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Let's Breath Together

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The History of Ashtanga in Greece
Ashtanga's first steps in Europe

The method of Ashtanga Yoga was not known in Europe until the late 80's, when teachers Derek Ireland and Lesley Warrell arrived on the Greek island of Skyros and offered Ashtanga lessons, mainly to foreign students, in Skyros Town. Linda Kapetaniou was the first Greek student in 1988. She, together with Eleni Kyriakopoulou and Pericles Christodoulopoulos, began to spread the method to more and more Greek students at the "Lotos" yoga center, which was the heart of the Ashtanga method in Athens. Later, Derek and Lesley moved their teaching to Southern Crete, where they founded the first Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga School in Europe, called "The Practice Place".

The students of these schools, who later became direct students of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois in India, were Eleni Kyriakopoulou, Alexandra Dimitriou-Mara and Maria Tsakona. In 1990, Kristina Karytinou began apprenticeship with Linda and Pericles and later became the first certified Greek teacher by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

After the death of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, Greek students had the great honor of being visited and educated by his son, Manju Jois, since 2017. His influence always helps teachers to develop emotionally and spiritually. Greece was one of its few destinations and so, once again, the country played a vital role in building the Ashtanga community in Europe. Today, many Greek students continue to visit the Gurus of the method in Mysore and around the world. We are very honored to know that Greece was a gateway to the method in Europe and that Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is now one of the most popular methods of yoga.

Manju Jois gave his blessings to our Association that to this day represents the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga in Greece, as many of its members studied at Mysore with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, Manju Jois and Sharath Jois. We are the only Ashtanga Association that exists nationally. Its older and current members (Alexandra Dimitriou, Nektarios Mitritsakis, Katerina David, Melina Vlachou, Kiros Tzannes, Manolis Dafermos, Dimitra Bessa, Dennis Ireland-Karytinos, Nikos Michos, Anneta Alexandridi, Maria Mytilinaiou, Natasa Symeonidou, etc.) under the influence of Derek's teaching methods that bridge the relationship between us and his teaching. It was his own unique vision that gave a different prestige to both Ashtanga and Western yoga in general. Take teacher training to the next level!


We thank all the Teachers and Gurus of the method for choosing Greece. The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Association will continue to coordinate with the lineage of the method and is committed to welcoming, educating and respecting all practitioners of any level or educational background in the Ashtanga method.


Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Greece by the older (senior) teacher Eleni Kyriakopoulou
(How Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga started in Greece by Eleni Kyriakopoulou)


My first contact with Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga was when I first read an article about this system in Yoga and Health magazine in April 1990. Derek and Radha had a fortnightly Ashtanga Vinyasa seminar in her home country. Skyros: They continued with the presentation of Ashtanga Vinyasa in Europe, Crete and the United Kingdom.

At that time, I was a student of Linda Kapetaniou and a Hatha Yoga teacher in the studio of "Lotos" in Kifissia. Linda, who wanted to learn and experience new ways and systems, decided to go to Crete in the summer of 1990 to practice in this new yoga system for us.

As a result of her initiative, at Christmas 1990, Linda, Pericles Christodoulopoulos, I and I arrived in Agios Pavlos, Crete to practice and experience Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga for 15 days. We practiced twice a day, morning and afternoon, for an hour and a half to two hours. I enjoyed the experience, although it was a very demanding practice for someone like me who had a hard and not very flexible body. But the system came to terms with my personality who likes to discover new possibilities and ways and overcome obvious challenges. It helped me to face the limits of my mind and body which were often quite different. I liked that the system had a constant flow of breath and movement. I was thankful that I needed to follow a certain series, discover my limits and overcome them. Of course it was a very intense practice and experience and that is why sometimes my body ached, in need of a lot of massage. However, overall the experience was great, my energy high. I fell in love with the practice!

We practiced in a tavern as there was no yoga room, moreover because Agios Pavlos was a summer tourist area, our rooms had no heating or hot water. We were given a gas stove for each room where we boiled water for our bathroom.

After our first experience in Crete, we continued teaching the new system in Lotos in Kifissia and would return to Crete for more practice with Derek and Radha. Soon other students from Lotos who liked our system followed in Crete. The most persistent and today widely known Ashtanga teachers are Maria Tsakonas and Christina Karytinou.

Maria was the first student of ours to go to India, to Mysore, to practice with the Ashtanga authority, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He kept going for many years and still does.

In the spring of 1992, I was in India, in New Delhi, at the Prem Rawat (Maharaji) hermitage where I met Maria and she told me again about her experience with Pattabhi Jois in Mysore and how wonderful it was. Giving me all the information motivated me to do the same. So in August 1992 my eight year old daughter and I traveled to Mysore and for two months I had a unique yoga experience.

Pattabhi was a true authority on yoga, a teacher who helped you transform deep into every practice. I was very lucky, there were only eight of us in the room. He did not talk much, the teaching was done through the hands in the adjustments. You needed to feel the postures (asana), not to think. Discover your limits and go further, through feeling and observation, without complaints and criticism, but with tradition and observance of the rules. There I really learned to surrender: either you practice with full consciousness or you injure yourself and you learn. Surrendering changed possibilities. I lived a unique relationship between student and teacher. Pattabhi was not interested in students who did not surrender, he ignored them. He put me in every asana in his own way, even though I had practiced in Ashtanga for two years. My first practice was just greetings and then he told me to leave. In the second practice, greetings and two stops. That was the way we ended the series. He taught my body to recognize its potential and to overcome mental obstacles. He was strict but at the same time polite, he could scold you and smile. The practice for beginners started at 6 am and for the advanced ones at 4 am. I needed to be very careful with what I would eat, how much I would sleep, so that I could do the practice every day.

One day he told us about the principles of Ashtanga Yoga. I managed to understand the first three:
1.  I will…
2. I will, whatever happens.
3. I will do whatever happens and whatever everyone says.


What I have learned from my practice is that the goal of Ashtanga Yoga practice is not really a strong, flexible, healthy body. This is the result of practice, but not the true essence. For me, the goal of yoga is, through movement, concentration and breathing, to get in touch with the deeper layers of existence. Through the flow of breath and movement, the mind is emptied, detoxified, and the consciousness enters a state of balance and harmony. From this state of balance and harmony, we enter the dimension of meditation where the eternal opens its gates and absorbs us.
Returning to Athens, I continued to teach Ashtanga and discuss my experiences with friends and students. My friend Christina Karytinou got excited and started her own journey to Crete, to Derek, to Ashtanga and today she is this wonderful Ashtanga Yoga teacher who travels the world and teaches this wonderful system.

Eleni Kyriakopoulou​

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