Continuing with yesterdays review post of Petri Räisänen's book
Ashtanga Yoga in the tradition of Sri K Pattabhi Jois
We find this on the Colophon page below the copyright details
"Based on Sri K Pattabhi Jois' Interviews (R.Sharath Jois translator;
recorded by Petri Räisänen) in Mysore 2003-2004. Edited in 2013."
In the Introduction Petri lists his teachers
1989 Tove palmgren
1989 Derek Ireland, Radha Warrell
1994 Lino Miele
1997 Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
2000 Richard freeman
2000 Eddie Stern
Also in the Introduction Petri discusses differences that emerged, over the years, within the Ashtanga Vinyasa method as well as distinctions between Western and Indian styles of asana practice.
Differences that emerged within the Ashtanga Vinyasa method
In the section below Petri discusses these....differences. I have broken the paragraph up into a numbered list to allow anyone to comment more easily should they so wish. I haven't, however, changed the wording or order in any way.
"The asana technique described in this book may differ from how students learned in Mysore in the 60's or how it was practiced in the 80's, as Astanga yoga has significantly grown and shifted since pattabhi jois's first journey to North America in 1975. At that time for example....
(1) asanas were given out much more quickly;
(2) Some students learned three series in just three months. Today it would take about three years for a highly flexible and stable-minded student to accomplish the same.
(3) Some asanas were practiced in a different order than they are today,
(4) and pranayama (breathing) practice was introduced after a few months of practice.
(5) Some readers will recognise other changes, such as janu-sirsasana A, which used to be practiced with the head on the knee whereas now practitioners bend forwards into a chin-to-shin position;
(6) or in prasarita -padotanasana C, where the palms are often turned outwards instead of inwards.
(7) A further example can be found in Utthita-hasta-padangusthasana, when the leg was lifted up only to a horizontal level and the head placed onto the knee.
(8) The drishti (gazing points) have changed in many asanas from the nose-tip to the big toe or from between the eyebrows to the nose-tip". p12-13
Distinctions between Western and indian styles of asana practice.
"Over time a distinction has also developed between Western and Indian stylses of asana practice.
(a) Western styles often focusses excessively on the "exact" outer alignment and incorporates an overly intense form of breathing, whereas in the Indian style one focusses more on conserving the energy and breath.
(b) The practice has also been affected by varying trends developed primarily by Western yogis.
(c) At one point students practiced handstands as foundational asanas
(d) or would do Hanumanasana and Sama-konasana (frount and side splits) after Prasarita-paddonasana D.
(e) Up until the end of the 80's, some people would practice both morning and evening".
"Towards the end of the 90's Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Jois started to clear away extra vinyasas and superfluous positions from the vinyasa system. In 2006, Guruji announced that his research had been completed and that the practice was ready to be taught in it's essential form". p15
And yet the research is never completed, we continue it every time we step on the mat, take mrigi mudra for pranayama, or settle into our preferred posture for meditation.
The differences and distinctions that emerged in Ashtanga : More on/from Petri Räisänen's Ashtanga Yoga Primary series manual.
This, my favourite paragraph thus far in Petri's book.
"As a former Finnish folk-healer, I have been particularly interested in the parts of Ashtanga yoga which operate on the level of the body's energy flow, and I was able to receive advice from pattabhi Jois and Sharath on these topics. The information appears in short chapters (prana, nadir, vayu and cakras p41-42) in this book. According to pattabhi Jois and Sharath, comprehension of the latter limbs of Ashtanga is only necessary for a devoted practitioner, and so to speak of these parts in a book about Primary series is not essential. I have included them in this text as a way to further entice the new practitioner into the quieter and more subtle realms of the practice. This section is also of interest for those students who are already quite established in their practice and ready to explore other aspects of the yogic journey" p15
Petri is writing to us here, all of us, to anyone who practices Primary series. Whether they are beginners first stepping on to the mat with a little confusion quickly followed by awe and wonder and perhaps a little fear, or advanced practitioners practicing their Friday Primary, or perhaps an Intermediate practitioner on their first trip to Mysore practicing Primary for that first month. But also to those who have perhaps no aspirations to practice any other series than Primary ( Michael Gannon said that Pattabhi Jois told him Primary was for life, Intermediate for those who wish to teach and Advanced series for demonstration).
And for me too who having ventured into advanced series with a little asana madness of my own ended up exploring a slower breath, a slower practice, so slow in fact that I barely have time to complete a whole series....
and that's just fine.
"...entice the ...practitioner into the quieter and more subtle realms of the practice".
Petri says as much.
Thank you Petri for a terrific book.