Continuing the Conversation on Ashtanga Teacher Standards Changes

Last week I posted about how the Ashtanga Teachers Standards were changed, and reflected on how it would affect Ashtanga Yoga.

Since the post there have been comments from readers and also some reactions on other websites. Notable amongst these is the post entitled New Frontier from the blog Visions of Cody. The piece is written by a marketing strategist from a “strategic marketing perspective.”

Cody asks what the intention behind the changes are, and since they are not clearly stated we have to try to infer them. He posits that it is:

To exert control over the transmission of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system by reducing the number of officially authorized/certified teachers.

He thinks this will substantially reduce the number of Ashtanga teachers and make the current teacher shortage even worse.

The question of enforcement is brought up:

Which brings up another interesting question: how is the Jois family ever going to enforce these rules? I don’t believe that they own the trademark on the name Ashtanga in the U.S. (please correct me if I’m wrong.) Therefore, they can either ask practitioners to shun non-authorized teachers/studios (a marginal tactic at best) or they can attempt to get the service mark.

Which naturally leads to a comparison with Bikram Yoga (how ironic). A few years ago Bikram yoga “went legal” on studios which did not abide to its official rules, threatening law suits. A lot of studios which could not practically comply with the rules decided to change the name to “Hot Yoga” and slightly modify the official sequence.

Here’s his conclusion in full:

In the end, I think these changes will have a minimal impact in the US. Unless the AYRI aggressively attempts to shut down non-authorized studios (which I doubt,) then the only thing that will change is that basically nobody (with a few exceptions) will be authorized to officially teach Ashtanga so therefore the authorization of Ashtanga teachers will be an irrelevant qualification.

I do feel sorry for the prospective teachers that have been making numerous trips for years expecting authorization. That’s one hard lesson in non-attachment.

If the AYRI does pursue the legal route, then the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga brand will be screwed anyway because there will only be a handful of places to practice. It’ll be like rolling the growth of the practice back to the 1970s level.

Maybe that’s exactly what the Jois family wants – to scale the practice back to just a few true believers. There are rumors that Sharath is taking a few years off and the rest of the family probably can’t handle the current workload for much longer.

I’m guessing that this is a conscious attempt to limit the practice to a smaller group of practitioners that are dedicated true believers and in exchange they’re willing to sacrifice the potential revenue.

If, however, this is an attempt to control the brand and concentrate revenue, then I think it’s a horrible plan. Managing growth is one thing, but choking it to death is quite another.

No matter what, us crafty Westerners will figure out a way to get Ashtanga regardless of what people in Mysore say – the cat’s already out of the bag.

It’s well worth reading and thinking about. Here are some other links on the same subject:

Sweat and Fire: It’s Never the Guru’s Yoga

InsideOwl: Ashtanga and Imperialism
Yoga Vermont

76 thoughts on “Continuing the Conversation on Ashtanga Teacher Standards Changes

  1. PJ

    Please excuse the miss spelling in my last post. I seem to be getting worse at that with age. I have one final note about the Yoga Korunta. Krishnamacharya himself validated its existence. Guruji believes it existed; so to doubt its existence is to doubt these great Yogis. Given both their lives as examples I have no reason to think it was made up. I wish someone out there had more info on it…..

  2. ama

    You all seem like you know a great deal about Mysore,sorry to put this in here- but got to ask….does anyone know a nice place to stay near the AYI Shala – (not too tacky- I have a reasonable budjet)!
    Sorry to ask but not a clue where to stay, apart from hotels which id rather not do.

  3. smackasana

    yo haters i bought me some yoga korunta on ebay. it has all six series of the ashtanga system exactly as guruji teaches it, compleat wit treatment to cure all disease and THE translation of the sutras.
    my friend an archaelogist carbon dated it to 5 million years old so it proves everything.

    stop hating on guruji and his grandson

  4. ama

    This is amazing!! Where can I get one!!
    Great news. Please let me know where I can get one!
    And I am sure we all dont hate Sharath and Guru g. They are an inspiration to the West and an inspiration to the lineage.

  5. smackassana

    I don’t think other copies exist and since I bought mine, ants have eaten most of it. Then I had this dream where Ganesh appeared to me and told me I couldn’t show any humans the Korunta, but I could feely quote from it.

    Here is the opening verse

    “In the beginning there was 5 series and then Shiva hath wrought a sixth; whoever shall attempt this sixth and surely final series was thought t’be outlandish by his peers yet it yielded significant powers of bramicharya and other unique abilities.

    The sadaka must pay homage in rupees. Exact change pleeze.”

    Cryptic huh?

    Then there are pictures of ancient 5 million year old yogis practicing kukutasana.
    One difference from the way Guruji teaches and in the Korunta is that Surya Namaskar B ends with a 15 minute hold in kandasana.

  6. smackadassana

    No you have it wrong!
    I am currently in Mysore studying with the Jois family.
    I booked six months at the Southern Star hotel. I figure you can’t really be a yogi without experiencing the culture firsthand, living exactly as they did millions of years ago alongside the dinosaurs. Albeit with air conditioning and the occasional hook-up with one of the lithe young foreign students at the shala.
    I’m looking forward to obtaining authorization if I stay here long enough and won’t have any naughty parties like some formerly authorized teachers did. At least if I do I will keep it chill and on the down low, like my pre-class bong blast. All in the interest of cultivating more ahimsa.
    I hope my dad’s check clears before our big trip to Bangalore. Otherwise I’ll have to cancel my spa appointment.


  7. ama

    You are completely MAD ! …Hysterical !! You can’t be serious!
    I am comming out to Mysore on 4th Jan.Yoga mat in one hand – hand grenade in the other (just in case!) – No listen really sorry no, no jokes here about terrorism – its sick.And its poor India’s turn to really go through it at the moment…..Just awful.And I think India’s tourist trade will also suffer a bit.We have to keep going if we can – or maybe wait till its all quitened down at the airports? 4 hr waits for flights…bomb alerts etc etc…
    Anyway whats these naughty parties you mentioned?
    You wont get authourised in a month you nutter !!

  8. ama

    Hey smackadasana…..Whats – zat?

    whos tarik?…. and what shin-dig?

    Sounds like your all havin a laugh out there? Must be missin out!
    How is it?

  9. Barbara

    First, sorry for my English.

    I don’t understand all these arguments against the Jois family, they do what they want in their own shala, nobody’s obliged to practice there and follow their rules if they don’t like it.
    There is some teachers I don’t appreciate, so I don’t go in their shala and that’s all.
    As long as you don’t use their name, you are totally free to teach ashtanga without their authorisation, you won’t go to jail or pay a fine for that! And why would you want to use the name or an authorisation from someone you don’t like or don’t trust!?? It’s not logical.

    There is 2 options :
    1) You agree with Sri K. Pattabhi method and rules, you study with them, you remain loyal to them, and you don’t teach without their authorisation.
    2) You don’t agree, it’s you freedom, you don’t waste your time in his shala, you study with someone else, and you don’t need Guruji’s authorisation to teach, but you don’t use his name for your advertisement, and you have the honesty to say that you don’t teach the traditional way, but another way.

    There are non-authorised teachers who claim to teach ashtanga the traditional way as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (just because they have practiced 1 or 2 months with him), but its not true, if they were teaching the traditional way, they wouldn’t do it without the blessing of their guru, they wouldn’t use the name of someone they don’t respect.
    The practice of Ashtanga is not just about asanas, it’s also about being loyal. I don’t see how someone who is not loyal could teach yoga even if he/she is the more flexible.

  10. Barbara


    If you want to be very near the shala, I can recommend you to go to Jiothy, in the same street (8th Cross), number 228, but I lost their number and mail, so unfortunatly you cannot contact them before.
    In January, it must be very crowded, its better that you find accomodation before, but if you don’t its better to have this adress than nothing.

  11. eaton byance

    In his book, Gregor Maehle quotes Krishnamacharya’s Biography as stating that the Korunta was bound together with Pantanjali’s yoga sutras, Vaisha’s commentary on the sutras.

    So thats where they got the idea that it was Pantanjali or Astanga yoga. So Guruji says its Patanjali yoga… but you have to practice it to find out if he tells the truth..;)

  12. gregorfanlite

    eaton byance:
    you will notice ‘authorized’ australia-based gregor maehle is nowhere to be found on the teacher’s list at kpjayi website.
    you will also notice jois’ name absent from HIS website (gregor’s website that is)

    maybe sharath is being similarly disloyal to authorized teachers who own businesses (shalas) here in the states that have been teaching with jois’ blessing for more than a decade in some cases who have students practicing beyond the primary series.

  13. ERBR

    Hi People,

    Today April 10, 2009 is the firt day of R Sharath´s Tour.

    Will be a long tour for many places :

    Geat opportunity for some of you that say this and that about Sharath and the “new rules´´to spend some time and ask him everything that you want to know
    about this topic and the most important listen from himself.

    Love this practice and respect Guru Parampara .

  14. Erena

    Do your practise and all is coming. Go inward and find your peace, your teacher and anything else you will ever need. There is no need to fear the changes that are taking place. When you are truly able to let go of fear surrounding your practise e.g. regulations, teachers, injuries etc only then are you free to really do your practise.

  15. Sass

    OMG, I didn’t even get to finish this but what worries me is how much everybody seems to say about what everyone else is doing. I like that PJ used to just smile benevolently about so much of what goes on in the West… We do this to touch God; everything else is trivial and irrelevant. Our paths are unique. Don’t forget that asana is just a way to cleanse the body and bring it higher folks so doing it like this or that is kind of irrelevant…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *