Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga.

SLOW ASHTANGA : Pattabhi Jois talked in interviews, as well as when writing in Yoga Mala, that if we had less time we should practice less asana. In my own practice time is an issue. I prefer to breathe more slowly in the asana and vinyasas, lengthening my inhalation and exhalation, "slow like the pouring of oil" as Krishnamacharya puts it in Yoga Makaranda. I like to explore kumbhaka and the occasional extended stay, in Mudras especially. I also prefer to practice, much of the time, with my eyes closed, employing internal drishti at different vital focal points and I like to introduce vinyasas, extra preparatory asana on days when they feel appropriate as well as perhaps extending an asana into more challenging, 'proficient' forms on the more flexible days, in keeping perhaps with Krishnamacharya's, Primary, Middle and proficient groups of asana rather than Pattabhi Jois' fixed sequences. I like to practice Pranayama before and after my asana practice as well as finishing my practice with a 'meditative activity'. I was first introduced to Yoga through the Ashtanga sequences and I still maintain that general structure in my main practice but I would rather sacrifice half or more than half a sequence than these other factors and perhaps practice the asana ‘missed’ in the following days, I still consider this to be Ashtanga, Slow Ashtanga.

"When once a fair proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, the aspirant to dhyana has to regulate the time to be spent on each and choose the particular asanas and pranayama which will have the most effect in strengthening the higher organs and centres of perception and thus aid him in attaining dhyana". Krishnamacharya - Dhyana or meditation Yoga Makaranda part II

Friday, 18 May 2012

More on the 'original' Sun salutation of 1928

Obviously it's disingenouous to talk about the 'original' sun salutaion, Man has been prostrating himself to the sun, no doubt, since the first dawn of awareness. Pragmatically though, we know what we're talking about  right, tracing the sun salutation, the surya namaskara, that so many of us  include in our yoga practice, back to it's earliest sources.

So, in yesterday's post it was 1928 and the publication of The Ten Point Way to Health by Shrimant Balasahib Rajah of Aundh


The full booklet can be found at the links below, look out for counted vinyasa, drishti, focus on breath, long inhalations and exhalations, breath retention, bandhas and a use of mantras.

The ten point way to health published 1928 (in English in 1938) online reader

Or as a free to download pdf file below and over on the left of the blog along with the other free downloads

The Ten Point Way to Health by Shrimant Balasahib Rajah of Aundh pdf JM Dent Publishers.

I mentioned too in yesterdays post, page 43 where we find
"We give the fundamentals to the age-old method of performing Surya namaskaras, and the one followed by our revered father, the late Rajah of Aundh. For fifty-five years he did these surya namaskaras".

We get more specifics on this in Chapter X. Evolution of Surya Namaskara

" It was in 1909 that we first began to do Surya namaskaras in the old style. According to this the knees were not straightened while bending over, nor was the foot brought forward on a line with the palms, and it was not necessary to stand erect at the beginning of each namakara or to regulate the breathing in a way we have indicated".


Surely the old style here is describing an ancient protestration to the sun, the focus purely on the ritual rather than any health benefits.

1909 of course predates, by around fifteen years, Krishnamacharya passing through, on his way back to Mysore from the Himalayas, and any eliminates any thoughts of him having introd this practice to the Rajah but he may of course have been influenced himself in turn and come to incorporate the movements in his approach to asana. This of course is pure speculation.

And yet these seems to be a resistance to the stand alone Surya Namaskara's in Krishnamacharya's teaching. We don't find the Surya Namaskara in the Yoga Makaranda of 1934 and we know that the Maharaja of Mysore introduced a Surya namaskara class seperate from Krishnamacharya's asana class. This class was no doubt based on the model of that introduced by the Rajah of Aundh. Krishnamacharya did however teach the Surya Namaskara with mantra also mentioned in the Ten points to health booklet to Ramaswmai in the 1950's-80's. Perhaps Krishnamacharya was resistant to the idea of the Surya Namaskara being introduced purely as a form of exercise stripped of his spiritual aspect.

What we do find in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda however, are similar movements as in the Ten points to health Suryanamaskara booklet and with a similar focus on breath but employed to enter in and out of asana. Was this a concession to the Maharaja of Mysore or was this an element of the asana practice Krishnamacharya bought south with him 1924.

We do find Pattabhi Jois mentioning that he was drawn to Krishnamacharya jumping in and out of asana in the demonstration he came across in 1927, this surely is reference to the style of asana described in the Yoga Makaranda of 1934.
The Practice "sound familiar?"

I mentioned above to look out for counted vinyasa, drishti, focus on breath, long inhalations and exhalations, breath retention, bandhas and a use of mantras.

Now remember this is perhaps simplified for the English speaking readers but perhaps we can recognise some of the above...

Chapter IV Breath is life

" There are three full breaths_three full inhalations, three holdings of breath, and three complete exhalations" p38


"Rhythmic breathing is one of the secrets of the wonderful power of the exercises to revitalise the body" p38-39


Without the breathing Surya namaskar a would lose half or more of their virtue" p 39


" Now try holding the breath for a few seconds" p40


"When after anything from three to sixty or more seconds you exhale, do so completely, making an aspirate sound such as huh at the end to ensure that the last particle of used air has been breathed out..."
p40

Richard freeman has been mentioning this last little puff of air in everyone of his pranayama lectures this month on Sounds True

"The best tune for your rhythmic breathing is seven-time. Count seven for each breath, making the temp quick at first, and later lengthening it. Fill your lungs in two counts, hold the breath for four, and empty them in one. We do not suggest that you always breath in seven-time. If you do so for a total of thirty minutes a day, it will be enough to tune up the rest of your breathing". p41


"The east and the west differ in their manner of exhalation, though this is not a very important distinction. We personally advocate strongly exhalation as well as inhalation through the nose only" p42.

The count
Speaks for itself

Bandhas
Not made explicit but we find much like this below throughout...

"Raise the chest and pull the abdomen in as far as possible" p44

In bending try and touch the knees with the forehead or nose. Squeezing in the abdomen will help to attain this position" p47

Drishti

"Turn your eyes upwards towards your waist" p47

"Without bending the arms drop to the right knee and lift the head as high as you can, looking upwards" p49


Alignment

"Stand so that a plummet line dropped from the top of your head should go through the shoulder, hip , knee and ankle. This is a stance taught by the ancient Yogis of India" p 44

This too reminds me of richard freeman's use of the plummet line, did that come from his Iyengar background, i also found reference to smiling while in a posture , another Freemanism.















5 comments:

  1. Ramaswami briefly mentioned in his Esalen classes that Krishnamacharya was opposed to any activity that increased the heart rate i.e. caused one to place strain on the heart, and thus did not encourage practice of multiple rounds of suryanamaskara.

    I have boiled this down to the notion that Krishnamacharya keeping a close watch on the heart at all times. Increased heart rate means increased respiration rate means increase in thought/mind movements. If the heart rate increased, it was time for a short break. Slow the heart and slow the mind, with the end on meditation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's pretty much how I remember it too Anon but then that comes down to how fast you practice your Sury's. Can't help feeling there's something more to it

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting your comment that you can't help feeling there's something more to it. Without meaning to be offensive in any way, what more do you think there is to it? For me, for example, I'm beginning to see more and more that asana plays a very minor role. Aside from getting the body equilibrated, I don't think there's much need for vigorous asana practice, such as we have in Ashtanga. This is why I am so refreshed and reinvigorated by my study with Ramaswami, what with the deep internal aspects of yoga that prepare one for awakening and for death.

    ReplyDelete
  4. No, I meant something more to his reaction to the surya namaskara. i keep wondering if he was asked to teach that extra surya namaskara program or if they knew it was something he would be against so drafted somebody else in to so it. Did he see it as a perversion somehow, the purely exercise aspect to it and then what all that would say about how he saw his own approach to practice..... I don't know anon, i just get the feeling there's something important here or at least relvant. sorry, just thinking out loud in these posts.

    But again, the Surya namaskar a doesn't need to be vigourous Actually somebody mentioned recently that Sharath had been telling people to slow down in the vinyasas from one pose to the next, asking what's the hurry. thought that was interesting too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. thanks for the clarification. I like what you're saying>where you're taking it... will give it thought...

    ReplyDelete

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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

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