Saturday, 16 June 2012

Sri T. Krishnamacharya / Sri K. Pattabhi.Jois, Similarities / Differences (?)

Similarities ?

Sri T. Krishnamacharya
Sri K. Pattabhi.Jois

Differences ?
*(broadly generalising) 

Sri T. Krishnamacharya
Flexible approach to asana
Primary, middle and proficient framework but no fixed sequence
Flexibility in the length and duration of breath dependent on asana
Kumbhaka (Breath retention)
Integrated practice of asana, pranayama and meditation

Salutations to the Teacher and the Eternal one (has anyone seen or have access to this text?)

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Fixed sequence
*Surya namaskara
Fixed series
Five breaths per asana except in finishing sequence
Inhalation and exhalation the same
Breathing with sound
Generally no Kumbhaka (breath retention)
Focus on asana only (at least until Advanced series)

Surya namaskara

*Although the pictures above show the same postures found in Surya namaskara, Krishnamacharya supposedly disapproved of their extensive use. In Yoga Makaranda he treats each stage of the Surya namaskar a as a distinct posture, many of which may be held for ten to fifteen minutes. Krishnamacharya also taught Suryanamaskara with mantra where each stage would be held on kumbhaka while the appropriate mantra was mentally chanted.

Classical/traditional/Modern. I'm taking classical/traditional to suggest an integrated practice that includes focus on the Yamas/Niyamas, Asana with ujayii and kumbhaka, pranayama and meditative practices in line with the ancient texts Eg. Yoga Upanishads, Yogayajnavalkyam etc. I take 'modern' to suggest an approach to practice that focuses mainly on asana . I recognise this as a position up for discussion and debate. 

When first developing my own practice, I doubt I would have found the classical approach as appealing as the more clearly defined modern one, though this changed after a couple of years of practice and I began to seek and lean towards a more classical, integrated approach.


  1. Doing a week with David Garrigues as I type this. Pranayama, with retentions; chanting; study of the sutras and readings from other texts; meditation; personal adjustments of individuals' practices (with stated warning that it is for that person only). He says this is how Guruji taught. Also noted, humorously, that looking at other people on the Internet is the best way to get impersonal/unindividualized yoga

  2. Oops. Left off the last word: information.

    Kind of interesting. It really comes alive when you hear some of this stuff from the senior teachers. Pretty thrilling.

  3. Nice to see both photos together at the same time: almost the "same body posture", so similar. the most funny difference is the resolution of the photo and the printer, K is better, or PJ should change the catridge.
    I love this old photos from these great masters. thanks

  4. I think Karen's comment is an invaluable addition to this post. i.e. It is an interesting comparison but photos, movies, books and hearsay will always run the risk of missing a very valid point:

    You find a teacher, that you relate to, and can put your faith in, and you work with him/her regularly, for a long period of time. The trust comes from what you know about that teacher. The learning comes from what that teacher knows about you.

  5. Hi Karen. I'd actually half written a note (along with the others included) about it depending on your teacher and when they studied with SKPJ. Then I tried to a 'Since the late 90's' underneath his name. Decided to leave it as it is and hoped it would come up in comments. I was thinking of David G. and Richard of course as well as other's who studied with Pattabhi Jois in the 70's-80's when it seemed to be closer to Krishnamacharya's, more classical, approach.

    Workshop with David sounds interesting (that's breath retention in pranayama only though right, as standard, not in some/many/most asana right? BIG difference from K's approach) .

    Does make me wonder though, what happens when all those who did study directly with Pattabhi Jois in the 70's-90's no longer teach (and despite their students, their approach marginalised), will the way it's been taught in the last ten to twenty years, and as I've outlined it, come to be the only way Ashtanga is taught.

    Will it cease to be a classical/traditional practice.

    Hi Oscar, there are some clearer pictures in the Surya namaskar a book and Yoga mala too but they tended to have text over the top of them. Want to do another post like this with some other postures.

    I think your right Steve but that depends on the teachers that are available and whether the approach Karen mentions is passed on to the next generation. Is Mysore, for example, currently set up to engender that.

    I would argue though that a major distinction/difference between Jois and Krishnamacharya is that the breath and the asana were not fixed in K. Kumbhaka (breath retention) was employed in the asana in a quite sophisticated way, sometimes after the inhalation, sometimes after the exhalation, each asana was approached or open to an approach as an individual asana rather than the set five breaths no retention we have now. There are arguments for that of course when first learning the sequence, I benefited from it, but what about after you have learned the basics. How does Sharath develop and encourage a more sophisticated approach to asana practice.

  6. The teacher I visit in AZ is was authorized in the past decade or so, and there are several friends who've been authorized in the past few years. All of them are clear about the personal style of the teaching as passed down from Guruji and Sharath. I think debate on the Internet tends to create/promote the black-and-white perspectives, in a way that doesn't happen when you actually deal with live teachers.

    David G has some interesting things to say about breath in asanas and vinyasas. Definitely not about a fixed prescription. I would go so far as to say that the heart of his message is about how a fixed prescription is antithetical to the practice.

  7. {Is Mysore, for example, currently set up to engender that?}

    Assuming that you're referring to personal adjustment of individual's practices, yes it is, very much so. Not only in India, but in any Mysore room. It's one of the fundamental purposes of the self-practice method, if not the only one.

  8. That's great to know, but can I just stroll into Mysore or any Ashtanga Shala and take as many breaths as I wish in a posture, include breath retention, full Vinyasa in places, add in or miss out asana, stay for fifteen minutes in an asana if I wish and then stay after my asana for 20 minutes of pranayama, include my pratyahara and sit for twenty minutes followed by some chanting just as i'm about to do now...on a Saturday.

    Ok I know I'm being provocative (and only half serious ) but it does say 'Mysore self-practice' on the tin.

    Of course I can't imagine walking into Krishnamacharya's room and saying hey TK you know what, think I'll just go ahead and practice this today".

    but good to know you think the 'tradition' is in safe hands.

    and your right of course about what you say re internet, so often black and white.

  9. but Steve aren't you talking about personal adjustment of an asana, I really have no interest in that. Shouldn't shalas bee encouraging the developing of a home practice rather than bringing everyone back morning after morning, year in tear out to be pulled a little deeper into mari D.

    I've done it agin haven't I really shouldn't write on such things, i don't go to a shala, has nothing to do with me. Although I'm reminded often of Krishnamacharya's fear that classical yoga will become lost again and replaced by feint echoes.

    go to go practice.

  10. (sorry about my english)

    i believe Grimmly is honestly and spontaneously involved on a scientific philological work on yoga.He is like an investigator trying to collect as many things he can to create a sort puzzle in wich sooner or later a new perspective on yoga will come out.I strongly believe that this method is scientific thus rational.this is what the world of yoga really needs.Blind faith and being credulous is the enemy of any learning process.instead a sharp fresh and emotion-free critical spirit destroy (hopefully) any false knowledge and myths,or at least contributes to formulate questions and doubts.doubts and questions are essential to any phylosophy.Comparing pictures and texts and experiencies is what we as practicioners should do.Thanks Grimmly carry on with your research i hope in the future to share with you my modest research on the psychological/psychopathological aspects of yoga based on my personal experience.


  11. Yes you can .... You can also pick up the football and run for home base, or sing a Led Zeppelin tune at the opera, but it may not sit comfortably with the majority present.(I'm half-joking too).

    I was referring to somewhat more subtle modifications, within the framework of the series, and I'm sure Karen was too. ;o)

    You'd need to demonstrate competence of each series progressively, before doing the advanced postures that you've posted though, so it may not float your boat.

    1. I wasn't talking about advanced asana, fun sometimes but i dont consider it important.

  12. Thank you Alessandro, not sure how scientific it is but it's reminding me how much i used to enjoy research, just playing at it here, very amateurish but starting to think I might like to take it more seriously and go about it better.

  13. But Steve . K didn't sing Zep songs at the opera but he did practice and teach the way i've described and the idea of tradition and lineage do get mentioned a lot with gives me pause.

    late for work, had to shorten practice, can't wait to get away.

  14. I´m agree with you Alessandro. I like Grymmly´s brave mind to try, enjoying and sharing all his healthy doubts, which in my case was forgotten 10 years ago because the well-renowned teachers on the specific system were in the possession of the "truth" that you have to follow and when the time it´ll be revealed to you.
    Since I was a child loved to face up to any stretching, sports, education, yoga or training fundamentals. Afterwards I studied Physical Education degree and the Scientifics methods of study movement... It was a funny approach for me to be in contact with me and the task deeply.
    So after giving renowned teachers all the knowledge about yoga with a passive behavior on the learning process, yoga as a self knowledge, self discovering, self... was almost lost. I say “almost” because always was something deeply inside that told to me: something is wrong with this…. Of course blindness is dangerous for the learning-discovering process. That is the most important lesson I´ve learned, grateful to this blog and chatting with Grymmly.
    I can be more agree or disagree with any opinion, but “truth” is a very big word for me to give it just to a person.
    From the PYS, “satya” is more correct as a value to follow, in that I believe. When months ago googling asana sequence I discovered unintentionally this blog. Watching thins attempting jumping through was so extremely honestly that my “ideal yoga” idea was roundly fall down, finally. And satya appears with its greatest splendor.
    I never expected internet as a guru, but it was: the one who brings you from darkness to light.

  15. thank you for that Oscar, I know you've practiced several styles and taught for many years so always feel you have a good perspective. M. says you still have beginners mind ( Zen thing).

    I think the internet can often be good for putting the information out there, dispelling some of the darkness, be nice if Yoga makaranda and eventually yogasanaglau were available on the AYRI site so that people could read about the lineage for themselves and have a broader perspective.

    Ashtanga is still a wonderful practice and in its current form ( it was just what i ended at the time I started ) but I do think that we need to remember that the Krishnamacharya tradition and lineage wasn't as narrow as it's currently presented.
    Pattabhi Jois seems to have wanted to communicate it closer to how how he received it but then took some decisions or fell into a more narrow approach when confronted with the rise in it's popularity.

    Sharath seems to be continuing that narrow approach but that doesn't mean it's the only approach or that it has to be taught/communicated that way. As Karen's comment suggests, it's possible to teach a broader practice more in line with the actual tradition, perhaps they need to trust us more. But it's still early days and who knows how things will develop over the next twenty years or so.

  16. As much as I like this blog, for the YouTube extracts that you search out, and the correspondence that you've had with those who are translating the Krishnamacharya works, I am very disturbed by you stating that Sharath's teaching in Mysore is "NARROW".

    Please clarify, unambiguously, exactly what you mean, and what evidence you have.

    To my mind, while you continue to post statements like that in the public arena, without ever having experienced it, you're dangerously delusional.

  17. Dangerously delusional?

    i think my meaning was pretty clear and unambiguous but here's karen's first comment again

    "Doing a week with David Garrigues as I type this. Pranayama, with retentions; chanting; study of the sutras and readings from other texts; meditation; personal adjustments of individuals' practices (with stated warning that it is for that person only). He says this is how Guruji taught".

    This reflects how Pattabhi Jois was able to teach in a room that held, what, twelve.

    I'd say that's broader than how he, or Sharath, was /is able to teach in a room that holds a hundred (in the current approach).

    That's what I mean by 'narrow' (although to be fair, Sharath is getting others in to teach some chanting and Sanskrit study, so clearly he's trying to 'broaden' the teaching.

    Nice fb update from Ramaswami this week on Krishnamacharya's teaching, ( the tradition, the lineage that gets mentioned so much).

    "Sri Krishnamacharya's teaching of asanas are adapted differently by his disciples, sometimes richly varied according to the needs of their students. But Sri Krishnamacharya also taught several other angas like Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana and other kramas like chikitsa. Additionally he also felt for himself and his students that one should, in addition to Yoga system, learn other orthodox systems of thought like Nyaya, Samkhya, Vedanta, Vaishnavism, Vedas, Chants and others. He was a phenomenal teacher, one could study with him all life. But we hear of Sri Krishnamacharya's teaching of asanas only, what about the other 80% of his teachings, very relevant and essential?"

  18. Beg to differ. WIth the exception of breath retentions, everything referred is taught in Mysore.

    Stop guessing, and especially stop nay-saying, go there, and you will see.

  19. Sharath was making personal adjustments to peoples' practices while I was there. Just as David did during his workshop. Just as every authorized/certified teacher I've ever been around does.

    David talked a little about changes to the tradition yesterday. Always a balance of trying to preserve the lineage and trying to be realistic about the individual. He pointed out that the lineage has to respect people, and that people have to respect the lineage. It flexes both ways.

    It's clear that you think the Jois line of the Krishnamacharya tradition is "losing" something. That's fine. But it definitely isn't inflexible or narrow.

    You decided to go off in another direction from Guruji/Sharath -- again, no problem. What gets people's goat, I think, is that you make sweeping pronouncements about a system you decided not to follow.

  20. I still practice ashtanga Karen, practiced it this morning as I have every morning for the last five years, i tended to do my vinyasa krama practice in the evening, an extra practice. I practiced Primary this morning, pretty much the same sequence as in yoga mala and quite close to as its approached there except for some breath retention and perhaps a few extra postures and of course pranayama, meditation etc.
    I don't think I'm disrespectful to Pattabhi Jois or to Sharath though I do question the direction their approach to practice took in th last ten to twenty years ( I'd always assumed it was Jrishnamacharya who changed direction, yogasanagalu and yogammakaranda suggest not). I've never suggested they've sold out or i believe had anything bad to say about them personally, hiw could I, but rather that they had to respond to the growing popularity and the large number of students. I think it's both fair and important to question lineage in the light of tradition. Perhaps there was another approach they could have taken and perhaps Sharath will in the future. Hem much large can the Shala get and how many more assistants would he want to assist him. Clearly he sees it as a problem which is know doubt why he's opened the Shala earlier.

    Questioning the tradition and the teachers is also part of the tradition as it is in the Buddhist tradition.

    If things were the same as when David were teaching I would have been in Mysore years ago.

    I'm sorry that my view gets your goat : )

  21. "know [sic] doubt why he's opened the Shala earlier"

    If you are talking about the Shala being open in May this year, you should know that this has often been the case in the past. I have been there in May in 2004 and 2005.

    Yes you have been disrespectful many times, and yes you make assertions about things you just don't know (like shala opening dates).

    As for whether you would have gone to Mysore if Guruji was still teaching the same way, or there were still only 12 students, or if you didn't have to look after your chinchilla...those sound to me like excuses.

  22. I don't mind questioning. But it's curious that you don't question Ramaswami, T. You seem to hold him up as an example of a purer interpretation of Krishnamacharya, and position Guruji and Sharath as straying from a path/past that you are...well, inventing.

  23. (sorry about my english)

    i think it's time to open a new topic mr Grimmly...i'm ready to discuss on the concept of LINEAGE.And i would like to discuss with people who believe they are "following" a particular heritage/tradition. It is not acceptable (if i understood correctly) that everytime someone is trying to have a more detached perspective on what's going on now in India, Mysore or elsewhere, people feels disturbed or hurt if the "gurus" are questioned or criticized.


  24. That should have read pretty much every morning, there were a couple of weeks here or there where I practiced Rocket for example .
    well it was either a month in Mysore or five weeks with Ramaswami, I chose the latter.
    Actually I have questioned Ramaswamin Karen. I was critical of a couple of things he wrote in the intro to his book and I've also question whether practicing such a wide range of asana is the best approach for working on something like Kapo say where perhaps you need to practice it everyday. I've also questioned his approach continually, how you go about turning vk into a daily practice when you have certain required postures, lengths of stay etc. you can do it of course but it takes practice and some experience. I do however have a profound respect and great fondness for him.

    I still don't feel I've ever been personally disrespectful of Pattabhi Jois or or of Sharath,(I've practiced with his DVD daily for several months, praised his economy and the subtlety of his practice)rather I've had a lot of good things to say about them both over the years. Unless you take my lack of interest in practicing in Mysore, as it is now, as dismissive or disrespectful but I put that down to personal preference.

    I assumed that Ramaswami's approach just reflect Krishnamacharya's later teaching but what I've found more and more recently is that krishnamacharya's teaching was actually quite consistent. I wouldnt say purer but I would say that it reflects more closely the writings of Krishnamacharya as I interpret them, some might Internet them differently perhaps.

    Does any of it matter, personally I think so, it's either a tradition or it's not. I find krishnamacharya's writing very much in line with the yoga Upanishads, yogayajnavalkya, HYP, ancient texts. Take away the asana element or just include the four or five pose K insists upon and you still have an ancient traditional practice, same with Ramaswami. But what happens if we take away the asana from modern Ashtanga, can we say the same.

    But that's just my view.

  25. Your probably right Alessandro, don't suppose this gets us anywhere and in the end all that matters is that we practice honestly and conscientiously...however we choose to do so.

    Need to start getting myself together for the trip/retreat on Tuesday morning so will be way from the blog for the next couple of weeks (unless any more yogasanagalu translation comes in).

    Comments will be on hold ( moderation) until I get back.

  26. Where this all gets us is a chance to look at ourselves, the patterns and beliefs that get stuck in our unconscious, and how they manifest: those who claim to practice 'yoga' could do well to look at themselves and see if they can see why they gets so defensive when someone questions 'their' system? On the other side of the coin we could ask why we need to know it all. 1 asana, or one mantra, can bring us to a state of yoga and make self realization, enlightenment, and liberation possible. Ultimately it is not how much you know or what you do on the mat or cushion that counts, it's the awareness you bring to every moment of your life, the virtue you carry in your heart.

  27. Oh dear Grimm
    you got yourself into a nice hole... if it can make you feel any better, I often have discussions with my teacher (I currently follow a KHYF training) because I ask comparative questions given that I also come from an astanga vinyasa background and have generally practiced (and got my initial teacher training) in vinyasa flow.
    Looks like comparisons are not really appreciated in the yoga world, which does not make much sense to me. But alas!!!
    To me one big difference (and granted,mI've never been to Mysore) given what ashtanga experience I have is the use of kumbhakas in the vinyasas, and also different breath ratios to emphasise the asana effects. Not sure whether in the Ramaswami tradition this is done, but it is in the Desikachar. As well as mantras and chanting while doing the vinyasas. So now we have a third element in our puzzle...



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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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