One of the delights of Manju's Teacher training course in Crete was the relaxed, informal question and answer sessions at the end of the day. Manju was constantly asking for any more questions, generous in his answers and seemed in no rush to close up the Q and A session.
Manju referred to himself as a messenger rather than a teacher/guru, just sharing what his father had shared with him, here's a little of the message.
Monday : from notes
*If anyone has a recording of the first talk (some wonderful stuff here) as well as Wednesday's I'd love to have a copy (dropbox?) my notes are pretty sketchy.
- Janu Sirsasana - the heel gets warm which is why it is important in janu shirsasana
- Practice uddiyana bandha all the time, uddiyana provokes mula bandha
- Ujjayi breathing stimulates throat chakra
- Take as many breaths as you want while in the actual asana ( Pattabhi Jois would leave Manju and Saraswati and go off and do something else)
- Long slow breathing is best , 5, 10, 15 seconds.... a minute even
- inhalations and exhalations the same, no kumbhaka in asana
- Standing is important - all areas of the body activated in standing, you could practice just standing and finishing.
***********Here's a clip of Manju conduction Q and A from an earlier workshop, In the Netherlands I think. Will give an idea of Manju's tone, the atmosphere of these sessions as you read the transcriptions from Crete last week..
Tuesday : from recording (loosely transcribed)
I'd intended to put the question and then Manju's response but listening to the recording the questions seem to follow on from what had gone before, much of Tuesdays' talk was more like a discussion than a Q and A session. Another reason for transcribing rather than paraphrasing, I wanted to convey the relaxed atmosphere. It should be remembered too that Manju is chatting here with a group of students and in a relaxed, informal environment. He might approach his answers more carefully in an interview or if laying them out in a book. I've only transcribed those parts that I felt wouldn't be misinterpreted in the different context of a blog post.
Those questions I as I've used 'Me:' those asked by others 'Q:', for manju I've of course used 'MJ:'.
1. Best time for the practice, morning?
2. My question: Kumbhaka in asana? Creation of series?
3. What if you are unable to progress beyond the Primary series, how do you achieve the 'energetic' benefits suggested of the other five series
4. the series appear series appear to be fixed?
5. So we are allowed not to follow the series?
6. Isn't there a logic to the series, the order of the postures?
7. So it's not good to be held back in Mari D, kurmasana etc?
8. What is the thread your father wore?
1. What is the best time for the practice?
Always nice to do it in the morning, but if you don't have time, most important thing is to bring yoga into your life, always make sure it is added to your lifestyle.
My father used to wake me up at 3:30am, used to bribe me with coffee
That's how you start the day, feel good all day.
But can practice in the evening but not to late as it hypes you up
Me: Can I ask one about Kumbhaka. Back when Krishnamacharya was teaching your father in Mysore in the 30's and in his book Yoga makaranda, Krishnamacharya was exploring Kumbaka in asana, in all kinds of asana and I was wondering 1. What do you think he was exploring and 2. that never made it into Yoga Mala and we don't seem to explore that very much now (why not?).
MJ: Well your not supposed to do Kumbhaka in the postures, kumbhaka comes only in the pranayama, that's how you do it. I don't know what Krishnamacharya...sometimes he has his own thing..
Me: I just wondered because he doesn't seem to have done it later, I just wondered what he might have been exploring there.
MJ: There was a lot of misguidance there, Krishnamacharya really didn't want to share with anybody... he didn't want to give...the Maharaja of Mysore, he wanted him to teach yoga as a job but he didn't want to...
Me: But he produced, .... there was Yoga Makaranda, Yogasanagalu... he was giving a lot of those texts out....
MJ: So actually it was my father who was the one who put all the series together, you see my father was... when he started getting interested in yoga then he followed Krishnamacharya, he was the only one teaching at the time. And, he didn't make it easy for him to learn and my father really wanted to learn it, he put all his energy into it. And then he had to go to the city to learn more about the science of yoga, the philosophy and the science behind it. Then he mastered it. then he started going through all these sequences, there were no sequences, one posture here, one posture there. There was no order...and then my father did the research, brought it all together... it took him for a while.
He wrote a book, Yoga Mala but he didn't have money to publish it. It was sitting in the house for a long time. then somebody helped him publish it.
Me: One more point on that. Each series it's said work on different energies within the body
Me: If you aren't capable of going beyond first series, say, or second series... how does that....
MJ: Well actually there is no such thing as you have to perfect the one thing to go on to the next one because they are therapeutic... probably these is sometime when you cannot go forward with the back, you have a stiff back so we use the other way around, the shalabasana from 2nd series or bekasana, ustrasana just to undo the knot you have in the back. They are supposed to be used as therapy...then once you start working everyday, slowly that how you teach the body to open up.
people always say this made up thing where you have to master one thing to get to this thing but it's not true because it's never been this way, not in the old times.
Me: But it seems to have become quite fixed, we practice it as if it's fixed. Is it like primary is a multivitamin......?
MJ: That's how we all learn it. We all have problems, I had a lot of problems going up because I was short i had no muscles and there was a lot of postures that (i couldn't do), so my father was 'why don't you try this or try this", so he did therapy he didn't do the whole thing. Slowly it becomes easy. Badha konasana was my bad one, I hated it when i was a kid. then my father used to give me personal training to me and my sister and another person, an indian guy who knew my father. So every time it comes to baddha konasana I excuse myself to the bathroom, then i stay in the bathroom for a few minutes, then i come out and everyone is still sitting in it. then I would say,
"No no, you shouldn't have waited for me"...
" We are ALL waiting for you".
There's no escape and i have to surrender and go ahead...actually he helped me with that...
So, everybody has problems, everybody always has to experiment with different postures to make it happen.
Somebody else asks : So we are allowed not to follow the series you mean? And take postures from the other...
MJ: Only if you have a problem
Q: We all do
MJ: the series is good, naturally but if you have a problem then you can change a little bit... so it should not be like a military...
Q: But there is a logic to the... Guruji put the asanas in a certain order, no?
MJ: Yes...So he he studied, he researched the book, see before he wrote the book he had to research it, see these postures do what? So then he has to put altogether because there was the yoga Korunta, hathayogapradipika...there are so many yoga books each one has a few different postures in it. Some have eight postures, some have ten postures, there's not more than that and then you take everything together, then find out what is the best... they all talk about the circulation in the body, the respiratory system... ow it works through the pranayama... then you come to the curing of the diseases and all these postures we do, mayurasana, paschimottanasana, purvottanasana.... so it's how you fix your body
So actually this is what we were talking about, it's all about geometry, so when you start practicing that way your body will start cooperating. So we never say, if you have a problem with some posture, we never say.. " oh you can not do that posture, you'll never do that posture because that's bad psychology. We say, you can do that (posture) but it takes a little time, keep working on it, it will open up. See. if you want to be a yoga teacher you have to be a psychologst at the same time.
Q: So you think it is not good that you should wait at a posture, Kurmasana, Marichiyasana D before moving on.
MJ: You have to keep it in your practice though, keep working on it.
Q: But not to wait there until you can bind Marichiyasana D or Kurmasana ...
MJ: No, you can go forward yeah.
Q: Because I find to my body that it helps me to move into the 2nd series, to open better, to practice better the first.
MJ: Yes, whatever works for you, whatever works, whatever (your) body accepts you practice that one but you don't force yourself into something you cannot..., that's how people get hurt, see, don't force, there is not forcing here....
Q: So we should move people, when they're ready they should move further to the second series.
MJ: Yes, so you've got Sthiria, Indria, Dharana(?). See you have to keep going once you get into it you don't go back.You keep on preceeding for that. Sthira means to steady, when you do that then Indria means your body completely becomes relaxed, that's how you precede ...., very important.
....because we are doing all these things, next couple of days we will talk about the pranayama and breathing exercises so you know how to do that, so these are all very important, Yoga becomes part of your daily routine, we have to make that happen. Some people say they have no time to do yoga that means you will never have time to do yoga because you will be gone.
Q: May I ask why Guruji had the ash on his forehead and the string.
MJ: It's like a bahmitza, it means you've become a man now. It's a sacred ceremony. So they put the ash. Ash is considered pure, so that's why they put the ash on the forehead.
Later I met Manju outside the shala as we were going to have dinner at Kristina's (Manju was going to cook - it was excellent).
Translation of the first coupld of pages of the asana list in Krishnamacharya's 1941 Yogasanagalu, see the ongoing translation project at the top of the blog.
But here's thought, what if it WAS Pattabhi Jois who really did put the asana in any order and that it was Pattabhi Jois' first list, shared with his teacher, that made it's way into Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu a list that Pattabhi Jois later developed into the Ashtanga series. Or perhaps Krishnamacharya sketched out a basic outline of a Primary, Middle and Proficient list for his student when Pattabhi Jois first went to teach at the Sanskrit college and it was this that was later developed into the course syllabus and what we have now. Either way the suggestion was that the tradition didn't revolve around a fixed series, that this is something new.
The practice, it seems, has always been flexible, to be adapted and approached in accordance with the students needs. Use it as a framework for your daily practice but don't become dogmatic about it or progressing from one series to the next or staying at one challenging posture before progressing. That's what I took form Tuesday but you have the transcription and might interpret it differently.
That flexible non dogmatic approach discussed on Tuesday, the focus on long slow breathing discussed on Monday and the stress on the importance of Pranayama and Chanting discussed later in the week, an integrated daily yoga practice (notes to come) all made Manju's approach to Ashtanga practice very appealing to me and very much in keeping with Vinyasa Krama. The similarities outweigh the differences, I find the approaches complementary, informing each other.
Manju Jois TT pt 2 of 4 : Ashtanga Adjustments ?
Manju Jois TT pt 3 of 4 : Practice
Manju Jois TT pt 4b of 4 Q and A. Wednesday (notes), Thursday and Friday (transcriptions)
Link to Kristina Karitinou website
Links to the extended Ashtanga yoga Greece family