Ashtanga Yoga can be practiced by anyone, not just by a young, healthy and physically flexible elite. Originally, Ashtanga Yoga was taught by T. Krishnamacharya and his student P. Jois in the Indian city of Mysore to young men aged 16-25 years. Krishnamacharya first refused to teach yoga to a woman and a foreigner (Indra Devi), but was persuaded to do so by the Maharaja of Mysore. Indra Devi was such a good student that Krishnamacharya later on asked her to become a yoga teacher herself. She taught people like Greta Garbo, Eva Gabor, and Gloria Swanson and started yoga schools around the world.
Today 80% of the yoga practicioners in the Western world are women, but special Ashtanga Yoga is becoming more popular with men because of the demanding and sometimes athletic exercises. These physical challenges make Ashtanga for many interesting, but can also create problems because often the body or sometimes the mind get overwhelmed.
Numerous students of P. Jois and his successors Manu, Swarasti and Sharath Jois teach Ashtanga Yoga in the traditional form to this day, which do not allow any deviation in the series, and only those who follow the strict guidelines of the Jois family are certified as a teacher. Other students have developed their own yoga styles out of their experience with Ashtanga Yoga, because they were bored by the monotony or the rigorous system did not do their body good. "Children" of Ashtanga Yoga such as Vinyasa Yoga, Dynamic Yoga, Jivamukti, Rocket Yoga, Pilates and many more show the great influence that Ashtanga Yoga has on today's variety of yoga styles.
I have developed a three-level teaching system that allows anyone to practice Ashtanga Yoga in its traditional form, but also to adapt the practice to his or her needs.
In the beginners classes I teach on the basis of the First Series a mixture of Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. This way, also people with physical limitations such as obesity, spinal problems, knee injuries or lack of elasticity and flexibility can gradually learn the 1st Series and develop their own practice. This slow approach prevents overstraining of body or mind and allows a continuous development.
On the intermediate level, I guide the students through the First Series, which is practiced first in parts and then as a whole. This allows students to develop endurance and strength and gradually increase their capability and performance. Those who suffer from physical limitations get special instruction and perhaps a simplified form of the position, which he or she then practices until the body is ready to perform the final position. This prevents injury or aggravation of existing problems.
Prepared through these two stages, the students can then practice Ashtanga Yoga on the third level in Mysore style.