Wednesday, 29 February 2012

More 'Glimpses of Guruji' from the Sewell archive

'Recently unearthed footage from Tom Sewell's old Hi8 camera is being added to his current library of ashtanga videos shot on location all around the world featuring Sri K. Pattabhi Jois & his students. Guruji's teachings are being made accessible to you at:'

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Gita calling ?

Bit Freaky, just stepped into the home shala for evening practice and found a book, one book. lying on the floor. Wasn't there when I practiced this morning and we've been at work all day. I must have just caught it as I was putting my practice diary back on top of the shelf this morning, half knocked it out or something and it then dropped out sometime during the day (keep going back to the shelf and trying a reconstruction, weird very weird). And of all the books on the shelf which one was it....?

Not that I'm superstitious or believe in signs or anything.... but a little spooky all the same.... 'bout time I read it again anyway

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

'... Sanskrit chants I learnt from Sri Krishnamacharya and more' Ramaswami's chanting available on Sangeetha

Ramaswami linked to this music site on FB last week

'Between 1980 and 1995 I recorded for a recording company “Sangeetha” many Sanskrit chants I learnt from Sri Krishnamacharya and more. During my recent visit to Chennai I talked to H M Krishna a partner of the firm and he said that they were about to make available online about 18 of my titles—hope it works out.

A list of my programs is available, in the following site. Open the site and type Srivatsa Ramaswami in the search window for the complete list. You may click on individual titles for more info on each program. The total chant time of all the program may be about 30 hrs. I hope they will be able to organize the on line downloading soon'.
This is what you should see.

It's a wonderful site and there is the option of listening to a short sample of most of the recordings but where to start.

Ramaswami just passed on some suggestions

'If you like vedic chanting then Suryanamaskara, Taittiriya Upanishad, Mahanarayana Upanishad and vedic chanting contained in adityahridayam and indrakshi cds will be nice to hear. I would also prefer listening to Rudram chamakam from the cd that came originally with "CBVK" book. Then one may want to study the meaning and commentaries, especially the upanishads apart from making an attempt to chant oneself. More religiously oriented people in India like to listen to Vishnu sahasranama, Lalita sahasranama. Others whose ishta devata (favorite deity) may choose the other sahsranamas like Ganesa, Siva, Durga, Gayatri, Anjaneya etc.,and if you have the patience the ten hour long Sundara Kanda from th Ramayana. Since many have their own meter and rhythm some like to chant or listen to these non vedic or laukika chants'.

Ramaswami's first recording concerned the Yoga sutras

I was rereading Ramaswami's Yoga for the Three Stages of Life this afternoon. In the first chapter, where he writes about his yoga studies and in particular his relationship with Krishnamacharya, there are a couple of paragraphs about the period in which he made many of these recordings.

' I was able to record almost all the Vedic chanting I had learned from my guru (Sri Krishnamacharya) including the surynamaskara (together) with Varunapuja, which ran for ninety minutes and was one of the earliest, and the Aditya hrdayam from the Ramayana and the Svadhyaya prakarana.' p17

This one from the Ramayana 
Theres a nice webpage below which has the ADITYA HRUDAYAM ('Hymn to the Sun', which Sage Agsthya’s dictates to Lord Rama in the battle field) in full with translation so you can chant along.

Here for example is the section on the audio sample.

1. Tato yuddha pari srantam Samare Cintaya Sthitami
    Ravanam Cagrato drustva yuddhaya Samupasthitam ||

          Tato yuddha parisrantam = At that battle ground; Samare cintaya sthitam = with great worry engulfing in the battle; Ravanam cagrato drustva = Gazing at Ravana with Single minded attention; yuddhaya Samupasthitam = Having prepared to fight.

          Seeing Sri Rama Standing absorbed in thought at the battle field, exhausted by the fight and facing Ravana who was duly prepared for the war.

2. Daivataisca Samagamya drastu = mabhyagatoranam |
    Upagamyabra Vidrama magastyo bhagavanrsih ||

          Daiva taisca Samagamya = Came along with the Devas to witness the war; Drastu mabhyagatoranam = Seen Rama depressed; upagamyabra-vidrama = Met him alone; Agasthyo Bhagavan = The Cosmic Rsi Agasthya.

          The all knowing cosmic Sage Agastya who had come with Gods to witness the battle, approaching Sri Rama Singly spoke to him thus.

3. Rama Rama Mahabaho srunu guhyam Sanatanam |
    Yena Sarva Nareehnvatsa Samare Vijayisyasi ||

          Rama Rama Mahabaho = Addressing the elegant armed Rama; Srunu guhyam Sanatanam = Hear the most secret and ancient; Samare Vijaisyasi = Will win in the war.

          ‘O’ Rama, ‘O’ Mighty elegant armed Rama, listen to the eternal secret by which, ‘O’ my child, you shall conquer all your enemier on the battle field.

4. Aditya Hrudayam punyam Sarva satru Vinasanam |
    Jayavaham Japet Nityam Akshyayyam paramam sivam ||

          Aditya hrudayam punyam = The meditation of Sun in the heart highly beneficial; Sarva Satruvinasanam = Destroyer of all enemies, Jayavaham = Ensures Victory at all times; Japetnnityam = To the one who to be meditated always; Akshayam paramam sivam = The indestructible and bestows permanent happiness.

          It is Aditya hrudayam which is holy, destroyer of all enemies, bestower of victory, eternal and supremely blessed, and must be recited always.

This one has better sound quality and reminds me more of listening to Ramaswami chant to us on his TT course while we rested in Savasana ( I have a ten minute recording of of one of those savasana sessions that I listen to in savasana every morning).

'The Mahanarayana Upanishad, the last chapter of Yajur veda, containing the mantras recited daily, like sandhya, pranayama and so on..' p17

'I have also completed the recordings of the Sundara kandam , the fifth chapter of the Valmiki ramayana. This work which contains about three thousand verses (including the coronation of Rama in Yuddha Kandam ).'

'Svadhyaya, or chanting, is an important aspect of kriyayoga and astanga yoga of patanjali. In the course of my training (over 30 years), my guru spent perhaps as much time on chanting and theoretical studies (svadhyaya) as on the physical aspect of yoga' p18.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Translation of the Forward to Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

Yogasanagalu pdf

Thank you to Satya for the translation of the Forward to Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu below. The Forward was written by T. Singaravelu Mudaliar, Vince chancellor of Mysore University, 1944–1946.


Foreword (Summary)

Yogasana exercise system has been practiced by Hindus for thousands of years.  This practice is based on the scientific knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology.  In recent years, people of Europe and America are also beginning to understand its benefits.  In addition, the youth in these countries are incorporating yoga into their exercise regimen.

This yoga system does more than making the muscles strong and the body to become an efficient machine.  However,  far from this and much more spiritual,  yogis discovered that this system can be used to stimulate the dormant kundalini.  It is said that by elevating this secret kundalini, one can achieve god realization. That is, merging with the divine.  Yoga means the same thing - union. Union with what? Paramatma or Almighty; hence rishis used to practice yogasana.  However, that does not mean that the yoga sadhana is meant for rishis only.  People can also obtain strong body and mind to help in their respective material world objectives.

The currently popular exercise regimens definitely make the muscles big and strong.  However, they don’t pay attention to the spinal and abdominal muscles.  Dr. V.G. Reel who is a master of western medicine and yoga has said “ by doing these yogasana practice, abdominal muscles get stronger”.  Since we press and massage the inside of the abdomen, it helps to restore the abdominal organs and eliminates constipation.  It also reduces blood pressure, helps remove fat and other byproducts and restores normal body function.  In addition, yogis who practice yogasana along with pranayama also achieve long lives.
From this yogasana practice, digestive power will improve.  While we are young, our daily routine/activities provide enough exercise for the internal organs to keep us healthy.  However, during adult life, without sufficient exercise, abdominal muscles become loose, weak and fatty leading to diseases associated with gas and constipation.  Yoga practitioners claim that yogasanas have the ability to eliminate and prevent many of these diseases.

By the practice of pranayama which is part of the yoga tradition, inhalation and exhalation from the lungs will become more controlled.  The body will be supplied with essential oxygen while eliminating carbon dioxide and other impurities.

Yogasana practice provides great benefits not only to men, but also to women.
My humble request is that please don’t dismiss these claims without carefully practicing and testing on your own.  For those who are interested, I recommend reading Dr. Reel’s book “Yogic Asanas”.
After realizing the great benefits of yogasana and pranayama, in order to provide an opportunity for both students and teachers to learn yogasanas under the supervision of expert practitioners and wishing that it provides them both physical and mental stimulation, we are opening an Yoga school under the auspices of Mysore University.  I want to  say one more thing here.  No other form of body exercises provides the complete benefits that you get from yogasana practice.  Because this practice not only refines a person’s physical body but also prepares one for a complete spiritual reawakening and expansion, which is the ultimate reward.  Therefore, my humble request to all the youth is to start yoga practice and you will never regret this decision.  These yoga classes opened at the university have already become popular.  I’m already happy to hear from students who are benefiting from these classes.

T. Singaravelu Modaliyar

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

Yogasanagalu pdf

The Introduction (translation may be on it's way).

Notice that this is the fourth (expanded) edition and that it's written in the Kanada language which suggests Mysore. We also see above that it was published by Mysore university. 

When was Yogasanagalu first published? 

I'd always assumed that this was a later text and that there had been a shift in Krishnamacharya's teaching style from something more in keeping with Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga to Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama or Desikachar's Viniyoga. These scans of the Yogasanagalu had been sent to me while I was on Ramaswami's TT course and seemed to be exactly what I was learning from Ramaswami. How to square that with the Ashtanga style I had originally practiced, surely there had been a change of approach from when Krishnamcharya left the large group of kids at the Mysore palace to teach one-to-one in Chennai.

It appears that Yogasanagalu was actually first published in 1941, slap bang in the middle of Krishnamacharya's Mysore period, six years after his Yoga Makaranda and at the same time as he was teaching Indra Devi, Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.

There was no early/ late Krishnamacharya, and his teaching now appears quite consistent throughout his life, no Kehre (turn), no softening of the practice with age. 

Ashtanga doesn't represent Krishnamacharya's early style of teaching, it seems more a representation of how Krishnamacharya taught in a particular environment and in a particular set of circumstances i.e. the kids of the Mysore palace (and perhaps Pattabhi Jois' development or codification of that period as it seems he was asked to teach some of Krishnamacharya's classes). This would explain the 1938 movie, we see Iyengar doing an Ashtanga style demonstration (very out of keeping with the Iyengar yoga we're familiar with that he was developing in the 40's and 50's) and yet Krishnamacharya practicing in a more 'Vinyasa Krama' style.

*If anyone has a translation of the yogasanagalu or at least a summery I would love to see it, my email can be found in the ABOUT ME section of this blog.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A heads up: My NYT, 'Yoga wrecks your body' response on elephant journal UPDATE: William J Broad's 'The Science of yoga' reviews

Not really a blog post, I've gone cave yogi for a bit after all, but rather a note to say that my 'Hey NYT, my body was wrecked before yoga' blog post has been turned into an article on elephant journal, here's the link

Hey NYT, my body was wrecked before yoga on elephant

This was suggested to me after I put up the blog post a couple of weeks back and I felt strongly enough about it to send the post off to their editor to see if they wanted it (we'd talked last year about me submitting something but I never got around to sending anything in).

The original article, that this is kind of a response to was a provocative piece  How yoga can wreck your body in the New York Times magazine, no doubt designed to drum up interest in it's own Science correspondent William J. Broad's book “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards that was being published the following week. Plus of course a provocative piece sells copy. The UK press, no doubt noticing that the NYT article went viral, came up with their own provocative piece, this one from the Telegraph 'Green' yoga teachers could Kill. My response in elephant isn't denying the possibilities of injuries which are of course  possible in any physical activity, whether it's a sport, a martial art, dance and/or as a result of poor teaching or lack of common sense, we should always be seeking to minimise the risk and and at least balance that risk with the rewards, my article seeks rather to refocus on the positive and the transformative. There are of course some legitimate reviews of Broads book now doing the rounds, this one from the LA Times for example who put their finger on this particular issue '...But his chapter on bizarre injuries will get the most attention'.

Anyway, Tanya wrote back to say she liked the idea and the title but could I develop the post a little more, turn it into an article. I cut and pasted a few things from those old Developing a home practice series of posts and their assistant editor, Soumyajeet Chattaraj has done a nice job of pulling it into shape and making it readable, thank you Soumyajeet (added a nice Calvin and Hobbes cartoon too).

I'd actually thought about about asking them to return the article and forget about it after the editorial intrusion on the recent Kino article 'Let her fall...' which I thought undermined Kino's article somewhat. I'd made a comment, on that which they seemed to think was unfair criticism, a difference of opinion but certainly worthy of comment I thought, never mind, no disrespect to Tanya was intended (who seems a lovely person by the way, going by the mail I received recently in relation to my article).

I still think the following is kind of an important point so glad they've gone ahead and published it.

'The curious thing was that I had not really noticed that I had got so out of shape, so unhealthy; and find it quite shocking looking back at the old photos now…how could I not know?

...I see guys on the street my age, perhaps younger than me—I am not talking about the clinically obese, but regular guys who probably believe they are no less healthy than the next guy. I am sure they think they should cut back on the drinking a little, eat a little better, or walk the dog more often; but that is probably not going to do it.
There needs to be a government campaign—one of those awareness-raising ads—that says, “Hang on a minute, you do not just need to lose the odd couple of pounds, you need to rethink how you are living your life”, and it is important because people are dying from this.
For me it was yoga, for them it might be something else—but it needs to be something and it needs to be encouraged and supported.'

Anyway, you can read the whole thing  here

Hey NYT, my body was wrecked before yoga on elephant

me, I'm back off to the cave....honest.

Oh btw, my Vinyasa Yoga at Home Practice Book, I did one of Kindle's promotions yesterday, think it's still free until either midnight or midday tomorrow ETZ

UPDATE: A couple of reviews of William J. Broad's "The Science of Yoga" by Leslie Kaminoff and Mark Stephens from

Amazon preview

I haven't picked up a copy of this yet, no doubt I will sometime or other, the scaremongering that surrounds it has put me off a bit. 

Sure, injuries can happen in Yoga, practicing at home without a teacher we have to be extra careful and rely on a great deal of common sense. Often that's not a bad thing as we put our trust in ourselves and our own body awareness rather than putting our trust completely in a teacher. As a Repairer I see a lot of dodgy Chinese saxophones brought in for repair, the customer tells me '...but I thought it would be OK, came from a proper music shop not ebay'. How do you tell a good teacher from one who's just done the cheapest 200hr Yoga Alliance Cert around. How do we know that somebody authorised after their fourth or fifth trip to Mysore say, is a safe pair of hands, have they served an apprenticeship assisting under the guidance of another more experienced teacher or merely been assisted themselves for a number of years, surely not the same thing? Even after a lot of research and finding the best teacher we can it's surely still important to listen to your own body and put that first, another reason I've tended to be suspicious of the 'Surrender to your teacher' mantra. 

I should add that though I consider My own teacher training with Ramaswami one of the best introductions to yoga and developing an integrated practice around and yet the the anatomy section of the course was minimal and there was almost nothing on the dangers and risks of asana. That said, there was almost no hands on adjusting (in keeping with Krishnamacharya's own teaching), no pulling one into postures. The instruction was to try something if it felt comfortable and when passing on the teaching to choose asana and subroutines that best suited the student. The subroutines themselves work from the simple to the more challenging, in a sense they are self teaching, you start with the simple variations of an asana within the subroutine and work up to the asana proper and then perhaps more challenging variations, also one tends to work into an asana, going in a little deeper on each breath and as far as is comfortable. This aspect of practicing safely at home is something I've tried to bring out in my own Vinyasa Yoga at Home practice book, I've added notes of caution, suggested prepratory variations but there's always the feeling that one could do more, where does one draw the line.

So, until I get to review it myself here are a couple of interesting ones from Amazon.

Leslie Kaminoff (Great Barrington, MA USA)
In spite of the fact that I have some highly critical things to say about this book, I am recommending that every yoga student, yoga teacher and teacher of yoga teachers read "The Science of Yoga." The issues that Mr. Broad raises are too important to be ignored, and need to be openly and objectively discussed by anyone who cares about truth, clarity and safety.

When he's at his best, Broad does a great service to our field by throughly investigating the history of yoga research and reporting on the actual science that's available to either support or refute many of the claims that are commonly made about yoga's promises. Several of the myths that he exposes are ones that I have been trying to debunk for years. He also does a great job of documenting the evidence of yoga's benefits - for health, creativity and mental balance.

When he's at his worst, he's attempting to make his book more colorful by spinning speculative yarns about the personalities of his cast of characters. Most of them are long dead and cannot dispute Broad's assertions about their motivations, ambitions and ethics. However, some of his subjects are very much alive and I know for a fact that at least one of them takes extreme exception to the manner in which he was portrayed (full disclosure: I am referring to a good friend of mine).

Broad also loses his objectivity when, in chapter 4, he launches into the controversial issue of yoga injuries. I am the last person to deny that asana injuries happen quite regularly, as a significant part of my practice consists of helping practitioners who have sustained them. Nevertheless, the truly scary picture painted in this chapter is not based on any science that would pass Broad's own muster if he was reviewing it in the first 3 chapters of his book. He can cite no serious scientific studies done regarding the actual cause and frequency of severe injuries (stroke, pneumothorax, paralysis, etc.) because there are none. Instead, Broad reports on a handful of case studies dating back to the 70's, and some surveys of emergency room statistics. He then extrapolates from those numbers to conclude there must be a minimum of 300 strokes caused by yoga asanas per year. Any indication of how common these injuries are in the non-yoga practicing population? No. Any context for where asana practice ranks in relation to other "risky" activities (it's safer than golf)? No. Any mention of the fundamental logical rule that correlation is not causation? No. Is this good science? Hell no.

What becomes clear in his epilogue is that Mr. Broad is a man with an agenda. He wants yoga to gain more credibility and acceptance in mainstream health care delivery by medicalizing its educational standards and subjecting itself to governmental regulation (something I've been fighting against for the past 3 decades). This explains why he needed to build the case for yoga's riskiness, and why he felt compelled to unfairly and inaccurately portray the International Association of Yoga Therapists as a non-credible group with shady origins whose main agenda is to provide its members with "phony credentials." He even absurdly proposes the formation of a "Yoga Education Society" whose mission would be to collect information about yoga and disseminate it to the public - the exact same mission the IAYT has been splendidly fulfilling since its founding. Shameful.

Broad's misplaced faith in his own agenda, the medical model and in governmental controls has blinded him to the fact that much of yoga's popularity as a healing modality is precisely because we are an alternative to all that. We are not medical practitioners nor should we aspire to be. We are educators and should fight to remain so.

Nobody asked Mr. Broad to push for the medicalization, accreditation or licensing of yoga. He took it on himself to make a case for it, and its up to us as yoga professionals to show him that he's wrong by continuing to raise the standards of our educational programs, and by keeping our profession free from coercive forces of any kind. That is why I say it's important you read this book and then let your voice be heard.

Mark Stephens (Santa Cruz, California)
The Science of Yoga offers considerable original insights into the risks and rewards of doing yoga, yet it is also profoundly unbalanced and selective in reporting on various instances of injury. It's also not at all surprising that only one of one his seven advance reviewers whose comments appear above, David Gordon White, has any claim to yoga expertise - and White is an insightful philosopher and historian of religion, not a yoga teacher or yoga posture expert.

Broad betrays a very limited reading of the classics, such as claiming that the legendary B.K.S. Iyengar never addresses risks in yoga poses, and confused knowledge of basic things like functional anatomy (as when he confuses hyperextension with hyper-flexion is his discussion of shoulder stand and cobra pose). So we can reasonably approach this book aware that we are being given a limited perspective buoyed by bombastic assertions certain to stoke controversy but not shed much helpful light on teaching and practicing yoga.

Broad's idea that "yoga can wreck your body" reifies yoga - makes it into a thing that is given the power to affect other things (say, your body). But yoga is not a thing. Rather, yoga is a world of practices that one can do; you do yoga, yoga does not do you. Once one gets this basic idea, then it's a simple step to realize that how one does yoga along with what sort of yoga one does will have different effects. If you skip over the first couple hundred pages of Iyengar's Light on Yoga (as Broad apparently did) to the few pages on shoulder stand, look at the pictures, read the brief instructions, then attempt to do it without all the preparation discussed in the previous two-hundred pages, then you're likely to end up like some in Broad's book who feel that yoga is hurting them. Forget for a moment, as Broad seemingly has, that Light on Yoga was written 50 years ago and that Iyengar has published extensively since then and given more nuanced guidance around things like how to reduce hyper-flexion of the cervical spine. That's not exactly responsible scholarship.

There is no question that many students (and teachers) are getting injured doing yoga, and Broad marshals some credible evidence to establish this fact. And he is right that yoga teachers need better training and ongoing support. Unfortunately, this book does little to inform the ongoing conversation about teaching, practicing, regulation and related issues.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mantra Pranayama -Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami February 2012

Visit this blogs Pranayama page above for pranayama practice sheets, translations, Ramaswami's mp3 mantra tutorial, my pranyama videos and now also the newsletter below.

February 2012 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami---Mantra Pranayama
After a four month stay in Chennai, India I am planning to come to USA
by middle of February. Thanks to the good efforts of Roxana Letechipia
who attended my last Teacher Training Program at LMU, Los Angeles, I
will be teaching three programs in Mexico City during the last week of
February. There will be two weekend workshops and a week long
certificate program, “Core Vinyasa Krama Yoga”. My next newsletter may
have a few Spanish words.

Considerable amount of literature is now available on Pranayama (from
ancient and contemporary yogis), an important anga of Yoga, even
though a smaller and smaller number of Hatha yogis do a smaller and
smaller number of pranayamas. In fact according to Brahmananda who
wrote an important commentary of Hathayogapradeepika, Hatha yoga is
indeed Pranayama. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras succinctly gives the
parameters of pranayama along with the benefits. Hathayoga pradeepika
and several other hatha yohga texts talk about a variety of pranayamas
with different ratios in considerable detail and as I said enough
literature is available on pranayama. However since it is also the
anga prior to the antaranga or meditation, parts of yoga pranayama has
been used to prepare oneself for meditation. If in pranayama you can
introduce some noble thoughts for meditation like an uplifting mantra,
bhava thought or an image such pranayamas are called sagarbha
pranayama or pranayama pregnant with lofty ideas. Sri Krishnamacharya
in his “Nathamini's Yoga Rahasya” says that sagarbha pranayama is
several times more beneficial; more than the mechanical pranayama done
generally by hatha yogis.

Sagarbha pranayama done with pranayama mantra from the vedas, which
also includes the potent gayatri as a part of it, has been in vogue
since the vedic times. Sri Krishnamacharya in his yoga work
“Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya” gives a number of instructions for doing
pranayama towards the end of the first chapter. He commends the use of
Pranava and the pranayama mantra with gayatri while doing pranayama
practice. Usually pranava (OM), the most potent mantra and the mother
of all mantras, as a stand alone mantra is used by renunciates like
consummate yogis and advaitins. And the gayatri impregnated vedic
pranayama mantra is used by householders and others in all pranayama.
In fact Manu in his famous Manusmriti says that the pranayama mantra
which consists of prnava, the seven vyahritis, the gayatri and the
head or siras portion should be recited while holding the breath in
Kumbhaka three times to be called as pranayama. Sri Krishnamacharya
also emphasizes the need to meditate on the meaning of the mantras
like the suggestion of Patanjali in YS.

Most people who do ritualistic pranayama in India use the pranayama
mantra referred to earlier. Manusmiti says as follows

“sa vyahritim sa pranavaam
gayatriim sirasa saha
trifpateth ayataf pranah
pranayamassa uchyate

Here is the translation“Pranayama is that in which the seven vyahritis
(bhuh bhuvaha...) each preceded by pranava (OM) then the gayatri, then
the siris are (silently) recited.”

It should be chanted (silently) while holding the breath (kumbhaka).
When it is done three times it is called panayama. The pranayama
mantra is 64 syllables and takes about 20 seconds to chant, more or
less. The verse quoted above says three times and some interpret it as
chanting the mantra three times while holding the breath, but
generally it is chanted once and three such pranayamas will make one
bundle of pranayama. If you try to do the chant thrice in one go it
would taken a minute and holding the breath for one minute could be a
real challenge to most and so most people stick to the earlier

What about the duration for inhalation and exhalation? Sri
Krishnamacharya says in Yoga Rahasya that it should be vishamavritti
indicating that the time duration for inhalation exhalation and breath
holding would vary. So many go by the 1:4:2 ratio.

One may inhale for 5 seconds then chant the mantra during internal
holding for 20 seconds and then exhale for 10 seconds. The breath
holding after exhalation is considered a hathayoga practice and many
orthodox people who do pranayama as part of the Puja or Japa ritual
dispense with bahya kumbhaka and the bandhas. The quickie pranayama is
three times but it is recommended that on should do 10 times the
samantra pranayama.  (Contrast this with the hathayoga approach of
going up to 80 times mantraless pranayama).

Since children sometimes as young as 5 were initiated into vedic
studies, it becomes obligatory for them to do sandhya and hence mantra
pranayama and silent gayatri chant. But then because they are young
they may not be taught to do calibrated pranayama. Usually in course
of time they would learn to do long inhalation and exhalation say in
nadishodhana. Later they will be taught the whole vishamavritti
pranayama as explained earlier.

So the mantra is chanted silently in pranayama. But most people just
chant the mantra without the pranayama--they may merely touch the nose
but not do the pranayama. So we have one set of people who do
pranayama without mantras as most hatha yogis do and another group
especially in India who chant the mantra faithfully but do not do the
prnayama at all and thus both lose out. It even led the much revered
previous Sankaracharya of Kanchi to remark that if only Indians would
hold the breath (kumbhaka) rather than just touch/hold the nose they
would all become great yogis and spiritual persons.

My Guru also said that when doing any mantra in japa, in pranayama or
meditation, one should think of the meaning or import of the mantra.
That makes it lot more powerful and meaningful. What does this mantra
signify, many times we get initiated into a mantra routine without
knowing what it means. All yogis know that Patanjali insists on
contemplating on the meaning of pranava when doing pranava japa to get
the grace of Iswara.

Om Bhuh, om bhuvah, om suvah, om mahah, om janah, om tapah, om
satyam; then the gayatri and then the siras which runs like this, ”om
apah jyoti rasah amrtam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom” is the pranayama
mantra. This mantra appears in Mahanarayana Upanishad, the last
chapter of Yajur veda. This upanishad also contains several beautiful
mantras used on a daily basis like the offering to the five pranas
(before taking food), meditating within the heart etc. I got the whole
chapter (about 45 minutes of continuous chanting) recorded some 25
years back by “Sangeetha” and I believe it is available in some stores
in Chennai, India. You may learn the pranayama mantra—visit my website and click on the “Learn Pranayama Mantra
chant” tab.

So what is the meaning of this wonderful pranayama mantra? Again there
are different interpretations. The conventional meaning for the seven
vyahritis is seven different worlds starting with the world we live in
to six other higher worlds. But the word loka is interpreted in a more
esoteric sense by a few scholars. They say that the words loka and
look are derived from the same root . And the seven lokas are the
seven perceptions of the ultimate reality which is Brahman the pure
non changing consciousness.

So this approach which gels with the advaita philosophy would be as
follows: According to the Upanishads, Brahman in its pristine state is
alone and there was no time or space (aksha and avakasha) in
contention. The Brahman once thought that it should become many
(bahusyam praja yeyeti). Then in the next stage It deeply contemplated
as to how it should create the universe and make many microcosmic
individual consciousness. This state was known as the stage of tapas
of the Brahman (sa tapo tapyata). Then after deep contemplation and
planning It created the entire Universe (idam sarvam asrujata). After
this creation the Brahman entered and permeated the entire Universe
(tat eva anupravisat) and every being as the individual Self.

The seven vyahrutis are considered as representing the seven states of
the same consciousness four at the microcosmic level and three at the
cosmic level. So when doing pranayama during breath holding
internally, one would say 'om bhuh', contemplate on the consciousness,
represented by pranava or 'om during the waking state. Then as the
second vyahriti 'om bhuvah ' is recited, one would think of the same
consciousness being aware of the individual dream state.

'om suvah” would refer to the same consciousness witnessing the deep
sleep stage. Om mahah, the fourth vyahriti is the consciousness beyond
the three earlier mentioned known amongst the vedantins as the fourth
state of the mind (turiya) or the yogi's kaivalya state. The same
consciousness now is identified with the Brahmana that created the
Universe (Om Janah). Then the next mantra, the sixth “Om tapah” would
represent the Brahman as one deeply contemplating and finally the
pristine state of consciousness “Om satyam” the one and only Brahaman.
With this the abhyasi is able to identify and meditate upon the same
one Brahaman as seen in different states. The theory that there is
only one consciousness that exists both at the cosmic and at the
microcosmic level is the bedrock of the advaita (No two
conciousnesses) viewpoint. So an advaitin while doing pranayama is
able to reinforce the advaitic conviction.

Then the second part of the pranayama mantra is the gayatri mantra. It
again refers to the ultimate reality as the inner light. Just as the
sun with its lustrous orb lights the entire world, the Brahman/Self
lights the entire chitta or the internal world of the meditator, so
that the chitta vrittis are experienced or 'seen' in the mind's eye .

The last portion known as the siras or the head, is an encomium to the
ultimate Brahman. It refers to It as OM., pure consciousness, the
universal light, the essence of the entire Universe, immortal
(unchanging), the source of the universe, and is known to the
individual as the inner Self during the three states of waking, dream
and deep sleep.

This meaning of the pranayama mantra is vividly brought to the mind as
the pranayama mantra is recited silently during antah kumbhaka. Then
it is known as samantraka or sagarbha pranayama. According to Manu
this samantra pranayama is the greatest Tapas/meditation.

It is said that those who are well versed in the chakras are able to
identify the seven vyahritis with the seven chakras in the body using
the respective bijakshara or seed mantras. Some make an effort   to
visualize the cosmic Brahman  in the seven chakras in the microcosm

There are other types of mantras used. For instance saivaites tend to
chant the siva mantras as they hold the breath as mentioned in the
Tamil Saiva classic “Tirumandiram”. The mantra “sivasiva” of four
syllables is chanted 16 times during one breath hold corresponding to
64 syllables as in the pranayama mantra referred to earlier.

Here is a pranayama for renunciates:

While doing puraka or inhalation the thought would be that the entire
universe is ultimately drawn into the Brahman. Then while in
antahkumbhaka the contemplation would be that the outside Universe and
I are no different from the Brahman. Then while exhaling the ego “I'
with the entire Universe is discarded as nothing but an illusion, not
real, not significant. And in bahya kumbhaka one would contemplate
that pure Brahman alone is real, It alone exists.

Those who believe in the reality of world and the trinity (Brahma,
Vishnu and Siva), would use pranayama to reinforce their faith.

Inhaling through the left nostril one should think of the four faced
Brahma the creator aspect of the trinity and of blood red hue (rajas
guna) while chanting Om 16 times. Then closing both the nostrils  and
holding the breath in  kumbhaka one should think of the white colored
(satva guna) Hari, the protector/sustainer chanting pranava 64 times.
Then while exhaling through the right nostril one should meditate on
Siva of dark color (tamo guna) chanting pranava 32 times. Then one
should start inhaling through the right nostril for 16 matras chanting
pranava 16 times and continue the pranayama for a predetermined number
of times with both mantra and bhava.

Different smritis and very old yoga texts refer to a variety of
pranayamas with and without mantras. Almost all the puranas have a
section on yoga which describe different asanas and pranayamas. (I
think with all this evidence one may say with some conviction that
Yoga is more than 100 years old). For more information on pranayama
you may consider referring to my book “Yoga for the Three Stages of
Life” pages 189 to 211.

Sri Krsishnamacharya's Yoga teachings were unique and very rich. In
Vinyasakrama asana practice, breath synchronization with slow
movements is an essential element. One would start the movement with
the beginning of inhalation or exhalation and complete the movement
with the completion of that breathing phase. The time taken in actual
practice may be between 5 to 10 or 12 seconds depending on one's
capacity and control. If it goes below 5 seconds one would stop the
practice and rest to regain the vinyasa krama acceptable breath. My
Guru, Sri T Krishnamacharya would say 'breathe with hissing sound' (a
la cobra, refer to ananta samapatti in YS) or 'with a mild rubbing
sensation in the throat'.

In this way, with long deep inhalation and exhalation, the intercostal
muscles are stretched and toned up and by the time pranayama is
started the accessory muscles of breathing are well exercised so that
one has a well oiled breathing apparatus for a very productive
pranayama practice. And while doing pranayam introduction of mantras
and bhavas helps to bring the mind to a focus which will be of
considerable help when one starts the meditation process. Thus Sri
Krishnamacharya following the tradition of yoga described in old yoga
texts like the yoga sutras, the puranas, smritis and other ancient
texts helped to understand and achieve the best of an outstanding
ancient system called Yoga.

You may access the earlier Newsletter by visiting my website
www, and clicking on the Newsletter tab. Any comments
or suggestions please e mail to

Best wishes

Srivatsa Ramaswami

Ramaswami's Newsletters are now available in three volumes, 2009, 2010, 2011 FREE on Kindle and Pdf

Ashtanga Rishi Approach Eighth (last ) day

First the intro one more time...
A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below (the headings in block capitals are mine).

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Eight Day Pinchamayurasana to the seven headstands (below)

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Eighth Day (2nd series).

Sury A x 3/ Sury B x3

Pincha mayurasana (25 Breaths) Alignment could be a lot better so found this challenging, I used to be a lot straighter in this posture, will need to work on that if I want to explore longer stays here.

Karandavasana (10 Breaths) An experiment, managed to lower and hold my lotus for 10 breaths before it slipped off, part of the problem was a lack of preparatory postures, lotus wasn't as tight as usual plus I've only just come back to including Karandavasana in my practice after three months on the Subroutine book.

Mayurasana (10 Breaths)  Managed 10 breaths, considered going up again as with Navasana but thought a long stay here is too much strain on the wrists.

Vatayansana ( 25 Breaths each side). First side with the foot flat second side on the toes. Flat seemed more stable but found it hard to stretch up into the posture, again lack of preparation. Next time I'll try this and Karandavasana after a couple of janu sirsasana's and half lotus postures. A reminder of the benefit of Vinyasa Krama subroutines.

Parighasana (25 Breaths each side). Comfortable but am used to long stays here from Vinyasa Krama

Gomukhasana A + B (25 breaths in each and each side) Again comfortable, some slight circulation problems in B on the second side, this is a meditation posture so well suited to long stays.

Supta Urdhava pada Vajrasana A + B (25 breaths in each and each side). I was expecting circulation problems from the bind but it was quite comfortable. Again these are Vinyasa Krama postures so  longer stays are familiar

Mukta hasta sirsasana A, B, C. (50 breaths in each) Seemed comfortable enough at the time although the arms began to ache afterwards.

Baddha Hasta Sirsasana A, B, C, D (50 breaths in each) D was the only tricky one, just a case of maintaining focus, fifty breaths in all of these would certainly be possible.

An interesting experiment that I plan on doing again next year and perhaps look at Advanced A and b postures after getting back into those series when the warmer weather comes on. Struck more than ever of the benefit of the Vinyasa krama subroutines. Being thrown into these postures cold makes them even more challenging, much better to build the subroutine around them, preparatory postures and variations.

To reiterate the plan. The idea is to run through Primary and Second series with the Ashtanga breath, equal inhalation and exhalation, take a note of how long I'm staying in the asana and then revisit the asana with the Vinyasa krama breathing. Here I'll reduce the number of breaths by lengthening the inhalation and especially the exhalation and employing breath retention where appropriate. So the same time in the pose but perhaps half or a quarter the number of breaths. This seems a more interesting approach to me than just staying in the asana for 25-50 breaths, if we're going to be in the posture that long it seems to make sense to explore the breath as fully as possible.
Going to take a break from blogging for a while, perhaps quite a while. I'm tired, been practicing five years this month and blogging for four of them, time to go cave yogi for a while and focus on taking my practice and studies further.


Creative Commons License
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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