Thursday, 12 September 2013

Ashtanga Pranayama and Meditation, Chanting from Manju (also Sharath) and my favourite chant from Ramaswami.


I mentioned after the recent TT with Manju that he taught Pranayama and Chanting at the end of  practice, at the end of Primary, at the end of his led 2nd series ( with the Sanskrit count). He referred to this as a traditional practice.

But was that just because we were on a TT course, supposedly experienced practitioners? No, on Sunday I attended Manju's Led primary at Stillpoint yoga, this was open to everybody and there it was again, at the end of practice, in the final padmasana, we practiced nadi shodana pranayama with kumbhaka followed by chanting. A traditional Ashtanga Practice. You don't have to practice that way of course, you can do utpluthi at the end before laying back in savasana. I prefer the pranayama and chanting option.

It's my own preferred approach to practice. Ramaswami put it like this, and I think he was loosly quoting Krishnamacharya here, "Why clean the room (asana/pranayama) and then not live in it ( meditation). 

A note about the chanting.

Ramaswsami refers to chanting here as Dharana, it's one of the meditative limbs of Ashtanga,  concentration on an object (next, according to Patanjali you would move on to concentration without an object). The object might be an icon, the breath, or here a mantra. Ramaswami would have us practice Japa mantra meditation, repeating a short mantra over and over, Manju happens to have has us chant a number of Shanti (peace mantras). I guess you could replace your own preferred approach to meditation practice here if you not yet comfortable with chanting ( I wasn't for the longest time)

On the TT course in Crete during one of the Mysore self practice sessions I would hear a couple of students (who had attended Manju's course before) quietly chanting to themselves, almost under the breath. I listened carefully, shanti mantra's. Was it disturbing to my own self-practice, not at all, quite the opposite, wonderful actually and later in the course, in my own self practice, I too would finish with pranayama and the few Shanti mantras that I had already memorised.

Try to attend one of Manju's courses the finishing section is the wonderful. This from my post on the Led at Stillpoint yoga sunday.


"Best of all was at the end of the practice, Manju skips utpluthi/tolasana and goes straight into pranayama, some nadi shodana with and without kumbhaka also sitali and then the chanting. I missed Niko from Crete and his nice, big, booming, confident chant that I could hide behind a little or follow along with in those lines I wasn't sure of. It was quieter here and we had no hand-out of the chants to help either, instead we had to listen carefully to Manju as he would break the chants down into phrases. Some parts went better than others of course, Manju is so relaxed that you feel relaxed too, you're going to get some bits wrong, it gets better as you tune in. I need/want to work more on those later chants on his Shanti mantra CD though, first few I'm OK on". And that was that, Savasana.

Manju's finishing routine seems to go something like this.

Shirsasana ( long stay here)
Ardha chandrasana (still in headstand but bringing the legs down to parallel with the floor, an inverted dandasana if you like, lower and raise three times).
Balasana
Badha padmasana
Yoga mudra ( and Manju pointed out it should really be the top of the head not the chin on the mat)
Parvatasana  (mountain pose still in full lotus - this is the final posture on the Nancy Gilgoff 1974 syllabus and on David Williams poster). It's in two stages, in the first the arms go up with the finger interlaced then you you bend forward, head to the mat, arms outstretched above your head, hands still interlinked. Stay for a number of breaths then raise back up to seated and lower the arms.
Padmasana -  Bhairava/Bhairavii Mudra - Palms of hands together (in the lap), Men right palm up, women left palm up. Bruumadhya drishti, dash dirgha recheck puuraka
Padmasana - Chin Mudra - the familiar hands to knees, thumb and first finger joined, nassaagra drishti, dash dirgha recheck puuraka

This is where Manju brings in the pranayama and meditation practice ( chanting)

Chant the invocation to Gayatri ( number 10 on the sheet below )

Take the hand to the nose, thumb on one side, first two fingers curled into the palm, third finger in the other nostril. ( manju has a method here where you can change which hand you use for this so that you always remember which side to exhale out of after the kumbhaka - I've never found remembering a problem.

Pranayama practice ( see video below): this might change depending on time and inclination. You might practice some suryabheda, followed by chandrabheda, nadi shodana, nadi shodana with kumbhaka, and perhaps sitali ( curled toungue)  or sitaki ( through teeth). There tends to be three to five deep ujjayi breaths between the different pranayama's. Sitali is a cooling pranayama so you only tend to do it in summer. Some days we practiced most of these other days just a little nadi shodana.

Chant the gayatri mantra  - number 11 on the sheet below. So with Manju after the pranayama you chant gayatri. manju has you counting on your finger the length of the kumbhaka, (the breath retention). With the palm loosely open the thumb moves to each joint of the fingers. manju tended to take a count of 12 or 15 i believe. With Ramaswami we would chant the pranayama mantra, basically the longer version of the Gayatri mantra below ( there is a shorted version of gayatri), this is still the way I tend to practice.

Meditation practice (Dharana, concentration on an object). As mentioned above, with Ramaswami we would practice japa mantra meditation, chanting a short mantra over and over silently. With Manju we would chant a number of Shanti ( peace mantras - see one of the below, number 9 ). The mantra's can be chanted out loud, quietly to ourselves or I imagine mentally.

Savasana - Manju would then have us lay down in  savasana. he doesn't seem to include utpluthi/tolasana here. the idea i think is that we are relaxed after the finsihing sequence of the long stays in shoulder stands and headstand, nice and satvic, so we the perfect state for pranayama and meditation practice. It makes sense to then go straight from meditation into our savasana. I guess you get to practice tolasana after badha konasana, before jumping back in lotus,  if you really miss it.

I love this approach to practice. Manju calls it a a very traditional practice, how his father taught him. I imagine it's also how Krishnamacharya taught manju's father and also I imagine very similar to how Krishnamacharya seems to have taught Ramaswmi in his later years, finishing each lesson/practice session with pranaymama and meditation/chanting.

This page is from Manju's book written with Greg Tebb - I've added my review of manju's DVD, BOOK, CD bundle at the end of the post


I tried to transcribe the session above but it's difficult to hear, this is what I came up with ( inc. some additional notes in brackets) to assist in your own listening. Let me know if you hear it differently. As I said, Manju approached the pranayama practice a little differently each time, it doesn't seem to be a fixed routine/sequence although there does seem to be an order. If you're going to practice suryabheda that would come before chandra bheda ( sury is sun, warm) and these would come before nadi shodana. you would practice nadhi shodana without kumbhaka before bringing in kumbhaka and there would be a few Ujjayi breaths in between the different pranayamas.

Loose transcription of the video above


(Sit with ) Back straight
Make Chin mudra (right hand here - first and second finger curled in towards the palm)
Press your left nostril (with 3rd and 4th fingers)
(Lean forward on each exhale)

(Nadi Shodana pranayama- alternate nostril breathing)

(1st cycle)
Inhale ( through the right) (come back up on each inhale) Start of the cycle
Exhale on the left ( switch to press right nostril with thumb)

(2nd cycle)
Inhale left
Exhale right

(3rd cycle )
Inhale right
Exhale left

(4th cycle)
Inhale left
Exhale right

(Nadi Shodana with Kumbhaka)

(1st cycle)
Inhale right
Kumbhaka ( hold breath, engage bandhas ) ( can drop hands, , count to 15 on fingers)
Exhale right

(2nd cycle)
Inhale right
Kumbhaka
exhale left

(3rd cycle)
Inhale left
kumbhaka
Slowly exhale on the right side

(Repeat 8-15 times)

Sit back and end with five Ujjayi breathing.

3:35 Sitali

Here's Manju teaching the chanting of shanti mantras in Encinitas last year. Thank you Amanda Manfredi for posting this


Sharath too posted a pranayama video recently from Stockholm. which included kumbhaka ( breath retention) and even uddiyana Kriya.


Ramaswami teaching chanting.

If you want to learn to chant then you can get hold of Manju's cd of shanti mantras or hi DVD which has him going through the chants phrase by phrase with a class of students (see the review below)

Or you could have a look at Ramaswami's chanting page. He teaches chanting in the way that Krishnamacharya taught him, breaking down the chants into phrases and then building them back up line by line until you have the full mantra. He chants the first phrase or line then chants it very softly twice more so you can follow with your own repetition, lovely approach.

Have a look at Ramaswami's Chanting page which has a number of downloads including a yoga sutra chanting tutorial
http://vinyasakrama.com/Chants

Here's a link to the pranayama chant
http://vinyasakrama.com/mp3s/Learn%20Pranayama%20Mantra%20Chant.mp3

This is how I learned to chant, something I never saw myself doing a few years back. I put some of Ramaswamis chants on my iPod and listened to them cycling to work. I would then find myself humming them all day, singing little bits here and there. The first chant I leanrned was the pranayama mantra i.e., the longer gayatri mantra above and then I learned a Ganesha prayer in Tamil and Patanjali prayers. Then I was hooked.

Before the Tamil Ganesha prayer and Patanjali prayer Ramaswami often used to chant something else, I loved it but never got to learn it or find a transcription. Ramaswami has just posted this group of mantras in a Youtube video and I've made a practice sheet to go with it, enjoy.




Update. 

This charming video from Ramaswami's TT class of 2015, surprising him near the end of the class with having learned the Vinyasa Krama prayer above



*****************************************

My earlier review of Manju's Book, DVD, CD

Manju Jois Bundle, DVD, Training manual and chanting CD - first look

The Manju Jois 'Bundle' arrived from Ashtanga.Com.

Took Six days from confirmation of order to delivery, USA to UK. Only regular first class post too, not express or anything special.

I've been thinking very seriously about taking Manju's workshop this year, thought I'd take a look at his kit. Only thing is, I'm so into my practice as it is at the moment with it's slow, slow breathing that I don't really have much inclination to do a straight Ashtanga anymore.

At least I didn't......


So very quick first thoughts, another fuller review to come.

BOOK - Ashtanga Yoga Training Manual Manju Jois and Greg Tebb ( this is was designed with Manju's TT's, Intensives and workshops in mind.


A little disappointed in the quality, bit cheaply produced it has to be said, although I like the layout (mostly, at times things get a little bunched up). Good to have a ring binder although it's not as strong as the one on David Swenson's book, get the feeling it would be falling apart towards the end of a workshop.

I was hoping for something a little special, a little different ( not sure what I was hoping for exactly) but it's just the pose and the instructions/count etc. which seems pretty standard. I mentioned I like the layout, pretty much a posture a page with a space for notes. I'm going to scan mine and then paste in Krishnamacharya's instructions for the same postures for comparison, should be interesting.

The nice touch is the quotes from Hathayogapradipka, Geranda Samhita, Yoga Rahasya etc.

One interesting thing to pick out, in the majority of postures we find, as in the page above for Janu Sirsasana

"Dasha diirgha rechaka puuraka" - 10 long inhalations and exhalations.


DVD - Ashtanga Yoga Workshop (*90 minutes)
*2 min for opening chant and 15 minutes in padmasana chanting rather than Savasana at the end of the practice so about 75 minutes for the actual primary series


This was a nice surprise. It has Manju Leading a class with the chant but get this, everybody repeats every word of the count including the names of all the postures, great way to learn and practice the count.

I'd heard Manju did this on his workshops, really looking forward to practicing along with it.

I mentioned that in the book we find...

"Dasha diirgha rechaka puuraka" - 10 long inhalations and exhalations.

I checked the video to see how long we get for those ten, long, inhalations and exhalations, about 25-30 seconds, give or take a second or two. Interestingly, Manju doesn't count the breaths ( leaving that up to you) I liked that, it means I can get three longish, half decent breaths in but somebody else might choose, five shorter ones...or ten pants.

Here are some comparisons to put it in perspective, all for when in Janu Sirsasana at dwe ( this is hardly fair though as the time varies slightly in the different postures, especially in the led classes of Manju and his father ( it's guess work in Led), for example Manju left them in the preceding posture for 30 seconds), the demo's are a different case. gives an idea though of the general pace of the practice.

David Robson - 40 seconds!
Richard Freeman - 29 seconds
Manju Jois - 25 seconds
Lino - 24 seconds
John Scott - 20 seconds
Kino - 20 seconds
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois - 20 seconds
David Swenson - 19 seconds
Sharath - 13 seconds

What me?
Grimmly - 90 seconds, but that's really only because of the 10 long inhalations and exhalations.

So the stay in the actual posture is generous but overall it's taken pretty fast and you have to go some to keep up, 75 minutes isn't long, the last fifteen minutes of the DVD's 90 Minute run time is taken up with chanting.

UPDATE: A comment came in from Sereaux on Dave Robson's Drum Beat Primary


"I've been practicing periodically to David Robson’s mp3 Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Series to the Steady Beat of a Drum. It goes to a 4 second inhale and a 4 second exhale – so 5 breaths equates out to 40 seconds. Not quite 90, but nearly double the others. It has helped to keep me to recognize when and where I’m rushing – also helped me stay focused on the breath. I always tend to rush the inhale. All Sanskrit counting. Whole practice takes 109 minutes with opening chant, 3 Sury A, 3 Sury B, and only two paschimottanasana variations.
Sereaux"



Chant CD - Shanti mantras



Consists of the opening and closing chant and then the Shanti mantras, at slow and regular speed. Nice and clear, I could practice with these although I prefer Ramaswami's traditional way of teaching chants.


There's also a pdf with the chants and translations.

Was a little underwhelmed when I first opened the box but am getting quite excited now to getting stuck in and even more tempted by the thought of a his workshop.

UPDATE 7/5/2013
Coming back to this post three months later.

I mentioned in the post that I was quite wrapped up with my 'slow Ashtanga' practice based on Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda at the time the Manju bundle arrived. Recently I've shifted back to a pretty standard Ashtanga practice in the mornings ( VK and pranayama practice in the evening slot) and that has a lot to with Manju's DVD. I like that Manju doesn't count through the actual asana on the DVD, this means I can get in three long slow breaths while in the posture, this works quite well. I can get through the whole series without sacrificing (my approach to) the breath too much. I've been practicing along with the DVD on my days off, Sanskrit count getting inside my head, enjoying it. Rest of the week I take it a little slower still but not by much, add in a few extra VK postures, alonger stay or two ( kind of weaving the Vinyasa krama and Yoga Makaranda influences into my ashtanga practice) but not too many to upset the balance. Wish Manju did a led 2nd Cd or DVD as I've moved back to 2nd series in the mornings.

I like it so much now, as well as the TT videos in the post above, (and I've always felt drawn to Manju's approach to the practice in general, as suggested by interviews and workshop reports) that I'm finalising the logistics for attending Manju's week long TT in Crete, in August this year (finally a workshop in our quiet time at work). Excited.

*************************

Manju's website


Link to Kristina Karitinou website 

Links to the extended Ashtanga yoga Greece family 

***********
Tomorrow I start passing on/sharing practice in the new shala, A 121 Vinyasa Krama class tomorrow evening and then Ashtanga, morning mysore from Monday, will be a little busy so may not post for a while, at least until I settle into the routine of it all. 

16 comments:

  1. See also my Pranayama page at the top of the blog, it has some slightly different versions of the 'Ashtanga pranayama sequence' as well as how I was taught Pranayama by Ramaswami, some videos, too

    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/pranayama.html

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  2. yes i remember during my TT Manju wasn't much for Utpluthi saying it was added later

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  3. So nice that the pranayama/chanting train is finally coming around. Since I started in a different yoga tradition, I was so used to pranayama and chanting that I really missed it at the beginning of my Ashtanga journey and was confused with all the "Pranayama is dangerous, wait till third series"-BS. I agree that there are some things you need to look out for, but most Ashtangis are treating pranayama as an nuclear bomb and chanting gets ignored.

    So I'm glad even Sharath showed a pranayama sequence. And thanks for all your Manju posts (again), I really enjoy reading them and I wish there were more teachers like him.

    Greetings

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    Replies
    1. I agree, studying with Ramaswami you do your asana practice then do your pranayama and then your chanting or whatever form your meditative practice takes, each has equal weight. So nice to see that Manju takes the same approach, that he considers it traditional and teaches it to anyone attending a Primary with him. Now the prohibition seems to being taken away somewhat it will be up to the practitioner if and when they wish to explore that aspect of the practice.

      Delete
  4. Manju's looking REALLY fit lately, which is nice to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought that when he came in Boodi, very fit, full of beans.

      Delete
  5. I prefer meditation without object, and I don't currently have an interest in learning a series of chants which are of themselves not meaningful to me. Whilst I could study the translations they are mostly from a religious and mythological standpoint which is also not meaningful to me. However I did find Sunday's chanting with Manju interesting and beneficial. Why? Precisely because I don't know the chants. This meant an extended period of listening intently in order to be able to repeat each phrase. The moment my mind wandered I missed the start of the next phrase and some of those tricky sanskrit syllables. Had I known the mantras by heart it would have been more like trotting out a well-known hymn without really focusing on it. It kept me in the present moment - which is sort of the point isn't it?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mike.
      Patanjali seemed to see concentration on an object as preparation for concentration without an object, kind of makes sense. Never expected to get into chanting myself, sort of crept up on me. Ramaswami would say and I seem to remember manju saying something similar, that we shouldn't worry about the meaning at first, just the sound. I'd assumed there was some obsession about the pronunciation of the words in vedic chanting, Manju seemed to be suggesting the that it was the rhythm that was important and that was why the pronunciation was so important. that made a lot of sense to me when we think of how powerful the effect of rhythm is in music. It's the rhythm of the Ramaswami chant in the post that i love. I always have to look the meaning up again when somebody asks me because I tend to forget. Manju's chants are peace chants, he stresses that they are not religious.
      Manju talked a lot on the course about listening intently in relation to chanting.

      For a long time I focussed on holding effulgence in the heart area before that it was the breath, currently I'm exploring holding the attention on the rhythm of the chant, it's interesting whatever works I guess as long as there is a meditative element to the practice.

      Delete
    2. And of course, when we talk about bringing our yoga into the rest of our day, nothing like a tune or a rhythm to get in our head, I find myself humming a chant all day sometimes and it seems to bring with it that chilled feeling from the morning practice.

      Delete
  6. My best friend, who has completed Primary & Intermediate, under the guidance of a certified teacher never shows any interest in pranayama. I made quite a few attempts to turn him around on that decision and learned that some idiot "introduced" him too it by retaining the breath for long enough to over-stress the nervous system.

    What's your take on that Tony, and did Manju talk much about the length of retentions?

    (as an aside, how can I disable the sound that keeps starting when I try to read? It's distracting, and I also called a plumber the first time!)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I didn't ask Manju about the length of retention, probably because how Manju taught it was in line with how Ramaswami presented it, relatively short retentions.

    Some pranayama books make it quite long, and then keep building it up even further.

    Manju was making the retention after the inhalation fifteen seconds, Ramaswami twenty. The retention after the exhalation was shorter in both cases.

    But even here it's good to build up to it, start off with just a five second retention after the inhale and become comfortable with that and then start increasing it, an extra second each week say up to around fifteen. Pranayama is cumulative, no big deal holding your breath for a minute but do that after every inhalation for ten, twenty, forty minutes and you'd expect some agitation, especially in the beginning. Do you remember that pranayama app, that how I first started to learn pranayama, building up the length of the inhalation and exhalation, adding in short kumbhaka after the inhalation and building that up over time and then adding the kumbhaka after the exhalation and then building the whole thing up together.

    I think it's important to feel your in control, you can feel it sometimes when you lose it a little, feels a little bit like gasping for the next breath not exactly panic, then you need to go back a little slow it down again shorten everything.

    My own guide is the pace of the pranayama mantra. First couple of rounds I chant it really quickly in my head, probably get it down to around ten seconds, then I start to chant it a little more slowly until around probably fifteen seconds and then slow it even further to twenty seconds, I back it off a little for the last couple of rounds.

    Oh, just remembered, in the beginning I split the mantra into sections, the first part for the inhalation, second part retention, third part exhalation, that's another classic option. I have another sheet, the one from Ramaswami, i just fished out for when i was teaching last night, will send it to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know the video is irritating, one more post and it will be off the frount page, i just turn the sound off or scroll down and hit pause, sorry, it's a vimeo thing.

      Delete
    2. That all sounds sensible advice. I guess with us all being so different, retaining 'for as long as is comfortable' is good advice (per Lino's original vinyasa count book).

      Delete
  8. Just remembered another nice little tip for 'overstay vertigo' in retentions: There a simple little mudra to remedy it. You simply push your middle fingers into both thumbs for 5 minutes. Can't remember what it's called, but it works.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps it works as a distraction to overcome some of the growing anxiety, will increase my retention one morning and try it when I start freaking out.
      Managed to turn of the auto play of the Zen movie at last. It was easy, went into the code and changed autoplay=1 to auto play=0

      Delete
  9. Hi Anthony. First of all congrats to your Blog and to how you found your way to yoga. Its inspiring. Funny how many questions I've had in my mind when I started with (Ashtanga) yoga a few months back. And so many where answered due the research you've made along your path readable for all for free in your Blog. Thats what I call a true yogi :)
    Now I came across this section of your Blog because I've started some research on Pranayama to go deeper into my yoga practice. There's so much misinformation out there or money making individuals where at the end you don't know what you get...I see a lot of talking about the "technical" side of what you discuss about pranayama. What is great but ,at the end a seeker wants to know as well the "experienced" from it...
    I found Yoga as medicine and doctors couldn't help. I was not a type of guy that thought that he would ever start into a spiritual path. let alone one so far from western thinking.
    But in all I read, learn and see in others. I miss mostly what they really experienced when they try to tell you about their approach and practice.
    What have you really experienced in your body/mind with pranayama. If at all? Or is it just the total devotion to something ,that we wish to be the answer to so many things in our body/life.
    I know that yoga changed my life and the way I saw it in general. But so subtle that I have to struggle every day continuing the path...Sometimes it seems to me like a placebo effect.

    Please let me know what your thoughts are.
    (sorry for my english it's not my first language)

    Jose

    ReplyDelete

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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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