Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Guna ~ Srivatsa Ramaswami September 2015 Newsletter

During August 2015 I completed teaching the 200 Hr Vinyasakrama Yoga Teacher Training Program at Loyola Marymount, University, LA for the last time . I am beholden to Dr Chris Chapple, Bob Hurteau and LMU for affording me this wonderful opportunity to present a wider perspective of Sri Krishnamacharya's Yoga as I learnt from him over a very long period of time.


When I had difficulty getting to teach even a weekend workshop, LMU gave me an opportunity to teach a full 60 hour certificate program in Vinyasakrama Yoga and then extended it to a complete 200 hr Teacher Training program for almost ten years. In this course I was able to teach a variety of subjects my Guru taught including Pranayama, dharana meditation, Yoga sutras apart from the shat kosas and other subjects. I was also able to teach the complete range of asanas and vinyasas he taught over a period of time. In all it contained several hundred asanas and vinyasas as mentioned in my book, yes all asanas and vinyasas put together in the variety of sequences.





During the last week of the program the participants were encouraged to develop their own individual daily practice of varied vinyasas and short stay (of about 3 breaths) in many asanas in the sequence. There was also a significant static asana practice component of several minutes ( 5 to 10 mts) in asanas as sirsasana, sarvangasana, paschimatanasana, mahamudra and also stay in one legged tapasvin poses like vrikshasana or Bhagiratasana. One day they did during half hour, more than 100 vinyasa movements from visesha vinyasa sequences like anjanesyasana, ding namaskara, surya namaskara, a couple times, without and with mantras, vasishtasana staying with each subroutine a couple of times, many padmasana cyclical movements, halasana, uttanamayurasana, paschimatanasana sequence etc. This system of my Guru affords a judicial combination of major asanas like the King and Queen asanas as Sirsasana and Sarvangasana on the one hand and several artistic and healthful vinyasas on the other. Practising a variety of vinyasas with synchronous breathing helps to exercise the whole skeletal muscles and joints thereby first squeezing out used blood from the various muscles, tissues and joints; then on the other hand the accompanying involved breathing improves the venous return of the blood to the heart and also the rakta and prana sanchara or blood circulation and respiration. In Yoga Rahasya, Yoga Makaranda and also in his actual class instructions, he would repeatedly stress the importance of the use of vinyasas while doing asana practice. Vinyasas with the right breathing accompanying the movements make considerable physiological sense.

The classic static postures in conjunction with appropriate breathing and bandhas give lasting benefits to the internal organs. A yoga teacher should learn as many asanas and vinyasas as possible so as to be able to make yogasanas relevant all through one's life and also adapt to the varied requirements of the students and patients. I am teaching the way I remember my teacher taught me and am aware of the great benefits the system affords. So far 148 people have completed the program over the last ten years and I hope at least a handful of them would practise regularly and see the benefits of the system and then teach to others in the way they find appropriate. I really consider myself fortunate to be able to teach what I learnt from my guru. I do not know how he taught others- he seldom mentioned about his former students, his own teachers, or referred to his earlier works like Yogamakaranda or Yogasanangalu but quite often referred to and quoted from his book “Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya”. Of course I got a copy of Yogamakaranda and Yogasanangalu from my Guru but used to refer to the Makaranda often for the written material in it. But the asanas and vinyasas that he taught were many times more and varied than what is contained in his books.. For me nothing is more important than what he directly taught me for such a long sustained period of time and not how or what he was supposed to have taught other of his famous students or some historical perspective of his yogasana teachings in the 1920s.


Further his teachings included several other aspects of Yoga than Asanas and Vinyasas. And nowadays in dealing with Krishnamacharya Yoga, there is no reference to these other components of his teachings-- scores of chapters of vedic chanting he taught or the texts like Samkhya Karika, Upanishad vidyas, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Bhagavat Gita, the Brahma sutra and several others he taught in the presentation of Krishnamacharya's teachings related to Yoga. And he taught vedic chanting to many people and I was fortunate to learn to chant several chapters of Yajur veda like Suryanamaskara, Kushmanda Homa. Citti sruk, Taittiriya Upanishad, Maha Narayana Upanishad, Taiitiriya Kataka, Ekagni Kanda, pravargya, pravargya brahmana, Ashwamedha several of which were recorded by “Sangeetha”, and running for several hours of chanting. Sri Krsihnamacharya considered “svadhyaya” or vedic chanting as a very important niyama for yogabhyasis and an integral part of Patanjali's Kriya Yoga. For me he is not a historical figure to speculate about but one whom I had met face to face and learnt from in person for 30 years.


The participants showed considerable interest in chanting like “Atma Suddhi mantras” Patanjali prayer. Their chanting of Vinyasakrama Yoga prayer was heart warming.


The participants also learnt a variety of pranayamas and developed a sustained solid practice of pranayama—many from several batches would do viloma ujjayi 80 times, day after day. Then to consider was the dharana meditation based on the teachings of Patanjali. They patiently went through Yoga sutras, sutra by sutra and also were able to read the sutras comfortably. I am sure that many of them would become good yogis and yoga teachers. My best wishes to all of them.

During the last few years I found that a good number of participants who attended my programs did not opt to register with YA as registered yoga teachers, perhaps because the certificate contains my ERYT 500 particulars. Or because many of them are already teaching and quite a few have already completed their 200 hr Teacher training elsewhere or even 500 hr ERYT and had decided to come to my program for additional information. I have decided to suspend offering the 200 hr program because it is very strenuous both for the participants and myself. It is done for 5 weeks 7 hrs a day and all are contact hours. I have decided to offer a 100 hr advanced Vinyasakrama Teacher Training program. It is not advanced for people who have already taken my 200 hr program but may be so for other senior teachers or those who have already registered as Yoga Teachers but not familiar with the vinyasakrama I teach. It will be about 60 hrs of asanas and vinyasas, 20 hrs or so of Patanjali's yoga sutras and another 20 hrs for Pranayama, mudras, mantras and meditation and yoga for the 6 kosahas. Krishnamacharya would emphasize on the need to maintain the health of these kosas with appropriate yoga procedures. I referred to YA alliance if I have to register this program and this is what they had to say

Dear Srivatsa, 
Thank you for contacting Yoga Alliance. 
The 100hr advanced vinyasakrama program that you intend to offer, would be considered as Continuing Education. You do not have to register it. I looked your account up and see that you are a E-RYT 500;  Because you are a E-RYT 500, you are a qualified provider. The ratio is 1:1, meaning the 100hr would be a 100 Continuing Education hours. 
I have provided a link below giving you more details on Continuing Education.


Please let me know if you have any additional questions. I’m happy to help! 
Namaste,
Nia 
Nia Blakney
Member Services Associate

 (571) 482 3355

I will be offering this program in India in the coming months. The first one will be in Chennai from
 November 26th. It is organized by Yoga Vahini of my friend Saraswathy Vasudevan, herself a senior teacher from Krishnmacharya tradition. Understand that the registration full—almost maybe.
Here is the contact information
Email: yogavahinichennai@gmail.com

Phone: +91 98846 42456


I am also doing the same program in New Delhi from January 14th 2016 organized by OmYoga of my friend and a very well known yoga exponent, Mini Shastri. Here is the contact information.
Phone: +91 9891580147 


Prior to that in September I will be teaching at the Chicago Yoga Center of my friend Suddha Weixler. I will be teaching a one day workshop on Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta, the three vedic nivritti sastras . Then a weekend workshop on Vinyasakrama and then a 5 daay 25 hour certificate program on Core Vinyasas. Here is the link

For 2016, I am interested in offering this 100 hr program. It can be done over 16 days starting on a Saturday and ending on Sunday two weeks later.

During my stay in LA, I also taught a 25 hr program in Bhagavat Gita, the first and the last 6 chapters to a compact group at Sarah Mata's studio. Thank you Sarah, Arun and all those who attended the program

One evening at my cousin Dr Ambujam Panchanathan's house in North Ridge, I gave a brief introductory talk on Ashtanga Yoga (Patanjalis version) to a group made up mostly of Indian friends.



On Aug 29th I taught a one day workshop at Ananda Ashram at Munroe, NY, which was well attended.

Gunas

The Gunas are a fascinating concept for explaining the functioning of the Universe. Like a lamp having the flame, wick and oil (wax) as the three ingredients that mutually support one another even while having dramatically different characteristics, the three guns, satva, tamas and rajas, create and support the universe. Since what we see and consider ourselves (drshya atma) is also part of the universe, the three gunas operate in us too,The Bhagavat Gita explains the operation of the gunas to have a better understanding of the gunas and work towards firstly making oneself satvic. And Yoga especially the classical Ashtanga Yoga is helpful in reducing the dominance of Rajas and Tamas and facilitate the blossoming of satva in an individual. Satva manifests as clarity (of mind), Rajas as activity and tamas as constraint according to YS. Samkhya refers to Satva as lightness of the body and clarity of mind, Rajas as physical restlessness and mental fickleness and finally tamas as heaviness of the body and covering/darkness of the mind. Samkhyas also say that when one's intellect (buddhi) is satvic it takes the individual along the path of dharma (piety), jnana (spiritual knowledge), viraga ( desirelessness) and aiswarya (leadership/siddhis). They also say that if the mind is tamasic it leads the individual in the opposite direction as adharma (uncontrolled behaviour), ajnana ( lack of spiritual interest) aviraga ( slaves of the senses) and anaisvarta (slavish mentality).


Here are Lord Krishna's enumeration of how the gunas manifest in some human endeavors.


When wisdom appears to flow out through all the indriyas, then one may be considered satvic. When greed, engagement with the objects of the outside world through the senses, increasing worldly activities and the karma bundle, restlessness, keenness in engagement are considered to e stimulated by rajas. Indiscriminate engagement, lack of effort, carelessness, infatuation are considered effects of surging tamas.

Tapas is a term well known to Yogis. It is an element of the niyamas of Ashtanga Yoga and part of kriya yoga of Patanjali.. Tapas is austerity, penance. Lord Krishna in the Gita considers Tapas in the three human activities (trikarana) viz., of speech (vak), thought (manas) and body (kaya). Worshiping the gods, scholars, teachers and wise ones, cleanliness, straightforwardness, controlling senses,non-harming are said to be tapas of the body. Avoiding hurtful words, speaking truthfully, words that promote amity and goodwill are said to be tapas of speech. Peace of mind, compassion, silence, self/mind control, pure thoughts—these are considered tapas of the mind. These tapas of body, mind and speech observed scrupulously by selfless yogis is considered satvic tapas.

With a view to get attention and appreciation from others, tapas done pompously and inconsistently(in fits and starts) is said to be rajasic tapas. And doing tapas with superstition and torturing oneself or for the harm and destruction of others is considered tamasic

What about charity (daana)?
Anything gifted away to the deserving, at the appropriate time at the right place and without expecting anything in return in considered satvic dana or charity. Giving away anticipating a 'quid pro quo' or future benefits or with a feeling of compulsion or reluctance is considered Rajasic daana. Tamasic giving is giving to the undeserving, or giving with contempt or arrogance and without humility.

Here is Krishna's teaching about the Self (Atma). To consider that there is one consciousness that permeates all the creatures,you , me and everyone else is considered satvic understanding of the Self. To consider that in each creature there is one individual conscious self is considered incomplete,hasty or rajasic understanding of the Self. To consider the body as the self as commonly and thoughtlessly believed is considered tamasic understanding of the Self.

And all the three gunas (except when dominated by satvic states of jnana and yoga ), lead to bondage.
Satvic mind is in bondage with peace or agreeable internal environment (sukha) and jnana (knowledge of the universe, scientific knowledge). Rajas binds individuals through mundane activities. It creates intense desire and its opposite, enmity (raga and dvesha). But tamas breeds ignorance, laziness, infatuation. It binds beings to inertia,laziness and sleep.

Shraddha is faith. Yogis know from YS I-20 that Shraddha or abiding faith is the first and foremost requirements for the budding yogabhyasi. Everyone is born with shraddha as per previous samskaras. Many have faith in God. Many have faith in right conduct (dharma) to reach the heavens they believe in. Some have shraddha in their buddhi or intellect and their ability to think through everything. Some have faith in intuition (pratibha). Some others have faith in wealth and power. Lord Krishna discusses about satvic, rajasic and tamasic aspects of shraddha in his Gita. There are many more aspects like karma, and others Krishna expounds from the viewpoint of the three gunas

The Bhagavat Gita is considered one of the three important texts which expounds the vedanta philosophy of the vedas also known as prasthan traya. However, Gita is also considered a yoga sastra. Bhagavad Gita is commonly called as Brahma vidya and a Yoga Sastra. Hence my Guru would urge his students to study the Bhagavat Gita along with the Yoga Sutras. He would compare several Gita statements with the Yoga Sutras. Of course there are some differences but it is very enriching studying the Gita after studying the Yogasutras and the Samkhya Kaarika

Best Wishes
Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami
-- 

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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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