The different Yoga traditions have always been based on the relationship between teacher (Guru, literally “heavy“ with knowledge and wisdom) and disciple. For centuries, the Yogic knowledge was passed on verbally from Guru to disciple who in turn became Guru, and so on. This is why there is something arcane about them.
Since so many bright and even enlightened minds have added their own specific experiences and techniques over so many generations, the Yogic traditions have been able to accumulate incredibly rich substrates of knowledge and wisdom. It’s easier to unveil the „Truth“ if you can rely on such a vast array of techniques and knowledge.
Which Yoga at Yogawerkstatt?
Just have a look into Mircea Eliade’s – highly recommendable – book “Yoga“, and you will see that there is a tremendous number of Yoga traditions, many of which have totally different and even opposed approaches and goals. This is why it’s so important to know in which Yoga tradition you stand as a practitioner or as a teacher.
Which kind of Yoga can you expect at Yogawerkstatt? We teach mainly Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the tradition of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) as it has been taught and further developed by his disciple Richard Freeman and his wife Mary Taylor in Boulder, Colorado. Richard has integrated Western thinking as well as other Asian philosophies into his teaching.
Disciples of Richard Freeman
Sascha and Romana have been disciples of Richard for years now, they have completed a number of Advanced Courses und Teaching Intensives with him and assisted him. As one of a selected few studios, Yogawerkstatt has hosted workshops with him which have attracted international attention. Over the years, Sascha and Romana have become close friends of Richard. They are in regular contact both personally and intellectually, they learn with and from him.
Richard places the physical Yoga practice into the larger context of the Indian thought. A truly gigantic context, by the way! He explores the points of contact between Yoga and, among others, Buddhism and Western philosophy. He examines the interrelations between Yogic techniques and our modern Western life and their effects on our body, mind, and emotions.
He considers the Yogic techniques to be a “mirror“ of self-questioning and self-exploration with the help of which we are able to understand the workings of the mind and the foundations of our personality. In his own words: “The purpose of a practice is to expose reality“.
A Yoga based on knowledge and experience
Richard is convinced that our practice may encompass the limbs of Ashtanga Yoga at once. While practicing Asanas, we activate Pranayama (extending the breath) and Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) at the same time. The resulting single movement leads to Dharana (concentration) and subsequently to Dhyana (meditation in motion).
Richard is a real scholar, his teaching is pervaded with knowledge and experience – definitely no esoteric verbiage. Shri K. Pattabhi Jois famously said that Yoga consists of 99 percent practice and only 1 percent theory – in Richard’s teaching, the latter is an important one.
The teachers of the teacher
Briefly coming back to Richard Freeman’s own line of tradition: His major Yoga teachers were Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) and B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) who in turn were both disciples of Shri T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). The latter had at least four disciples whose Yoga methods became popular in the West: his own son T.K.V. Desikachar; his brother-in-law B.K.S. Iyengar; Indra Devi, the first woman to be initiated into Yoga directly by a Brahmin; and Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, who made Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga tremendously popular worldwide.
It is said that Shri T. Krishnamacharya was taught Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga by Ramamohana Brahmachari, a wise man living in a cave in the Himalayas. Moreover, Shri T. Krishnamacharya is believed to have found the scripture on which this Yoga method is based in the Indian National Archive in Colcata. This scripture was the Yoga Korunta (literally “group“, which means arranging the Asanas to series). It doesn’t exist anymore, if it has ever existed. The same is true for its author, the legendary Vamana Rishi.
From today’s perspective, it seems plausible that Shri T. Krishnamacharya developed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga by using elements of Hatha Yoga, of Tantra, and of Western gymnastics and athletics which were popular in India at that time.
In the Ashtanga Vinyasa System we cultivate Mudra, Bandha, and a meditative mind by accurately performing Asana, breathing/Bandhas, and Drishti. Every tradition has evolved and continues to evolve.
In the authentic Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – just like in any authentic Yoga in general –, Asanas are arranged in series in such a way as to balance and clean the Nadis. Thereby they are assisted by Bandha, Mudra und Pranayama.