Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Origins of Ashtanga Vinyasa: Yogasanagalu and Yoga Korunta (yogakuranti) Also, Was Ashtanga designed for Young Boys?

Perhaps some quick posts with some lines that have caught my eye in rereading Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (Mysore  1941), finally translated into English.

First up, a tantalising Bibliography, Yogakurunti mentioned four books down.



An enjoyable speculative write up on the Yoga Korunta by James Russell HERE

....which includes this in the comments from Eddie Stern


"...In regards to your synopsis in the beginning about the discovery of the Yoga Korunta, this is not at all how I heard it from Guruji. I think Gregor might have that version in his first book, and a 1986 Yoga Journal published that as well. The way Guruji related to Sharath and I, on several occasions, in Kannada and English, was that Rama Mohana Brahmachari taught Krishnamacharya the Yoga Korunta during his 7+ years of study within him in the forests outside of Banaras (not Tibet), and that Rama Mohana told Krishnamacharya that he could find the text at the Calcutta University library. Guruji never laid eyes on the text, and he said that Krishnamacharya said the text, like thousands of others in India, was badly damaged. So, it's really not such an apocryphal story, though much has been made of it.

As well, the teachings in the Korunta, as you have surmised, would definitely not reflect Ashtanga Yoga as it is taught today. Guruji made many adaptations beginning in the late 1930's."


Not so many adaptations perhaps as we can now see from the Yogasanagalu Table of Asana .
See HERE for just the table as well as the Yogasanagalu translation ( link above).


Pattabhi Jois told several versions of of the Yoga Korunta story, I like the interview with David Williams from an earlier Bali conference (2013) where David relates that Pattabhi Jois was just about to launch on some great Yoga Korunta narrative only to be stopped by his wife Amma who says, "Now, now Pattabhi, the truth". Crestfallen, Pattabhi relates a less... grand tale.

Note: My understanding is that the 2017 Bali Conference has been cancelled, download this series of videos instead perhaps http://www.ashtangayogabali.com/resources/videos/

See also this comment from Pranhidi regarding our teacher Manju (Pattabhi Jois' son) on James Russel's article 

"...Manju Jois, recalls his father, Pattabhi Jois, and Krishnamcharya refining the sequences together- grouping asanas, transitions, etc. I thought I'd pass that along since not many people alive today knew KPJ at that time. Manju is a treasure that many ashtanga vinyasa practitioners could benefit from spending time with. It's clear to me from emerging research and from the stories of senior ashtanga teachers that the method certainly has a lineage but that it has evolved with time, and been adapted to suit the needs of each student..."

I had an enjoyable discussion myself with Manju on this very topic, he was pointing out the differences between the table and the practice he had just led us through in Rethymno, while I was pointing out all the similarities.  

Given what we know about Krishnamacharya's terrifying demeanour from Pattabhi Jois himself and also from BKS Iyengar, it seems unlikely to me that young Pattabhi Jois said much more to his teacher than than "Yes Sir, No sir". When Pattabhi Jois supposedly asked his teacher if the four year asana syllabus (clearly based on Krishnamacharya's own table of asana and the program Pattabhi Jois assisted in teaching at the yogashala) met with Krishnamacharya's approval, it may well have been the first formal question he actually addressed to his guru.

*

The legend of the Yoga Koruntu (yogakuranti) is great fun of course but ultimately it's a distraction as are all methodologies which are of course ultimately means of control, ideally their job is to keep us distracted long enough to develop discipline whereupon we might freely discard them. No doubt all that would be taken from Yoga Korunta were it to be found is only that which confirms our current view of practice, it would then quickly be forgotten once more. It's presence is in it's absence.

As awareness rose within us so too did the potential to turn that awareness in upon itself. It requires opportunity, discipline, attention and time. 

Slowing the breath before battle is universal.

Sit, breathe, attend...... it's our birthright, no text or teacher required.


*


First edit of the full text can be downloaded for personal study from here.
(future edits to come perhaps with some of my own notes on the text)

Krishnamacharya's yogasanagalu : Published Mysore 1941

Below. Photos from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda ( Mysore 1934)
Note: the Yogashala opened in 1933



Below. Krishnamacharya standing like Superman on the right
Pattabhi jois in Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) on the right side of the table?



The post below has been sitting in draft for some time, I may as well include it here


I was asked this old chestnut (yet) again recently.

Was Ashtanga designed/intended for young boys?


This question can be answered in a number of ways but the honest answer is.....

 YES

Sorry folks, but it kinda was.

The question is, in most cases, asking about the Ashtanga Vinyasa approach to asana taught by Pattabhi Jois.

Pattabhi Jois was one of Krishnamacharya's assistants when Krishnamacharya was teaching the BOYS of the Mysore palace.

The asana class Pattabhi Jois appears to have taken on Krishnamacharya's behalf at the Mysore palace seems to have been a led group class and supposedly of an hour duration. We can see from the asana table in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu table of asana  ( Full English translation of the text finally completed and now availabe for download from my Free Download page) that Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Primary series and intermediate series closely follows how Krishnamacharya laid out his table of asana.

In the late 1930s/early 40s Pattabhi Jois was supposedly asked to teach a four year syllabus which he clearly based on his experience assisting on Krishnamacharya's behalf, as well no doubt as Krishnamacharya's table of asana which we must assume, given the close relation, that he saw ( it was also written in Kannada as was Yoga Makaranda, Pattabhi Jois' language). The Sanskrit college course was again for young boys although a few years older perhaps than those of the place school (late teen/early twenties?).

However, if we look to Krishnamacharya's own texts from the same period we see that Krishnamacharya taught in groups of asana rather than fixed series that needed to be completed. We see long slow breathing stressed in almost every asana, Kumbhaka (meditatively/pranayamaically restraining the breath), we see longer stays.

Pattabhi Jois may have talked of long slow breathing but in practice his students move quickly through their series. Pattabhi Jois could be flexible in his approach, to those with injury or illness perhaps, but essentially Ashtanga has kept close to the series.

It has been suggested that Pattabhi Jois and Krishnamacharya worked together at forming the sequences, this seems unlikely, given Pattabhi Jois' accounts of his teacher as well as that of BKS Iyengar it is surely unlikely that Pattabhi Jois said much more to Krishnamacharya than "Yes Sir, No Sir". When Pattabhi Jois asked his teacher to approve the four year syllabus based closely on Krishnamacharya's own table of asana it may well have been the first question Pattabhi jois had got up the nerve to ask his teacher.

Pattabhi Jois assisted Krishnamacharya by leading the boys of the palace through their paces because Krishnamacharya himself was often in a side room teaching private lessons, to patients, members of the court or in the palace proper perhaps giving lessons to the Maharaja himself. Perhaps these lessons more clearly followed the guidelines for practice we find in Krishnamacharya's Mysore texts of the period. The lessons are likely to have been more flexible, bespoke, less asana with longer stays and slower breathing, no doubt integrated with other limbs.

This approach to practice, unlike that Pattabhi Jois oversaw with the boys of the palace, was designed not just for boys but for whoever came to him for lessons. 

In this case then... 

NO, Ashtanga Vinyasa as krishnamacharya clearly conceived it was NOT designed for young boys...

It was an approach to asana practice that could be adapted for exuberant boys with the attention span of  guppy's ( not unlike us in the West perhaps with our push button society) as well as to practitioners of different ages and physical conditions. We will see in Yogasanagalu that Krishnamacharya considered practicing a great deal of asana to be beneficial in reducing weight and improving the physical condition of practitioners. Once in a healthier, fitter condition they would approach their asana practice with more subtlety.

Pattabhi Jois didn't invent Ashtanga Vinyasa and it's highly unlikely he worked out groups or series of asana with Krishnamacharya, it seems rather that he took Krishnamacharya approach to asana, the one Krishnamacharya had simplified for the boys of the palace, tweaked it a little and presented it in his four years course at the Sanskrit college and later to the Westerners who came knocking on his door,

This is not to take anything away from Pattabhi Jois, he was by all accounts a generous, tireless teacher of this aspect of Krishnamacharya's teaching as are so many of those teachers who studied with him.

Ashtanga vinyasa is how we often refer to the approach to asana Pattabhi Jois taught, this is to distinguish it from the Ashtanga of Patanjali's yoga sutras of which it forms a part.

Patanjali's yoga sutras and the eight limb (ashtanga) methodology it presents is of course intended for everybody.

This when somebody asks..

Was Ashtanga designed for young boys?

It's possible to answer NO, this is of course a category mistake. the Questioner asking about one category Ashtanga vinyasa, the responder replying from the perspective of another category, Patanjali's Ashtanga. It's an ingenuous response. It can also be a harmful response, believing the approach to be asana to be intended for everybody, practitioners as well as teachers might be tempted to teach and attempt asana that are not suitable for them at that time if ever.

Krishnamacharya mentions in Yogasanagalu that there is a need for demonstrators but for most the more significant task of exploring and seeking to understand the nature of self through patanjali is of higher importance, for that we only perhaps need one comfortable asana and three pranayama's.

Too often our perception of what is or is not correct is a hinderance, dictating and defending correct method is a hinderance to practice and development. Krishnamacharya approach to asana was flexible, it embraced all the limbs, it's approach to asana subtle, there is a lifetime of exploration to be found between the covers of Krishnamacharya's texts. But even this is a hinderance clinging to one teacher, one approach to teaching however broad and flexible. Our teacher('s) should be our guides only, leading us to explore for ourselves our practice and what is appropriate for us this, goes for teachers that are alive  and still teaching as well as for dead texts.

*

This particular form of Ashtanga vinyasa may have been originally designed with young boys in mind however.......


See this post In defence of Ashtanga 2: Notice how....

http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2016/09/notice-how-for-ashtangis.html


and....

In defence of Ashtanga 1.

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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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