Saturday, 20 December 2014

Are Ashtanga interviews the new Ashtanga Blogs?

Seems there are a lot of interviews around at the moment. Yesterday I mentioned the excellent new platform set up by Lu Duong, Parampara, an Ashtanga interview platform. The first interviewee was/is Jessica Walden ,of those incredible focused lifts to handstand and general all round floatyness... but did you know she had a serious back injury, check out her interview here.

http://www.ashtangaparampara.org/interviews.html

Such height! Back injury really? Check out the interview

After posting that, interviews started appearing everywhere. my dear friend HD sent me this one, Maia Heiss being interviewed on the buddhiblog. Maia is a certified (by SKPJ) Ashtanga teacher.

“The resistance of the earth in your hands…” (an interview with Maia Heiss, part 1)

UPDATE:   we now have “Yoga’s not about following a path of feeling good.” An Interview with Maia Heiss…Part 2

Reading this second part I was struck by the number of stories we tell about this practice, about what it is and what it isn't, it struck me how this has probably been going on since the first visitors to Pattabhi Jois' shala in Mysore and some of those have been repeated and past along so much that they form part of the horizon on which we view and probably even experience our own practice. Perhaps it goes back even further than that.


She seems to be going very much under the radar (which I like), I wondered if perhaps she might have been certified before Kino whereupon HD mentions that Kino was also interviewed on the same blog.

A (second) Conversation with Kino MacGregor

Interesting interview once you get passed the early gushiness, Kino for example muses at some point that Sharath and Pattabhi Jois had different... well, I'll let Kino put it in her own words...

"What are post-Guruji practitioners to do without Guruji?

I think that’s being figured out right now. Some students are already calling Sharath “Guruji,” and have been for years. It’s really just an affectionate name for teacher. Sharath’s vision for KPJAYI is different from Pattabhi Jois’ vision. Not better or worse, just different. It’s sort of like asking someone whether the orange or the pear is better. They’re both good, and you can’t compare the two. If you expect a pear and get handed an orange that is equally good in value, you’re going to be confused. They’re just different.

There are so many wonderful senior teachers here in the US, too. That’s another option for students who want to follow in the lineage. David Swenson, Tim Miller, David Garrigues, Richard Freeman…

I think the future of the practice is in the hands of the students. Ultimately, the students will decide."


Not a fan of the glossy photo's. This is a screenshot from an example of her advanced series practice one morning in her own shala
Why oh why doesn't the interviewer push her a little here, what does she mean exactly by different vision's? The interviewer shouldn't be too close to the person being interviewed, too much in awe, just respectful and curious. See the Wild Yogi interview linked down below for an excellent example of this.

There's a nice bit at the end of the Kino interview too where they discuss what it's like having two Ashtangi's in the house IE. her and her husband Tim.
 here's the link again A (second) Conversation with Kino MacGregor

Then last night Peg and I were discussing her Podcast



Episode 1 is with David Garrigues.

Episode 2 is with John Churchill 

Earlier in the week I was interviewed by Claudia for her Yoga Podcast, which she started setting up a few months back. She's been busily interviewing the likes of Matthew Sweeney, Gregor Maehle.... oh and now me. I know, I don't know either but Claudia and I go way back and she thinks the whole taught myself Ashtanga  at home and lost 20 kilo' story is interesting and perhaps inspiring for those starting out. We talked about all kinds of things actually and Ican't remember a single thing I said. Hope I haven't offended everyone I know..... again. Back in the 80s, in my travelling days, I was once interviewed live on a BBC daytime program about a book, my mother said she could barely watch, so afraid of what I might say, I've mellowed.

With Claudia I think I might have mentioned that half the time I put blog posts up as a way of thinking out loud and, to see if I still agree with what I've written a few hours later, damn, secrets out.

Claudia's Yoga podcast goes live mid January.

The Yoga Podcast


UPDATE: And of course I shouldn't have forgotten to mention Ryan Spielman's Lonelyguru Podcast which has been running for some time with excellent interviews, Matthew Sweeney, Mark Singleton, James Mallinson, and just recently John Scott come to mind. Here's the link


And then of course there was the interview I conducted with Kristina Karitinou last year, Entelechy, my favourite post, where I ask her, among other things, about her late husband Derek Ireland and the early days of Ashtanga in Europe


The Practice Place, Crete.

from the interview

Anthony: I noticed on your alter a small bust of Socrates do you have any thoughts regarding Ashtanga as a philosophy, yoga sutras etc and Greek philosophy?


Screenshot from Alessandro Sigismondi's 'Come Breathe With Us' ( below)
Kristina: It is of paramount importance for the practitioners to develop awareness of the cultural heritage of the place they are in. Being in Greece we bear great responsibility towards our ancestors and our roots, so having a small bust of Socrates triggers the energy that surrounds us and constantly reminds us why we actually practice. "Knowing thyself" is the epitome of knowledge, and it should always be there in our practice, in our breathing in our everyday life. "Practice and all is coming" incorporates the true meaning of knowing oneself as this is the only way given to us to actually manage and have some results. Greek and Indian civilisations appear to be connected on a spiritual level throughout the centuries, and they have both set the foundations for the development of philosophical thinking so much in the East as well as in the West respectively. Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us. Both of them have offered a means to free the mind from the conventionality of life as they give you alternatives and they both require freedom of thought so that man can reach the higher level of existence and the ultimate point of liberation and self - fulfilment. Freedom works as a prerequisite while it is the final destination of each of these two methods. Therefore the presence of both philosophies on my alter seemed like a natural thing to do.

I have another interview coming up with Kristina actually about returning to Mysore, watch this space.


And finally the interview I conducted with Simon Borg-Oliver in Turkey earlier in the year, where we talked about bandhas and kumbhaka's and all other of interesting things, another of my favourite posts. 


from the interview

ANTHONY: So Krishnamacharya when he does his jump throughs, jump backs, he is doing it on a kumbhaka. 

Yes, and that’s what he wrote in Makaranda right?  So that was a surprise to me that he wrote that, because Pattabhi Jois doesn’t teach that. He teaches inhale, and you inhale diaphragmatically, and I’ll come to that in a moment.  That’s what can be used to increase strength, but when weightlifters are studied doing this their blood pressure increases from a normal blood pressure of 120 over 70 to a very intense blood pressure of 380 over 360 which to me says that they’re super yogis of sorts, but actually they could also burst a blood vessel in the brain very easily. So it’s potentially very dangerous to do a Valsalva maneuver.

So this is what could be called a Muller Maneuver, is by the medical definition, a full exhalation and then a false attempt at inhalation. 24:33  So the act of pretending to breath in the chest looks like uddiyana bandha. But it’s not the uddiyana bandha that some people use. Many people say that uddiyana bandha is something to do with hardening the abdomen.  But actually the uddiyana bandha that BKS Iyengar described in his book, that many yoga texts describe is actually, purely and simply an expansion of the chest, the same way you would breath into the chest but without breathing. But it is done without tightening the abdomen at all.

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So more interviews and links to interviews to come, Ashtanga interviews are the new Ashtanga blogs perhaps. I'm excited about it, as long as, like many blogs recently ( as well as youtube videos) they don't end up being a new way of promoting oneself or a product but then we should be able to tell by how long the interview is, how seriously  both parties take the opportunity, which is perhaps revealed by how much time and engagement they gave to it.

This is an excellent example of this perhaps, The Wild Yogi interview with Ramaswami.

"Huge variety of Krishnamacharya`s teachings" Interview with Srivatsa Ramaswami


from the interview

"Krishnamacharya wrote several books throughout his life. He wrote in his mother tongue, Kannada. What was his target audience - who was he writing for? E. g. Yoga Makaranda has a very different form than Yoga Rahasya.

I think Yoga Makaranda was written for Indians in general. It was not addressed for Western audience per se. He wanted  many Indians who were not practicing yoga to start practicing. He was probably directed by Maharajah of Mysore to write a book, and I understand he wrote it in two-three days time; pictures were taken, and he wrote the whole thing. It was two things - one is the instructions for Maharajah, and two - he wanted more Indians to practice yoga.

Whereas Yoga Rahasya is a text which was lost, remember, I told the story of Natamuni wanting to transmit a knowledge to his grandson. He wanted to represent the Vaishnava Yoga, yoga based on vaishnavite philosophy, and also number of other things that he wanted to say: the therapeutic benefits of some of the procedures, like pranayama, etc. So he wrote that book. I don't know when he wrote that, because during the class he used to quote from Yoga Rahasya, he would say "this is what Yoga Rahasya says." I used to note down many of those things. But later on Desikachar was able to collect all of them and publish it as a book, I found that some of the shlokas he taught in the class are not there, and some of the shlokas the he did not teach were actually there. Let us assume that he wrote everything himself, with the inspiration from Natamuni, if you take it that way.  It was addressed partly the vaishnavite philosophy, partly the therapeutic applications. And also I could see he was talking about three stages of practice. There were few other ideas you do not find in Yoga Makaranda.

I think later on, towards the end of his life, he wrote a commentary for first chapter of Yoga Sutras. He wrote it in Kannada, translated to Tamil, and then published. Unfortunately, I don't know why it was not translated in English. I don't know if he wrote the commentaries on the other three chapters".


UPDATE:
And then there are the interviews with students. I was sent this
 Rachel Leshaw , a student of Tim Miller's  has a great student interview blog, https://rleshaw.wordpress.com People We Know - as does Mysore Yoga Paris. http://mysoreyogaparis.com/media/our-students/

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It's nice to have the time and space to go deeper into understanding the practice of those who have gone before us, to look beyond the asana. For me personally, I'm interested in those who have practiced for decades, 30 years + and who have pretty much gone under the radar, quietly getting on with their practice and teaching, the odd workshop perhaps but the minimum of self promotion. I'm interested in how they've managed to maintain their practice, how it's shifted over the years not merely their asana practice but how the seed of asana has begun to blossom and perhaps bare fruit. But I also suspect that though the workshop circuit is mostly focused on asana the teachers of asana would love to move beyond that aspect of practice perhaps the interview platform will give them the opportunity to do so and might encourage,/tempt us to look beyond the postural practice that consumes so much of our free time and attention.

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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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