Ashtanga yoga

The Yoga studio of Yoga Maya Rotterdam offers traditional Ashtanga Yoga classes

Ashtanga yoga

Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, in the tradition of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, is an intensely dynamic form of yoga in which the breath forms the basis for a fixed series of postures. It is one of the oldest and most popular yoga forms practiced in the west.  Yoga Maya is the only school in Rotterdam where the Ashtanga yoga lessons follow the traditional method.

The word ‘Ashtanga’ means ‘eightfold path’ and refers to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, written nearly two thousand years ago. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali described eight branches of yoga – including moral codes, the practice of physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. By practicing Ashtanga yoga for a period of time, one becomes aware how this physical yoga really does influence and enhance all eight of the branches described by Patanjali. ‘Vinyasa’ can be translated literally as synchronicity of breath and movement.

Ashtanga yoga is characterized by the meditative qualities of deep breathing together with fluid movement through a fixed series of postures. The elements of Ashtanga yoga help to cleanse the body, still the mind and support the development of strength and flexibility of body and mind. They also form a basis for more advanced breath control and meditation practices.

Over the past years Ashtanga yoga has become popular in the West, partly due to celebrities such as Madonna. Most forms of Power yoga are derived from Ashtanga yoga, though a traditional Ashtanga yoga practice looks very different from a power yoga lesson. The fixed series of Ashtanga yoga provides a structure for uniquely tailoring the practice to each and every individual, whilst still pushing boundaries and overcoming obstacles. Dedicated practice in the traditional method, with devotion and humility, helps to develop those qualities in our daily life. This, and not our athletic capacity, is the essence of Ashtanga yoga.


Ashtanga yoga is a practice for everyone – men and women, with family or career – and not just those who can spend all their time on yoga. Traditionally, Ashtanga yoga is practiced six days a week, with rest days at full and new moon, and during menstruation.

In the traditional ‘Mysore-style’ method, the students learn the series themselves, pose by pose, and practice at their own pace. The teacher helps the students individually, sometimes with words, usually with hands-on adjustments. Students learn new poses one at a time, as they are ready.

Regular self practice of a fixed series of postures gives the Ashtangi a ‘measure’ of how he is, physically and mentally, and how he develops over time. The body makes the series its own and the practice gains a meditative quality.

This method is ideally suited for beginners. You must learn patience because the poses are added only quite slowly. Nevertheless most students notice that, even in the beginning, this method is the most effective way to learn Ashtanga yoga. And of course you don’t (immediately) have to start practicing daily. By practicing as regularly as you can and gradually building up your practice, you also come very far.

Finally, this practice is your own, and you can take it with you everywhere you go.

The lineage

Sri K Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), or ‘Guruji’, as he is still affectionately known, began his yoga studies with Sri T. Krishnamacharya in 1927, when he was just twelve years old. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) was one of the greatest yoga masters of the modern age.

The story goes that Krishnamacharya had obtained an ancient Sanskrit manuscript, the Yoga Korunta, and that Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois had worked together to decipher it. Ashtanga Yoga in its present form is said to come from this manuscript. However, nobody living has ever seen the Yoga Korunta. What is certain is that Jois learnt a dynamic yoga form from Krishnamacharya, one which closely resembles the Ashtanga yoga of today.

Pattabhi Jois opened the world’s first Ashtanga Yoga school in Mysore, India in 1948. He taught in the school, now relocated to a larger building, until the end of his life in 2009. His work is now continued by his grandson, Sharath Rangaswamy, ‘lineage’ holder of the Ashtanga yoga tradition.


Both full and new moon days are observed as yoga holidays in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. The day you rest is the day of your regular practice time nearest the new or full moon. This means there will be NO morning Mysore classes on these days. And for the evening Mysore classes a Moon sequence will be given. You will find the dates of full and new moon underneath the schedule. Read more about the subject.

Possibilities at Yoga Maya

Within Yoga Maya’s Ashtanga schedule there are six morning classes and two evening classes. Workshops and courses are also offered on a regular basis.

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