Ashtanga Primary Series


The Ashtanga Yoga practice is broken up in to six series of asanas/poses. The first group, called the Primary Series, is a pretty strenuous routine. Most people will spend their entire lives working on elements of this set of seventy two poses. Known in Sanskrit as Yoga Chikitsa, it detoxifies and realigns the physical body. Traditionally all Mysore practitioners are encouraged to make the Led Primary class part of their weekly routine.

The primary series contains all the necessary elements for establishing health and purifying your body, including Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) forward bends, twists, backbends, powerful lifting, headstands, and many other movements. The specific nature of Ashtanga Yoga is that you repeat the poses in the same order until you have mastered them. You do not move on until you have made some progress where you are. When you repeat a series of poses over and over, you move away from an intellectual understanding of them to a kinesthetic intelligence that connects you to a place deep within.

The Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series builds sequentially in terms of flexibility and strength to prepare you for some of the gateway poses in the practice. Gateway poses test a student’s understanding of technique and asana. These postures are the most challenging in the set of related poses. Starting with Surya Namaskara, which is aimed at both steadying the mind and warming up the inner fire, the practice lengthens the hamstrings, stretches and strengthens the back, increases core development, and purifies the entire body. Surya Namaskara is where the student begins to develop devotion (bhavana). The gateway of the standing postures lies in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (extended leg to head pose.)

Once you can perform this pose easily, it is safe to move on to the next series of poses, which includes the four versions of Marichasana (pose dedicated to the Sage Marichi). These poses require a series of binds where you clasp your hand either behind your back or around your leg in a twisted posse and maintain either a half lotus or a very strong extended leg. The careful placement of every asana that precedes this section of the practice is aimed at developing the internal strength and flexibility needed to perform these four poses easily. Marichasana D is the pinnacle of this portion of the series, being the most difficult twist and half-lotus combination.

The grand crescendo of the Primary Series is Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Tortoise Pose). In which internal strength, external rotation, and forward bending are strongly challenged as you try to get both legs behind your head. After this point, the poses help transition from flexing to extending the spine so you can perform Urdhva Dhanurasana (back bending) with ease. The logic of the Primary Series is that it builds up to certain poses that test alignment, inner strenth, and flexibility to make sure your asana practice is solid and stable before you move on.

The teacher leads the class by calling out the traditional sanskrit vinyasa (movement synchronised with the breath) count for each posture of the Primary Series. The class moves and breathes in unison, it is a powerful and focused class. The Led Primary class is very beneficial to focus the mind, connect with the breath, feel the rhythm of the practice and correctly learn the vinyasa count which then helps refine daily self practice.

All Mysore practitioners are encouraged to make weekly Led Primary Class a part of their routine.