With the recent change of blog title to Krishnamacharya's Early Mysore practice... at Home, to better reflect my current approach to practice, I wanted a blog post to outline what I considered Krishnamacharya's Early Mysore practice consisted of, how I am currently approaching my practice. The post below is from May 2012.
A couple of things I'd like to add to this three year old post.
Three elements seem to characterise the break between Krishnamacharya's practice and that of his Student Pattabhi Jois ( now referred to as Ashtanga Vinyasa or just Ashtanga).
1. Sequences/Series. Krishnamacharya never seemed to advocate fixed sequencing. In the 1941 Yogasanagalu table, the asana are listed as 'groups' of asana although the layout of the list closely resembles the future sequence of asana that Patabbhi Jois would later employ as Primary and Intermediates series. It seems likely that there may have been a general practice in Krishnamacharya's Mysore Palace school of practicing asana in the perhaps intuitive order we find them in the list, however as students progressed it seems likely that Krishnamacharya would instruct the student to practice a more advanced variation of the primary asana on top of or in place of the primary asana. This is a practice Krishnamacharya would continue and that we find represented in the work of his student Srivatsa Ramaswami (Vinyasa Krama).
I was recently asked how best to learn Krishnamacharya/Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama sequences. the sequences Ramaswami presents are really only groups of subroutines of related postures. The 'sequences' are artificial and only there for pedagogic purposes, to learn the relationship between asana, how one progresses from or is related to another. Once this relationship is explored and understood ( and it's not expected that one be able to practice all or even most of the asana) one would construct ones practice employing asana and mudra that are felt to be most appropriate that day.
Pattabhi Jois apparently settled on the four series, Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B in response to a particular need, I.E the request for a four year College syllabus at the Sanskrit College. These series are based on Krishnamacharya's three groups of asana, Primary, Middle and Proficient. At one point Pattabhi Jois appears to have told David Williams that there were only three series, Primary, Intermediate and Advanced. While it made sense perhaps to turn the large Proficient group of asana into two shorter series Advanced Asana, the later development of a 5th and 6th series based on Advanced A and B seems highly questionable.
One element of practice that distinguishes Krishnamacharys's early Mysore practice from that of his student Pattabhi Jois (along with the Pattabhi Jois' move to fixed sequence from more flexible groups of asana) is Kumbhaka. In Krishnamacharya's book Yoga Makaranda (1934) he mentions Kumbhaka for most of the postures he presents instruction for (see below). In Yogasanagalu (1941) Kumbhaka is mentioned in the asana table but mostly in relation to Advanced asana however Krishnamacharya includes 19 of the Primary asana instructions lifted from his earlier Yoga Makaranda and these instructions still include Kumbhaka. Krishnamacharya continued to teach kumbhaka in asana throughout his teaching career. In the later Yoga Makaranda (Part II) he gives instruction for introducing kumbhaka gradually in asana, generally by taking the automatic kumbhaka or pause between the stages of the breath ( inhalation and exhalation, exhalation and inhalation) that show up naturally when we breathe long and slow and increasing it by approximately a second each week, from 2 seconds up to perhaps five. In more proficient practice the kumbhaka might be increased even further to ten seconds and perhaps in certain stable seated asana/mudras to twenty seconds EG. Maha Mudra
4. Drishti. See this post
DRISHTI: Overview of Drishtis indicated for the Surynamaskaras by the different authors resp. Instructors ALSO Krishnamacharya's Gaze.
and perhaps this one
Krishnamacharya and Burmese Buddhist meditation: focal points linked to breath and brought into asana.
Currently, in my own practice I tend to continue with the general outline/framework of asana that I learned in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa which corresponds to the rough placement of asana in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu table. Breathing more slowly than perhaps in current Ashtanga practice and again, in line with Krishnamacharya's Mysore guidelines, I tend to practice less asana than we find in the Ashtanga series,more in keeping with Krishnamacharya's use of groups of asana rather than sequence and series. I will occasionally include longer stays in certain asana and tend to practice kumbhaka throughout my practice, i may add on more proficient variations of primary asana but mainly my focus is to try to develop a more proficient approach to primary asana through exploration of the breath ( lengthening, Kumbhaka, longer stays, dhyana focal points). I will often remove the vinyasa between sides in certain asana as well as between groups but will generally include a full vinyasa between these groups of asana. After my asana practice I include pranayama, pratyahara and Japa mantra meditation as well as a less formal sit.
I'm not suggesting that this is any more correct an approach to yoga (or asana practice) than anything else, however we have Krishnamacharya's early writing and I find it rewarding to explore that writing in practice.
For some time I've also been exploring Krishnamacharya Early Mysore Yoga in relation to the Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga research of Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss, their work on breath in particular.
As it happens, I still tend to think of my practice as 'Ashtanga' and yet approached this way I see little to no significant distinction between it and the approach to practice Krishnamacharya later taught in Chennai and that his student Ramaswami, my teacher, refers to as Vinyasa Krama.
This post from my 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga project blog in May 2012 but with a slightly different title.
|krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda|
One of the challenges we have with practicing Krishnamacharya's Early Mysore Yoga or 'original' Ashtanga is time ( this was the same conundrum Pattabhi Jois faced).
The 'original' Ashtanga practice included (and continued to include in Krishnamacharya's later teaching)
1. Full Vinyasas : Krishnamacharya seems to be advocating full vinyasa between postures, half vinyasa between sides and possible variations of the key posture. (this appears to have been reduced to between subroutines in Krishnamacharya's later teaching)
2. Breathing : Long slow inhalations and exhalations, from 10- 15 seconds
3. Long stays in postures. 10 breaths seems to be standard, more in certain postures
4. Kumbhaka (breath retention) In many postures kumbhaka is an option, often strongly recommended to attain the full benefit of an asana, many of the forward bends for instance
5. Variations. Krishnamacharya doesn't seem to be advocating a fixed series, variations to certain postures might be added, perhaps preparatory postures but also extensions (from proficient group).
6. Pranayama. Krishnamacharya recommended a minimum of fifteen minutes pranayama after practiced followed by at least a minute in savasana
If we take Janusirsasana as an example
60 second lead in and out (say, 5 seconds for each stage of the vinyasa )
10 breaths in the posture at 10 seconds each per inhalation and exhalation, about six and a half minutes
Ashtanga already has three variations of this postures (4 if we include Viranchyasana B from advanced series), so around twenty minutes
Don't forget the half vinyasas between sides and between variations twenty seconds each so another minute and a half.
So in an ideal practice, around twenty-three minutes just for janusirsasana
If we compare the Primary group of postures in Krishnamacharya's list in Yogasanagalu with the Ashtanga primary we notice there aren't as many postures, this is just a framework of course but still, less postures seems to be the way to go.
Pattabhi Jois comes to the same conclusion, for those of us strapped for time. He outlines the problem in the first quote below and in the second quote offers a possible solution. He suggests that if your busy with work and don't have time for a full practice you might practice up to navasana only and then move to finishing, he even suggests doing your headstand at work. On the next day you begin with navasana after your Sury's ( he suggests only doing half the amount of those).
And of course if your a beginner you will often stop your practice at marichiyasana C anyway and move on to finishing, or in 2nd series you might stop at Kapo or Karandavasana.
Practicing half a series then isn't that new or radical and doesn't have to be just because your a beginner or have a busy lifestyle.
So should we decide to explore Krishnamacharya's approach we could take the Primary and 2nd series we're familiar with and divide them in half and practice the longer slower breathing, longer stays and breath retention allowing for deeper bandha engagement.
Primary to navasana + pranayama
Primary to end of series + pranayama
2nd series Bakasana + pranayama
Bhaadvajrasana to end of series + pranayama
Full regular Primary
Full regular 2nd series.
We often tend to think of an advanced practice in terms of the shapes of advanced postures and yet we might also think of an advanced or proficient practice as being reflected in the approach we take to the asana rather than the asana itself.
It appears Krishnamacharya's proficient group of postures wasn't intended to be practiced as one of more series but more likely as extensions to the asana found in the Primary and Middle group. One might reflect on whether turning them into fixed series in the 70's and 80's was, in retrospect, beneficial. I'd be interested to hear arguments for and against fixed advanced series.
My own argument for (off the top of my head) is that by practising Advanced series we practice the most challenging postures everyday and this leads to increased proficiency rather than attempting an advanced posture once in a while which might lead to strain.
However my argument against the above is that in Vinyasa Krama I've practiced advanced postures as extensions of similar asana of the same family. In Asymmetric series for example one moves from janu sirsasana and half lotus postures (primary), arcana dhanurasana A and B (advanced B)and on into eka pada sirsasana (2nd series) and then into skandasana and durvasana (Advanced A). I often add omkrasana, parsva dandasana kapilasana, buddhasana and marichyasana H (Advanced B) which while not in Ramaswami's book seem to be appropriate further extensions and because of the preparation any strain is avoided. This is something one might explore on the 5th and 6th Days
And yet do any of the postures above really appear more advanced than Krishnamacharya's janusirsasana at the top of the page. Janusirsasana appears simple, we find it in the current Ashtanga Primary series and Krishnamacharya's Primary group yet it's basically a forward bending version of mahamudra. It's a highly stable, grounded posture that cries out for breath and bandha work. We can stay here a long long time, a very long time, engage mula, uddiyana and jalandhara bandha fully, it allows for variations, the deep forward bend of janusirsasana and yet also twist to both sides by changing the hold on the foot. It's all in the approach we take to it, five breaths only in such a pose seems a bit of a crime.
If nothing else we can, of course, milk our paschimottanasana (after backbends), badha konasana, badha padmasana and longer stays in the finishing postures for all they're worth.
Here are the quotes mentioned above.
That is why I am telling. One asana, for example paschimottanasana (has) 16 vinyasas, Purvottanasana - 15, Ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana, tiriang mukeka pada paschimottanasana, janu sirsasana A, B, C, marichyasana A, B, all 22 vinyasas. Full vinyasa .
You doing full vinyasa all - that is the best. Secondary you with sixth vinyasa all the asanas is coming. That you changing, this time (when) your strength is more, you changing that time. Sixth, seventh (vinyasa) paschimottanasana you do. After 8 – 9 then jump again. “sat” (six) position you go. I every day I teaching now. Same method you do. Both is no problem
Method is good no problem. Work is there. He is going work. (for a working man half vinyasa method is good) Your yoga practice, you take one hour. One hour or two hours your expanding your time. That time all the asanas taken one day full vinyasa you do at least five hours also you want you can understand (if you take full vinyasa, you need 5 hours to complete practice). One primary asanas doing, 5 hours also you want. That is why. You (are a) working (man). You not spending all the time on the yoga practice.
You can understand. Full time you take, full vinyasa you doing. Only for (completing) primary asanas takes 5 hours. 5 hours primary postures (with) full vinyasa. 50 asanas is there completely primary postures. That 50 asanas you doing taken 5 hours, with full vinyasa. You working. Another place is working. Yes you take money, you eating food, all you want. That only for your spending (free) time only for yoga, very rare (little time), very difficult also yourself. That is why you short cut you take. That is one or two hours. Two hours spent your yoga practice. That is good. That is also is good. Yes OK. That I tell you.
Sri K Pattabhi Jois Public Talks on Ashtanga Yoga - France 1991
Question: If one has only half an hour for practice, what should he do?
Answer: Now, no time. Many work is there. That time, no time. But you including half an hour time (if you have half an hour) you spend this way: You take practice.Anyone (always) start (with) Suryanamaskar half posture (half of the postures) you do, no problem. Halfposture means: primary half to Marichyasana D. (next day) Navasana you do aftertake Suryanamaskar (after you have finished surya namaskar you go on straight to navasana and the rest of the postures). Sirsasana and you do your work. No problem (do head stand at work?).
Sri K Pattabhi Jois Public Talks on Ashtanga Yoga - France 1991
How to practice Krishnamacharya's early, 'original' Ashtanga Part 1
How Pattabhi Jois learned Yoga from Krishnamacharya ( from Interviews ).
Examples of usage of Kumbhaka (Breath retention) in asana in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda
"When practising asana, the breath that is inhaled into the body and the breath that is exhaled out must be kept equal. Moreover, practise the asana with their vinyasas by breathing only through the nose". p27
"Brahmana kriya means to take in the outside air through the nose, pull it inside, and hold it in firmly. This is called puraka kumbhaka.
Langhana kriya means to exhale the air that is inside the body out through he nose and to hold the breath firmly without allowing any air from outside into the body. This is called recaka kumbhaka".
"In each section for each particular asana, we have included a description and an enumeration of its vinyasas. 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
ASANA ( Instructions ).
"Following the rules for tadasana (yogasana samasthiti krama) (Figure 4.1, 4.2), stand erect. Afterwards, while exhaling the breath out slowly, bend the upper part of the body (that is, the part above the hip) little by little and place the palms down by the legs. The knees must not be even slightly bent. Raise the head upwards and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose. While doing this, draw in clean air through the nostril, hold the breath firmly and maintain this position. This is called sahitha kumbhaka...." p51
"...Standing in tadasana krama, draw in clean air through the nose and practise kumbhaka...." p59
3 Prasarita Padottanasana
"...Stand in tadasana krama. Jump the legs apart, placing the feet 3 mozhams apart on the ground. Practise jumping and placing the feet at the correct distance all in one jump. While jumping, either puraka kumbhaka or recaka kumbhaka can be done...." p61
4 Ardhabaddha Padmottanasana
"From tadasana, do puraka kumbhaka. After this, choose either leg and place its foot on top of the opposite thigh. Slowly, little by little, move the foot up until the back of the heel is pressed against the lower abdomen. Whichever leg is raised, move the same hand behind the back and clasp the big toe of that foot (from behind the back). Keep the other hand in tadasana sthiti and do puraka kumbhaka. After this, slowly exhale through the nose and bend the upper part of the body forward down to the floor. Place the palm down by the foot and keep it firmly pressed against the floor. Release the breath out completely, and without inhaling, practise kumbhaka and lower the head, placing it on top of the kneecap of the extended leg...."p61
"This has 4 vinyasas. Vinyasas 1, 2, and 3 are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is to be done following the same method as for caturanga dandasana. But in caturanga dandasana, there are 4 angulas of space between the body and the floor everywhere. In this asana, the palms and toes are as in caturanga dandasana. However even while keeping the lower part of the body from the toes to the thighs just as in caturanga dandasana, raise the upper part of the body. Make sure that the navel rests between the hands and do puraka kumbhaka...." p65
8 Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana
"...This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.
The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose...." p69
"...This form follows the hatha yoga principles. Another form follows the raja yoga method. The practitioner should learn the difference. 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 difference 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..." p79-80
"This has 15 vinyasas. Recaka kumbhaka is its primary principle...." p83
"This has 15 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is the asana sthiti. The 1st to the 6th vinyasas are like the 1st till the 6th vinyasas for pascimottanasana. In the 7th vinyasa, just like the 7th vinyasa for pascimottanasana, keep the hands down and bring the legs forward in uthpluthi. But instead of straightening them, fold the legs and place them down on the ground. Folding them means that the heel of the right foot is pasted against the base of the right thigh and the heel of the left foot is pasted against the base of the left thigh. When the legs are folded in this manner, the soles of the feet will be facing each other. Hold the sole of the left foot firmly with the left hand and hold the right sole firmly with the right hand. Clasping the soles together firmly, do recaka kumbhaka, lower the head and place it on the floor in front of the feet..."
14 Supta Padangushtasana
"...The first krama for this has 21 vinyasas. Through the 6th vinyasa, it is exactly as for pascimottanasana. In the 7th vinyasa, lie down facing upwards instead of extending the legs and sitting as in pascimottanasana. While lying down, the entire body must be pressed against the ground. The toes must point upwards and the back of the heels must be stuck to the ground. This is also called savasana by other schools. This is the 7th vinyasa for supta padangushthasana. In the 8th vinyasa, slowly raise the right leg straight up. Hold the big toe of the right foot with the fingers of the right hand, do recaka kumbhaka and remain in this position for as long as possible. .."p86
17 Utthitahasta Padangushtasana
"...First, push the chest forward and stand erect with equal balance. While standing this way, make sure that the head, neck, back, hips, arms and legs are aligned properly and gaze at the tip of the nose. The feet must be kept together. Now, raise one leg up slowly and maintain this position with the extended leg kept straight out in front at the height of the navel. The knee should not bend and the leg must be kept straight for the entire time that it is being raised. After the leg has been raised about 3/4 of the way without any assistance, take the first three fingers of the corresponding hand (the same as whichever leg was raised) and tightly clasp the big toe of the raised foot. Remain in this position for some time. Keep the other hand on the hip. Inhalation and exhalation of the breath must be slow and of equal duration. One says the sthiti is correct if there is the same measure of distance between the standing leg and the raised leg. In this there are many other forms.
After staying in this sthiti for some time, take either the face or the nose towards the knee of the raised leg and place it there. Recaka kumbhaka must be done in this sthiti. That is, expel the breath completely from the body, maintain this position and then without allowing any breath into the body, bend the upper body. Now carefully pull in the stomach as much as one’s strength allows and hold it in. Stay in this sthiti for at least one minute..." p99
"...Place the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on top of the right thigh. Take the hands behind the back and tightly clasp the big toe of the right foot with the first three fingers of the right hand and tightly clasp the big toe of the left foot with the first three fingers of the left hand.
Press the chin firmly against the chest. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Sit down, keeping the rest of the body straight. This has the name baddhapad- masana. This asana must be repeated on the other side (that is, first place the left foot on top of the right thigh and then the right foot on top of the left thigh) in order to exercise both sides of the body.
This has 16 vinyasas. The 8th and 9th vinyasas are the asana sthiti. The other vinyasas are like pascimottanasana. Study the pictures (Figures 4.52, 4.53) and learn how to keep the gaze. In this asana, one must do puraka kumbhaka..." p103
"This has 22 vinyasas. This needs to be done on both the left and the right sides. Study the sannaha sthiti (the preparatory state) of marichasana in the picture. This sthiti is the 7th vinyasa.
The right-side marichasana paristhiti is shown in the second picture. Maricha Maharishi was known for bringing this asana to public knowledge and hence it is named for him.
Stay in the 7th vinyasa for some time doing puraka kumbhaka. After this, do recaka and come to the 8th vinyasa. Stay in this position for as long as possible. In case your head starts reeling (you get dizzy), come back to the 7th vinyasa, do puraka kumbhaka, close the eyes and remain here for some time. The dizziness will stop.
The 9th vinyasa is like the 7th vinyasa. The 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th vinyasas are like the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th vinyasas of janusirsasana.
The 14th vinyasa is marichasana sannaha sthiti on the left side. This is demonstrated in the 3rd picture. The 15th vinyasa is the left-side marichasana paristhiti. This is demonstrated in the 4th picture. In the 14th vinyasa do puraka kumbhaka and in the 15th vinyasa do only recaka..." p115
26 Niralamba Sarvangasana
"This has 14 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is the asana sthiti. The form depicted in the picture is the 8th vinyasa. This is niralamba sarvangasana paristhiti. In order to get to this sthiti, slowly raise the arms and legs either together or one-by- one in the 7th vinyasa . Do only recaka at this time. Never do puraka kumbhaka..." p115
27 Ekapada Sirsasana
"This has two forms: dakshina ekapada sirsasana and vama ekapada sirsasana. Both these forms together have 18 vinyasas. The first picture depicts dakshina ekapada sirsasana and the second picture vama ekapada sirsasana. The 7th and 12th vinyasas are the asana sthitis of these different forms. For this asana, you need to do sama svasauchvasam (same ratio breathing). In the 7th vinyasa, the left leg, and in the 12th vinyasa the right leg, should be extended and kept straight from the thigh to the heel. No part should be bent.
Keep the hands as shown in the picture. In this sthiti one needs to do equal ra- tio breathing. When the hands are joined together in ekapada sirsasana paristhiti, one must do puraka kumbhaka. One must never do recaka..." p120
29 Yoga Nidrasana
"This has 12 vinyasas. The 7th vinyasa is yoga nidrasana sthiti. The first 6 vinyasas for kurmasana are the first 6 vinyasas for this. In the 7th vinyasa, sit like you did in dvipada sirsasana and instead of keeping the two legs on the back of the neck, first lie back facing upwards. Then lift the legs up and place them on the back of the neck.
In dvipada sirsasana, we joined the hands together in prayer and placed them next to the muladhara cakra. In this asana, following the krama, take the shoul- ders (that is, the arms) on both the left and right sides over the top of the two thighs, and hold the right wrist tightly with the fingers of the left hand beneath the spine. Study the picture.
In the 7th vinyasa, after doing only recaka, arrive at the asana sthiti. Then, one should do puraka kumbhaka and lie down...." p123
"This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th and the 14th vinyasas are the right and left side asana sthitis.
From the 1st until the 7th vinyasa, follow the method for ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th vinyasa, instead of keeping the hands at the muladhara cakra (as in ekapada sirsasana), hug both arms together tightly as seen in the picture and lie down looking upwards. While remaining here, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the neck upwards and gaze at the midbrow...". p129
"This has 20 vinyasas. This is from the Kapila Matham.
After observing that this follows the form of flight of the cakora bird, this came to be called cakorasana. In the Dhyana Bindu Upanishad, Parameshwara advises Parvati that “There are as many asanas as there are living beings in the world”. We readers must always remember this. The 8th and 14th vinyasas are this asana’s sthitis. The 7th and the 13th vinyasas are like the 7th and the 13th vinyasas of ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th and the 14th vinyasas, press the palms of the hand firmly into the ground, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the body 6 angulas off the ground and hold it there. Carefully study the picture where this is demonstrated. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. The other vinyasas are like those of bhairavasana..." p131-132
"This has 7 vinyasas. From the 1st to the 5th vinyasas and then the 7th vinyasa, practise following those for utthita hasta padangushtasana. Practise the 2nd and 7th vinyasas as shown in the picture (study it carefully) and remain in these positions. The 2nd vinyasa is the right-side trivikramasana sthiti. The 6th vinyasa as shown is the left-side trivikramasana sthiti. The picture shown here only demonstrates the left-side trivikramasana. It is important that equal recaka and puraka kumbhaka must be carefully observed while practising this asana. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Both legs must be held straight and must not lean or bend to any side...".
"This has 10 vinyasas. The 6th and 7th vinyasas show the asana sthiti. The first picture shows the 6th vinyasa and the second picture shows the 7th. In the 4th vinyasa, come to caturanga dandasana sthiti and in the 5th vinyasa proceed to viparita salabasana sthiti. In the 6th vinyasa, spread the arms out wide, keeping them straight like a stick (like a wire) as shown in the picture. Take the soles of both feet and place them next to the ears such that the heels touch the arms and keep them there.
Next, do the 7th vinyasa as shown in the second picture. This is called supta ganda bherundasana. In this asana sthiti and in the preliminary positions, do equal recaka puraka kumbhaka. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. This must not be forgotten". p142
Like many I've often wondered why the Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois approach to asana are so different given that they both studied with the same teacher T. Krishnamacharya and at the same period. We do have the video of Iyengar practicing Ashtanga, jumping from one posture to the next in a demonstration for the camera in 1938 but why the parting of ways?
My understanding is that when Iyengar went to Pune and was asked to write a 'manual' he wasn't able to explain, in words rather than through demonstration, how to perform an asana. It was in the act of writing out instructions for each asana that he began to focus so closely on the alignment to be explored in each posture. On giving attention to each and every aspect of an individual asana the length of stay in an asana would become longer to allow for exploring these different aspects.
Ramaswami has mentioned that Krishnamacharya did talk about how certain asana required longer stays for the benefits to be experienced, paschimottanasana comes to mind, sarvangasana (shoulder stand), sirsasana (headstand), maha mudra in the mudras, most full body mudras would tend to involve longer stays to maximise the .
But we find it also in Krishnamacharya's early writing, way back in 1934 in Mysore when Pattabhi Jois was his student we find in Krishnamacharya's first book, Yoga Makaranda, instruction and recommendation for extended stays.
Pattabhi Jois too (see below), in Interview talks about extended stays in certain asana.
"You long time you sitting, kurmasana is long time, 3 hours is possible. One asana is perfect, taken 3 hours."
Below then are some of the extended stays that I tend to explore in my own classes and workshops, you will be relieved to know that we tend to only stay five breaths in Chaturanga rather than fifteen minutes, likewise with trikonasana, we usually stay ten breaths each side and in downward facing dog just ten breaths, enough to get the point of exploring longer stays in the privacy of ones own home practice.
What constitutes an extended stay?
It can be confusing, when considering an extended stay in an asana should we count just one expression of the asana or several. Krishnamacharya presents several examples of paschimottanasana (see below), different hand positions and different head positions, the forehead on the knee, face on the knee and chin on the knee.
In Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga, going by the 1973 Syllabus given to Nancy and David, we find Paschimottanasana A, B, C, D, E.... at 5 breaths each, with 5 seconds for inhalation and the same for exhalation, that gives us approx. 5 minutes in paschimottanasana. If we were to take the old count of eight breaths and go by Pattabhi Jois' mention in Interviews of 10 (even 15) seconds for inhalation and the same for exhalation as the ideal, then we have just under fourteen minutes.
Maha Mudra is another posture where an extended stay may be expected. Janu Sirsasana is a vinyasa of Mahamudra and we still have three versions of this in the Ashtanga Primary series.
Sharat I seem to remember in past conference notes mentioned very long stays in sirsasana as being beneficial ".. but at home, not in the shala, too busy".
Here's Krishnamacharya's extended stays from Yoga Makaranda (1934 Mysore).
Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois on extended stays in asana
Question: Yassin is asking if he should stay longer in kurmasana or in back bendings. You give some timing like 10 breaths for kurmasana. You give 3 times five breaths for urdhva dhanurasana. Yassin is asking if he should stay longer. He wants to stay longer sometimes.
Answer: "I telling: all the asanas you take practice how long your strength is so there, you take. Long time he is doing, 100 asanas you do - 1 asana is perfect. Long time sitting all the asanas he is doing time, you 1 take 10 breath or 15 breathing. You count it. Practice, that is all. You long time you sitting, kurmasana is long time, 3 hours is possible. One asana is perfect, taken 3 hours. Now practice how much your strength is there, you take. That is no problem. Your strength is 10 breathing is doing possible, you do 10 breathing, 15 breathing you possible, you do 15 breathing. One hundred possible, 100 you do. 5 you do, 5 is possible, 5 you do. Take practice, that is all. I am telling only for practice. Fix completely perfect. Asana, one asana siddhi, you do hundred asanas, one asana is coming, one asana perfectly is coming. That is real".
And finally we have the Rishi series that supposedly comes after Advanced A and B that I posted on again only yesterday, where we stay in ten postures for fifty breaths.
See THIS post
In his later years, in his regular personal practice BKS Iyengar would tend to stay for three to five minutes for most postures, longer for certain seated postures, 7-15 minutes perhaps (example baddha konasana 15 minutes) and an extended period for shoulder stand and headstand 15-30 minutes. I also have him, in a regular practice staying 20 minutes in Vajrasana and the same in Raja kapotsasana and even 10 minutes in Hanumanasana.
3-5 minutes minimum in an asana seems perfectly reasonable to me.... except perhaps navasana where I'm happy to go with a minute and a half.
See also the idea of the 'Rishi' series
'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.
Nancy Gilgoff 'Yoga as it was'
Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficial'.
Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.
And in case your reaction, like my own, is that three hours in mayurasana is impossible.... perhaps not, here's plank held for four hours and 26 minutes ( his wifes birthday is 26th April i.e. 4:26), notice how composed he is at the end unlike the previous record holder shown at the end of the clip.