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

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

David Williams' Complete Ashtanga Syllabus poster arrives

So the David Williams Complete Ashtanga Syllabus poster arrived and is in pride of place in the home shala. I tried to find a frame large enough to take it but so far no luck, may have to have one made up. Barbara, the graphic designer who worked with David sent me some suggestions,

'I suggest a metal frame for the poster. Since the image is a standard size you should be able to have any frame shop order it. The metal frame would also be strong. Rather than glass perhaps you should consider Plexiglas. It's a bit more expensive, but it is much lighter in weight than glass.
You could also have it dry mounted to foam core or gator foam (more rigid
and more expensive). Another method of preserving is lamination. Due to
its size, it will be costly, no matter what you do'.

A couple of things to mention before you run off and order it. This is a poster of the syllabus as taught to David Williams back in the 70's. Primary and Intermediate are pretty much the same but David has the old Advanced A and B series that were later divided up into 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.

One of the benefits of being a home Ashtangi Kramarite is that you can choose your Ashtanga decade. I'm leaning towards the 70's of David Williams but you might prefer the 80's and the David Swenson and Richard Freeman books and teaching video's or perhaps the 90's and Lino's book. You could also go back to the 50's and Jois's own Yoga Mala or just go with Sharath and the present manifestation of the practice.

The poster matches almost exactly the sequence in the David Swenson Advanced A and B video filmed in 1997, described as,
'An historic presentation of the original Advanced A & B series never before documented. On this DVD you will find the original Advanced A and B Series of Ashtanga Yoga as demonstrated by some of it's first Western practitioners. It is an historic and aesthetic documentation.'

Three things that stuck me about the poster right off.

1. Advanced A is LONG, seeing it laid out it's not surprising that they decided break up Advanced A and B into shorter series, that said I can't wait to try it as it is on the poster, probably next Tuesday.

2. Mark Singleton may well be mistaken with regard to the extent of the influence of the Physical culture movement of the 1920's on Krishnamacharya's legacy in his book Yoga body.

When watching an Ashtanga practice your often struck by the Vinyasa, the linking of the postures, and when you think of these transitions, whether the half or full vinyasa, along with many of the standing poses, then there does appear to be similarities with some of the old videos of the physical culture movement. And yet, when you stand in frount of David William's poster of the complete syllabus all your seeing are the postures, these strange, wonderful, often intricate poses. Seen in this way it's difficult to draw any other association than with yoga.

Krishnamacharya may well have come up with many of theses postures, whether as modifications of or preparations for other postures but the influence seems more likely to have come from old texts, painting and perhaps the carvings on the walls of temples than anything in a western gymnastics manual. Vinyasa might have got Krishnamacharya through the door of the Mysore palace and a place in it's gymnasium but looking at this poster and it's all yoga baby.

The western influence of the Physical culture movement on modern postural yoga is only one aspect of Mark's Singleton's book, click HERE to read his clarification of his intentions.

3. What happened to the poster David Williams refers to on this, his own, poster and website, where he writes,

'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...'

David doesn't indicate how big it was, just that it was framed and that it was a list of the postures.

Does anyone have a photo of it, I've looked at all the pictures I could find of the old Shala? Has anyone else heard tell of it?

24 comments:

  1. Oh what a treasure it would be to find such photo... I will ask around...

    By the way
    of the benefits of being a home Ashtangi Kramarite is that you can choose your Ashtanga decade..

    Had me laughing!! Wait, Im still laughing...

    ReplyDelete
  2. my syllabus is mounted to foam core and framed with black colored wood, no glass or plexiglass. It is placed in yoga studio where I teach, but I may bring it home one day. I like David Swenson's version of intermediate series with headstands in the intermediate and not in Advanced B. Ashtanga lends itself to those that love their home practice. I have not mastered Primary but work on some of intermediate series, too.

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  3. I'll be surprised if you find a picture of it.


    I highly recommend investing in this next time around.

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  4. Yes ask around Claudia, NYC should have some clues.

    Hi Quentin, I didn't start with Swenson's book and DVD but those were the ones I gravitated too and practiced with for a long time. I'm a bit embarrassed to show a picture of the poster stuck up on the wall like that, need to get a frame before barbara sees it

    I'm sure your right ...Cara J : ) but we like a good mystery over here around christmas, perhaps it's cathartic, tying up the loose ends of the year.

    I know, been after Dharma Mitra's poster for ages, seemed to be out of print for a long time. Tried to get it in LA, saw one but they wouldn't let me buy it. Keep hoping I'll get one as a birthday or christmas present.
    Been thinking about making a Vinyasa Krama version up of all the sequences, I have stills of the poses from when I made the sequences and subroutines site but I'm awful at photoshop, besides, keep hoping someone more aesthetically pleasing will do one first.

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  5. Dear Grimmly
    What a nice poster. I'm not sure I could get it delivered to China, so I'll have to wait a year for the next time I'm in the US. (I did buy some practice jammies for the cold while here).

    Gatorboard is black, thin and heavy. foamcore board is either black or white, thicker than gatorboard and lightweight.

    cheers
    Arturo

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  6. Grimmly

    I am more curious about the Ashtanga Poster in Pattabhi Jois home in Mysore that David Williams said he saw when he first visited there in 70s . Can u/others throw more light on that poster as to how many postures were there in that , who demonstrated that and is it similar to the Ashtaga series as taught by Pattabhi Jois ?

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  7. Hi Grim, the home shala's looking good! The poster is huge, holy cow. I like your bit about 'choose your ashtanga decade.' No question, if you watch a lot of the dvds, which a home ashtangi is likely to do, you can't miss the morphing of the series, slowly but surely, over the forty years or so that such material has been available. I'm sure such morphing will continue, seems natural, like the drift of language or anything else. I lean towards the 70s myself, fewer vinyasas, sloppier form (if you know what I mean), huge emphasis instead on bandhas and breath, the invisible things.

    You know, I'm guessing no other yogis for thousands of years have had such a wealth of material from which to learn...to even *have* the option of preferred decade! To even know such change existed, and to be able to track it... Dunno, I just think it's all very cool.

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  8. Hi Arturo, does look good doesn't it, wanted to do a big picture of it but felt that was a little unfair to the designer, thanks for the foamcore tip.

    Yes Krishna, that's the poster I'm asking about. Sounds like it was a list of the postures though rather than anyone demonstrating them.

    Yes, Maya, massive, going to cost a small fortune to frame it. I've been watching the 3rd/4th and Advanced A and B movies I have, the differences are interesting. I have the Swenson one which is almost exactly the same as the poster but i also have the Encinitas one from Maui yoga that's closer to 3rd plus a little 4th and then the one on Youtube ( search Jois Advanced Ashtanga which is somewhere between the Swenson and maui yoga video's. The Maui and Encinitas ones are both led by Patarbhi Jois and yet completely different. I'm wondering how fixed the Advanced series was in his mind until it got turned into 3rd, 4th etc. I want to do a post on this. Perhaps the framed list David refers to was just that a list rather than a definitive running order.

    Wish he was coming to London I have a lot of questions for him.

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  9. It would be AWESOME if you made your own poster. Perhaps a project for 2011?

    I think you can get Dharma's poster at the link above. The owner is a student of Dharma's, PLUS he sells the frame.

    Tim Miller told me a great story (during our interview) about David Swenson and the advanced series. I'll relate it to you sometime (not in text). Suffice to say the advanced sequence(s) seem to have changed dramatically over the years but SKPJ would not take the bait and cop to it.

    He was truly humble.

    I wish his senior students would follow his lead.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You think? Perhaps I'll give it a go, try and work out how to go about it, as you say a project. I always liked the story behind Dharma Mittra's poster, would make a nice gift for Ramaswami and i'm sure someone will come along sooner or later and make a more professional one. Be useful for my own reference too, try and group it within subroutines as well as sequences... minds already racing with the possibilities.

    You've got me curious about the Swenson story. I remember Gannon saying in his video that the advanced series were just for demonstration. That said I quite like the look of Advanced A, 3rd always seemed too dominated by the arm balances but that feels less the case in Advanced A, no doubt because of the extra poses/subroutines, little more balanced.

    Just checked the Swenson video and it takes him 35 minutes which is pretty much the same as primary and 2nd.

    Ramaswami stressed that the asana was just prep for pranayama and meditation but of course with health benefits. He also said it was good to cover as many asanas as you were able to over a week so as to aid the blood circulation to the different parts of the body. He thought the different asanas kept it interesting too and helped you get on the mat and would even suggest working on new and difficult postures in your extra evening practice if you had one.

    Quite liked his approach to asana, delighted by them but not taking them too seriously either. I kind of imagine Dharma Mittra to be a little like that. Breath and bandhas rather than the shape itself but all still preparation for the main event.

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  11. "Mark Singleton may well be mistaken [...]"


    Good thing we've got you here to set him straight.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sigh!
    Glad your feeling better V.
    189 posts this year, wasn't one you liked, even a little?

    BTW, Big fan of your friend Mr Singleton strikes me as a brother Heideggerian

    ' I am interested in showing how certain meanings become attached to physical practice, whether it be yoga or gymnastics, and how these accreted meanings inevitably change the way people approach these disciplines. In sum, my investigation aims to show how modern understandings have altered the meaning of yoga practice for many people.'

    ReplyDelete
  13. Didn't think you were one to need praise!

    My post was intended to have a sarcasm/end sarcasm tag to take the sting off a bit, but the HTML parser ate it.

    My main issue is that you make a really strong assertion (mistaken) without any good backup argument or data. This does not make for a good scientific discussion and I'm sorry, but that is a bit of a pet peeve for me. In fact, every time you and I have clashed is because I think you don't have enough data to back up your opinions, and yet you present them as almost facts.

    If this bugs you though (which I'm assuming it does given your sigh and your response), I can stop commenting. That much I can do, just say the word.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Let me clarify something by using quotes:

    My main issue is that you make a really strong assertion ("mistaken")

    ReplyDelete
  15. I was smiling when I wrote that 'sigh', I welcome your comments of course as well as your giving me a hard time. No don't 'seek' praise but once would be kind of sweet.

    Mistaken is strong but it's softened by using 'may' as I said it was rhetorical device to introduce an idea. I think Mark would be the first to agree that it's not a central thesis of his argument ( I link to that in the post ).

    I think I do actually present some evidence for the argument in the two hundred actual postures of the syllabus rather than the full and half salutation and handful standing postures. However, it's only the suggesting of an argument.

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  16. A 1970s syllabus of postures doesn't by any mean sprove your argument:

    "Krishnamacharya may well have come up with many of theses postures, whether as modifications of or preparations for other postures but the influence seems more likely to have come from old texts, painting and perhaps the carvings on the walls of temples than anything in a western gymnastics manual."

    An old (pre-Krisnamacharya) text mentioning the 200+ postures or paintings or carvings on the walls of temples would, though. Can you show or point us to those?

    ReplyDelete
  17. This seems exactly the discussion mark says he doesn't want to get into the response to ramaswami i lik to in this post but I'll bite.
    i have Krishnamacharya's yoga makaranda part 1 (1938) in frount of me, that has 95 postures, part 2 wasn't printed. I also have his Yogasanagalu which has 147. This is a late edition though, Mohan mentions in his book that K redid the pictures for it suggesting there was an earlier edition. My point though was not the poster but just that when we focus on the postures rather than the vinyasas Ashtanga doesn't looks so akin to the physical culture movement mark refers too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I see that we've dropped the wall paintings and the old texts. That's fine - I think Mark's main frustration (and the reason why he doesn't want to keep goin on about this point) is that he talks about a possible influence, and yet everyone seems to have transformed his point into some sort of "there are no ancient yoga poses! Krisnamacharya took it all from English gymnastics!" argument, which is way off the mark (no pun intended).

    To be honest, I actually don't care much one way or another. I have actually heard a really good rebuttal of that point that I'm not really willing to reproduce in public (sorry!).

    The reason why I jump is because when you write "Seems that Mark Singleton may be mistaken" the words that immediately jump out are "Mark Singleton mistaken" and given that yours is a high traffic blog (there! praise! ;-) ) and that people tend to skim the comments and just grab on a few points here and there, it can all very quickly be converted into "Mark Singleton's thesis is wrong. Grimmly said so" and you can imagine how, as a personal friend of him, this bugs me.

    It's a bit like when you said that he was a lecturer at Cambridge and wouldn't it be cool if he did some talks about this and that. The fact that you qualified your assertion with a "I think" probably didn't deter many people from thinking that this was the case (which is not).

    See where I'm going with all of this?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sorry, missed the last part of your comment where you say PRE Krishnamacharya. There are two books i'm thinking of Sjoman's Mysore palace of course , link here on google books
    http://books.google.com/books?id=1BU2WI8wMpcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Yoga+Tradition+Of+The+Mysore+Palace&hl=en&ei=PvMcTfSkDcy4hAfL0O22Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    but there's another one connected to Bikram 108, old paintings etc, will try to find it. And of course the indian government is producing that big library of asanas now from temples, paintings, sculptures etc so people like Bikram can't try to own postures.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm lazy - can you point me to the bit where all those poses are mentioned? I was once told that only a limited number (wish I could remember how many!) of asanas were documented pre-Krisnamacharya, but it would be interesting to be proved wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Also, I seem to remember that Bikram copyrighted the sequence, not the asanas themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Think our comments crossed.

    But what can I do V, It's just a blog, an informal space, short of colouring 'may and 'I think' in red and putting them in bold.....

    or are you just saying go ahead but don't 'sigh' when you make me clarify something or give me a hard time : )

    ReplyDelete
  23. The latter will work for me ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Up with the Chinchilla on my itouch so running slow now. On th Sjoman link on googlebooks just scroll half way down and you should hit all the paintings, beautiful book.

    Your right re Biram which is why I don't think the Indian government approach will work, glad they're doing it though be wonderful to see. In Mohan's book on Krishnamacharya he says K was an asana geek and If Mohan was visiting a temple K would have him look out for carvings of asanas and sketch them or something. Very difficult to paint or carve the more intricate posturesof course.

    ReplyDelete

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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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