Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Simon Borg Oliver - Mayurasana Relaxed or Hardened Abdomen? Plus Krishnamacharya's Mayurasana (regular, one handed and lotus) instruction, 1 min to 3 hours but at least 15 min daily.

"(Mayurasana)...This asana stithi should be held from 1 minute to 3 hours according to the practitioner's capability..... If this asana is practiced every day for at least fifteen minutes, a lot of benefits are achieved."

From Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934)
I seem to remember Ramaswami recommending mayurasana as one of those postures that Krishnamacharya considered important as it massaged the internal organs. In Yoga Makaranda Krishnamacharya advises that we should ideally practice every day for fifteen minutes.

Simon Borg- Oliver stressing the relaxed abdomen rather than the more gymnastic hardened abdomen shows us how an extended stay is possible ( hint: we can breath more easily with a relaxed abdomen which also allows the internal organs to be massaged).

Simon Borg-Oliver on Mayurasana 

"In this two minute video I am showing how a simple form of the gymnastic planche posture that is known as Mayurasana in hatha yoga can be used to massage the internal organs and especially enhance the elimination of waste and the absorption of nutrients, via a type of self abdominal massage that is only possible if you completely relax your abdominal muscles".

This video is part of Topic 10 (The Body Systems) in the 120 hour Yoga Synergy Online Course on

'The Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga' by Bianca Machliss and I which is available at http://anatomy.yogasynergy.com/a/baaaba



Krishnamacharya's Mayurasana Instruction

from Yoga Makaranda (1934)

41 Mayurasana (Figure 4.90)

From Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934)

This has 9 vinyasas. The 5th vinyasa itself is the asana sthiti. This asana has two forms. One form is called sampurna mayurasana. The second is called one-handed mayurasana. The picture included here depicts only sampurna mayurasana. In this asana, both hands should be firmly pressed down on the ground and with the strength of the arms, the whole body should be balanced like a bar in a balance scale with both sides at the same level.

In the other type of mayurasana, keep only one hand on the ground and balance the body on this hand as mentioned above. Ordinarily, most people cannot do this type. So it is alright to just do sampurna mayurasana. Study the picture carefully to learn how to place the hands.

Eka Hasta Mayurasana - An old One handed mayurasana variation photo but done with a hardened abdomen see Simon's video above for his advice on softening the abdomen
This asana must be done before eating (on an empty stomach). Wait a minimum of four hours after eating before practising this asana. This asana sthiti should be held from 1 minute up to 3 hours according to the practitioner’s capa- bility. It is good to practise this regularly and to remain in this sthiti for longer periods during the winter or colder months rather than in the summer.
If we make it a habit to practise this asana every day for at least fifteen minutes, we will attain tremendous benefits. First, it will not allow unnecessary flesh or excessive impurities to remain in our body — it will expel them out. It will increase digestive power. It will protect us from every disease and keep these diseases from approaching. We can say that it is the death of all respiratory diseases, all paralytic diseases — all such dangerous diseases. No disease will approach the people who practise this asana.


From Salutation to the teacher the Eternal one ( Yoga Makaranda Part II - date unclear 1950s?)


This asana has to be done on the bare ground. There should be no carpet or other spread on the ground.


1. Stand upright with the legs together. Jump spread the legs apart so that there may be 12 inches between the feet. Lift the arms, interlace the fingers and turn the palms upwards. Stretch the body and the arms. Inhale.

2. While exhaling, lower the trunk by bending the body at the hips. Keep the arms stretched. When the hands are near the ground, the fingers are freed, the palms turned downwards and placed between the feet firmly on the ground, the finger pointing towards the back and the little fingers touching each other. The legs should be kept stretched and the knees should not be bent. The spine should be kept stretched and as straight as possible.

3. Inhale and lift the head.

4. Exhale, bend the head, spread, the elbows for the passage of the head and place the
head between the knees.

5. Inhale, lift the head and come back to the position in step (3)

6. Take a few deep breaths.

7. While inhaling, jump back with both feet, so that the navel may be above the
elbows, when the legs are stretched behind. The legs touch each other, stretched with the toes pointed and the back of the feet resting on the ground. The elbows are placed firmly on the either side of the navel, and the elbows kept as near to each other as possible.

8. Slowly inhale, the inhalation should be only to half the extent that was being done during the previous deep breathing, and move the body forward by about three inches, so that the body assumes the position of a horizontal plank. The legs are to be kept stretched, the knees together and the toes pointed. Head should be raised up.
Note: The final position prescribed above may not be possible in the beginning stages. The feet should be raised only about an inch in the beginning stages of practice, and the height lifted slowly increased as practice advances.

9. Breathe in and breathe out in a regulated manner but with no retention of breath.

10. While inhaling, lower the legs.

11. While inhaling, jump forward and bring the feet on either side of the palms and
while inhaling life the head to the position in step (3).

12. While exhaling, bend the head, widen the elbows and place the head between the knees.

13. While inhaling, life head and reach the position as in step (3).

14. Lift the trunk and with a jump bring the legs together and reach a position as at the
beginning of the asana.

In this asana, the stomach is compressed, and the lungs are also compressed, and it may appear that regulated breathing in this posture may not be possible.

When Mayurasana has been mastered sufficiently to keep the body steadily horizontal for half a minute, the variation mentioned below-Padma Mayurasana-can be done.

This variation should not however be attempted unless by previous practice padmasana i.e., crossing of the legs can be done without the help of the hands in the Sarvangasana and Sirshasana positions. If at this stage, regulated breathing is practiced in Padma Mayurasana position, it becomes easy later to practice Pranayama even in the ordinary Mayurasana position. Care should however be taken to see that the lungs are not unduly strained. For maximum benefit Pranayama should be done for 5 minutes, when the body is held as a plank in the horizontal position. Proper practice of Pranayama is difficult, but becomes easy after practice.

Note: At least 4 hours should lapse after the last meal, before this asana is attempted. Benefits:

i. This prevents all diseases pertaining to the liver and spleen.

ii. This also cures diseases of the spleen and liver, but such treatment, in the case of those suffering from these diseases should be undertaken only under the personal guidance of a properly qualified teacher.

iii. This increases the powers of digestion.
This asana should not be done by those suffering from excessive fat, breathing trouble, blood pressure or kidney complaint. This asana should be done in moderation during summer.


Padma Mayurasana- Warning: Be carefullthe first time you try this, without the weight of your outstretched legs there is a tendency to fall forward into a face plant
When ordinary Mayurasana previously described has been mastered sufficiently to keep the body steady horizontal for half a minute, the variation mentioned below can be done. This, however, should not be attempted unless by previous practice, Padmasana, crossing of the legs, can be done without the help of the hands in the Sarvangasana and Sirshasana positions.


1. The steps are the same as in the case of ordinary Mayurasana up to the stage when the body assumes the plank position - step (8)

2. At this stage the legs are crossed into the Padmasana position. The body with the crossed legs are to be kept in a horizontal position. The head is lifted up.

The restrictions mentioned under Mayurasana apply here also.
Benefits: Are the same as those mentioned in Mayurasana.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya and the Yoga Korunta story, as told in 1986 YJ

Stumbled upon this edition of YJ while looking for Pattabhi Jois' nail in thigh while in Kapo with Krishnamacharya standing on me story

for personal study

Here's the Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois Yoga Korunta story as it was passed around back in 1986

Supposedly Pattabhi Jois said that he never actually saw a copy (trying to find an interview where he says this on record).

here's a nice treatment of the Yoga Korunta story form the ever facinating Alan Little blog

from Yoga Journal Mar-Apr 1986
I have some old posts that consider the Yoga Korunta, here are two

Thursday, 22 March 2012
'...the Yoga Korunta, which was written on palm leaves'

The above includes a page from Krishnamacharya yogasanagalu where he mentions his book was partly based on a Yogakuranti


I did not attempt a detailed review of all ancient yoga treatises since it will make this book very long and perhaps cause boredom to the readers.  Please forgive.  This writing is mainly based on the following texts:

Upanishads related to yoga
Learning’s from my Guru and self-experience" 

from Intro to Yogasanagalu

I mention it too, briefly, in this post

Sunday, 14 April 2013
Did Krishnamacharya teach Ashtanga Primary Series? Matthew Sweeney and the Origin of Ashtanga, Yoga Korunta and Vinyasa

My current thinking?

Oh I don't know, it seems such an old issue now. Reading through the Yoga Journal article above it does make you wonder where the story came from in the first place especially since it goes inot such detail, does anyone reading this know the author Christine Hether, she lives on the Big Island, Hawaii ( I'll try and get in touch and see if she remembers her sources). Pattabhi Jois' English wasn't that great, perhaps  the odd mention grew into a whole mythology, Chinese whispers that he later felt the need to come and out and say he had actually never seen a copy.

Perhaps the kernel of the story came from David Williams

"When I arrived in Mysore in 1973, the "Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus" was framed and hung on the wall of Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Pattabhi Jois told me the syllabus was the list of the four series of postures and pranayama from the Yoga Korunta, written in the 12th century by the yogi, Vamana. He explained to me that this ancient text was taught orally to his guru, T. Krishnamacharya, by his guru in Tibet, Rama Mohan Brahmachari. Several years later, Krishnamacharya, following the directions of his guru, found a written copy of the Yoga Korunta in the library of the Maharaja of Calcutta. Krishnamacharya made a copy of the manuscript.
Krishnamacharya showed the Yoga Korunta to his student, Pattabhi Jois. The text included all of the basic yoga asanas, from elementary to advanced, detailed move by move, breath by breath". 
David Willams

We also have this by Eddie Stern's from his profile of Pattabhi Jois

"Ashtanga Yoga: The historical definition of ashtanga yoga is "eight-limbed yoga," as originally outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Guruji began with the rediscovery, early in this century, of the Yoga Korunta, an ancient manuscript describing a unique system of hatha yoga practiced and created by the sage Vamana Rishi. Under the direction of Krishnamacharya, Guruji helped decipher and collate this system. He named it Ashtanga Yoga, believing it to be the original asana practice as intended by Patanjali.

The Yoga Korunta emphasizes vinyasa, a method of synchronizing progressive series of postures with a specific breathing technique. The process produces intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. On a practical level, the vinyasa continuous flow aids the practitioner, under the guidance of a qualified instructor, in integrating the eight limbs of yoga described by Patanjali".
Eddie Stern 2001

And this from Guy Donahaye

"In 1919 Krishnamacharya began his studies of the Yoga Korunta with his Guru in Tibet, a period of study which lasted seven years. During this time he was able to master over one thousand asanas and had learned the Yoga Korunta in the Nepalese Gukha language.

At some point years later Krishnamacharya discovered a written copy of the text in a Calcutta library. He started to transcribe the text from the nepalese Gurkha language. Unfortunately the verses were written on palm leaves and had been damaged by ants so the text was not complete. 

It has been suggested by some that Krishnamacharya created the six Ashtanga sequences and fabricated the story of the Yoga Korunta to add mystical authority to his system.

But why would a man of Krishnamacharya's spiritual evolution, for whom to lie would be a sin, intentionally misrepresent the truth?

No one can say how old the text is, or how old the teachings are which must have preceded the creation of the record. Those who say these are creations of Krishnamacharya must be mistaken, certainly he was a genius and made some adaptations, as can be seen in his later teachings.

The text is attributed to Risi Vamana. Vamana was an avatara of Vishnu and the first incarnation of the Treta Yuga (the 2nd Yuga) which places him at the same time in history as the battle of Kuruksetra (in the Gita/Mahabharata).

It is common practice for authors to attribute their texts to their teachers or teachers teachers, so the author of the text is not necessarily Vamana but could be one of a lineage of his students".
Guy Donahaye


My friend Enrique Matías Sánchez left a comment  

There is also this interview in which Krishnamacharya himself talks about the Yoga Korunta:

"Ganganath Jha had the title of Yogacharya (Teacher of Yoga). When Krishnamacharya sought his guidance, Jha asked him if he was sure he had a serious inclination to learn Yoga. Krishnamacharya was still hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. He told Ganganath Jha that this indeed was his ambition. It was, after all, his father who had first advised him to master the Yoga Sutra. 

He recalls today that Ganganath Jha said to him, "If you really want to master Yoga you must travel beyond Nepal for that is where Yogeswarar Rama Mohana Brahmacharya is living. In the Gurkha language there is a book called 'Yoga Gurandam'. In that book you can find practical information such as Yoga practices which give health benefits. If you go to Rama Mohana you can learn the complete meaning of the Yoga Sutra." 
My period of gurukulam here in Tibet lasted for seven and a half years. Rama Mohana made me memorize the whole of the Yoga Gurandam in the Gurkha language. The various stages of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are dealt with in that book in a very precise but extensive commentary. That is necessary because Sutras are by definition very concise. In the Yoga Gurandam, the various kinds of Yoga poses and movements are described with great clarity. Only after studying this book can one understand the inner meaning and science of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali." 

And then Godfrey Devereux claimed that according to BKS Iyengar there is an actual copy of the text in Mysore:

Finally I received the first response to my inquiry. Godfrey Devereux, in a thoughtful message, reminded me of what makes yoga so rich:

"Most of the transmission of yoga, like that of all esoteric practices, was oral and personal. The criterion of historical validation is therefore hardly applicable. Besides, many materials are kept hidden from non-Brahmins in special vaults. 

The Yoga Korunta, which contains over 250 postures, is over 5,000 years old; a copy made by Krishnamacharya is, according to B.K.S Iyengar, in an exclusive vault in Mysore, India-access restricted. It is for them a historical treasure, which they fear would be commercially exploited by mercenary Westerners."


The thing I keep coming back to is that only one line ever seems to be quoted from the text

"Yogi, don't practice asana without vinyasa"

Before switching to Philosophy at Uni I studied Classics so am not unfamiliar with fragments, one would expect if the text had been read recently or imparted orally to Krishnamacharya by his teacher then we would have more than one fragment. Krishnamacharya was a memory machine, there is film of him on his 100 Birthday celebration chanting away from memory while his son and other scholars chant from texts.

My kindest guess is that Krishnamacharya's teacher referred to a yogakuranti and perhaps that got confused with Vamana Rishi's text. Or perhaps the teacher was mistaken and the text he was using or basing his teaching on was another text altogether that he believed or had been told was called yogakurunti.

As for the Calcutta library story, Iyengar scoffs at the very idea but we do know that the young Pattabhi Jois accompanied Krishnamacharya on some of his yoga promotion tours. I'm sure Krishnamacharya would have visited libraries in his free time, I can imagine Krishnamacharya testing his young padwan on his Sanskrit translation skills and perhaps one such texts rang bells with Krishnamacharya, Sriitattvanidhi or something based on it perhaps.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Origin's of Modern Yoga Asana: Comparison of Krishnamacharya's teachers drawings and Norman's Sjoman's Sriitattvanidhi (1880's) presentation in his Mysore palace book

pictures below are from the above post.

Either way, there are clear problems with the YJ story, to take the most obvious, the article refers to Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi jois constructing six series but we have now Krishnamacharya's original three groups, Primary, Middle and Advanced ( published in a table in Yogasanagalu 1934) and based on that Pattabhi Jois' four series, Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B which was supposedly the syllabus for pattabhi Jois Sanskrit college course in the 1940s and which he gave to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams in 1973. Turning the four series into six is something that doesn't seem to have happened until the 1980s.

Does it matter how old the practice is, try going a week without practicing and see if you still care, something resonates in this linking of breath, mind and movement that is timeless whether it was written down or not. It's excellent preparation for yoga, it marries as the Italians are fond of saying. And truth be told if a copy of the Korunta was found I very much doubt it would change a single vinyasa in how it's taught in Mysore currently. Some would explore it through practice just as some of us explore Krishnamacharya's texts through practice, to try and understand what he was exploring himself. Would I change my own practice, probably not, somebody else would though ensuring that it was a living practice once more. It's a nice thought.

That's all I've got, the ants had it.

Yoga Journal is still going of course, here's a link http://www.yogajournal.com/


Creative Commons License
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/.

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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