The History of Ashtanga broken down


a type of yoga based on eight principles and consisting of a series of poses executed in swift succession, combined with deep, controlled breathing.

The practice of Ashtanga yoga was developed and founded by the late K. Pattabhi Jois in the late 19th century. At the young age of 12, Jois attended a yoga demonstration put on by  T. Krishnamacharya (often referred to as the father of modern yoga) and became his student the very next day.

After a stint studying Sanskrit, Jois rejoined T. Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India. Jois went on to study many texts including Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Upanishads.

It was in 1948 that Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (now called the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute). Jois named Ashtanga yoga after the eightfold path described in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras.

The eightfold or eight-limbed path is one that guides the student towards self-knowledge, self-discovery, and ultimately, self-realisation. Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras were compiled in circa 200 BCE and are considered some of the most important texts in the yogic tradition.

The Eight-Limbed Path

  1. Yamas – Principles for the external world
  • Ahimsa – non-violence
  • Satya – truthfulness
  • Asteya – non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya – celibacy or sexual restraint
  • Aparigraha – non-greed
  1. Niyamas – Principles for the internal world
  • Shaucha – cleanliness
  • Santosha – contentment
  • Tapas – discipline
  • Svadyaya – Self-study or study of the ancient texts
  • Ishvarapranidana – surrender or faith
  1. Asana – The physical postures
  2. Pranayama – Harnessing life force
  3. Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal
  4. Dharana – Concentration
  5. Dhyana – Meditation
  6. Samadhi – Bliss / self-realisation

“The full ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart.” – K. Pattabhi Jois


The Primary Series

Each series of Ashtanga begins with repetitions of Surya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B and is then followed by a standard sequence. There are six series in Ashtanga with practitioners beginning with the Primary Series.

Traditionally a student will begin by mastering Surya Namaskara A. Only once this is mastered do they add Surya Namaskara B to their practice. As the student progresses they will add on more poses. The full Primary Series, is called Yoga Chikitsa (meaning yoga therapy), and may take a lifetime to master. In fact many students will never move past this series.


An important principle of Ashtanga yoga is Tristhana which refers to three key areas of focus:

  • Breath and Bhanda
  • Dristhi
  • Asana

To practice with integrity the student must employ the each area of tristhana.

Discover more about Ashtanga with Michelle

Join Michelle Cassidy for a 5 day introduction to the Primary Series

This 5-day intensive program as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois is mindfully and respectfully taught under the guidance of Michelle Cassidy. This practice is suitable for all students with a regular yoga practice, wanting to take their yoga to a new level.

Daily morning classes will include a step by step, block by block building of the Primary Series. Interwoven with the physical practice are the teachings of Ashtanga philosophy and on the final day of the intensive Michelle will guide you through the complete Primary Series.

Michelle has completed the ‘Brahmani Yoga’ 500HR intensive Ashtanga Teacher Training in Goa, India, and continues to practice under the guidance Dena Kingsberg who is certified to teach the Ashtanga system by Sri K.Pattabhi Jois.

June 5 to 9, 5.30am – 7am each day

Cost $100 for the whole week. Please book at the studio or call 07 5526 6600.