J is for Jois

K. Pattabhi Jois, born 1915, died 2009 at age 94.   He studied 27 years with Krishnamacharya, then developed his own practice, teachings, and school.  He called his approach Ashtanga Yoga, which simply means eight-limbed yoga (the standard 8 steps).  Hatha Yoga leads to Raja yoga in Jois’s view.

Jois’s yoga is defined in his book Yoga Mala (translation: Garland of Yoga), begun in 1958, first edition in 1962, final revised edition 1999.  The book mentions the 8 steps, but most of the text is on asanas.  As the practitioner is intended to breath properly during asanas, pranayama is an integral part of Jois's Hatha Yoga.  

Yoga Mala describes Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) of 9 and 17 steps (two versions), then 42 asanas (a few of which have variations that are unique asanas by most definitions, bringing the total number to about 50).  Each asana is broken down into its steps, its vinyasas (note again that vinyasa can mean either a relatively minor step or a full unique asana).  Emphasis is placed on the steps and the breathing, not on the exact form.  Jois comments that individuals’ variations have to be considered, but basically everybody is supposed to be capable of doing these asanas and vinyasas, except for the old and infirm, who are specifically identified as needing different practices.

Ashtanga yoga at its heart has Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A & B), vinyasas of 12-15 different asanas, some of which are repeated.   There are also sequences of asanas of increasing complexity, called the Primary Series, Intermediate Series, and Advanced Series.  Some of the asanas in these series are quite challenging.  

Chanting is associated on occasion with some forms of hatha yoga  Chanting is sometimes included in an Ashtanga yoga session.  

The website for Jois’s yoga is In addition, there are many videos on the Internet of Jois personally conducting Ashtanga yoga sessions.  Other websites and organizations are also devoted to Ashtanga Yoga.  Some are closer than others to teachings of the master himself. 

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