An integral part of all classical schools of yoga is their lineage, or a tracing of their roots from teacher to teacher to teacher. The importance of a lineage to any tradition is that due to the interplay of different perspectives brought together by generations of teachers, the teachings automatically encompass subtle breadth and depth — a merging of awakening minds. The presence of lineage guarantees a transmission of the most essential and subtle experience of yoga which otherwise can be missed in the shadow of the ego.
Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa Lineage
Like all lineages, that at the Yoga Workshop is a hybrid of yoga methodologies and philosophies which converge clearly in the teachings of the early Upanisads and blossom later in the practices of Hatha Yoga and Tantra. The teaching at the Yoga Workshop is in the lineage of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga.
The internal forms of Ashtanga yoga using bandhas, mudra and dristi with ujjai breathing are the pinnacle of Tantric technique brought to light in the broad clarifying context of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy and the non-dualism of the Upanisads. This traditional approach is recognizable in Hindu and Buddhist contemplative traditions as well as in the direct experience the practice uncovers.
These living lineages come to us directly through T Krishnamacharaya and K. Pattabhi Jois drawing the potent thread of yoga into the present from thousands of years since its formulation in Ancient India.
The current series in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system were developed by T Krishnamacharaya around the internal principles of vinyasa found in the ancient Indian text, the “Yoga Kurunta”. He instructed his student K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, South India to master and to use these series in teaching the Ashtanga Vinyasa system.
Richard Freeman, the Yoga Workshop’s founder, was one of the first Western teachers to be certified to teach by K. Pattabhi Jois. All teachers at the Yoga Workshop have studied extensively with Richard. This form of yoga has been practiced and taught at the Yoga Workshop for over 20 years.
At the Yoga Workshop
A fundamental aim of the teaching at the Yoga Workshop is to keep an open mind as we continually refresh the linage of Ashtanga Vinyasa system by making it applicable to the immediate condition of our bodies, minds and cultures.
We encourage students to read and ask questions about original ancient texts that have been influential in this lineage. Students are also encouraged to contemplate and question the ever changing context and landscape of yoga, both within their own practice (self reflection) and within the broader context of yoga as it evolves in the 21st century. We encourage the juxtaposing of our tradition with other traditions and lineages to challenge, to critique and to refine both ourselves and others.
As part of this we offer classes not only on asana, but also on meditation, pranayama and philosophy.
In Boulder we have the luxury of having many visiting Buddhist teachers and Rinpoches as part of Naropa University and the Shambhala community with whom we can interface. In addition we frequently have senior Iyengar teachers visiting the area. B.K.S. Iyengar is a contemporary of K. Pattabhi Jois and both were students of T Krishnamacharaya, so Iyengar yoga is closely related within the lineage. We encourage teachers and students to broaden their perspectives by studying with senior teachers in these traditions as they deepen their yoga practice.
The practice allows us to see through the workings of our own minds, to ground our experience in the present moment and to have a compassionate and clear understanding of the ideas, beliefs and rituals which surround our yoga practice and daily lives. Ethical conduct, honesty and compassion are at the heart of the practice.
Heart of the Practice
As part of the asana practice, core strength and alignment are accessed by integrating movement with the structural patterns along the central axis of the body. This is accomplished by meditation on the structural tones in the pelvic floor which balance the body and open its midline into deep direct experience of the life process. In this way one can establish a genuine ground for the further practices of pranayama, opening of internal energy channels, awakening of kundalini, and meditation.
The purpose of a practice is to expose reality.
Within the Ashtanga Vinyasa system postures are linked together through flowing movement (vinyasa), and the joining of that movement with the gaze, the breath and the currents of internal sensations. There are seven formal series of postures which are each practiced in sequential flow. All series begin with the Sun Salutations and contain the same standing postures. All end with the same finishing sequence. The postures sandwiched between vary from series to series, and are designed to address specific issues, such as structural integration, cleaning the nadis, or strengthening the internal mudras. Most students practice the Primary or Intermediate series, and a few advanced students work into the Advanced series.
All classes at the Yoga Workshop incorporate the internal, meditative approach integral to the Ashtanga Vinyasa system. Led classes are based on the sequencing and flow of the traditional series.
To help students deepen their practice, refine alignment or avoid injury, teachers may focus on particular facets of movement in the context of a series. Mysore classes are modeled after the self-practice asana classes traditionally taught by K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India. A Mysore practice allows students to work on the appropriate series or therapeutic loop, with input and assistance from the teacher. Students chant together to begin the Mysore class and at the conclusion of class students practice the finishing postures together, ending with the corpse pose. We also offer special classes and workshops, detailing various aspects of the practice.