next. This movement is what is known as Vinyasa. Because it is not purely focussed on flexibility, it is popular with men as well as women.
Like many things from the East, the exact origins of the Astanga system are somewhat unclear (some say it is 4,000 years old) however we do know that it was originally taught by the great yogi Sri T Krishnamacharya in the early part of the 20th Century at the Royal Palace in Mysore, India. One of his earliest and most devote pupils was our beloved teacher Sri K Pattahbi Jois (more affectionately known as ‘Guruji’) who was later responsible for bringing the Astanga system out to the rest of the world. The tradition continues to be lead by Guruji’s Grandson Sharath Jois from the Astanga Yoga Institute in Mysore.