Four specific techniques are always used in the practice: Ujjayi pranayama, Mula and Uddiyana Bandha, Dristi, and specific Vinyasa. Out of these four, the breath is the foundation. Really, the only prerequisite for practice is that we can inhale and exhale. Hence, anyone who is alive can practice!
Historically, the teachings were passed down from guru to disciple, teacher to student, one-on-one. There were no “guided yoga classes”, except for demonstration. From a practical standpoint, for those who are new to this tradition, it is worth noting that the classical Ashtanga method of teaching/learning is quite different from what has likely been experienced in today’s “studio” classes. The slow, teacher-to-student, pose-by-pose method is known as “Mysore style” (named after Mysore, South India where Guruji taught). If coming from a “mass class” world, this way of learning could potentially take some getting used to. But the Mysore style classes also allow the newer practitioner more confidence in establishing a home practice. It is very important to learn from a qualified teacher who is capable of meeting each student where they are, really.
The guided series classes are more suited to those who have integrated the Mysore style teachings and have familiarity with the postures and the sequence. These guided style classes are also referred to as 'led' sequences.
In addition to Mysore style and guided classes, Shakti Sharanam offers a weekly Fundamentals & Refinements class, which provides a thorough introduction for new practitioners and reminds more experienced practitioners of the roots of the tradition and the universal yogic principles.
The Ashtanga Yoga sequences are divided into three different categories: Primary (Yoga Chikitsa), Intermediate (Nadi Shodhana), and Advanced A, B, C (Sthira Bhaga).
Yoga Chikitsa literally means “Yoga Therapy”, which detoxifies and realigns the body. Nadi Shodhana means “Nadi Purification” and opens and cleanses the nadis and nervous system. It is important that one spends much time refining the Primary sequence before adding Intermediate postures. Sthira Bhaga translates as “Strength and Grace”, which it both demands and refines.
Guruji said that the Primary sequence is householder yoga, appropriate for
anyone; Intermediate is only for very serious practitioners and teachers; and Advanced only for demonstration, which is why even an advanced practitioner keeps coming back to the earlier sequences in their practice.