First Years

  • Asana Practice

    After standing poses comes a series of seated poses. Again, you will take these on a little at a time continuing to memorize the sequence as you go. In the seated poses there is a vinyasa between almost every pose.  I have been calling the practice Ashtanga Yoga, but the full name is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  “Vinyasa” is basically a Surynamaskar A except you hold down dog for only one breath and then jump or step forward and sit down.  In the resource area I have included a link to my favorite cheat sheet for learning where the vinyasas go.

    Eventually, you will learn more and more poses and know when to breathe and where to do vinyasas and how to make bandhas. At some point you will have at least tried all the poses.  Maybe you didn’t do them all in one day, but you will at least know, in concept, how each pose is performed.  The series is meant to be done from beginning to end without stopping.  There is a class called “Primary Led” offered in Ashtanga yoga studios, often on a Saturday morning, that you should have a goal to attend.  You might not do the whole series the first times you go.  It is ok to sit and observe at first if you don’t know what to do or can’t do what is being done.  You can and should always modify poses to fit your body and what you have learned so far when you are in a Primary Led class.

    I remember the first time I went all the way through the series in a Primary Led class during teacher training.  My teacher had invited me to practice next to her.  I had injured my left big toenail.  I had to modify a lot to accommodate my toe and my teacher was with me to demonstrate a modification if I needed it.  At the end of that class, she congratulated me and said, “You did it! Your first time doing the whole Primary series is a big deal!”  At the time, it didn’t seem like a really big deal.  I had built up to it over time.  It had taken me more than two years since my first Ashtanga class.  Looking back, I realize she was right.  It was a day to mark and celebrate.

  • Closing Chant

    I don’t hear the closing chant as often as the opening chant.  It is traditionally always offered at the end of a full-led practice.  I guess I need to go to more of those. 😉

    The meaning of the closing chant has to do with bringing peace to the world.  Check out this translation:

    May all be well with mankind.
    May the leaders of the earth protect in every way, by keeping to the right path.
    May there be goodness for those who know the earth to be sacred.
    May all the worlds be happy

    Why would I not want to repeat such a beautiful wish often??

    I have a goal to learn it like I did the opening chant during teacher training.  It took rote repetition for a long time to get that one down.  But hey, the closing chant is A LOT shorter!

    Here are some resources I found online to help me.  If they help you too, extra yay!

    This is a really good one with Pattabi Jois and the words written as he says them.

    This is a nice webpage with both the opening and closing chants, translations and recordings.

    And here is the closing mantra set to music with Mysore-style yoga on a beach to watch while you listen.


Asana Video Instruction

  • K. Pattabhi Jois 26 (July 1915 – 18 May 2009)

    This is THE classic Full Primary Led by Pattabhi Jois who is considered the founder of this system.  All of the students in this video are now senior Ashtanga teachers.  Tim Miller is one of the students in this video and he is my teacher’s teacher.

    This video is Pattabhi Jois leading his grandson Sharath in a demonstration.  The person posting added repeats of Surya Namaskars making it a viable practice video that lasts less than an hour.  This is a good tool since many days it is hard to practice longer than an hour.

  • Kino McGregor

    In this video Kino leads a class through half of seated (through Navasana) and then to closing.  There are many students on camera to be able to observe variations. 

  • Seated and Closing Series Videos by Ashtanga Monkey

    Here is a  link to a video that shows the first half of the seated posesThis much is a good goal to work toward at first.  Here is a link to the rest of the seated sequence.  

    Here is a link to the full closing sequence.  I really like these videos because the poses are labeled with the name of the pose.  It is also cool that the poses are in color and the vinyasas are in black and white to make it even more clear.

    NOTE: Always begin with the Sury Namaskars and the standing sequence before attempting any of these poses.

    This is a really good instructional video you can use up to the first half of seated poses and then it adds on a series of “Yin” poses.  These are not technically ashtanga, but these longer-held poses can help open the body.  Most of them are to help the hips open up.

  • Here’s a link to my favorite cheat sheet to learn where Vinyasas go.  

    Remember that the goal is to memorize the series, so try to think of the next pose before you look at cheat sheets.

Yoga Music, Books and Other Written Material

  • Deva Primal

    We used a mantra in class last Wednesday to get our breath even on our Suryas.  The artist is Deva Primal

    Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha is the title and it is a chant to remove obstacles.  The chant is repeated 108 times (which is a number of significance.  Do a google search if you are curious.)  It’s nice to play it as you get your practice started to settle your mind.

    Om Shreem Mahalakshmiyei Namaha is one by the same artist that my first teacher, Tung, introduced to me at the same time.  It is a chant for abundance.  He would often play these back to back as we did sun salutes at the beginning of our practice.

    And this is one of my favorites by Snatam Kaur called Og Namo… it starts with English words “The rain is pouring down like all the souls You send here” and talks about “coming home”. This is a good one during shavasana if your need something to calm your mind.  Listen to the words.  They are beautiful.  And this one Long Time Sun.

  • Ashana

    Another musician I like to listen to as I go into meditation (or just to rest) is Ashana.  Her album “Jewels of Silence” has some nice music.  The song Heart of Gaia is particularly relaxing to me.  There are crystal bowl vibrations in this music and I can feel the vibrations in my body.  I especially notice it when the music stops.  It’s like my body continues to vibrate for a bit.  I feel deeply rested and calm afterwards

    Here’s a link to a free online pdf of the Yoga Sutras.

    A link to opening and closing chants.


    How Yoga Works

    A fascinating story by Michael Roach that teaches the nature of yoga but never explains a single pose. This book motivated me to want to master all the limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.  Here is information about a discussion group reading this book in 2018.  We use Google Hangout once a month to connect.

  • Learn a little Sanskrit

    Traditionally, asana practice begins and ends with a sanskrit chant.  I worked hard to learn the opening chant during teacher training.  It never felt odd to me, but I can imagine that it might for some people.  The chants and translations can be found at this link.

    I begin my home and personal practice with a low and long “om” followed by the memorized opening chant.  After a while, I notice that my body began to  adjust and straighten as I chanted in an automatic way.  My mind becomes calm and ready to focus on my asana practice.  The basic meaning of the opening chant is to say “thank you” to all those who have passed along this knowledge.  It is also a way to energetically tune in to all others in the world who are practicing this series at the same time I am practicing.

    I like this tradition, but if you don’t, it not a problem to skip it.

  • Ashtanga Yoga Limbs 7 and 8

    The last two limbs are

    • Dyhana- Meditation
    • Samadhi-Spirituality or connection to the Divine.

    In my religious life I have always heard that to gain answers to questions I should “study God’s word, ponder or meditate and pray”. There is a practice to meditation—to calm my own thoughts and seek some deeper wisdom to surface.  As I have done seated meditations (which for me are often prostrate or “shavasana” meditations) I have learned to clear my own thoughts more and more.  Many times I have added silent prayer to my practice especially during and after shavasana.  I have felt a divine presence with me in such personal ways that I treasure them in my heart and seldom share such personal sacred experiences.  Yoga has only enhanced this part of my life.

    There are formal ways of learning meditation.

    A shout-out to my friend and fellow Ashtangi, Tracy Ochester, who teaches meditation alongside with her private counseling/psychology practice.