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

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Third Day

First the intro bit again...

A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below ( the headings in block capitals are mine.

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Third Day
First a couple of thoughts on The Rishi Series. It's been brought into questions, as indeed it should, pointed out that nobody talks about the rishi series these days, nobody seems to practice it before moving on to advanced, the senior teachers don't seem to teach it or even talk about it. 

And I have to admit that when I first read that line at the end of Nancy's article, 

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

I thought perhaps Pattabhi Jois was pulling David William's leg, keeping him interested. I imagine David asking him about it the next time he visited Mysore and getting the description of the practice he relates above, a spur of the moment answer.

But think about it...what else did you think was going to happen after Advanced B or 6th series as we call it now. How long are you expected to practice six series a week, what happens when you reach your 50's, 70's are you still expected to to be doing, 3rd or even 2nd, jumping back between sides in primary? Yes it's possible but think yoga for the three stages of life. It makes sense that a point comes where you practice differently, where you take ten appropriate postures and stay in them longer than usual, fifty breaths, why not and perhaps even deeper breaths or dare I say Ujayii breaths in preparation for pranayama proper one of the main focusses of yoga in later life. The rRshi series, it makes sense ....doesn't it?

Wonder if Sharath practices it...don't suppose anyone is brave enough to ask him about it.

This evening was tough, really tough. Just happened to reach a group of postures that were always going to be a struggle. Yesterday I got as far as Navasana.

Sury A x3 / Sury B x3

Bhuja Pindasana ( 50 breaths) An arm balance so hard work, the feet soon began to rest on the mat, iIallowed that, the hardest thing though was having your chin on the mat that long, even resting it as lightly as I could. Plus there's a strain on the neck having the head tilted up for so long, important to keep drawing the shoulder blades down the back.

Kurmasana (50 breaths) My right hamstring was a bit tight so I was being careful, didn't risk trying to raise the feet off the ground. Not much forward bending prep building up to this either but otherwise it was OK.

Supta Kurmasana (50 breaths) There's a video below showing some of the problems of an evening practice. Again a bit stiff and not very sweaty so tricky getting the legs behind the head but then of course half way though the feet get sweaty and want to slide out of the bind, requires a lot of focus. The inhalation is shallower her because your so bunched up so the 50 breaths took less time. Notice how stuttering the full vinyasa's are after these long holds.

Garbha Pindasana (50 breaths) My arms still ache from this an hour later. Again not sweaty enough to get the arms through so had to use the spray. The legs are very tight on the arms, squeezing them, quite uncomfortable. I did twenty five breaths upright and then the other twenty five rolled on my back.

Kukkutasana (25 breaths) I cut this short after twenty five breaths, the lotus was sliding down the arms and I was a little worried about my wrists, more bandha focus and it would be doable but perhaps the arm balances aren't a good idea for such a long stay.

The rest are pretty much the same as the previous days.

Badha konasana


Bhekasana ( 50 breaths) Continuing the backstretch them after shoulder stand that ramaswami recommends and that I'm used to. Didn't push the feet down as hard after the first twenty five breaths. As with salabhasana it helps to really tilt the pelvis forward into the mat.


Tomorrow, Upavishta Konasana to Setu Bandhasana

Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C 


  1. It is an interesting question to ask Sharath indeed, wonder what his view is on that, cant promise I will, I always see how things go in the moment rather than plan in advance... this is interesting Grimmly, I dont think I could muster 50 in garba... I get small bruises just by doing 5 counts... Kurmasana somehow does not seem that big of a deal, I think I have been doing this, remember Christopher Hildrebrandt telling me to do 50! with enthusiasm, refering to counts in it so I would get better at it... and it works...

  2. Perhaps a safer question is how will the practice change as you get to your 50s, 60s, 70s 80s would you still do four series, three, two one and if one would you modify it and if so how, is ashtanga for life?

    garbha was hard, can still feel it in my arms, still a little tapas is good for you, earned a boon from the gods.



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