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Friday, 30 October 2015

Yoga Clothing for Men : OHMME YOGA Product Review

My iMac is sick at the moment and needs a new HD but manages to work for a day or two after a clean install (this is my fourth), long enough to finally get this review up.

Relates to this previous post

Hard for me to get excited about Yoga wear, for him or for her but I like this company and like that they focus on men. As long as they Wick, fit, seem long lasting, wash and dry easily and are comfortable through practice then I don't really care what I wear while practicing looks like. These shorts from Ohmme yoga were a bit of a revelation though, who knew practice shorts could be this comfortable.

You may remember I posted this excellent video with my friend Simon Borg-Olivier ( recently

The Video was made as part of a promotion for OHMME YOGA, a UK Mens Yoga clothing company.

OHMME YOGA Shorts and Leggings Product Review

After putting up my earlier post OHMME YOGA got in touch to ask me if I'd like to try out their shorts/leggings, they were kind enough to send me the three below and all the way to Japan too.

I've been wearing them for a week or so now and like them a lot, the Scorpion leggings more than I expected to.

The shorts are incredibly light and comfortable and make my PRANA shorts feel like leather lederhosen, so far they are washing well, will see if they last as well as the lederhosen.

2 Dogs lined Yoga Shorts

Tapsaya grey shorts

One thing, although the grey shorts above are probably my favourites for home practice some may consider them a little TOO short for a public shala, Hot Yoga maybe.

Scorpion Yoga Leggings
The leggings are comfortable to practice in and sure to come into their own with the colder weather on it's way but how does anyone manage to practice garbha pindasana in Leggings?

The Scorpion Leggings are featured in this video with Baris ( )

You can find practitioners who do these shorts and leggings more justice than I do as well as their full range on OHMME YOGA's website Gallery and Store page

Many thanks to OHMME Yoga for shipping these out to Japan for me to try.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Pattabhi Jois' 1989 'extreme' regular Led Ashtanga Advanced series videos

I've posted these videos before, Clifford Sweatte, an early student of Pattabhi Jois, posted them some time back on his website Prana Airways his site is well worth a visit, some wonderful old photographs of Pattbhi Jois and his early students.

Recently I've watched the videos again and to be honest I'm not sure what to make of them. Most of the videos we have of Pattabhi Jois teaching are of demonstrations, the videos below though are of a regular advanced series Led class held in a garage. Clifford mentions that occasionally somebody would just turn up with a camera, so what we have here is the real deal, nothing put on for the cameras and rather than a chosen six we have around twenty practitioners struggling through advanced asana in a hot garage, it's quite insane.

Clifford writes in a comment to my original post

"There was nothing scripted about these sessions or Guruji’s methods other than the asana sequence and vinyasas. There were cameras in class snapping photos from time to time but video shoots were rare and unexpected for most of us. I was lucky enough to be with Guruji and Manju in that very first group in Cardiff-by-the-Sea where we spent months together long before they were known. Over the years, he taught me that just as we were all different as students, his teaching technique and demands would vary according to the student’s prana level and general condition. Guruji’s ability to read one’s Bandha status is something he could do in an instant and would often announce to the class: “no mula bandha” or “weak mula bandha”! 

No being held back at an asana until perfect, proficient or even getting close here.

The situation couldn't be more different now it seems. How many does Sharath allow to continue through to the end of an intermediate led. Is it still the case that the majority are tapped out at some point and left to sit until finishing. Most in the video below would probably have been tapped out at the first posture, different times.

I tend to be with Pattabhi Jois' son Manju regarding Marichiyasana D, do your best then move on to the next asana, keep working at it and eventually it'll come. And why not, Krishnamacharya had Marichi D in his middle group anyway, it's not as if it's going to help you with Navasana and if your barely touching your fingertips,... or not, practicing Navasana isn't going to make that much of a difference. 

See this post

Miley Cyrus' Intermediate Ashtanga Marichiyasana D. ALSO Madonna's Eka pada Sirsasana, Sequences Vs groups and Marichiyasana G and H

Marichiyasana D is one thing but the extreme twists and binds, the stretching and straining we see in the videos below strikes me personally as....irresponsible? 

Sometimes we need to question teachers, drop the guru narative and question our idols, not in everything perhaps, not necessarily all of the time, but when our discernment strongly suggests it to us, if we deem something to be inappropriate, an instruction, an adjustment, anything, then certainly then. Questioning doesn't necessarily mean we are less devoted, that we love less (devotion can stand on its own, its unsightly collocate adjective is not implied by the noun, they are merely too often found together), only the Pope has infallible in his job description. YS101

But I wasn't there, perhaps no Ashtangis were harmed in the filming of this video..... or in the practices that weren't filmed.

It should be noted that as far as we can tell there were no Ashtanga Vinyasa series before Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya had three groups of asana, Primary, Middle and Proficient. It seems likely that students would practice many of the Primary asana and as they became comfortable with certain postures, more advanced versions of the asana would be added. At some point Marichyasana D from the middle group would be added to A, B and C from the Primary group. And then perhaps, with growing proficiency, the young, flexible boys would be told to practice Marichyasana E, F and perhaps G, all from the proficient group of asana. 

Pattabhi Jois supposedly formed the four series for a four year college course, his Primary is almost exactly the same as the asana are laid out in Krishnamacharya's Primary group. The Ashtanga Intermediate series closely follows Krishnamacharya's middle group but the two Advanced Ashtanga series are made up of asana thrown together in Krishnamacharya's Proficient group with a few other asana that Krishnamacharya taught ( as we can see his student BKS Iyengar practicing in the 1938 film ). Krishnamacharya clearly never intended advanced asana to be practiced as a series other than perhaps in a short demonstration by his most accomplished boys. 

The fixed Ashtanga series came about as a pedagogic accident of circumstance and I wonder how many of Pattabhi Jois' 1940/50/60s students,outside of his family, progressed to the advanced series with any proficiency , some perhaps they were young college students after all, surely some.

We can't be even be certain that Pattabhi Jois practice Advanced asana as a series for a significant period of time, if at all.

See my earlier post.

Should it matter if and how long Pattabhi Jois may have practiced the Ashtanga 'methodology' himself

Going by the Yoga for the Three Stages of Life theory, it probably doesn't matter what asana we practice on that first and second stage or how we go about practicing them for that matter as long as we still have our knees intact to sit in the third stage.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

David Garrigue's and flexibility within the Lineage PLUS Ashtanga for all ages. Playing the over 50 card. Pattabhi Jois'Yoga Mala

"For people over fifty, it is enough to practice some of the easier and more useful asanas, as well as some of the pranayamas. 
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois - Yoga mala


I just watched this video from David Garrigue on Flexibility within the Ashtanga Lineage and it reminded me of a post I thought I had put up a few months back. Turns out it was still sitting there in draft unposted. Thought I would just add David's video as well as another post I wrote on this topic a few years ago.

The video below was originally a Live Periscope...... thing (what do you call those, video, Live stream?).

"Many of us make our way through our daily practice, doing the best we can within our given set of circumstances. We each have to contend with our too long list of outer and inner obstacles, as well as physical and psychological limitations. And as if simply facing the challenges of daily practice were not enough, many of us faithfully do our daily version of practice and yet still we feel somehow unworthy, like fakes or a phony's, like somehow our efforts aren't good enough, our practices not deep, committed, strong, fluid enough.......

These were some of thoughts that came up around the periscope talk on flexibility within the ashtanga system that I gave a few days ago. I answered the question of a 61 year old woman with some serious physical limitations who was feeling the way many of us feel as described above. Believing these feelings almost succeeded in causing her to quit practicing. She wrote me after tuning into the broadcast, and told me that she took 'copious notes'! Here's her summary of my message to us all who are part of the ashtanga lineage:

1. I can do Ashtanga with all my limitations. Everyone has something (the too long list! "we are all pregnant") I am not alone.

2. Do the best I can with what I have.

3. It doesn’t have to be exacting if it is sincere and serious.

4. I can be part of the Ashtanga family".

David Garrigues.


Here's the post that's been sitting in draft.

I was asked if practicing a reduced practice and departing somewhat from the Ashtanga sequence(s) constituted a departure from the Ashtanga tradition/lineage.

"For people over fifty, it is enough to practice some of the easier and more useful asanas, as well as some of the pranayamas. Those who have been practicing for many years, however, can do any asana or pranayama without a problem. 

Older people who want to start yoga, however, will find practicing the following ten asanas sufficient first, the Surya Namaskara (types 1 and 2); then Paschimattanasana; Sarvangasana;
Halasana; Karnapidasana; Urdhva Padmasana; Pindasana;Matsyasana; Uttana Padasana; and Shirshasana. It is preferable to do these in concert with the vinyasas [breathing and movement systems], but if this is not possible, then practicing while focusing on rechaka and puraka will suffice. Shirshasana should be practiced for at least ten minutes, and the rest, for at least ten rechaka and puraka while in the state of the asana. By practicing in this way, the body and sense organs will become firm, the mind purified, longevity will be increased, and the body will be filled with fresh energy.

For the middle-aged, it is best to do all the asanas. The more they are practiced, the stronger the body becomes, and obstacles such as disease cease to be a problem. Pranayama is easier, the mind becomes more harmonious as the quality of sattva [purity] comes to predominate, and intellectual power and longevity are augmented.

For the very old, however, who find the practice of Sarvangasana, Halasana, Uttana Padasana, Shirshasana, and Padmasana too difficult, it is enough to practice mahabandha daily, as well as rechaka kumbhaka pranayama, puraka kumbhaka pranayama, samavritti vishamavritti pranayama, and sithali pranayama. These will help them live happier and longer lives, and will insulate them from disease.

The weak and the sick, too, should gradually practice suitable asanas and pranayamas, and over time, as their strength increases, their practices should also increase. In this way, the diseases of the sick and the strength-lessness of the weak will be eliminated, leaving them healthy and vigorous".


Dropping some asana to practice fewer, 'more useful' asana, more slowly, including longer stays and thus leaving enough time for an extended pranayama practice as well as a sit is, it would appear, very much in keeping with Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala practice guidelines.

Which are the more useful asana?

Krishnamacharya recommended we practice paschmattanasana, maha mudra, sarvangasana, and sirsasana everyday (padmasana is a given). At other times he also recommended daily practice of mayurasana and baddha konasana.

Paschimottanasana would also imply it's counter

Ten minutes each in sarvangasana and sirsasana allow us to include several variations, many inverted versions of asana in the later half of Primary series.

If sun salutation is difficult or a problem ( I have a wrist issue at the moment then) this video from Simon Borg-Olivier might be appropriate.

Patanjali often gets quoted in Ashtanga circles to argue that one should never cease or interrupt our devotion to the Ashtanga vinyasa method.

Pattabhi Jois employs the sutra himself to argue that one shouldn't interrupt ones asana and pranayama practice....

"For many years you must practice asana and pranayama. The scriptures say: "Practicing a long time with respect and without interruption brings perfection." One year, two years, ten years... your entire life long, you practice". Interview with Pattabhi Jois

Pattabhi Jois is quoting Yoga sutra 1.14

1.14 When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation.
(sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih)

This sutra of course refers to yoga practice in general, a meditative practice in which asana, pranayama, pratyahara as well as the yamas and niyamas play a significant role......


And an earlier post on this from Jan 8 2012

Krishnamacharya aged 50

Having a blog I occasionally receive mail asking advice, suggestions, this one I thought deserved a blog post all of it's own if only because I know I have many readers practising in their 40s and 50s (some with strong views on the subject) and perhaps some of you may like to share your own experience in the comments section.


I did ask if it was OK to share the email on the blog but and the writer was more than happy but I forgot to ask if they wanted to remain anonymous, so lets just say the email is from T.

"First of all thanks for sharing so much about your practice in your blog. It really inspires me for my practise! 
I have topic, where I could not find answer or advice in any other place.

It is about ashtanga and age. I'm 47 yeas old now, I started regular practice 6 months ago. My progress is steady and I'm happy about it. However I'm aware that at some point I will have to adjust my practise to my physical abilities and limitations coming with the age.  Maybe I worry to early? Maybe, but I can't see in shala in Warsaw (Poland) any older, I mean 50+ practitioners :-) 

I think 50+ is age when ageing effect starts and your body stops liking such an intensive practice like regular ashtanga. I was hoping that 2-3 years of ashtanga will give me solid foundation before I can make conscious choice regarding my future practice. More pranayama? More meditation? Selected routines from Vinyasa Krama?

So the questions coming to my mind are like:
- until which age ashtanga provides best benefits for your body?
- when and how ashtanga yoga practise needs to be modified?
- is Vinyasa Krama more suitable for 50+ yogis?

 I was hoping You can share your experiences about it". 


My own view on this is that I started Ashtanga at 43, unfit and overweight as many of you know. I worked hard at it, perhaps a little too hard given the condition I was in when I started but was lucky enough to avoid injury. I ended up practicing Primary, Intermediate, Advanced and Advanced B, although the latter not really regularly enough to lay claim to it. Still most of the postures became possible.

So yes, Ashtanga is doable in your late 40s. I'm 50 now, the same age as Krishnamacharya in the old Black and White movie.

That said while you can practice a hard, fast paced Ashtanga into our 50's and beyond we don't have to practice it that way.

I've tried to show on this blog that there are many ways to approach your Ashtanga, it doesn't have to be as fixed as it often seems or how it gets mischaracterised in the media or misrepresented in some of the 'look at me' or promotional videos.
  • We can add more preparatory postures, something in line with both Pattabhi Jois' and Krishnamacharya's teaching
  • We don't have to practice it at such a hard, faced pace as we often see it presented. We can slow down the breath, lengthen it, this too is very much in keeping with the 'original' teaching.
  • We don't have to practice the full sequence, just the sury's and the finishing sequence or the last three postures is fine, or up to navasana say, and then on to finishing. Yep, in line with original teaching.
Manju mentioned his practice is part of Primary, part of Intermediate and a couple of changing postures from Advanced series.

Many of the senior teachers who have been practicing for 40 years or so and are now in their 50s/even 60s do something similar I think,
  • We can cut out some of the transitions in between the postures, we did that anyway with the switch from full to half vinyasa, we can cut out the transitions between sides, or even between groups of postures.
  • We can make more time for a little pranayama and meditation again all in keeping with what appears to be the original presentation of the practice
Practiced like this the line between Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga seems to blur.
  • And no, we don't have to fully bind Marichiyasana D say or have the full expression of every posture before we move on, we may never bind Mari D - as Manju Jois said, keep working on the posture, on deepening it, opening up in it so as to breathe more... we don't drop it necessarily but don't have to fully bind it with our hands either before moving on to the next posture.
So can we practice Ashtanga into our 50's and beyond, of course although we may wish to bring out other aspects of the practice.

Personally I don't think you need to wait until your 40's to modify your Ashtanga practice, actually I don't really like the word 'modify' here, I prefer 'focus on or bring out other aspects of the practice'.

It would be just as appropriate to take a slower approach ( a long, slow, full breath 'like the pouring of oil' ) to Ashtanga in your 20s as in your 40s or 50s

Like you I was very aware of my age thought I needed to get through the different series while still just about young enough, figured if I could reach Advanced by the time I was 50 I could then slow down a bit....there really was no rush. Primary is just as important as advanced series or Intermediate for that matter, it probably is all we ever need ( with the clarification that we may want to bring in other preparatory postures or do variations of some of those in the series).

My own practice as you have seen is a slower approach to Ashtanga, I really donut tend to see a distinction between my Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga practice now. After a long time focussing on a Krishnamacharya approach to primary I'm currently working on the same with regard to intermediate series. Once I have my 2nd series back I'll probably practice along similar lines as Manju above, in the morning  part primary, part 2nd series and a little of 3rd thrown in for luck followed by pranayama and chanting. In the evening a couple of changing vinyasa krama subroutines but with more focus on pranayama and meditation.

Hope that helps, I hope others have something to add on this.


Adding this comment to the body of the text because of the links.

Anthony, your friend from Poland might be interested to read the accounts of two of my regular students - Kathleen, age 63, and Leon, age 73.

Both started with me about three years ago as brand new students. Leon tends towards my led classes, Kathleen started there, but now is a Mysore student. Both are very consistent practitioners, at least 3-4 times a week in the shala, and also at home. Both approach the practice with dedication and courage…and they are truly inspiring. I can attest to the fact that they have gotten stronger, more flexible and more vital in the past three years. You can see the physical differences with your eyes! But, more importantly, they both attest to the fact that they just feel better doing Ashtanga yoga. Is their practice intense? No - but Leon does Full Primary with me twice a week, and he rocks it. Kathleen, a cancer survivor, is coming back slowly and mindfully to her previous practice - and because of her increased awareness, I can see that she is a much more integrated, intelligent practitioner. She attests to the practice helping her become healthy once more.

Will either of these students do advanced practice, A or B? No, but it doesn't matter. Primary (and some of the intro postures from second) has helped them so much. Made them younger and more vital in their bodies and minds.

I have had the same experience, as I started at 30 feeling like crap, outta shape from having three babies, and two bad miscarriages. I'm 47, and feeling like I'm in my late 20's. It's been a long road, but I now am starting Advanced A, so, never say never! Just say, "Not yet!" I could add more, but I have to go teach now :)


Nice fb post from Ramaswami this weekend

About 25 years back this young man learnt a few asanas. He has been practising them regularly especially sarvangasana. I meet him almost every time I come to Madras/Chennai. I talked to him a few days back during my present visit. “I am still doing many of the asanas-- especially sarvangasana alone for 10 minutes everyday. I feel good about this sarvangasana. Can I continue to do that” he asked, “I have just turned 90” he said.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Practicing with Wrist strain. How ? Alternative to Sun salutation and upward facing dog.

I seem to have a wrist problem again, this time quite stubborn and doesn't seem to want to go away using the trigger point therapy I used last time See this post

Ashtanga wrist issues and therapy: Gymnasts Wrist or Washer Woman's syndrome overcome with Trigger Therapy

I could of course bring in the Ashtanga with one arm tied behind my back approach outlined in this post from back when I sliced my hand open but it all seems frankly ridiculous too me now.

Practicing Ashtanga with one hand tied behind your back

A forearm Urdhva Dhanurasana is perhaps useful but the post also includes a one handed drop back video, not recommended.

Better to switch to a Vinyasa Krama option, no surynamaskara or jump through for me but Vinyasa Krama has this nice lead in to dandasana option which is perfect.

But what about counter postures between asana or groups of asana if there is no jump back and upward facing dog?

Again Vinyasa Krama can help, I bring in dvipadapitam, table posture, there are several options. you can choose a different one each time.

In a post earlier this week I talked about how the ashtanga asana can be found in Krishnamacharya's subroutines, I even circled them.

Forearm downward facing dog is an option for the Bow and meditative sequence

Afterwards, when I looked at the sheets with the red circles it seemed madness to just practice those few asana rather than all or at least many of the vinyasas

'Hey yogi don't practice without vinyasa' Yoga korunta (?)

Why did only ONE line survive? Hmmmm.

So I'm happy with some standing postures (ashtanga model fine here) the Vinyasa Krama lead in to dandasana and then work through both the Primary and Middle group Asymmetric asana Janusirsana to eka pada sirsasana and then move to finishing one day and the same but with the bow and meditative subroutines the next. 

Ashtanga practices most of the Asymmetric Vinyasas, it's always made sense to add the Intermediate vinyasas on to the Primary just as Krishnamacharya most likely did in Mysore in the 30s. This is probably how Pattabhi Jois learned these asana.

Bad wrist or no this approach just seems to make more sense to me right now, oh well.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The most Important Yoga - In the context of a broader practice PLUS OHMME YOGA Shorts and leggings Review

In the context of a broader practice

A personal interpretation of the yamas and niyamas

Stunning video, demonstration and monologue from Simon Borg-Olivier

I think what I like about this video (and the one below by Bob) is that it encourages us to reflect (ideally privately) on our practice in a broader context, that of the yamas and niyamas, the world, others...., to step lightly, hold lightly.

Turns out the video was Filmed and edited by our friend Alessandro Sigismondi

Simon Borg-Olivier and his business partner Bianca Machliss



Not a big fan of advertising as you know but figured this company had allowed Simon to chat away about the Yama and Niyamas for ten minutes, least I could do was pop over and have a look at their website. Turns out it's a yoga clothing company.... for MEN

The company's name is OHMME and it turn out they have some other videos on their site.
Unfortunately a couple have background music (would have liked Simon's video even more if it were JUST the voiceover) and are asana demonstrations in public places, bit of a turn off for me that but the one below by a UK Ashtangi, Bob "Manoj" Bharij, who works in drug and alcohol abuse, has a voice over like Simon's. This makes all the difference for me, putting the asana in the context of what the practice means to them.

More info about Bob here:


UPDATE 2 - OHMME YOGA Product Review

After putting up this post OHMME YOGA got in touch to ask me if I'd like to try out their shorts/leggings, they were kind enough to send me the three below and all the way to Japan.

I've been wearing them for a week or two now and like them a lot, the Scorpion leggings more than I expected to.

The shorts are incredibly light and comfortable and make my PRANA shorts feel like leather lederhosen, so far they are washing well, will see if they last as well as the lederhosen.

2 Dogs lined Yoga Shorts

Tapsaya grey shorts

One thing, although the grey shorts above are probably my favourites for home practice some may consider them a little TOO short for a public shala.

Scorpion Yoga Leggings
The leggings are comfortable to practice in and sure to come into their own with the colder weather on it's way.

Practitioners who do these shorts and leggings more justice than I do on OHMME YOGA's website


Earlier posts on Simon

Preview of Simon's excellent book Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ashtanga 2nd series made up of Vinyasa Krama subroutines plus Q and A regarding how to approach Ramaswami's Complete book of VinyasaYoga

I was sent some questions about Vinyasa Krama this morning from somebody who generally practices Ashtanga but recently picked up Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga and is wondering how to approach it.

Part I. Some Questions on how to approach Srivatsa Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga

(This is my current personal approach, at the end of the blog I post Ramaswami's own guidelines for practice).

Q: In each routine it seems surya namaskar is only practiced once, is this correct?

Surynamaskara is optional for Ramaswami and indeed seems to have been so for Krishnamacharya. It came into vogue (again?) in the 1920s and there were surynamaskara classes all over India. The Maharaja of Mysore apparently wanted to have one at the palace yoga school but Krishnamacharya doesn't seem to have been interested, seeing it no doubt (correctly) as an exercise fad. There is suggestion that Pattabhi Jois might have taught such a class, I seem to remember Mark Singleton wites about this in his Yoga Body book,

However, Krishnamacharya did appear to teach Surynamaskara with mantras when in Mysore (Indra Devi), as well as later to Ramaswami ( see the back of Ramaswami's book), it's an option. I come from Ashtanga so still practice some A and B.

Often I'll take a Krishnamacharya approach where I...

stay in each asana of the surynamaskara vinyasa for five or ten breaths

followed by
Surynamaskara with mantras
3 x Ashtanga Surynamaskara As
3 x Ashtanga Surynamaskara Bs

Generally Ramaswami would start practice with a short tadasana sequence ( there is a ten minute video of mine on youtube).

See these posts
Balasahib's 'original' 1928 Suya Namaskar , sun salutation
The Ashtanga Key - Surya Namaskar

Q: Can one sequence be practiced daily, on a rotational basis, or is it better to incorporate elements from each? Plus subroutines?

Ramaswami recommends we learn the sequences as sequences to gain an understanding of and/or familiarity with the relationships between asana, how some lead towards a key asana and others develop and extend that asana as well as how one group (subroutine) of asana may be related to another. Even after we have learned those sequences he still recommends we revisit them regularly, practice one a week say.

We (Vinyasa Krama teachers) need to be careful I think not to slip into the trap of presenting these sequences as the be all and end all of Vinyasa Krama in an attempt to promote either ourselves or the practice as a competing style to Ashtanga. The sequences are a pedagogic resource, we pick asana and/or subroutines from them to construct our practice, generally daily as deemed appropriate. ( I however tend to practice a relatively fixed group of asana/Vinyasa Krama subroutines ( or part of) that make up Ashtanga 2nd series ( see below), mostly out of habit and familiarity but practiced slowly and followed by pranayama, pratyahara and meditation.

Practicing a full sequences we might begin with a little tadasana, a surynamaskara or two with or without mantra, perhaps a short triangle subroutine then a full Vinyasa Krama sequence from the book. After the sequence  we could then do something along the lines of shoulderstand, headstand shoulderstand again and padmasana. Somewhere in the practice it's also recommended to work in maha mudra and pascimattanasana.

It's not like modern Ashtanga, you don't have to stop at whichever posture you struggle with. The Vinyasa Krama sequences are made of subroutines, asana that lead up to a key asana and then develop and expand it, you might only get some way along the preparation asana. Stop where appropriate in that subroutine but then move on perhaps to the next subroutine in the sequence. So you don't need to be able to do all the marichi's before moving on to the Janu sirsasana subroutine or be able to put your leg behind your head before moving on to the trianmukha subroutine.

Q: There is no instruction for savasana at the end of each sequence, is one supposed to meditate/ breathe as an alternative? Or always complete the wind down sequence and finish?

Ramaswami would recommend you take a short Savasana whenever your breath loses some control or your heartbeat increases.

Nice story from when he was teaching at a hardcore Ashtanga shala full of Advanced series students. He apparently taught a nice slow tadasana subroutine then suggested they take a short savasana : )

But yes, take a short savasana at the end of the sequence (or at several places during the sequence), then ideally some finishing asana along the lines of sarvangasana, sirsasana, savangasana again and padmasana. Then another short savasana followed by pranayama, another short savasana and then a few minutes of pratyahara and a meditation practice.

Vinyasa Krama is an integrated practice, it's expected that you will practice asana, pranayama, pratyahara and meditation.

Q: finally there does not seem to be instruction in asanas traditionally not recommended for menstruating women (inversions, strong backbends, band has, breath retention etc)- are these covered in other texts?

There is actually a whole chapter on inversions, the Inverted sequence, shoulderstands come in the Supine sequence.

Kapotasana comes in the meditative sequences as it's based on vajrasana. I tend to practice the Bow sequence and then some of the meditative asana, ustrasana, Laghu and kapotasana just like in Ashtnaga.

There is also a camel walk sequences that would fit as an extension of the meditative sequence, Ramaswami includes it at the end of the book.

Bandhas are mentioned throughout, usually something like "draw in the belly" and of course in the pranayama instruction.

See too, Ramaswami's Yoga Beneath the Surface written with David Hurwitz where David asks a hundred questions or more on yoga practice and philosophy, nice discussion of bandhas in asana there.

In Ramaswami's other book Yoga for the Three Stages of Life ( still my favourite book on yoga) there is a Yoga for Women chapter. There are also some articles he produced as part of a serialisation on antenatal that cover several issues.

I hope that helps a little. I'm from Ashtanga originally too as I'm sure you saw from the blog, for a while Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama seemed such different practices but when you go back to Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makranda (1934), written in Mysore when he was teaching the Young Pattabhi Jois you see that Krishnamacharya recommended long slow breathing, Long stays and we see the shoulderstand and headstand variations in the 1938 movie that we find in Ramaswami's book. When you practice Ashtanga slowly it doesn't seem so different. An Ashtanga practice is basically made up of several subroutines ( going to show that below). Usually you probably wouldn't practice as many asana ( half an Ashtanga series perhaps) because you'd want to leave time for pranayama and meditation.

Hope that helps a little, feel free to ask any other questions that come up

Best Wishes


 Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga


Part II. Ashtanga Second Series made up of Vinyasa Krama subroutines (or part of)

* I prefer to think of Ashtanga Primary and Second series as Krishnamacharya's Primary Group and Middle Group asana - see Krishnamacharya's full asana table. Yogasanagalu (1941).

from the first part of the post

( Recently however I've tended to practice a relatively fixed group of asana, Vinyasa Krama subroutines ( or part of ) that make up the Ashtanga 2nd series, mostly out of habit and familiarity (and partly because I feel some of us should be exploring this consistency in Krishnamacharya's teaching) but practiced slowly and followed by pranayama, pratyahara and meditation.

As far as I'm concerned, in practicing Ashtanga 2nd series I'm practicing Vinyasa Krama. Sharath in fact often refers to Ashtanga as a Vinyasa krama.

So my current practice

I'll often begin with a short tadasana arm movements warm up.

Often I'll take a Krishnamacharya approach where I...

stay in each asana of the surynamaskara vinyasa for five or ten breaths

followed by
Surynamaskara with mantras
3 x Ashtanga Surynamaskara As
3 x Ashtanga Surynamaskara Bs

Next up are some triangle subroutines, some on one leg subroutines and perhaps another triangle subroutine.

After Pasasana and Krouchasana I practice much of the Vinyasa Krama Bow sequences followed by part of the Meditative sequence (called meditative because they are based on vajrasana, a meditation posture, and include ustrasana, supta vajrasana and Kapotasana.

I include Bakasana, the pratkriya twists bharadvajrasana ( facing both over the shoulder and to the frount) and ardha matsyendrasana then start on an Asymmetric subroutine leading to eka pada sirsasana, both legs behind the head in dwi pada sirsasana and yoga nidrasana from seated and supine sequences.

After some arm balances ( titibhasana - back of Ramaswami's book) and a couple of extra postures, again all found in Ramaswami's book I move to supine subroutines, inverted subroutines and finally a lotus subroutine.

The Ashtanga sequences are made up of these subroutines that we also find in Ramaswami's book, no doubt lifted by Pattabhi Jois from Krishnamacharya's asana table. The full sequences Ramaswami presents are intended only for learning the relationship between asana. Once we are familiar with these relationships we would pick subroutines or parts of subroutines from them depending on the perceived needs of the day.

The Ashtanga sequences pick those asana for us that we then repeat each day, a nice varied range of asana. In my practice I might add a couple of extra asana from Ramaswami's presentation if I feel I might benefit from more preparation that morning. I might stress one asana or subroutine more than another, I might also drop some asana if it feels appropriate. I tend to include key asana, paschimattanasana after dropping back, and maha mudra/baddha konasana before padmasana in finishing

I tend to rotate asana that I wish to repeat  or stay in longer. A long stay in paschimattanasana one day, bharadvajrasana another

The practice is the same but different each morning.

Depending on time available, splitting the above practice over two days might be appropriate ( or even three, I can't bring myself to practice quickly anymore).

Personally I tend jump back between asana and perhaps full vinyasa between groups of asana, again out of habit. In Vinyasa Krama there is a tendency to jump back between subroutines rather than after each asana or side.

Ramaswami says the count to and from standing was always implied although might only be included after every subroutine or sequence rather than every asana, it's up to us and our physical condition.

I breathe slowly just as in Vinyasa Krama, three breaths as Ramaswami often indicates in his book, three long slow breaths takes around the same time as five quicker breaths found perhaps in Ashtanga, the same time spent in the asana. Some asana I choose to stay in longer or repeat (perhaps with a different arm variation)

Some asana I will include kumbhaka (often rotating the asana) just as Krishnamacharya indicated in his Mysore books. The kumbhaka is inexplicably not found in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga despite being in Krishnamacharya's manual written at the time he was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois

After practicing asana I practice pranayama, pratyahara and meditation.

The Full Vinyasa Krama Bow Sequence
I tend to practice the regular Ashtranga 2nd series sections but may add more if I feel the need for 
more prep

from My Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book

Video below from my Krishnamacharya Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama workshop in Leon, Spain 2013, at here I'm demonstrating the pace of the practice with my friend Oscar describing what I'm doing so nobody has to look up/over.

The full Meditative Sequence
from My Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book


I tend to Alternate my Krishnamacharya/Vinyasa Krama approach to Ashtanga 2nd series with a similar approach to Ashtanga Primary (either every other day or every two, days thus covering a wide range of asana affecting much if not all of the body).

See also this post on my other blog

The Vinyasa Krama subroutines in Ashtanga Primary Series


How to practice Vinyasa Krama 

An Excerpt from Ramaswami's September 2009 Newsletter :

Vinyasakrama Practice

Most of the readers of this newsletter have studied Vinyasakrama Asana
practice with me for varying durations, a weekend program, a weeklong
Core Vinyasa program, a 60 hour complete Vinyasa Yoga program or the
200 hour Teacher Training Schedule. Many people see something unique
about this system, somewhat different from the contemporary mainstream
yoga. Most have read the “Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga” book and
finally ask the question, what next? How can I do a daily practice
from these sequences? There are more than 700 asanas/vinyasas and I
normally recommend doing each vinyasa three times. At the rate of
about 4/5 movements per minute (it could be even 3 per minute for good
breathers), it could take about 8 to 9 hours to do the complete
vinyasakrama. Then my Guru would commend doing a short stint of
Pranayama, say for about 15 to 30 mts and then chanting or meditation
for another 15 to 30 mts, daily. We also have to consider that in
asana practice, there are a few heavy weight poses which require one
to stay for a long time. So it is almost impossible to practice all of
it everyday even by a full time ‘practice-live-and-sleep-in-yoga mat’
yogi. The book was written to give as complete as possible, a
presentation of all the vinyasas  in a series of sequences that is
logical and easy to learn, as I learnt from my Guru. It is a book for
learning the system. Any serious student of yoga who would spend years
studying and teaching yoga should have in one’s repertoire as many
asanas, vinyasas and logical sequences (krama) as possible. So, one
should firstly study the entire range of asanas and vinyasas of the
vinyasakrama system from a teacher say in the 60 hr vinyasakrama
program. Then note down all the vinyasas that are a bit difficult to
do. One should practice daily for half hour to one hour as many
vinyasas as possible following the recommended sequence, with special
emphasis on the difficult ones. In about six months to one year of
consistent practice one would be comfortable with the system, the
sequences and especially the required synchronous breathing. This
would complete the learning process. Then one may prepare a green list
of asanas and vinyasas one would be able to do and wants to practice
regularly. There will be another list, amber list which would contain
those vinyasas which are difficult now but one would like to practice
them even if they are somewhat imperfect. Then there would be another
red list which will contain procedures that are not appropriate or
possible for the practitioner—which could probably be taken up in the
next janma. Then it would be time for concentrating on using
vinyasakrama for daily practice and also teaching to individuals for
their daily yoga practice.

Adapting yoga to individual requirements is an art by itself. We must
understand that there is no one standard practice that is suitable to
everyone. In medicine you have to give different treatment to
different patients; what is suitable to one suffering from digestive
problem would be different from the one that is suitable for one who
is suffering from some low back pain. According to an important motto
of Krishnamacharya, yoga for children and the adolescents (growth
stage) is different from yoga practice in their midlife which again is
different from the practice in old age. The body, mind and goals
change during different stages of life. Sri Krishnamacharya’s teaching
is based on this principle as we could discern from his works, Yoga
Makaranda and Yoga Rahasya.
Basically yoga for kids and young adults will have a considerable
amount of asana vinyasa practice -- many vinyasas, difficult poses,
etc. It will help them to work out the considerable rajas in their
system and proper growth (vriddhi). Of course they should also
practice some pranayama and meditation or chanting. For the midlife
yogi, the practice will still include some asana, but specifically
some of the health giving  and restorative postures like the
Inversions, Paschimatanasana, Mahamudra, etc., in which poses one may
be required to stay for a longer period of time. There will be more
emphasis on Pranayama and then more meditation, chanting, worship etc.
When I started studying with my Guru I was 15 years old. During the
beginning years of my study it was mostly difficult asanas and
vinyasas. Swing throughs, jump arounds, utplutis etc and other fun
filled unique sequences were the order of the day. As I grew up, my
teacher slowly but surely changed the mix, focus and direction of my
yoga practice. On the last day I was with him (I was close to 50 then)
it was just chanting of Surya Namaskara (Aruna) mantras for the entire
duration with him. During the third stage of life, the old age, the
emphasis is usually spiritual and/or devotional even as one is
required to do some simple movements and pranayama.
And within the group, the daily practice can be varying depending upon
the requirements and goals set forth by the yogi for herself/himself.
For instance, for the midlife yogi, the main goal will be to maintain
good physical and mental health, rather than being able to stand, say,
on one leg or even on one hand (Of course the child in me wants to do
that). He/She would like to avoid risky movements so that the practice
would be safe and does not cause injuries—immediate or cumulative. Too
much exertion (kayaklesa), like several rounds of continuous,
breathless Suryanamaskaras again should be avoided, says Brahmananda
in his commentary on Hatayogapadipika. A few may be more inclined to
have some spirituality thrown in. Many would like to develop the
ability to and the habit of visiting the peace zone of the mind daily.
There are some who are more rajasic or tamasic in which case the mix
of asana and pranayama should be properly adjusted, sometimes taking
care of even the day to day variations of the gunas. It requires some
careful attention in deciding a particular day’s practice. Hence, to
suggest a practice of a set of asanas or a routine for everyone
irrespective of the age, condition, temperament and goal is incorrect.
Such an approach does not take into consideration not only the
versatility and richness of orthodox, traditional vinyasakrama yoga
practice but also does not take the varying factors of individual
requirements. Sri Krishnamacharya’s yoga can appropriately be termed
as ‘Appropriate Yoga’.
However, as a general rule, for the serious mid-life yogi, a daily
practice of about 90 mts to 2 hrs will be necessary and sufficient.
Here is modifiable one. After a short prayer, one could do a brief
stint of Tadasana doing the main vinyasas two or preferably three
times each. It should take about ten minutes. Then one subsequence in
the asymmetric could be taken up, say Marichyasana or Triyangmukha or
the half lotus. The choice may be varied on a daily basis. Five minute
stay in Paschimatanasana and the counter poses may be practiced. Then
one may do preparation of Sarvangasana and a brief stay in it,
followed by headstand stay for about 5 to 10 minutes or more and then
staying in Sarvangasana for 5 to 10 more minutes, if one can do
inversions. Paschimatanasana, Sarvangaana and Headstand are to be
practiced preferably daily for their health benefits.  If time permits
one may do few vinyasas in these inversions. One may do a subsequence
of Triangle pose like warrior pose and /or one sequence in one legged
pose.  Mahamudra for about 5 minutes each on both sides can then be
practiced.  Why are these important? In an earlier article I had tried
to explain the unique health benefits of the twin inversions. . In
fact the inversions, Sirsasana and Sarvangasana are mudras, the
viparitakarani mudras. I remember my Guru asking us to do
Paschimatanasana sequence quite often-- it is said to be an important
pose for Kundalini Prabhoda, especially when the bandhas are also done
and the pelvic muscles/floor are drawn towards the back. You could
also observe that Paschimatanasan helps to stretch all the muscles and
tissues in the posterior portion (as the name of the asana indicates)
of the body where there are heavy muscles--thighs calves, glutei etc.
Mahamudra as the name indicates is considered to be the best/great of
Mudras. It is believed that it helps to direct the prana into the
sushumna as it is supposed to block the ida and pingala separately.
Aided by Jalandharabandha, it also helps to keep the spine straight
Then sitting in Vajrasana or Padmasana after doing some movements one
should do a suitable variant of Kapalabhati, say for about 108 times
and then an appropriate Pranayama, Ujjayi, Nadisodhana or Viloma with
or without mantras for about 15 minutes to be followed by five minutes
Shanmukhimudra and then chanting or meditation of about 15 minutes.
The efficacy of Pranayama on the whole system and mind cannot be
overemphasized. Please read the article on “Yoga for the Heart”, in an
earlier newsletter... It refers to the benefits of Pranayama to the
heart and the circulatory system.
 If interested, one may allocate an additional 30 minutes (or practice
at another time in the day, say, in the evening) during which time one
may practice a few subroutines from the other scores of sequences that
have not been included in this core yoga practice. Even though the
book contains 10 main sequences, the reader will be able to discern
more than a hundred asana sequences, each one having a unique
structure. In fact each chapter is a major sequence (wave) of many
specific sequences (ripples), which itself is made up of a few vinyaas
(dops of water). Then the whole book is a mega sequence (tide) of
major sequences in the ocean of Yoga. If you take Tadasana itself,
there are firstly the hasta vinyasas, then, parsva bhangis, different
uttanasanas, utkatasana, pasasana and finally the tadasana. Each
subroutine itself may have anywhere between 3 to even 20 vinyasas. So
there is considerable versatility in the system. It is better to stick
to the integrity of the subroutines (like Ushtrasana, Virabhadrasana
or Vrikshasana for instance), as enunciated in the book. Thus we have
a variable component and a fixed component in the daily practice.
Everyday before the start of the practice the yogi should take a
minute and decide on a definite agenda and as far as possible try to
stick to the agenda. What asanas and vinyasas, which pranayama and how
many rounds and other details should be determined before hand and one
should adhere to it. It brings some discipline and coherence to one’s
practice. It is customary to end the practice with peace chant.

Adapting vinyasakrama to individual requirements can be termed as
viniyoga krama. For instance when my Guru gets a middle aged person or
a nine year old with specific condition like scoliosis, he would
design a specific program to the individual requirement. Almost
everyone who comes to him will have a routine developed which will not
be the one that is given to someone else. I have written about the
family class we had with my Guru when we started learning from him.
During the same time period he would teach different vinyasas, poses
and procedures to each one of us, my older father, my somewhat heavy-
set mother, my supple, talented younger sister, my more challenged
brother and me. One reason why people nowadays look for a definite
routine is because a few of the more popular vinyasa systems have a
very small number of regimented sequences which are taught over and
over again almost to all students. So there is a mindset that there
should be a rigid sequence that is applicable for everyone, but that
is not the way we learnt yoga from my Guru. Firstly the teacher should
learn the whole system and then apply it to individuals as per the
requirements -- pick and choose those vinyasa sequences, pranayama and
meditation practices, dietary requirements, etc.. The question that is
to be answered is what does the practitioner want/need and how should
the yoga routine be designed to get the required benefit. Vinyasakrama
is like a yoga supermarket, and each one should put into the cart what
one needs. And the term Vinyasakrama includes not just asanas but also
other aspects of yoga like pranayama, meditation, etc. It is a
progression of different aspects of Yoga. The Vinyasakrama  has a huge
collection of asana vinyasas, a well stocked section on Pranayama,
then the meditation department and a spiritual study/contemplation
section as well. So a lot of initiative should be taken by the
individual consumer, like our practitioner who should take the
responsibility of working out with the teacher how to design an
intelligent purposeful yoga practice pertaining to oneself. To reduce
Vinyasakrama to a standard routine as is done with several other
contemporary Vinyasa systems and put it in a straight jacket is not
desirable. I have explained these ideas to many participants of the
longer versions of the programs and thought to touch upon them for the
general reader who would be wondering how to force the VK elephant (or
a camel) into the needle’s eye of daily practice.

There are some friends who after completing the program take a few
private lessons to tailor-make the VK system to their requirements. We
discuss about their physical  conditions and mental makeup, age,
obesity, pulse rate, blood pressure, breath rate and breathing
constraints, general disposition, time availability, stress levels,
etc., and design a routine for their benefit. Because there is a
bewildering array of  vinyasas, pranayama methods, mantras, etc., we
have a better choice of designing and fine-tune a program suitable to
the particular individual. If there is problem with VK it is a problem
of plenty.
There are a few serious practitioners who have their daily routine cut
out, but then do the complete vinyasakrama separately say in the
evening for about an hour so that they could go through all the
vinyasa sequences in a span of one week. In vedic chanting, the
Taittiriya saka , consists of about 80+ chapters and it would take
about 40 to 45 hours to chant the whole. Those who have learnt the
entire Taittiriya Saka duing their childhood, have to keep chanting
them all their lives. They do it by doing chanting for about 1 to 1 ½
hours per day so that they could complete it in a Mandala or about 40
days. Similarly Carnatic musicians learn several songs, but for their
practice they take a few songs per day and over a period of several
weeks they would cover all the songs they had learnt. Likewise the
yoga practice can be varied and rich. The rich variety makes it
possible to maintain abiding interest in a personal Yoga Practice at
home. It does not become a chore.
 A list of more than 120 asana vinyasa routines contained in the book,
“The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga” is added as a post script. Based
on the discussion above on the criteria for daily practice you may
decide on your daily routine by picking specific asana sequences and
have a unique program made specifically for you and by you every day.
Please stick to the integrity of the sequences in the asana. If you
teach, you may modify them for persons who are sick or physically
challenged.  Pranayama, inversions, paschimatana  mahamudra  and
meditation may be included for sure. You have myriad possibilities.
There is no one rigid universal daily practice routine in Vinyasakrama
as I have explained.

Excerpt from Ramaswami's February 2011 Newsletters
(Notes from one of Krishnamacharya's lessons/lectures/articles)

Now let me give a comprehensive treatment of practice krama of yoga

There are several essential factors that should be kept in view by
both the yogabhyasi and the teacher. The student, as instructed by the
teacher should check the quality of recaka and puraka (exhalation and
inhalation). Are there any obstructions in the airways? It is mainly
because asanas unaided or synchronized with breathing is of no use.
For instance, the teacher and the student should check the number of
matras (measure of time) the breath takes while inhaling, exhaling. If
there is considerable difference in these durations, the teacher
should first ask the abhyasi to practice controlled rechaka-puraka
even prior to the practice of asanas.

Then one should start practicing asanas as per instructions. There are
many asanas--sitting, standing, supine, prone, lying on the sides—
there are thus many starting positions. Further there are upside down
positions, like Sarvangasana. If the students has good well
proportioned body the teacher can teach the inversions, Sarvangasana
and Sirsasana even in the beginning of study. And such a person
should also possess very long and smooth inhalations and exhalations.
Further he should learn to maintain the inhalations and exhalations of
even duration. If one does 8 to 10 recaka-purakas in sirsasana, then
one should practice sarvangasana for the same number of recaka-puraka
and of the same duration. Sarvangasana and sirsasana are like the two
eyes of yogabhyasa. These help to maintain “bodily
freedom” (sariraswatantriyam)The various vinyasas of these poses also
have similar effects. Only by these two poses the acuity of the senses
and capacity of the lungs increase. Even as Sarvangasana is an
essential pose for persons with heart ailment, it should be done with
the help and involvement of the teacher/trainer. While teaching
Sarvangasana to such persons, the teacher should stand behind the
trainee and at the end of each exhalation should gently nudge the
trainee's back a little forward and hold for a second. After about a
month's such practice, the trainer should check the strength of
recaka, the general health or growth of the body the duration of
recaka-puraka and then if they are good should help the trainee stay
for about a minute or so. Thereafter the abhyasi should be given rest.
If one has some ailment the posture should be repeated two or three
times. For instance to an asthmatic doing even half a dozen breaths in
Sarvangasana will be difficult. So the trainee should make the abhyasi
practice atleast 12 breaths over a number of tries. Trying to do many
breaths in one go could create some chest pain and discomfort. So,
with a relaxed approach in four or six tries one should do the
required number of breaths. One should return to the lying down
position slowly. The same will apply to obese people while learning
sarvangasana, they should be taught the asanas with a lot of care. In
this manner the teacher and taught should learn to remain in an asana
for several minutes without any doubts about the pose. With
sarvangasana and sirsasana other asanas like paschimatanasana,
purvatanasana, chatushpada peetam; Parvatasana, vajrasana,
Bhujangasana etc can also br practiced.

When one starts to learn Yoga, in the beginning the duration of
practice can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes. One can gradually
increase the duration. The teacher should check the breath every day
and then increase the duration of practice. Whatever be the posture,
if one could stay for a long time without the limbs going to sleep (or
numb) or any pain or discomfort then such a practitioner is known as
jitasana (the conqueror/master of an asana.) While staying in an asana
one should not unnecessarily shake the body, bend or contort or move
and if one can stay for hours then such a yogi is a jitasana. We learn
from the works and sayings of yogis that in the olden days the rishis,
every day would remain in any one asana for three hours and do
pranayama and meditation. Then if the yogi is able to remain doing
long inhalation, exhalation and kumbhaka without feeling any kind of
fatigue and for a long period of time such a person would be called
“Jitaprana” or Jitaswasa, or one who has conquered the breath.

Remaining in a posture and gazing at one's favorite (ishta) icon and
experiencing a feeling of bliss is called “trataka”. It is of two
types, anta and bahi. To gaze at an outside object like an icon is
external trataka. Closing one's eyes and 'imaging' the object
internally and continually focusing attention in between the eyebrows
is the antah(r)trataka or internal gazing. One can practice this
between one to ten minutes.

In the yogasana practice it is good to include a Mudra as well
everyday. Mahamudra and Shanmukhi mudra may be done. Further one
should do a kriya called plavana (jumping/stretching). For instance,
remaining in the same place after a particular asana practice, one may
place the palms on the floor, lift the body and then stretch the legs
one by one . Then in recaka one should bend the leg and in puraka
return to the floor If one stays in an asana for a long time, the
muscles could slightly cramp and the plavana would help restore the
muscles attain normal tone. The yogabhyasi should practice asana,
pranayama, mudra and kriya together even from the beginning. Only then
all the benefits mentioned for the varied asanas will accrue. Likewise
if one by Pranayama becomes known as Jitaswasa, and then by meditation
is able to conquer the mind such a yogi is known as jitamanaska. All
the three are necessary. One should practice the same duration for
both asana and pranayama and then twice the duration for dhyana or
meditation. In the olden days the sages did yoga on three occasions
everyday, at dawn, noon and dusk. The time and regulation in Kumbhaka
are essential. With regulated time,one should practice all aspects of
yoga, like asana, kriyas, pranayama and mudra. One should do a few
asanas that one enjoys doing for about 15 mts and then do the
pratikriyas or counter poses. For instancee one may do 15 mts of
sirsasana followed by 15 mts of sarvangasana,. Or perhaps 15 mts of
viparita dandasana followed by 15 mts of uttana mayurasana.

Asanas like sirasasana done while the body trembles or unsteady will
not be beneficial. Done correctly, it helps to maintain prana in
sushuna. Without proper practice one will not get faith in Yoga, nor
will one get the benefits mentioned in the sastras. One should know
the kriyas (like plavana) and there is a relationship bertween asanas
and plavana(jumping/stretching) kriya. As mentioned earlier, one
should bring under control the body by asana, with recaka kumbhaka the
prana and by meditation or dhyana the mind. For dhyana it may be
useful to choose a charming icon

Monday, 5 October 2015

Ashtanga : When to move on to the next asana.

Disclaimer: Reading this post it sounds as if I'm writing from knowing what I'm talking about, as if I'm teaching everyday myself when I actually rarely teach. This is just another opinionated piece from a home practice perspective.

Areminder that I was never that satisfied with my dwipada sirsasana

I was watching a Dwi pada Sirsasana tutorial yesterday morning. I have to say I'm going to need to be convinced on this one, it had me wince a little. It also had me asking WHY would you encourage someone to work on Dwi pada sirsasana if they have to go through all that (basically what I put myself through here at home,eight years ago - see end of post), there surely has to be a better approach, or at least an alternative.

Surprised at my reaction? I have tended to be pretty critical of the holding somebody back at an asana approach as you know, so why am I getting all Ashtanga Police now.

Perhaps the argument is that if somebody is going to work on the asana at home then some tips for working with a little more support might be a good idea. I suspect though that this is coming from the shala perspective of assisting and adjusting somebody into a posture, it's a way of offering such support to a student who isn't at a shala and can't have those assists, that support.

Blocks, walls, a post are perhaps alternatives to the teacher standing in frount of you.

I always practiced at home, never had assists and adjustments....., when I did eventually visit shalas I turned down the assists but welcomed the minor adjustment. Assists can no doubt be useful, when Manju employs them he offers just a little support while the student does all the real work themselves. Assists aren't part of a supposed 'tradition' they are merely one pedagogic approach and there are of course others.

Manju using me for a demonstrating of assisting Marichyasana D. Here his legs are just giving support to stop the practitioners springing out, one hand on the sacrum the other encourages lengthening of the spine, no pushing, pulling, wrenching, tugging, cranking just support, guidance and encouragement.

Lets look at the Vinyasa Krama approach for a moment, this is how Krishnamacharya taught Ramaswami. The sequences Ramaswami presents us with are made up of Subroutines, we have the marichi subroutines for example, the leg behind head subroutines. So in the Asymmetric sequence you would go as far as you are relatively comfortable going in the marichi family of postures until you hit a wall then you would move on to the next subroutine, Janusirsasana perhaps, which leads eventually to leg behind head postures. Again you would work through the postures until you hit your wall then move to the next subroutine and so on.

These are related asana, each a preparation for and then a progression on a key asana. There is not necessarily any strong relationship between this subroutine and the next other than perhaps all being asymmetric postures ( although in the Bow sequence for instance each subroutine may help prepare you for the next just as we find in that first portion of 2nd series). It would be like suggesting that that marichiyasana D prepares you for navasana. But hang on, In Ashtanga we aren't supposed to practice navasana until we have mastered Marichi D, even thought there is no progressive relationship other than that navasana follows  in the series ( it might be seen as a counter to the marichi postures).

Being Ashtangi's we will of course always come up with a good and seemingly convincing argument for why the system is designed just so, as if indeed it was divinely inspired thousands of years before, handed to the rishi's and a special hell prepared for anyone who changes the slightest gesture.

How did this come to pass?

Krishnamacharya had groups of asana rather than series. There would be the Primary group and as one became proficient Krishnamacharya would seemingly add on more challenging version of an asana from the middle group and later perhaps from the proficient group. For example Krishnamacharya had marichiyasana D in the middle group (interestingly not Primary, which kind of makes sense). Once one had gained proficiency with marichi A, B and C from the Primary group he would no doubt add on D from Intermediate and later E, F, G and H from the advanced group of asana. Unless of course you were performing demonstrations for him in which case he might pluck an asana out of the air and demand you do it ( Iyengar's Hanuman story a case in point).

Likewise with the other asana, once becoming proficient with Eka pada sirsasana and able to stay in the posture comfortably for a significant period with slow steady breathing he would no doubt introduce you to chakrasana, kapilasana, even durvasana (standing on one leg with the other behind the head). At some point he would bring in Dwi pada sirsasana ( both legs behind head), perhaps after mastering yoganidrasana which has both legs behind the head but with less pressure on the perhaps than dwi pada.

When Pattabhi Jois turned Krishnamacharya's asana table into a series we ended up with the situation where we had to master some challenging asana before progressing to basic asana in another group, often a quirk of the series. However much we try and argue that the sequence is perfectly sequenced, we now know this was not the case, it was never intended as a sequence, a series. There was perhaps a general progression in Krishnamacharya's table of asana that Pattabhi Jois used, with only minor modifications ( in the first two series at least) for his four years college syllabus.

That said, I like the series, I practice the first two partly because they are familiar from having practiced them for years, they tend to feel like home.

Manju however will usually have us progress through the series doing our best at, and continuing to work on, the more challenging variations of a key asana. His father Pattabhi Jois, Manju says, also supposedly worked in this way... in the beginning at least. This approach strikes me as intuitively correct, it's how Manju teaches, how Pattabhi Jois taught early on and surely how Krishnamacharya also taught, perhaps his teacher before him.

So I have no concerns about somebody progressing on to navasana and kurmasana if they are still struggling with marichi D. However if they are struggling with dwi pada sirsasana then my instinct would be to strongly suggest ( and having this blog I get mail asking me for such advice) that they continue working on deepening their eka pada sirsasana and skip dwi pada sirsasana and yoga nidrasana altogether for now, jump ahead to tittibhasana perhaps and continue the work there.

The same goes for Kapotasana, when I hear somebody groaning, moaning and even screaming when being cranked into some poor semblance of the asana my instinct suggests to me that perhaps they aren't ready and more time spent on ustrasana while moving on to bakasana etc ( a counter posture perhaps to all the backbending) might be a better way to go or better still introduce some extra Bow postures early on.

Disclaimer 2: I came at this from both approaches, struggling with the posture myself at home, battling with it but then also putting it to one side while moving on to the next posture in the series. Below is the earliest video I can find of my trying to work on dwipadasirsasana from March 2009, about a year after I started practice (, .... all that pressure on my neck from a poor eka pada sirsasana and then I think it's appropriate to try putting two legs behind my neck rather than one, what was I thinking..... I clearly wasn't.

So why all these videos, all these workshops how to get into this posture, into that.

Sometimes I wonder, guiltily, if I'm partly to blame. When I started this blog most of the videos we had of the practice were of perfectly performed ( for then) asana. The idea of this blog as well as others was to try to show the progress towards attaining a semblance of the asana, ideally catch the the first jump back, jump through, drop back, the first 'no hands' leg behind head, and that perhaps this might be more useful to others working on the asana than seeing the perfect, divine, presentation of an asana or technique, for the longest time I tried to lift up like Lino Miele and jump back or jump through like John Scott.

Others had a similar idea, once we had a basic, however unpolished, version of an asana it became no longer of any value to film it unless a better approach/technique came up. Others however, more accomplished than us, started to make more polished videos, better 'how to's' and oh what are market there was for those. Those early days of Youtube built reputations, mini asana empires. Did the number of workshops increase, it seems that way and of course built on how-to tutorials as they were, that became the character of the workshops,new postures were handed out willy-nilly. The rules of the market, demand needed to be maintained.... created....invented, more tutorials, asana we would never think of encouraging a few years before, fancy floaty techniques.... it wasn't enough to jump through ( of almost hop through like Sharath) one had to float.... and justifications, oh the justifications for doing so ...."bandhas you know".

But perhaps it was always so, David Swenson's handstands between navasana come to mind, Derek Ireland's handstands between everything...., more innocent times?

Later the tutorial seemed less important, the finished product was more suited to Instagram, why produce a tutorial at all when a few beautiful photographs would do or better still a glossy promotional video, location location location. At some point these appeared to became a necessity. If you wanted to prop up your shala, give your space a chance to survive, make a living then you too needed to jump on the bandwagon and market yourself, the practice.

All distractions of course, all this learning we're encouraged towards, a lot of learning it seems but no knowledge.

We know where the knowledge is found, where it always is and in any discipline, there on the mat, on the cushion, in turning inwards.... and we don't need anybody to tell us, we knew it from our first comfortably breathed surynamaskara. Learn the basics from a teacher perhaps, take a workshop in how not to hurt yourself and just breathe, ignore as much distraction as you can, certainly don't seek it out, shame on you, on us for pushing it on you.

But wasn't it all like this, didn't Krishnamacharya himself give demonstrations. he did indeed but these seemed to have been to promote yoga. Krishnamacharya was very much aware that he needed to grab attention, to have his audience even pretend to listen to his lectures when all they wanted to see where the young boys with their legs behind their heads or in impossible backbends.... perhaps this was why Krishnamacharya was so bad tempered at the time and how he lightened when he left Mysore.

Some still do it the old way, workshops made up of asana practice and lectures, talks explorations of texts. Chuck spending three days on surynamaskara and two before that on samastithi (I exaggerate.... slightly), Richard exploring the Gita after exploring half primary.....

Shala's remain of course, the good ones, safe spaces to explore the practice for oneself, the occasional assist, a reminder of breath and bandhas, no pressure to move more forward than appropriate unless discipline is the focus the lesson of this day and the next but generally left alone as much as possible to turn inward.

The home shala is the extension of this, the only option for some but perhaps were we all end up sooner or later.

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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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