I am dedicated to practicing, teaching, and preserving the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga lineage and methodology of Sri BNS Iyengar of Mysore. As a student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, BNS Iyengar played a crucial role in the development of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga during the formative years of this practice that has had such an immense influence on the practice of yoga in the west and worldwide.
The following is the full Primary Series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as taught by Sri BNS Iyengar. While it is nearly identical to the mainstream Ashtanga Primary Series of Pattabhi Jois, there are a few key differences:
1. Fewer Surya Namaskara- rather than 5 and 5, we do 4 A and 3 B.
2. We step to Samasthiti between Virabhadrasana A and B, and do right side first in B. Then, we
come back to Samasthiti and do a full vinyasa to enter the seated sequence.
3. Stepping to the left rather than the right between standing asanas during the standing sequence.
4. There is an extra Purvotanasana after Paschimatannasana B. Also, Paschimatannasana C is left
out until later, after Urdhva Dhanurasana.
5. For Janu Shirshasana B, we do Parivritta Janu Shirshasana rather than sitting on the heel in Mula
6. Supta Parivritta Padangusthasana is included between Urdva Mukha Paschimatannasana and Setu
When teaching Primary Series, Guruji is fond of saying, "Do as much as you can." In his method, he does not require you to "master" every asana before moving to the next asana in the sequence, as is the case in mainstream Ashtanga. Guruji's emphasis is on mudra, pranayama, meditation, and the higher limbs of yoga. This is not to say that there is no strictness or discipline in his asana practice. If he sees that you can do a pose but are not doing it fully or correctly, he will correct you. However if you are unable to do a pose, he allows you to skip it and move to the next one. This method is also advocated by Pattabhi's son, Manju Jois. Asana practice should encourage Tapas, discipline, and dedication- but it should also be enjoyable and accessible rather than encourage injury, competition, and harsh self-judgement. To my mind, this makes the BNS Iyengar method of asana practice more accessible and less dogmatic than the mainstream Ashtanga method.
While these differences between the BNS Iyengar method and the mainstream Ashtanga method are few, they are intentional and do have philosophical and physiological reasoning behind them, which are perhaps best explained in person while learning the series. In my view, it is merely a slightly different formatting of a 20th century interpretation of an ancient ritual practice. There is and will continue to be debates and disagreements over issues of method, lineage, parampara, historicity, etc, and many who feel that Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a monolithic and unchangeable sequence closed to any interpretation. However, at the end of the day, the best mode of determining such things is within the realm of your own experience and wisdom as you explore the sequence with dedication and faith that the practice itself is what bestows you with the power and freedom to decide what it is, where it comes from, and how it works.
With that said, Primary Series is also referred to as yoga chikitsa or yoga therapy. Regular practice of Primary Series leads to deep transformation of the body and purification of the nervous system, which paves the way for the practitioner to advance not only to the more advanced asana sequences of intermediate (2nd) and advanced (3rd & 4th) series, but also to the higher states of yoga: deep stillness, sustained states of meditation, self-knowledge, and superconsciousness.