What is the history of Ashtanga yoga?
Yoga as a system of psychophysical development of man appeared long ago: the latest discoveries of archaeologists show that this science is not less than 5000 years old. According to one version, it originated in the valley of the Indus River in north-west India during the times of the Aryans. Yoga is mentioned in the early collections of Indo-Aryan sacred hymns – Yajurveda, Rigveda, Samavede.
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Yoga is one of the six basic philosophical systems (schools) of India. The worldview of yoga is close to the worldview of the Sankhya school, but yoga is more practical, relying more on immediate experience than on reflection and analysis. The main task of yoga is full disclosure of the potential of human consciousness, comprehension of the true nature of things.
Until recently, the teachings of yoga were transmitted exclusively from the teacher to the student, so we have heard very few texts about yoga, and these books can not be read without a deep comment (preferably personal). Below is the line of succession of teachers (Sanskrit parampara), thanks to which the tradition of yoga is preserved and became available to modern people.
Rsi (great sage) Patanjali is considered a systematizer of yoga. In the text “Yoga Sutras”, a collection of short aphorisms, he described the methods of the eight-step path of yoga, which was called Ashtanga yoga (Sanskrit “Asthau” – “eight”). The purpose of this path is to comprehend a person of his true nature. Patanjali broke the system into 8 steps, each of which contains certain techniques for the development of the body and consciousness. Among them – all known asanas, eliminating pollution at the level of the physical shell.
It is very difficult to learn “Yoga Sutras” independently, because each sutra is a coded instruction, and to understand them, you need a key that can only be passed by an experienced and knowledgeable mentor. In the time of Patanjali, knowledge was transferred directly from teacher to student, and the system of “encoding” information allowed to avoid its getting to ignorant people who could misunderstand what they heard and use to harm themselves or others.
Little is known about Patanjali. The time of life dates very roughly – the beginning of our era. Patanjali was a great scientist, and wrote fundamental works on mathematics and Sanskrit. Before every practice, we thank him for the teaching left to us.
Vamanarishi is the author of the famous text “Yoga Korunta”. It is said that the treatise was created 2000 years ago. A copy written on palm leaves was handed to Krishnamacharya by his teacher, Ramamohan Brahmachari. He subsequently taught this system to Pattabhi Joyce.
The first part of the text described asanas and principles of yoga practice, and the second contained comments on Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras.” Asanas were presented in a certain sequence, and they should necessarily be performed in combination with special breathing, vinyasasmi, bandhas and drishti. The practice presented in the book contained all the eight stages of yoga, which are mentioned in the “Sutras” of Patanjali, and therefore it was called “Ashtanga Yoga”.
The most famous postulate from the Vamana tract was the words “O yogi! Do not do asanas without vinyasa. ” According to Rishi, vinyasa generates internal heat, initiates the processes of purifying the internal organs and the nervous system, and moves the mind into a meditative state.
Unfortunately, the manuscript was not preserved: it was eaten by ants and termites. However, thanks to Pattabhi Joyce and his disciples, this practice has been preserved and continues to benefit many.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (18.11.1888-28.02.1989)
Sri Krishnamacharya was born in South India, in the village of Muchukunda, in a Brahmin family. In his youth he studied many Indian languages and Sanskrit, received full Brahmin training. He spent some time in Varanasi, where the Brahmins traditionally raised their education. Then Krishnamacharya became interested in hatha yoga and energy practices, and the teacher advised him to go to Tibet, to guruji Ramamohanu Brahmachari, who lived in a cave on the shores of the Tibetan Lake Manasarovar. Krishnamacharya spent 7 years studying the practice and theory of hatha yoga, he got knowledge about yoga therapy. In general, his interests were so versatile that he was often called “Leonardo from Yoga.”
Over time, the teacher sent Krishnamacharya back to India – to distribute and teach yoga. He ordered him to marry and start a family to show that yoga – not only for hermits, anyone can practice. For that time, it was, to put it bluntly, a difficult task, as interest in yoga in India was extinguished, and practitioners could be counted on their fingers. Krishnamacharya fulfilled the guru’s request: he married, returned to Calcutta, where he studied Ayurveda for 2 more years, and then began teaching in the south of India: he gave yoga lessons, held public demonstrations, and treated with Ayurveda and yoga therapy. One day, the ruler of the city of Mysore, Maharaja Vodiar, who had suffered from a serious illness, turned to him for help. Krishnamacharya fully restored his health, and in gratitude to the Maharaja he presented him with a hall where Krishnamacharya taught and cured in the 30s.
Krishnamacharya did his best to make yoga accessible to all, to lead her out of the closed gates of ashrams and monasteries. He was the first to teach women asanas and mantras, although many Brahmins were against it. (Indra Devi, the Russian wife of the Swedish ambassador, who later taught yoga herself for many years, became one of Krishnamacharya’s first known western students).
Krishnamacharya lived 101 years and left behind a grandiose heritage, from which grew modern hatha yoga, which, thanks to his efforts, is accessible to everyone.
Krishnamacharya had two widely known disciples: Pattabhi Joyce and BK S. Iyengar. As we talk about Ashtanga yoga, here we will only talk about the first, because it was Pattabhi Joyce Krishnamacharya who transferred this technique.
Pattabhi Joyce (July 26, 1915-18.05.2009)
Ashtanga’s yoga guru was originally from a Brahmin family living in Karnataka (a state in the south of India). In his youth he came to Mysore to enter the Sanskrit college, and accidentally saw Krishnamacharya on the street, which demonstrated the possibilities of yoga. This made a great impression on him, and he became a disciple of guruji. 30 years old Pattabhi Joyce was a student, and then a teacher at his school.
Pattabhi Joyce, following the instructions of the teacher, taught Ashtanga yoga all his life in the form that he had received from Krishnamacharya. He described the basics of style in his book “Yoga Mala”. Until the late 60-ies he had very few students, but in the early seventies, a flood of American downshifters, tired of the ideology of mass consumption, poured into India. Some of them were very interested in the yoga taught by Pattabhi Joyce. Among his most famous students are David Svensson, Andre van Lisbeth, Richard Freeman, David Williams. The latter organized Pattabhi Joyce’s trip to the United States in 1975, and since then this precious technique has become accessible and open to all.