Monday, 31 August 2015

What does Pattabhi Jois' Advanced A/Third series Visvamitrasana photo tell us about the development of his Ashtanga Vinyasa syllabus.

This post is a follow on or continuation of my previous post

Did Pattabhi Jois practice some or all of the Series he created and if so for how long?

Sometime after writing the above post I decided to add an appendix relating to Pattabhi Jois' early photoshoot that resulted in the photo's that were included in Yoga Mala. Pattabhi Jois also seems to have had some advanced/proficient asana photo's taken at or around the same time.

His Visvamitrasana caught my eye

Pattabhi Jois' Visvamitrasana (1940s?)

We have two dates for Pattabhi Jois' development of the Ashtanga syllabus, apparently based on Krishnamacharya's asana group table ( primary, Middle and Proficient asana) and in response to the request for a four year yoga syllabus. 1939 has been given as one date but this may well have been when Pattabhi Jois entered the Sanskrit college as an advanced student. 1947 is the other date given for when Pattabhi Jois started to teach the four year course, this from his life long friend T. S. Krishnamurthyas quoted in Guruji.


Pattabhi Jois' Visvamitrasana does not look very comfortable here, it's certainly not as proficient as many of the other asana photos he had taken, it's not suggestive of daily or regular practice of this asana.

Here is my own photo of visvamitrasana from around the time I first attempted it, pretty similar and suggesting to me that Pattabhi Jois had not been practicing the asana that often or that regularly either, when his photo was taken in the 1940s


Iyengar's is a little more accomplished in this photo taken for his book Light on Yoga,


But Iyengar's Visvamitrasana was looking much more.... disciplined a few years earlier in the 1938 movie, around the time he had been giving asana demonstrations for Krishnamacharya. Visvamitrasana was an asana in Krishnamacharya's proficient asana table, he gives the states of the asana as vinyasa's 7, 8 and 9

Visvamitrasana vinyasa 7

Visvamitrasana vinyasa 8

Visvamitrasana vinyasa 9
If Pattabhi Jois had developed the Ashtanga syllabus in 1939 we might expect one of the first asana of his Advanced A ( later 3rd series) to be more.... polished, supporting the suggestion that Pattabhi Jois developed his syllabus as late as 1947.

The other conclusion perhaps is that the syllabus was just that, a teaching tool and Pattabhi jois himself continued to practice asana in a more flexible approach in accordance with the methodology of his teacher Krishnamacharya. These proficient asana were always considered demonstration postures and perhaps did not form a regular part of Pattabhi Jois' own practice.

Vasisthasana, first asana of Advanced A (later 3rd series)

Here is a modern presentation of Visvamitrasana from Jessica Walden who has been working on the posture daily following current Ashtanga methodology


The iconic David Swenson shot

Sharath from the 1999 demonstration of Advanced A







These days I tend to feel that some slow Primary or Middle group asana in half a series or not seems plenty. I looked at Advanced A again for  this and the previous post and wondered how many of the postures in the Advanced series or proficient group I could conceive of staying in for a significant number of slow breaths (See the Ashtanga Rishi series of posts), very few. As both Krishnamacharya Pattabhi Jois indicated, the so called Advanced postures are more for demonstration and perhaps a distraction.

Viranchyasana A

from back when I too was enamoured/distracted by Advanced asana.
Viranchyasana A one of a handful of Advanced Asana I could conceive of staying in for a significant period.
Let go and long gone, along with the rest of Advanced A and B, as well as the likes of Karandavasana, most likely Eka pada Sirsasana and lately even Supta kurmasana and marichiyasana D

我国は草さへさきぬさくら花
waga kuni wa kusa sae sakinu sakura kana

in my province
grass blooms too...
cherry blossoms 

Issa


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Appendix

No vinyasa count given on the 1973 Ashtanga Syllabus.

On double checking that Visvamitrasana was indeed on the 1973 syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams when they first practiced with Pattabhi Jois ( it is) I noticed, for the first time I think, that there was no Vinyasa count on the syllabus for Advanced A and B although it is there for Primary and Intermediate, how curious.

It may be that Pattabhi Jois typed the list out for Nancy and David and the count as far as Intermediate, reflected the stage they were at in the practice at the time but then why not just type out those two series. It seems more likely that this was a copy of the original syllabus, thus the division into years and the reading list but if so why was the vinyasa count not included on the original syllabus?

LINK to post with full syllabus



Here is the beginning of proficient table of asana from Krishnamacharya's original table of asana divided into three groups (primary, middle, proficient) published in Yogasanagalu in 1941 (Mysore). Note the vinyasa count and that Krishnamacharya gives the stats of the asana as vinyasas 7,8,9 and 13,14,15 (see the movie screenshots of BKS Iyengar above).



LINK to full table

Original table in Kannada language


Here is BKS Iyengar in the 1938 movie with Krishnamacharya and his family. Iyengar demonstrates Visvamitrasana 7:00 minutes into the movie


Friday, 28 August 2015

Did Pattabhi Jois practice some or all of the Series he created and if so for how long?

 This post develops a question that came up on one of my blog post links on fb.
Pattabhi Jois teaching André Van Lysebeth Pranayama in 1964

We give a lot of weight to the  fixed Ashtanga series (Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and B - organised later as Primary, 2nd 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series) that Pattabhi Jois developed from the three flexible groups of asana (primary, middle, proficient) of his teacher Krishnamacharya.

But did Pattabhi Jois practice those series himself and if not, does it matter.

We know Pattabhi Jois didn't practice the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series that we have now, they were certainly reorganised long after Pattabhi Jois had ceased to practice but what of the original four series, Primary to Advanced B that Pattabhi Jois taught to Norman Allan, David Williams Nancy Gilgoff and other early visitors to Mysore and their students.

The original four series are certainly based on Krishnamacharya's table of asana that appeared in his Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) and on which pattabhi Jois's own studies with his teacher were no doubt based. Pattabhi Jois' first two series follow quite closely the order of asana in Krishnamacharya's table, Advanced A and B series seems to be a departure.

Supposedly Pattabhi Jois was required to develop a four year Syllabus when asked to teach at the Sanskrit college, Krishnamacharya's table had three groups so Pattabhi Jois turned the final proficient group into two series ,Advanced A and B, no doubt including other asana and their vinyasa count Krishnamacharya had taught to him and the other boys of the Mysore palace (NB: Pattabhi Jois didn't only teach the young boys, he also taught other members of the palace and it's environ, perhaps Vinyasa Krama on a one to one basis).

Pattabhi Jois is said to have taken his list of asana ordered into fours series to Krishnamacharya and received his teachers approval, the approval is not surprising as Pattabhi Jois' list was based on his teachers own table of asana, with the same vinyasa count. Pattabhi jois continued to take students and members of his family to Krishnamacharya for examination in the vinyasa count of individual asana up until the 1970s

There is little doubt that Pattabhi Jois studied and practiced most, if not all, of the asana with the same Vinyasa with his teacher krishnamacharya and  for many years, Pattabhi Jois was one of Krishnamachaeya's senior and longest serving student and would accompany his teacher around the country giving advanced asana demonstrations.

There is some confusion regarding when Pattabhi Jois developed his series of asana for the Sanskrit college yoga course, 1939 is the most common date but this date may have been when Pattabhi Jois entered the Sanskrit college as a senior student. Pattabhi Jois' life long friend T. S. Krishnamurthy responds in an interview in the book Guruji that Pattabhi Jois began teaching his yoga course in 1947. Krihshnamaurthy was one of his students and studied Yoga with hm for four years, the four year syllabus perhaps.  In 1948, he established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute at their new home in Lakshmipuram  "...with a view to experimenting with the curative aspects of Yoga".



The above from the excellent 



If this indeed the case then we have a date for the formation of the Ashtanga series, 1947. 

Would Pattabhi Jois have practiced the series in the manner in which he taught them,? Not necessarily, he already had an established practice, a more flexible approach to the asana taught to him by Krishnamacharya, would he have forced himself into the confines of a fixed series created for a particular pedagogic situation, he may have stuck with the practice he already had, perhaps some exploratory practices to experience the series for himself.

Pattabhi Jois teaching 
Pattabhi Jois demonstrating sarvangasana

`Pattabhi Jois teaching garbhapindasana

But lets, for arguments sake,  say Pattabhi Jois did change his practice and work through the different series each morning, how long did he practice them for? Ashtanga is characterised by years practicing the different series, David Willams and Nancy Gilgoff have been practicing them six days a week for over forty years. Pattabhi Jois may only have practiced them for ten.

Manju Jois 1950s

Manju Jois mentions that he was there in the room while his father was working on Yoga Mala in 1954. Manju's father would call him in from playing street cricket again and again to perform asana while his father wrote out the description. Manju must have been around seven, he clearly remembers this but the memories of his father practicing are not of full series but rather long stays in different asana. Krishnamacharya stressed long stays with slow breathing in Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu , was Pattabhi Jois still practicing just as his teacher had taught him?


We should also note that the pictures Pattabhi Jois included in Yoga Mala were taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s, they are not a full set of the primary series asana, no more were taken the missing asana being performed by Sharath for the books publication in the 1990s. There are no videos of Pattabhi Jois performing any of the series,

Tim Miller writes that Pattabhi Jois stopped practicing asana aged 42 (1957) for personal reasons, it seems more likely that it was a few years later ( most likely 1973.  Note the change in Pattabhi Jois' physique between the 1964 photo with  André Van Lysebeth  and the one below with the western Ashtangi's from 1975), there is no suggestion from any of the early visitors to Pattabhi Jois (1973/74) who lived in his house while studying with him that their teacher was practicing the different Ashtanga series. I seem to remember David Williams I think it was, writing that one of his great regrets was never watching Pattabhi Jois practice himself. Manju mentioned however that his father continued to practice asana to quite late in life.

from David Willams interview in Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students 


Clockwise, starting from P.Jois: Pattabhi Jois, Nancy Gilgoff, Brad Ramsay, Paul Danaway, Sally Woker, David Swenson, David Williams. Encinitas, California, 1975
Roseanna Campbell learns Ashtanga Yoga from the founder himself at Shri K. Pattabhi Jois’ school in Mysore, India, (1976?)
David Williams also mentions that on asking Pattabhi Jois what one should practice after learning the advanced series his teacher mentioned the 'Rishi series', choosing 10 asana and staying for 50 breaths or so in each. Pattabhi Jois was no doubt joking about the name but not perhaps of the practice as it seemed to refelect his own practice as mentioned by Manju ( see my Rishi series of posts- LINK).

I posted the picture at the top of this post of Pattabhi Jois teaching André Van Lysebeth in 1964 when he taught him Primary and Second series as well as Pranayama. Pattabhi Jois' face looks very lean suggestive to me perhaps perhaps of an intense practice, whether that is of a Rishi approach or Ashtanga series is unclear.

Pattabhi Jois (left) teaching André Van Lysebeth Pranayama in 1964


Does it matter whether Pattabhi Jois himself practiced the Ashtanga series he developed or for how long? Manju Jois has practiced the series since the 1950s ( he mentioned that these days he practices some Primary, some 2nd series and some advanced asana, "...to keep his hand in"). Sharath has been practicing the series seriously,according to his mother Saraswati, since 1989 including the latter reorganised Advanced  series into 5th and 6th series, many of the early visitors to Mysore have been practicing as well as teaching the series daily since the mid 1970s.

Saraswati in Gandhaberundasana, circa1950s

Saraswati demonstration
The Ashtanga series are clearly one effective approach to developing discipline, encountering the practice of asana and hopefully yoga, one that many find beneficial but perhaps reflecting on Pattabhi Jois' own practice, how it was formed and how he himself chose to practice puts the series into perspective. The Ashtanga series appears to have been an accident of circumstance, developed in response to a particular pedagogic need ( the four year sanskrit syllabus) a more flexible approach exploring and giving emphasis to other elements of the practice that Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois explored may also be beneficial.

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My own practice tends to be based on a flexible approach to the Ashtanga vinyasa framework, half Primary or half 2nd series with slow breathing, kumbhaka, some long stays and just the original two drishti followed by pranayama, pratyahara and a sit.


Bottom centre, a copy of the 1973 Ashtanga syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams.
The four year Sanskrit college syllabus?

Appendix

The 'Yoga Mala' picture shoot 


The photo of Pattabhi Jois in Samasthiti along with the photos that ended up in Yoga Mala (as well as other advanced asana) were, according to Eddie Stern, taken in Tiruchinapalli and Kanchipuram. On one of several visits Pattabhi Jois and his wife Amma made to the temple and Mutt there, "... on ther last visit they came with the whole family". This was probably between 1940 and 1946. See this link http://ayny.org/sri-k-pattabhi-jois/

It should perhaps be noted that although photos from this photo shoot ended up in Pattabhi Jois' book Yoga Mala, outlining his Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary series, they were in fact most likely taken before he had outlined the four series for the Sanskrit college syllabus. These pictures then reflect Pattabhi Jois' ongoing practice with Krishnamacharya. Pattabhi jois would have been practicing these asana with Krishnamacharya with full vinyasa but most likely not in a fixed series.




 These more advanced asana photos were perhaps taken on or around the same time









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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta

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