Ashtanga Yoga: A Curated Guide Ashtanga Yoga A Curated Guide   This guide provides a brief overview of ashtanga yoga with a primary focus on providing a curated and annotated list of important relevant resources and those frequently cited, referenced, or recommended by current scholars and experts in the field. Overview Ashtanga yoga is a practice consisting of a series of physical postures, breathing techniques, and cultivated forms of concentration. While it has ancient roots, ashtanga yoga as practiced today was codified and initially popularized in India in the twentieth century by K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009). Unless otherwise specified, references to ashtanga yoga in this guide are to Jois’s form of the practice.  Jois taught yoga in Mysore, India beginning in 1937, first at the Sanskrit College under the patronage of the maharaja of Mysore and later at his own school, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (AYRI), which he started in 1948. Westerners began coming to Mysore to study with Pattabhi Jois in the 1960s, and he began traveling to the West to teach in the mid-1970s, leading to a steady burgeoning of interest in ashtanga yoga, and yoga more broadly, around the world over the following decades.  Jois’s own teacher was the renowned yogi Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is widely regarded as the father of modern yoga. Jois and Krishnamacharya cited an ancient Sanskrit text called the Yoga Korunta, attributed to the sage Vamana (which Krishnamacharya learned orally from his teacher, Rama Mohan Brahmachari), as the basis for the ashtanga yoga they taught. Any manuscripts of this text are believed to have been destroyed, and its authenticity would be difficult to validate, but it is considered by some to be the original source of this ashtanga yoga lineage. Ashtanga yoga is organized into six series of postures, which are learned slowly over time and practiced sequentially. Postures are linked together through a breathing and movement system called, in Sanskrit, vinyāsa, with each movement assigned a corresponding inhalation (pūraka) or exhalation (recaka). Jois described the postures as being strung together, like the flowers of a mala or flower garland, on the thread of the breath (Jois, 2002). Breathing during ashtanga practice is smooth, long, even, through the nose, and accompanied by the sound produced by a slight glottal constriction, as when whispering. Cultivating awareness around breath and posture during ashtanga yoga practice constitutes two parts of tristhāna (from Sanskrit, tri, “three,” and sthāna, “standing place”), a three-pronged system for maintaining concentration. The third is dṛṣṭi, a prescribed gazing point for each posture. Further awareness is directed toward bandha, subtle energetic locks, or valves, in the body that regulate the flow of energy, support breath, and provide physiological structure. Although bandhas can be subtle and somewhat esoteric, they have a physical expression in the body. The two main bandhas cultivated in ashtanga practice are mūla bandha, or “root lock,” which starts as a contraction of the pelvic floor, and uḍḍīyana (“flying upward”) bandha, which manifests as a drawing in and up of the lower abdomen. The ashtanga practice is rooted in a foundational yoga philosophy described in the Yoga Sūtras, an ancient treatise commonly believed to have been compiled by the Indian sage Patañjali around the turn of the Common Era and which came to represent one of the six classical schools of Indian philosophy. The Sanskrit word aṣṭāṅga means “eight limbs,” from aṣṭou, “eight,” and aṅga, “limb.” Patañjali’s yoga consists of eight pillars:  Yama, five ethical principles or social restraints  Niyama, five personal observances  Āsana, physical postures—literally, “seat”  Prāṇāyāma, controlling the prāṇa, or life force, as through breathing practices  Pratyāhāra, sense withdrawal or detachment from sense objects, leading to control over the senses  Dhāraṇā, concentration Dhyāna, meditation Samādhi, meditative absorption or a state of higher consciousness According to Sharath Jois (Pattabhi Jois’s grandson), practicing ashtanga yoga means practicing all eight limbs. The ashtanga yoga tradition is passed down through paraṁparā, a “direct and unbroken transmission of knowledge” (Jois, 2013) from teacher to student. The current ashtanga yoga “lineage holder” is broadly considered to be Sharath Jois, who continues to teach in Mysore and is the only person to have completed all six series of ashtanga yoga. In the early 2000s, the AYRI became the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI), and in 2019, Sharath opened the Sharath Yoga Centre. Pattabhi Jois’s daughter (Sharath’s mother), Saraswathi Jois, also teaches in Mysore; his granddaughter, Sharmila Mahesh, teaches in Bangalore; and his son, Manju Jois, teaches in California.  There are ashtanga yoga teachers and studios all over the world. “Authorized” teachers are those who have practiced with Sharath or Pattabhi Jois in Mysore for a certain amount of time and have received permission from one of them to teach this method, either through the primary series (level 1) or intermediate series (level 2). “Certified” teachers are more senior practitioners who have practiced in Mysore for a long time, have typically completed the Advanced A (3rd) series, and have dedicated their lives significantly to practicing and teaching. Saraswathi Jois has also recently started authorizing her students. These teachers, along with many others and their students, have led to the formation of a vast network of ashtanga yoga śālās (schools, or literally “homes”) and programs all over the world. Ashtanga classes are typically conducted in the Mysore-style, meaning students do their own self-practice within a group setting while the teacher moves around the room offering individual guidance and assistance. In this way, students get one-on-one attention from the teacher and learn the practice at their own pace as adapted to their individual needs. In 2017, it came to light publicly that Pattabhi Jois abused a number of his female students over the course of many years, touching them in a sexual manner in the classroom under the guise of adjustments. Some of these women had spoken out about this abuse in the past, but their testimony was largely ignored. This has sparked a large amount of discussion and reflection within the ashtanga community and beyond. In acknowledging the abuse and honoring the victims’ experiences now, many in the ashtanga community are attempting to assimilate this history into a shifting approach moving forward. Books Bryant, Edwin F. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary. New York, NY: North Point Press, 2009.  Compiled by the sage Patañjali somewhere around the turn of the Common Era, the Yoga Sūtras is one of the canonical texts of classical Eastern thought and came to represent one of the six schools of Indian philosophy. The text consists of 195 short aphorisms organized into four chapters. Centered mainly around meditative absorption, it presents the eight-fold path of aṣṭāṅga yoga to serve as a guide to reaching direct experience and realization of the puruṣa, the innermost self, or what might be thought of as the soul. Desai, Sharmila, and Anna Wise. Yoga Sadhana for Mothers: Shared experiences of Ashtanga yoga, pregnancy, birth and motherhood. London, UK: Yogawords, Limited, 2014.  This in-depth book by two long-term practitioners and teachers, Sharmila Desai and Anna Wise, offers guidance for practitioners of ashtanga yoga through pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum recovery, and motherhood. The book includes anatomical resources and suggestions for practice, developed in collaboration with Sharath Jois, along with photographs and diagrams. It also contains interviews with over 30 women steeped in this practice about their journey through conception, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. Freeman, Richard, and Mary Taylor. The Art of Vinyasa: Awakening Body and Mind through the Practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications, 2016.  This book by senior teachers Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor is a guide to yoga as a moving meditation on the subtle, internal forms of the practice, particularly through an understanding of vinyāsa. The section on āsana, rather than being organized based on the ashtanga sequence, is arranged according to forms: forward bends, backbends, twists, balancing postures, etc. Freeman, Richard. The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2010.  Richard Freeman’s book is a consideration of the philosophy underlying the ashtanga yoga practice, including through discussion of a number of texts and philosophies, such as Sāṃkhya, the Upaniṣads, and the Yoga Sūtras. He discusses the eight limbs of yoga, different approaches to and schools of yoga, and practices such as chanting and meditation Hendry, Hamish. Yoga Dharma. London, UK: Pushpam, 2016.  Senior teacher Hamish Hendry of Ashtanga Yoga London wrote this small handbook to offer insight beyond the physical practice of yoga into its underlying philosophy, essential texts, and Hindu mythology and stories.  Hunt, Taylor. A Way from Darkness: My Story of Addiction, Recovery, and Yoga. Ekam Publishing, 2016. Hunt of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus wrote this memoir about his struggle with addiction and his path to ashtanga yoga. Niranjanananda Saraswati. Samkhya Darshan. Samkhya Darshan: Yogic Perspective on Theories of Realism. Munger, Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust, 2008.  Sāṁkhya is one of the earliest schools of Indian philosophy and presents a dualistic view of reality, consisting of the puruṣa, or witnessing consciousness, and prakṛti, the root cause of creation. Sāṁkhya philosophy is essential as a foundation for understanding yoga (and is also a basis for Buddhist philosophy); it can be considered the underlying metaphysics of self-realization, with yoga being the method for attaining it. The Sāṁkhya Kārikā was written by a third-generation disciple, Īśvara Kṛṣṇa, and describes the entire philosophy, as taught by the sage Kapila, in 72 ślokas, or verses. Jois, Pattabhi. Yoga Mala: The Original Teachings of Ashtanga Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. New York, NY: North Point Press, 2002.  Originally published in the Kannada language in 1962, this is K. Pattabhi Jois’s brief guide to ashtanga yoga. In this book, he explains some of the philosophy behind ashtanga yoga, explaining key terms and principles and citing a number of foundational yoga texts and scriptures. He outlines the first four limbs of yoga according to Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras, and then goes through the primary series of ashtanga yoga, explaining each posture, the method for entering and exiting it (vinyāsa), and some of the benefits it provides, accompanied by a photo of himself or Sharath demonstrating the posture. The book features forewords by Sharath and senior teacher Eddie Stern. Jois, Sharath. Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭāna. Mysore, India: KPJAYI Mysore, 2013.  Written by Sharath Jois and published by KPJAYI in Mysore, this book provides a brief introduction to ashtanga yoga and the precise, “official” vinyāsa count for each of the postures in the primary series, along with photos of Sharath demonstrating each posture. Jois, Sharath, and ‎Isha Singh Sawhney. Ageless: A Yogi's Secrets to a Long and Healthy Life. New Delhi, India: Juggernaut Books, 2018.  In this book, Jois offers advice, through the lens of yoga principles and philosophy, on how to live a long and healthy life. He provides dietary and lifestyle recommendations, as well as a few āsana sequences. Desikachar, T. K. V.., E. R. Ramaswamy Iyengar, Kausthub Desikachar, and Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.  Yoga Makaranda: The Nectar of Yoga. Chennai, India: Media Garuda,  Krishnamacharya Healing & Yoga Foundation, 2011. First published in the Kannada language in 1934, this is Krishnamacharya’s first book on yoga and one of the first to present yoga to a general population as a “householder’s practice.” This was one of the first books to present the practice of āsanas in a sequential manner (vinyāsa krama). It includes information about complementary health and lifestyle practices and photos of Krishnamacharya and some of his students demonstrating the postures. MacGregor, Kino. The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2013.  This textbook by senior teacher Kino MacGregor provides a view of the ashtanga yoga practice as a path of spiritual transformation and personal development. It also contains a guide to the full ashtanga primary series, with photographs and descriptions of each posture. MacGregor, Kino. The Power of Ashtanga Yoga II: A Practice to Open Your Heart and Purify Your Body and Mind. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2015.  Senior teacher Kino MacGregor’s follow-up to her primary series book provides information on the ashtanga intermediate series, including philosophical background. She demonstrates the full series in a pose-by-pose guide. Maehle, Gregor. Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy. Novato, CA, New World Library, 2007.  This textbook by Gregor Maehle provides an overview of ashtanga yoga, covering its history and lineage; the fundamentals of breath, bandha, and dṛṣṭi; a rendering of the complete Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali; and a breakdown of each posture of the ashtanga primary series. It includes detailed photographs, descriptions, and anatomical information. Maehle, Gregor. Ashtanga Yoga: The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy, and Practice. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2009.  Similar to the author’s primary series book, this book covers the āsanas of the ashtanga intermediate series and includes further background on the practice’s philosophical and mythological heritage and the Sanskrit language. Stern, Eddie. One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How It Can Transform Your Life. New York, NY: North Point Press, 2019.  In this book, senior teacher Eddie Stern explores the effects of yoga on the human nervous system from the perspective of modern neuroscience and ancient principles and through a variety of practices, including breathing, chanting, postures, and meditation. It provides a scientific and practical understanding of how our bodies and minds work. Deepak Chopra writes the foreword. Muktibodhananda, Swami. Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga, 1998.  This fifteenth-century Sanskrit manual written by Svātmārāma presents the practice of yoga as a balance of mind, body, and energy through the performance of āsanas and other physical techniques, including dietary habits, cleansing practices (kriyās), breathing, and unblocking the flow of prāṇa through the physical and subtle energetic body. Patton, Laurie L. The Bhagavad Gita. New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2008.  Composed in the first or second century CE and considered one of the foundational yoga texts, the Gītā is an episode of the Sanskrit epic poem the Mahābharata. It recounts the conversation between the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer, Kṛṣṇa (an incarnation of the god Viṣṇu), on the brink of a major battle. Their conversation unfolds into an exposition on philosophy, morality, duty, and yoga as a path to self-realization. Academic Articles Fiori, Francesca, Nicole David, and Salvatore M. Aglioti. “Processing of Proprioceptive and Vestibular Body Signals and Self-Transcendence in Ashtanga Yoga Practitioners.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8  (2014): 734.  This study tested whether the effect of body-related expertise in weighting perceptual information is influenced by self-focusing abilities and looked into any potential link with self-transcendence, or the tendency to experience spiritual feelings and ideas. The findings suggest that highly self-transcendent yoga practitioners are able to rely more on internal signals from their own body rather than on exteroceptive, visual cues. Hagins, Marshall, Rebecca States, Terry Selfe, and Kim Innes. “Effectiveness of Yoga for Hypertension: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2013).  The purpose of this meta-analysis was to determine yoga’s effectiveness on reducing blood pressure in adults with hypertension and to compare different types and lengths of yoga intervention in this regard. The study determined that yoga can be preliminarily recommended for reducing blood pressure, but the authors recommended additional controlled trials. Kim, SoJung, Michael G. Bemben, Allen W. Knehans, and Debra A. Bemben. “Effects of an 8-Month Ashtanga-Based Yoga Intervention on Bone Metabolism in Middle-Aged Premenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Study.” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine 14, no. 4 (2015): 756–768.  This study examined the effects of an eight-month progressive ashtanga-based yoga program on several bone metabolism markers in 34 women between the ages of 35 and 50. The trial found that regular, long-term ashtanga yoga had a small positive effect on bone formation. Solomonova, Elizaveta. “First-Person Experience and Yoga Research: Studying Neural Correlates of an Intentional Practice.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9, no. 85 (2015).  This is an opinion paper on the experiential aspects of yoga as a movement-based contemplative practice (MBCP) and the role of first-person experiential reports in the neurophenomenological investigation of yoga and other MBCPs. Wiese, Christine, David Keil, Anne S. Rasmussen, and Rikke Olesen. “Effects of Yoga Asana Practice Approach on Types of Benefits Experienced.” International Journal of Yoga 12, no. 3 (2019): 218–225.  This study looked at the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits of yoga practice and whether specific practice approaches impact these benefits. The authors determined that practice frequency of at least five days per week provided practitioners with the greatest amount of benefits across all categories.  Wiese, Christine, David Keil, Anne S. Rasmussen, and Rikke Olesen. “Injury in Yoga Asana Practice: Assessment of the Risks.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 23, no. 3 (2019): 479-488.  The study found a low incidence of injuries and an infrequent occurrence of serious injuries, per years of practice, reported by yoga participants as compared to other physical activities.   Popular Press Grim Hall, Anthony. “Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama Yoga… At Home” (blog). Accessed June 21, 2020.  This is a blog by Anthony Grim Hall, who has delved deeply into self-practice at home, and has extensively researched the work and teachings of Krishnamacharya. Posts feature detailed investigations into the history of modern ashtanga, as well as a range of information on practice. The archive is currently unavailable but may be back online in the near future. Griswold, Eliza. “Yoga Reconsiders the Role of the Guru in the Age of #MeToo.” The New Yorker, July 23, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.  This article covers the sexual assault scandal around Pattabhi Jois, as well as consent and abuse in the yoga world more broadly, particularly around “guru” figures. Jamison, Angela. “Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor: House Recommendations.” Summer, 2013. Accessed June 21, 2020.  This pamphlet, written—or “crowdsourced and curated”—by Angela Jamison of Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor, contains recommendations and guidelines around the practice, what she calls “a collection of micropractices to help ashtangis de-theorize practice.” Jamison, Angela. Inside Owl (blog), January 3, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2020.  Angela Jamison of Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor writes this blog, bringing with her a rigorous background in sociology and critical thought to inform her discriminating view of the practice and current dynamics within the ashtanga community. Keil, David, Christine Wiese, Rikke Olesen, and Anne Rasmussen. “The YogAnatomy Research Project: Assessing Impacts of Yoga Asana Practice on Physical Health and Injury.”, accessed January 16, 2020, Accessed June 21, 2020.  This article describes a study conducted through a cross-sectional, descriptive survey intended to examine the physical, mental, and emotional experiences of people who practice yoga āsana. Landrum, Ty. "Is Ashtanga Too Linear?" Ty Landrum (blog), accessed January 14, 2019, Accessed June 21, 2020.  This blog is written by Ty Landrum of the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, CO, which he took over from senior teachers Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor. Landrum has a PhD in philosophy, a background that informs his writings about yoga practice, philosophy, and mythology. Pushpam. Accessed June 21, 2020.  Pushpam is a roughly bi-annual magazine published by senior teacher Hamish Hendry of Ashtanga Yoga London, “focusing on yoga beyond asana.” Its contributors include prominent ashtanga teachers, academics, and practitioners. Videos Talks and Podcasts Garrigues, David. "Asana Kitchen with David Garrigues." YouTube video channel.   Senior teacher David Garrigues hosts this YouTube channel, which features videos offering a variety of guidance around the ashtanga practice, including practice principles, philosophical discussion, postural tips, and recipes.  Garrigues, David. "Asana Kitchen Podcast." Podcast audio.  In this podcast, Garrigues covers a range of yoga topics, mostly dealing with yoga philosophy and ideas around integrating practice into life. Hunt, Taylor. "The Heartbreak Kids." Podcast audio.  In this podcast, Taylor Hunt of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus interviews practitioners and teachers of ashtanga yoga about their journeys to ashtanga yoga and the place yoga has in their lives. Glaser, Laruga. “The Impossible: Ashtanga Yoga Demo by Laruga Glaser.” Filmed and edited by Alessandro Sigismondi. January 14, 2015, YouTube video, 5:05. This video presents an ashtanga yoga demonstration by well-known ashtanga teacher Laruga Glaser. The Impossible | Ashtanga Yoga Demo by Laruga Glaser   Landrum, Ty. “The Flow of Breath | Uncut & Explained | Ty Landrum.” January 17, 2016, YouTube video, 28:46.  In this demonstration and talk, Landrum performs selected āsanas from the first four series of ashtanga yoga and provides voice-over narration about breath and prāṇa in practice. The Flow of Breath | Uncut & Explained | Ty Landrum   Sonima. "Live Sonima." YouTube video channel. This is the YouTube channel of the wellness site Sonima, founded by wellness advocate, philanthropist, and ashtanga practitioner Sonia Jones. The channel features numerous interviews and guided yoga classes with Sharath Jois. OMstars. Video platform.  This streaming service, created by senior ashtanga teacher Kino MacGregor, hosts classes and videos on yoga, lifestyle, and wellness featuring a wide range of teachers. The service’s website describes it as “Netflix for Yogis.” Jois, Sharath. “Sharath Rangaswamy Jois Practices Ashtanga Yoga Advanced A (1999).” Adam Wade, December 31, 2013, YouTube video, 1:04:46. In this video posted by Adam Wade, Sharath Jois demonstrates the entire advanced a (third) series of ashtanga yoga. Sharath Rangaswamy Jois Practices Ashtanga Yoga Advanced A (1999)   Wilkinson Priest, Genny. Triyoga Talks. Podcast audio. Wilkinson Priest of Triyoga in London hosts this podcast featuring interviews with yoga teachers, ashtanga and otherwise. The podcast covers such topics as ethics, contemplative practice, and advice for teachers. Related Organizations and Websites Ashtanga Dispatch   The Ashtanga Dispatch website includes a popular podcast, blog, and magazine by ashtanga teacher Peg Mulqueen and her daughter, Meghan Powell. The podcast comprises mostly interviews with prominent teachers in the ashtanga community. The blog and magazine feature articles by and interviews with figures in the ashtanga community on a variety of topics related to practice and lifestyle, as well as photography by Meghan Powell. Ashtanga: Parampara  This website is a project by Lu Duong and consists of interviews with authorized and certified ashtanga yoga teachers. AYI  This extensive website by Dr. Ronald Steiner features a variety of resources on ashtanga yoga in English and German. It includes a breakdown of the first three series of ashtanga—primary, intermediate, and advanced a—along with photographs, translations, the vinyāsa count and dṛṣṭi for each posture, and “cheat sheets” of each series with the names and photographs of the postures. It also has resources on Sanskrit and philosophy, including source texts and mantras associated with ashtanga yoga, with translations, and a Sanskrit pronunciation guide. There are also videos and articles on yoga anatomy, philosophy, and tradition. Namarupa  This organization and website produces a magazine, Namarupa: Categories of Indian Thought, which is edited and published by yoga and Vedanta teacher Robert Moses and senior ashtanga teacher Eddie Stern. Namarupa also raises money to support the education of children in Himalayan villages and organizes periodic yātrās—pilgrimages or retreats—to India. The website features a number of resources, including a blog and book store. Sharath Yoga Centre  The is the official website of Sharath Jois and the Sharath Yoga Centre in Mysore, India. It features Sharath’s teaching schedule and guidelines for applying to study at the shala. Trini Foundation  This is a non-profit organization created by ashtanga teachers Taylor Hunt and Jessica Hunt of Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, which partners with treatment centers, recovery programs, and studios nationwide to help offer yoga to people in early addiction recovery. This is the website of David Keil, an ashtanga yoga teacher and expert on anatomy, kinesiology, and neuromuscular therapy. The website features articles on anatomy, mostly as it relates to the practice of ashtanga yoga, highlighting specific muscle groups, postures, and common injuries. It also provides online courses and workshops.  About this Curated List Date Submitted: January 27, 2020  Last update: July 14, 2020 Curator David Kessel served as a writer and researcher for the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia.