Sunday, 29 April 2012

Krishnamacharya's Complete 'Original' 1941 Ashtanga Syllabus inc. Proficient group

Many Thanks to Satya Murthy for translating and passing on the final group of postures from the table of asanas in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu. This is basically a preview, for those of us who couldn't wait, of the full translation to come, still a few pages off in the ongoing translation (see the page at the top of my blog). The original table includes the numbered postures in the three groups along with Vinyasa counts, the postures place in the vinyasa count and notes on breathing as well as benefits to be gained from the asana.

I've just gone through the list of the Proficient series and all but the last two asana at the end of the list are familiar to me. To remind myself which series, Advanced A or B the postures belong to in modern Ashtanga I used my David Williams Complete Ashtanga syllabus wall chart.

Down in the left corner of the poster David has written an introduction to the syllabus, here's part of it.

'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, written in the 12th century by the yogi, Vamana. He explained to me that this ancient text was taught orally to his guru, T. Krishnamacharya, by his guru in
Tibet, Rama Mohan Brahmachari. Several years later, Krishnamacharya, following the directions of his guru, found a written copy of the Yoga Korunta in the library of the Maharaja of Calcutta. Krishnamacharya made
a copy of the manuscript.
Krishnamacharya showed the Yoga Korunta to his student, Pattabhi Jois. The text included all of the basic yoga asanas, from elementary to advanced, detailed move by move, breath by breath'.

Here's four of the five pages of the table from the Yogasanagalu.

...and here's Satya Murthy's translation of the asana lists.

The Primary and Middle series are pretty close to the Primary and 2nd series taught now in Mysore. A few 2nd series asana are missing from the Middle sequence but most of these turn up in the Proficient series. I seem to remember David Williams writing or saying in an interview that originally there was just Primary, Intermediate and Advanced series asana, the Advanced postures later being ordered into Advanced A and B series ( and then later again into 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series.

Proficient series correspondence with David Williams Ashtanga Syllabus
Advanced A Series
1-9, 13-20, 37, 39-41, 53, 
Advanced  B Series
21-28, 30, 35, 38, 42-45, 47-51, 55-56
2nd series
10-12, 29, 31, 33, 52, 54
34, 36, 46,

Yogasanagalu was written in 1941, Krishnamacharya continued to teach at the Mysore palace until 1954 so we might expect that the Asana list we have here would have been tweaked and played with a little, it may well have ended up even closer to the Ashtanga syllabus we have now.

It seems pretty safe to argue that this is the original Ashtanga syllabus.


Below is a first draft of a Proficient 'group' practice sheet, I hesitate to call it a series as I suspect it wasn't intended to be practiced as such, this raises questions regarding how we practice advanced postures currently. practice sheets for the primary and Middle group of postures are on the Yogasanagalu project page at the top of the blog

This is mainly for my own use something for me work from and explore in practice. The pictures are all old ones I had on file, some better than others, some at the very beginning of approaching a posture. I'm still not sure of many of the versions of the posture referred to in the list, it's a working document, hopefully from this something more accurate will develop.

* I didn't have 39. Trivikramasana(supta) 40. Trivikramasana (utthita) on file, the pictures here are just a reminder. 51. Suptakandasana is a sketch based on David Williams from His Complete Syllabus poster, it's a posture I've never tried and am probably still a way from realising.

Here's Iyengar performing many of the advanced asana in the list but in a demonstrating setting. Krishnamacharya's own demonstration in the video of shoulder stand and headstand vinyasas is very similar to the approach he taught Ramaswami in the 50's-80's and how Ramaswami in turn passed them on to us in his Vinyasa Krama TT course and workshops. The main difference I would point out is the breathing, outside of a demonstration setting, would be long and slow inhalation and exhalations with longer stay's in postures and breath retention where appropriate.

UPDATE 13/01/14

Following on from the Krishnamacharya Primary series and intermediate series, slight, rearrangement of postures from Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu, I was asked if there was a Krishnamacharya a Advanced Series practice poster coming. Well no, not really, I'm not convinced the advanced postures are best suited in a series or were ever intended as such but rather as optional extentions or perhaps substitutions for postures in the previous groups/series.

And of course if Pattabhi Jois had taught a two year course instead of four back in the 40s he probably wouldn't have formalised one either, perhaps it's a distraction


  1. thanks, I'm surprised by this first result.

  2. Don't began with surya namaskara?

  3. Thank you for all of this research. It has been fascinating to get a feel for the connections between Krishnamacharya's innovations and Pattabhis Jois's refinements. To me it feels very freeing and all the more inspiring to view this as a progression rather than a mystical revelation from a banana leaf scrawled with sanskrit. After all we may say that all of Buddha's revelations were based on a passionate, sincere inquiry.
    Om Shanti Grimmly- Raf

  4. Supposedly there was a separate Suryanamaskar class at the Mysore palace, in this period it doesn't seem to have been part of yoga asana see Mark Singleton's Yoga Body book on this. It will be interesting to see if it receives any mention in Yogasanagalu.

    Thnkas raf, haven't decided yet if refinement or simplification is the most appropriate term, still thinking about it.



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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