Alignment and Injuries,  Pose How To,  Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized

The Most Common Transition Mistakes of Primary Series

Many teachers, crazy making, one teacher, shantih is coming-Pattabjhi Jois

Below are the most common transition mistakes of Primary Series. For more information on transitions and pose counts, read the Astanga Yoga Anusthana by Sharath Jois and The Yoga Mala by Pattabhi Jois.



Common Mistake: taking the hands to the waist before folding

Correct Method: Inhale, catch the big toes and head up




Trikonasana Series and Parsvokonasana Series

Common Mistake: stepping to the right and turning the feet at the same time

Correct Method: Step out inhale, turn the foot and come into the pose on an exhale




Trikonasana Series

Common Mistake: Feet too wide

Correct Method: Feet 3 feet apart




Prasarita Padottanasana Series

Common Mistake: Lifting the chest up and doing a little back bend before coming down

Correct Method: Simply just stand there and inhale

Common Mistake: Head not on the floor

Correct Method: Head on the floor



Prasarita Padottanasana A

Common Mistake: Exhale hands to the hips on the way up

Correct Method: Inhale lift the head up hands still on the floor. exhale stay and hands are still on the floor. Inhale come up. Exhale again.


Prasarita Padottanasana D

Common Mistake: Exhale hands to the hips on the way up

Correct Method: Head lifts up inhale with fingers still to big toes. Hands stay on big toes as you exhale. Inhale all the way up




Common Mistake: Pivoting out to the right when coming back to the front

Correct Method: Step to the front




Common Mistake: Adding a Tittibhasana

Correct Method: Lift your head off the floor inhale. Exhale hold. Inhale take Bakasana position.




Common Mistake: Adding a Tittibhasana

Correct Method: Jump into it just like Bhujapidasana with legs around arms and immediately go done



Supta Kurmasana

Common Mistake: Adding a Tittibhasana

Correct Method: inhale lift up. Exhale hold. Inhale Bakasana position


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail


  • Bob Milbrath

    As an example of how the above recommendations are arbitrary Most Iyengar teachers recommend a wide stance for trikonasana. I practice Ashtanga because of the breathing and vinyasa but for many years I practiced Iyengar style. The Iyengar school may be mistaken because of their emphasis on just holding poses and because of their over use of props but if you are telling me that they teach a basic pose like trikonasana wrong then I say you are probably full of hooey. I’m not saying they are right either mind you but one reason myself and others gravitated away from the Iyengars was precisely because of the anal emphasis of Iyengar teachers on minor matters of external form. It is a shame now to see this trend emerging within the Ashtanga community

    • admin

      This is not a trend. This is how Ashtanga has always been taught. Asthanga is not about the external form, that is why it is taught that way. This is not my opinion, all of this came from Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois.

  • Eskil

    Common Mistake: Moving the hands from the pose in the final exhale, not accounted for in the vinyasa count, before moving into the transitions. Eg. In Janu Shirshasana A, on Desa inhale one look up (usually the arms would be straight here), then there is a exhale in the pose still holding the feet, then ekadasa inhale lift up and so on…. The common mistake would be to move the hands to the floor or just moving them, on the exhale.

    Correct Method: inhale look up up. Exhale hold. Inhale transition.

    One can remember that almost all poses starts with and inhale and end with an exhale still in the pose (like life – starts with an inhale and last thing most of us will do, is end, with an exhale) – that should be easy to remember.

  • Michael Joel Hall


    Have you seen the video that Dominic shot of Sharath’s primary series? There are some things you
    label as “wrong” that are executed exactly as you describe by the director of the KPJAYI.

    For Parsvottanasana, Sharath squares his feet before returning to standing.
    For Bhuja, there is a titthibasana-esque maneuver on the inhalation back to Bakasana.

    Take a gander at it sometime.

    Then, for comparison’s sake, check out the video of Sharath practicing advanced a, from 1999. You’ll perhaps note that he does NOT return to center as in the other video for parsvottanasana.

    The question here, from me to you, is this: do you think that Sharath makes a series of mistakes on this video? If the answer is yes, well okay then. If the answer is no, then what?

    I would posit this: hard languaging such as “mistake” is limited. Something akin to “the practices’ external form changes based on the needs of the practitioner” seems more useful. Perhaps you can think of a more succinct semantic safety net to allow space for not-knowing?

    Though, again, I would have to ask: is it really semantic? Perhaps this becomes an attempt at nailing down water? And, for sure, a reminder of the slippery nature of using a single asana demonstration or limited time with a single teacher as the basis for fact making. I’ve learned the latter many times over by using a once-good technique for far too long because of a lack of oversight from a senior teacher (I only get to Mysore but so often, and I’m a relatively young practitioner all things considered).

    That said, I suppose my big question is this: is this level of “right not-right” useful, and what underlying message can be learned when we take if off the binary track and allow for greater fluidity?

    • admin

      Awesome response. Semantics are always limited. That is why I stopped arguing them. That is the word I chose from a list of possibilities. I am okay with it. I don’t know, but was Sharath shooting his video for demonstration purposes? Demonstration is different from his own personal practice. I also wrote about the difference between doing Ashtanga as demonstration as opposed to as a spiritual practice. I was not going by one teacher. The article was written by referencing the Anusthana and the Yoga Mala. If Sharath changes something in his own practice, he is the lineage holder for Ashtanga, he should know what can be changed or not and still be in line with the practice. I am not Sharath and I don’t even pretend to have his level of knowledge. He practiced day in and day out with Pattabhi Jois for like, I am guessing here, 20-30 years? He gave us guidelines as practitioners, people who don’t have that level of knowledge, to follow. My Ashtanga practice is definitely not executed according to the Yoga Mala or the Anusthasana. I take full responsibility for it and I am not looking to justify why. I fully accept that I am “off the book” and I am fully okay with it. However, If I teach something “off book”, I will say it is off book and not try to act like it is there. The article was a reply to all the confusion in the Ashtanga world due to people doing Ashtanga demos and adding stuff in as if it was there and then people thinking this is Ashtanga as taught by Pattabhi Jois when it is not.

  • Baxter

    Three feet for HOW TALL in Trikonasana? Span between feet depends on how tall the person is. Three feet may work for some, but it really depends on the person since some of us are well over six feet tall, and three feet is way too short.

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