Thursday, 26 April 2012

'Ashtanga' Primary and 2nd series in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu 1941

Many thanks to Satya for passing on his translation of part of the table from Krishnamacharya's  Yogasanagalu outlining a division of 'Primary' and 'Middle' series asanas

From Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

'5.  Classification
This yoganga sadhana has been divided into three series: power (strength) series, treatment series and the spiritual series.

  1. The power series is further classified into mind and body
  2. The treatment series is divided into kosha (sheath) and Nadi (pulse)
  3. Spiritual is only one
First series requires many yogasanas and some pranayama
Second series needs some easy asanas and three pranayamas
Third series requires pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi
Later a table is shown that includes these'.

Krishanamacharya's Yogasanagalu (translation Satya Murthy).

What I find most interesting in all this is not so much that we find the essentials of the modern Ashtanga  system, in Krishanamacharya's Yogasanagalu and Yoga Makaranda, the 'tristana', we'd suspected as much already, but rather that early Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama existed side by side.

Since encountering Vinyasa Krama through Ramaswami's teaching, two years ago, I've sought to reconcile and reintegrate what I'd thought of as the early and later teaching of Krishnamacharya. What we find in Yogasanagalu (already), the Yoga Makaranda and the 1938 video suggests that there was no division between early and later periods, that Krishnamacharyas teaching was perhaps consistent throughout his life, rather it was the situation in which he was teaching which accounts for any difference in focus.

Modern Ashtanga has perhaps tightened (simplified/narrowed?) the approach, the number and length of breaths, the breath retention in certain postures, a reduction in vinyasas and less focus on pranayama and the other limbs but this too was perhaps more a result of the teaching situation and encounter with the west.

If we watch the 1938 documentary footage of Iyengar and Krishnamacharya we see Iyengar performing many of the postures familiar to Ashtangi's and outlined in the table above in the 1941 Yogasanagalu, but we also see Krishnamacharya demonstrating many vinyasas in shoulder stand and headstand that are familiar to those who have studied Krishnamacharya's later teaching through Ramaswami and Deskichar.

 In the Yogasanagalu we also find many photographs of Krishnamacharya demonstrating vinyasas (variations) of postures very much in line with Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, representing how Ramaswami was taught by Krishnamacharya from the 1950's-80's.

Hopefully more attention will now be given to Krishnamacharya's major works

Yoga Makaranda

Yogasanagalu ( partly translated)



  1. Satya, what is listed in the other columns to the right of the asana names? Is that info pertaining to vinyasas? breath counts? Very curious.

  2. So glad you posted this Grimmly, I will likely link to you, this is huge news!

  3. Well done Grimmly, Fantastic work!

  4. Anonymous,

    The first column refers to Vinayasa number, the second to Asana positions, third to breathing order and fourth to Benefits. For e.g., the first one on the list, Uttanasana: 3,2,rechaka,abdominal purification.

    I have seen some really categorical statements such as "one shouldn't be doing yogasanas without vinyasas and it is a shame that people who don't know better are bringing bad reputation to yoga sharstra" :)


  5. Satya, thanks for clarifying this. Below I have pasted similar statements from the pdf version of Yogamakaranda.
    I wanted to ask you if in Yogasanagalu, Krishnamacharya discusses jumping back and jumping through to each new asana. It seems that many westerners read “vinyasa” as the jump back and jump through. However, I am curious to know if Krishnamacharya, like Srivatsa Ramaswami, means vinyasa in the strict sense of linking movement with breath, and asana to asana via slow and deliberate movements.

    From 2.4 Important Observations, in Yogamakaranda


    And further:

    << Just as music without sruti and laya will not give any pleasure, similarly asana practice done without vinyasa krama will not give good health.>>

  6. From 2.4 Important Observations, in Yogamakaranda


    And further:

    << Just as music without sruti and laya will not give any pleasure, similarly asana practice done without vinyasa krama will not give good health.>>

  7. ...sorry for the duplicate posts, but it appears the amount of text I can paste is limited.

    From 2.4 Important Observations, in Yogamakaranda

    "But nowadays, in many places, these great practitioners of yogabhyasa ignore vinyasa krama and just move and bend and shake their arms and legs and claim that they are practising asana abhyasa. This is being done not only in yogabhyasa but also in veda adhyayanam and in mantra upasanas where the rules are being ignored and people shamefully practise this as though it were part of their worldly affairs. If this behaviour continues for some time, even the vedas will be ruined."

  8. Thanks Satya for an outline of the columns, interesting that he's made such an attempt to codify it here perhaps the order of asana was intentional too, going to make up some sequence picture sheets and try and practice it just to see.

    The Catagorical statement you mention on vinyasa is interesting. Your post came in just as I was falling off to sleep but I was tempted to get up and fish out the makaranda too. Thank you anon for doing it for me and finding the quote. i remember Ramaswami quoting Krishnamacharya several times on this. And yes he's referring to the variations of a posture as vinyasa rather than the jump through movement that vinyasa has come to mean in ashtanga.

    The idea seems to be that the full benefit of a posture doesn't come about unless you practice the range of variations, each acting on the body in a slightly different way. the vinyasa of course are linked/joined by the breath. Of course we don't have to practice every possible variation one after another at the same time.

    In ashtanga we find a lot of this, the marichi's, Janu's, variations of paschimottanasana, a couple of salabasana's in 2nd series and leg behind head postures separated between 2nd and 3rd series to name just a few.

    Thanks Claudia, Niall, Satya's done all the work of course, I'm just posting it

  9. yes goran, most of the video is Iyengar, doing all the advanced asana, in a more ashtanga style. It was in the 40's i think that he started working on his own approach/style in Pune.

  10. Anonymous, Grimmly, Claudia,

    Krishnamacharya knew we would be curious about Vinaysas!

    From page 21:

    “ Vinyasas” many are curious regarding its mystery. Some question its basis. I agree. (Then he quotes several verses from Patanjalayogasutra and Vyasabhasha in sanskrit written in Kannada script). Finally he concludes- Therefore, what type of breathing for which asana, when to inhale and when to exhale, how , when you bend forward inhale or exhale? What about when you raise your head? To learn this mystery and practice in order (krama) is Vinyasa.

    I don’t see the jumping back and forward vinyasa of Ashtanga anywhere. Also, I don’t see Suryanamaskars A or B mentioned anywhere. I guess it must have been Jois’s innovation to bring Suryanamaskar along with its components of jumping into ashtanga vinyasa.

    I will have to ask my brother regarding translation of Sanskrit verses. My sanskrit is really rusty and very basic. He had recently shared this link regarding sanskrit. How appropriate it is for this discussion.

  11. Very interesting Satya, I remember Ramaswami giving Krishnamacharya's justification for the vinyasa method based on a couple of the yoga sutras. I came across it again recently but couldn't remember where, it was Claudia's blog of course. I wonder if these are the same sutras you mention in your comment.

    'Recently at a Ramaswami workshop I asked about where in the yoga sutras do we derived the term "VINYASA" from? Ramaswami, a student of Krishnamacharya for 35+ years explained to me that this is related in two sutras from chapter two:

    2.46 is the most famous sutra in the world (make that in my world): 2.46 Sthira Sukham Asanam, or: Sitted position should be comfortable and steady. AND
    2.47 prayatna saithily anantasam apattibhyam, or: Effort should be accompanied by smooth breath

    That, Ramaswami explained, is where Krishnamahcarya taught him we derived the term VINYASA, where we accompany the effort of asana with smooth long breath. Here is Ramaswami himself:

    Sri T Krishnamacharya had said in his Yoga Makaranda (read it here for free) and also in Yoga Rahasya that full benefits of yogasana cannot be obtained without vinyasas. Regarding the Yoga Sutra reference it would be about the use of breath in the practice of asanas. The interpretation of the terms in the sutras "sthira, sukha, prayatna saitilya and aananta samapatti" the four paramenters mentioned. These refer to comfort, steadiness, smooth breathing and focus on the breath while practicing asanas which is the way Sri TK taught me vinyasa practice."

    For more on that see: Where oh where does Patanjali say anything about Vinyasa in the Yoga Sutras?'

    from Claudia's blog APR 25, 2012 - What is the Difference Between Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga?

    re. translating Sanksrit it's probably OK just to give us the sutra number and we can look it up ourselves,

    Interesting link, thanks for that.

  12. Hi Grimmly and Satya (via Claudia's blog)

    Have you considered using Kickstarter to fund this effort? I am sure there a ton of people that would love to have the full translation in English and if you needed additional resources to make it work, that might be a good way to go.


  13. Hi David, I think it's more a case of time rather than money, strikes me as quite a complex work to translate. I'm quite enjoying it coming out bit by bit , lots of time to think about each page. I think I'm most curious about the breath, , how slow, whether there are retentions in some postures, if inhale and exhale are equal or the exhale longer in some postures, if it suggests five breaths or eight etc.. curious whether there's anything on drishti too, if there's anything much on pranayama and pratyahara.... Lots to look forward to.
    Thanks for the suggestion though, haven't heard of kickstart before.

  14. I agree with Grimmly that it is more time than money. The written Kannada it pretty old style and that's the tough part for me plus the fact that living in NJ for about 20 years, my Kannada is understandably rusty. But it's great to get an opportunity to do this and timing is right for me. Having practiced Ashtanga for about 10 years, and getting into regular meditation practice in the last few years, I have the interest and feel like it's my duty to do this.

    Yes Grimmly, there are retentions specified in many of the 2nd and 3rd level asanas. The next few pages really sets up the basics for starting a practice. Stay tuned.



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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