The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

from Thus spake Krishnamacharya inc. Jumping back as a Kriya?

Yesterday I posted Ramaswami's February 2011 newsletter in full. In one section he mentions how Krishnamacharya would, at times, dictate some of his articles. The passage below is from one of these these ( 1967) that Ramaswami translates, it concerns Vinyasa Krama practice. I thought it might be useful to present the different points made about the practice in a more easily referable format. I've tried to separate it up into different points, the italics (mine) seem to expand on the numbered point.

Of particular interest to the Ashtangis might be where Krishnamacharya mentions Plavana as a Kriya ( see points 9, 10 and 16 below). Plavana might be translated as flying or floating. Here he mentions lifting up out of an asana and stretching the legs back and forth before bringing the legs back in and lowering but it seems likely that this would also cover the jump back and jump through that is so familiar to Mysore Ashtanga practice.

Jump back as a a kriya, interesting, no?

The full newsletter can be found under yesterdays post or HERE on Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama site.

'Now let me give a comprehensive treatment of practice krama of yoga...

There are several essential factors that should be kept in view by both the yogabhyasi and the teacher.

1. The student, as instructed by the teacher should check the quality of recaka and puraka (exhalation and inhalation).

Are there any obstructions in the airways? It is mainly because asanas unaided or synchronized with breathing are of no use. For instance, the teacher and the student should check the number of matras (measure of time) the breath takes while inhaling, exhaling. If there is considerable difference in these durations, the teacher should first ask the abhyasi to practice controlled rechaka-puraka even prior to the practice of asanas.

2. Then one should start practicing asanas as per instructions.

There are many asanas--sitting, standing, supine, prone, lying on the sides— there are thus many starting positions. Further there are upside down positions, like Sarvangasana.

3. If the students has a good well proportioned body the teacher can teach the inversions, Sarvangasana and Sirsasana even in the beginning of study.

And such a person should also possess very long and smooth inhalations and exhalations. Further he should learn to maintain the inhalations and exhalations of even duration. If one does 8 to 10 recaka-purakas in sirsasana, then one should practice sarvangasana for the same number of recaka-puraka and of the same duration.

4. Sarvangasana and sirsasana are like the two eyes of yogabhyasa.

These help to maintain “bodily freedom” (sariraswatantriyam) The various vinyasas of these poses also have similar effects. Only by these two poses the acuity of the senses and capacity of the lungs increase. Even as Sarvangasana is an essential pose for persons with heart ailment, it should be done with the help and involvement of the teacher/trainer. While teaching Sarvangasana to such persons, the teacher should stand behind the trainee and at the end of each exhalation should gently nudge the trainee's back a little forward and hold for a second. After about a month's such practice, the trainer should check the strength of recaka, the general health or growth of the body the duration of recaka-puraka and then if they are good should help the trainee stay for about a minute or so. Thereafter the abhyasi should be given rest. If one has some ailment the posture should be repeated two or three times. For instance to an asthmatic doing even half a dozen breaths in Sarvangasana will be difficult. So the trainee should make the abhyasi practice at least 12 breaths over a number of tries. Trying to do many breaths in one go could create some chest pain and discomfort. So, with a relaxed approach in four or six tries one should do the required number of breaths. One should return to the lying down position slowly. The same will apply to obese people while learning sarvangasana, they should be taught the asanas with a lot of care. In this manner the teacher and taught should learn to remain in an asana for several minutes without any doubts about the pose. With sarvangasana and sirsasana other asanas like paschimatanasana, purvatanasana, chatushpada peetam; Parvatasana, vajrasana, Bhujangasana etc can also be practiced.

5. When one starts to learn Yoga, in the beginning the duration of practice can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

One can gradually increase the duration. The teacher should check the breath every day and then increase the duration of practice.

6. Whatever be the posture, if one could stay for a long time without the limbs going to sleep (or numb) or any pain or discomfort then such a practitioner is known as jitasana (the conqueror/master of an asana).

While staying in an asana one should not unnecessarily shake the body, bend or contort or move and if one can stay for hours then such a yogi is a jitasana. We learn from the works and sayings of yogis that in the olden days the rishis, every day would remain in any one asana for three hours and do pranayama and meditation. Then if the yogi is able to remain doing long inhalation, exhalation and kumbhaka without feeling any kind of fatigue and for a long period of time such a person would be called “Jitaprana” or Jitaswasa, or one who has conquered the breath.

7. Remaining in a posture and gazing at one's favorite (ishta) icon and experiencing a feeling of bliss is called “trataka”.

It is of two types, anta and bahi. To gaze at an outside object like an icon is external trataka. Closing one's eyes and 'imaging' the object internally and continually focusing attention in between the eyebrows is the antah(r)trataka or internal gazing. One can practice this between one to ten minutes.

8. In the yogasana practice it is good to include a Mudra as well everyday.

Mahamudra and Shanmukhi mudra may be done.

9. Further one should do a kriya called plavana (jumping/stretching).

For instance, remaining in the same place after a particular asana practice, one may place the palms on the floor, lift the body and then stretch the legs one by one. Then in recaka one should bend the leg and in puraka return to the floor If one stays in an asana for a long time, the muscles could slightly cramp and the plavana would help restore the muscles attain normal tone.

10. The yogabhyasi should practice asana, pranayama, mudra and kriya together even from the beginning.

Only then all the benefits mentioned for the varied asanas will accrue. Likewise if one by Pranayama becomes known as Jitaswasa, and then by meditation is able to conquer the mind such a yogi is known as jitamanaska. All the three are necessary.

11. One should practice the same duration for both asana and pranayama and then twice the duration for dhyana or meditation.

12. In the olden days the sages did yoga on three occasions everyday, at dawn, noon and dusk.

13. The time and regulation in Kumbhaka are essential.

14. With regulated time,one should practice all aspects of yoga, like asana, kriyas, pranayama and mudra.

One should do a few asanas that one enjoys doing for about 15 mts and then do the pratikriyas or counter poses. For instancee one may do 15 mts of sirsasana followed by 15 mts of sarvangasana,. Or perhaps 15 mts of viparita dandasana followed by 15 mts of uttana mayurasana.

15. Asanas like sirasasana done while the body trembles or unsteady will not be beneficial.

Done correctly, it helps to maintain prana in sushuna. Without proper practice one will not get faith in Yoga, nor will one get the benefits mentioned in the sastras.

16. One should know the kriyas (like plavana) and there is a relationship bertween asanas and plavana (jumping/stretching) kriya.

17. As mentioned earlier, one should bring under control the body by asana, with recaka kumbhaka the prana and by meditation or dhyana the mind.

For dhyana it may beuseful to choose a charming icon'

7 comments:

  1. Very interesting post. I've always thought that jumpbacks, especially, have a kriya-effect, but I've never thought about articulating this thought. Thanks for putting it into words. I think that lifting up in trini position before jumping back in the suryas also have the same kriya-effect.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Could it be that when Krishnamacharya says 'lifting' and 'floating', he means 'lifting' and 'floating' and not 'jumping'?

    A teacher in a workshop once defined floating as 'controlled landing' and explained it as having the necessary control so that when the body moves down towards the floor (due to gravity)- one is able to stop at any point midair and keep the body in that position.

    Lifting would then be the same control while moving the body away from the floor (against gravity).

    Unlike jumping where the stopping of the body at any point midair is not possible as it uses the momentum escape gravity - not leverage control.

    Tons of examples around.

    For example here in surya namaskara by David Robson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwWdab5zs54

    Or by Darby in his famous demo piece:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOlQq6t9Ztc

    ReplyDelete
  3. Holy cow, that David Robson Sury is gorgeous. Obviously he is performing it in zero g. He's probably using velcro socks to stick to the floor at all. And check out his wife's video in the side bar, "Miss Stan" doing dropbacks at 9 months pregnant (!!!). I couldn't get off the couch at 9 months pregnant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thanks for the inspiration, shall try hard, once this shoulder is sorted, i love the idea that it's a kriya ; )

    ReplyDelete
  5. Guess we have to be careful here, I'm drawing the link with the jump back not Krishnamacharya, or Ramaswami for that matter. K seems to be talking about relaxing the muscles after being in an asana for a long time, the lifting up and stretching the legs out ( to the frount I'm assuming here) and then bringing them back and lowering seems to have a kind of a shaking out the cramps/stiffness effect. In this case I can see why he calls it a Kriya. However in his yoga Makaranda (1936) he makes quite a detailed list of Kriya's, about ten or so, dividing them into four or five different types, he doesn't mention plavana as a kriya there at all and there's nothing similar.

    Also in the Makaranda he employs the full 'vinyasa' back to standing rather than the half vinyasa ( jump back) he doesn't mention plavana as described here and of course SKPJ seemed to teach full vinyasa up until the 80's.

    And yet the whole full vinyasa or half vinyasa does seem to have that shaking out the previous asana and resetting for the next aspect in Ashtanga, kriyaesque.

    Ramaswami, reflecting K's later teaching, doesn't really employ the jump back, you pretty much 'full vinyasa' into a sequence and full vinyasa out at the end but that's about it. He does present the option of the jump through towards the back of the book. He does, however employ counterposes throughout which perhaps have a similar effect.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love all the floating roselil as you probably know, wish I was better at it ( thanks for the great link, wow) but I wonder if all that floating up is a western addition, all seems a little fancy, did David Swenson introduce that i wonder? There's utpluthi of course as lifting up but that always seems to have the connotation of being a strength thing though with bandha control rather than floating. Must check out how utpluthi translates and what the root is.

    I like your point about being able to stop at any point in the lifting and lowering as opposed to jumping. I remember Ramaswami saying about a few different postures that you should be able to stop and hold comfortably at any point.


    Curious thing about thet David Robinson clip, his hands are right next to his feet, i I can just about manage it by having my hands a foot or so in frount and leaning towards them to get a head start, beside your feet, phew.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yeah you must be right about the floating in surya namaskara a la Robson being a new (western) addition/variation.

    However, looking at young Iyengar practicing in 1938, his practice definitely has a floating quality about it. His body almost seems liquid at times.

    As the editor of the film basically cut out all the transitions between asana to show only the core poses, it is hard to tell how many (full?) vinaysa were done in between and how they were performed.

    However, if you take a look at around 1:22 in this piece, the 'jump back' is more of a float than a jump to me.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmOUZQi_6Tw&feature=fvw

    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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