Choosing your Ashtanga yoga teacher, and the significance of 'parampara'.
- “one after another” or “succession”.
Guru shishka parampara
- guru means teacher, shishka is student, and parampara is the passing of knowledge from teacher to student.
This creates an unbroken chain of knowledge. This was the traditional method of learning, before the written word, and the digital world. I liken the telling of Ashtanga yoga, to a story, that has been passed down through generations.
Ashtanga Yoga lineage.
It is said that the Sage Vamana recorded the practical method of Ashtanga Yoga in his text The Yoga Korunta. It is this text that T. Krishnamacharya is said to have transcribed, recorded and then taught to his students, one of whom was Pattabhi Jois. There are other schools of thought that argue against this, claiming that modern postural yoga as we know it today in the Western world, is a recent introduction to the spiritual practice of yoga. This argument can be countered by the image depicted in the early proto shiva seals discovered at Mohenjo-daro (2600-1900 BCE), which some think is evidence of an advanced sitting asana. Again this is open to interpretation. Like most things in life, there is much to debate, and little to be certain of….. What we do know for sure is that Krishnamacharya passed his knowledge directly to Pattabhi Jois (amongst others) and from Pattabhi Jois and his Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI), ashtanga spread and continues to spread, throughout the world. Mysore is the birth place of ashtanga yoga. Today at KPJAYI, Pattabhi Jois’s daughter Saraswathi Jois, and his grandson Sharath Jois teach ashtanga yoga to locals and visitors alike.
There are often debates around whether a teacher needs to be “authorized” by KPJAYI in order to be a good or credible teacher. The answer is common sense really. There will good authorized teachers and bad authorized teachers, just as there are good unauthorized teachers and bad unauthorized teachers. To be authorized means to have been to Mysore a minimum of 3-4 times ideally for 3 months each time. This is not practical for everyone. Nor does it constitute whether someone is a good teacher or not. What I would say is that if you want to be sure that you are being taught authentic ashtanga yoga – know the lineage behind your teacher and that lineage begins in Mysore. If you have a teacher who goes to Mysore regularly you are one person away from the direct lineage. If your teacher doesn’t go but studies under a teacher who does you are 2 people away from that lineage. And so forth. If your teacher does not fall into these categories and you are happy with your teacher and your practice then that’s absolutely fine too. We don’t have to all practice the same yoga. However, it’s important to know what yoga it is we are practicing, and respect the lineage, whether we choose it or not.