The Well Rounded Ashtanga Yoga Program

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By Mary Jo Schick

Ashtanga Yoga was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009).  It is a set sequence of postures (asanas) linked together by movement and breath (vinyasa), complemented by ujayi breathing, gazing points (drishti) and moving from a strong core (bandhas).  These practices collectively form the 5 elements of Ashtanga Yoga.  One of the goals of Ashtanga Yoga is to use the 5 elements to build heat internally so the muscles can safely stretch.  These elements also allow us to explore advanced poses sooner by setting a safe foundation.  There are also many strength building practices like arm balances, jumps and inversions.  Ashtanga uses lots of hands on assists and adjusts – when you feel the action of the pose you really know it. Ashtanga Yoga is perfect for students in good general health looking for a more challenging form of yoga.

The Ashtanga Program at BlissBlissBliss offers a wide range of classes from Introduction to Ashtanga to traditionally led Ashtanga Primary series; along with Mysore Practice, Ashtanga Primer and Ashtanga Flow.  Classes are based on David Swenson’s teachings and his book “Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual” Join us on this beautiful journey of Ashtanga Yoga!

99% practice, 1% theory – Ashtanga Yoga founder K Pattabhi Jois

Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga
Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga is our basic introductory class open to all students. We talk about the 5 elements (asana, vinyasa, ujayi breath, dristhti, bandhas); and run through a modified sequence – including Sun Salutes, and some Standing and Primary series postures.  We generally don’t count the breaths so we can study postures and alignment. This class is where we learn the basic sequence and practice so we can move onto Ashtanga Practice, Mysore Practice and Ashtanga Primary.

Each practice session is a journey. Create a practice that best suits your needs so that it is something that you look forward to. – David Swenson

Ashtanga Practice
This is a one hour version of the 2 hour led Ashtanga Primary class (see description below).  We eliminate a few Standing and Primary series poses for time, but always include 4 Sun Salutes (2 A, 2 B), and entire Finishing series (inversions).  The idea is to flow, so we don’t break down poses or practices into their component parts (see Ashtanga Primer).  Therefore this class is for students with experience of Sun Salutes, Standing and Seated postures – it does not have to be Ashtanga experience.  It’s a wonderful way to start your week! Experienced Students Only

2 Hour Ashtanga Primary
This is the traditionally led 2 hour Ashtanga Primary including all the Sun Salutes, and all of the postures from the Standing, Primary and Finishing series with all vinyasa.  There is minimal posture instruction; and the 5 breaths of each posture are counted aloud by the teacher(the conductor: train or orchestra).  The point is to flow through the sequence like a train, so it too is an experienced only class.  However – no one should push themselves past their limits or into injury.  Any vinyasa or posture can be skipped, but the ujayi breath and mental focus are maintained.  There is time for questions or to review any posture or practice before the train leaves the station, once it’s on track it does not stop!   All aboard! Experienced Students Only.

Asanas are not the goal. They are a vehicle to access a deeper internal awareness. – David Swenson

2 Hour Open Mysore Practice
Mysore classes are unique to Ashtanga Yoga; students get individual attention from teachers, plus a supportive environment for practice.  Class begins with the opening chant, then students proceed through their practice at their own pace – this is not a led class.  Practice notes are encouraged if the entire sequence is not yet familiar.  The teacher walks the room observing and advising individual students as needed – anything from what pose is next, to modifications and assists/adjusts for any posture.  We recommend a few Introduction to Ashtanga classes before attending your first Mysore practice; beginners with some Ashtanga experience and an eagerness to learn the sequence are welcome.  Mysore Practice is a beautiful way to share, learn and inspire each other on the beautiful journey of Ashtanga Yoga!  Drop in rates, or single punch yoga pass – that means you get 90 minutes of yoga for a 60 minute price!  Bliss! A little ashtanga experience needed.

Ashtanga Flow
Ashtanga Flow is a vinyasa class based on Ashtanga Yoga.  It is open to all levels of students.  Some days we may stick to the traditional sequence of Ashtanga; some days we may play with the sequence a bit – adding in Warrior III, modifying the Sun Salute, revolving Janu Sirsasana – whatever we like.  Maybe you’ll feel so great from Mysore Practice, you’ll stay for Ashtanga Flow! This is a class with a little wiggle room to study postures and practices, even from outside the Ashtanga Tradition.

Ashtanga Primer
Want to learn the Jumps of Ashtanga Yoga?  Then this is the class for you!   This class does NOT focus on the flow.  We break down practices and poses into their constituent parts.  We review Sun Salutes to make sure our form is correct, study difficult postures, and work on the myriad of jumps in Ashtanga yoga.  This may involve hands on assists from the teacher or partner work.  In this way we can study these practices without disturbing the flow of class.
When you master the jumps, you will not get a congratulations card from Mysore – you’ll just be given something else to work on!

The Jumps are a difficult challenge, take joy if/when you can do them, but remember they are just one part of the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, not a goal or an end in themselves. – David Swenson

See our schedule for all current classes.

As of January 2012.
Intro to Ashtanga – Wednesdays 6-7pm
Ashtanga Practice – Mondays 6-7pm  experienced only
2 Hour Ashtanga Primary  –  2nd Saturday, 4th Friday   11am-1pm   experienced only
2 Hour Open Mysore Pratice – Thursdays 7:30-9am   a little ashtanga experience needed
Ashtanga Flow – Thursdays  9:30-10:30am
Ashtanga Primer – 7:15-8:15pm   2nd Friday of month, night before 2nd Sat Primary