Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga.

SLOW ASHTANGA : Pattabhi Jois talked in interviews, as well as when writing in Yoga Mala, that if we had less time we should practice less asana. In my own practice time is an issue. I prefer to breathe more slowly in the asana and vinyasas, lengthening my inhalation and exhalation, "slow like the pouring of oil" as Krishnamacharya puts it in Yoga Makaranda. I like to explore kumbhaka and the occasional extended stay, in Mudras especially. I also prefer to practice, much of the time, with my eyes closed, employing internal drishti at different vital focal points and I like to introduce vinyasas, extra preparatory asana on days when they feel appropriate as well as perhaps extending an asana into more challenging, 'proficient' forms on the more flexible days, in keeping perhaps with Krishnamacharya's, Primary, Middle and proficient groups of asana rather than Pattabhi Jois' fixed sequences. I like to practice Pranayama before and after my asana practice as well as finishing my practice with a 'meditative activity'. I was first introduced to Yoga through the Ashtanga sequences and I still maintain that general structure in my main practice but I would rather sacrifice half or more than half a sequence than these other factors and perhaps practice the asana ‘missed’ in the following days, I still consider this to be Ashtanga, Slow Ashtanga.

"When once a fair proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, the aspirant to dhyana has to regulate the time to be spent on each and choose the particular asanas and pranayama which will have the most effect in strengthening the higher organs and centres of perception and thus aid him in attaining dhyana". Krishnamacharya - Dhyana or meditation Yoga Makaranda part II

Thursday, 27 November 2014


Eddie Stern wrote at some length on Krishnamacharya's YogaRahasya of Nathamuni in this months Namarupa. I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a closer look at this fascinating text. Below are selected verses from the "hurried" translation by Ramaswami who wanted to teach the text on his LMU teacher training but at the time the KYM version was not readily available.

My friend Claudia gives a nice intro to the story of the text over on her blog

T. Krishnamacharya



The learned person (dvija) can follow the yoga of devotion (Bhakti) or Prapatti (surrender). But the ignorant person should follow only the prapatti yoga,( as he has not the training and knowledge of Bhakti Yoga ). Bhakti Yoga is hat which is contained in Patanjala Yoga. Nyasa Vidya is suitable to those who are not well versed in shastras and Patanjala Yoga. (11)

More than men, women have the right and obligation to practice yoga, as they hold the key to healthy progeny. Women need to maintain good health to bring forth healthy offsprings and need to be free from afflictions and diseases due to microbes, and women shoul not allow themselves to become ill and diseased. (14,15)

Ashtanga yoga

In Ashtanga Yoga Yama along with Niyama come first. After having practiced these, one should practice asanas properly and regularly. (19)

Thereafter one should practice Pranayama and thence Pratyahara or sense control. Then one should practice dharana and dhyana to complete Samyama with Samadhi in the end. (20)

Without following this sequence (krama) or methodology, if one practices yoga as per the dictates of likes and dislikes, such an approach will not give any benefits os Ashtanga Yoga.(21)

Patanjali says in clear terms that one can get (Bhukti) material benefits (through Siddhis) and liberation from suffering (Mukti or Kaivalya). Those who practice different Samyamas to get material benefits (Siddhi) get material but impermanent benefits. One who desires liberation (Mokshaarti) through the path of Bhakti Yoga obtain it by the two tiers of Vairagya or dispassion, (I -22)

Let the lazy, non believers, ignorant, say whatever they want. What do we lose by their disparaging remarks? So thinking the Muni (yogi) goes about his pursuit with a determined mind.

The Yoga Teacher , who is well informed, quiet, self controlled should ponder over the time, place, age, avocation and energy of the student and instruct appropriately.

All asanas are not suitable for everyone, as the body structures are different being obese, lean, weak, crooked or disabled.

The yogic sages have averred that the teacher should first determine what is appropriate after finding their capabilities and the causes for their incapability.


During daily (asana) practice, the practitioner should do inhalation, exhalation and breath holding following the Ujjayi method, within one’s capabilities.

Breath control is a necessary practice as everyone knows that life lasts only until the breathing lasts.

In Yoga practice, the exhalations and inhalations should be long and smooth. When prana is outside (exhaled) then it is called Recaka.

The yogic scholars proclaim that the breath enters the body correctly it is called puraka. !
If one is free from diseases and healthy, the breathing and worship of the Lord become easy to perform.

The Body/Senses

Even if one is a king, rich or a great scholar, if one is ill, one can never have mental peace in this world.
If one keeps one’s body under control, the senses also will be under control . With the senses under control, one enjoys peace of mind always.

The senses of perception are five in number, so are instruments of action (karmendriys). The eleventh Indriya is the mind. And the pranas are said to be ten in number.
Due to the agitation of Prana, all the indriyas also are disturbed and with the mind go towards external objects of the senses which are said to be poisonous. Therefore, one should control the Prana or vital force though recaka, puraka and kumbhaka.

The body is said to have six kosas (sacs or bag like organs) say the sages. They are the breathing bag (svasa kosa), anna kosa (food bag or stomch), mutra (of urine or bladder), mala (of feces or large intestines), rajo (blood or uterus) and virya (vitality or prostrate). (In some notes it has been mentioned virya or Rajor kosa and the other kosa would be hrudaya kosa or the heart).
By pranayama the kosas are purified. With that the whole body gets purified. And even the indriyas get purified with satwic food.


Without proper asana practice there can be no proper pranayama practice. Without Prana control, the mind cannot attain steadiness.

If the mind is steady one gets happiness (sukha) and mental peace. With a serene mind, all accomplishments take place easily. Those whose minds are in pain due to involvement pranayama is the best recourse


For everyone, the rate of breathing is about the same (about 15 per minute). But that number is greatly reduced by yogi by Pranayama practice. ( I-56)

It is therefore necessary to know the correct movement of the vital force (prana) The three activities (vritti) of Prana are racaka, puraka and kumbhaka.

There are three Bandhas that are important, the Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandharas. They are very helpful in controlling the prana (Pranayama).

Those who do not know the intricacies in detail, even if they practice pranayama, it will not fruitful.
The portions above below the navel should be drawn inward with effort, by contracting the mula, after complete exhalation. ..

The eyes must be kept closed and the eyeballs should be steady moving neither to the sides nor up and down. The head should be kept steady and the moth closed. (I63)

Uddiyana Bandha should be done only before eating. It can be done in different asanas, standing, sitting or even lying down.

This Bandha (Uddiyana) has the capacity to eradicate ailments of the spleen, liver and other diseases of stomach. It helps to move the shakti (kundalini). This should be practised after learning from a teacher and properly practising it.
Incorrect practice of this Bandha could lead to the disturbances of the Prana. Therefore one should approach a teacher who has learnt the Uddiyana Bandha correctly and practice it.

Uddiyana Bandha is an essential prerequisite of Jalandhara Bandha. So if one would practice Uddiyana Bandha firmly, all the nadi cakras become purified and also strong.

All the impurities that have accumulated in the spleen and liver are regularly cleaned up. Further the digestive fire increases and urinary ailments are also eradicated.
All the groups of diseases that arise out of the improper functioning of Apana Vayu are rooted out and the blood circulation also improves.

Uddiyana Bandha also removes completely tardiness and fatigue. By moderate diet one gets to do Uddina Bandha properly.
Now is explained the method of doing Bandha known as Jalandhara. It is so known as it always arrests the essence (jala) of raktha flowing through the fine vessels (capillaries) called sira

In yogic parlance, this Bandha is appropriately called Jalandhara. The essence of rakta (also known as amrita or necter) flows throg the capillary and spreads and maintains life. Since it arrests wasteful flow of the necter it is called Jalandhara Bandha.

(One may practice this Bandha) in padmasana, Brahmasana, Siddhasana, svastikasana, vajrasana, Baddhakona Bhadrasana and Mulabandhasana.

Further some yogis say that Dandasana, Kraunchasana, virasana, also are suitable to master Jalandhara Bandha.
Specifically, by contracting the throat, one should place the chin against (the region) of the heart. Then keeping the focus between the eyebrows, the eyes should remain closed. !
The wise yogi would keep the body straight and keep the backbone like a staff without any crookedness in the body and the seat firmly placed.

Placing the hands on the knees, keep the body straight and steady and keeping the throat contracted and placed firmly (against the chest)

Beginners may experience some pain in the neck in the head. But it goes away quickly with daily practice.(I-78)

Pranayama, japa, home  (fire worship), meditation, and teaching a student should be done seated for the sake only of stability of the mind.

This Bandha should not be done while standing, lyind down or walking, except in asanas where it is specially considered to be useful. It should not be done after a meal or drinkinga lot of water.


One should use the appropriate mantra in Pranayama practice. In the treatment of all diseases Pranayama gives results.

In the world people with absolute faith in God or with full of detachment are very few. So the Shastras mention about the fruits of our action in the beginning itself.

In the world people make any efforts only after knowing the benefits of such actions. The main benefits (of pranayama with Mantras) are mental stability, relief from sorrow/ mental pain, long life and development of devotion to the Lord.

It is ordained that one should do all aspects yoga as an offering to the Lord, Sriman Narayana, the Supreme Bing.


As in Asana practice, in Pranayama also one should follow the correct procedures.
One should practice exhalation at the beginning to one’s capacity and then inhalation, and then breath holding. Thereafter one should increase duration of exhalation, inhalation and breath holding. (I 90)

The wise say that the breath should be smooth via the throat nadi , with a slight sound but without any break. It should be done with the mouth closed and uniformly.

One should do breathholding after both inhalation and exhalation, consistent with one’s capability. It should be done in a proper seated posture with a straight body and eyes closed.
It should be done before taking food or six hours after taking food so that the inhalations and exhalations will be be long and smooth and not rapid.

One should unequal vrittis of inhalation and exhalation only after practicing the equal duration (samavritti) pranayama.
Pranayama done without the three bandhas are not useful. Further it could lead to some ailments.

Pranayama is of two types, one done without mantras and the other with mantras. One should choose the appropriate manta for individual requirements.
Sagarbha is with mantra and vigarbha is without mantra. The smritis (texts) say that Pranayama done with mantra is commendable while the other is considered inferior.

Sagarbha pranayama destroys fluctuations/ unsteadiness of the mindl quickly. Further it it brings in longer life, clarity of the mind and removes several ailments.
By the practice of pranayama, one becomes fit to practice dharana and dhyana (meditation) . So Pranayama is very useful practice indeed.

Ujjayi, Nadishuddhi, Suryabheda, Bhastrika, Sitkaari, Sitali, lahari, Bhraamari, Kapalabhati, aandoli, are the ten pranayamas texts refer to.
But for Bhastrika and Kapalabhati, all other pranayamas should be practiced with the three bandhas, whereas the two should be done with Jalandharabandha.

All pranayamas can be done either in samavritti or vishamavritti modes. With Kapalabhati and Bhastrika, vishamavritti is not permitted.
As Headstand and Lotus are considered the best among asanas, Nadishodhana is considered the best of pranayamas.

Other pranayamas give specific benefits whereas Nadishodana gives all the benefits.
As you have faith so will the benefits be with pranayama. With devotion to the Lord Narayana always one should always partaking limited satwic food . (105)

For measuring the length of the breath ‘Om’ is agreeable to the scriptures. Whether the pranayama is equal and variable duration, mantras should be used.
All mantras merge (emanate from) Pranava, the head of all Vedas. As all rivers merge in the oceon, all mantras merge into the Pranava.

In Patanjala Yoga Sutra, Paramatma is identified with Pranava. It should be repeated (japa) with the mind meditating on its meaning.

Some experts proclaim using Gayatri with the he seven Vyahrutis and Siras in Pranayama, reflecting on the meaning as well.

This mantra pranayama referred to should be used in only vishama vritti pranayama.
Doing this with mantra pranayama while holding the breath three times, is referred to as pranayama, by the great sage Manu.

Selections from chapter 1

Selections from chapter 2

Selections from chapter 3

Selections from chapter 4


Eddie Stern wrote at some length on Krishnamacharya's YogaRahasya of Nathamuni in this months Namarupa. I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a closer look at this fascinating text. Below is the "hurried" translation by Ramaswami who wanted to teach the text on his LMU teacher training but at the time the KYM version was not readily available.

My friend Claudia gives a nice intro to the story of the text over on her blog

Below - Krishnamacharya with Srivatsa Ramaswami

Chapter II Viniyoga

To make available to all the different parts of Yoga, the proper method of using them this chapter called viniyoga is presented by Nathamuni.

The methods of the eight parts of yoga practice are of three types; early stage of life, steady part of life and end of life.
Srishtikrama is for Brahmacharis (bachelors(, sthiti is for family people and the laya krama is for sanyasis or renouncee Yogis. Yoga should be learnt according to the stage of life.

Srishtikrama is that method which helps to strengthen the muscles, the senses and strength to the body.

Up to the age of 25, one is called a Brahmachari. This is applicable to those who engage in the orthodox study of the Vedas. For the rest such classifications are unclear.

Brahmacharis are those who at the proper age get initiated into the studies of the scriptures and learn the branch of Vedas to which they traditionally belong to.

Such Brahmacharis must pactise the different angas of Yoga daily for the strengthening of memory of the Vedas studied and for the nourishment of the body and the senses.

The student,living in the ashram of the Guru should practice the angas of Yoga to be free of diseases, and other impediments for studies.

The student under the guidance of the teacher should practice yoga regularly in an orderly manner, for the proper development of the body, senses and the kosas/ internal vital organs.

He should focus on such practices that strengthen the brain, generative organs and the senses of sight,smell,taste,touch and hearing.

One whose inhalation and exhalation rae of equl duration and long and even, has no fear of death.

One who can exhibit this quality of inhalation in lying sitting asanas and also in pranayama practice need not fear death.

It is the excess of medhas (fat) and mamsa(flesh) inside and outside the body which block the movement of prana in the nadis, kosas, granthis and joints.

All those that help to increase the length, evenness and ease of the breath should be practiced regularly.

The scriptures aver that the position of prana, mind, the soul and the Supreme Lord are one and the same—the heart. ( II-31)

After meditating on the Lord, the Compassionate One, and surrendering everything to Him, one should start Chikitsa routine.
One should practice sthitikrama until one is 75 years old whether single or married.
For a householder practicing Yoga is difficult not possible to get it properly as the family one’s life is full of obstacles.

The whole world knows that the housewife is the protector of the world undoubtedly. She gives education, food, wealth and place to live.
The housewives so fully occupied in taking care of children, grandchildren, relatives, others in want, dependents, household animals and others. But they have little time to take care of themselves.

Under such circumstances, how can women who are always occupied practice yoga? But then without them,life in this world is like flowers in the sky. (Impossile)

It is therefore necessary for women to practice a few angas of yoga with discipline, for the protection of the entire family.
They may also follow the proper dharma constantly and consistent with their asrama and varna to please the Lord.

They must cleanse the body consistent with their own family tradition, even at the risk of being criticized by others.
For householders, who should practice the sthiti krama, Pranayamais most important. This is my view.

By practice of Pranayama the dross of the nadisare eliminated from the body through the many channels.
It can be concluded that the toxins in the body are removed if one’s inhalation exhalation and retention are long even and effortless.

Due to proper regulation of the breath, the impurities are removed> then the householder attains clarity of the mind. II 48)
In Pranayama, are well known anuloma, pratiloma and viloma methods. Then it includes internal and external holding of breath.

Pranayama if done with Mula, uddiyana and Jalandhara bandhas is capable of completely uprooting all ailments.
The three bandhas are to be practiced only before taking food. One should lift the mula after exhalation and hold it firmly.

Then one should do Uddiyana bandha and thereafter Jalandharabandha. Then one can do inhalation.
Pranayama is also classified in two ways, Samavritti and vishamavritti depending on the duration of inhalation, exhalation and breathholding.

For starters, sama vritti pranayama is comfortable. The length of exhalation, inhalation and breathholding depends on one’s capacity.

Forceful breath work is detrimental to Prana, the life force. Therefore before teaching pranayama one should assess the capacity/ limitations of the learner.

Whether sama vritti or vishama vritti is practiced, the practitioner should oneself carefully follow, test and verify with clarity.
One who follows the path of yoga should practice the part of yoga called pranayama before dawn, at noon, by sunset and even midnight.

The directions of the teacher should be carefully followed by the learner, never inconsistent with tradition, whether one does samantraka or amantraka pranayama. !
It is known as vishama vritii when the duration of each aspect of pranayama is varied. The ratio of 1 to 4 to 2 for inhalation, breathholding and exhalation is the best.

This method of cleansing the nadis is acceptable for all yogis for long. With cleared nadis the prana moves freely and can do its work properly.
Ujjayi, Nadisodhana, Suryabhedha and sitali have been approved by many.
Pranayama practice done in a disciplined way will help remove ailments o bladder, liver, spleen, diaphragm and heart.

Also they will have a long life, have a steady mind provided they surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord.

The central teaching of Upanishad is the integrated approach of wisdom and action. This is possible if one has firm and healthy body (with the Lord) in the heart.

Selections from chapter 1

Selections from chapter 2

Selections from chapter 3

Selections from chapter 4


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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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