Monday, 31 December 2012

Updated : Practicing Ashtanga as Vinyasa Krama, Vinyasa Krama as Ashtanga

from here http://www.pccfun.us/mantra-so-ham/

I mentioned in my last post that I was planning on practicing Ashtanga 2nd series all next year.

I was asked if that means I'm no longer practicing Vinyasa Krama.

Vinyasa Krama as a name for denoting that which is taught /presented/shared by Srivatsa Ramaswami is, as I understand it, an integrated yoga practice.

This I believe has been Ramaswami's goal/project all along, to show that Krishnamacharya taught more than just asana, or just an approach to asana.

Ramaswami taught us Asana in a particular way but also Pranayama, Pratyahara, Meditation. He recommended that before falling asleep we reflect on the yamaniyamas in relation to our day.

"The fledgling yogi may do well to revisit the yamaniyamas regularly, say at bedtime and/or first thing in the morning, to reign in the rather wayward mind . The new year may be a good time to give it a try". Ramaswami fb status update

He also taught chanting, study of the yoga sutras and encouraged study of other texts.

In my own practice, along with asana, I try to include all these elements, just as Ramaswami taught us and as Krishnamacharya taught him.

"So many beautiful asanas, such a variety of pranayamas, wholesome yamaniyamas, delightful shanmukhimudra, very fruitful antaranga sadhana (meditation), a solid considerate life changing philosophy--- there is something useful, uplifting for everyone in Yoga. Ask a friend/family member to start taking interest in Yoga in the new year.." Ramaswami fb status update

But perhaps the questioner is asking if I have stopped practicing the Vinyasa Krama approach to asana.

No, I don't think so.

On Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama TT course he taught us the sequences found in his book The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga. These sequences are made up in turn of smaller subroutines. Ramaswami recommended we practice those full sequences so as to learn the relationship of the postures. Once learnt we would then construct our daily practice from subroutines taken from the different sequences. Certain postures were considered key and should be ideally practiced everyday. paschimottanasana, shoulderstand and headstand for example. Our daily practice would most likely change depending on our needs, we might feel we need more backbends, focus on a particular subroutine or to include asana that affect an area of the body perhaps deemed neglected.

As well as the sequences of postures Ramaswami taught an approach to asana. The breathing was long and full, the movements following the breath would also be slow and deliberate. Counter postures would be included and as a rule there would be less jumping back and forth than in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga. The jump back or return to Samasthithi appears in Vinyasa krama but would tend to occur in between subroutines rather than between each posture. There was also a focus on bandhas of course, less so on drishti as the head is more often than not tilted slightly down, the gaze then is lowered the eyes often closed, the drishti is more internal perhaps.

Ramaswami also taught a course on Krishnamacharya where we studied line by line Kishnamacharya's texts and even practiced each asana we were able, following Krishnamacharya's descriptions in Yoga Makaranda.

In my Ashtanga practice my own breathing is as long, slow and full as in Ramaswami's teaching ( as also in Krishnamacharya early writing and also as suggested by Pattabhi Jois), the movements are slow, following the breath. I focus on bandhas, I include kumbhaka's (as outlined by Krishnamacharya in Yoga Makaranda), my gaze tends to be down depending on the asana.

So my approach to Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga sequences is, to my mind, very much in line with my Vinyasa Krama teaching.

But what of the sequences.

Ashtanga's 2nd series in Vinyasa krama terms includes a Bow sequences followed by a Meditative sequence. A Seated sequence follows an Asymmetric sequence, there is a logical progression, a krama from the leg behind the head in eka pada sirsasana through dwi pada sirsasana to yoga nidra that feels very much in keeping with Vinyasa krama ( I will often include Akarna Dhanurasana A and B) as a Vinyasa krama lead in to the leg behind head postures perhaps preceded by Janu sirsasana A and C in my 2nd series Ashtanga just as in Vinyasa krama.

I also tend to include vinyasa's in my shoulderstands and headstands in the finishing sequence, more in keeping with Vinyasa Krama than Ashtanga.

Ashtanga 2nd series IS, I believe, Vinyasa Krama, my approach to the series certainly feels that way.

After the asana I practice pranayama, pratyahara, Japa mantra meditation. I try to include some chanting and continue to study the shastras. I try to remember to reflect on the yamaniyamas in relation to my day before falling asleep.

I also have an extra evening practice where I includes a couple of Ramaswami's subroutines from the different sequences that I tend to otherwise neglect, before settling into a longer pranayama practice than in the mornings.

So I would argue that, as a whole, I continue to practice Vinyasa Krama in line with Ramaswami's teachings.

However I do employ Pattabhi Jois' 2nd series (which closely reflects the asana in the middle group in Krishnamacharya's yogasanagalu table) as a framework for my asana, not perhaps as strictly as in Jois Yoga, no doubt it's a little closer to Krishnamacharya's version in Yoga Makaranda and yogasangalu, but close enough.

But perhaps I still seek to have my cake and eat it.

I began my practice with Pattabhi Jois' presentation of Ashtanga, practising those sequences daily for two, three years. There is something about that approach to practice that I haven't given up on ( a particular kind of discipline perhaps). To do so would somehow seem to be a rejection of Krishnamacharya's approach inYoga Makaranda. I still want to believe that there is a consistency throughout Krishnamacharya's teaching, that it's possible to find the Vinyasa krama in Yoga Makaranda and Yoga makaranda in Vinyasa Krama.

For me that link is the breath, long, slow deep, full breathing the movements in and out of asana following the breath.

There are some still differences in approach approach of course. Ashtanga is more fixed than Vinyasa Krama ( although flexibility is I would argue inherent in Ashtanga, both Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois were able to adapt to the needs of the student, if somebody was injured for example, with their broad knowledge of asana possibilities). There are of course more jump backs but if we focus on the upward facing and downward facing dog rather than the actual 'jumping back and through' then this is pratkriya, conterpostures.

I think this year has been more about finding common ground than focusing on the distinctions, labels, finding the similarities for example between the asana table in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu and Nancy Gilgoff's 1974 Ashtanga syllabus, the focus on long full breathing in Krishnamacharya's early writing as well as in certain Pattabhi Jois' interviews at different periods of his teaching. The flexibility inherent in the asana practice, it's always been adaptable, fixed sequences whether in Ashtanga or Vinyasa krama strike me now as more pedagogical than dogmatic. Their are many options for practice available to us, brought out and developed by many of the students, from different periods, of Krishnamacharya and also of course Pattabhi Jois.

That said....

In jazz terms ashtanga seems to have a more forward driving rhythm than Vinyasa Krama

Ashtanga ._._._

Vinyasa krama _._._.

The jumping back and through seems to want to drive the practice forward, speed it up. Perhaps this is one reason why Ashtanga is so often practiced with a shorter breath than in Vinyasa krama, which feels more laid back in contrast, as if the practice is constantly seeking to slow the breath.

This tendency in Ashtanga to speed up and shorten the breath can be countered with use of a mantra, I use a long one on every inhalation and exhalation, It used to be the Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner

then I employed the Buddhist Loving Kindness mantra

May you be safe, may you be well, may be peaceful, may you be happy.

now I tend to go with a long slow SO-HAM mantra

A long slow SO on the inhalation

A long slow HAM on the exhalation

Sometimes I need to reset the length of the SO and the HAM by a couple of rounds of the jesus prayer or Loving Kindness mantra, especially after some of the postures where it's hard to keep the breath long and slow and full, EG. binds.

"A doting mother narrates different stories to her many children at different nights with the sole aim of putting them to sleep. People heading for the same city take different routes, different modes, different lengths of time to reach the same place. Likewise the veda mata (Mother Veda) explains the ultimate reality (Brahman) differently in different upanishads and upanishad vidyas to suit the different temperaments and capabilities of different aspirants-- Based on the explanation of Krishnamacharya to my query why there are so many upanishads" Ramaswami fb status update

Happy New Year.

UPDATE
I have it all wrong of course, rather than looking for the Vinyasa Krama in Ashtanga and the Ashtanga in Vinyasa Krama I should be looking at the Yoga Makaranda in Vinyasa Krama, the Vinyasa Krama in Yoga Makranda.

And that should be the side project, in the shorter asana practice in the evening before my longer pranayama session. Not my main practice.

Surrendering (up), letting go, I'm lousy at that, perhaps I should work on that as a New Years Resolution.

And first to be surrendered up, let go, should be my Ashtanga practice, I cling to it so.

It struck me (yet) again that I have responsibilities, duties, giri, obligation whatever we want to call it. For whatever reason I found my way to LA not Mysore and took Ramaswami for my teacher not Sharath or Tim or Lino or even Richard.

Ramaswami taught me, just as Krishnamacharya had taught him and that's the teaching I should be exploring further, deepening, embodying and passing on in turn.

Delving into those subroutines and sequences and their relationship to the other limbs

And there is such a richness there.

Still explore Krishnamacharya's other writings and practice of course, a Krishnamacharya course was part of my studies with Ramaswami. But I should be passing on what I learned, sharing that approach to asana and I do happen to believe that you should only teach what you practice.

If I want to Share Ramaswami's teaching more directly then that should be the main focus of my own practice of course not relegated to a couple of subroutines in the evening.

A year of 2nd series Ashtanga is a nice thought, even a trip to Mysore finally at the end of the year but what am I thinking, that ship has passed, let it go.

Chennai rather than Mysore

Surrender it up.

Perhaps it's not so hard.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

My year in posts


Nice thing about having a blog is that you get the chance use the posts as a way of looking back over the year. Annoyingly blogger won't let me invert the full list and allow me to start with January so I thought I'd pick out a couple of posts to highlight month by month.

I'd forgotten all about my first choice, interesting for me to read back through it, brought the dreams right back, could still see the images.

Two Mysore dreams.... or was that three UPDATED

It concerns a couple of dreams I had in January 2012 about visiting Mysore in January 2013, next month in fact. Funnily enough I ended up deciding, emphatically, that it wasn't for me ( bit embarrassed by the update now) but here I am this week musing again, this time about January 2014. No matter what, I seem to end up hanging my practice, at times quite loosely, on a pretty standard Ashtanga ...ish framework. I might explore lengthening the breath or developing the vinyasa krama's inherent in the sequences or build a more integrated practice around it perhaps but at the core there are still those same Yogasanagalu/Yoga mala Ashtanga postures, the focus on breath, fo linking the breath with the movement,  bandhas, a focused drishti. It seems to make sense to quietly visit Mysore one year or other, if the opportunity arises, and see what it holds for me.

My Current practice keeps getting updated in the post below. I need to add something on my plans for the new year to explore lengthening the breath throughout 2nd series in a similar way to how I've been approaching Primary over the last few months.

Developing a home practice parts 28, 29 and 30 (.....

Current Practice Original Ashtanga / Ashtanga / Vi...

I remember I thought  about giving up on the blog at the beginning of the year but decided against it.

Deleting a blog

It always seems to be the way but whenever I think about quitting blogging I end up posting more than ever, over three hundred posts again this year. In fact, the plan remained, for much of the year,  to call it a day once Satya finished the Yogasanagalu translation, thankfully the last chapter has been a while in coming as I've been enjoying blogging again recently..

Besides so often we seem to stop blogging just when it gets ...interesting, when the focus shifts from the asana to exploring around the asana or even new ways of perceiving, tyhinking about, asana. I'm not sure I can do that justice but do want to stick with it for a while and see what comes up.

The blog seemed to have served it's purpose. I'd originally wanted to record my practice as I began to work at new postures etc, catch the moment, perhaps on video, when I first nailed a particularly tricky posture or transition. I always figured that was something relatively unique (at the time anyway), a completely different perspective from showing or teaching a posture that your comfortable with ( there were plenty of videos of perfect postures and jump backs etc). I've thought about doing some new jump back posts but I won't be able to capture again what it was exactly that seemed, at the time anyway, to make the difference. When I jump back now I think lift and up I go. I can try and break down what I think I'm doing and that can be useful too but then there are lots of excellent teachers out there doing that who do it better than I ever could. Same with kapo, dropping back etc, I can give you a list of things that work for me now but I find it hard to remember (without looking back through the blog) what seemed to make the most difference at the time.

So a lot less videos of my practice this year, not a bad thing perhaps. I mentioned a posture to a friend recently, she wasn't familiar with the name I was using so googled it and ended up with an old video of mine, thrusting my hips up into the air in nothing but a pair of Nike pros's. Now that always seemed fine in the context of the blog, the Vinyasa krama sequences I was showing but out of context, winced a little.
----------------

Here's a run through then of some of my favourite posts of the year or at least those I think are perhaps most, if not important, then relevant. Of course at the beginning of every month there's also Ramaswami's newsletters which  are always rewarding to take another look at.

I'm glad I did continued with the blog because it was in January that Nancy Gilgoff generously shared the 1974 original Ashtanga Syllabus.

Dear Nancy... ' Yoga as it was" Nancy Gilgoff arti...

That led to a series of posts on The Rishi Sequence. David Williams supposedly asked Pattabhi Jois what came next after Advanced series and Guruji came back with the Rishi series, ten postures held for something like fifty breaths. Perhaps it was a joke but Manju Jois did say in a interview that his father would stay in postures for a long time.  Iyengar of course has extended stays in postures and just recently I've been reading some Prashant Iyengar where he explores the spiritual possibilities of asana, suggesting perhaps long stays. Either way I explored the idea in a series of posts, testing which asana of Primary and Intermediate a long stay of 25-50 breaths seemed possible and/or beneficial. the link below is to the series of posts that i keep at the top of the blog.

http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/ashtanga-rishi-seriesapproach.html

I also uploaded my Vinyasa Krama practice book to Amazon for the Kindle app. This was basically a stand alone companion to Ramaswami Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga. The idea was to give a more user friendly, quick reference, layout of the Vinyasa Krama sequences, as well as hints, tips and cautions for most of the asana and subroutines that I'd picked up through writing the blog. It was 'published' in a bit of a rush when I was off work sick and in serious need of revision, if not a complete rewrite. Still, I kind of have a soft spot for it. The practice sheets don't work so well on the original kindle but are kind of OK on the Kindle app for iPad or you PC/Mac. Come to think of it they probably work OK on the new kindle.

My Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book now on Kindle

I also submitted this before and after post to Elephant Journal

Hey NYT, my body was pretty much wrecked....

In February Satya Murthy and I began to translate Krishnamacharya's 1941 text Yogasanagalu. Well, not really I, it's Satya who has done all the hard work, I just post it. I believe most of the book is translated now. The asana descriptions are supposedly the same as in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda although less of them. Satya's currently working on the extra added chapter from the later editions.

Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

Thank you again to Satya for all the hard works. I think seeing the Asana table and how closely it resembles the Ashtanga series we know today was quite a revelation as well as the focus on the breath and a more integrated practice, especially with regards to pranayama .

The Confluence event in LA happened in February or March I forget which, but in March I transcribed much of Richard Freeman's backbending workshop from the confluence video. That had a powerful influence on my practice so much so  that I booked my first workshop ever, with Richard later in the year.

Richard Freeman AYC backbending workshop transcrib...

In April I ended up teaching my first Vinyasa Krama 'lessons' or rather sharing some of Ramaswami's teaching more directly

Taught my first Vinyasa Krama Class yesterday

By May Satya had reached Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu asana table in his ongoing translation but I also posted on the 1928 Suryanamaskara of Balasahib.

Balasahib's 'original' 1928 Suya Namaskar , sun sa...

In June I posted an article on Elephant journal, had completely forgotten about this one

Am I Missing Something Vital in My Lifelong Yoga Practice? The title coming from a line in one of Ramaswami's Newsletters.

My Article on Elephant

July I went alone to Santorinin to have a kind of solo workshop focusing on Krishnamacharya's presentation of asana in Yoga makaranda and Yogasanagalu. I'd also got my hands on his Salutations to the teacher and the Eternal one which AG Mohan later released as Yoga Makaranda (Part II). Plus I wanted to do a close reading of Aranya's commentary on the Yoga Sutras

Yoga on Santorini, 80 rounds Pranayama, Manduka's ...

Another post from that month that still seems significant for my practice is the one on effulgence below


August I ended up going green smoothie crazy. Unfortunately it turned out that Spinach wasn't good for me and I ended up with kidney Stones. The MRI also showed too that I had Osteoarthritis

Sun salutations for Osteoarthritis of the spine

September I took the Richard Freeman Intensive in London that I mentioned earlier. It continues to have a major influence on my practice and was yet another reminder that I didn't really want to, indeed had no reason to give up on Ashtanga altogether just because my practice, or at least the shifting focus of my practice, is less conventional.

Richard freeman five day intensive Day One

I also received Salutations from another source with no preconditions about not sharing it.

Salutations to the Teacher and the Eternal One - ...

As well as the 1930's article in the French medical journal with the Krishnamacharya heart stopping/slowing experiments and translated for us by Matthieu.

Krishnamacharya 'stopping' ( or at least slowing) ...

October
Has one of my favourite posts of the year on Yvonne Millerand practice with Krishnamacharya in the 60's, which included some wonderful pictures. The article was also translated for us by Matthieu.

Yvonne Millerand student of Krishnamacharya in the...

Also this on mantra meditation and bringing it into the asana practice. i started with the Jesus prayer, moved on to the Loving kindness mantra and am currently using a long slow soham. Soham is tricky to keep long so i have to keep slipping into one of the others to reset.

Dharana : Mantra Meditation is the new Black

Unfortunately October was also the month that news broke concerning Kausthub Desikachar abuse allegations that I still feel strongly I was correct to post on.

Kausthub Desikachar Allegations; Recognising the ...

In November AG Mohan released his original version of the Krishnamacharya Salutations document and called it Yoga Makaranda ( Part II)


I also have a soft spot for this post on One asana One perfect breath

One asana with one perfect breath.

And so to December
I quite like this post on the evolution and influences on my own practice

Evolution of, and influences on, a practice

This one on Short arm Jump backs too and for several reasons not least of which is that this blog started out in the first post with jump Backs, amusing to find me still posting on it five years later.

Jumping back in Ashtanga with short arms, Angela J...

and this one from Yesterday on a little book by Prashant Iyengar which I hope will have a strong  influence on my practice next year.

A peek into Prashant Iyengar's Chittavijana of Yog...

Other plans for next year.

I want to continue working on the long slow breathing Krishnamacharya and Jois referred to, in the context of my Ashtanga practice.Where I've been focusing on the long breath in Primary over the last couple of months, I'm thinking I want to explore it in the context of Intermediate series. I'm looking to practice a relatively standard 2nd series five days a week for the year as well as explore some of Prashant Iyengar's ideas in the context of Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama.

Continue developing my evening Vinyasa Krama, Pranayama and Meditation practice, looking forward too to Gregor Maehle upcoming Yoga Meditation book.

I've started following AG Mohan's online yoga Sutra's series, going sutra by sutra as it does it's a good opportunity to study together some of the important commentaries side by side.

Thinking too I should do some more Vinyasa Krama teaching, love the idea of a little church hall class, taking my evening Vinyasa Krama practice out of the home shala.

And who knows, perhaps Mysore next year. After a year of 2nd series it will be a joy perhaps to practice straight Primary again for a whole month.

So what about your year, any highlight's, important developments or shifting focus to your practice?

GUEST POSTS
I also posted a couple of guest posts this year, thank you for all concerned for sharing your posts/content with us here.
 Guest Post: Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (part...

 Guest post: Three attendees of Richard Freeman's r...

 Guest post: Comparison of Advanced series in 1974 ...

 Guest post: Notes from 2012 Ashtanga Mela at Kripal...

also

Virtual Transmission, Visceral Practice: the Cybershala... - A section from Kiri Miller's book Playing along


 Jumping back in Ashtanga with short arms, Angela J... - Not exactly a guest post but it was built around Angela Jamison's comment on an earlier post concerning jumping back with short arms.

 THE JAMES AND CLAUDIA KRIPALU WORKSHOP – THE DAILY... - Again, not exactly a guest post but I wanted to include it here.

So thank you for reading/visiting

Thank you too to everyone who commented this year

...or thought about it ( perhaps next time, please do even, indeed especially, if you disagree), please don't be put off by not having commented before or by thinking your perhaps too new to the practice.

....sorry about the 'I'm not a robot check',

NB. Posts older than two weeks get approved before appearing to reduce spam

...and to the spammers who make blog commenting more awkward, thanks but no thanks.

Here's the complete list of last years posts.

▼  2012 (308)



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A Reminder

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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