“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Friday, 23 July 2010

Q&A Vinyasa Krama 200 hr TT course

I've been trying to post something about the course but keep deleting it, perhaps I'm just out of the habit of blogging. I feel a bit bad about that though as know some readers are interested and perhaps somebody might come here in the future who's thinking about going on the course. So I figured I'd just respond to any questions anyone might have, now or in the future, in the comments section.

I'd planned on practicing Primary on Fridays, Vinyasa Kama the rest of the week. This morning was to be my first for three weeks. Strange thing, in the past my VK practice kept morphing into an ashtanga practice, this time it was the reverse and the primary kept morphing into VK.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Grimmly, I think that is a great idea, and I am a bit curious about two things:

    1) I know you chanted the sutras and that you saw the actual Krishnamacharya book (what a treat!), I wonder if you went or had assignments of other books? At Yoga Thailand we had to read as a pre-requisite "The Science of Breath", "John Scott's book", "Autobiography of a Yogi" and a few others, wonder if you did and then refer to them throughout the course.

    2) Did you do any purifications or kryias throughout the course?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Claudia.
    Books on the reading list included Ramaswami's own books
    'The complete book of Vinyasa Yoga',
    'Yoga for the three stages of life ',
    Yoga beneath the surface' with David Hurwitz (who I met on the course, he's just brought out a book on Ramaswami's reading of the Yoga Sutras).

    We were also asked to read Pam Hoxsey's Yoga sutras that came out of her studies with Ramaswami. It goes through each sutra word by word, supposedly how Krishnamacharya taught R. It comes with a CD of Pam chanting the complete sutras.
    Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda and his Yogarahasya (which purports to be written by Nathamuni).

    It was a curious course, a teacher training course in the sense that it presented what and how Krishnamacharya taught Ramaswami. the asanas he taught and how he taught them, the yoga sutras in the manner in which he taught them, Pranayama, again as he taught it. Sometimes we would ask ramaswami about a different way of approaching an asana, he would never say it was wrong but just 'This is how i was taught it by my teacher'.

    I was also lucky enough to see a copy of Krishnamacharya's mythical Yogasanagalu, I couldn't read it because it was in Kanada but it had 150 pictures of a 70 year old Krishnamacharya performing asanas just as we were being taught them by Ramaswami, I mean exactly. That was the moment I began to get that I was part of a lineage and felt obliged to pass it on myself, in the same way, if anyone asked.
    I'm not interested in being a yoga teacher but I'd teach Vinyasa Krama if that was what someone specifically asked for.

    No, no Kriyas, although there is a list of them including descriptions in the Makaranda, kind of a shame as there are a few i'd like to try.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for telling me this Grimmly, I had heard about the old text with the pix of K at 70 I think from a previous post, that must have been the moment indeed... I am curious about David Hurwitz, will be looking his yoga sutras version up.

    Interesting the teaching style, as I was looking at the pictures I was also left wondering what Ramaswami's own practice might consist of, I guess he is in a different stage of life, or not, I am not that young... did he tell?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry I meant Pam Hoxsey's yoga sutras... not David

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, I wonder about one thing. Vinyasa Krama is not really well known system in Europe. I wonder if the participants were mainly other yoga style teachers? Were there more ashtangis interested in developing VK practice? Next after few years of mostly home practice you were practising everyday in shala - was it easy to switch? Recently during dropback I've injured my serratus anterior, I had to do some modifications in my practice and practice at home - shala energy is too encouraging, practice gets more funky and it's easy to overdo, especially while injured. Now after three weeks my muscle feels fine however I find home practice more appealing and focused. I guess I'll stick to it:) One more question is about VK pranayama - in your evening practice you do some gentle asanas and pranayama. However most of yoga styles emphasises you should NOT connect asana and pranayama practice (i don't think about ujayi)? I guess it feels absolutely right to do them together I'm curious though about Ramaswami explanation?
    Regards

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sent you a couple of screen shots of Pam's book Claudia, so you can see what it looks like. I should write a review here perhaps.
    Somebody else asked me about R's own practice but I really don't know, I never thought to ask.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There was a mixture Indra, some who have studied with Ramaswami for a couple of years, often taking the course a module or two at a time. A couple who had done some ashtanga, couple of power yoga people and then the rest from a mix of styles and backgrounds. Having the ashtanga background and it's six day a week practice, working on the same challenging postures daily was good preparation for the asana.

    Re the switch to practicing in class, i was surprised how comfortable I found it. I've been to two mysore style classes but never a 'yoga class'. Like I said, I was well prepared for the asana, it was a nice group, encouraging, supportive, it was fun. Nice to be back to my home practice though.

    R puts it this way. The asana is good for the rajas and pranayama for the tamas thus puting you in a sattvic frame of mind for the meditation. In the pranayama class and later in the meditation class we would do fifteen, twenty minutes of asana before moving onto pranayama. That I believe is how Krishanamacharya taught Ramaswami, I think he's a little bemused by how pranayama is neglected and stressed again and again that we should keep up the pranyama practice we had developed on the course.

    I do my VK practice (ashtanga fri/sat) in the morning (two hours) inc half hour of pranayama and meditation and in the evening do fifteen minutes of arm balances followed by half hour pranayama and fifteen minutes mantra meditation.

    So yes, absolutely right to do them together.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great idea to have a Q & A post Grimmly and thanks for the clear and concise explanation on pranayama.

    What ground rules are in place for rest days with VK, if any? Is there any identification at all with moon phases, or is that just Ashtanga.

    Oh, the latest on the Jade mat, by the way, I've used it everyday for about 6 weeks now and it's super for deepening your standing postures. It's like being glued to the tiles. No sign of undue wear yet. If you've got the cash to spare, you might be surprised what it brings to your Ashtanga practice. After all, irrespective of what series you do, you always run through the standing postures.

    Happy moonday!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Steve, you know he never mentioned moon days and again I never asked. was there a moon day last month if so we probably practiced on it (unless it came during the 4th july holiday).
    Ahh the Jade mat. I bought one, it's orange and yes perfect for standing postures and seems fine for ashtanga in general. Glad your enjoying yours.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have a question about the required reading. Where did you find/purchase the texts? (I did some quick searching on Krishnamacharya's "Yoga Makaranda" and it seems quite difficult to find...)

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Mike. Yes the Makaranda isn't currently in print, a copy was made available to us for personal study, although I believe there are plans for KMB to publish it. Pam's Yoga Sutras book is available directly from her.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have few more questions. I’ve been playing with Lotos and Tasanana VK sequences for three weeks. Lotos sequence shows is great, my hips aren’t ready to do in in one go. I did it in one go and on the second day I was suffering  Tadasana sequence is brilliant, I do it every morning. However reading SR book I sometimes get confused in what concerns breathing patterns. For example while describing Kaschyapasana (right leg in Lotos) he writes about taking six breaths while describing the same pose done on the other side he advices to take “few” breaths. It happens in many places in the book the advised number of breaths on both sides of asymmetrical poses is not equal. So:

    1. What’s the importance of breath “symmetry” in Vinysa Krama? Does the number of breath is supposed to be equal on both sides or is it more about intuition?

    2. Have you seen during VK TT someone doing straight leg jump back?

    3. I wonder what can you say about SR as a person. I mean, obviously he didn’t appear in a bubble of light or something, I wonder tough if his presence and his teachings are more severe and strict or his approach is more playfull?

    4. I’m curious how to connect VK sequences but here, I guess I’ll find answers in your practice diary.

    Regards

    ReplyDelete
  13. hi Indra, lots of good questions, I'll do my best, this is of course my view/impression following the course.

    Firstly the sequences as laid out in the book are for learning how the postures and subroutines relate to each other. You wouldn't tend to practice them all together necessarily, although you could. Ramaswami suggested it might be useful to do so occasionally but as a rule you would form sequences built around some key postures. You might do a couple of subroutines from lotus sequence one day and a different sequence or two another day. If you did choose to practice the whole lotus sequence you would probably take several breaks in savasana.

    With regard to the breath, I think the confusion comes because Ramaswami is trying to be very flexible. Vinyasa krama is about adapting the practice to the practitioner on any particular day. When i first read the book I was really taken by the language, "you may wish to..." You might like to..." etc. However, I think he would expect you to take the same number of breaths each side, so yes, symmetry, but depending on the practice that might be anywhere between three and six breaths or a great deal more in the postures where he suggests "a considerable time', like Paschimottanasana, Shoulderstand and headstand.
    On the course we would sometimes do a shorter version of Tadasana sequence where we would only stay two breathes in a posture, on another occasion, where we had more time we might go in and out of the posture three times on the breath and stay for three long breaths the third time.

    Here's a link to Chris doing the straight leg jump back on the course, you can see my orange mat come into view. I can only just do it on a good day. It's the preferred style but of course something to be aimed at and perhaps worked towards. Everyone had different ways of getting into position on the course, some would step back or through and some jump in their different styles.

    Yes i'm working on the sequencing aspect now. I keep a diary and want to post a month worth of daily practice and discuss it. I struggled with that but it's much clearer after the course. Some key postures from Tadasana,a long Paschimottanasana, Shoulderstand (with it's prep) and headstand as an essential framework. Around that add some standing postures after tadasana, perhaps some Asymmetric subroutines before Paschi or some Bow or more seated subroutines afterwards. Some lotus subroutines at the end before Kapalabhati and hopefully some pranayama and meditation. I'm going to be exploring this a lot in the next few weeks.

    As for Ramaswami himself, what can I say, I think we all came away with a great deal of respect and affection for him. He is very encouraging and supportive, not strict in the Iyengar sense but a little strict occasionally. He wouldn't say this is the correct way so much as 'this is how I was taught by my teacher'. He is of course well aware that there are other ways to do a posture in different styles, he doesn't suggest they are wrong just not how he was taught. Often though he might give a reason why the posture is done in the way he teaches or why the long exhalation is considered important in forward bends, or the head bent down or arguments for pranayama etc. I found him to be exceedingly knowledgeable, kind, patient, generous man with a delightful sense of humour.

    ReplyDelete
  14. hi Indra, lots of good questions, I'll do my best, this is of course my view/impression following the course. Seems I have to answer this in three parts as there is a word count limit

    Firstly the sequences as laid out in the book are for learning how the postures and subroutines relate to each other. You wouldn't tend to practice them all together necessarily, although you could. Ramaswami suggested it might be useful to do so occasionally but as a rule you would form sequences built around some key postures. You might do a couple of subroutines from lotus sequence one day and a different sequence or two another day. If you did choose to practice the whole lotus sequence you would probably take several breaks in savasana.

    With regard to the breath, I think the confusion comes because Ramaswami is trying to be very flexible. Vinyasa krama is about adapting the practice to the practitioner on any particular day. When i first read the book I was really taken by the language, "you may wish to..." You might like to..." etc. However, I think he would expect you to take the same number of breaths each side, so yes, symmetry, but depending on the practice that might be anywhere between three and six breaths or a great deal more in the postures where he suggests "a considerable time', like Paschimottanasana, Shoulderstand and headstand.
    On the course we would sometimes do a shorter version of Tadasana sequence where we would only stay two breathes in a posture, on another occasion, where we had more time we might go in and out of the posture three times on the breath and stay for three long breaths the third time.

    ReplyDelete
  15. PT2
    Here's a link to Chris doing the straight leg jump back on the course, you can see my orange mat come into view. I can only just do it on a good day. It's the preferred style but of course something to be aimed at and perhaps worked towards. Everyone had different ways of getting into position on the course, some would step back or through and some jump in their different styles.

    Yes i'm working on the sequencing aspect now. I keep a diary and want to post a month worth of daily practice and discuss it. I struggled with that but it's much clearer after the course. Some key postures from Tadasana,a long Paschimottanasana, Shoulderstand (with it's prep) and headstand as an essential framework. Around that add some standing postures after tadasana, perhaps some Asymmetric subroutines before Paschi or some Bow or more seated subroutines afterwards. Some lotus subroutines at the end before Kapalabhati and hopefully some pranayama and meditation. I'm going to be exploring this a lot in the next few weeks.

    As for Ramaswami himself, what can I say, I think we all came away with a great deal of respect and affection for him. He is very encouraging and supportive, not strict in the Iyengar sense but a little strict occasionally. He wouldn't say this is the correct way so much as 'this is how I was taught by my teacher'. He is of course well aware that there are other ways to do a posture in different styles, he doesn't suggest they are wrong just not how he was taught. Often though he might give a reason why the posture is done in the way he teaches or why the long exhalation is considered important in forward bends, or the head bent down or arguments for pranayama etc. I found him to be exceedingly knowledgeable, kind, patient, generous man with a delightful sense of humour.

    ReplyDelete
  16. hello Grimmly
    I am planning to take the Ytt T LMU this summer 2014, I am from India. So I am a bit anxious n excited as to what all to bring for the course material wise and how should i prepare for it . I practise yoga 5 days a week.actually I have never been to U.S.A before ...can you guide me? thanx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi seethu. I'm away teaching a retreat this week but if you email me I'll try and answer all your questions. My email in grimmly2007 and that is at googlemail dot com.

      Ramaswami builds up the practice, it's like a model of how you might teach it to somebody new to this style of practice so in some ways you don't need to do any perepetration. However, practicing some of his on your feet sequence with the long slow breathing would be nice. Perhaps a simple ten minute pranayama practice with or without any kumbhaka just to get used to sitting and breathing. If you learn the pranayama chant before you go that would be great but not necessary as you can practice it there. Read some of the yoga sutras if you haven't already or at least an easy introduction, gives you a nice starting point for Ramaswami's lectures. Have a look at Krishnamacharyas yoga Makaranda I will send you links to all these things. Like I said not essential but gives you a little of a head start. The best introduction though is Ramaswami's book Yoga for the three stages of life but be prepared to come back to it many times to reread it, I still do and find something I missed or didn't understand fully. LMU is a beautiful college campus, everything you need is there, very easy place to be and a nice library

      Delete

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A Reminder

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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