Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Vipassana Meditation and Yoga : Wild Yogi Interview with Richard Freeman

While I'm on a  Richard Freeman kick, here's an excerpt from an article for Wild Yogi. Interesting question asked about Vipassana Meditation (mindfulness meditation ) and yoga. This is a question relevant to my own practice as I first practiced Vipassana and then Yoga later to help me in my sitting.

Two years ago on  Ramaswami's course I was taught Japa ( Mantra) meditation. It can be argued that the idea/image/content behind the mantra is less important than being able to keep the mind focused on the mantra itself, as such any mantra or object of meditation can be used, Ekagrata Parinamah, one-pointedness is the goal. This was appealing as I tended to feel that Vipassana as mindfulness was becoming more ....psychologised, which is perhaps a little unfair, more a case of needing to separate out the different discourses on my part.

My favourite and own intro to Mindfulness meditation is/was by Gil Frondsal and I'd still recommend it.

So I explored Japa meditation for a year but missed aspects of my Vipassana practice (a broader awareness if that makes sense) so switched back again.

Currently I tend to include ten minutes Japa (mantra)  meditation as an exercise in one-pointedness following my asana and pranayama practice and try and include a regular Vipassana sit in the evening.

As it happens I tend to practice my shorter Japa/Mantra mediation after pranayama and following my Ashtanga practice and save my longer Vipassana/Mindfulness mediation for after a shorter pranayama and shorter Vinyasa Krama asana practice. This is because I'm hotter and sweatier after ashatang, who wants to sit for 20-40 minutes. You can see that some of my struggles with organising my practice outlined in this blog have been more a question of logistics, which combination at which time of day at which time of year (warmer colder weather).

I should add that Ramaswami taught us that asana gets rid of the Rajas (agitation), pranayama the tamas (lethargy) putting us in the most satvic, ideal state for meditation practice. This is why I like to practice meditation directly after pranayama and asana rather than before asana or at a separate time altogether.

Having my cake and eating it (made this one last night)
So many little notes I feel like adding to almost every line I've written above, exceptions, explanations, clarifications...

but anyway, here's the excerpt from the article...

Hatha Yoga Should Be Practiced as Raja Yoga

Interview with Richard Freeman

Excerpt (for full article click on title above)

'Kateryna: Many Western teachers start giving meditation of Vipasana, a Buddhist Meditation, while traditional Indian yoga has it’s of meditation techniques. What can be the reason, when we cannot align asana, pranayama, and meditation into one lineage? 

Richard: I think maybe it's fine. Because if you are going to practice meditation in Hindu lineage you are probably going to be chanting a specific mantra that goes around a Deity, in other words you have to believe in Deity, and you would have to go very deeply into that specific technique to get to deeper stages of meditation. In Buddhist tradition they are much more skilled in teaching meditation just for what it is, so it's much more in line with the way that Yoga Sutra teach this meditation. So, I think, the introduction of Buddhist meditation techniques into the basically Hindu yoga is cool. It's actually good, because I think it's like a revival or reawakening of Hindu or Indian philosophy through the Buddhist practices. I have a friend, who says that Buddhism is really Hinduism that has been simplified down so that it could be exported, so that anyone could do it because you become free, free of your religious believes. And from my experience Buddhists have practices that are really simple, very row, and it really helps. I am very grateful to my Buddhist teacher. So, if people really want to get into a deep and grounded meditation, probably the best thing for them is the Buddhist teacher, or someone that had been influenced by Indian or Hindu teachers and that have been through revivalism understanding of a Buddhist tradition.

Kateryna: Is it true only for the Western people, or is it good for any mentality?

Richard: It goes through all over. Basically Hatha yoga practices are Tantric practices and so the meditation on mantra is Tantric, because it makes you meditate on a specific sound or a specific form. And this is all well and good except for if you do not understand the greater context, the greater picture, it does not really get underneath your ego structure, it does not get to you to see the way, how your mind works. And so the basis of mindful practice and the basis of higher meditation described in Sutras allows you to watch your mind, how it constructs the thoughts, constructs problems. I think, where these two traditions meet each other that's where you get into this stage in fact. Just the same way a lot of Buddhists are very interested in Hatha yoga, because that's not a very developed part of their tradition or it is kind of a lost part of it. I think, in general, the Hindu tradition needs to bring those Buddhist brothers and sisters back. And the same thing with any two religious groups – if they communicate, they learn from each other; they all have weak sides, weak points'.

Interview: Kateryna Degtyar.

*For more on Richard freeman and his upcoming workshop in London see my post from yesterday


  1. Twice I had planned on going to the "Asana Pranayama Meditation Mudra" workshop of Ramaswami (last year was the lyme this year a Vancouver talk for james fell apart)... anyway for some reason I dont seem to get to it... and I feel maybe it is just fine as I feel it might confuse me...

    Goenka in the Vipassana tradition does talk, very rationally and in a very down to earth way, about how nothing is necessary, no pranayama no mantra no nothing, he is so down to earth it is refreshing and surprising.

    In the end it does come down to purifying the body enough so that we can fall apart from all crutches (props? hee hee) and just let go into the now, as it is.

    I liked the Freeman interview for this. Even though some Buddhist traditions have way too much ritual for my taste (Shambhala i.e.) I find the Vipassana system to be the least flowery, the more "to the point" so to speak... Anyways, going manifesto here...

  2. i like to meditate before asana practice, 'cause I have the least vrttis first thing in the morning. Asana practice tends to throw a few up ;-) Regardless the oder, though, asana and meditation does clear out a good bit of the thinkiness.

  3. Grimmly,

    I would like to thank you. I feel like I tend to lag a few years behind you with everything. Your blog helps.

    I've realized I really like ashtanga, there is something just really nice about it, but I also like VK. How does one combine these?

    I like japa meditation but doing japa meditation for an hour does not nearly have the same affect as Vipassana. How does one combine these?

    I have no idea what the answers are. Maybe, it's individualistic.

  4. I will be at Ramaswami's 3 day workshop in my local shala this weekend. Very curious about Japa meditation. I do sitting & pranayama before practice like Karen, and I find it warms me up and it quiets the room. Anyway, Ramaswami asked that everyone participating in this weekend's workshop read his April newsletter, so thanks Grimmly for posting. I think the workshop will be focused on those sutras pretty much. Do you think it would be appropriate to inquire about Japa & Mudra, even if it might not be part of the workshop itself?

  5. I don't think it would confuse you that much Claudia, it's really straight forward and seemed the most natural thing in the world in Ramaswami's context to add a little (or a lot) pranayama, pratyahara and meditation, they flow into each other nicely. Even when rushed for time, five minutes pranayama a couple of minutes pratyahara and another five minutes japa is refreshing and a nice end to an ashtanga practice, same as a fifteen minute savasana : )
    Hope you make it one day.

    I like how Richard writes about Buddhism and yoga in his book.

    Hi Karen.
    this is one of the things I wanted to add to this mornings post but had to run off to work. There seems a sense where the whole, asana to get rid of rajas, pranayama for tamas etc falls you say the morning is the best time for meditation because we're in a more satvic state perhaps anyway.
    i find though that when i meditate in the Morning and I have recently since the clocks went forward that I don't really feel like doing my asana practice , or at least ashtanga, more often than not if I meditate first I end up doing a Vinyasa krama practice afterwards.
    Manju said something about utpluthi, seems he doesn't do it at the end of practice because you've already calmed down by that point (yoga mudra/padmasana) so why do utpluthi and get agitated again..

  6. Hey chris.

    Yes, how indeed to combine or balance them, has taken me a couple of years, good luck with it. I'm feeling quite comfortable with them both at the moment, Richard's approach to Ashtanga feels a little closer to VK. I'm sure you'll find a way where they compliment each other.

    I know what you mean re Japa, I just do 108 and then switch to vipassana, I kind of see japa as a kind of maha mudra contemplation exercise. I'm interested in nada at the moment too, meditation on sound, another nice exercise.

  7. This weekend Serene! Please say hello to Ramaswami for me. Was so proud today, got home and M had practiced Vinyasa krama for an hour on her own, some tadasana, Bow, meditative, supine and then a sit, I must write to him and tell him.

    I'm not sure about mudra, might be a typo from Claudia, perhaps she meant mantra. Yes do ask him. Ramaswami is very much into an integrated practice, asana, pranayama, pratyahara and Japa(mantra) meditation and pretty much from the star ( no waiting 'till 3rd : ) In fact I think you'll probably be introduced to it in the workshop anyway. Have a nice time.

  8. Yes, ramaswami just posted this about your workshop I think
    I am scheduled to do a workshop on Asana,Pranayama, Mantras and Meditation betwen April 13 to 15h at The Yogashala in Ridgefield CT

  9. Sure will. Already had planned to brag that you are a cyber acquaintance of mine.



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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