Saturday, 28 April 2012

Practicing the 'original ashtanga' sequences in Krischnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

The Yogasanagalu translation project

I was asked whether I would include jump back's/jump throughs etc. in my practice of the Primary and Middle sequence in Krishnamachary's Yogasanagalu Sequences (see below).

This points to larger question, of course...

How to practice Krishnamacharya's early ashtanga?

Satya Murthy, who has been translating Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu, has indicated that there is good stuff to come on this as the translation of the text continues.

Grimmly said...
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 much on pranayama and pratyahara.... Lots to look forward to.

Savim said...
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. Satya.

For now I'm going with Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda published in 1934 (in Kannada) and 1938 (in Tamil).

There is a freely downloadable edition HERE

Let's take Paschimottanasana for example. Interestingly this seated posture appears in the Yogasanagalu in the middle of the opening standing sequence, one of several suprises.

Here are Krishnamacharya's instruction for Paschimattanasana in the 1938 Yoga Makaranda, the highlighted areas I'll be referring too later.

'Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana (Figure 4.19 — 4.28)
This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.
The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose. After this extend both arms out towards the feet (the legs are already extended in front). Clasp the big toes of the feet tightly with the first three fingers (thumb, index, middle) of the hands such that the left hand holds the left big toe and the right hand holds the right big toe. Do not raise the knees even slightly. Then, pull in the stomach while doing recaka, lower the head and press the face down onto the knee. The knees should not rise from the ground in this sthiti either. This is the 9th vinyasa. This is called pascimottanasana. In the beginning, everybody will find it very difficult. The nerves in the back, the thighs and the backs of the knees will feel as though they are being fiercely pulled and this will be extremely painful. The pain will remain for 8 days. After this, the pulling on the nerves will release and it will be possible to do the asana without any problem. This pascimottanasana has many forms. After first practising this asana with the face pressed onto the knee, practise it with the chin placed on the knee and then eventually with it placed 3 angulas below the knee on the calf. In the 10th vinyasa raise the head. In the 11th vinyasa, keeping the hands firmly pressed on the ground, raise the entire body off the ground and balance it in the air without touching the ground. The 11th vinyasa is called uthpluthi. The 12th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana. The 13th is urdhvamukhasvanasana. The 14th is adhomukhasvanasana. The 15th is the first vinyasa of uttanasana. The 16th vinyasa is the 2nd vinyasa of uttanasana. Afterwards, return to samasthiti. You should learn the intricacies of this vinyasa only from a guru.
Benefit: This will cure all diseases related to the stomach.
This asana can be done on the floor or on a mat according to the capabilities of one’s body. Learn some of the other forms of pascimottanasana krama by studying the pictures carefully. Pregnant women should not do this asana. But this can be done up to the third month of pregnancy. For men, there are no restrictions to practising this asana. If this is practised every day without fail for 15 minutes, all the bad diseases of the stomach will be removed.' 
Yoga Makaranda. p69 T. Krishnamachacharya Translated from the Tamil (1938 ) by Sri C. M. V. Krishnamacharya / Sri S. Ranganathadesikachar 
Here is an illustration of the transition in and out of the asana from the editors appendix to the Media Garuda edition (the boxed positions are an addition by the editor, not included in the instruction but assumed).

Below Krishnamacharya demonstrates vinyasas (variations) of paschimottanasana
'Learn some of the other forms of pascimottanasana krama by studying the pictures carefully'. p69

TRANSITIONING  (Jumping back and through)
Krishnamacharya stresses the vinyasas to arrive and exit the posture.

'Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas. ' p69

So yes, clearly a jump though and jump back (or step through and back) to the posture or series of postures but not just the jump through, each stage of the lead in and out of a posture or series of postures is to be considered, perhaps as importantly as the posture itself. 

Of course this doesn't necessarily mean that one should include a jump back and through between each side or each variation. Srivatsa Ramaswami who studied with Ramaswami from the 1950's-80's was taught by Krishnamacharya to jump through to the asana in a similar way to that illustrated above, but once there, to perform the different vinyasas/variations of the key asana before then transitioning back out of the asana, subroutine or sequence.

As with paschimattanasana many of the asana have several vinyasas/variations demonstrated in the book. Whether we would choose to practice one or more of those variations would depend on the goal of our practice for that day. 

This is why I interpret  the sequences in Yogasanagalu as signposts along the way, at any point one might include extra vinyasas of the key asana. It will be interesting to see if this is made explicit as we get further into the translation of Yogasanagalu.

We also have drishti (gaze)

'...keep the gaze fixed on the mid brow' p103

'..gaze steadily at the tip of the nose' p69

It is also clear that in some postures one would stay for longer and shorter periods than others.

Adhomukhasvanasana (Downward dog) an excellent posture for exploring and developing uddiyana bandha for example is an extreme case of this...

'As a result of the strength of the practice, one learns to hold this posture for fifteen minutes' p69

Again, how long one might wish to hold the posture would depend on the goal of that days practice

Breathing is sophisticated in Yoga Makaranda and I look forward to seeing how it's described in Yogasanagalu.

In some postures in the Yoga Makaranda, Krishnamacharya mentions making the inhalation and exhalation the same.

'Inhalation and exhalation of the breath must be slow and of equal duration' p99 Utthitahastapaddangusthasana

Many of the postures, however, include Kumbhaka (breath retention) often but not always on the exhalation but always made clear.

'While doing Janusirsasana, pull in the stomach to the extent possible. the benefits obtained will be greater. While drawing the stomach inward, exhale and then hold the breath' p 142

'Recaka kumbhaka must be done in this sthiti. That is expel the breath completely from the body, maintain this position and then without allowing any breath into the body, bend the the upper body. Now carefully pull in the stomach as much as one's strength allows and hold it in.  p99 (another stage of Utthitahastapaddangusthasana).


We can see then that the practice of asana in Yoga Makaranda is highly sophisticated. Where modern Ashtanga has been simplified and standardized (not necessarily a criticism ), the approach to each asana in the Yoga Makaranda, at least, appears to be variable.

Yoga was considered an art after all

This adaptable approach to practice, even though we find set Primary and Middle sequences clearly laid out in table form in Yogasanagalu, seems to be consistent throughout Krishnamacharya's teaching. One adapts ones teaching to the student and teaching situation just as one adapts ones own practice to the goal of the day.

So in approaching the sequences in Yogasanagalu one might approach them in a standard, simplified manner of equal inhalation and exhalation with no retention, include jump throughs and back between asanas or sides and stick to the sequences as laid out while also including standard drishti, a modern Ashtanga approach.

Or, once one has garnered the basics, the essentials, one might also approach the sequences with more sophistication so as to 'derive the greatest benefit' from the asanas, from the practice.

Then we might choose to develop some areas of the sequence through vinyasas/variations, stay perhaps for extended periods in some postures but not in others and include bandhas (jalandhara would effect the drishti) more intensely in some postures and practice kumbhaka (breath retention) how, when,  to what degree and where applicable.

Also, as was clearly Krishnamacharya's intention, to practice the asana in the context of an integrated yoga practice in which the other limbs are explored and developed as fully as the asana.

The picture sequences below are intended as a rough visual representation of the list above. 


  1. Very interesant! Something about e series in the book?
    And rest in moon/neww moon?

  2. Hi Grimmly and Anonymous,

    I stand corrected regarding vinyasas! My earlier post after translating the list of asanas for the primary, middle series was due to my lack of understanding of how Vinyasakrama works. Because after Grimmly quoted vinyasas in Yoga Makaranda, I went into sections after the Tables where many of the asanas are discussed in greater detail. For e.g., for Pachimotanasana discussion on page 31 is almost word for word identical to Yoga Makaranda page 71 including a clear description of jump through between arms. In fact, on the same page he clearly mentions that this sequence of uttanasana 3 vinaysa, chaturanga dandasana 4th, urdhwamukha swanasana and adhomukhaswanasana 4th could be incorporated before and after many asanas. Grimmly, correct me if I'm wrong, this is the vinyasakrama verbiage for jump backs and jump throughs? Bottomline is jumping vinyasas are practiced but not to the same numbers as in Ashtanga. Apparently, this helps to focus more on the vinyasa variations within the individual postures. When you hit middle age, like I have, this doesn't seem such a bad idea :)

  3. e series anon?

    I doubt there's anything about moon days Anon, think that was something Pattabhi Jois introduced in this context.

    hi Satya. So in Vinyasakrama there is a 'lead in' to the starting asana, this might be dandasana say in seated postures. The lead in would start in samasthiti then move through uttanasana, chatauranga up and down dog and then jump through to seated. from dandasana we might practice several paschmattanasana variations, perhaps some baddha konasana postures when we;ve finished with postures that begin from dandasana we would then jump back and go back through down up dog etc to samasthithi.

    Of course you could do the lead in more often, i tend to do it after each subroutine, so lead into the janusirsasanas say, then lead back to standing before doing another lead in to the marichi's and so on.

    Going back to standing is a bit like Lino' Miele's full vinyasa approach except you don't do it as often.

    I think Jois is basing it on the 'young boys' argument in that situation you would probably have them doing more jump throughs etc to eat up their energy. that doesn't mean ashtanga was designed for young boys but rather one aspect of how it can be practiced. Perhaps Jois saw the Americans as having too much energy : )

    Interesting it's so close to Yoga Makaranda in places.

    I've just been teaching myself the kannada number system and looking at the table with your asana list as a guide to see if the vinyasa counts correspond with the makaranda. Starting to see the structure of the table a little from what you've given us already. Looking forward to seeing if I can make up a practice sheet of the advanced postures too, think I have pictures for most of Ashtanga advanced A and B.

    Having such a lot of fun with this, why oh why has nobody translated this before, great thin we're doing here i think....well what mostly your doing : )

    Not many people are commenting but there seems to be a lot of traffic.

  4. Satya, Just had a look at the vinyasa count in the yogasanagalu, makaranda AND in Jois' yoga mala. three examples, Pashimattanasana, Triang mukha pada paschi' and janusirsasana and they all seem to correspond. Not only that but Yoga Mala lists how many vinyasa, which vinyasa is the key posture (which may appear twice) Triang mukha' being 8 + 15 of 22, going to be interesting to compare yoasanagalu and yoga mala, I wonder if he had a copy beside him as he was writing his book, both are in kannada.
    Seems a shame he felt the need to water it down as time went on.

  5. I'd be most fascinated if someone could now produce a copy of K.V. Iyer's book "Suryanamaskar," published by Bangalore Press, Bangalor, 1937. As a result of this discussion, I'm re-reading Singleton's "Yoga Body" and Ramaswami's "Yoga: Beneath the Surface" and am think about the various discussions I've read through regarding suryanamaskara. In fact, there is a youtube video of Iyengar giving a demonstration in Sydney in 1983, in which he mentions that he taught the Rajah of Aundh the suryanamaskar sequence. This is all very fascinating and hopefuully you can push through to new terriorty with this research!

  6. I just checked myself and Iyengar mentions suryanamaskar, but does not suggest he taught the Rajah of Aundh, merely that he helped him with some of his ailments. See the 15:27 mark in this video:

    It is interesting to consider a genuine prostration by Srila Prabhupada. See the 56 second and again at 1:16 marks here:

  7. One more thing I'd like to point out is Ramaswami's response to "Yoga Gymnastique" in his newsletter here:

    In his discussion on the Sandhya procedure, namely, "towards the conclusion the worshipper of the sun has to do a
    namaskara, a prostration. So from the standing position, usually one
    bends forward, half squats, places the palms on the floor, takes the
    legs back by jumping or taking one leg after the other and does an
    saashtanga namaskara or the danda namaskara (prostration). One has to
    go through these steps (from standing to prostration) and if the steps
    are properly organized we get the surya namaskara vyayama, a sequence,
    a vinyasakrama." Interesting to watch Srila Prabhupada in a similar action.


  9. Thanks for your comments Anon, they came in at night here. Yes i remember reading about the Iyar book in Singleton too.
    there does seem to be a different focus on Suryanamaskara in Jois and Krishnamacharya. The movements from standing, to the posture, and back again are broken down and described in Yoga Makaranda but thats about it.
    I seem to remember reading or hearing that Krishnamacharya was critical of excessive suryanamaskaras, not sure if that was directed at pattabhi joys' ashtanga or at the 108 Sun Salutations .

    That said he did teach Ramaswami the Sun salutation with mantra which includes the full prostration. Ramaswami lists each stage with the mantra in his book. I made a video of it to help me practice it and taught it myself last week in fact. Here's the link to the post and video

  10. sorry i wanted said 3 series or advanced i have great curiosity. thanks

  11. Satya listed the primary and middle series postures in the table and said that there are 56 more postures listed under 'proficient' I'm guessing these will be most of the Ashtanga Advanced A and B postures (later divided into series 3, 4, 5 + 6) Looking at David Willams Wall chart I'm counting 60-70 advanced postures depending on how you count the variations of postures but we should remember some of the familiar postures from primary and 2nd are missing from krishnamacharya's series. Either way, I'm expecting most of the Advanced series' plenty enough to keep us busy but quite a few short of the 8000 odd the old texts refer to : )

  12. ....and of course for every posture there are several vinyasa/variations. My argument is that Ashtanga just gives us a framework on which to develop our practice, a notion that seems to have been mislaid along the way.

  13. just for kicks I've been researching K.V. Iyer on the www and came across this site, with PDF versions of some of his books from the mid-thirties:

    "Perfect Physique" includes a section on Hatha Yoga.

  14. Apologies for the separate posts, but I think some of this info ties in nicely with the general discussion points. Here is the PDF version of the Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture, published in 1950. On page 512 of the PDF, the section on "Yog-asanas" begins: The way the introduction describes the practice sounds peculiarly like Krishnamacharya's method vinyasakrama...

    On another notes, unfortunately the section on "Jumpings" in the gymnastics section is missing.

  15. great links Anon, thank you for them was just looking at the Sandow book, wow, it's huge. Not sure about the asana section, there's no vinyasa or transitioning in or out of the postures, he seems to be quoting somebody else's approach but interesting all the same. On p 541 i think , there's a section on Dands though these are the jumping movements that Singleton argues became the jump throughs and back in Ashtanga. Will have to look at it more carefully when i have a little more time, thanks again.

  16. are the 84 asanas of Bishnu Gosh yogananda parahamsa brother was the one who combine bodybuilding with hatha yoga hatha yoga also developed for the foundation of his brother and also taught hatha yoga Swami Sivananda, one of Swami also taught kuvalananda and giving him a center scientist who developed the yoga bikram highlights are his disciples, Sengupta, budha Ghose, monotosh oops, kv iyer, ramesh belkesar

  17. Grimmly--

    Would you recommend purchasing KHYF's edition of Yoga Makaranda ( I'm trying to decide if it's worth it compared to the free version available online.

    Also, are you familiar with this book:



    1. Hi Nick I did a post a while back on the two editions here

      In that post there's a link to the dispute over Kausthub's plagiarised edition
      here's another link to that dispute

      That said the pictures are of better quality, quite beautiful actually, and the little sequence drawings at the back are a nice addition if your coming from Ashtanga, allowing you to visualise Krishnamacharya's descriptions more easily.

      Re the link to the viniyoga book. I saw a copy once and it looked useful though i think TKV Desikachar's Religiousness in yoga is my favourite book from the 'viniyoga' approach.
      I'm loath to contribute anything to Kausthub's purse following last year's allegations
      and would perhaps suggest a secondhand edition (ebay/) if you can find one

  18. Anthony--

    Thank you for the feedback. I thought it would be nice to have a hard copy of Yoga Makaranda and particularly the line drawings (like the ones you shared above) as a supplement to the text, but I think I'll wait for now and turn my attention to Kraftsow and Mohan's books as well as start working my way through your practice book as part of my daily routine.

    I'm really interested in classical sequencing, but it seems to me that yoga was (and should be) a largely individualized practice, hence few hard and fast rules.

    Perhaps you could do an eBook on Krishnamacharya one day...?



  19. I've also played with the idea of working through this monster of a text one day:



Creative Commons License
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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