By Kimaya Singh
Ashtanga, or the eight limbs of Yoga is rapidly becoming as popular as Hatha and Kundalini forms of yoga in the West. Since it’s “new” to the West, many westerners tend to think of Ashtanga is being a recent invention. In fact, the roots of this style reach back over two thousand years and possibly before that.
Although sources disagree on the exact date of Ashtanga’s birth, most experts consider it to originate from 400 years BCE to 250 year’s before the date of Christ’s birth. The variation in dates is probably due to the fact that this form of yoga training probably passed from teacher to student before the standardized poses we see today were written down or codified.
Many sources consider the sage Patanjali as the creator of Ashtanga (Raja). He is credited with coming up with the philosophy that a regular practice should consist of eight “limbs” or practices that will enable a person to reconnect with their heart and their true being. The eight limbs, or components of Ashtanga and Raja are: the physical body, devotion, observation and meditation on current states, withdrawal from the world into the other limbs, concentration on the breath, ethics, and a drive towards a union with the divine.
Other sources state that forms of this style go much further back in history, and that some forms were practiced approximately 4000 years ago. While that is often confusing to students, it’s likely that early students of Ashtanga practiced localized forms of the movements, as it grew and changed from one teacher to the next. And it’s most likely that there was not a drive to standardize the flow of movements until Pantajali’s lifetime. By the 1940s, under the guidance of master yoga instructor Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a codified and standardized form of asana sequencing came to the West.
Thanks to the work of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, students across the globe are able to practice the same sequence of movements, no matter where they study and under what teacher they study under. He standardized yoga teacher training requirements within his style. This consistency is perfect for instructors and students who enjoy a bit of structure in their practice.
Since Ashtanga has been concerned with unifying the physical with the emotional and spiritual aspects of life, this style has attracted students who enjoy practicing yoga for its spiritual aspects as well as the physical ones. Students are usually pleased to find that Ashtanga moves a focus from just movement to a holistic practice that involves every aspects of a practitioner’s life.
© Copyright 2009 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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