|Srivatsa Ramaswami Yoga for the Three Stages of Life Amazon|
|T. Krishnamacharya at 84|
See this earlier picture heavy post What does practice look like after 70 years?
|I used shanmukha mudra for the original cover of my practice book.|
1. My fb post yesterday, two alternative or complementary meanings of Yoga
Yuj, the root of yoga supposedly has a hundred or so interpretations, there's the two most common, the yoke/ union meaning found in the Gita, the samadhi/converging the movements of the mind reading we find in Patanjali's Yoga sutras and these two below provided by Krishnamacharya's son TKV Desikachar in his excellent Religiousness in Yoga ( once again, don't let the title put you off, get a hold of a copy). Below then, Yoga as 'reaching a point we have not reached before' and yoga as 'focussed action'.
These may be a comfort next time somebody suggests your two hour focused asana practice isn't yoga. Krishnamacharya wrote of yoga for the three stages of life, in the first and second stage a lot of asana and pranayama is expected, in fact Krishnamacharya goes further and suggests we shouldn't perhaps be thinking of Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) until we reach sixty.
In this second stage of life then, in our asana and pranayama practice, we can perhaps focus on the two meanings of yoga below and begin to prepare ourselves for the third stage of life to come and the practice that stage offers us.
|Beatrice Addressing Dante (by William Blake) - Beatrice ( Dante's beloved) as guide in Dante's Paradiso.|
|Srivatsa Ramaswami Yoga for the Three Stages of Life Amazon|
Notice that in youth a focus on asana is considered appropriate. Worth bearing in mind perhaps whenever your tempted to claim that practicing asana is NOT yoga. And, if you become criticised for not exploring pranayama or meditation or dipping into yoga philosophy but rather just focusing on your asana practice then you are in fact following the program, so just smile politely.
Mid-life we may want to reign the asana practice in somewhat, throw in some pranayama, an overall practice that preserves our health and well being. We know this of course, advanced asana practice five days a week (Primary on Fridays) is likely to take it's toll on our bodies, little injuries can come up with more regularity, makes sense to reign it in a little. Of course fifty is the new forty, when does 'mid-life' begin. Also, what constitutes Advanced asana? If you've been practising asana for some time your body may well haveopened up and developed a degree of flexibility such that what many may consider an advanced posture is merely, for you, a natural progression of a more basic asana. And as we all no doubt out realise sooner or later, all asana are advanced asana, it just depends on what we bring to the posture and it's vinyasa, whether we bring out it's innateadvancenessness. Manju mentioned ( one of his world-shattering throw away lines) that all asana are mudras ( or may be considered so if approached that way).
But here's the thing, youth can apply to age but perhaps also to our stage upon our yoga path ( Jois uses the Yoga as Path metaphor, so I'm not being unnecessarily cheesy here ), when we first begin to explore Yoga then we may be considered to be youthful in regards to the practice, young in the practice as it were and so a strong asana focus may well still be appropriate. The practice of asana can form discipline, focus, attention, preliminaries perhaps for the other stages of the 'yogic life'.
That first stage can go on a long time too, from childhood to mid-life, you get to focus on asana and just asana ( actually including breathing practices) for thirty odd years perhaps before your 'required' to worry about anything else. Of course you can still dip into some good books, the shastras, explore some pranayama and some meditative practices, nothing wrong with that, in fact it may well inform your asana practice somewhat, deepen it, but your not necessarily obliged to go there (but then why wouldn't you). Focusing on your asana only, on 'just asana' is considered appropriate, it is yoga.
For me personally at fifty with many years of hard travel and labour behind me ( those odd, physically demanding, jobs picked up while travelling and later working my way through Uni, building walls, roads, houses etc.) my body carries a lot of old nagging injuries, makes sense to reign my practice in a little. I'm more than happy with my Ashtanga Primary and 2nd series with the odd Advanced posture thrown in for seasoning (Manju's approach). Besides, less feels more.
And I relish pranayama and what a joy to look ahead to decades (with luck) of study, reflection and contemplation, the more mediative practices to accompany my beloved asana practice....
And yet, perhaps those stages ebb and flow, I was feeling I was in a mid-life stage of practice and yet, just recently, there's been a freshness to my asana practice as if that mid-life stage is feeding back into the more youthful stage, revitalising it.... perhaps the stages don't follow each other but are layered one on top of the other, nutrients filtering down, revitalising, giving new growth....
'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him.
'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him.
'Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?' This is the third solace found by him.
'Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found by him.
The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, these four solaces are found."
The Kalama sutra reminds me to of yoga sutra 1.7
Re reading TKV Desikachar's Religiousness in Yoga (don't let the title put you off) on the long ride to and from work, quite wonderful. This on Avidya (wrong knowledge) from p35
and from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-20109.htm#2.5)
2.5 Ignorance (avidya) is of four types: 1) regarding that which is transient as eternal, 2) mistaking the impure for pure, 3) thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness, and 4) taking that which is not-self to be self.
(antiya ashuchi duhkha anatmasu nitya shuchi sukha atman khyatih avidya)
antiya = non-eternal, impermanent, ephemeral
ashuchi = impure
duhkha = misery, painful, sorrowful, suffering
anatmasu = non-self, non-atman
nitya = eternal, everlasting
shuchi = pure
sukha = happiness, pleasurable, pleasant
atman = Self, soul
khyatih = taking to be, supposing to be, seeing as if
avidya = spiritual forgetting, ignorance, veiling, nescience