Going back in time around 1000 BCE, you would have called Ashtanga Yoga – Yoga Korunta. The method of Yoga taught at KPJAYI is that which has been told by the ancient Sage Vamana in his text called “Yoga Korunta.” Although many books on Yoga have been written, Vāmana Ṛṣi (devanāgarī: वामन ऋषि) is the one who has focused a complete practical method.

A brief History of Ashtanga Yoga

The discovery of Yoga Korunta: The story goes like this – back in early1920-30s Sri T. Krishnamacharya travelled to Calcutta where he transcribed and recorded the Yoga Korunta, which was written on palm leaves and was in a bad state of decay, having been partially eaten by ants. Krishnamacharya translated the ancient Sanskrit text and synthesize the practice of the original Ashtanga Yoga. You can see the impact of his research on his practice videos as well.

While his visit and Yoga demonstration at Mysore, thanks to the patronage of the Maharajah (King) of Mysore was well known for his philanthropy, Yoga and spiritual faith, requested Sri T. Krishnamacharya to stay in Mysore and teach at the Sanskrit college and Yoga Shala in his palace.

The text is said to have described several lists of many different asana groupings, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras and general teachings. The name Yoga Korunta is the Tamilized pronunciation of the Sanskrit words Yoga grantha, meaning “book about yoga”. – wikipedia

It is on the basis of this text the Korunta that the Ashtanga Vinyasa system has been heralded by many of its proponents as an ancient practice from a lineage that stretches back millennia. Many practitioners have also cited Patanjali’s ancient system of Ashtanga as a source to legitimise and add credibility to the authority of their practice.

Composed between 500 and 1500 BC, the document was not very good preserved. Also a specialist in ancient Sanskrit, Sri T. Krishnamacharya understood from the turn of certain phrases that it was part of a much older oral tradition (between 3000 and 4000 years BC).

Ashtanga Yoga History | Ashtanga Yoga Heidelberg
Mulabandhasana: Indus civilization seal (3300–1300 BCE) and Sri T. Krishnamacharya | Wikimedia

Krishnamacharya passed on these teachings to the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois, who started Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Lakshmipur -Mysore.

Jois devoted his life to propagating the Ashtanga Vinyasa method and in the 1970s he taught famous western yogis: David Williams, Nancy Gilgoff and David Swenson. The practice caught on in the west where it gained widespread popularity and was famously eulogised by celebrities such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting. Today, Ashtanga Vinyasa is one of the most popular forms of yoga in the world.

However, Patanjali’s text makes no mention of Vinyasa and only mentions one asana: ‘sthirra, sukhasanam. a steady, comfortable sitting posture.’ (YS 2:46) Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga is essentially meditative and is a method for progressively bringing the mind under control: for ‘stilling the waves in the mind.‘ (YS 1:2) Patanjali’s method is clearly very different from the vigorous, physically demanding system of modern Asthanga Vinayasa yoga.

I will keep updating this article as I learn more about the History of Ashtanga Yoga through my family, KPJAI in Mysore and experienced Ashtangais around the world.

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