What is Ashtanga Yoga? By Xinia Alderson

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Let’s see if we can scratch the surface on this vast topic!

The Ashtanga yoga system is a living lineage that dates back nearly five thousand years in an unbroken line of teachers, sages and gurus that has now reached millions of practitioners through the very inspirational life of Sri K Pattabhi Jois. It is now continued and honoured by his son Manju, his daughter Saraswati, his grandson R. Sharath Jois, and every Ashtanga teacher and practitioner today. 

The practice is designed to purify the body, promote proper functioning of the digestive system, build strength, and restore range of motion to the body. This method relies on linking postures (asana) with deep, even breathing and steady gazing with the eyes. Practicing these 3 things together (tristhana) allows for correct vinyasa(breathing with movement) and encourages the blood to circulate, allowing the body to rid any unwanted toxins. The gazing point (dristhi) helps to facilitate a state of meditation, we all have monkey-minds and this has a strong effect on steadying the practitioner.

You might hear people say; “Ashtanga is a very physically demanding practice”, or “ah, Ashtanga yoga is only for young men!” On the outside, maybe from social media it can look like this. But traditionally Ashtanga yoga is taught posture-by-posture, breath-by-breath. This is where the magic of “mysorestyle” unfolds. A mysore class is a guided self-practice space where students slowly learn the sequence of postures given to them one at a time from their teacher when they see the student is ready to progress. No rushing, no pushing, just using the power of the breath, perfect for beginners and advanced practitioners to practice alongside each other. 

Yoga can be practiced by anyone, whether young, old, very old, healthy or sick. This said, the way a young person is taught will differ from the way in which an old or sick person is taught. This is where a mysore style practice is gold. Everyone can learn and build their practice at their own breath and pace, with one-on-one guidance from their teacher. 

The posture sequence stays relatively the same, slowly progressing and changing over time. But everyone begins with suryanamaskara and standing postures whether then have been practicing for 2 weeks or 20 years! This way the practitioner can master the tristhana and use it as a powerful movement meditation.

SOUL’s very own Ashtanga teachers; Catherine Albiston (Authorized L1) and myself (Authorized L2) have studied for extensive amounts of time at the Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Institute in Mysore, India, with numerous trips lasting months each time. It is a lot of fun, and we get to share the practice with so many other dedicated yogis from all over the world.  

We are very honored to have received authorization from the Shala, which is particularly cool as there is only 7 authorized teacher in the whole of New Zealand. Sharing the practice is a gift that never gets old.

-Tuesdays 7:15pm and Thursdays 6pm Xinia takes you through a led class.

-Sundays 8-9:30am Catherine runs a mysore space.


“Practice, practice and all is coming. Yoga is for whole life!” – Pattabhi Jois.