...and our Approach to it at Breathe Los Gatos:
Ashtanga Vinyasa is a series of set postures that are linked together on the thread of the breath. The postures along with proper breathing and a calming gazing point (drishti), lead to the awakening of the internal locks (bandhas). Due to the inherent concentration required in this three-pronged approach, the practitioner cultivates internal heat (tapas). This heat, along with the sometimes-extreme looking postures, have given Ashtanga the misguided reputation as being an aggressive, overly difficult practice. Here at Breathe, our aim is to invite the practitioner to go in, and use the potency of the practice to purify and heal the body and the mind in a manner that is suitable, healthy, and safe for their particular needs. We have deep respect for the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga and Sri K Pattabhi Jois, who along with his teacher, Sri Krishnamacharya developed the six series of Ashtanga Yoga, and, we believe in keeping an open, inquiring mind as we help evolve the practice by making it applicable to the immediate needs of our bodies, minds, and cultures.
The series all begin with sun salutations and the same standing sequence. The middle portion, or, the filling of the sandwich, varies from series to series depending on the particular therapeutic emphasis of the series (structural integration, cleansing of the nervous system, internal strength). Students move through the sequences and the series at their own pace and with input and assistance from the teacher. Traditionally, Ashtanga is practiced ‘Mysore’ style, which is a self-practice of the set postures with assistance from the teacher.
Due to its progressive and individual nature, Ashtanga Vinyasa is a wonderful tool for transformation. But as with any tool, learning how to properly use it will prove invaluable.
The foundations of Ashtanga yoga are built on a tripod element of the breath, asana, and drishti (the gazing point). In Mysore practice, you will learn and practice these elements, moving from your roots, and connecting all movements with the breath. You will focus on developing healthy alignment, strength, flexibility, and inner focus. The series of postures begins with sun salutations to build internal heat, moves through standing postures to further cultivate your roots and grounding, leads to seated postures to calm the mind and release the backbody, and ends with finishing postures to helps integrate the practice. All postures are linked with vinyasas to build strength and help keep the heat in the body and the focus in the mind. When practiced regularly, the primary series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a potent healing practice, that will build strength, develop concentration, and bring peace and balance to not only the body but to all aspects of life.