Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is a beautiful, soft and feminine practice when the primary focus is given to the magical combination of deep ujjayi breathing linked with movement. When these are seamlessly united, a graceful moving meditation emerges, transporting the practitioner into the beauty of the present moment. Potent techniques such as bandhas, mudras and drishtis help to draw the student deeper into their internal world by moving energy and focusing the mind. It is the pinnacle of Tantric techniques brought to light in the clarifying context of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy and the non-dualism of the Upanishads. With continued practice, the student not only purifies the physical body but also the more profound levels of their being, ultimately revealing their true nature.
This system of yoga comes to us directly through TKV Krishnamacarya, who is widely regarded as one of the most influencial yoga teachers of the 20th century and is credited with the revival of hatha yoga. In 1920, he spent seven years with his guru, Sri Brahmachari, in a remote cave at the foot of Mount Kailash. During this time, he memorized and understood the whole of the Yoga Korunta (an ancient text from which the system of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga was outlined by Rishi Vamana over 2000 years ago), as well as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali plus detailed information on the therapeutic aspects of yoga. He then instructed his student Pattabhi Jois to master and use this ancient wisdom from the Yoga Korunta, in teaching the Ashtanga Vinyasa system.
In 1960, Jois wrote a book called Yoga Mala. To date, this book is a reference for the practice. It is a testament to how the tradition continues unchanged through the years. It was already there before the first Westerner (the Belgian Andre van Lysbeth) found Jois in 1964, and began to learn yoga from him.
Roots of the Vinyasa systems of Ashtanga Yoga can be found even earlier. They date back to the first written document of mankind, the Vedas. The first written Veda is the Rigveda, which traditionally is dated to 8000 BC. The Yajurveda is more recent, but still a very ancient text. In both, you will find explanations about movement and breathing, especially in Surya Namaskara. The physical and spiritual effects are described in detail.
The Yajurveda contains the Aruna Mantra, which sets the Vinyasa count of Surya Namaskara A to nine. In the Maha Saura Mantra from the Rigveda the Vinyasa count of Surya Namaskara B is enumerated to seventeen. The Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition follows the same counting method for Surya Namaskara A and B to this day.