Thursday, 29 January 2015

Janusirsasana : Examples of kumbhaka in Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Also 'kumbhaka' or Tibetan 'bumpachen'

This post has been sitting in draft for sometime (June 2014), my friend Ilya mentioned I haven't posted much on the whole Krishnamacharya/Tibet connection. I have some material but never really pulled it together in one post, I should take another look. There clearly seems to have been an influence, especially in the relation to the dynamic practice of asana and as is suggested below, the Tummo/kumbhakha suggestion as well as this on pratyahara that iIwas sent a while back.

Yantra of the Liberating Lion 

The Yantra of the Liberating Lion or Senge Namdrol Trulkhor (seng ge rnam grol ‘phrul ‘khor) is well-known from many texts related to tummo and sexual practices. However, the texts and instructions for the illusory movement or trulkhor are not always very detailed. In contrary the instruction on this painting are quite complete.
This painting is found in the Secret Temple of the 5th Dalai Lama and reproduced in the book The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple. Comparing the painting and its accompanying text with the explanations, transliteration and translation in this book page 61 and 64 I discovered that it is full of mistakes. The Tibetan is incomplete and replete with reading errors. The translation is more complete than that Tibetan rendering itself but has at least two big misinterpretations: 1. The title of the yantra or trulkhor is given as ‘The Lion’s Play’ which would be in Tibetan senge namrol (seng ge rnam rol) and not senge namdrol (seng ge rnam grol). 2. At the end it states ‘…exhale three times’ which makes not so much sense as one exhalation should be enough following after an inhalation and controlled holding of the breath together with the subtle energies. The Tibetan (bsig bsig gsum) is an Tibetan expression that is quite often used for shaking the body and the limbs three times or shaking and agitating the whole of the body (bsig sprugs) at the end of an illusory movement or trulkhor. This shaking of the body is often accompanied with an exhalation but it signifies not the exhalation itself.
Here follows the transliteration of the Tibetan and its translation into English; part one is from the book The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple p. 61 /64 and part two is my rendering from the image, found also in the book p. 95/97.

The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple p. 61 /64
rtsa drug seng ge rnam grol ni mdzub mo gnyis kyis mig gnyis bsdoms/
mthe bong gnyis kyis rna ba bkab/
mdzub chen gnyis kyi sna bug bkag/
de nas bsig bsig lan gsum bya/

Sixteenth „The Lions’s Play“:
Hold the eyes with the two forefingers,

Block the ears with the thumbs and




from June 2014

"kumbhaka or bumpachen (bum pa can) 
These Sanskrit and Tibetan word
s for a so-called vase-like or pot-like holding of the breath is a complete and controlled holding of the vital energies or inner subtle winds (rlung) together with the flow of one's breaths (dbugs). Having mastered the respiration in the four phases of inhaling (jug pa), open holding after having remaining filled (dhang ba), pressing down (gzhil ba) and exhalation ('phenpa) one prolongs the empty state of holding after exhalation (rtsa stong 'khil ba) and the holding after a complete inhaltion (bzhung ba bum pa can ltar).
Therefor one uses the streched arms with the back of one's hand pressing on a energy point on the upper thighs. Instead often a meditation belt (sgom thag) is used for this, keeping the back streched
". 
The Tibetan Yogas of Movement are known in Sanskrit as Yantra Yoga and in Tibetan as Trulkhor ('phrul 'khor 'khrul 'khor yan tra) །འཕྲུལ་འཁོར་འཁྲུལ་འཁོར་ཡན་ཏྲ༌།by: Naldjor



A big Thank you to my friend Tenzin Dechen for sharing this with me this week.

Krishnamacharya: the Tibet story from The King and the Young Man 
It happened that at that time Lord Irwin was Viceroy. His Headquarters were in Simla. Ganganath Jha wrote to the Viceroy recommending his young friend Krishnamacharya for his proficiency, ambition and knowledge of the Sastras as well as for his personal qualities. He requested the Viceroy's help in obtaining the necessary documents to travel into Tibet. But, as luck would have it, the Viceroy was ill with diabetes. The military doctor, Devendra Bhattacarya, was in charge of the case, but could not bring about a complete recovery. This doctor was, as we have seen, the son of Krishnamacharya's teacher at Kasi, Vamadeva Bhattacharya.

One day Krishnamacharya was surprised to be visited by an aide of the Viceroy hand carrying a letter from the Viceroy to him, and requesting him to come to Simla. He stayed in Simla for six months teaching the Viceroy yogic practices. The diabetes was largely controlled. The Viceroy was extremely pleased and developed respect and affection for the young man. He was happy to make all the necessary arrangements for Krishnamacharya to cross the Himalayas, out of India, across Nepal, and into Tibet. Here is the story of that voyage as retained in Krishnamacharya's memory:

"The Viceroy sent three aides with me. This was some time in 1919. The expense of the journey was covered by the British government. Clothes of leather were made to order to protect us from the cold. On the trail we came across a recluse named Pilmugi living in a cave. We stayed in the cave with him for several days, and then continued on our journey. We reached Manasasarovar and from there went on to Mela Parvatham. We had dharsan of Thirayambaka Narayana and finally reached the dwelling place of Rama Mohana Brahmacharya who was to be my Guru. We had been walking for two and a half months.

"On meeting my Guru I prostrated myself before him. It was evident that Ganganath Jha had written to him about me. He received me with great love and kindness. I noted that even though he was called 'Brahmacharya,' he was living with his family. His eldest son, Ramachandra Brahmacharya, is still alive today, about eighty years old. Our food was puri (Indian bread), halwa (a paste of vegetables or fruits with sweetening and ghee) and tea. My period of gurukulam here in Tibet lasted for seven and a half years. Rama Mohana made me memorize the whole of the Yoga Gurandam in the Gurkha language. The various stages of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are dealt with in that book in a very precise but extensive commentary. That is necessary because Sutras are by definition very concise. In the Yoga Gurandam, the various kinds of Yoga poses and movements are described with great clarity. Only after studying this book can one understand the inner meaning and science of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali."

After Krishnamacharya's return to Kasi as an outstanding scholar and Yoga expert, the Maharajah of Jaipur called him to serve as principal of the Vidya Sala (Centre for instruction in philosophy and Yoga) in Jaipur. This situation, with its regular schedule of classes and the requirement of being answerable to various people, did not suit the free spirited Krishnamacharya. The Sradha (annual homage) of his father was approaching, so, with this pretext, he returned to Kasi. He enjoyed meeting and holding conversations with the various pandits who had studied with him in Kasi. Impressed by Krishnamacharya's newly mastered techniques, Amarnath Jha, the son of Ganganath Jha, introduced him to various monarchs and he was widely honored.

At this time the Maharajah of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar, appeared in Kasi to celebrate the Shastiabdapurthi (60th birthday) of his mother. On hearing of Krishnamacharya, he invited him to come to the Palace at Mysore. The Maharajah was greatly impressed by the young man's demeanor, authority and scholarship.

In Mysore, Krishnamacharya was given quarters within the Palace and, as he desired, Yoga studios were constructed. He went to teach Yoga asanas once or twice each week and within three years seven or eight students were ready to teach and the King built three more studios at a total cost of two hundred thousand rupees, a great investment at the value of currency in those days. Krishnamacharya became the Maharajah's most valued counsellor and was given the use of the Jayanmohan Palace. At the Maharajah's request, he wrote several books including Yoga Magarondam, Yoganjali, and Yogasanalu. These books were all published by the Palace and by Mysore University. With the support of the Maharajah, the Yoga teaching continued with great success for about sixteen years, until 1946.
from The King and the Young Man - by "Hastam" in Kalaimagal, Pongal, 1984
(translated by Bert Franklin and S. Venkataraman) An Interview with Sri T Krishnamacharya.

****

Last weeks post, a case study on the suggested healing benefits of kumbhaka, brought requests for examples of how kumbhaka might be incorporated into our asana practice.

This week I thought I would put up some practice sheets relating to Krishnamacharya's primary group asana that I've been working on, a different sheet each day but with the same opening introduction to link them to the earlier post as well as the same guidance notes for practicing kumbhaka. I'll probably add a couple of 'extras' here and there. If you've read the previous post you may want to jump straight to the practice sheets and notes below.

So here again is the link to last weeks Guest post by Mick Lawton on which this series of posts is based.

CASE STUDY: "The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) during Asana." Guest post by Mick lawton

"I have a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease. As a result I am in the fortunate position that I get extensive blood and medical checks performed on an almost weekly basis. Without going into huge medical details, the tests include full blood test, inflammatory markers, kidney and liver fiction, blood pressure, blood sugars............, the list is endless.
I decided that I was in the very fortunate position to run my own experiment.  I decided that I would spend 2 months practising with Kumbhaka and then 2 months practising without Kumbhaka. This process was repeated three times across the course of the year.  I was then able to compare my medical results while practising Kumbhaka to my medical results while not practising Kumbhaka".

First my Krishnamacharya ' Original Ashtanga Primary series' poster.


See the link to the making of the poster and the idea behind it.

Basically, I've taken the asana descriptions and photos from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934), those corresponding to the current Ashtanga primary series, and rearranged them into the current order. This is also pretty much in line with the order found in the asana tables from Krishnamacharya's 2nd book Yogasanagalu (1934). For this project I've stuck with those pictures and descriptions found in Yoga Makaranda however the Primary asana list in Yogasanagalu includes the other asana not found in Yoga Makaranda. The biggest omission perhaps is purvottanasana which follows paschimottanasana, in fact it appears in brackets under paschimottanasana in the list but is not described or pictured in Yoga Makaranda.

see this post for the complete table of asana from Yogasanagalu (1941)

*

Janusirsasana 

  22 Vinyasas 8th and 15th = states of the asana


from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga


from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga

from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga


Below is the full treatment of Janusirsasana  from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934) from which the above practice notes are taken.

11 Janusirsasana (Figure 4.33, 4.34)
This form follows the hatha yoga principles. Another form follows the raja yoga method. The practitioner should learn the dierence. First, take either leg and extend it straight out in front. Keep the heel pressed firmly on the floor with the toes pointing upward. That is, the leg should not lean to either side. The base (back) of the knee should be pressed against the ground. Fold the other leg and place the heel against the genitals, with the area above the knee (the thigh) placed straight against the hip. That is, arrange the straight leg which has been extended in front and the folded leg so that together they form an “L”. Up to this point, there is no dierence between the practice of the hatha yogi and the raja yogi.

For the hatha yoga practitioner, the heel of the bent leg should be pressed firmly between the rectum and the scrotum. Tightly clasp the extended foot with both hands, raise the head and do puraka kumbhaka. Remain in this position for some time and then, doing recaka, lower the head and place the face onto the knee of the outstretched leg. While doing this, do not pull the breath in. It may be exhaled. After this, raise the head and do puraka. Repeat this on the other side following the rules mentioned above.

The raja yogi should place the back of the sole of the folded leg between the scrotum and the genitals. Now practise following the other rules described above for the hatha yogis. There are 22 vinyasas for janusirsasana. Please note carefully that all parts of the outstretched leg and the folded leg should touch the floor. While holding the feet with the hands, pull and clasp the feet tightly. Keep the head or face or nose on top of the kneecap and remain in this sthiti from 5 minutes up to half an hour. If it is not possible to stay in recaka for that long, raise the head in between, do puraka kumbhaka and then, doing recaka, place the head back down on the knee. While keeping the head lowered onto the knee, puraka kumbhaka should not be done. This rule must be followed in all asanas.
While practising this asana, however much the stomach is pulled in, there will be that much increase in the benefits received. While practising this, after exhaling the breath, hold the breath firmly. Without worrying about why this is so di⇥cult, pull in the stomach beginning with the navel, keep the attention focussed on all the nadis in and near the rectal and the genital areas and pull these upwards — if you do the asana in this way, not only will all urinary diseases, diabetes and such diseases disappear, but wet dreams will stop, the viryam will thicken and the entire body will become strong.
Whoever is unable to pull in the nadis or the stomach may ignore just those instructions and follow the instructions mentioned earlier to the extent possible. Keep the nadis in and near the rectal and genital areas pulled up, the stomach pulled in and hold the prana vayu steady. Anybody with the power to practise this will very soon be free of disease and will get virya balam. Leaving this aside, if you follow the rules according to your capability, you will gradually attain the benefits mentioned below.
Important Observation:
After practising the asana for just one or two minutes, do not whine that you did not receive any benefits. However little eort there is, if you keep practising the asana daily for at least 5 to 10 minutes, you will start experiencing its benefits in a few days. There is no doubt about this. If you keep practising it from half an hour to an hour following the given rules, you will get the benefits mentioned below.
1. Diseases of the spleen will be removed.
2. People suering from a low-grade persistent fever in the stomach will notice that the fever, the resulting anaemia and other such dangerous diseases will be wiped out. Continuous and recurrent cough, bloated stomach, flatulence and the first symptoms of tuberculosis will disappear. As a result of these intestinal doshas being removed, the digestive power increases and one feels hunger at the appropriate time. When you are very hungry, it is essential to eat sattvic foods cooked in pure ghee or cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Rice avul, kara boondi (fried peanut flour), kara vadai, peanuts, chickpeas — these tamasic foods should never be eaten. Eating high-quality fruits and kanda mulam is very beneficial.
When they are hungry, some people will eat terrible things without thinking about it. This is a despicable matter. Because of this, they keep catching various diseases and suering as a result.
If one keeps practising janusirsasana according to the rules described above, then whatever diseases cause blocking of urine and faeces, increase the heat in the nadis, cause an increase in vata, if any such acute diseases occur, they will be destroyed from the root and the practitioner will be in good health very soon.
Heavy head, burning eyes, weakness of the body, burning in the urinary area, fever caused by toxins built up due to indigestion and constipation, loss of ap- petite and sense of taste in the tongue due to a spoilt tongue, laziness or lethargy — all these will be removed by practising the asana in the highest standard. That is, all diseases caused by weakness of the nadis nearby will be removed.
It is important to always remember that it is necessary to practise such asanas like janusirsasana on both the left and right sides. The reason for this is that the strength of the body should be the same on both the left and right sides. Nowadays, modern games and physical exercises give strength to only one side of the body without developing proper blood circulation on the other side. This will result in paralysis and other such diseases. Therefore, every asana must definitely be practised equally on both the left and the right side.

Janusirsasana 2nd Krama
Whichever leg was folded and placed such that the back of the foot was between the rectum and genitals, place the back of the sole of that foot instead against the top of the thigh of the outstretched leg, firmly pressing against it. Now practise according to the rules described earlier. But the benefits of this will be received very slowly. Some people will not be able to place the head on top of the knee on the first day. But one should not abandon the eort thinking that this is impossible. If one keeps practising this for one or two months daily without fail, following the prescribed rules, then it will become possible.

It will be very diffcult for those who have allowed excessive flesh to grow in the stomach and hips to practise this. By practising this regularly over a period of time, all the excessive flesh that has grown in or near the stomach and hips will melt, the joints of the bones and nadis will clear up, the stomach will grow thinner and eventually the head will touch the knee. The deposits of excessive flesh are the main cause for the lack of flexibility in the body. All this can be melted away with asana abhyasa.
Many people who have a protruding stomach like a pumpkin believe that they are healthy. Others think that they have correspondingly as much more strength as their arms, legs and thighs are excessively huge, and they keep trying to enlarge the girth of the body. One can clearly say that this is a result of their stupidity. Being blessed with good health is not in the plumpness of the body. The limbs of small children are soft and supple — to lift and bend them is easy. The limbs of adults should be similarly soft and supple and strong and there should be no obstruction to the prana vayu and the blood circulation. Everybody knows that people who have overly large stomachs or who are obese often have excessive breathlessness and bloating of the stomach.

But they have not realized that the vayu sancharam is not proper in any part of the body. When there is no proper movement of air in the body, mounds of excessive flesh will collect in the body forming a barrier. Without proper air circulation, how will the dust fly away? Without water, how can the earth become soft? Similarly, in our bodies, if we want the blood to circulate and the prana vayu to flow properly without obstruction, we need to first knock down and remove the bad deposits of flesh (durmamsam) which appear like a wall. Only prana vayu has the capacity and power to completely destroy the excessive blobs of flesh that exist here and there in the body. This cannot be done with any other medicine.

The stomach is the only cause of an untimely death. There is no other reason. The dwelling place of death in the body is only the big stomach and nowhere else. Even though we desire long life and good health, why do we make our stomachs very large and leave room for death in them? Is this not a terrible thing? Therefore, by practising janusirsasana following the krama with correct instructions, one can melt away the stomach, no matter how large it is. You can definitely believe that as the stomach reduces in size, the death dwelling in it will leave the body. There is no doubt about this.
It is superior to regularly practise this janusirsasana before becoming preg- nant. One should not do it after becoming pregnant. If women who have stomach pain during menstruation practise this asana following the instructions mentioned above, in one or two months, all the germs that cause the stomach pain will be removed from the blood channels and will be expelled out of the body through the urinary tract.
This has 22 vinyasas. The 8th and the 15th vinyasas are themselves the asana sthiti. The benefit is correspondingly as great as one’s capacity for recaka.



Kumbhaka guidence notes from the earlier post.

In general, when inhaling the head goes up, exhaling it goes down, if up then there may well be the option of puraka kumbhaka, retaining the breath for 2-5 seconds at the end of the inhalation. When folded over rechka kumbhaka may be an option to consider.

"The vinyasas in which the head is raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person". p28
Yoga Makaranda T Krishnamacharya

In forward bending postures there is often the opportunity to include puraka kumbhaka before exhaling, folding over into the posture, and performing recaka kumbhaka. We might choose to spend a period of time in the preparatory posture taking a number of breaths and engaging in puraka kumbhaka after the inhalations. After completing the folded state of the asana and returning to the preparatory position we might again take a number of breaths and include purkaka kumbhaka after our inhalations.

We can perhaps think of many asana where we might introduce short kumbhaka's at the preparatory stage, the state of asana and following the asana on returning to the preparatory stage before transitioning back to standing or to the next posture.

Krishnamacharya stresses ( In Yoga Makaranda part II) that the kumbhaka in asana should be short, 2-5 seconds.....
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Update: Paul Harvey has commented on this short kumbhaka in asana

Paul"My understanding from my discussions over the years with TKV re the context and content of YM, is that when teaching youngsters the length of the breath was minimised to a relatively short fixed length and use of Kumbhaka was limited to a few seconds AK and BK.
However no limitations on the range or intensity of Āsana and lots of use of variations to be engaged with within each Āsana.
In the adult there were no such limitations for the breath and the work with variations of the Āsana was re-prioritised to working with a fewer Āsana and fewer variations within each Āsana, but with the challenge of a greater range of breathing patterns both in length and combinations.
Certainly AK or BK of 10" was commonplace in the adult practice and here the 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the breath rather than for the youngster, where 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the form.
This was consistent with his teaching in Yoga Rahasya on Yoga Sādhana and Stages of Life.
Begin by noticing the 'natural kumbhaka' between the stages of the breath. If we breathe long, slow and full, "like the pouring of oil",  as is recommended by Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois we should notice the faint hint of a pause between the inhalation and exhalation, we notice this more clearly the slower the breath. Begin by extending that pause, that 'natural kumbhaka'  to a full second and then to two seconds. As this becomes comfortable we might increase it to three building up to perhaps five seconds but no more in asana ( mudras are a different case as is pranayama proper)".

 I did wonder if the short kumbhaka recommended in yoga makaranda Part II  was a question of pedagogics, Krishnamacharya doesn't mention how long to hold the kumbhaka in Yoga Makaranda Part One and it is a pretty extreme book with it's long stays in certain challenging postures, the kriya section etc. He doesn't mention keeping kumbhaka short in Yogasanagalu (1941) either. It's only in Yoga Makaranda II ( 1950s- 60s?) that he seems to draw back a little and talk about restricting the kumbhaka to 2-5 seconds, introducing it slowly. I was never sure if it was a reevaluation or just for the teaching purposes of the manual. Ramaswami has Kumbhaka too of course so I knew Krishnamacharya was teaching it in his later years but it seemed shorter except in mudras. What Paul is  describing here seems to treating almost any asana as a mudra which is interesting but my understanding of mudra was that they were in a sense custom made for bandhas and thus kumbhaka.

Paul: "Yes my understanding is that if we use a particular Āsana with all its permutations of form and thus less focus on the variations of the breath it operates more as an Āsana. 
If we use an Āsana with all its permutations of breath and thus less focus on the variation of the form it operates more as a Mudrā.
Sarvaṅgāsana is such an example with its 32 variations devised by TK emphasising its role as an Āsana and its static solo form with its focus on extensive breath ratio, perhaps augmented by the Tribandha, emphasising its role as a Mudrā".
----------------------------------------------------------------

In the beginning we might introduce kumbhaka into only a handful of selected asana in our practice, paschimottanasana perhaps, janu sirsasanabadha konasana, later we might introduce it to others while avoiding including kumbhaka in the twists, binds and back bending.

The more we slow our breath and introduce kumbhaka into our practice the more time becomes an issue. there are several ways to address this.

  • We might alternate the postures throughout the week in which we introduce kumbhaka
  • If our breath is becoming particularly long and slow we may wish to take three rather than five breaths within the state of an asana perhaps saving particularly long stays for postures like paschimottanasana, janu sirsasasana and baddha konasana or again alternating longer stays in different postures over a week cycle.
  • We might divide our practice up over two or four days, practicing perhaps full vinyasa and including kumbhaka but only up to and including Marichiyasana D before moving straight to the finishing postures. n the second day we might go from the standing postures directly to navasana and then on through finishing. A similar approach could be made to the intermediate series.
  • We might choose one day a week, when we have more time our day off or Sunday perhaps, to explore kumbhaka and or full vinyasa.
***



For more on Krishnamacharya see my Krishnamacharya resource page at the top of the blog or here


 for Yoga Makaranda in pdf and more


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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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