In a comment to my previous post on Manju's workshop quotes, Savim wrote
I like Manju's relaxed attitute to Ashtanga yoga practice. But, Raja yoga is only for monks? What do you call one who practices both Ashtanga and Raja yoga :)
Here's the quote from Manju that Savim is referring too
"Yoga asana is physical exercise (Hatha yoga), not a spiritual practice. Raja yoga is a spiritual practice, for monks. Hatha yoga is for everyone".
Now we have to remember that we don't have context for this quote, what the question was that Manju was responding too.
My brief response to Savim's comment
He's talking about asana (and pranayama), here as not being a spiritual practice. I wonder what the context was to that quote.
He often referred to extreme practice, advanced series ( many asana named after rishi of course) say, as being for monks or those of us who took our practice to the extreme. I don't think he meant monks literally or just monks but rather anyone who had that perspective on practice being 'monklike'.
But here's a much longer, more in-depth 'response' to the question of whether Ashtanga is Hatha Yoga.
See Guy Donahaye's (Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students) post (article) on his Mind Medicine site yesterday (click on the title below)
"...I think maybe Guruji underestimated the strength of the western ego - it is much more powerful, confused and obsessive than the indian. On the other hand, perhaps recognizing this, he latched the ego to yoga, knowing that ultimately all obstacles will fall to practice. Either way, by so demonstrating the physical potential of asana practice, many people will fail to understand the purpose and think that asana is the end and not the means.
Like the famous buddhist lesson about the finger pointing at the moon - by becoming obsessed with asana we look at the finger instead of looking where it is pointing.
Some Ashtanga practitioners have reified the asana practice in the absence of an adequate teacher or adequate understanding. People talk about "the practice" as if it were some kind of entity, or that since "all is coming" asana practice will lead to the ultimate. This is nonsense. There are individuals practicing and each has a unique experience.
The sequences of postures are just like musical scales - used for training - these scales/sequences should not be mistaken for real music. We are going through the motion of cleaning ourselves - asana practice is "internal cleaning." It is not spiritual practice - it is completely self-indulgent. As a more relaxed person we may treat others better but this is a byproduct. To make yoga into a spiritual practice our intentional behavior towards ourselves and others is cultivated through perfecting the yama and niyama. Students can delude themselves that asanas will bring happiness or some other desired ultimate goal, but no, asanas are only for therapy".
But go to the full post, it's a fascinating read, goes into Yoga History, Ashtanga (style) history...here's the link again ( and check out Guy's previous posts)
Guy refers to 'practice' 41 times in his post, I want to pick up on this section..
"People talk about "the practice" as if it were some kind of entity, or that since "all is coming" asana practice will lead to the ultimate. This is nonsense. There are individuals practicing and each has a unique experience".
I'm a Musical Instrument repairer we talk about work a lot, we use it when referring to transforming a lump of metal found around the workshop into a lever or a replacement key or to the modification of a key perhaps, as in the work is coming along nicely. The work is what's being worked on ( the lump of metal as it undergoes it's transformation) as well as the work going into it. And of course there are many different keys, screws, patches, different processes that go into them... all get referred to as the work. And then once the key or lever is on the body of the saxophone say, we can refer to the work of the key as it does what it's supposed to, when it gets pressed say.
|Making a replacement post- from my Grassi post on Vintage Sax bench|
|the post just sits there, supporting the rod on which the keys move, do their work|
in opening and closing the tone holes
When I suggest that the practice is transformative, that the yamas/niyamas can develop out of the practice I'm not referring to the asana so much but to the practicing of the asana. No, it's not even that, it's the practice as discipline, the getting on the mat everyday, to the approaching of each asana, the attitude one takes, the intention. And it's the joy, the fulfilment one takes from that discipline. If just this can fulfil us so much then it can perhaps change how we view our world, our needs, desires, what's really important to us, it can change what's important to us.... it can lead to the practice of yama/niyama...
if just this is so fulfilling...
"all obstacles will fall to practice".
My own thoughts around this are pretty straight forward.
Is Ashtanga hatha yoga or raja yoga.... or both?
It's whatever you want it to be (or at least your practice is)... but that might change several times in the life of your practice.... and that's perfectly all right ( and perhaps as it should be).
M. just informed me that it's a Moon day and that she doesn't need to get up for practice....very pleased with herself she is too ( she's up on her Ashtanga lore).
... however, much to my pride and undying lurve she then decides to get up anyway and go and do some pranayama : )
Here's Tim Miller on Moon days and the correspondence of ha and tha with the inhalation and exhalation....
"Both full and new moon days are observed as yoga holidays in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. What is the reasoning behind this?
Like all things of a watery nature (human beings are about 70% water), we are affected by the phases of the moon. The phases of the moon are determined by the moon’s relative position to the sun. Full moons occur when they are in opposition and new moons when they are in conjunction. Both sun and moon exert a gravitational pull on the earth. Their relative positions create different energetic experiences that can be compared to the breath cycle. The full moon energy corresponds to the end of inhalation when the force of prana is greatest. This is an expansive, upward moving force that makes us feel energetic and emotional, but not well grounded. The Upanishads state that the main prana lives in the head. During the full moon we tend to be more headstrong.
The new moon energy corresponds to the end of exhalation when the force of apana is greatest. Apana is a contracting, downward moving force that makes us feel calm and grounded, but dense and disinclined towards physical exertion.
The Farmers Almanac recommends planting seeds at the new moon when the rooting force is strongest and transplanting at the full moon when the flowering force is strongest.
Practicing Ashtanga Yoga over time makes us more attuned to natural cycles. Observing moon days is one way to recognize and honor the rhythms of nature so we can live in greater harmony with it". http://www.ashtangayogacenter.com/moon.html