Information about the Ashtanga Yoga practice. Relevant information for new students to Barcelona Ashtanga, and the opening and closing chants.
Ashtanga is a complete system of yoga. “Astau” (pronounced Ash-tau) means eight, “anga” means limb. The eight limbs are discussed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a seminal text which first defined and codified yoga. The Ashtanga Yoga practice, as it was taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji), is sequence of poses that links movement, breath, and gazing point.
Guruji taught for over 70 years in Mysore, South India. This amazing man gave classes out of his home and never turned away any earnest student that sought his guidance and teaching. Both Guruji, and his grandson, Sharath, who heads the K. Pattabhi Jois Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysore, would say that there is no difference between Patanjali's Ashtanga and the Ashtanga we practice.
There are 6 groups of poses, or “series”, beginning with the Primary Series known as "yoga chikitsa", or yoga therapy. Each series builds on the one that comes before, requiring the student to develop a level of proficiency, and stability of body and mind before moving forward. Like a forged chain, the Ashtanga sequence is only as strong as the individual links (breath, point of attention, and poses) that hold it together. Therefore, patience, dedication, and willingness to learn are very important for studying this practice.
Ashtanga is the foundation for many styles of yoga that have become popular in the West. However, the set sequence, movement with breath, and gazing points make this practice completely unique.
Ashtanga classes are usually taught in one of two ways:
The traditional style of learning the practice is called “Mysore style”. In a Mysore class students are instructed individually, not guided in a group. The class is known for being done in silence, each person moving at the rhythm of their breath, with the teacher guiding each student at a pace that is appropriate for them.
The most common analogy is to say that the students are getting private instruction in a group setting. At the beginning a person is taught one or two poses each class in order to commit the sequence to memory, when the teacher deems the pose to be correct, the next pose may be added on.
In this style a student gets to take their practice to a completely different level. They have to opportunity to build a relationship with one teacher who will help them work on more advanced postures and concepts that are suitable for them.
This approach, however, is also perfect for beginners, because a student can work slowly at their own pace, rather than trying to keep up with a group. A beginner student can expect their first days of practice to last only about 30-45 minutes. When in doubt, however, feel free to come observe a class; the Mysore class is different from any other type of yoga practice you will ever experience.
There are no “trial classes” for Morning Mysore, drop-ins only for students visiting from out of town.
The second way of practicing Ashtanga is in a guided format. This group class is what most students have come to expect from a typical yoga class. The entire room is moving and practicing the same poses at the same time while the teacher guides you through the sequence keeping the focus on moving with the breath. This style of class is fast paced and rigorous.
Though focused on traditional Mysore style instruction, we believe that guided classes serve to refine students' practice by moving in accordance with the breath (vinyasa), learning the names of postures, and teaching endurance and focus. We recommend that students have prior experience with the Ashtanga practice before to coming to a guided class.
At Barcelona Ashtanga, we offer both styles of classes.
What should you know before coming to your first Ashtanga class?
- Come about 10 minutes early to class to familiarize yourself with the space and fill out new student form.
- Wear comfortable clothes that are easy to move in. They should not be too loose, sheer, or revealing.
- There are mats to borrow at the studio, but you may want to buy your own if you practice regularly.
- You may sweat. Bring a towel for your face and possibly one for your mat so you do not slip.
- We do have a shower at the studio for those students that need to go directly to work.
- Hydrate well at least an hour before class; and hydrate well after.
- Try not to eat at least 3 hours before class; a full stomach does not feel good during practice.
- Try not to apply any scented products or lotions before coming to class.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions; that is what we are here for!
- When in doubt send an email or drop by the studio 10 minutes before or after class.
वन्दे गुरूणां चरणारविन्दे सन्दर्शित स्वात्म सुखाव बोधे ।
निःश्रेयसे जङ्गलिकायमाने संसार हालाहल मोहशांत्यै ॥
आबाहु पुरुषाकारं शंखचक्रासि धारिणम् ।
सहस्र शिरसं श्वेतं प्रणमामि पतञ्जलिम् ॥
vande gurūṇaṁ caraṇāravinde sandarśita svātma sukhāva bodhe |
niḥ śreyase jaṅgalikāyamāne saṁsāra hālāhala mohaśāntyai ||
ābāhu puruṣakāraṁ śaṅkhacakrāsi dhāriṇam |
sahasra śiraśaṁ śvetaṁ praṇamāmi patañjalim ||
I bow to the lotus feet of the Gurus
The awakening happiness of one's own Self revealed,
Beyond better, acting like the Jungle physician,
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
Taking the form of a man to the shoulders,
Holding a conch, a discus, and a sword,
One thousand heads white,
To Patanjali, I salute.
स्वस्तिप्रजाभ्यः परिपालयंतां न्यायेन मार्गेण महीं महीशाः ।
गोब्राह्मणेभ्यः शुभमस्तु नित्यं लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवंतु ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
svastiprajābhyaḥ paripālayantāṁ nyāyena mārgeṅa mahīṁ mahīśāḥ |
gobrāhmaṇehbhyaḥ śubhamastu nityaṁ lokāsamastā sukhinobhavantu ||
auṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
May all be well with mankind.
May the leaders of the earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path.
May there be goodness for those who know the earth to be sacred.
May all the worlds be happy.
Om, peace, peace, peace.