Wednesday, 30 July 2014

1988 Yoga Journal Ashtanga yoga with Pattabhi Jois interview/article inc. 10 second inhalation, 10 second exhalation

10 second inhalation, 10 second exhalation
From Ashtanga Yoga with Pattabhi Jois YJ 1988
I like this presentation of the rate of inhalation and exhalation, it's not saying one is right, the other wrong but rather suggesting that one-half pace may be appropriate in the beginning and that the slower rate an option to consider as one becomes more proficient. Of course the slower rate requires reflection, do we have a practise for twice as long or practise half a sequence or perhaps slow the breathing at different stages of the practice, in finishing certainly, perhaps in standing, possibly in postures like paschimottanasana, janu sirsasana (maha mudra), baddha konasana etc.


You might have seen my earlier post with all the old Ashtanga 'cheat sheets' (although a friend pointed out that once you have a sheet then there's NO cheating, no excuses for missing navasana or nakrasana). All those old Ashtaga sequence sheets were from an old Ashtanga (teaching) materials file of Derek and Kristina Ireland's that Kristina gave me access to hunt through this week. This photocopy of an old Pattabhi Jois interview from 1988 was also in the file.

Hunting around I also found an online version on google books

It's interesting especially coming from 1988 ( I just posted Derek Ireland teaching a talk through Primary series from 1989), curious to see the presentation of a class and I love the diagrams with the little (big actually) puff of air.

For more in depth answers to questions see the interview that Pattabhi Jois gives in France in August 1991 (where you will find 10, 15, even 20 second inhalation and the same for exhalation referred to). The questions on the link below were asked by Jean Claude Garnier ( there are a couple of cheat sheets in Kristina's file with Jean Claude Garnier's shala stamp on) and written down by Gilles Kerviche. Guruji's English is hard to follow at times so Guy Donahue made some very minor edits to the text and included explanations in parentheses.

Here's the Yoga Journal interview from back before Ashtanga was that well know.

Turns out that if you know what your looking for you can find the old edition of Yoga Journal that has the Interview on Gogle Books, here's the cover and link...... Ashtanga and Aikido, always thought there was a link

Yoga Journal.
Sep-Oct 1988
112 pages
No. 82
ISSN 0191-0965
Published by Active Interest Media, Inc.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

1989 Helsinki: Derek Ireland Teaching Ashtanga Primary. "Derek Ireland 'invented the talk through Primary" John Scott

Thank you to my teacher Kristina Karitinou-Ireland for fishing out these old tapes of Derek Ireland from Helsinki in 1989 and sharing them with me, this one is of Derek teaching Ashtanga Primary series.

John Scott mentioned to us in a workshop recently that it was Kristina's late husband Derek Ireland who 'invented' the talk through Primary. Unfortunately the tape starts half way through Standing.

Screen shots

More about Derek Ireland

Derek Ireland
From The Independent 28 September 1998

Derek Ireland was born and raised in Brighton. A "ferociously competitive" athlete at school, he was apprenticed to Brighton and Hove Albion football team when a severe knee injury playing rugby ended his hopes of a professional sports career.

When punk came along he spent five years promoting the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Stranglers along the south coast and took fully to the rock and roll lifestyle. He started conventional yoga with his girlfriend Radha Warrell after "living off my memories of my sporting triumphs for ten years". Thereafter he did yoga almost every day.

In 1978 the couple moved to Los Angeles where Ireland was supposed to take a band on the road. "It was to be Foreigner, then the Tubes, then Ozzy Osbourne. In the end I didn't take anyone - I think because they thought I was wilder than the bands."

Two years later the couple went on a one-month teacher training course to a Shivananda yoga retreat in the Bahamas. They stayed six years to run the place. During that time a visiting Shivananda swami from New York introduced them to astanga vinyasa, a vigorous form of yoga that had been rediscovered in the Thirties by Patthabhi Jois in Mysore, who claimed it was the original yoga from which all other hatha yogas had developed.

In 1986 Derek Ireland moved to New York to teach it - in the absence of premises he ran big open-air classes in Central Park until the park authorities moved him on. The following year he and Radha spent six months with Jois in Mysore, then began to teach the form as he had passed it on to them all over the world.

In 1991 they opened the Practice Place, a centre devoted to astanga vinyasa, in a secluded bay in southern Crete. The Practice Place quickly established itself as one of the most important yoga centres in the world. Many of the numerous classes now available in Britain are run by Derek and Radha's former students. More and more people have taken up the yoga, including such celebrities as Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sting, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Demi Moore.

Ireland's ebullient manner and deliberately non-spiritual approach to yoga caused raised eyebrows in the yoga community over the years. "I usually do my practice to music - in England I do it to MTV," he said a couple of years ago. "I used to do it with weights on my wrists: that upset a few purists. I also had a weighted jacket but I got rid of that after I did a handstand and nearly killed myself - it slipped down and hit me on the back of the head."

Ireland had lots of injuries, which made his control of his body even more remarkable. He fell out of a tricky posture and severed a nerve once, losing control of his left arm for four years. In consequence, teaching ta'i chi he kept hitting himself in the eye.

In winter he ran courses in a "yoga shack" on a beach in Goa. He attracted students simply by doing his practice on the beach for passersby to watch. The practice would take two hours and within five minutes he would be surrounded by Indians who weren't familiar with this style of yoga. "Some would plonk babies on me for photographs. I tried to stay focused - I only got uptight if they actually walked on me!"

from Entelchy, my interview with Kristina last year
Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

AnthonyTell me about Derek Ireland?
Derek Ireland, Crete
Kristina: Derek was a truly charismatic teacher setting the foundations of teaching  and spreading  the knowledge of Ashtanga in Europe, by training teachers and evolving the methodology of the practice. He provided us with the right tools to make the practice understandable to our western mentality. He was an extremely generous, knowledgeable and compassionate teacher, who had great respect towards his students and greatly contributed to the formation of the contemporary yoga teacher image. He was a devoted practitioner himself and would always pay his respects to his guru Sri K. Pattabhi  Jois as he would always stress the importance of lineage. At the same time he was an exemplary father and unique husband always caring about his family, not to mention that he was absolutely gorgeous attracting admiration wherever he would appear. 

AnthonyWhat was it like to be taught by Derek, how was he as a teacher?

Kristina: When I first entered his shala I immediately realized the truth and the power of his teaching and it became apparent to me that he had the ability to understand your potential and bring it all up on the surface. He was always keen on making you see the power and strength that lied within you and worked towards making you experience the true possibilities and nature that you might not have been aware of. Myself as a teacher have been shaped by these characteristics of him, and I want to believe that my work also involves some of his teaching style.

AnthonyWhy was he important to the growth of Ashtanga in Europe?

Kristina and Derek wedding day
Kristina: Derek's students were actually the ones who made Ashtanga so popular in Europe. It was with his help that they spread this method and popularized the practice mainly in the UK. Now, retrospectively, it's hard to imagine how things would have been without his presence.

Anthony: Who were some of his students that we may of heard about.

Kristina: The list is long: John Scott, Gingi Lee, Alexander Medin, Lis Lark, Brian Cooper, Mathew Vollmer, Michaela Clarke, Annie Pace, Jocelyn Stern, Petri Raisanen, Joseph Dunham, Ginny Dean, Hemish Hendry and many many more.
Derek assisting Gingi Lee, The practice Place

Derek assisting in his Yoga Room

Ashtanga seduces : Home Ashtangi/Shala practice

It's seductive Ashtanga, no? There's always that next posture, the next series.....

"O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!"

Did I mention that there is such an atmosphere of industry, of work going on in Kristina's Rethymno Shala? I'm starting to understand why, this is a summer shala, in winter Kristina goes back to Athens and teaches at Shala's there. The comparisons with Mysore are even more apparent, people come here for anything from a couple of weeks to three months and often come back year after year.

Because they are here for limited period everyone seems to want to make the most of their time here, bringing their best practice every day, working on more postures, deepening the ones they have.

And Kristina may well move you along, give or offer you the next posture and then the next. Manju comes here every year and doesn't believe in holding people back for long periods of time, if you struggle with binding in Marchi D, no problem keep working on it each day but take the next posture. That said I've also seen Kristina keep somebody who's here for a couple of weeks on half Primary for a few weeks, focusing on some basics on building strength before then moving them quickly along to the next few postures.

It's tempting to get caught up in that, with my mat colleagues working so hard and moving briskly through all Primary followed by most of 2nd (and at full vinyasa) there was the temptation for me to work a little harder myself and start adding on 3rd series, felt like I was coasting a little.

So Wednesday I practiced full 2nd then added on 3rd up to Urdhva Kukkutasana C and on Thursday I practiced up to Purna Matsyendrasana....

I was seduced I tell ya, Vilma Bánky, to Ashtanga's Rudolph Valentino.

Advanced series, it always made me think and question my practice..... below is my fb status update from the Friday

'This question keeps coming back and giving me pause. Is there a historical disconnect between method and practice, a method for learning asana and transforming the body but then what ? How do you practice the asana once you've learned them, how many asana to practice, which ones, how long to stay, how slow to breathe, how long a kumbhaka, how fully engaged the bandha(s), where to focus the internal drishti. If we sacrifice the kumbhaka, stay for such a short time, don't make the inhalation and exhalation as long and as slow as possible....., doesn't it at times seem a waste of perfectly good asana'.

And then I remembered why I came to Crete, I have no real interest in new postures, in handstands or tic tacks (although grabbing my heels tickles my fancy occasionally), I came to ground my 2nd series, to tidy it up, my Primary too. I wanted to make my Intermediate series comfortable again such that I could start exploring Krishnamacharya's use of kumbhaka in the 2nd series postures when I got home, just as I had been doing in Primary series for the last year. If I'm coasting a little, If I'm mostly in my comfort zone with the asana then that's a good thing, it's time to explore the breath, slow it, lengthen it, prepare for kumbhaka for dharana (which vital point do we focus on in kapotasana, in pinca?.

And who needs new postures when Kristina can help you to rediscover the ones you have, my 2nd series 'rest postures', now feel, exciting, fresh and new, they feel like.... asana. My Intermediate series is coming ever more alive, ahh the floating mula bandha of the floating mountain islands of Avatar.

I started this post over the weekend, since then my back has been playing up again. Slipped a disc moving house last month, all those boxes of books. First couple of weeks here were painful, last week not so bad this weekend painful again, plus my knee ( old old injury) playing up, usually it's winter, "What Crete not hot enough for you knee"?

Yesterday I practiced up to Eka pads Sirsasana and decided the leg behind head work was a bad idea, this morning I practiced up to the Marichi's, not even half Primary,  before deciding to move to finishing. There was a moment when I thought about picking up my mat and going back to my studio/room to practice some Vinyasa Krama, with it's greater flexibility and more options but decided I would just milk finishing for all it was worth, nice long shirsasana.

And what does it matter, we can hurry through our practice giving the merest nod to Standing and finishing and those postures we've come to think of as boring, no longer interesting, or we can savour our standing and finishing sequences, fall in love with them all over again and do half, even a quarter of a series.... is kapotansa any more value then trikonasana or Supter konasana of more benefit than janu sirsasana?

Hmmmm, actually that might depend on what your body needs that day.

So a minimal practice and yet I'm enjoying it, quite happy to have a long slow Standing sequence, happy to stop early and give much more time to finishing. Injuries... so what, there are so many postures in our standing, finishing and whichever series we are on that we are bound to find many that we CAN do and we can relish those we have left, savour them, make the most of the opportunity to explore them with the more time available.

Kristina asked me if I was OK, if I was  happy....

I'm here in Crete with nothing else to do between these incredible sunrises and sunsets but my practice and to study/explore yoga. Yes, I'm happy, very happy ( in the sense of content, always been uncomfortable with the word 'Happy', Aristotle has a lot to answer for).

And tonight I'm teaching in the shall, Krishnamacharya's own (late) practice with long slow breathing and kumbhaka, dharana on vital points, pranayama, pratyhara...

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Old Illustrations ( Cheat Sheets) of Ashtanga Series

Kristina turned up with an old file of Ashtanga material last night, gave it to me to go through to see if there was anything of interest. Yep, all kinds of treasures buried away. What I loved most though were all these old illustrations, 'cheat sheets', of the Ashtanga series, I love them and couldn't wait to share.

Update: Just got a few notes from Kristina on credits.

First up is a version of 3rd series that Kristina just had laminated in the shala (just heard it was drawn by Liz Lark), I was using this at the end of last week to remind me of the series ( I practised up as far as Purna matsyendrasana on top of 2nd on my Birthday Thursday).

By Liza Lark Story goes, Liz was making a trip to Mysore and Derek asked her to come up with a 3rd series sheet.

This seems to be another version of the one above (different artist though we think), think I like it better, especially the kukkutasana.

This was a nice surprise a sample of Lino Miele's famous poster with a note from Lino to Derek on the back introducing the poster.

Below the first Ashtanga book? This was used at The Practice Place back in the, what,  late 80's early 90's.

The Practice place, Crete

My understanding is that Derek Ireland asked John Scott to draw these back when John was working at The Practice Place on Crete, seems many current Ashtanga teachers worked there at some time or other, Hamish Hendry, Gingi Lee, Alex name but a few

This one I've seen somewhere before, sure I have a copy of it somewhere by Monica.... can't quite read the surname ( will research).

This is one of my favourites. a mixture of Advanced A and B. I've heard mention before that Advanced A and B were supposedly one series, that doesn't seem to fit as we have Nancy and David's 1973 syllabus which includes Advanced A and B and is supposed to correspond to Pattabhi Jois' original Sanskrit College syllabus from the late 30s, early 40s. Krishnamacharya of course had just the one advanced series or 'Proficient group' but there doesn't seem to be any recognisable order (see my previous post).

This is interesting, I noticed that in Kristina's shala there is no lift included after utkatasana and virabhadrasana. That's curious because it's there in Yoga Mala so as 'old School' as you get. But look below there are the two lifts but crossed out and they don't appear on the John Scott Tripetra sheets above. Strange when you think of Derek's love of handstands/arm balances.

This is Cute ( by Katerina Zougrou) and was in the same sleeve as the sheet above, no idea what it's doing there or what's going on but I love it. Kristina just told me that this was an intro to Ashtanga for her over 60's before moving them on to Sun salutations.

by Katerina Zougrou
by Katerina Zougrou
by Katerina Zougrou
These next couple seem to be from Jean-Claude Garnier (Brussels).

The next couple show how Iyengar's light on Yoga was used as a resource, found several references to it in the folder. here it was used for translations of all the names of the asana.

At first I thought these were illustrations of a woman  practising Ashtanga but I'm currently uploading a video of Derek Ireland teaching a class in Helsinki in 1989 and he has that mane of blond hair of his up in a high ponytail, are these supposed to be illustrations of Derek?

And these are the current 'cheat sheets' At Kristina's Rethymno Shala, it's Apollo practising the Ashtanga series. I believe these may be available to buy if you contact the shala

Showing just the primary here but there are sheets from Sury's to Intermediate


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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