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Ashtanga Yoga Revealed
Page 2: Ashtanga's Origins

But how and when exactly did Ashtanga Yoga originate? The text from which Jois drew his information could be as recent as 500 years old, or it could have been written 1,500 years ago. There may have been an oral tradition before that. And what is this ancient text? A stack of palm leaves called the Yoga Korunta, which was sitting in the recesses of a university library in Calcutta. Sometime during the early 1930s, Yoga master Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his student, Jois - who was not yet 20 - were doing research and they came upon the Yoga Korunta. The two Yoga scholars put together what we know as Ashtanga from this text. Krishnamacharya urged Jois to devote himself to Ashtanga, so from his home base in Mysore, India, he perfected and taught the practice.

(Article continued below.)

For many decades Ashtanga was only practiced in India. Then the counterculture of the 1960s opened up a lot of Westerners' minds. In the early 1970s, two young searchers, David Williams and Norman Allen, traveled to India, where they encountered Jois's son Manju. Manju was demonstrating the Primary Ashtanga series, and Williams and Allen wanted desperately to learn it. Unfortunately, Jois wasn't interested in teaching foreigners. Allen went to Mysore anyhow and camped out on Jois's doorstep until he changed his mind. After renewing his visa, Williams returned to India with Nancy Gilgoff and they, too, studied with Jois. Williams came back to the U.S. and established a center in Encinitas (he's presently based in Maui), and in 1975 Jois came to America for the first time. Ashtanga grew from there. Other practitioners such as Richard Freeman and David Swenson, came up through the ranks early on and there have been many, many others since then - although Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest teach something other than strict Ashtanga Yoga, they too were very serious Ashtanga practitioners. When Yoga's popularity really began to accelerate in the 1990s, interest in Ashtanga also grew. Jois, who turned 86 in 2001, still comes to America to offer his blunt and very hands-on teaching.

Next page >> The Ashtanga Practice >> 1, 2, 3

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