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, due to the interplay of different perspectives brought together by generations of teachers, the teachings automatically encompass subtle breadth and depth—a merging of awakening minds. The presence of lineage guarantees a transmission of the most essential and subtle experience of yoga, which otherwise can be missed in the shadow of the ego.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa Lineage
The Ashtanga Vinyasa lineage, like any living lineage, is a hybrid of yoga methodologies and philosophies, which converge clearly in the teachings of the early Upanishads and blossom later in the practices of Hatha yoga and Tantra. The internal forms of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga—using bandha, mudra, drishti, and ujjai breathing—are the pinnacle of Tantric technique, which are also brought to light in the broad clarifying context of Patanjali’s yoga philosophy and the nondualism of the Upanishads. This traditional approach is recognizable in Hindu and Buddhist contemplative traditions as well as in the direct experience the practice uncovers.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa lineage of practice, as taught today, comes to us directly through the teachings of T. Krishnamacharaya and K. Pattabhi Jois who collaborated in the 1930’s as teacher and student to develop the flowing form and series of postures we call Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. Their work, derived in part from the internal principles of vinyasa found in the ancient Indian text, the Yoga Kurunta, draws together the potent threads of yoga asana with traditional Indian philosophy, pranayama, and meditation, so that integrated movement, form, and awareness invite the student into the present moment.
The system works because we practice daily, adapting the form to the circumstances that present themselves. This intelligent and rigorous approach to practice allows us 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 that surround our yoga practice and penetrate every aspect of our daily lives. Ethical conduct, honesty, kindness, and compassion are at the heart of the practice.
Historically, different lineages of yoga practice have intersected with the yoga practices of Buddhism. They have inspired one another and made each refine its philosophical understanding and techniques. In today’s world we find the profound teaching of all these approaches to yoga easily available and beautifully complementary.