“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Ashtanga and the changing course of the Ganges

Ganges from here 

A fellow blogger ( I'll hold off on the link in case she wants to keep the post low key) just recently mentioned that she was no longer referring to herself as an Ashtangi and Leaving the Ashtangisphere.

This reminded me of the several times I considered something similar, changing my blog title to somehow reflect the changing focus of my practice.

Also because I know it irritates some who are concerned that it can be misleading and I don't really want to spoil their day.

Of course we probably use the term Ashtangi out of convenience, it's better than Yogi and less clumsy than saying each time...

" I practice an approach to yoga as presented by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois that became referred to as Ashtanga".

Although my practice is strongly influenced by Vinyasa krama...in fact I think of Ashtanga as a Vinyasa Krama of Ashtanga (???????)

But then Ashtanga is also the term generally used to denote the Classical yoga method as presented by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Ashtanga here meaning eight limbs.

When Jois Yoga came about part of me was hoping for a re branding of Ashtanga as Jois Yoga, then we could say that Jois Yoga is a style of Ashtanga yoga.

But only part of me as the whole concept of rebranding or branding in general is rather nauseating

In a recent post I wrote

"But I still think of myself as an Ashtangi"

or was it

"But I still think I'm practicing Ashtanga"

One or the other.

And it's true I think of my practice as somewhere within that Classical yoga tradition, as far as I understand it ( old use of tradition as Ancient intended here, not the more current usage that can suggest only a couple of generations), working at those limbs, the first five directly and dipping my toes in the sixth.

So I think of myself as a Classical Ashtangi? That sounds even more pompous.

"I have a yoga practice of a sorts and Yoga to me generally means Patanjali Ashtanga".

There...still clumsy?

"But I still think of myself as an Ashtangi...as practicing Ashtanga".

There it is Again.

But I do. I still think of myself as practicing Ashtanga....modern Ashtanga...in a Vinyasa Krama/Krishnamacharya Makaranda vein.

My Mysore is somewhere between the pages (and lines) of Yoga Makaranda

But there again we often part company.

I tend to think of Ashtnga, modern Ashtanga as taught by Krishnamacharya to, for Example, Pattabhi Jois who then taught it to Manju and others and then to the visitors to Mysore, Norman Allan, David William's, Nancy Gilgoff and so on and so  up to Sharath and then through Sharath to the current crop of young and not so young Ashtangi's.

Now some would want us to refer to Ashtanga perhaps as denoting how it is taught by Sharath currently in Mysore.

I prefer to think of it as a River metaphor. Krishnamacharya is up river somewhere. Further downstream we have all those names mentioned above who were taught and have appropriated their Ashtanga in slightly different ways ( see the Guruji book).

Corse of the Ganges ..which is constantly changing of course.
And it's a big river, Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda is in there, both parts 1 and 2. His Yogasangalu is in there and Jois' Yoga Mala. Perhaps Iyengar is in there and Prashant, and Ramaswami and Desikachar and Mohan and all their students.

And I'm swimming around in that river of Ashtanga, sometimes going against the current, sometimes allowing myself to float downstream or be tossed about into what other aspects of a river somebody more knowledgeable about rivers might think of to improve the metaphor.

OK. Clumsy post and I'm late for work..but does it strike a chord with anyone or can you make a better job of illuminating this?

Different river



Link to details of the movie
http://www.theister.com/reviews/review_timeoutes.html


All rivers are connected, Ganges,  Ister,  Thames

"Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth".
Conrad. Heart of Darkness

14 comments:

  1. I find the naming and looking for a title for the kind of practice we do quite difficult. Who cares? Who needs to know? I get fed up with people asking me 'what kind of yoga' do I practice. I've found that staying clear of that whole labelling dimension has been really helpful and freeing. I also feel slightly sceptical when I see / hear people identifying themselves as yogis. By what standard do we apply that term? Also, creating tribe names like ashtangis for those practicing jois ashtanga vinyasa, to me, just leads to further division and exclusivity. That might just be my issues coming out as a non-a.v practitioner and my perception of things from the outside.

    I think its a really interesting thing to think about, this notion of yoga identity. I wonder why we feel so drawn to giving titles and packaging things up in neat names? I guess I like the way yoga, to me, goes absolutely beyond categorization, and actually is beyond words.( although I've just written a load of them)

    Thanks for the blog, I've been reading for a few weeks and found it to be really interesting and thought provoking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Karen and yes I agree, interesting this idea of yogic identity and ironic too. Useful perhaps to have these labels in the beginning. I just picked up a yoga book in the library that happened to be Ashtanga. The approach appealed to me and it was useful to identify myself with that practice, narrow the gaze somewhat as I began to explore the practice. Later it seemed too narrow, a village, restricting, and yet now perhaps it seems to refer to a vast continent.
      Mixing my metaphors huh.

      I agree anon re just branding the asana portion although there's that aspect to pranayama now too ' Ashtanga Pranayama' (sigh) which obviously is the only true, official, correct, authentic pranayama. I go on about wanting Sharath to encourage pranayama more but perhaps i should be careful what I wish for. Still, it would be a place to begin, a straightforward set sequence of pranayama's that many would be comfortable trying.

      Delete
  2. Karen, you are spot on. Who cares about the branding, since we're really just branding the asana aspect of the practice. It's quite superficial and to me just a big hang-up. I have a hunch those who like to pronounce themselves as belonging to a particular camp are more interested in the identity (like a tattoo?) it brings them than the possibilities the practice opens them to. Yoga is quiet and internal. You can brand the inside of a body. Can you?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 50
    bāhya-ābhyantara-stambha-vṛttiḥ deṣa-kāla-saṃkhyābhiḥ paridṛṣṭaḥ dīrgha-sūkṣmaḥ |
    “The external, internal and suspension movements are seen to be long and subtle through place, time and number.”

    When working with the breath in Prāṇāyāma its perhaps less appealing initially, but ultimately more attractive, satisfactory and effective, to initiate and sustain a focus of Sūkṣma or Subtlety, supported by Dīrgha or Length, through a developmental Sādhana (Means to Accomplish) integrating:

    - How, for Ratios of the movements (vṛtti) of the exhale (bāhya), inhale (ābhyantara) and holds (stambha) ’to be seen’ (paridṛṣṭaḥ) as long (dīrgha) and subtle (sūkṣma), supporting components are required namely:
    - Place (deṣa) with competence in understanding and working with the primary Haṭha energetic focal points of Prāṇa, Apāna and Agni
    over
    - Time (kāla) in that better with Years rather than Months
    with
    - Number (saṃkhyā) in that better with More rather than Less

    the common denominator for successfully realising both Dīrgha or Length and Sūkṣma or Subtlety is the Breath. Its application (viniyoga) in Prāṇāyāma, skilfully integrating the energetic principles and physical practices within Haṭha Yoga into Breathing Ratios, over Longer Term Practice and Length of Sitting, in an appropriate Āsana, affirms his definition:

    “Haṭha Yoga is Prāṇāyāma.”
    - Śrī T Krishnamacharya .

    Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 47
    prayatna-śaithilya-ananta-samāpattibhyām |
    “Unity is from both relaxation of continued effort and the infinite.”

    When working with the breath in Āsana its perhaps less appealing initially, but ultimately more attractive, satisfactory and effective, to integrate a focus of Samāpatti (Unity) of Śaithilya (Relaxation of the breath) in Ananta (the Infinite), through a developmental Sādhana (Means to Accomplish) on Dīrgha or Length, supported by Sūkṣma or Subtlety.

    From Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 47 T Krishnamacharya taught that:
    - the common denominator for successfully uniting (samāpatti) both (bhyām) aspects of relaxation (śaithilya) and the infinite (ananta) within the practice of Āsana is the Breath. He saw it as the ‘continued effort’ (prayatna) synonymous with ’giving life’ (jīvana). The continued effort of the Breath is that which gives life.

    tkv krishnamachrya yogavalli





    ReplyDelete
  4. Remember, Krishnamacharya was around these days? MJ: I just met Krishnamacharya when I was seven or eight years old. He went down to Mysore to give a demonstration with his son and this is the first time I met him. GUY: Do you remember seeing his father practice yoga? MJ: Yes, yes. GUY: Can you describe what it was like to see his father practicing? MJ: Well, for us it was fun to see my father doing yoga, putting himself in all these positions. You know it was really amazing. I used to sometimes choose a position and would like to stay in that position for long. And that's how he used to practice. And so he began to tell us to do that. No need to make millions of positions, just trying to master one at a time then you can go to the next. I enjoyed seeing my father doing yoga. Sometimes we used to do together too:. Me and my sister and my father GUY: That's interesting. He teaches a lot of positions for people, but you will be advising how he was practicing. MJ: Well, yes. What he practiced was that he liked to dominate the thing, you see. So that's why he is always telling us: "Master, master it." You know, then you can go to the next. But we are like little children, we want to know more, you know what I mean? "Oh, I can do this? If I can do this I can skip this Or I can go to that?" Sometimes we do that, but at the same time always had an eye on us to return to finish what you know. So that's what he did. GUY: So basically started teaching with his father when he was twelve or thirteen years old. How long before you let go of India? MJ: Well, I went to India in 1975. But first, I have traveled to many places (by India). And I asked my friend (to come) and we would go to universities in different parts of India and give demonstrations and lectures on yoga.

    manju jois

    http://www.ashtangayogashala.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=137&Itemid=184

    ReplyDelete
  5. "After a few asanas Krishnamacharya asked me to do a headstand and stay there for 30 minutes and counting the breath. Remained in the classroom, watching the clock, Until the time is up. I was busy holding the balance of the account and the number of breaths. lowered my fingers one by one back in every breath, so when i used my 10 fingers, I knew I had done 10 breaths "

    Yvonne Millerand student of Krishnamacharya in the 1960's

    srivasta the asanas Supta ramaswmi

    "say 3 to 5 minutes. Further practice Should be Aimed at Reducing the number of breath for the same time duration .. for instance, one may take 20 breath to be in the posture later on it may be possible to Remain in the posture steady and comfortable (sthira and sukha) for 5 minutes 10 breath Perhaps this is only one method of Attaining perfection in Sidhi asana posture.
    which one can test for one self "


    when other students and all major asanas dominated sthira and sukha Krishnamacharya pedia (check Makaranda yoga and testiminos and students) as pachimotonasana trikonaana, mahamudra sarvangasana adhomukha mayuriasana mahamudra, utkatasaa sirshana maybe five minutes to thirty minutes remaining with a long breath with three bandhas parivriti, puraka rechaka and kumbakhas avriti drishti in the heart ananta

    I find it all very logical asanas no hurry. hurry and stressed live not.
    , after all we want to be healthier, longer lives at peace to study. meditate be wiser, more loving. being a good father, friend and child, husband not a monk's life away from society (as a branch in the ramayana a man motivated to live a perfect conduct of dharma branch was in the world as a man after all) as Krishnamacharya was in the world. and still live a perfect conduct dharma without being a monk and seek Liberation

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Anon for all these, just running off to work, look forward to reading through these again later

    ReplyDelete
  7. Replies
    1. I Like....but prefer i think
      Pantanjalistas

      Delete
  8. Grimmly - I think that most Ashtangis would call the Astanga part of your practice a variant of the "original Asthtanga yoga" (perhaps followed by: "as taught by Krishnamacharya and ..."). In workshops and classes today - even with certified and authorized teachers I've practiced with, the two expressions I hear the most are: "this is how they're teaching in Mysore today" verses "this is the way we used to do it" --- enough said. The Ashtanga community needs your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks YogiBill, always imagine a slight pause (for effect) when I read "...and this is how they're teaching in Mysore today". One of the great things about the Guruji book is that it showed how fluid the practice has been, the "little differences" as Vincent Vega might say. An , of course, today's Ashtanga police are tomorrows nostalgists. Love(d) the 'research' idea in AYRI.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah - now the KPJAYI ... no "R" - hmmm.

      Delete

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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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