Full vinyasa is the original form of Ashtanga taught by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, after each asana you transition back to Standing as if doing a sun salutation. In postures where you switch legs, the Janu's and Marichi's for example, you practice half vinyasa between legs employing the more usual jump back and jump through, then after completing both sides you transition back to standing.
Jois said repeatedly that he only taught that which his own teacher Krishnamacharya had taught him, we can perhaps assume then that this was how Ashtanga was practiced/developed at the Mysore palace in the 1920's and 30's. Manju Jois says in an Interview that his father practiced Full Vinyasa and Krishnamacharya himself, presents full vinyasa practice in his Yoga Makaranda written in 1934. We can probably surmise that Krishnamacharya had been practicing and teaching Full vinyasa for some time before writing his book and can speculate whether this was the method taught to Krishnamacharya by his own teacher Brahmachari. Is it perhaps also the method of the Yoga Kuruntha, the Yoga text said to be written on palm leaves and later said to be destroyed by ants, that both Krishnamacharya and Jois refer to and that which Bramachari is said to have taught Krishnamacharya to memorise.
Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda allows us to trace full vinyasa back seventy years at the vary least, which kind of begs the question,why abandon it now?
Yoga Makaranda (1934) Krishnamacharya Full vinyasa
Yoga Mala (1958) Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois Full vinyasa
Ashtanga yoga under the guidence of SKPJ (1994) Lino Miele Full Vinyasa
Ashtanga yoga with a forward by SKPJ (2000 ) Full Vinyasa
I seem to remember reading somewhere that full vinyasa was considered too strenuous and even that there was the fear it could cause heart attacks. The latter is surely nonsense and the former doesn't seem to fit with my own practice. But of course I've only been practicing full vinyasa for two weeks, Gregor Maehle has this to say about full vinyasa '... as a long-term practice it may be difficult to sustain'. p21 Ashtanga yoga Practice and philosophy
I recently went back to Yoga Mala and rediscovered for myself the stress placed on long slow, steady inhalation and exhalation. Overnight my practice went from taking an hour to an hour and a half. I had learned Ashtanga from DVD's that rush through the practice and assumed that was the pace one should aim at, Sharaths own Primary series on DVD takes an hour. I figured it must be due to the time constraints of the DVD format, trying to cram as much on the disc as possible. Yesterday though, I watched a Led Advanced demonstration from 1987 led by SKPJ, again the count seemed rushed and the whole practice was over in 90-100 minutes and this seems to fit with many of the led classes/demonstrations I've seen. Perhaps it's not the constraints of the format but something to do with Led classes. Supposedly the led class was something new that Guruji introduced so he could make sure everyone was on the same page, practicing in the same way. I understand there's a led class twice a week in Mysore, I saw some videos of one of these posted by Govindakai, again quite a fast pace. Did this somehow become the norm? I don't visit Shala's but I know that many who read my blog do, how is it in your Shala, is the focus still on long slow, steady inhaling and exhaling or is it rush through the practice so you can get off to work?
When I was practicing at a breakneck speed, shifting to full vinyasa might have been a bit too much, but with my current slower pace I haven't found it any more strenuous, in fact quite the opposite. I find that it has helped my focus, this has especially been the case with Intermediate where coming back to standing after some heavy asanas has provided the opportunity to completely refocus the breath and the bandhas where and when necessary, in case your wondering, my Ujjaii manages to keep the heat turned up well enough.
Of course us who practice at home are free to explore full vinyasa, is it acceptable, I wonder, to practice full vinyasa in a Mysore 'self-practice' class, or would you have to wait for Lino to come to town with his Full Vinyasa workshop.
But there is of course another issue and this irks me. Are we or are we not preserving a practice. If it becomes acceptable to change from full to half vinyasa because the former is too strenuous or time consuming, or change from eight breaths in an asana to five, or turn Advanced Series into a 3RD and 4TH series, or switch and change asanas in a series or how poses are aligned, or no longer be given a variation that might help you achieve a pose but rather being stopped for months or years at a time instead, then what is it exactly that is being preserved. And shouldn't we blush when we criticise other forms of Yoga for not being pure enough or other Ashtangi's for not practicing ' correctly '. Are the changes that have been made an attempt to adapt the style to a western sensibility or out of practical concern for how such large numbers of practitioners can be taught.
This week on Youtube I watched Guruji lead four practitioners through the no longer current Ashtanga Advanced series in 1987. Manju Jois, in an interview, said that his Father learned Primary, Intermediate and Advanced Series from Krishnamacharya.
You can find the videos here
On the same channel there are also some videos called 'Theory class with Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois'. In one of them Guruji criticises the translations of the Yoga Sutras, suggesting that we don't have a hope of understanding them because so much has been lost in the translation.