“Yoga is the journey of the Self, through the Self, to the Self.”
– The Bhagavad Gita
In India, yoga, and lots of other spiritual disciplines, are transmitted directly from teacher to student in what is called paramparā. In the lineage of Ashtanga, Ramamohan Brahmachari, Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois, and now Sharath Jois are the successive line of teachers, and Anna, Ashtanga Yoga Jersey’s founder was taught directly by Sharath Jois.
Ashtanga yoga is traditionally taught in what is known as Mysore-style practice, named after the city in South India from where it originates. We teach Ashtanga yoga as taught by R. Sharath Jois of the Sharath Yoga Centre (former KPJAYI) and we are the only authorised yoga school by R. Sharath Jois in the Channel Islands.
8 Limbs of Yoga
Yoga is a way of life and a philosophy that can be practised by anyone. Ashtanga from Sanskrit means “ashtau”- eight and “anga” – limb and it literally means eight-limbed path. Ashtanga can also be called Patanjali yoga, after the author of the Yoga Sutras, a collection of 196 sutras outlining the theory and practice of yoga.
yamas – restraints
niyamas – ethical guidelines asana – postures pranayama – breath control pratyahara – sense withdrawal dharana – concentration, or one-pointed attention dhyana – meditation samadhi – bliss, union, complete absorption or ‘one-ness’
You must be firmly established in the practice of the first four limbs, including asana, before the final four evolve spontaneously within the practitioner.
Asana practice is the learning of postures and it’s guided by principles of tristana. Tristana consists of breath, the bandhas (energy locks), and drishti (gaze point). The application of tristana transforms an asana practice from a mere physical workout to a meditative experience.
Most importantly, postures should be practised with ease and stability, in line with Patanjali Sutra 2.46 “sthira sukhamāsanam”. This is achieved, when the breath is calm, bandhas are engaged and the gaze is turned inwards.
The breath is possibly one of the first things you’ll notice when you enter the Shala, with many referring to Ashtanga as a breathing practice. It’s essential, to breathe through the nose, the technique referred to by Sharath Jois as “free breathing with sound”. Breathing should be continuous and slow and it should remain so throughout the practice.
You should always lead with a breath, and movement will follow. This is essentially what the vinyasa is: linking each inhale and exhale to the correct movement. Practising vinyasa in between the postures produces internal heat that detoxifies muscles and internal organs, alongside many other benefits.
Bandha on the other hand means to bind or to lock and it refers to mula and uddiyana bandha, the two bandhas we primarily work with during the asana practice. Bandhas are energy centres or locks, that help to activate the flow of energy in the body.
The application of bandhas might seem counterintuitive to beginners, but they evolve over years of practice.
Finally, the Drishti, brings concentration into our yoga practice. Each asana has a set gaze point that helps to bring our awareness inside along with the correct alignment. Whilst the practice of Drishti, can be challenging to start with – our eyes will often wander off around the room – the more concentration you can bring to Drishti, the more focused and stable your practice will become.
Why Practice Ashtanga?
There are lots of benefits of a regular yoga practice, with each series of Ashtanga working on a different level. The Primary Series – Yoga Chikitsa – realigns the physical body, whilst the Intermediate Series – Nadi Shodhana – purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the energy channels. Importantly, you should always practice series sequentially, moving on to more difficult asana only when the one before is well integrated.
Yoga practice requires patience, sincere effort and consistency.
Here are some of the benefits you might notice through regular yoga practice:
Increased strength, stamina, and flexibility
Increased core strength to support good posture and maintain a healthy back
Improved concentration and mental clarity
Increased body awareness and improved balance
Ability to maintain a healthy weight and activity level
Eased stress and anxiety
Minimised symptoms of depression
Lower blood pressure
Improved sleep quality
Yoga practice is often recommended in the management of diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension, hypotension, and many lifestyle-related disorders. Yoga can also help to reduce depression, fatigue, anxiety and stress.
If you’d like to try our classes, please email Anna or visit Beginner’s page for more information.