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Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Association Hellas(AVYG)

The Association of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Greece was founded in 2014 based on the belief that the Ashtanga vinyasa method, with its philosophical and practical background, is there to support humanity through physical, mental and emotional empowerment.

Our vision as a community is to work on the unification and exchange of knowledge,education and wisdom between teachers and students of ths amazing method on a global level.

The history of Ashtanga in Greece, the first steps of Ashtanga in Europe!

The method of Ashtanga Yoga wasn’t known in Europe until the late 80’s when teachers Derek Ireland and Lesley Warel arrived to the Greek Island of Skyros and offered Ashtanga courses mainly to foreign students at the Skyros Centre. Linda Kapetaniou was their first Greek student in 1988. She along with Eleni Kiriakopoulou and Periklis Christodoulopoulos began to spread the method to more Greek students at the “Lotus Yoga Centre” which was the heart of the Ashtanga method in Athens. Derek and Lesley would later take their teaching to the South of Crete and it is there that they founded the first Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga School in Europe “The Practice Place”.

The students of these schools whom later became direct students of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in India, were Eleni Kiriakopoulou, Alexandra Dimitriou Mara and Maria Tsakona. In 1990, Kristina Karytinou started to study with Lynda and Periklis  and went on to become the first Authorized Greek teacher by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

After Sri K. Pattabhi Jois death,  Greek students had the great honour to be visited and trained by his only son , Manju Jois in 2017. His influence has always helped teachers evolve their emotional and spiritual level. Greece was one of his few destinations and for once more the country  played a vital role on building up the Ashtanga community in Europe. Today, many Greek students continue to visit The Gurus of the method in Mysore and around the wold. We feel very honoured to know that Hellas was a gate for the method to Europe and that Ashtanga Yoga is now one of the most popular methods of the yoga practice. 

Manju gave his blessings to our association that till this day represents the lineage in Greece as many of its members studied in Mysore with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Manju Jois and Sarath Jois. We are the only association of Ashtanga that exists on a National level. Past and Present Committee members (Alexandra Dimitriou, Nektarios Mitritsakis, Katerina David, Melina Vlahou, Kiros Tsannes, Manolis Dafermos, Dimitra Bessa, Dennis Ireland-Karytinos, Nikos Mihos, Anneta Alexandridi, Maria Mytilinaiou) continue to support the association under Derek’s influence and teaching methods which bridge the connection between us and his teaching. It was his unique vision that gave both Ashtanga and general Yoga in the west a different status. He raised the education of teachers to the next level! 

We thank all the teachers and Guru’s of the method for choosing Greece. The Ashtanga Yoga Association will continue to be tuned to the lineage and is committed to welcome, to educate and respect all practitioners of every level or teaching background of the Ashtanga Method.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Greece by from senior teacher Eleni Kiriakopoulou

How Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga started in Greece by Eleni Kyriakopoulou

My first contact with Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga happened when I first read an article about this particular system in the magazine Yoga and Health in April 1990.  Derek and Radha gave a 15 day Ashtanga Vinyasa workshop at the Skyros Centre in Skyros.  They carried on introducing Ashtanga Vinyasa in Europe, Crete, and United Kingdom.  

At that time, I was a student of Linda Capetaniou and a teacher of Hatha Yoga at her studio Lotos in Kifisia.   Linda who liked to learn and experience new ways and systems, decided to go to Crete the summer of 1990 and practice this new for us yoga system. 

As a result of her initiative, Christmas 1990, me, Linda and Periklis Christodoulopoulos arrived in Ag.Pavlos, Crete to practice and experience for 15 days Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  We practiced twice a day, morning and afternoon, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  I loved the experience, although it was a very demanding practice for somebody like me who had a very stiff not very flexible body.  But the system resonated with my personality who liked to discover new possibilities/new ways and go beyond the obvious challenges.  It helped me to confront the limits of mind and the limits of my body that were many times quite different.  I loved that the system had continuous flow of breath and movement.  I loved that I had to follow a certain sequence, discover my limits, and overcome them.  Of course it was a very intense practice and experience and for sometime my body was in pain, needing a lot of massage.  But overall the experience was wonderful, my energy was high.  And I fell in love with the practice.

We practiced in a taverna as there was no yoga shala, and Ag.Pavlos was a summer tourist area, so our rooms had no heating, or warm water.  We were given a  gas stove in front of each of our rooms where we boiled water for our bath.

After our first experience in Crete we carried on teaching the new system at Lotos in Kifisia and we would go back to Crete for more practice with Derek and Radha. Soon other students from Lotos who liked the system followed us back to Crete. The most persistent and well known Ashtanga teachers today is Maria Tsakona and Kristina Karytinou.

Maria was the first student from us, who went to India/Mysore to practice with the Master of Ashtanga Shri Patthabi Jois. And she kept on going for many years and She still does.

In spring 1992, I was in India, New Delhi at the ashram of Prem Rawat (Maharaji) where I met Maria againd and she told me of her experience in Mysore with Patthabi Jois and how wonderful it was.   She gave me all information and she inspired me to do the same.  So august 1992 together with my eight year old daughter we travelled to Mysore and for two months I had a unique yoga experience.
Patthabi was a real master of Yoga, a master who helped you transform in a deep level in every practice.  I was ver lucky, we were only 8 people in the shala.  Didn’t talk much, the teaching was through the hands on adjustments.  You had to feel the asanas, not think.  To discover your limits and go beyond, through feeling and observation, without complaining, judging, but through surrendering and following the rules. There I really learned about surrendering: you either practice with full consciousness or you injure yourself and learn. Surrendering changed the possibilities.  I experienced a unique relationship between student and teacher.  Patthabhi was not interested in students who didn’t surrender, he ignored them. He put me in every asana in his way although I had practiced Ashtanga for two years.  My first practice was just the salutations and he told me  to go.  Second practice, salutations and two asanas.  And this was the way we went through the sequence.  Taught my body to recognize its possibilities and go beyond the mind obstacles.  He was strict but also kind, he would reprimand you and smile.  The practice for the beginners started at 6 am and for the advanced at 4 am.  I had to be very careful with what I ate, how much I slept, so that I can make it through the practice everyday.  

One day he talked to us about the Ashtanga Yoga principles.  I managed to understand the first three.  
1.  I Will
2. I Will no matter what
3. I Will no matter what and what anybody says

What I understood from my practice is that the goal of my Ashtanga yoga practice is not really the strong, flexible, healthy body.  This is a result of the practice but not the real essence.  The goal of Yoga for me is, through the use of movement, concentration, breathing, to come in contact with the deeper layers of existence.  Within the flow of breath and movement the mind empties, detoxifies, and the consciousness enters a state of balance and harmony.  Form this state of balance and harmony you enter the dimension of meditation where the timeless opens its gates and absorbs us.  
Coming back to Athens, I continued teaching Ashtanga, and talking about my experiences with friends and students.  My friend Christina Karytinou was inspired then and started her own journey to Crete, to Derek, to Ashtanga and she is now today this wonderful Ashtanga yoga teacher who travels the world and teaches this wonderful system.

Eleni Kiriakopoulou