Although yoga in the West concentrates heavily on the physical concentration needed to complete pose after pose in succession, the practice of yoga itself is much more than just getting in a good workout. Traditional yogis use yoga to form a sacred bond with the Divine. In fine tuning one’s mental and spiritual concentration, traditionalists use the poses to go deeper into their spiritual practice.
Marcus Taylor in his latest Elephant Journal post, introduces us to Ashtanga Yoga where the breath is used to carry participants from one pose to the next. Also known for its eight essential practices, in addition to the poses, Ashtanga Yoga concentrates on moral restraints and observances, proper posture, the breath and concentration, sensory withdrawal, and meditation.
The origins of yoga itself have been traced back to India as it was over five thousand years ago, in what is known as the Vedic period. Ashtanga Yoga was made popular by Pattabhi Jois, an Indian Brahmin who began his yoga studies with Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in 1927, at the age of 12. The practice is said to have its roots in the Yoga Korunta, which was compiled by Patanjali at some point between 200 BC and 250 CE. Legend has it that this ancient text was given to Krishnamacharya by Gurua Rama Mohan Brahmachari. There is some evidence to show that Ashtanga Yoga incorporated gymnastic and wrestling exercises from the early 20th century.
Read more from Taylor about Ashtanga Yoga and its focus on meditation here.