Friday, 4 October 2013

Ashtanga Yoga is not Hatha Yoga....or is it? Also Moon Days

UPDATE: This is one big mess of a post, best just to go along to the Guy Donahaye post/article and it skip it altogether, here's the link to Guy

Ashtanga Yoga is not Hatha Yoga


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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)



Ashtanga Yoga is not Hatha Yoga


"There has been much debate about the origin and development of Pattabhi Jois' system of asanas over the years. There has been much less interest in placing his asana system in the context of ashtanga yoga as a whole, or indeed, the yoga darshana as a whole.

Guruji used to say that his teaching was "original Patanjali Yoga." 

What are the implications of this"?

Here's another snippet that ties in Savim's question perhaps with the recent discussion of 'practice' that has been doing the rounds recently.

"...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)

http://yogamindmedicine.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/ashtanga-yoga-is-not-hatha-yoga.html

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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
I think of 'practice' in a similar way. I think of it as the different practices, yama/niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara meditation, all of them together as well as separately. I think of it as the discipline, what I do everyday but also the support for the discipline. I might use it to refer to Ashtanga or to Vinyasa Krama or both. I also think of practice as the practicing of the practice... but I also think of the practice as working the other way,  as working on me....it  can lead to lots of confusion.

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).



****
And we have this...

http://www.ashtangayogacenter.com/moon.html

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

*

...Off to Join M for an extended Moon day pranayama practice...

2 comments:

  1. Perhaps the difference between the Goal and the Path?

    ReplyDelete
  2. According to this site, in the UK it's not Moon Day until tomorrow: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/moonphases.html?n=136; the site you linked to is American (position on Earth will affect when the new/full moon rises).

    My understanding of yoga terms: Hatha Yoga is based on the Pradapika, a system of physical and mental training practices. All asana/pranayama could be classed as Hatha. Ashtanga yoga originally was used for the 8-limbs of Patanjali's system. Pattabhi Jois' system, at least what is publicised in his book Yoga Mala, concentrates on asana. He used the term Ashtanga perhaps to encompass the idea that you can have asana, pranayama, pratyhara and concentration all at once while following his system (posture, drishti, breath, focus, bandhas). I don't know how many people have learnt Pranayama and Meditation from him - I get the feeling these were taught to only selected students in one-on-one's. At least he didn't just name the system after himself (which shows a certain lack of ego).

    A lot of people like Jois' style for the exercise, pure and simple, and probably don't care about the terms and traditions - you can see the evidence, you get fit, it works.

    Cheers, Rob

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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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