An integral part of all classical schools of yoga is their lineage, or a tracing of their roots from teacher to teacher to teacher. The importance of a lineage to any tradition is that of potency. Due to the interplay of different perspectives brought together by generations of accomplished practitioners, the teachings automatically encompass profound breadth and depth — a merging of awakening minds. The presence of lineage guarantees a transmission of the most subtle and essential experience of yoga which otherwise can be missed in the shadow of the ego.
The teachings at the Yoga Workshop are in the lineage of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. As with the lineage of any tradition, this lineage draws from diverse methodologies and philosophies. These lines of influence converge clearly in the teachings of the early Upanishads and blossom later in the subtle body practices of Tantra.
The internal forms of Ashtanga materialize through bandha, mudra and dristi together with deep ujjai breathing. These are the pinnacles of modern Tantric technique, brought to light in the broad clarifying context of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy and the non-dualism of the Upanishads. These philosophies throw the internal forms of Ashtanga Vinyasa into relief, exposing them as crystallizations of the meditative process. The same forms are recognizable in both Hindu and Buddhist contemplative traditions, as well as in the direct experience of the body that unfolds through devoted practice.
The brilliant art of cultivating these forms comes to us directly through T. Krishnamacharaya, K. Pattabhi Jois and Richard Freeman. With tremendous generosity and compassion, they have drawn the potent threads of yoga from the obscurity of the past into the present, connecting us with currents of awakened consciousness that reach far back into the memory of ancient India.
The current series in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system were developed by T. Krishnamacharaya around the internal principles of vinyasa found in the ancient Indian text “Yoga Kurunta.” He instructed his student K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, South India to master and to use these series in teaching the Ashtanga Vinyasa system.
Richard Freeman, the Yoga Workshop’s founder, was one of the first Western teachers to be certified to teach the Ashtanga method by K. Pattabhi Jois. All teachers at the Yoga Workshop have studied extensively with Richard. This form of yoga has been practiced and taught at the Yoga Workshop for over 30 years.
Pattabhi Jois teaching Richard Freeman in 1989
In the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, we explore subtle alignment by integrating breath, movement and tension along the central axis of the body. We meditate on the structural tones in the pelvic floor that balance the body and open its midline. In this way, we invite deep direct experience of the life process itself. This experience provides a genuine ground for the further practices of pranayama, the opening of internal channels, the awakening of kundalini, and higher meditation.
The purpose of practice is to expose reality.
Within the Ashtanga Vinyasa system postures are linked together through flowing movement (vinyasa), and the joining of that movement with steady gaze, breath and currents of internal sensation. There are six formal series of postures, and they are practiced in sequential flow. Each series begins with Sun Salutations and standing postures, and all end with the same finishing sequence. The postures in the middle vary from series to series, and are designed to address specific issues, such as structural integration, cleaning the nadis, or strengthening the internal mudras. The series are difficult. Most students practice only the Primary or Intermediate series, and only a few work into the Advanced series.
Basrelief at Royal Centre on Hampi, India
The Yoga Workshop is a place for learning and practicing the art of yoga within the supportive context of community. It is a place for trading insights, sharing inspirations and allowing the yogic process to unfold where it counts – in the actual interplay of relationship with others. This is where we embody our humanity, and become who we are, as we uncover the meaning of yoga.
Elephant guarding Shiva Temple in Patan
The Ashtanga Vinyasa system was developed pointedly for householders, which is to say, for people with immediate familial obligations. And rather than regard those obligations as obstacles to yoga, the Ashtanga lineage has embraced them as auspicious opportunities for genuine yogic experience and insight. Here the Ashtanga lineage reflects one of the beautiful ideals of Tantra, to recognize and celebrate the divine in ordinary life.
At the Yoga Workshop, we endeavor to keep these ideals alive, and to continually refresh the spirit of the Ashtanga Vinyasa system by making it applicable to the immediate condition of our bodies, minds and culture. This requires a certain vigilance against literalism and rigidity, and an unending openness to rediscovering the meaning and purpose of what we are doing.
Withe this end in mind, we encourage our students to read and ask about original ancient texts that have been influential in this lineage. We encourage them to contemplate and question the ever changing context and landscape of yoga, both within their own practice and within the broader context of yoga as it evolves in the 21st century. Moreover, we encourage them to juxtapose our tradition with other traditions in order to challenge, critique and finally refine their understanding of the larger purpose in which we are all engaged.
As part of this we offer classes not only on asana, but also on meditation, pranayama and philosophy. Such classes allow us to explore practices and traditions that have been influential on our lineage, or that share similar concerns and techniques, and so to broaden our perspectives on yoga itself.
In Boulder we have the privilege of learning from many visiting Buddhist teachers and Rinpoches through Naropa University and the Shambhala community. In addition, many senior Iyengar teachers visit our area. B.K.S. Iyengar was a contemporary of K. Pattabhi Jois and both were students of T. Krishnamacharaya, so Iyengar yoga is a close relation within our lineage. We encourage our teachers and students to broaden their perspectives by studying with senior teachers in these and other traditions as they deepen their yoga practice.
Through practice, reflection and study, we endeavor to see through the workings of our own minds, to ground our experience in the present moment and to have a compassionate and clear understanding of the ideas, beliefs and rituals which surround our yoga practice and our daily lives. Integrity, honesty and compassion are at the heart of this endeavor. These are the guiding principles of our methodology.