Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are three key elements that found Yoga practice.

Practicing should be satkara – i.e.  correct (proper), nairantarya – i.e. constant (systematic) and dirgha kalait should be continued for a long time.

Perception of this „long time” changes throughout years of the Yoga practice. In the beginning, a year or two of the practice appear to be „long time”. After five years one’s own perception changes and one starts to regard oneself the advanced Yogi. For some next years of the practice we think we have already mastered a lot and practiced properly. Often, for many Yoga practicioners it is a moment they start to teach.

However, according to the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, well-founded practice takes around twelve years.

Such practice implies proper and constatnt effort that faces all ups and downs, all life stages and all emotional conditions that one experiences during these years. It also involves confronting all the obstacles such as diseases or injuries. Everything that happens both in one’s life and on one’s yoga mat.

Unfortunately, as far as this issue is concerned, Yoga practicioners rarely take into account  the ancient rule that states that unless you have helped yourself and healed yourself and others through your Yoga practice, and under supervision of your Teacher, you cannot teach. Teaching is not possible until you pass these two initial tests.

This, as a matter of fact, is the main goal of the Ashtanga Yoga – healing. It concerns a wide understanding of the issue of diseases which involves both bodily and mental diseases.

Once we start to explore, understand, deepen and realise how little we have learnt so far and how fledgling we still are in our Yoga practice, we realise we are still in the beginning of our path towards this great science of the body and the mind. Yogi’s attitude changes. One switches from a first level of insight, a very superficial one, to a higher and deeper level of it, to a greater insighfulness, humility and respect to the method. In fact, this is when the actual Practice starts.

That is the first aspect of this subject – i.e. time and work that make the ATTITUDE. The attitude of the Life-long, Insightful and Exploring Yoga Practicioner.

The second aspect is READINESS.

Not a physical readiness, but an inner one: psychical and spiritual.

Sometimes, there prevails a mental pattern such us „when I get better and get stronger, I’ll start my Yoga practice”. That is one of the biggest illusions because the best way to strengthen oneself is by the regular practice. By starting (not waiting), one steadily builds the fundaments – with no rush, at one’s own pace, bearing in mind that it takes time and consistent effort and one’s acceptance to every single stage that occurs.

Furthermore, one can recognize the abilities and weaknesses quicker and can work on them immediately.

Time works in favour of the practicioner (the sooner, the better) and to the disadvantage of those who do not practice. One cannot speed up transformation – everything happens in the right place and time (there are many factors that determine it). The longer we continue and repeat patterns and processes which were happening for many years, the harder it gets to change them.

Readiness and courage bring acceptance to confront the Mirror. The long-standing practice gives a chance to face it as we start to control our mental states and we learn to remain neutral to what happens. Repetitiveness and regularity create an observer position and, as a result, vanishes a difference between asanas. We stop to make distinction between asanas that arouse pain, emotions or discomfort i.e. the ones that disturb our inner peace. The distinction between nice and pleasureable asanas and those we prefer to avoid disappears. It causes a kind of satisfaction (santosha) with practicing itself.


As mentioned earlier, the ultimate goal of the Yoga practice is to support health, the  growth of the levels of consciousness, not achieving next asana. To do asana is partially a superficial ability which we gain. We need to remember that completing asana is something extra, a side-effect of healthy body. We should neither focus on asanas nor attach to them too much.

Restoring a healthy body and mind is the reflection of the essence of the Yoga practice. What is crucial here is not one-time or occasional doing of an asana but readiness and ability to do it any time for a long time. We get such an effect when a particular posture is integrated with our inner self and when it is manifested outside.

Every-day life events are like tests that test the attitude (mental, bodily and behavioral pattern) represented by a particular asana – we either continue a proper reaction or we are determined by the patterns of conditioning.

What is interesting is that even when a certain life situation disappears, the reaction (if it wasn’t revealed) can be still visible in the Yoga practice. Thanks to it we are able to check if a given mental pattern is still affecting us (i.e. if it still requires to be worked on) or if we can deal with the next one.

If one’s goal in the Yoga practice is to complete more asanas and yoga series, practice boils down to either superficial showing-off (at will, or simply on Shala) or injury. This is how an occasional practice of an asana ends up. This goes against the foundations of Yoga which are the growth of consciousness and health in their broadest sense.

The fourth thing is FREQUENCY.

We practice Yoga six days a week. Free days are: one regular day a week, three days in a month for women (Lady’s days), New Moon and Full Moon. Sometimes there can be two-three days more in a month for extra regeneration.

There are two ways to maintain a good quality of the practice.

First of all, if we want to spend on practice three-four days a week, it is better to practice e.g. three-four consequtive days rather than to practice every two or three days.

First day (sometimes also the second one) is to emerge from stagnation. It can be compared to the wiping the dust slightly, a basic cleansing. In such cases practice does not affect us so deeply. It does not filter in so deeply and the breath is not full and deep because it is blocked by the muscle tensions. During these days we cleanse the detritus of the present – patterns and stres. The mind still dominates. A deeper work starts after third or fourth day when tiredness of the body and mind reveals. There is a common saying in Yoga: „you should sweat off your mind”. During first two days we intend to achieve it – we try to reduce mental activity through practice. We try to turn it off so that there is a space. Next days involve our efforts to maintain this mindfulness when mental activity is reduced and when the mind is slightly quietened. That is when we are able to focus on our patterns. If we do not practice Yoga for the consequtive days but rather every two-three days, we endlessly start anew. Such practice is very superficial and does not bring right results. That is why Yoga practice is compared to brushing one’s teeth. We, however, „brush the teeth of our mind”. Then, there is a chance that our perception clears deeper.

Secondly,  long-term, regular, (even if) shorter sessions bring better results than an occasional, one-off, bigger or longer workouts.

Following the above arguments – regularity is the key. However, the next crucial thing is to practice on a long-term basis so that intended results appear. New patterns that we want to introduce to our life are established after minimum of six weeks of proper efforts to implement them. Still, after this time one has to remain insightful and mindful whether a past pattern does return. Practicing on a long-term basis is a test. It verifies if we practice properly. Only this way we can get a point of reference and, alternatively, look for help to supervise how we practice.

Ashtanga Yoga is a tool. However, every tool can be used in more than one way – either to heal and to feed or to destroy and harm.

One person, who practices properly and mindfully, and who follows guidelines of the tradition and Teachers, will quickly return to health through Yoga practice. Such person will also set oneself free from one’s own mental patterns.

Another person, however, who practices seemingly the same way, through Yoga practice will strengthen his/her patterns so that they start to destroy and harm his/her health or destroy the mind (psyche) by intensifing reactions.

That is the rule of making adequate effort – not too much, not too little. It should be mindful and regular, though.

Accuracy and correctness bring in every day practice following results:

we do not waste energy, quiet the contrary – we gain more of it

we do not harm our body (physically and energetically), but we recover

we do not strengthen mental patterns (e.g. grappling with oneself, inability to let go, or quiet the contarary – giving up too quickly, or supporting one’s fears), what is more, the old patterns (also traumas) disappear when we replace them with the new, proper ones.

These three elements should be integrated and lead to the essence of the Ashtanga Yoga practice. These days, this ability is extremely difficult, though.

Often, after some time a thought arises: „maybe I do not need to practice every day”.

It is a voice of our laziness, comfort or our mind simply starts to get bored. The harder it gets to challenge as the deepest changes appear easily, with the lightness of a butterfly, not with the heaviness of elephant move. Then, it should be alarming sign for us that we need supervision of Teacher because probably we practice wrongly. We do not notice these changes, so they are not a value that will motivate us. We notice them only after the long-term practice when we have a chance to confront our own past limitations or when we react completely differently in difficult situation than we used to.

Therefore, the basic rule in spiritual practices is not to argue with mind. The mind is not our friend, it is not our ruler, either.


Most of all, it is significant because during Yoga practice not only mechanical processes take place but the biochemistry of the entire body changes, too. This requires time and regularity to stimulate and direct work towards the new patterns. In the beginning, we stabilise the body as well as possible at that moment. We make the body into the frame. We seek the most natural position of the skeleton, the placement of the body weight, and posture as a whole – but within our current abilities. All of these are supposed to direct body and not to separate excessively individual parts of it at the same time.

Next, we learn how to rotate the muscles and bones which build a particular asana and how to simultaneously combine them into a single move so that the fascia become a single energized anatomical train.

Repetitiveness and mindfulness during such practice enables to create such fascia connections as well as strengthens working on body weight and the center of gravity. It happens when the body starts actively working as a single train, not an isolated structure.

Additionally, the body creates and clears channels that distribute fresh blood and lymph so that all the tissues are noursihed and reliably oxygenated.

That is usually moment when the most of Ashtanga Yoga practicioners stop – their asana resembles asana from the picture so they think work has been already completed. In fact, here actually the whole transformation begins.

Then, bandhas activate more. Nevertheless, if we want bandhas to generate energy resources, if we want to manage them, and if we want to properly distribute through the body the energy which they store, correct practice and focus on this issue is vital. Mindfulness and more conscious work with the breath creates a fuel which bandhas can redirect to the proper fascia train.

The body begins to spread neurological impulses intensively. It boosts the fascia along its entire length and clears blockages. The fascia trains are Meridians, Nadi. Only then are the internal organs stimulated to carry out their fundamental functions to their fullest. Every signle organ is responsible for specific qualities – also emotional ones. It is in fact very thorough work. Every asana has Nadi assigned to it – both this one which is supposed to be stimulated and this one which is toning. Whole path of the Yoga pract boils down to exploring which Nadi should be activated and how.

Only then new, healthy, original mental patterns start to replace the old ones. Our body and our mind change. Memories of past experience are relieved both in the fascia and in the subconscious.

That is the time the healing process and therapeutic work through Yoga starts.

The sixth thing is MASTERY

Masterful performance of an asana is reflected in the peace and stability we experience as we embody its dignifying state. This guideline gives sutra II.46 „sthira-sukham âsanam”.

Occurence of Tristana (breath, bandhas, drishti) determines this level. Keeping  stable mind which is focused on one point is difficult (drishti) just like maintaining one posture (asana – breath and bandhas) or activity  (vinyasa – stable, steady rythm).

When these three elements are polished and occur simultaneously during practice, it brings us Strength, Lightness and Gracefulness that are free from distractions and conditining. We attain Completeness, Integrity, State of Meditation in asana. This Unity is compared to a quality of diamond which leads to Mastery.

In practice, however, a path to reach this place looks differently. A person is not able to maintain concetration on the practice and focus on recognizing patterns simultaneously. A person has to be practicing and observing at the same time and also has to have knowledge and experience in identifying elements of these patterns. All in all, one has to manage three areas: observing, performing and having knowledge, abilities and experience to recognize a pattern.

Here, we bring up the issue of one of Yamas– Satya – which means seeking truth. To cast off the false „I” requires courage and honesty with yourself, as well as facing your feelings and mental patterns, which we are usually not fully aware of.

The most frequently, the mind theoretically knows and tries to remain mindful, but the body does what it wants, anyway. As if the connection between body-mind was lost when a pattern appears.

Mastery is remaining effortless to maintain this connection and, most of all, to maintain it to the end. The path is, therefore, about tempering your body and mind so that the Homogenouos Original Potential appears itself.

As old Yoga saying says: Mastery is your obligation.

Principles of Ashtanga Yoga practice