The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Yoga teaches itself, or should.

Sit on the edge of your chair, 
breath in, 
breathe out twice as slowly, 
follow the breath with your mind.

That is surely all you ever REALLY need to teach/suggest, everything else follows from this, it's practice teaches itself.


After a time the breath will slow further, you will notice the breath more as you move about your day, movements align with the breath and you might try some other simple, more formal, movements... with the breath. You might find ways to sit more comfortably, for longer, practice for longer, you might try breathing through one nostril and out of the other.... or not. You might notice the natural pause between the inhalation and exhalation and attend to that as much as to the inhalation and the exhalation, you might sit and focus on that stillness, the infinite between inhalation and exhalation, or you might focus on one point that feels natural, comfortable to you, you might forget about the breath altogether and focus more on that one point. The feeling of peace and calm, of contentment perhaps, that comes from this, from just sitting, might allow you realise that this is perhaps sufficient, and as attachments drop away compassion might arise for those who are as wrapped up in their attachments as you were. Samadhi might arise within you, a profound contentment and experience of sufficiency. As your samadhi becomes stable, consistent, it might naturally direct itself at the objects of the senses, at the senses themselves, at the mind, all dropping away until all that remains is awareness itself.

It's Euclid, everything follows.


The Vitruvian Man  by Leonardo da Vinci around 1490
inspired by the architect Vitruvius

A pretty a picture than the first page of Euclid



On question from the comments on the previous post


Anonymous 

"Grim, if you don't teach, why the meticulous syllabus above (the previous post on teaching Vinyasa krama to an Ashtangi)? Bit ironic. Is it just that you don't have the time to teach physically?"

*

My Reply (edited)

I'm not sure where sharing practice ends and teaching begins Anon. I don't teach yoga, not regularly, not currently. The blog has always been about sharing my own practice, experience(s).

My inclination is always towards solitary home practice. As a teacher I would be kicking everyone out of the shala after a couple of weeks and suggesting they check-in perhaps in a year or so, the shala would be bankrupt in a week.... or my thinking would change which perhaps worries me the most and perhaps why I resist teaching.

Money/livelihood and yoga don't/shouldn't mix, in my mind.

That said, I understand that not everyone can practice at home (circumstance, kids, space etc.), or that some may require the little extra motivation that the company of others can bring..., in the beginning.

The problem I feel is that many (most?) 'teachers', whether intending (realising? ) it or not, tend to try to hold on to their students, suppress the awareness that one could and perhaps should be practicing yoga alone and at home.

Even right at the 'top', the inclination/motivation is to preserve a system of asana.

Ashtanga Vinyasa, by accident perhaps, is almost designed to keep students coming back for asana practice...., deepen the asana, improve alignment, the next asana, the next series ( and the next for those whose bodies are flexible enough). Support the community, don't miss a practice, go to Mysore, go again... and again.

Then we have the 'international yoga teachers' who promote themselves and their workshops/merchandise, through asana, maintaining the focus on asana, the next asana, the next series.

And of course, if one IS interested in pranayama, feels ready for pranayama (despite being told more and more asana first), then the one pranayama is not enough for a teacher, you need pranayama workshops, intensives, books, dvds to teach all these other marketable Hatha pranayama's. To make it worthwhile, you need a pranayama series.

What did those Raja yogi's do/practice before Hatha came along.

Yoga?


It can take ten years to learn
 that what we really need to do
 is unlearn 99% of what we learned 
in those ten years.


If the class was half a series worth of asana followed by twenty minutes of simple, straight forward, pranayama, forty minutes of Sitting..., and given that the asana are always the same in ashtanga, would students keep coming back six days a week or would the system collapse, would they just practice at home, come once a week say, once a month, would that support a shala, a teacher?

I would be/am tempted to teach such a class once a week, once a month and encourage home practice the rest of the time, success for me would be marked by a mostly empty class.

I've never understood the pride in having the BIGGEST Ashtanga program in...wherever.

I have great affection for those who merely provide a space, almost taking a vow of poverty to do so, for those who require one for practice.

The 'meticulous syllabus' you mention that  I share above (on the previous post teaching Vinyasa krama to an Ashtangi) is so one can practice at home without me teaching because I don't believe you need a teacher, practicing this teaches itself, deepens itself.



Sit on the edge of your chair, breath in, breathe out twice as slowly, follow the breath with your mind.

That is surely all you ever REALLY need to teach/suggest, everything else follows from this, it's practice teaches itself.

After a time the breath will slow further, you will notice the breath more as you move about your day, movements align with the breath and you might try some other simple, more formal, movements... with the breath. You might find ways to sit more comfortably, for longer, practice for longer, you might try breathing through one nostril and out of the other.... or not. You might notice the natural pause between the inhalation and exhalation and attend to that as much as to the inhalation and the exhalation, you might sit and focus on that stillness, the infinite between inhalation and exhalation, or you might focus on one point that feels natural, comfortable to you, you might forget about the breath altogether and focus more on that one point. The feeling of peace and calm, of contentment perhaps, that comes from this, from just sitting, might allow you realise that this is perhaps sufficient, and as attachments drop away compassion might arise for those who are as wrapped up in their attachments as you were. Samadhi might arise within you, a profound contentment and experience of sufficiency. As your samadhi becomes stable, consistent, it might naturally direct itself at the objects of the senses, at the senses themselves, at the mind, all dropping away until all that remains is awareness itself.


It's Euclid, everything follows.


That said, I know there are wonderful Ashtanga vinyasa teachers out there who aren't really teachers at all perhaps but service providers, maintaining a space, giving a little guidance where necessary and letting the practice teach itself, deepen itself.

Some wonderful teachers in Yoga therapy, who have studied the body deeply and can give relief. Yoga culture teachers, chanting teacher, sanskrit teachers.

There are 'teachers' (enablers, facilitators?) who encourage, give guidance and support in meditation, who make moving on to meditation as natural an option as the next asana/series.

Teachers who preserve the the system of practice they love, just as they learned it themselves, passing it along to others in the belief it might benefit others as they feel it has benefitted them.

And I'm grateful to the teachers who did and do the above, that I was able to encounter a practice in the way that I did, through a book in a library... and later through DVDs and Youtube, through other practitioners, occasionally teachers and teachers of teachers, grateful to all who have done and continue to inspire me to practice and reflect on my practice.

"He (Krishnamacharya) divided the practice of yoga into three parts.When one wants to develop muscular power, power to concentrate, power to do more difficult postures etc, it was called sakti krama in the sense of power. The second type of practice that he taught was called adhyatmika krama, that is, to go beyond the physical and to understand, say god or oneself. The third type was called cikitsa krama, yoga for therapy. For this he would modify the asana and the breathing so the problem was reduced." The Purnacarya.


Each morning before practice I say..


Thank you to all teachers and practitioners, past and present, 
for bringing me to and maintaining me in this practice.

We can learn asana from teachers, hundreds of asana, asana systems, asana tricks and flourishes, ever more alignment in asana, visualisation in asana, safer practice in asana. We can learn pranayama from a teacher, lots of different pranayamas, all kinds of ratios. Some teach yoga history, yoga philosophy, yoga therapy, chanting, sacred texts. We can learn to chant the yoga sutras from a teacher, the meaning of the yoga sutras.... teachers seem to teach everything about yoga, around yoga, everything EXCEPT yoga...., perhaps because yoga isn't taught, isn't learned, it's just experienced.

Sit and focus your attention, don't be distracted by all these teaching ABOUT yoga, on the whole they are likely yet more hindrances to pass through, just sit and watch the breath, do yoga rather than learn about yoga.

Trying to stretch the above sentence into a class, a program, workshop, intensive, teacher training, book and DVD would be one more hinderance.

I remember thinking, during the few workshops I presented, that everybody would be better off staying home and doing their own practice. Rather than attend a workshop for the day or weekend, stay home and practice, at dawn, at midday, at dusk and at midnight.

If I ever do offer a retreat again it will be this, a slow, Krishnamacharya ashtanga practice followed by pranayama and a Sit at dawn, a little asana, pranayama and a sit at midday and again at dusk and at midnight.

Don't read about yoga, blog about yoga (myself included obviously), just get on and do yoga.

That said I feel an obligation to pass along the approach to practice that Ramaswami generously shared with me from his teacher Krishnamacharya, as well as my own research into Krishnamacharya's life (that continues to fascinate me) and of my practice of his Yoga Makaranda instruction. I hope I fulfil that obligation here on the blog to some degree.

I  also see people around me, the elderly especially, who might benefit from what little I do know about moving the body and am considering sharing some of that knowledge, teaching some movements.... if I can learn enough not to do more harm than good.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

On being asked to teach Vinyasa Krama to an 'Ashtangi'

I received a letter last night asking if I would be prepared to teach some Vinyasa Krama, over a month or two, here in Japan, to a visiting Ashtanga practitioner (who practices Ashtanga Primary series). Below is my response, I thought it might be useful for others interested in Vinyasa Krama as I (currently) understand/view it.

Mtyresponse in Courier font, additions in Times.


Dear  XXXX

Thank you for your mail and your interest but I'm really not a yoga teacher, though I may have taught a few workshops in the past.

Given that you live in the States I believe it would be so much more beneficial to spend a week or ten days with Ramaswami on one of his workshop/intensives (Ramaswami's schedule). You are so lucky to have him there in the US.

Perhaps if he was no longer with us I might consider teaching more.

I don't live in Osaka but in a small country village and travel into Osaka to my job as an English teacher.


'VINYASA KRAMA ASANA'

Note: In Vinyasa Krama we don't tend to practice the Ashtanga Suryanamaskar so much, perhaps the mantra version, or possibly with the 2 hour surya namaskar chant on Sundays. 

I though, still practice my Ashtanga sun salutations out of habit and for general fitness given the fewer jump back and throughs in Viyasa Krama

We generally begin practice with some simple movements in tadasana. I tend to include a few of these before my sun salutations. Below a video of a ten minute version, I may do a few less movements, five minutes worth say. On my Youtube channel there is the full fifty minute Vinyasa Krama Tadasana sequence https://youtu.be/EEHx32PUfdY.


One of the things I've tried to communicate in my book and on my blog is that if you are practicing Ashtanga then you are already practicing Vinyasa Krama. The Ashtanga Primary series is made up of Vinyasa Krama subroutines. 


Example of subroutines in Ashtanga primary Series.


For it to 'look' more like Vinyasa Krama all you need to do is cut out most of the jump backs and through ( perhaps just between each subroutine) and breathe much more slowly (around 8-10 seconds for both inhalation and exhalation, perhaps take three breaths if required to enter a posture rather than folding straight in. Stay for longer in certain key postures, paschimottanasana, maha mudra, sarvangasana, sirsasana. There are some movements/variations options in head and shoulder stand that are a little different from Primary but otherwise Primary series makes for an ideal Vinyasa Krama practice, except that breathing more slowly and occasionally staying longer in a posture will likely mean you will have to divide a Primary series over two or even three days. 

On another day you might practice those first few back stretching postures from Ashtanga 2nd series, Salambhasana,Urdhva dhanurasana, ustrasana, which is also a Vinyasa krama subroutine.


Vinyasa Krama Bow sequence subroutines, similar to the first half of Ashtanga Intermediate series


The sequences Ramaswami presents in his workshop and book are for teaching and training purpose only, once you have an idea of how the asana relate to each other, build up to, and then extend beyond the key asana you would then just choose the appropriate asana  and subroutines for you each morning. Pattabhi Jois (perhaps Krishnamacharya) has already done that for us with Primary and Second Ashtanga series. 

For me, with the occasional modifications, and perhaps partly due to familiarity and affection, I find the Ashtanga series appropriate. They of course closely match the order the asana as placed in Krishnamacharya table of asana in yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941).









An integrated practice

Perhaps the biggest difference is that Vinyasa Krama is more of an integrated practice. 

Although some more experienced Ashtanga practitioners do include Pranyama, Sitting etc. Actually many beginner Ashtanga practitioners already have a Sitting practice from another tradition, Zen, vipassana etc. I have a  Zen monk friend Hyon Gak Sunim who has  only recently come to Ashtanga


Mirror of Zen /// A Day in the Moment of a Modern Zen Monk from Christine Schmitthenner on Vimeo.


So after your slower, modified, half Primary and perhaps 36 or 108 rounds of kapalabhati breathing, practice, 6, 12, 20 rounds of nadi shodhana with the pranayama mantra on the kumbhaka ( see my pranayma page for the mantra), sit for five minutes in Shanmukhi Mudra turning the senses inwards and then sit and meditated on a mantra, say Om hrim namashivaya, for 10, 20, 30, 40 minutes. 


Of course if you haven't practiced pranayama before you will need to build up to it, 3-6 months of nadi shodhana without kumbhaka just as Sharath suggests, then (perhaps after discussing it with your doctor)start to introduce a kumbhaka after the inhalation - checking your pulse for any dramatic increase in heart rate.


'VINYASA KRAMA' PRANAYAMA

So start with 

nadi shodhana

4s inhalation, 8s exhalation

 then 

5s, inhalation 10 exhalation

finally after a few months or when twelve rounds of that is comfortable, introduce kumbhaka

4s inhalation, 4s kumbhaka, 8s exhalation

5s, inhalation 5s kumbhaka, 10 exhalation

5s, inhalation 10s kumbhaka, 10 exhalation

at this point, if the pranayama mantra interests you you could split the mantra into three, spread over each stage

5s, inhalation 15s kumbhaka, 10 exhalation

mantra chanted quickly on the kumbhaka

finally

5s, inhalation 20s kumbhaka, 10 exhalation

which is the standard pranayama Ramaswami teaches.

6/12/20 rounds of that after asana each morning

or twenty rounds four times a day if committed and traditional.



'Vinyasa Krama' Pratyahara (5 to 10 minutes)

Shanmukhi Mudra is pretty much automatic, once you engage the mudra the mind automatically turns inwards, to internal sounds for example. 
I chose Shanmukhi Mudra for the cover of my book
rather than a fancy asana



'VINYASA KRAMA' MEDITATION


As for Sitting. Ramaswami teaches Japa, with the mantra 

Om hrim namashivaya

But you could use any Samatha (calm abiding) approach, sitting with the breath, Zen.... 

If and when Samadhi ever arises THEN, it gets tricky and you have to start applying your samadhi to different objects. See Patanjali.

That's basically Vinyasa Krama, it tends to be practiced at home rather than in a studio or with a teacher, no need to stress about fancy techniques to attain postures, visualisations, and/or be obsessed with alignment, just let the breath align you, choose an easier variation of an asana from Ramaswami ( or my) book if required.


YAMA/NIYAMA

Reflect on the yama/niyama as much as possible or the cultural moral/ethical codes of your own upbringing and perhaps each evening before falling asleep, with compassion, reflect on how far your day fell within them.

This is Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha is something else altogether with different goals and objectives, hatha deals with bindu and/or kundalini and/or prana, Patanjali is concerned with developing focussed concentration that can then be applied to gain knowledge of the self.


VINYASA KRAMA RESOURCES

Hope that helps, I really hope you manage to make it to Ramaswami at some point, all of the above will make a little more sense but if you practice Primary, have seen my book, have read closely Ramaswami's book(s) and or seen some of my videos or those with Ramaswami teaching I would suggest you have all you need, the rest is practice.

Ramaswami's Yoga Beneath the Surface answers any questions you might possibly have,

his book

Yoga for the three stages of Life is an absolute treasure,


his Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga is excellent as a reference for choosing modified postures to Primary.


Best wishes for you practice and travels


Sincerely

Anthony


PS. As this reply has become longer and more detailed than I expected when I started, I think I might turn it into a blog post. Hope that's OK

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

New Mysore Traditions Movie Trailer and why go to Mysore


Great new look at the Mysore Yoga Traditions movie currently in production, looking beautiful, and a whole bag full of quotes in this trailer alone. I'm going to need a bigger notebook when it finally comes out.

Perhaps I'm inclined to go to Mysore after all, do my practice in my room then go around and try to hear more about yoga from some of these fascinating Mysore Yoga teachers.

Mysore Yoga Traditions Official Trailer from Dallos Paz on Vimeo.




"Mysore Yoga Traditions is an inquiry into the cultural background of yoga in Mysore, how it has evolved, and the philosophy upon which this global practice rests. The film will be an intimate glimpse into the yoga of Mysore as the elders, scholars, philosophers, yogis and spiritual leaders of the community express their views on what yoga is, its original intention, and how they feel about the way it is being taught and practiced around the world. Much has been said about yoga in Mysore by western scholars. Now it is time for the people who are the keepers of this vibrant yoga tradition to speak about how they see their own legacy." from the webite

It would be great if somebody organised a Mysore 'confluence' or 'festival', two weeks or better still a month where you could just turn up and attend public talks by some of the teachers and practitioners we see here. A two tier pass perhaps so you could include asana or pranayama or just attend lectures/talks. We focus on asana but really, it has so little to do with yoga (or does it), breathe through your asana practice, include some straight forward pranayama (nadi sodhana), then go learn (seek to better understand) some (your) yoga. 


BNS Iyengar

I'm happy enough with my asana practice, with my pranayama...., I'm sure an Iyengar teacher could make my asana better aligned, that Simon (Borg-Olivier), could make my asana choices and approach more beneficial anatomically and physiologically but it'll....do, an ongoing work in practice. I have no desire to learn more asana ( I've let go of plenty in preference to a slower practice), no wish for strong adjustments, to go deeper into a posture ( why for heaven sake), no need of promotional, tricks, floats and/or flourishes, my steady, comfortable, familiar physical practice feels quite sufficient.


But yoga, what it is and why it is and what/where it's directed and why that should be relevant/desirable to me? That strikes me as worth traveling to Mysore to reflect upon. To reflect more deeply on Yama/niyama, on how to live and practice in this world. Are the responsibilities of the householder also to concern oneself with the location of that household, to make it, safe and good and just... for all, not merely those within the household, your household..., before one retires to the metaphorical forest and pass the task along? How does one work with withdrawing the senses, how do we support that hardest perhaps of practices? Is Hatha really of any relevance or did Krishnamacharya ultimately distract us, do I, should I, want to be free (kaivalya)? What is the experience of progressing through the sheaths and are they a model that's still of value, are the yoga body, subtle body models of any benefit to us today or should we just abandon it and go back before the 8th century or so and the models construction, go back before kundalini, before shushumna, before bindi, before bandhas and mudras? What was Mysore yoga then? And is Mysore yoga really any different from the yoga of my own culture, traditions and world view? where are the similarities, the resources I already have within me, the amrita/ambrosia in the marrow of my own bones and being? Is there any reason to leave this lake, my own Manasarova and what it can teach me?

Is there any reason to leave this lake, my own Manasarova and what it can teach me of yoga?



Saturday, 4 February 2017

Krishnamacharya's Mysore Yoga students 1941 Yoga demonstration photos

In 1941 Life magazine featured a demonstration of Yoga in Mysore by Krishnamacharya's students. photos by Wallace Kirkland.


*
This is Real Yoga

from Life Magazine 22nd February 1941




Speaking of Pictures
...This is Real Yoga

"These pictures present a catalogue of 20 of the countless contorted postures by which the soul of an Indian yogi seeks to escape from the mortal imprisonment of it's human body. They show yoga not in the side-show of a bearded street fakir, but as practiced in it's pure form  by lithe young devotees of an ancient and honourable religion. This is the second set of pictures to be published from the hundreds taken by LIFE Photographer Wallace Kirkland on a sixth-month expedition into the strange museum of human achievement and eccentricity that is India ( The first set was Photographer Kirkland's call on the Viceroy of India Life January 27.)

   Yoga via Aryan family connections, is the present word for the English word "Yoga" and means just that. Yoga seeks to yoke the soul of the individual to the all-pervading soul of the universe. This beatitude is achieved only after death by one who during life has thoroughly extinguished the esential will to live. It may be tasted before death in the ecstatic trance which a practiced yogi can achieve by a lifetime of physical and mental discipline. Unlike other Hindu cults, yoga postulates no mere ascetic subjugation of the body to the yearning of the soul. It's catalogue of contortions is best understood as exercises which seek to make the body healthy, serene and free from disease and disorder that distract the soul with carnal concerns.

    The yogi shown here were photographed at the school in Mysore which received liberal support of the Sri Krishnaraja Narasimharaja Wodeyar Bahuder Maharaja of Mysore and india's greatest prince. Demonstrated are advanced postures, such as few yogi today take the time to master. They are assumed in calm, deliberate fashion, held for long intervals. Each pose is thought to bestow it's own special benefit, but the general result is a physique as well toned as any US athlete's. They give also the most extraordinary control over both the voluntary and involuntary musculature. A typical example is the control of the diaphragm, by which a yogi can reduce respiration from about 1,100 an hour to 70 and, with the help of mental discipline, attain blissful trance union with the soul of the universe." Life Magazine (22nd February 1941).

*Notice the reference to the long stays in asana and the slowing of the breath, here in 1941 just as indicated in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Karandavasana text of 1934. Long slow breathing, kumbhaka, long stays were not a shift in Krishnamacharya's later teaching, they were there from the very beginning, back when Pattabhi Jois was a boy and Krishnamacharya's student.


Original cover

1941 was also the year Krishnamacharya published his 'original' Ashtanga vinyasa book Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) which includes the table of asana divided into three groups, Primary, Middle and Proficient.

Page 1 of the Table of asana - see HERE for the full table


The translation of the book is now complete and is available from my Free Downloads page.

See also the full text on the Yogasangalu translation project page



Photos from the Life Magazine article

Set 1







Set 2







Set 3
T R S Sharma

Note: TRS Sharma is interviewed in the upcoming documentary 
'The Mysore Yoga Tradition', see at 1:48 in the movie's trailer 
at the end of post.




 



Set 4





Set 5













Set 7






*

below, from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934)

The Yoga shala



....and Mysore today

Mysore Yoga Traditions Official Trailer from Dallos Paz on Vimeo.

"Mysore Yoga Traditions is an inquiry into the cultural background of yoga in Mysore, how it has evolved, and the philosophy upon which this global practice rests. The film will be an intimate glimpse into the yoga of Mysore as the elders, scholars, philosophers, yogis and spiritual leaders of the community express their views on what yoga is, its original intention, and how they feel about the way it is being taught and practiced around the world. Much has been said about yoga in Mysore by western scholars. Now it is time for the people who are the keepers of this vibrant yoga tradition to speak about how they see their own legacy." http://www.mysoreyogatraditions.com/

Friday, 3 February 2017

How Krishnamacharya taught Ramaswami pranayama plus Why Patanjali's Yoga?

"My one-to-one studies with my guru usually lasted one hour. One day, at the beginning of the class, he asked me to do this pranayama for the entire duration of the session and left the room. At the end of one hour he walked in to the room, asked me to join the end-of-the-session peace invocation, and left the room. He did not say anything, but looked pleased. There were many other occasions when he asked me to devote the entire session to pranayama". 
Srivatsa Ramaswami - Yoga Beneath the Surface P145


Below (from Yoga Beneath the Surface) is how Ramaswami would have us practice the approach to pranayama he learned from Krishnamacharya. Ramaswami however, would stay in the room and practice alongside us.


''" 1 :4:2 "'"

"DAVID: In YR (Yoga Rahasya ) II, 59, the pranayama ratio of 1:4:2 is spoken of as special. Is this ratio risky? Who can do it?

RAMASWAMI: In fact, almost all yoga texts mention or detail this particular pranayma. Because of the preponderance of antah kumbhak far a disproportionately long period, many people shy away  om this pranayama. The ratio you refer to is one time unit of inhalation, four time units of holding the breath, and two time units of exhalation. Normally, we breathe at the rate of about  fifteen times per minute. Our inhalation and exalations are usually are about 2 sec­onds each. So if you introduce this ratio, keeping the inhalation at about 2 seconds, you will have to hold the breath for about 8 sec­onds, and take 4 seconds  for exhalation. In this manner,you will do just about four breaths per minute as opposed to fifteen breaths per minute. Of course, one who is uninitiated can do it once or twice, but if required to do it for a number times in succession, he/she may find it difficult to maintain the ratio.

Many people  find the exhala­tion swift  and uncontrollable after the long breath-holding.
This ratio is used in mantra pranayama. There are a few well­ known mantras, such as the Vedic pranayama mantra and the "siva-siva" mantra. The Vedic pranayama mantra, consisting of sixty-four syllables (mantras), takes about 20 seconds to chant mentally. According to several texts, including Manu Smriti (clas­sic on Hindu way of life), the mantra is to be chanted while hold­ing in the breath. So one should be able to hold the breath for 20 seconds, during which time the mantra is chanted. If so, with the 1:4:2 ratio, the inhalation has to be 5 seconds and the exhalation 10 seconds. It will thus take about 35 seconds, and if you take a 5- second bahya kumbhaka, then it couid be about 40 to 45 seconds. It is the normal practice in Vedic pranayama to do at least ten rounds in one sitting, which would mean that the practitioner should be able to sit in a yogic posture steadily for this duration and do the pranayamas without losing control. If you go by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one can go up to eighty pranayamas at a stretch. This would mean that one has to sit in a posture for about an hour and do pranayama and  follow the ratios correctly, without panicking or without discomfort. So the texts suggest holding out the breath for 20 seconds, especially texts of Hatha yogis and Kundalini yogis.

My one-to-one studies with my guru usually lasted one hour. One day, at the beginning of the class, he asked me to do this pranayama for the entire duration of the session and left the room. At the end of one hour he walked in to the room, asked me to join the end-of-the-session peace invocation, and left the room. He did not say anything, but looked pleased. There were many other occasions when he asked me to devote the entire session to pranayama.

lt is sad that yoga students seldom practice pranayama and that contemporary teachers appear to have disdain far pranayama. It is a very important and a very useful aspect of yoga. Pranayama reduces tamas or darkness  and increases satva or clarity". p.143-145

*

And here on p193, where Ramaswami discusses the (different?) objectives of Hatha and Raja yoga.

"My teacher used to say that one should do pranayama  for twice the amount of time one practices asana. Dharana should be  forr twice that time, and dhyana twice longer. Only then will one be able to stay in samadhi  for a  fleeting moment. With continuous practice, one will be able to stay in samadhi for longer and longer periods until, like the yogis of Himalaya, one can remain in samadhi for days.
But are the two goals, kaivalya of the Raja yogi and the posi­tioning of prana in Brahmarandhra (a chakra) of the Hatha yogi, the same? Well, one leads to kaivalya or total release and the snapping of the cycle of samsara, but what of the other? One is not sure if the Hatha yogi's goal will give total release  from samsara. What do you think?" p193 Yoga beneath the Surface.


Amazon link

NOTE on learning the mantra and building up the kumbhaka

One way to build up to the above pranayama is, at first, to skip the kumbhaka (holding the breath out) after the exhalation. 

Also, divide the pranayama mantra into three and learn each section on a shorter kumbhaka (breath retention) after the inhalation, five seconds perhaps while chanting

Om bhUh . Om bhuvaha . Ogm suvaha . 
Om mahaha . Om janaha . Om tapaha . Ogm satyam 

Then chant the first part of the mantra above on the inhalation and learn the second part of the mantra on the kumbhaka.

Om tat savitur varENiyam bhargO dEvasya dhImahi .
dhiyO yO nah pracOdayAte ..

Build up to ten seconds kumbhaka perhaps chanting the first two parts above and then learn the third part while exhaling

OmApO jyOti rasO’amRutam brahma bhUrbhuvassuvarOm



Build up to a fifteen second kumbhaka chanting the full mantra quickly and then gradually slow the mantra down to twenty seconds.

Finally, reintroduce the  short five second  kumbhakla after the exhalation



*

Why Patanjali's Yoga?

Hatha yogi's have developed seemingly endless approaches to pranayama, likewise, countless postures and techniques to 'force' the prana into the sushumna channel, raise kundalini, conserve bindu etc.

Perhaps proficiency in some basic (Primary) key asana and a few variations, a straight forward traditional nadi sodhana pranayama practice, a simple pratyahara method of sense withdrawal and samatha, (calm abiding) Sitting, is quite sufficient...., until at least samadhi is attained. If Samadhi is attained , in this lifetime, then we can start to worry about how to apply, Pattanjali has a whole chapter on this.

Kaivalya (liberation) may not necessarily be our objective ( for now at least), we may not even believe in the concept/metaphysics/philosophy on which Patanjali's Yoga sutras are based, and yet the methodology outlined in the sutras may still lead to a more orderly life, greater compassion, improved discipline, emotional stability, and perhaps some insight into the formation and workings of who or what we believe we are as well as providing us with the tools to put 'that' under question on an experiential rather than purely intellectual level.

*

NOTE: Krishnamacharya/Ramaswami have written about 'Yoga for the Three Stages of Life', being completely fixated on asana for a time may be considered..... appropriate but at some point we may wish to introduce a steady pranayama and sitting practice. These are practices that will take decades to master, we may as well begin now as later, even six rounds of pranayama once or twice a day may be beneficial and a ten minute 'Sit' may well feed back into our asana practice. Many traditional teachers from Yoga to Zen to Vipassana, seem to feel that in the west we are... unsuited to meditation practice. There is often a cultural snobbery involved and is clearly nonsense as we too have several thousand years of contemplative traditions, we called it prayer.



This is a quite superb book on Yoga
Link to Amazon




*



Appendix 
Pranayama Mantra

Note: Ramaswami and indeed Krishnamacharya have stated that we should maintain own religious tradition. If for example you are of the Christian faith you might prefer to mentally recite The Lord's Prayer ( which also takes 20 seconds).... in latin perhaps which is rather wonderful on the tongue.

Pater noster, qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum,
adveniat regnum tuum,
fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne inducas nos in tentationem;

sed libera nos a Malo


or why not a version of Loving Kindness


May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,
Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,
Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.
Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.”



Or even the first four of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras which are considered a summary of the whole text, again, 20 seconds if chanted slowly.

atha yoga-anuśāsanam ॥1॥
yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ ॥2॥
tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe-'vasthānam ॥3॥
vr̥tti sārūpyam-itaratra ॥4॥








Here it is again so you can format it as you wish




Pranayama Mantrah

प्राणायाम मन्त्रः 

ओं भूः  ओं भुवः  ओं सुवः 
ओं महः  ओं जनः  ओं तपः   ँ् सत्यं 

Om bhUh . Om bhuvaha . Ogm suvaha . 
Om mahaha . Om janaha . Om tapaha . Ogm satyam 

ओं तत् सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि 
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् 

Om tat savitur varENiyam bhargO dEvasya dhImahi .
dhiyO yO nah pracOdayAte ..

ओमापो ज्योती-रसोऽमृतं-ब्रह्म भूर्भुवस्सुवरोम् 


OmApO jyOti rasO’amRutam brahma bhUrbhuvassuvarOm


Learn more chants by Srivatsa Ramaswami HERE





A TRANSLATION OF  THE PRANAYAMA MANTRA


And here's a link to a page that translates (below) and explains the mantra

AUM bhUH, AUM bhuvaH, AUM svaH, AUM mahaH
AUM janaH, AUM tapaH, AUM satyam

AUM, the primordial sound, resides in all elements of the universe. It permeates the earth (-bhUH), water (-bhuvaH), fire (-svaH), air (-mahaH), ether (-janaH), intelligence (-tapaH) and consciousness (-satyam).

AUM tatsaviturvarenyM bhargo devasya dhImahi
dhIyo yo nH prachodayAt.h.

We pay homage to Gayatri, the one who shines like the sun (tat savitur), the one who destroys all our sins through her everlasting and effulgent light. Dear Goddess Gayatri, please illuminate our path towards our higher consciousness and lead us to our true purpose in life

AUM Apo jyotiH rasomRRitaM
brahma bhUR bhuvaH svar AUM..

Please shine your light (-jyotiH) in our path so we may partake of the everlasting nectar (rasomRRitaM) of brahman while chanting the primordial sound, AUM'!



*

Appendix 2. 



Ramaswami's Mantra meditation Newsletter February 2012

MANTRA PRANAYAMA

Considerable amount of literature is now available on Pranayama (from
ancient and contemporary yogis), an important anga of Yoga, even
though a smaller and smaller number of Hatha yogis do a smaller and
smaller number of pranayamas. In fact according to Brahmananda who
wrote an important commentary of Hathayogapradeepika, Hatha yoga is
indeed Pranayama. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras succinctly gives the
parameters of pranayama along with the benefits. Hathayoga pradeepika
and several other hatha yohga texts talk about a variety of pranayamas
with different ratios in considerable detail and as I said enough
literature is available on pranayama. However since it is also the
anga prior to the antaranga or meditation, parts of yoga pranayama has
been used to prepare oneself for meditation. If in pranayama you can
introduce some noble thoughts for meditation like an uplifting mantra,
bhava thought or an image such pranayamas are called sagarbha
pranayama or pranayama pregnant with lofty ideas. Sri Krishnamacharya
in his “Nathamini's Yoga Rahasya” says that sagarbha pranayama is
several times more beneficial; more than the mechanical pranayama done
generally by hatha yogis.

Sagarbha pranayama done with pranayama mantra from the vedas, which
also includes the potent gayatri as a part of it, has been in vogue
since the vedic times. Sri Krishnamacharya in his yoga work
“Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya” gives a number of instructions for doing
pranayama towards the end of the first chapter. He commends the use of
Pranava and the pranayama mantra with gayatri while doing pranayama
practice. Usually pranava (OM), the most potent mantra and the mother
of all mantras, as a stand alone mantra is used by renunciates like
consummate yogis and advaitins. And the gayatri impregnated vedic
pranayama mantra is used by householders and others in all pranayama.
In fact Manu in his famous Manusmriti says that the pranayama mantra
which consists of prnava, the seven vyahritis, the gayatri and the
head or siras portion should be recited while holding the breath in
Kumbhaka three times to be called as pranayama. Sri Krishnamacharya
also emphasizes the need to meditate on the meaning of the mantras
like the suggestion of Patanjali in YS.

Most people who do ritualistic pranayama in India use the pranayama
mantra referred to earlier. Manusmiti says as follows

“sa vyahritim sa pranavaam
gayatriim sirasa saha
trifpateth ayataf pranah
pranayamassa uchyate

Here is the translation“Pranayama is that in which the seven vyahritis
(bhuh bhuvaha...) each preceded by pranava (OM) then the gayatri, then
the siris are (silently) recited.”

It should be chanted (silently) while holding the breath (kumbhaka).
When it is done three times it is called panayama. The pranayama
mantra is 64 syllables and takes about 20 seconds to chant, more or
less. The verse quoted above says three times and some interpret it as
chanting the mantra three times while holding the breath, but
generally it is chanted once and three such pranayamas will make one
bundle of pranayama. If you try to do the chant thrice in one go it
would taken a minute and holding the breath for one minute could be a
real challenge to most and so most people stick to the earlier
option.

What about the duration for inhalation and exhalation? Sri
Krishnamacharya says in Yoga Rahasya that it should be vishamavritti
indicating that the time duration for inhalation exhalation and breath
holding would vary. So many go by the 1:4:2 ratio.

One may inhale for 5 seconds then chant the mantra during internal
holding for 20 seconds and then exhale for 10 seconds. The breath
holding after exhalation is considered a hathayoga practice and many
orthodox people who do pranayama as part of the Puja or Japa ritual
dispense with bahya kumbhaka and the bandhas. The quickie pranayama is
three times but it is recommended that on should do 10 times the
samantra pranayama.  (Contrast this with the hathayoga approach of
going up to 80 times mantraless pranayama).

Since children sometimes as young as 5 were initiated into vedic
studies, it becomes obligatory for them to do sandhya and hence mantra
pranayama and silent gayatri chant. But then because they are young
they may not be taught to do calibrated pranayama. Usually in course
of time they would learn to do long inhalation and exhalation say in
nadishodhana. Later they will be taught the whole vishamavritti
pranayama as explained earlier.

So the mantra is chanted silently in pranayama. But most people just
chant the mantra without the pranayama--they may merely touch the nose
but not do the pranayama. So we have one set of people who do
pranayama without mantras as most hatha yogis do and another group
especially in India who chant the mantra faithfully but do not do the
prnayama at all and thus both lose out. It even led the much revered
previous Sankaracharya of Kanchi to remark that if only Indians would
hold the breath (kumbhaka) rather than just touch/hold the nose they
would all become great yogis and spiritual persons.

My Guru also said that when doing any mantra in japa, in pranayama or
meditation, one should think of the meaning or import of the mantra.
That makes it lot more powerful and meaningful. What does this mantra
signify, many times we get initiated into a mantra routine without
knowing what it means. All yogis know that Patanjali insists on
contemplating on the meaning of pranava when doing pranava japa to get
the grace of Iswara.

“Om Bhuh, om bhuvah, om suvah, om mahah, om janah, om tapah, om
satyam; then the gayatri and then the siras which runs like this, ”om
apah jyoti rasah amrtam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom” is the pranayama
mantra. This mantra appears in Mahanarayana Upanishad, the last
chapter of Yajur veda. This upanishad also contains several beautiful
mantras used on a daily basis like the offering to the five pranas
(before taking food), meditating within the heart etc. I got the whole
chapter (about 45 minutes of continuous chanting) recorded some 25
years back by “Sangeetha” and I believe it is available in some stores
in Chennai, India. You may learn the pranayama mantra—visit my website
www.vinyasakrama.com/chants and click on the “Learn Pranayama Mantra
chant” tab.

So what is the meaning of this wonderful pranayama mantra? Again there
are different interpretations. The conventional meaning for the seven
vyahritis is seven different worlds starting with the world we live in
to six other higher worlds. But the word loka is interpreted in a more
esoteric sense by a few scholars. They say that the words loka and
look are derived from the same root . And the seven lokas are the
seven perceptions of the ultimate reality which is Brahman the pure
non changing consciousness.

So this approach which gels with the advaita philosophy would be as
follows: According to the Upanishads, Brahman in its pristine state is
alone and there was no time or space (aksha and avakasha) in
contention. The Brahman once thought that it should become many
(bahusyam praja yeyeti). Then in the next stage It deeply contemplated
as to how it should create the universe and make many microcosmic
individual consciousness. This state was known as the stage of tapas
of the Brahman (sa tapo tapyata). Then after deep contemplation and
planning It created the entire Universe (idam sarvam asrujata). After
this creation the Brahman entered and permeated the entire Universe
(tat eva anupravisat) and every being as the individual Self.

The seven vyahrutis are considered as representing the seven states of
the same consciousness four at the microcosmic level and three at the
cosmic level. So when doing pranayama during breath holding
internally, one would say 'om bhuh', contemplate on the consciousness,
represented by pranava or 'om during the waking state. Then as the
second vyahriti 'om bhuvah ' is recited, one would think of the same
consciousness being aware of the individual dream state.

'om suvah” would refer to the same consciousness witnessing the deep
sleep stage. Om mahah, the fourth vyahriti is the consciousness beyond
the three earlier mentioned known amongst the vedantins as the fourth
state of the mind (turiya) or the yogi's kaivalya state. The same
consciousness now is identified with the Brahmana that created the
Universe (Om Janah). Then the next mantra, the sixth “Om tapah” would
represent the Brahman as one deeply contemplating and finally the
pristine state of consciousness “Om satyam” the one and only Brahaman.
With this the abhyasi is able to identify and meditate upon the same
one Brahaman as seen in different states. The theory that there is
only one consciousness that exists both at the cosmic and at the
microcosmic level is the bedrock of the advaita (No two
conciousnesses) viewpoint. So an advaitin while doing pranayama is
able to reinforce the advaitic conviction.

Then the second part of the pranayama mantra is the gayatri mantra. It
again refers to the ultimate reality as the inner light. Just as the
sun with its lustrous orb lights the entire world, the Brahman/Self
lights the entire chitta or the internal world of the meditator, so
that the chitta vrittis are experienced or 'seen' in the mind's eye .

The last portion known as the siras or the head, is an encomium to the
ultimate Brahman. It refers to It as OM., pure consciousness, the
universal light, the essence of the entire Universe, immortal
(unchanging), the source of the universe, and is known to the
individual as the inner Self during the three states of waking, dream
and deep sleep.

This meaning of the pranayama mantra is vividly brought to the mind as
the pranayama mantra is recited silently during antah kumbhaka. Then
it is known as samantraka or sagarbha pranayama. According to Manu
this samantra pranayama is the greatest Tapas/meditation.

It is said that those who are well versed in the chakras are able to
identify the seven vyahritis with the seven chakras in the body using
the respective bijakshara or seed mantras. Some make an effort   to
visualize the cosmic Brahman  in the seven chakras in the microcosm
itself.

There are other types of mantras used. For instance saivaites tend to
chant the siva mantras as they hold the breath as mentioned in the
Tamil Saiva classic “Tirumandiram”. The mantra “sivasiva” of four
syllables is chanted 16 times during one breath hold corresponding to
64 syllables as in the pranayama mantra referred to earlier.

Here is a pranayama for renunciates:

While doing puraka or inhalation the thought would be that the entire
universe is ultimately drawn into the Brahman. Then while in
antahkumbhaka the contemplation would be that the outside Universe and
I are no different from the Brahman. Then while exhaling the ego “I'
with the entire Universe is discarded as nothing but an illusion, not
real, not significant. And in bahya kumbhaka one would contemplate
that pure Brahman alone is real, It alone exists.

Those who believe in the reality of world and the trinity (Brahma,
Vishnu and Siva), would use pranayama to reinforce their faith.

Inhaling through the left nostril one should think of the four faced
Brahma the creator aspect of the trinity and of blood red hue (rajas
guna) while chanting Om 16 times. Then closing both the nostrils  and
holding the breath in  kumbhaka one should think of the white colored
(satva guna) Hari, the protector/sustainer chanting pranava 64 times.
Then while exhaling through the right nostril one should meditate on
Siva of dark color (tamo guna) chanting pranava 32 times. Then one
should start inhaling through the right nostril for 16 matras chanting
pranava 16 times and continue the pranayama for a predetermined number
of times with both mantra and bhava.

Different smritis and very old yoga texts refer to a variety of
pranayamas with and without mantras. Almost all the puranas have a
section on yoga which describe different asanas and pranayamas. (I
think with all this evidence one may say with some conviction that
Yoga is more than 100 years old). For more information on pranayama
you may consider referring to my book “Yoga for the Three Stages of
Life” pages 189 to 211.

Sri Krsishnamacharya's Yoga teachings were unique and very rich. In
Vinyasakrama asana practice, breath synchronization with slow
movements is an essential element. One would start the movement with
the beginning of inhalation or exhalation and complete the movement
with the completion of that breathing phase. The time taken in actual
practice may be between 5 to 10 or 12 seconds depending on one's
capacity and control. If it goes below 5 seconds one would stop the
practice and rest to regain the vinyasa krama acceptable breath. My
Guru, Sri T Krishnamacharya would say 'breathe with hissing sound' (a
la cobra, refer to ananta samapatti in YS) or 'with a mild rubbing
sensation in the throat'.

In this way, with long deep inhalation and exhalation, the intercostal
muscles are stretched and toned up and by the time pranayama is
started the accessory muscles of breathing are well exercised so that
one has a well oiled breathing apparatus for a very productive
pranayama practice. And while doing pranayam introduction of mantras
and bhavas helps to bring the mind to a focus which will be of
considerable help when one starts the meditation process. Thus Sri
Krishnamacharya following the tradition of yoga described in old yoga
texts like the yoga sutras, the puranas, smritis and other ancient
texts helped to understand and achieve the best of an outstanding
ancient system called Yoga.

You may access the earlier Newsletter by visiting my website
www,vinyasakrama.com and clicking on the Newsletter tab. Any comments
or suggestions please e mail to

Best wishes

Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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