The relationship between Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System as taught by Sri K. Pathabi Jois is a breath – movement synchronized form of Yoga where each inhale and each exhale correspond to a movement. In this type of practice, the breath is the guiding element, initiating each and every movement, transforming the practice – ideally – into a continuous, uninterrupted and even flow. Moreover, it comprises the principle of Tristhana; means, the practice is built upon three pillars which, if respected and applied by the student, make it a powerful tool for transformation. The pillars are: Posture, breath and gaze.
The Sanskrit name for posture is Asana.
Since the breathing during the Ashtanga Yoga practice differs from normal breathing, the breath during practice is manipulated or controlled in order to support the practice and to promote its healing effects. The Sanskrit word for breath control or, more specifically, breath extension is Pranayama.
The importance of the gaze within the Asthanga Yoga practice is outlined by the fact that each and every posture not only include arms, legs, head and torso but also the eyes of the practitioner – there is a special place of focus (drsti) in each posture. It helps the practitioner to resist any distraction from the outside and to stay focused and present on what happens on the inside. Ideally, during practice not only the gaze but the entire awareness is drawn inwards. The Sanskrit word for withdrawal of the senses is Pratyahara.
The tradition wants that Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is practiced on a daily basis, including one day of rest to allow the body to recover; to invite the effects of the practice to settle and to unfold.
A spiritual practice taking easily up to three or four hours a day, demands from the practitioner devotion and commitment. It’s these inner qualities, it’s the inner attitude, the firm decision and the love for the practice that make a “real” and traditional Ashtanga Yoga practice happen. In order to get there and to establish a firm ground of practice, lots of choices and changes in life are necessary. Questions like “What do I eat? When is the best time for eating? When to go to bed? What about our daily drugs? Are my friendships and relationships sound and supportive? And many many More…” do arise over time and thus, silently, slowly and carefully guide the practitioner towards a healthy lifestyle. Healthy in this sense means something like “supporting your potential as a human being”; supporting your Nature, your Element, supporting your life in order to be “a good person”. For you and for others.
Miraculously and “only by doing it” the practice enhances an ethical behavior. Dos and Don’ts in contact with others and in contact with you become more clearly.
The Sanskrit word for a person’s attitude towards others is Yama. The Sanskrit word for a person’s attitude towards himself is Niyama. Thus, by practicing alone, the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System as taught by Sri K. Pathabi Jois covers already five of the eight limbs: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara.
It is my belief that the missing limbs, the three inner limbs of Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (unison) will unfold themselves gradually and over time if – only if – one keeps on practicing.
The relationship between the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and the eight Limbs of Yoga is a most intimate relationship, although not obvious at all at the beginning. But the more serious one’s practice of yoga gets, the more clearly and essentially the relationship between the two shines through. It is the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga that helps to live that yogic life as outlined by Patanjali. It is the practice that helps to make yoga real.
The practice is a sculptor who forms you.
And reveals the light of your Self.
 Even if these changes happen slowly, they can cause a lot of confusion and disturbances in your family life and amongst your friends. Losses on one side and gains on the other side are likely to accompany these processes.
© Konstanze Seifert