Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga



The practice of Ashtanga Yoga, as taught by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois his son, Manju Jois, his grandson Sarath and all the Senior teachers,encompasses asanas, chanting as well as philosophy. Please choose one of the following:

  • main components of Ashtanga Yoga
  • philosophy
  • opening and closing chants
  • Primary Series asana names
  • Intermediate Series asana names

main components of Ashtanga Yoga

The following are aspects that Pattabhi Jois emphasizes as the main components of Ashtanga Yoga.

Vinyasa: Vinyasa means breathing and movement system. For each movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namskar there are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms over your head, and putting your hands together; the second is exhaling while bending forward, placing your hands next to your feet, etc. In this way all asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas.

Tristhana: This means the three places of attention or action: posture, breathing system and looking place. These three are very important for yoga practice, and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other.

Asanas purify, strengthen and give flexibility to the body.Breathing is rechaka and puraka, that means inhale and exhale. Both the inhale and exhale should be steady and even, the length of the inhale should be the same length as the exhale. Breathing in this manner purifies the nervous system. Dristhi is the place where you look while in the asana. There are nine dristhis: the nose, between the eyebrows, navel, thumb, hands, feet, up, right side and left side. Dristhi purifies and stabilizes the functioning of the mind.

An important component of the breathing system is mula and uddiyana bandha. These are the anal and lower abdominal locks which seal in energy, give lightness, strength and health to the body, and help to build a strong internal fire. Without bandhas, breathing will not be correct, and the asanas will give no benefit. When mula bandha is perfect, mind control is automatic.

from the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (link)


“Practice and all is coming” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Origins of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta . This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927.

from the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (link)


Union, communion; the union of our will to the will of God which enables us to look evenly at life in all its aspects; the method to achieve this – the word yoga is derived from the root yuj meaning to join, to yoke.

B.K.S. Iyengar


Vinyasa means breathing and movement system. For each movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namskar there are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms over your head, and putting your hands together; the second is exhaling while bending forward, placing your hands next to your feet, etc. In this way all asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas.

from the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (link)

Ashtanga, as described by the sage Patanjali, is comprised of eight limbs:

  • Yama: moral codes
  • Niyama: self observation
  • Asana: posture
  • Pranayama: breathing techniques
  • Pratyahara: sense withdrawal
  • Dharana: concentration
  • Dhyana: meditation
  • Samadhi: a state of joy and peace


Yama contains the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, satya, or truthfulness, asteya, or freedom from greed, brahmacharya, or control of sensual pleasure and aparigraha, or non-covetousness.

Ahimsa is more than just lack of violence. In every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude. It means not causing injury to anyone, including animals, in any form, at any time or for any reason in word, thought or deed.

Satya means to speak the truth. Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truth, do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear. If one follows the truth in this manner, all one?s words will become true and all one?s desires will be fulfilled.

Asteya is the opposite of stealing ? to take nothing that does not belong to us. This includes not stealing the possessions and property of others. Being envious of or vengeful of another; cheating someone with sweet words; gaining selfish ends under guise of truthfulness: all are to be abandoned.

Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster an understanding of the highest truths. It does not necessarily imply celibacy. Rather, it means responsible behaviour with respect to our goal or of moving towards the truth.

Aparigraha means to take onl means to take only what is necessary and not to take advantage of a situation.


Niyama, compared with yama, are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt towards ourselves. The niyamas are shaucha, or cleanness, santosha, or modesty and contentment, tapas or the desire to keep the body fit, swadhyaya, or the study of the self, ishwarapranidhana, or surrender to God.

Shaucha has both an inner and outer aspect. Outer cleanness simply means keeping ourselves clean; inner cleanness has as much to do with the healthy, free-functioning bodily organs as with the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas or pranayama are essential means for attending to this inner shaucha.

Santosha is the contentment of keeping the mind focused in a single direction, always being happy, and never feeling regret for any reason. It also means to accept what happens. It is about ourselves, what we have and how we feel about what we have been given.

Tapas literally means to heat the body and by so doing to cleanse it. Behind the notion of Tapas lies the idea that we can get rid of the rubbish in our body.

Swadhyaya is the study of the self from the skin of the body to the core of the being. Therefore, it means to get close to yourself; to study yourself.

Ishwarapranidhana means carrying out all our actions, spoken or unspoken, without desiring their fruit. Let it suffice that we know we have done our best. We can leave the rest to a higher power.


Asana means posture, which is the art of positioning the body as a whole, with a physical, mental and spiritual attitude. The pose is re-thought and re-adjusted, so that the various limbs and parts of the body are positioned in their places in a proper order and feel rested and smoothened, and the mind experiences the tranquillity and calmness of bones, joints, muscles, fibres and cells. If asana is practiced in accordance with established rules, then diseases related to the body and sense organs can be prevented.


Pranayama is the practice of various breathing techniques. Prana is energy, ayama is creation, distribution and maintenance. Pranayama is the science of breath, which leads to the creation, distribution and maintenance of vital energy. It is only by bringing body, breath and mind into unison that we realize the true quality of an asana. The first step of our yoga practice is to consciously link breath and body. In pranayama we focus our attention on the breath. The true aim of the various techniques of breathing in pranayama is first and foremost to give us many different possibilities for following the breath. When we follow the breath, the mind will be joined into the activities of the breath. In this way pranayama prepares for the stillness of meditation.


Pratyahara is usually translated as withdrawal of the senses. The word ahara means nourishment. Pratyahara translates to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses. The moment the mind becomes silent, the self rests in its abode and the mind dissolves. Similarly, when the muscles and joints are rested in their position, the body, senses and mind lose their identities and consciousness shines in its purity.


Dharana is concentration or complete attention. It is therefore the condition in which the mid focuses and concentrates exclusively on one point. The point can be anything at all, but it is always just a single object.


In dhyana, one becomes involved with a particular thing and a link is stablished between self and object. In other words, you perceive a particular object and at the same time, consciously communicate with it. Dharana must precede dhyana because the mind needs focus on a particular object before a connection can be made. Where dhyana is, there must be asana, where asana is, there must be dhyana.


Samadhi means to bring tSamadhi means to bring together, to merge. Sama means balance or in harmony. When the soul, which is the cause of existence, diffuses and harmonizes everywhere, that is Samadhi. A state of joy and peace.

all above drawn from excerpts of: B.K.S. Iyengar, The Art of Yoga T.K.V. Desikachar, The heart of Yoga Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga

opening and closing chants

opening prayer

vande gurunam charanaravinde sandarshita svatma sukhava bodhe
nih shreyase jangalikayamane samsara halahala mohasantyai
abahu purusharakam sankhachakrasi dharinam
sahasra shirsam svetam pranamami patanjalim

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

closing prayer

svasti prajabyah paripalayantam nyayena margena mahim mahishah
gobrahmanebyah shubamashtu nityam lokasamasta sukhinobavantu

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.

from the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (link)

primary series asana names

primary series

Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Pasrvakonasana
Parivritta Parsvakonasana
Prasarita Padottanasana A
Prasarita Padottanasana B
Prasarita Padottanasana C
Prasarita Padottanasana D
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana A
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana C
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana D
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana
UtkanasanaVirabhadrasana A
UtkanasanaVirabhadrasana B
Paschimottanasana A
Paschimottanasana B
Paschimottanasana C
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana
Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana
Janu Sirsasana A
Janu Sirsasana B
Janu Sirsasana C
Marichyasana A
Marichyasana B
Marichyasana C
Marichyasana D
Supta Kurmasana
Garbha Pindasana
Baddha Konasana
Upavishta Konasana
Supta Konasana
Supta Padangusthasana A
Supta Padangusthasana B
Supta Padangusthasana C
Ubhaya Padangusthasana
Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana
Setu Bandhasana
Urdhva Dhanurasana
Paschimottanasana A
Alamba Sarvangasana
Urdhva Padmasana
Uttana Padasana
Sirsasana A
Sirsasana B

intermediate Series asana names

primary series

Shalabhasana A
Shalabhasana B
Parsva Dhanurasana
Supta Vajrasana
Bakasana A & B
Ardha Matsyendrasana
Eka Pada Sirsasana A
Eka Pada Sirsasana B
Eka Pada Sirsasana C
Dwi Pada Sirsasana A
Dwi Pada Sirsasana B
Tittibhasaba A
Tittibhasaba B
Tittibhasaba C
Tittibhasaba D
Pincha Mayurasana
Gomukhasana A
Gomukhasana B
Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana
Baddha Hasta Sirsasana A
Baddha Hasta Sirsasana B
Baddha Hasta Sirsasana C
Baddha Hasta Sirsasana D
Mukta Hasta Sirsasana A
Mukta Hasta Sirsasana B
Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C