It is common knowledge that the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa has undergone various subtle changes over the past 100 years. These alterations, I will assert, are mostly good from the point of view that these have allowed the practice to achieve a greater level of evidence-based precision than ever before. Although this may be true, a sound counterargument would be, from a historical perspective, we run the risk of forgetting the ways in which Ashtanga Vinyasa was originally learned and taught by its early modern pioneers. History tends to repeat itself, therefore if you’d like to know what to expect in the future, I’d recommend looking to the past for clues.
In his 2013 book titled Yoga Meditation, Gregor Maehle writes, “When increasing the time spent in inversions the first step is to slow down your breath as much as possible. T. Krishnamacharya’s idea of headstand was to take only 2 breaths per minute.” Owing to these accounts, I anticipate that the theme of breath retention in headstand will continue to be explored by classically trained teachers for generations. As an additional observation, Sharath Jois himself demonstrates progressive slowing of the breath in his popular 2002 primary series video. One must wonder if his choice reflects a subtle affinity towards T. Krishnamacharya’s approach. Taken together, it is plausible that longer holds in sirasana may be a direction which the Ashtanga Vinyasa canon will evolve towards.
There are practitioner centered concerns that arise when teaching pranayama techniques and inversions alike. Maehle continues, “This needs to be considered an extreme form of practice that needs to be approached slowly. Slow your breath down gradually over months and if necessary over years rather than suddenly.” To paraphrase his observation, please trust the guidance of a trained yoga instructor before, during, and after incorporating potentially powerful techniques into your day-to-day life. Although it may be simply impossible to predict with 100% accuracy what the Primary Series will look like 100 years from now, many clues do exist in plain sight. I would invite anyone who is willing to make further predictions to comment below.