The founder of Ashtanga Yoga was Sri K. Pattabi Jois who was a devoted student of T. Krishnamacharya. Sri K. Pattabi Jois and Manju Jois ( his son and student) brought Ashtanga to the West Coast of America in 1975.
Ashtanga Yoga consists of six series:
- Primary Series (Yoga Chikita)– purifies, strengthens, and aligns the body.
- Intermediate Series ( Nadi Shodana)– calms and cleanses the nervous system, activates the energy channels.
- Advanced Series A,B, C and D – strengthen and demand high levels of stamina and flexibility.
Essential elements of Ashtanga Yoga:
- Tristhana, the three places of attention or action:
- Asana, posture
- Ujjayi Breathing system
- Dristhi, looking place
- Vinyasa: Synchronization of movement and breath
- Bandhas :The anal (mula) and lower abdominal (Uddiyana) locks.
These eight folds are:
- Yama: ethical standards
- Niyama: self discipline
- Asana: posture
- Pranayama: breathing techniques
- Pratyahara: sense withdrawal
- Dharana: concentration
- Dhyana: meditation
- Samadhi: enlightenment
Zazen is a sitting meditation. The seated posture is one of stillness and relaxation, and expresses a tranquil mind and a settled body. In its practice, one maintains the body in a position free of tension and movement, and focuses the mind on a single object of attention. The state is one of union of body and mind deepened through the relaxation and regulation of the breath.
The word zen is a Japanese mispronunciation of the Chinese ch’an, which is itself a Chinese mispronunciation of the Indian dhyāna—a Sanskrit word meaning “focused attention.”
Dhyana brings about a nondualistic state of consciousness through the deep harmonization of body, breath, and mind, a state of unification and profound stillness known as samadhi. Samadhi is not a state of passivity, unconsciousness, or trance. Its stillness is vibrant and dynamic, arising from a mind that is completely clear, aware, and open. In this state of awareness the ordinary world is seen in a new light, in which the unexamined “common sense” view of a dualistic world is transcended and the underlying unity of all existence is clearly experienced.
In yogic terms Prana means the vital energy and Ayama means exercise. Pranayama defines the regulation of the in and out flow of this vital energy. It explains that the body, breath and the mind are intricately interwoven. When the air moves the mind moves and when the air is stilled the mind also could be stilled. Hence the various techniques employed in Pranayama are to stabilize the flow of air thus to achieve the balanced state of mind.
Pranayama is a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious and serves to integrate body, mind, and spirit. Unlike other muscles which can supposedly either be controlled (the muscles of the arms) or not (the internal organs), the diaphragm is both a voluntary and an involuntary muscle. It, therefore, links the conscious and unconscious functioning of the body. A central focus of yoga is to make what is unconscious conscious. Pranayama brings the breath and prana into consciousness.
Mantra means a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power in Sanskrit. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning; the spiritual value of a mantra comes when it is audible, visible, or present in thought.
The earliest mantras were composed in Vedic times by Hindus in India, and those are at least 3000 years old
The use, structure, function, importance and types of mantras vary according to the school and philosophy of Hinduism and of Buddhism.
Mantras come in many forms. They are typically melodic, mathematically structured meters, thought to be resonant with numinous qualities. At its simplest, the word OM (ॐ ) serves as a mantra. In more sophisticated forms, they are melodic phrases with spiritual interpretations such as human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace, love, knowledge and action. Yet other mantras are literally meaningless, yet musically uplifting and spiritually meaningful.