Today I would like to talk about yoga history and my first time teaching a 60 minute Ashtanga Yoga class to a small group of my peers!
So, lets start with the history side of things. For the past 4 weeks we have been training in the style/practice of Ashtanga yoga. To re-cap there are many different styles of yoga, which have all emerged and transformed over many thousands of years. I’d like to dive into its background to give you a deeper understanding and appreciation for this ancient, sacred practice.
To begin we start between 5000-1700 B.C (yes, B.C, before christ…thats quite some time ago!)
The existence of the Vedas marks this period. The Vedas is the sacred scripture of Brahmanism, a collection of hymns which praise a divine power. The Vedas contain the oldest known Yogic teachings and as such, teachings found in the Vedas are called Vedic Yoga. This is characterized by rituals and ceremonies that strive to surpass the limitations of the mind. These texts and teachings are said to be the basis of modern-day Hinduism.
*Small side rant and info about Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism and Buddhism are not religions, they are a life style. There are no specified God(s) or religious figures in either of these traditions. So, it is possible to be a Hindu Christian, or a Buddhist Christian. As matter of fact, each one of these lifestyles are so similar to one another in the way it states to live your life, to love one another, etc…real differences come down to the way to find peace. Wether to travel inward, detach from others and society, refute belongings to find enlightenment (Buddhism) or find enlightenment through taking care of others, such as family, through attachment (Hinduism), it seems Christianity follows a similar path to both, with Jesus’s teaching to live to find peace "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” and "All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbor as yourself.” - Jesus Christ.
We can conclude all three teachings speak of peace and in extremely similar ways to do so. The large difference, which makes Christianity a religion is acknowledging Jesus Christ as the son of God, where as Hinduism and Buddhism define no particular God or religious figure, they just acknowledge that there is a divine power greater then ourselves and a lifestyle to provide peace to ones self. So, if you accept Jesus Christ as your divine power and practice a Hindu lifestyle, which doesn’t contradict the Bible, you are a Krista Bhakti.
Hindu Christian article - "Contrary to what most Christians might think, it is possible to be a fully devoted follower of Christ who remains truly and fully a Hindu – a Krista Bhakta, as they like to be called.”
A cool article about being a Christian Buddhist.
**I like to stress the importance of becoming aware of these simplistic yet powerful differences between lifestyles and religions. Just as some people in the United States (the “West") think that practicing Yoga contradicts Christianity, it takes the spread of knowledge to become aware and informed to know otherwise. There is no need to stick yourself in a cookie cutter box and be afraid of the unknown practices which derive from the East. "Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” - William Shakespeare**
OKAY, END RANT, that turned into a much larger rant then expect :)
Next time frame is known as the Pre-Classical Yoga Period (roughly 1600-100 B.C.)
The creation of the Upanishads marks this period, 200 scriptures describing the inner vision of reality resulting from devotion to Brahman (“God”). These explain three subjects: the ultimate reality (Brahman), the transcendental self (atman) and the relationship between the two.
Later, around 500 B.C.E., the Bhagavad Gita was created and this is currently the oldest known Yoga scripture. It is devoted entirely to Yoga and confirms that Yoga is an ancient practice; however, is doesn’t point to a specific time wherein Yoga could have started (it’s that old). The central point of the Gita is that difficulties in the lives of ourselves and of others can be avoided when we remove ourselves from our egos. in Gita, three faucets must be brought together in our lifestyle: Bhakti, or loving devotion, Jnana which is knowledge or contemplation, and Karma which is about selfless actions. The purpose of the Gita was to unify Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga.
Lastly we come to the Classical Yoga Period (roughly 100-500 B.C. - A.D.)
The classical period is marked by another creation - The Yoga Sutra. Written by Patanjali around the 2nd century, it was an attempt to define and standardize the Classical Yoga. It is composed of 196 sutras that expound upon the Raja Yoga and its underlying principle, Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga - (Ashtanga yoga is derived from this, further described in my previous Day 18 blog).
Coming up to the more present (1888 - Current)
This story begins with a “five-foot, two-inch Brahmin born more then one hundred years ago in a small South Indian Village.”, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. This remarkable man is the base which marks the creation of Ashtanga yoga. Krishnamacharya studied yoga texts and the occasional interview with a yogi. Until he was advised to seek out a master called Sri, Rammohan Brahmachari, one of the few remaining haha yoga masters. For 7 years he studied in a remote cave memorizing the Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali, memorizing over 3,000 asanas.
He then went on to become the teacher of Pattabhi Jois, whom designed and essentially created Ashtanga Yoga, refining some of the postures given to him by Krishnamacharya and grouped them into a clearer, systematic development of sequence.
From Pattabhi Jois, came David Williams who studied under Jois in India. Sitting on the doorstep at Jois’s home throughout rain and shine he won the heart of Pattabhi Jois, whom eventually took him in as a student. He was the 1st foreigner in India to practice Ashtanga Yoga and was the first to bring it to the West, specifically the small island of Maui, Hawaii.
David Williams opened up a studio in Maui, where one of his students, Jonny Kest then went on to bring the teaching of Ashtanga to the United States, opening the Center For Yoga in Massachusetts. Jonny then went on to create a specific program for Lifetime, known as LifePower which include a condensed variation to the classic Ashtanga Primary series Sun Salutation A & B, along with an additional C & D format to push students into a vigorous workout.
Under David Williams LifePower teaching came Jason Hillshaud, whom taught my current teachers Cody & Patience….which leads to me!
Essentially, as Jason states, “you are now part of an Ashtanga lineage dating back thousands of years.”... pretty cool huh?
I celebrate this lineage today. For the first time, I taught an official 60 minute ashtanga yoga class to a small group! It wasn't flawless but it was still a pretty amazing experience, bringing me one step closer to being a confident yoga instructor. It actually went a lot better then I had anticipated. It must have been all the good vibes I had asked for the other day, thank you thank you! I continue to learn and continue to grow, everyday. One step at a time, as for today, today was a leap :D