The ashtanga vinyasa system was formulated by K. Pattabhi Jois and taught by him at his shala, now known as the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI), in Mysore, India. According to tradition, this system derives from an ancient Sanskrit text called the Yoga Korunta, written by the sage Vamana Rishi, the teachings of which Jois received from his own teacher, the highly influential T. Krishnamacharya. Krisnamacharya, in turn, stated that he received the teachings from his own guru, Rama Mohan Brahmachari. No one knows for sure whether The Yoga Korunta is a real or mythical text – it is said to have been eaten by ants! Yoga practitioner and scholar Mark Singleton has traced the genesis of ashtanga vinyasa to the hybridsation of yoga asana and gymnastic fitness regimes taught by Krisnamacharya at the Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore between 1930 and 1950 (Yoga Body, Oxford University Press, 2010).

In the 1970s, American students, such as David Williams, David Swenson, Tim Miller, Richard Freeman and Nancy Gilgoff, began to travel to India to study with Pattabhi Jois. They brought ashtanga vinyasa to the West and are now among the senior Western ashtanga teachers. Pattabhi Jois died in May 2009. His grandson Sharath Rangaswamy Jois is now the principal teacher at KPJAYI.