Following on from my 'backbending' preparation post yesterday
This post looks at backbending asana presented throughout Krishnamacharya's life including the handful of backbending asana in Yoga Makaranda (1934), those in the 1938 film footage of Krishnamacharya, his children and his student BKS Iyengar, the backbending asana presented in Krishnamacharya's second Mysore book Yogasanagalu (1941) and also those Krishnamacharya taught to his later student Srivatsa Ramaswami.
Note: I don't bother to practice most of the intermediate and advanced asana in this post anymore. The gentle postures in the first half of Ashtanga Intermediate series leading up to ustasana as well as some of Krishnamacharya's head and shoulderstand variations and most of the Vinyasa Krama Bow series strike me as quite sufficient. It would be nice to get my kapotasana back to what it was, it's an interesting posture to explore the breath and long stays but quite honestly no more so than many/most Primary postures. See my blog header photo/instruction for Bhujangasana which can also be practiced as a mudra, fascinating posture that is available to pretty much all.
If you do a google search for Krishnamacharya backbending photos not much comes up, in fact the only photo we have of Krishnamacharya in a backbend or 'spinal elongation' from the Mysore years (back when he was teaching the young pattabhi Jois is Urdhvamukhasvanasana
from Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934).
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. Try to push the chest as far forward as possible, lift the face up and keep gazing at the tip of the nose. Make the effort to practise until it becomes possible to remain in this posture for fifteen minutes.
Benefit: There will be no slouching in the body. The apana vayu in the lower abdomen is cleaned and the digestive power is strengthened. The 4th vinyasa itself is the asana sthiti. Afterward, return to samasthiti. Study the picture given here carefully.
However at the frount of Yoga Makranda (1934) we do see these photos of the Mysore school, that's krishnamacharya standing on the boy in Kapotasana
Pattabhi Jois claimed in later life that he was the boy in kapotasana in this photo, it seems unlikely but Pattabhi Jois does tell the story of having to stay in kapotasana for twenty minutes while krishnamacharya gave a lecture.
If we look inside Yoga Makranada we find one of Krishnamacharya's students in when he presents as a reverse variation of Uttanasana.
The only backbend that Krishnamacharya provides instructions for is Gandabherundasana, demonstrated by one of his students. It's interesting that krishnamacharya includes instruction for Kumbhaka (breath retention) options for both Gandabherundasana and Urdhvamukhasvanasana above, kumbhaka in backbends.
from Yoga Makaranda
Gandabherundasana (Figure 4.86, 4.87)
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.
Benefit: Goiter, inflammation of the glands of the neck and diseases due to mahodaram will be destroyed. The visuddhi and brahmaguha cakras will function correctly and this will take the mind to the state of savikalpa samadhi. Pregnant women should not do this.
1938 film footage
In the 1938 documentary footage we find Krishnamacharya in a few mild backbends but Krishnamacharya's students as well as his children give us an indication of the range of backbend asana that krishnamacharya was teaching in the 1930s
Iyengar in the 1938 footage
The Iyengar section of the video perhaps gives an indication of how Krishnamacharya was teaching backbending back in the 1930s when Pattabhi Jois was also his student. It should be remembered though that this was a demonstration, in actual practice it is likely that Iyengar and Krishnamacharya's other students would have been staying longer in the actual asana not unlike the instructions we see at the top of the post for Gandabherundasana,
"...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".
Krishnamacharya's asana instructions at this time often tended to indicate long stays. Pattabhi Jois mentioned that he was expected to stay for up to twenty minutes while Krishnamacharya stood on him to give a lecture, we should expect then that Krishnamacharya's students were familiar with having to remain in an asana for an extended period.
Krishnamcharya's daughters in kapotasana 1938 footage
Backbends listed in the Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941)
|part of the original asana table from Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) in kannada language|
In Krishnamacharya's second book Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) ,we find nineteen of the same asana photos and instructions liften from Yoga Makaranda but we also have Krishnamacharya's table of asana.
The full table of asana is available on this post
Yogasanagalu is translated at the top of the blog but here are my own photos of the backbends in the Primary, Middle and Advanced groups
Backbend in the Yogasanagalu table Primary group
Backbends in the Yogasanagalu table Middle group
Backbends in the Yogasanagalu proficient group
Krishnamacharya added some photos to the fourth edition of Yogasanagalu, he wwas i believe 84 at the time.
Backbends in the 4th edition of Yogasanagalu ( Krishnamacharya is 84 here).
Backbends in Krishnamacharya's later teaching
Below we have Krishnamacharya teaching a 'backbend' tadasana variation
My teacher Srivatsa Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya student of 30 years from the 50s until Krishnamacharyas passing taught us this tadasana variation on his teacher training course. We find several backbending,/back stretching/spinal elongation asana in Ramaswami's presentation of Krishnamacharya's teaching. Backbend variations are found in most of the sequences but Ramaswami's Bow and Meditative sequences provide us with subroutines of asana not unlike those we find in Ashtanga 2nd series.
|see this post on the breakdown of the bow sequence into subroutines|
( called meditative because the sequence is built around vajrasana).
gentle spinal elongation from the Vinyasa Krama tadasana sequence
from On one leg sequence
There are several spinal elongation subroutines in the supine sequence, these from early on in the sequence.
There are also several vinsayas in the sarvangasana, shoulderstand, portion of the sequence along the lines of those we find Krishnamacharya demonstrating in the 1938 footage.
See my other blog on Vinyasa Krama subroutines and sequences http://vinyasakramayoga.blogspot.jp/ for practice sheets and videos or my practice book available from my page on LULU.com