Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Shala practice, adding on 3rd (groan)

I've been feeling a little lazy in the shala, coasting as it were. Around me my shala mates are building up their Primary ( and we all remember how tough that was) or practicing full Primary and adding on some of 2nd, three are practicing the complete Primary series and all but the seven deadlies (the seven headstands) of 2nd series (the 2nd series practiced with full vinyasa).

Me, I come in, knock out my 2nd and leave, job done, quick shower pop Aranya in my bag and hit the beach.

OK, I'm not exactly coasting, 2nd is still tough, I'm nowhere near as deep in my kapo as I used to be or Dwi pada for that matter and as for karanda, it only just comes back up but it's all.... relatively comfortable.

So time to dust off my 3rd perhaps. If it had been a year since I'd last practiced full 2nd it must be close to three since I practiced all 3rd.

This morning I was feeling strong at the end of practice, yesterday I'd practiced Primary (thought twice  a week made more sense than one led on Fridays) so started adding on 3rd series, went as far as Urdhva  kukkutasana C, thought about the arm balances for about 30 seconds but decided enough for one day.

Why did I stop bothering with 3rd again, I forget, it was fun this morning. Think perhaps I was being oh so serious seeing 3rd as just party tricks, beneath me.

It's nice this time around, know I can do them, that they will come back and whether they do or not doesn't really bother me but there are some nice asana scattered throughout the series, some interesting challenges for the breath.

Ok, party tricks are  perhaps not THAT beneath me, not sure I can still do this, oh the frivolity of youth (birthday tomorrow)

Was a little po-faced about yoga for a while back there, sorry about that. What does it matter perhaps what we do in our asana practice in this second of the three stages of life, we're preparing for the third stage, developing discipline, focus, attention, commitment, a good solid asana practice, (ashtanga for example, excels as a practice for all of these), the beginnings of pranayama and a nod towards a meditation practice.

I happen to be interested in Krishnamacharya's Ashtanga, it's the breath you see but so what if practising in a gym for a couple of evenings a week happened to be my my thing, it's a start, who knows what that might lead to, even if nothing other than a little less stress of a week.

We judge a lot huh.

Forgot to add this quote to yesterdays post from the the old 1994 Pattabhi Jois interview (from HERE)

Do you also teach your Western students Sanskrit?

K Pattabhi Jois: No, only asana and pranayama. You need Sanskrit to understand the yoga method, but many people, even though they would like to learn Sanskrit, say they have no time.

It is very important to understand yoga philosophy: without philosophy, practice is not good, and yoga practice is the starting place for yoga philosophy. Mixing both is actually the best. 

adds context to this one

What about the other limbs of ashtanga yoga?
Do you teach a method of meditation?

K Pattabhi Jois: Meditation is Dhyana, the seventh step in the Ashtanga system. After one step is perfect, then you take the next step. For dhyana, you must sit with a straight back with your eyes closed and focus on the bridge of the nostrils. If you don't do this, you're not centered. If the eyes open and close, so does the mind.

Yoga is 95 percent practical. Only 5 percent is theory. Without practice, it doesn't work; there is no benefit. So you have to practice, following the right method, following the steps one by one. Then it's possible. 

See yesterdays post for a couple of newly released videos of Pattabhi Jois and Sharat

UPDATE: Happy Birthday to me 

Added on half of 3rd (up to purna matsyendrasana) on to 2nd series this morning (groan) friend Niko does this every morning and then teaches for a couple of hours!

Up to Purna, that means I get to split again right? Not in this shala, think the idea is that I just keep adding on 3rd until I'm practising all of 2nd and then all of 3rd..... but perhaps that only goes for first time around (it's a pedagogic approach), I used to practice 3rd, surely I get to split. Please say I get to split!

I have zero interest in building up and maintaining the strength and fitness required for practising two series one after the other, perhaps in my youth IE. mid forties. Besides, I've already sweated 2 kilo into my towels, not much left in the tank by the time I get to adding on.

So much for my obsession with long full inhalation and exhalation, was panting about a second each, if that, through the arm balances... and this is a shame, 3rd is interesting, be nice to practice it on it's own and try to savour the breath in these postures. Purna barely counted (actually first side didn't count at all), left knee has been playing up all month, the way it usually does in winter. Had half an attempt at Viranchyasana A but that seems to have gone south for now, oh well... love this recently found sense of non attachment to postures, it'll come back when it comes back, what's the line, Practice (with sincerity) and all is....something or other

Favourite moment of practice this morning.... Kristina sitting down to help me in Supta Vajrasana, lighting a stick of incense and singing me happy birthday then saying, "no change, nothing's different, BREATHE, BANDHAS!"

After setting up a couple of long uploads I'm off to the ocean, everyone should get to swim in an ocean on their birthday.

And what's this, it's MY birthday but it's Kristina who gets the present, her new ORANGE Manduka arrived, I was on to Manduka years back about bringing out an Orange mat.

Kristina on her new Black Dare Pro Ltd. Edition Orange and crystal blue Manduka mat (gloating much)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Pattabhi Jois Performing Puja London 2002 plus talk on Krishnamacharya and coming to practice yoga.

Kristina ( ) has been rummaging around and come up with some old videos on disc. Bit tricky extracting, editing and converting them (unfortunately my converting software is on my iMac currently on rout t to Japan thus the watermark) but so far so good and I should be posting a few over the next couple of days.

This post is in two parts
Part I Sri K. Pattabhi Jois peforming Puja
Part II (below) Krishnamacharya asked about Krishnamacharya and how he came to yoga


Part I. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois peforming Puja
This first one is rather wonderful, Sri K.  Pattabhi Jois performing a puja (see below) in London during his second visit in 2002. Kristina says that this event was organised/hosted by John Scott and that Pattabhi Jois was staying at Stings old house.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sharat, Puja. London 2002

I like this intro to Puja, click on the link to go to the page.
Symbolism of Puja, the Ritual Worship of God in Hinduism
by Jayaram V

In Hinduism we come across a common method of worship called puja. "Puja" is the most popular form of worship practiced in almost every Hindu household even today, either on a daily basis or during some important religious function or ceremony. A puja can be either a simple ritual worship or a very complicated one, depending upon the way it is performed.

Many interpretations can be given in Hinduism to the word "puja" which consists of two letters, namely, "pa" and "ja". According to one interpretation, "pa" means "parayana" or continuous repetition of the names of God and "ja" means "japa" or continuous mental recitation of the names of God. According to this interpretation "puja" is essentially a kind of Hindu worship in which both parayanam and japam are practiced by the devotees.

In the puja ceremony, the Hindus offer both flowers and water to the deity. Thus from this point of view, "pu" means "pushpam" or flower and "ja" means "jal". The letter "ja" can also mean simultaneously "japam". So in this context, puja becomes that form of Hindu worship, during which water and flowers are offered to God along with recitation of His names.

Lastly, puja has a spiritual dimension also. According to this interpretation, puja means that form of worship through which we give birth to or awaken the indwelling spirit in us. Here "pu' means "purusha", meaning the eternal self and "ja" means "janma" , meaning to give birth to or to awaken.

According to the Hindu beliefs, during the puja ceremony the deity, which is normally a static statue, becomes alive. This happens both at the external level and at the internal level. The statue is brought to life externally through the chanting of mantras or special invocations, or specifically speaking, through the performance of 'prana pratishta' or establishing of life breath. Similarly the indwelling spirit is awakened through the devotee's sincerity, concentration, devotion, and divine grace which is symbolically represented as 'prasad', or the blessing from above.

The Hindus perform pujas in various ways. But the most common form involves a certain sequence of events or procedure. During the ceremony, the first step involves invocation of God through invitation to a certain spot on earth, which is indicated with the directions, specification of time and place name. This is generally accomplished through the chanting of mantras or simple prayers. Once it is believed that the deity has consented to come and has arrived as requested, he is then offered a seat with utmost respect. Water is then offered to him just like we tend to offer water to a guest who comes into our house after a long journey. Once he is seated, as a mark of utmost reverence, love and self surrender, His feet are washed with ceremonial water.

After that he is bathed with water and sprinkled with various perfumes or scented pastes to the accompaniment of various chants. After the bath ceremony, he is offered clothes, symbolically represented by a peace of cotton thread in simple ceremonies or real clothes in more pompous ones.

Once comfortable in the new attire and seated in his high seat, he is offered the following: pushpam (flowers), phalam (fruit), gandham (sandal paste), dhupam (incense), deepam (light), naivedyam (food), jalam (water) and mantram (recitation of sacred verses). When it is felt that He is comfortably and contentedly at home and is in right mood and right disposition, he is further supplicated with various hymns and prayers of praise and gratitude.

In more elaborate ceremonies of Hinduism, He is also entertained with song and music and presented with a number of offerings and gifts such as clothes, incense, flowers, perfumes, light, ornaments, food items etc, some times really sometimes mentally, but essentially and symbolically to express ones gratitude, devotion and the degree of self-surrender.

The puja ceremony of the Hindus, generally ends with the offering of aarati or sacred flame to the deity and distribution of prasadam. Prasadam is a combination of two words, namely 'pra' and 'sada'. It literally means the bestower of eternal life. The Hindus believe that, when an offering is made to the deity, it is blessed by the deity and becomes infused with His or Her prana energy. Hence the name 'prasadm".

As we can see from the above description, in Hinduism the way a puja is conducted in the traditional fashion is akin to the way a householder invites and entertains a guest of honor into his house. In Hindu tradition, a guest is almost akin to God ('athidi devo bhava'), and should be treated as such with utmost respect. As long as the guest stays in the house, he should be given utmost respect. All his desires and expectations should be fulfilled as far as possible, for who knows he might be God himself who has come in disguise! The same concept is extended to the deities when they are worshipped during the puja ceremony. They are invited and worshipped with utmost respect, attention and devotion.

On the physical plane, the prayers and the mantras chanted during the puja ceremony create an atmosphere of sacred feelings or vibrations in the house and add sanctity and purity to the whole environment.

In Hinduism, thus puja is essentially a religious ritual, or a form of communion with the Divine. It has many levels and layers. At the highest level, it is suggestive of symbolic offering of our lives and activities to God at the end of which comes the divine blessing in the form of prasada, which is sweet in nature and is infused with God's energy.

Today most of the ritualism and systematic approach to conducting the puja ceremony is giving way gradually to more simplified and restricted forms of worship and offerings, reflecting the pace at which life is progressing. Though its outer form has been gradually changing, the spirit, the sincerity and seriousness of doing the pujas are still intact in many Hindu households even today.


PART II. Pattabhi Jois asked about Krishnamacharya and how he came to yoga.

In the second video 'Mr Joseph' ask Guruji to talk about Krishnamacharya and how he came to practice yoga. The sound isn't great, I'll try to improve the quality once I get back to my mac and see about a transcription but perhaps your able to enhance the sound on your own Mac or PC.

Once I hook to a faster Internet connection I'll be posting a video of a full Led Primary from this tour as well as some videos of Derek Ireland

In case you find the sound quality frustrating I offer you this from an interview in 1994 which yu might have missed or forgotten about.

Where did you learn yoga?

K Pattabhi Jois: From my guru, Krishnamacharya. I started studying with him in 1927, when I was 12 years old. First he taught me asana and pranayama. Later I studied Sanskrit and advaita philosophy at the Sanskrit College in Mysore and began teaching yoga there in 1937. I became a professor and taught Sanskrit and philosophy at the College for 36 years.

I first taught in America in Encinitas, California, in 1975. Now I'm going all over America. I will teach anyone who wants the perfect yoga method-ashtanga yoga-just as my guru taught me. 

What is perfect asana, and how do you perfect asana?

K Pattabhi Jois: "Sthira sukham asanam." (YS II.46) Perfect asana means you can sit for three hours with steadiness and happiness, with no trouble. After you take the legs out of the asana, the body is still happy.

In the method I teach, there are many asanas, and they work with blood circulation, the breathing system, and the focus of the eyes (to develop concentration). In this method you must be completely flexible and keep the three parts of the body-head, neck, and trunk-in a straight line. If the spinal cord bends, the breathing system is affected. If you want to practice the correct breathing system, you must have a straight spine. 

From the Muladhara [the chakra at the base of the spine] 72,000 nadis [channels through which prana travels in the subtle body] originate. The nervous system grows from here. All these nadis are dirty and need cleaning. With the yoga method, you use asana and the breathing system to clean the nadis every day. You purify the nadis by sitting in the right posture and practicing every day, inhaling and exhaling, until finally, after a long time, your whole body is strong and your nervous system is perfectly cured. When the nervous system is perfect, the body is strong. Once all the nadis are clean, prana [subtle energy] enters the central nadi, called Sushumna. For this to happen, you must completely control the anus. You must carefully practice the bandhas [energetic locks]: Mulabandha, Uddiyana Bandha, and the others, during asana and pranayama practice. If you practice the method I teach, automatically the bandhas will come.

This is the original teaching, the Ashtanga Yoga method. I've not added anything else. These modern teachings, I don't know... I am an old man!

The full Interview is here
Interview with K Pattabhi Jois: 
Practice Makes Perfect By: Sandra Anderson


Thank you to Kristina Karitinou for sharing these videos with us and for watching them through with me, chatting away throughout of the when, where, who, what of all concerned..... this was great but I'd hate to go to the movies with you : )
Ashtanga Yoga Greece

See my previous posts about practice at Kristina's shall
Old school Ashtanga in Rethymno Crete : But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is... It's the little differences.

Shala practice, the home Ashtangi view.... and 50 breaths in tittibhasana B

more to come as I'm here at Kristina's in Rethymno Crete for another month.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Krishnamacharya's breath control... in bullet points

Nice fb update from Ramaswami (Krishnamacharya's student of over 30 years) this morning who is currently teaching his TT at LMU in LA

"Sri Krishnamacharya's yoga was (is) breath based. According to some upanishads, we breathe about 21.600 times every 24 hour day, which works out to about 15 per minute, which can easily be confirmed. It is common belief among traditionalists that one's life is predetermined in number of breaths, Hence breathing longer is in everyone's interest. In Sri Krishnamacharya's yoga the vinyasas are done at the rate of about 5 to 6 per minute as against the normal 15 per minute. The static poses like Sirsasana, Mahamudra, Paschimatanasana, Sarvangasana and others are done at about 3 to 2 breath rate. Pranayama, especially mantra-pranayama is done at the rate of 2 to 1 breath per minute. His chanting of vedic passages would be at the breath rate of 3 or less per minute. His phenomenal OM chant would be between 2 to 1 per minute. An hour or 90 minutes of Yoga as taught by Krishnamachatya should give health and longevity. I am unable to associate Krishnamacharya yoga without breath control". Srivatsa Ramaswami

Lets put that into bullet points.

In Sri Krishnamacharya's yoga .....

  • The vinyasas are done at the rate of about 5 to 6 per minute as against the normal 15 per minute. 

  • The static poses like Sirsasana, Mahamudra, Paschimatanasana, Sarvangasana and others are done at about 3 to 2 breath rate. 

  • Pranayama, especially mantra-pranayama is done at the rate of 2 to 1 breath per minute. 

  • His chanting of vedic passages would be at the breath rate of 3 or less per minute. 

  • His phenomenal OM chant would be between 2 to 1 per minute. 

  • An hour or 90 minutes of Yoga as taught by Krishnamachatya should give health and longevity. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Vena and the spine, Teaching In Chania and 'rest day', walking the 16km Samaria gorge.

Krishnamacharya supposedly studied the vina for three years?

"Note:The human spine is comparable to the vina, an ancient Indian string instrument,the vertebrae of the spine being likened to the nodes of the vina. The practice of mula bhandha tightens the base of the spine, similar to the tightening of the vina at its base. Only when the strings are properly tightened and in proper tension, is the sound (nada) from the vina proper." P65 Yogayajnavalkya

Nekatarios' Rudra Veena
"There are many resemblances between the human body (God made Veena) and man made Veena. 

These secrets are revealed in a book by name, “SANDHYA VANDANEEYA TATVARTHA” and “VEDA PRAKASIKE” written and published by Mr. YEDA TOREY SUBRAMANYA SARMA in Kannada language in the year 1936. Many secrets of Veena were mentioned in this book. A few points are given below: 

Veena has 24 frets, 4 strings on the frets and 3 on the side. 

The top 1st string Sarani indicates – the RigVeda 2nd string Panchama indicates – YajurVeda 3rd string Mandara indicates – Sama Veda 4th string Anumandra indicates the AtharvaVeda. 

All these 4 strings bear the Suddha Satva guna.

The 24 frets get their importance by the nada produced from them and not because of the metal used.
As we see in the universe the three states viz., creation, sustenance and merger (Srusti, Shiti and Laya) even in Nada we see the same three states.Likewise, the 24 frets representing 12 Sruthees in two octaves (24) indicate the 24 letters (Aksharas) of GAAYATHRI MANTHRA. “TAT SAVITUR VARENYAMBHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHIDHIYO YONAH PRACHODAYAT” 

Veena has been compared to human body:

The human back-bone (Spinal Chord) stands straight from the Mooladhara (the seat of the body) up to the head.In the top of the head exists the Brahma Randhra. 

Just like the 24 frets of the Veena, human back bone has 24 divisions. According to the anatomy, the back bone has 7 cervicles, 12 thorasic and 5 lumbar vertibraes.

In Veena the distance between each fret is broad in the lower octaves and becomes less while proceeding towards the higher octaves. Similarly the back bone is thick at the Mooladhara and the distance between each ring becomes less while proceeding towards the Brahma randhra.

The Mandara Sthaayi Swara starts from the seat point of the human back bone and as it proceeds towards the Brahma Randhram situated in the Sahasraram, the pitch or sruti increases. It is here, where the life of music is situated.

The nada born out of the union of prana (life) and agni (fire) starts from the Mooladhaara at low sruti and reaches the Sahasrakamala crossing the Swaadhisthana, Manipoora, Anaahata, Visuddha, Aagna, the Shadchakras. In this course the sruti (pitch) increases.

This shows the resemblance between the Daivi Veena and man made Veena. So it is definite that to attain Moksha nada yoga is a correct path, and for practising nada yoga Veena is an appropriate instrument".

Section in italics above from here

"Its big bowl (kudam) is like the human head. 

The finger- board that is connected to the curved end with the dragon or yaali is compared to the human spinal column. 

The 24 frets are compared to the vertebrae and also the 24 syllables of Gayatri mantra. 

The 4 main strings are the major nerves which symbolize the four vedas – Rig, Yajur, Saama, and Atharvana veda, and the four yugaas- Kruta, Treta, Dwapara and Kali and also the four stages of human life – dharma(duty), artha(material gain), kama(worldly pleasures) and moksha(ultimate salvation). 

The three drones represent the three Upanishads. 

The re-tuning of the main strings is compared to the philosophical concept of the individual or the jeevatma strayed by the Karmic actions, to be in tune with the Paramatma. 

The tuning pegs or the birudais where the strings are tied are the symbol of mind that controls everything. The yaali (dragon) itself symbolizes courage and the triumph over evil".

Sharing Vinyasa Krama in Chania, crete.

Great pleasure sharing some Vinyasa Krama at Ashtanga Yoga Crete Friday night, thank you to everyone who came, to Gloria Konstantoudaki and Nektarios Mitritsakis for inviting me, for giving me the grand tour of 'their' Chania and for the trip to the Samaria Gorge yesterday (14km plus 2 more to the beach). Nektarios, you have a curious idea of what constitutes a rest day, I can barely stand this morning : )

Nektarios mentioned that the vena being compared to the human spine was mentioned in Mohan's version of Yogayajnavalkya, spent my time before class trying to find it.

Yogayajnavalkya AG Mohan

Rest day in The Samariá Gorge

 My rest day yesterday spent walking 'The Gorge' with Nektarios Mitritsakis and Gloria Konstantoudaki, great day but I may never walk again.

"The gorge is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250 m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometers to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as "Iron Gates"), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet)". Our old friend Wikipedia

Thursday, 17 July 2014

New high def photos of Vinyasa Krama class above the trees Yoga-Rainbow Festival in Cirali, Turkey

Yoga-Rainbow Festival in Cirali, Turkey just sent me all the hi def photos by Dmitry Preobrazhensky of my first Vinyasa Krama class at the festival, the one on the platform above the lemon trees, what a setting to offer a class.

Turned the photos into a slideshow and picked a couple of my favourites below.

I've often been asked what a Vinyasa Krama class would actually look like this gives a bit of an idea I think.

Thank you Dmitry for your work.

photos by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 
photo by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 
photo by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 
photo by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 
photo by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 
photo by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 
photo by Dmitry Preobrazhensky 


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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