This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice as well as most of my practice videos in YouTube, other than those linked to my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book).

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

Blog Comments are turned off, there are no "members" of this blog .

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Returning to Ashtanga - a journal

UPDATE (Aug 2019)

This blog is now essentially 'sleeping'

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice (as well as most of my practice videos on YouTube other than those linked to from my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book). 

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

Blog Comments are turned off, there are no "members" of this blog .

If you have the mobile version, scroll down to show web version for all the pages/resources etc.

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A stand alone page that I was using as a journal for May/June 2019 




Introduction

When I mentioned in a post this week that I had started practicing Ashtanga  again a friend commented that they too had been coming back to Ashtanga off and on over the last two years.

It struck me that there are probably a lot of practitioners coming back to the practice or considering it and that it might be worth journaling 'how it goes'.

Firstly, I wasn't expecting to come back to the practice, I thought I had washed my hands on Ashtanga a year ago, see this post -"There's probably still an Ashtangi in me somewhere but...." from May 2018, plus I was enjoying other approaches to practice.

Ironically, I had been posting, on Instagram, videos of full on Ashtanga transitions and contrasting them with gentle movements transitioning form forward to back spinal flexion. The focus of course was intended to be on the gentle movements but I found myself quite nostalgic for the time when I was working on those crazy Ashtanga transitions ( none of which are of course necessary in ashtanga, a gentle step back from and step to an asana being completely sufficient). I didn't miss the actual transitions I was showing but rather the time when I was so focussed on my daily Ashtanga practice, that commitment and focus.

It didn't come out of the blue. After being so disappointed with much of the Ashtanga community in their response to the breaking story of Pattabhi Jois' abuse and, frankly, anger at what had taken place and especially how so many had looked the other way, excused and basically enabled Jois' abuse at the time, I had wanted nothing to do with the practice. Even now, after all that we know about Jois' abuse, we still end up with photo's of him turning up in our feeds on instagram and fb by those who still feel that is appropriate to do so and not concerned that it can be experienced as another violation and or a direct insult..  However,  as time passed I found myself still rooting for friends and acquaintances and indeed complete strangers, who were working at their practice. I might have been frustrated at the community but couldn't fail to respect the sincerity and quiet commitment of daily practitioners.

A month or so ago I had posted on Krishnamachary's table of asana and how it was possible to reach back before Jois to a practice that was essentially the same but unbesmirched by Jois' grubby touch. I practiced it a few times but still found myself inclined to continue practicing Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal movements, Ashtanga, even Krishnamacharya's Ashtanga felt somewhat of a backward step.

And then, one morning, Wednesday (day 2 below) it no longer seemed so much a backward step but rather that the explorations of other approaches to movement this last year may serve to better inform what has always been my practice


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Perhaps daily updates for the first week then weekly and monthly


First week - May 2019

Day one
And so I was surprised when on Tuesday, after twenty minutes or so of Simon's Spinal Movements, I started to run through the Ashtanga sequence, just as I remembered an old demonstration YouTube, no five breaths in asana but straight from one asana to the next ( as I said, a demonstration).

Day two
And then on Wednesday, after a ten minute Spinal Warm up I practiced full Primary but with less jump backs, between groups of asana rather than between sides, so a jump back after all the marichiyasana's, another after all the Janu Sirsasana variations etc.

I blogged

"Wednesday I practiced my first full Ashtanga Primary series in, oh I don't know how long, almost a year perhaps (See - I'm sure there's still an Ashtanga practitioner buried within me somewhere but......). And this morning, I practiced half Primary/half Second. I'll probably practice the same again tomorrow and then a straight Primary alongside M. on Saturday.

It's not really worth mentioning, I shouldn't write this until after a week, a month, another year of practice. This practice only takes on significance after a significant period of work, of grinding the practice out day in day out". 


Day three
Thursday I practiced half primary/half second (up to Ustrasana - no pasasana)

Day four
Friday was the same as day three, Half primary/Half second but more jump backs, this time between asana rather than groups of asana. Fourth day is and always has been the killer for me, I always seem to feel the fourth day more than any other, my whole body ached, not in a bad way exactly but just the feeling that you had seemingly employed every muscle in your body, in some way, in the practice. I feel asleep in Savasana.
I did question whether I had perhaps over done it but I had been careful, knees slightly bent for much of the time to go easy on the hamstring, gentle twists, gentle back stretches. I decided that I felt no worse that how I would if I had half hiked/half climbed  up our mountain.

Day five
Saturday. Similar to day four, half primary/half second, jump backs between asana rather than sides. I expected to practice straight Primary beside M. on Saturdays but this week she was on her holiday. Sunday I work early so plan on taking Sundays as a rest day. Which makes this my first week, one day short of a full weeks practice. Not a bad idea, having a shorter week for the first week back. Feeling so exhausted for much of the day on the fourth day reminded me that it's still an intense practice and too be taken seriously, cautiously.

Day Six
This was going to be my rest day as I have to work early. Woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep. I felt stiff all over, aching back, hamstrings, shoulders. I tried some spinal movements but they didn't seem to help, I tried a couple of sun salutations and felt a little better, after the first creaking ones anyway. In the end I settled for a half primary easy on the hamstrings, bent knees etc.

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Second week
Monday

- If the last couple of days I had ached all over, this morning I woke up fresh, ache free and hardly able to wait to step onto my mat. So it goes.

- On a side note my Spinal Movements, practice freed from the morning slot, feels quite exciting and exploratory, kind of how I use to 'play' in my afternoon Vinyasa Krama practice all those years ago.  

- Practice continues to go well, no aches, flexibility is coming back, two kilo curiously dropped off in just over a week and I've had to tighten my belt to stop my trousers falling down. More importantly though, to mix my metaphors. I feel more anchored, grounded...., earthed, I hadn't realised how restless I had become this last year.

Wednesday

- This week seems to have been ten years or so since Jois passed away, some, including Certified teachers ( and indeed, whole Associations) who should know better, felt it was appropriate to post photos of Jois (which ended up on  my Instagram feed), with captions mentioning what a marvellous and beautiful man he was, healing even. Is it timely? Really?  It's not about you, step aside, yield the floor and actually listen to, and hear, the victims whose voices are finally beginning to be heard.

I posted this in response


Discernment is knowing when and when not to exercise our freedom of speech. I don’t understand why you would publicly mark Jois’ passing. Why not a private acknowledgement perhaps out of respect for those who have directly experienced Jois’ abuse and are finally being heard, as well as those who have spoken up in support, despite the verbal abuse they have received from the community. It does help me to understand how senior and authorised teachers, looked the other way, excused and ultimately enabled Jois abuse.

To the response, 


"You never went to Mysore, you didn't know him, I practice with him for years"

I would suggest that clearly you didn't know him either, or perhaps you did but didn't want to 

A year ago it was this response by the community that turned me away from my practice. Interestingly, a year later, I wrote the above then got on and did my practice. I seem to have managed to distance the practice from Jois and indeed from those in the Ashtanga community who 'like' and 'heart' such photos of Jois' (unfriend me, please). That said, I didn't want to risk it, took down my post and withdrew a little more from social media.

At this point I'm more concerned with protecting the rebuilding of my Sādhana and it's grounding physical aspect/element

And yet I feel the tide is turning.

Thursday

I suspect this will be my last practice this week as I'm hiking up a mountain tomorrow. It's probably a full moon anyway (I never used to take moon days but this one comes at a good time). I'm still ache free, feeling strong, more flexible, enjoying practice and looking forward to getting on the mat each morning. Still taking it easy, jump backs between sides, not going into forward bends or twists too deeply, taking my time. I did add in Karandavasana yesterday before Sirsasana...., just to see. Landed my lotus but only just. I've had wrist problems recently, a ganglion cyst (see https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2018/11/ganglion-cyst-and-alternatives-to-sun.html) that became painful, it's pretty much gone now after using a wrist support but I still feel protective of my wrists.  I use the supports ( I even bought a second support for the other wrist)and steer clear of handstands but a forearm stand to bring back a little strength doesn't feel a bad idea and i was never completely happy with my karandavasana, always felt a little squished.




Friday (day eleven)

I'm sure Ashtanga used to be harder.
Just finished practicing Half Primary/half  Intermediate Ashtanga + Pincha and Karandavasana (down but no longer up, for now at least) next to M. (Primary). I noticed my mat wasn't that sweaty and after only two weeks coming back to the practice and carrying an extra couple.., FEW kilo.



Contrast it with this from years back, my towel drenched in sweat.


I'm feeling relaxed, refreshed and considering if I actually feel like eating something.

This is all Simon Borg-Olivier of course. Natural 'belly' breathing - the focus at the beginning of the breath (also movements) at the belly rather than at the chest and letting the breath take care of itself ( it tends to tune in naturally with the movements anyway). Plus I practice more slowly, breathe more slowly take my own sweet time getting in and out of postures with the breath, jump backs between postures rather than sides. I don't stretch or strain, more active movements. The room is cooler too than I used to have it ten years ago, although see this from a couple of years back when I first started Simon's approach 32°and 70% humidity in Osaka ( and no Air-conditioning in the flat) yet still a mostly dry mat.




I still feel like I've practiced, my whole body feels alive, present but I didn't feel much need of a savasana.

Coming back to Ashtanga...., it doesn't have to hurt.

That said, the other way used to be fun too : )

To be fair my body knows the practice, muscle memory, all those little tricks and techniques I picked up over the years that allow me to still get into binds despite the extra bit of weight I'm carrying. It was always going to be easier second time around and it's not like I haven't been doing some kind of daily practice.

M. too has a very relaxed sweat free practice, she takes her time.

Manju always said that we shouldn't push so hard, that we should enjoy our practice, have fun. It's still a long practice, takes a commitment to step on the mat each morning, still builds discipline but a hair shirt is.... optional.

Tomorrow will be a rest day (finally) or rather we are getting up early and hiking up our mountain

We're hiking up somewhere in the far left of the photo then going along the ridge ( there's a lake up there supposedly) and coming down somewhere near us ( to the right of the sun) "groan". Did I say a rest day?
Photos just taken from our balcony.



Third week

In the lake five minutes after my half Primary yesterday.

Lake Biwa

Saturday, M. and I went hiking up our mountain(s). Took a train south a couple of stations, hiked up one mountain, walked along the ridge, up and down another couple of peaks then came down our mountain, around seven hours hiking.

Top of the mountain Saturday.
A Panorama, Our lake Biwa on the left, The Kyoto mountains to the middle and right

Needless to say we were wreaked, bodies ached everywhere, serious pain in places, lower back, frount of shins, hamstrings, calves and my right shoulder too ( from the walking stick I picked up and used throughout I imagine). If I wrote that about an Ashtanga practice the critics would be out in force screaming to outlaw the practice, to regulate it, ban it!

I was reminded how, several years back there was the whole, 'Don't do any other form of exercise.' mantra in Ashtanga circles, do you remember that? Don't cycle, don't run, don't swim, don't go to the gym, "It will only interfere with your practice". Of course years, later Certified Ashtanga teachers were turning to Circus skills trainers to up their game, improve their handstands and keep ahead of the young blood coming through the ranks of Ashtanga social media. But I want to focus on before, when the Ashtanga police were out in force judging any transgression, don't you dare get on a bike or hit the pool.

It was ridiculous of course, most recognise that now I suspect but for a time seemingly everyone was very serious. I think now it's very revealing. it shows the focus on asana. Being serious about Ashtanga meant being serious about progression through the series, when all we really needed to be serious about was our commitment to a sincere practice, that groundwork of our yoga, polishing the tool. For others it might be sitting on a cushion or chair, for us it's making that commitment to a series of shapes, for an hour or more, on a rubber mat all while observing the breath.

Not meditating, not pretending to meditate, just sitting exhausted at the top of a mountain
looking out over the Kyoto mountains as far as the eye can see.
Thursday

I mentioned before that I'd had some wrist problems, a ganglion cyst on my left wrist that turned painful leading me to drop all my jump backs and even sun salutations. Thanks to my friend Jess' wrist strap recommendation ( Wristwidget or copy - see earlier post) I'm able to bring back my salutations and jump back ( although I tend to jump back between Asana rather than sides).
But what about arm balances? I leave them well alone. I stop at half Primary, after Navasana , thus avoiding Bhuja Pidasana and Kukkutasana altogether ( Note: I choose to practice the Krishnamacharya favourite, Bharadvajrasana rather than Mari D. following something Manju Jois once mentioned. - Krishnamacharya Put Mari D in his middle/intermediate group of asana). I don't miss them although I do miss the nice floaty Bakasana from the Ashtanga second series and Astavakrasana perhaps from Advanced A ( 3rd).


Manju mentioned that he tends to practice half Primary, half second and a little of third ( for fun and/or to 'keep his hand in'). I do something similar but there really isn't anything in Advanced A or B that I miss enough arm balances always seemed to play to a strength - strong back and shoulders and the back bends are excessive - also why I no longer bother with Kapotasana). I settle instead for Pinca Mayurasana and Karandavasana from the second half of Intermediate 'for fun'. No stress on my wrist, brings back a little strength and I really never was that happy with my Karandavasana, it would go down and back up but was always a little squished.
Half Primary is a quite delightful ( and sufficient) practice but Half Primary/Half Second ( I stop at Ustasana) always struck me as the best of all Ashtanga permutations.


Friday

Tristana, what Tristana?

I noticed this week that for all the lables I have at the bottom of my blog, relating to posts, I don't have a single post labled 'Tristana'. Tristana refers to 'breath, bandhas and drishti'. I always thought it sounded a little too 'neat', too much like marketing. I'm suspicious of anyone attempting to tie up my daily sadhana in a pretty bow.



Breath: I let the breath take care of itself, merely observing it, occasionally attend to it if it gets a little raggidy, usually by dwelling a little longer in a posture and letting the breath settle.

Drishti: Mostly my eyes are shut - I was pleasantly surprised when Manju suggested it on his TT as I'd been closing them for much of the time for years.

Bandhas: I move from the core, my sit bones tend to be dropped for much of the time, likewise my hips moved forward, are Uddiyana and Mula Bandhan naturally, subtly engaged, perhaps, I barely consider them ( Note: Simon Borg-Olivier mentions nine bandhas, mostly protecting joints, I do bear these in mind, or rather they've worked their way into my practice).


And what of the count? How far do we need to count in Sanskrit ( I wrote a post on learning it, one of my most popular posts  https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2014/02/one-approach-to-learning-ashtanga.html). These days I just count up to two, right at the beginning of my practice, "Ekam, Dve..... ", then forget all about it. I take as many 'extra' breaths as I feel like to get in and out of a posture. Those extra breaths aren't counted but are... 'observed'.
.
No opening or closing chants either. I thank all teachers and practitioners past and present for maintaining me in my practice. I wish all beings safe, well, peaceful, content. I offer two prayers, one in Greek one in Latin in recognition of my horizon and then I practice.

The sequence I practice is closer to the order in Krishnamacharya's table of Asana to give me a more comfortable distance from Jois.

I believe that we find our own approach to our practice, it's 'correct' if it's honest, sincere and committed and feels appropriate and meaningful that day.


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Fourth week.....




Wednesday


Ashtanga Half Primary - Krishnamacharya's alternative listing of Asymmetric Seated Asana in Yogasanagalu ( Mysore 1941). Our Free Translation HERE

I was asked about something I mentioned earlier on my 'Return to Ashtanga' rolling post and page on my blog.

"The sequence I practice is closer to the order in Krishnamacharya's table of Asana to give me a more comfortable distance from Jois."

So how is Krishnamacharya's order of Asana different from Jois'? Firstly we should remember that Krishnamacharya's table of Asana is just that, a table rather than a fixed practice sequence or series as was the case with Jois. That said I suspect it may well have been a loose, constantly modifiable and adaptable, framework for practice..


The main difference is the asymmetric section. In Jois the sequence seems to lead towards arguably the most challenging posture in Primary, Marichiyasana D. In Krishnamacharya's table Mari D. is in the Middle ( Intermediate) group of Asana and it's as if the Asymmetric sequence leads to Janu Sirsasana or rather the key ( for Krishnamacharya) mudra 'Maha Mudra', for which the Janu Sirsasana variations are Asana versions.



My own approach to half Primary is pretty standard except that I substitute Krishnamacharya's Asymmetric subroutine for Jois' and include Maha Mudra with kumbhaka.
Reaching back before Jois and gives me some much needed distance from Jois' influence.
It also makes for a nice practice.

NOTE: Interesting article from Gregor Maehle which brings together nicely a lot of the ideas discussed on this blog over the years regarding Krishnamacharya's early texts, in particular the table of asana in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941) and much more besides.

Did KP Jois Invent Ashtanga Yoga?

I don't consider it's so much a question of whether Jois or Krishnamacharya 'invented' the Ashtanga Vinyasa method we think of today. 'Invent' comes from the latin 'to find', I guess you could argue that Jois 'found' the Ashtanga method on the wall of his teacher's shala. It strikes me as absurd to consider Jois invented something we can see so clearly laid out in Krishnamacharya's early work, I think we have to settle for modified, adapted, simplified at most. Did Krishnamacharya  then 'invent the Asthanga Vinyasa method/approach to practice it's a question that really doesn't interest me much and we have no earlier textual evidence to decide one way or the other. If we characterise Ashtanga vinyasa as the connecting of asana then Jois mentioned he saw Krishnamacharya 'jumping from asana to asana back in the early 20' in a demonstration. We all know how hard the jump back and through is to learn, that suggests to me that Jois had been 'jumping' for some time, perhaps it was something that he learned from his own teacher as well as the strong focus on the yoga sutras Pranayama and therapy that Krishnamacharya mentioned he learned from his teacher, Ramamohana Brahmachari, wheter in Tibet or more likely perhaps in a forest outside Vārāṇasī.




Thursday

My wrist has been playing up again all week, noticed it on Monday morning which was surprising as Sunday was my rest day suggesting it wasn't a result of sun salutations or jump backs. I suspect it's from holding onto the straps of my backpack as I run to the station after work.

The pain seems to be further over from before, more above my thumb and first finger, the wrist strap I've been using and mentioned before in this post doesn't seem to be effective here.

So I've been employing Simon Borg-Olivier's sun salutation variations where we don't actually touch the ground but just move the spine back and forth to the same count (see the third variations in the video below from 2.43). Ramaswami's vinyasa to and from seated positions ( second video below) thus avoiding any 'weight' on the wrist and skipping jump backs and jump throughs altogether and instead laying back between groups of table postures to include Dwipada pitham or table posture as a pratkriya (counter posture) to the forward bends.





Practicing this way highlights the Vinyasa Krama nature of Ashtanga. Ashtanga is merely a collection of asana and subroutines. The only difference between it and how Vinyasa Krama is practiced is that Ashtanga tends to be a fixed sequence of these, Vinyasa Krama embraces more modification and variation. Personally I've found there to be are enough asana in Ashtanga that extra variations and modifications are not necessarily required. You can practice Vinyasa Krama with just as many jump backs and through as Ashtanga, or you can practice less or a different kind of transition, either way, Ramaswami mentioned that the count to and from an asana is always implied if not actualised.

In Vinyasa Krama, we tend to work into a posture, repeating several times, going in perhaps a little deeper each time but you can do the same in Ashtanga of course, especially in Mysore self-practice, it's only with the introduction of the Led class that Ashtanga seems to have lost it's way somewhat.

Vinyasa Krama as taught by Ramaswami and following his teacher Krishnamacharya also emphasises pranayama and a meditative practice/activity, so Asana followed by pranayama followed by a Sit or perhaps chanting or contemplation of an 'appropriate' text of subject matter. More and more 'senior' Ashtanga teachers are it seems snubbing Sharath and including pranayama an often a Sit after the asana sequence.

I've always tended to practice my Vinyasa Krama as Ashtanga and my Ashtanga as Vinyasa Krama ( by including Kumbhakas and integrating with pranayama and a Sit) anyway, so this wrist problem is actually a welcome reminder of the roots of my practice.

Friday

With my wrist still playing up and regular Sun Salutations off the menu, I embraced Simon Borg-Oliver's Sun salutations variations (google for his video, it's the third variations I'm talking about). Then on into a pretty standard Ashtanga standing and half Primary but laying back and introducing dwipada Pitham ( table posture) in place of jump backs as a pratkriya (counter posture).


There are several variations of table pose https://youtu.be/1bxB13L2AZ8


Although the half series was pretty standard Ashtangawise (except for the Krishnamacharya version of the Asymmetric subroutine - see earlier post), practiced this way, a little slower, some kumbhaka, more modification, it felt a little more Vinyasa Krama than Ashtanga . You can practice Ashtanga this way of course  but it seems to have more of a Vinyasa Krama feel than Ashtanga.
I picture a scale, in the middle area Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama are much the same but move a little to the right and it feels more Vinyasa Krama, drift to the left and it's more Ashtanga.


Tomorrow I get to practice with M. and that'll be a month back practicing Ashtanga and perhaps a good place to end this practice journal post.

Saturday

Practicing with M. today, pretty much as Friday above except that after Simon's Spinal Sun salutation variation I came up with this variation on Suryanamaskara B, skipping Chaturanga and Urdhva Mukha svanasana ( upward facing dog) altogether. The slighter angle of the wrist in Adho Mukha Svanasana was comfortable.

Modified Surya namaskar  A

Modified Surya namaskar B



And that's a month back practicing Ashtanga and the end of this rolling 'journal'.




Ranier Maria Rilke




Appendix

Current thoughts on Ashtanga Vinyasa and Yoga.

Ramaswami, I guess paraphrasing his teacher Krishnamacharya, puts asana practice in perspective nicely. Paraphrasing the three Gunas ( a useful model but a model all the same)...

Asana to reduce Rajas (agitation), Pranayama to reduce tamas (lethargy) leaving us in a more satvic (serenity) state.

There are of course many translations of the three gunas - Studying Sanskrit is of course an option, Indian Philosophy too... or we can just Sit more instead. Intellectual study is always it's own reward but I don't believe the study of Sanskrit or Indian Philosophy is required of us, a passing acquaintance is perhaps sufficient. I remember Ramasawmi suggesting that the Yoga sutras were pretty much intuitive. that it was the commentators who confused things, I tend to agree, we can get bogged down and distracted rather than just getting on and practicing. Yoga, as one pointed contemplation of the self (or it's absence), is humanities birthright, it doesn't belong to India, we find it everywhere. Personally, I look to my own tradition, the Greeks. However long I were to study Indian philosophy I would never understand it as well as my own horizon. I realised this listening to Ramaswami's Yoga Sutra lectures over a fortnight, how he would weave in songs and slokas with stories from his childhood, his whole culture a vast tapestry of interconnections.

I asked Ramaswami once why we should practice early in the morning when we are perhaps at our least 'Rajistic' and most 'Satvic'. He seemed to suggest that it was just the best time to practice asana and it was more about reducing an accumulation of raja over time.

The idea then is to choose a practice that reduces our agitation, restlessness, that grounds us and basically just balances out these three mode of existence so we can start working towards equanimity, one pointedness and generally preparing ourselves for the application of that one pointedness which is where the yoga then comes in, an appropriate application of the one pointedness we have developed.

This is a householder practice. We are not expected to practice actual Yoga now, but rather after our householder duties are complete, when we are then free to retire to the (metaphorical) forest for contemplation.

Our practice now then, assuming we are not intending to become a Monk or Nun,  is to help us to live a more grounded, balanced, life, to carry out our (householder) duties with discernment and to prepare ourselves for the future, the third stage of life, to work now on our discipline, equanimity, non attachment for that time to come. This could have been written by a Greek, I prefer to look to the Stoics for my yama/niyamas

The question then is not, does Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga work to achieve yoga (of course it doesn't it's just making shapes and breathing exercises) but does it help prepare us while helping us to live a more discerning life. For some it does, for others another approach may do just as well or be more effective and appropriate. I've often thought I would have liked to run for an hour or so a day but I don't have the knees for it, or perhaps swim for an hour, back and forth. back and forth, I do have the lake for that.

But clearly I feel this approach to practice helps give me that discipline and balance/stability.








Thursday, 21 February 2019

Krishnamacharya and Burmese Insight meditation practice, breath and focal points.

Update 2019

Spoiler Alert: This is all highly speculative.

I'm reminded, updating this post, that Insight meditation practice was were I started, I actually went to the library to pick up some books on yoga ( they just happened to be Ashtanga) to help me in my sitting. Perhaps it is no surprise then that I took so naturally to Krishnamacharya's 'breathing practice. 

This post may be a little confusing as I've added a lot of sections to the original post rather than rewrite the whole thing. Here's a summary of the argument/suggestion that I wrote for instagram.

Summary.

1. Krishanamacharya went to Burma to study Burmese Yoga.

 "He (Krishnamacharya) mastered Hindu yoga in the Himalayas and Buddhist yoga in Burma, then part of India". T.K. Shribhashyam - Life Sketch of my father in 'Moksa-Marga. An Itinerary in Indian philosophy' 2011.

2. Burma was part of India at the time ( until 1937), so this was entirely possible.

3. Burmese Yoga = Insight Meditation.

Insight Meditation had ‘taken off’ in Burma at the time thanks to the teaching of Ledi Sayadaw - Burmese monk (1846–1923) and his students.

4. “Ledi Sayadaw argued that one did not need to enter into such states (samadhi/Jhanas) in order to gain the mental stability for insight practice. It was excellent if they could (and Ledi Sayadaw claimed that he himself had done so), but really all one required was a minimal level of concentration that would enable the meditator to continually return, moment after moment, to the object of contemplation.

The message spread far and wide: forget the jungle or the cave. Meditation is possible in the city.”

5. Sayadaw taught a paying attention to the breath, counting the breath.

6. Krishnamachray introduced breath attention into his teaching of asana, every movement was counted thus every stage of every breath was counted and paid attention to.

7. Krishnamacharya's breath centered approach is intended to lead to a mental stability similar to the Burmese Insight tradition that might be employed ( for Krishnamacharya) in support of the path of Patanjali yoga or (for me) in support of my practice of Stoicism.

8. The post continues with the original post on Krishanamacharya, Burmese Yoga and focal points.

Did Krishanamacharya’s experience of Burmese yoga influence his attention to the breath ( perhaps more than he realised)? 

It’s a tantalising thought.

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"He (Krishnamacharya) mastered Hindu yoga in the Himalayas and Buddhist yoga in Burma, then part of India". T.K. Shribhashyam - Life  Sketch of my father in Moksa- Marga 2011

I'd completely forgotten about writing this post. The original posts focus is mostly on 'focal points 'and Krishnamacharya's possible early experience of Buddhist meditation. In this update I'm more interested in the possible influence of Burmese meditation on the breath focus in Krishnamacharya's presentation of asana. In Krishnamacharya's table of asana, in his early Mysore text, Yogasanagalu, we find that every movement has a count but each movement also relates to a stage of the breath, thus, looked at from another way, every breath is counted, every stage of every breath is counted. A

Recently I've been bringing a somewhat more formal mindfulness of breath into my asana practice and the thought popped into my head that for a time I had wondered what influence Krishnamacharya's interest in Burma, visit to Burma and/or experience of Burmese Yoga may have had on his practice. 

Of course I was thinking about asana and was searching google for something that might suggest a Burmese asana practice. But what if it was the attention to the breath in Sitting that made such an impact on Krishnamacharya and what he then introduced into his asana practice. That the breath focus didn't come from some questionable text or from Tibet but from Burma. It's a tantalising thought.

Were a 'Yoga Korunta' text to be found that clearly included a breath focus along the lines we are familiar with in Krishnamacharya's writing, it wouldn't necessarily negate the Burma influence argument. Of all the texts Krishnamacharya encountered in the libraries around India on his travels such a Yoga Korunta might have stood out for him precisely because it resonated with his interest in the breath, from his practice of Burmese yoga (meditation) and thus found it's way into his teaching. 

In the period the young, impressionable  Krishnamacharya  may have visited Burma to study Burmese yoga (meditation) or at least encountered Burmese monks and learned from them, 'insight meditation' was....'in the air. Already enjoying a pranayama practice, it is perhaps no surprise that Krishnamacharya may have been drawn to a practice that focussed on the breath and may he not also, consciously or not, appropriated a counting technique, particularly for developing focus in his young students. 

Ledi Sayadaw - Burmese monk (1846–1923)

"Prior to this time, the common belief was that anyone who wanted to practice insight meditation had first to enter into the deep states of concentration (samadhi) called the jhanas. But attaining these sublime modes of concentration required long periods spent removed from the world in intensive meditation, deep in the proverbial jungle or mountain cave. Now, however, Ledi Sayadaw argued that one did not need to enter into such states in order to gain the mental stability for insight practice. It was excellent if they could (and Ledi Sayadaw claimed that he himself had done so), but really all one required was a minimal level of concentration that would enable the meditator to continually return, moment after moment, to the object of contemplation.

The message spread far and wide: forget the jungle or the cave. Meditation is possible in the city. 
This state of mind was thus called “momentary concentration” (khanika-samadhi), and it formed the basis of “pure” or “dry” insight meditation (suddha-vipassana or sukkha-vipassana), which did not include deep concentration. While this approach to practice was discussed in authoritative texts, never before had anyone promoted it on a widespread basis: Ledi Sayadaw was the first to put it at the centre of his teachings. The message spread far and wide: forget the jungle or the cave. Meditation is possible in the city". 
History of Vipassana https://tricycle.org/magazine/meditation-en-masse/


Appendix

Was this the Burmese yoga krishnamacharya may have studied?


Counting in Burmese yoga
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
IX. The Method of the Commentary 

In the Commentary (Aṭṭhakathā) there are three main stages of effort, namely: 
1. Counting (gaṇanā): attention is placed on the out-breaths and inbreaths by counting them. 
2. Connection (anubandhanā): attention is placed directly on the outbreaths and in-breaths and is made stronger and firmer, but the counting is discontinued. 
3. Fixing (ṭhapanā): the effort is intensified until the higher stages of attainment are achieved. 

There are two places where the out-breath and in-breath may be grasped: the tip of the nose and the upper lip. For some people the striking of the breath is clearer at the tip of the nose; for others, it is clearer on the upper lip. Attention must be placed on the spot where the perception is clearest, which may be called the “spot of touch.” At the outset, effort must be made to keep the attention on the “spot of touch” by counting the number of times the out-breath and in-breath strike that spot. In the next stage, effort must be made to keep the attention on the out-breath and in-breath continuously, without the aid of counting. Finally, effort is applied to make the attention stronger and firmer. 

Counting 
There are two methods of counting—slow and fast—according as the attention is weak or strong. In the beginning, the mind is untranquil and disturbed and the attention weak, and thus one is not mindful of every breath that occurs. Some breaths escape detection. Only those breaths that are clearly perceived with mindfulness are counted, while those that are not clearly perceived are left out of the reckoning. Counting thus progresses slowly. It is the slow stage. 

Counting is done in six turns (vāra). In the first, counting proceeds from one to five; then, in the second, from one to six; in the third, from one to seven; in the fourth, from one to eight; in the fifth, from one to nine; and in the sixth, from one to ten. After the sixth turn, one must begin again from the first. Sometimes these six turns are counted as one. 

First place the attention on the “spot of touch,” and when an out-breath or in-breath is clearly perceived, count “one.” Continue counting “two,” “three,” “four,” etc., when the ensuing out-breaths and in-breaths are clearly perceived. If any of them are not clearly perceived, stop the progressive counting by continuing to count “one,” “one,” “one,” etc., until the next clear perception of out-breath and in-breath, when the counting advances to “two.” When the count reaches “five” in the first turn, start again from one. Proceed in this way until the sixth turn is completed. Since only those breaths that are clearly perceived are counted, it is called the slow count. 

When the counting has been done repeatedly many times, the number of breaths that are clearly perceived will increase. The spacing between each progressive count will decrease. When every breath is clearly perceived the counting will progress uninterruptedly and become fast. One must proceed until no breath is missed out from the counting. 

It is not necessary to do the counting orally; a mental count is sufficient. Some people prefer to count orally. Others count one bead at the end of each sixth turn, and they resolve to count a certain number of rounds of beads a day. The essential thing is to make the perception clear and the attention strong and firm. 

Connection 
When the stage is reached where every out-breath and in-breath is clearly perceived with the aid of counting, when no out-breath or inbreath escapes attention, the counting must be discontinued, and the connection (anubandhanā) method adopted. Here, the connection method means putting forth effort to keep the attention on the “spot of touch,” and to perceive every out-breath and in-breath without counting them. It means repeating the effort made in the counting stage in order to make perception clearer and attention stronger and firmer, but without the aid of counting. 

How long is this effort by the connection method to be pursued? Until there appears the paṭibhāga-nimitta, the “counterpart sign” (i.e., a mental image that appears when an advanced degree of concentration is reached). 
When attention becomes fixed on the out-breaths and in-breaths (i.e., when a certain degree of concentration is achieved), manifestations appear such as masses of fluffy wool, gusts of wind, clusters of stars, gems, pearls, or strings of pearls, etc., in various shapes, groups, and colours. These are called counterpart signs. The effort in the connection method must be continued until such time as the counterpart sign appears clearly on every occasion that effort is made. 

Fixing 

During the stages of counting and connection, attention must still be kept on the “point of touch.” From the time the counterpart sign appears, effort must be made according to the third stage, the method of fixing (ṭhapanā). Counterpart signs are manifestations and resemble new mental objects. Not being natural phenomena, they easily disappear, and once they disappear, it is difficult to invoke them into sight again. Hence, when a counterpart sign appears, it is necessary to put forth special effort with added energy in fixing the attention on it to prevent it from disappearing; one must strive to make it become clearer day by day. The putting forth of this special additional effort is known as the method of fixing. 

When the stage of fixing is reached, the seven unsuitable things (asappāya; see just below) must be shunned, while the seven suitable things (sappāya) must be cultivated. The ten kinds of proficiency in meditative absorption (dasa appanā-kosalla), too, must be accomplished. 

The seven unsuitable things are: unsuitable (1) place, (2) village where almsfood is obtained, (3) talk, (4) friends and associates, (5) food, (6) climate, and (7) bodily postures; these things are called “unsuitable” because they cause deterioration of one’s meditation. The seven suitable things are the exact opposites: the place, village, talk, friends, food, climate, and postures which cause one’s meditation to improve. 

The ten kinds of proficiency in meditative absorption are: (1) cleanliness of body and utensils, (2) harmonising the five spiritual faculties (indriya), (3) proficiency in the object of attention, (4) controlling the exuberant mind, (5) uplifting the depressed mind, (6) making the dry mind pleasant, (7) composure towards the balanced mind, (8) avoiding persons who do not possess concentration, (9) associating with persons who possess concentration, and (10) having a mind that is always bent towards meditative absorption. Equipping and fulfilling oneself with these aforementioned qualities, one must make specially energetic efforts for days and months to fix one’s attention on the counterpart sign so that it becomes firm. This effort of fixing the attention (ṭhapanā) must be put forth until the fourth jhāna is attained. 

The Signs 

I shall now show differentially the signs that appear during the three stages of effort, and the types of concentration achieved during these stages. 

The image of the out-breath and in-breath that appears in the stage of counting is called the preparatory sign (parikamma-nimitta). In the stage of connection, it is called the acquired sign (uggaha-nimitta). The manifestation that appears in the stage of attention is called the counterpart sign (paṭibhāga-nimitta). 

The meditative concentration achieved during the appearance of the preparatory sign and acquired sign is “preparatory concentration” (parikamma-bhāvanā-samādhi). The meditative concentration developed with the attention fixed on the counterpart sign during the stage of fixing but before the attainment of full absorption (appanā) is called “access concentration” (upacāra-bhāvanā-samādhi). The four jhānas are called “concentration by absorption” (appanā-bhāvanā-samādhi). 

In the counting and connection stages, the out-breath and in-breath— the objects of meditation—gradually become allayed and calm down. Ultimately they are apt to become so subtle that they seem to have disappeared altogether. When this occurs, one must continue to fix the attention on the “point of touch” and must attempt to grasp the outbreath and in-breath at that point. When the out-breath and in-breath are perceived again clearly, it will not be long before the counterpart sign appears, which signals that the access to jhāna (upacāra-jhāna) has been attained. Here, upacāra-jhāna means the access concentration of sensesphere meditation (kāmāvacara-bhāvanā upacāra-samādhi) which has overcome the five hindrances (pañcanīvaraṇa). 

The calming down of the out-breath and in-breath to the point of disappearance, mentioned in the method given in the Commentary, occurs automatically and need not be specifically attempted. I have myself seen yogis in whom out-breath and in-breath have calmed down to the point of disappearance. In the sutta however, where it is said, “Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati, passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati,” the meaning is that when the stage of connection is reached, the process of calming down the outbreath and in-breath must be specifically attempted. 

When the out-breath and in-breath apparently disappear, people who are not proficient in the work of meditation are apt to think that the outbreath and in-breath have really disappeared or stopped. Then they are apt to discard the work of meditation. Let all be heedful of this fact.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*


Carried over from April 2015 my main blog Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama Yoga at Home

"Those who practice yoganga, with the power of vinyasa and pranayama, have the ability to significantly decrease this number (of breaths). While practicing yoga with reverence, one can offer their essence to God during exhalation and during inhalation, imagine/suppose that God is entering your heart.  During kumbhaka, we can practice dharana and dhyana.  Such practices will improve mental concentration and strengthen silence/stillness.  Eliminates agitation and restlessness". 
Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu (1941)



Now I'm no doubt reading too much into this and making connections where perhaps they aren't any or where none are necessary (these focal points are after all traditional points of mental focus in yoga) Still,  it's been playing on my mind, something about the technique of linking focal points to the breath and bringing them into asana practice. Either way it makes for a good post and a chance to look at this material again.


For a number of years I've been fascinated by the Idea that Krishnamacharya either went to Burma to study 'Burmese Yoga' or , what now seems more likely studied Buddhism, and Buddhist meditation in the Burmese tradition in particular. I was quite excited then to see this account (below) of Krishnamacharya and his son TK Sribhashyam  visiting the Mahabodhi/Bodhigaya temple, in the recent interview over at Harmony Yoga. Krishnamacharya sits down with some of the elderly monks who are supposedly old friends of his from when they studied Buddhism together. Krishnamacharya then went on to teach his son the differences between pranayama in Hinduism and Buddhism. Wouldn't you have like to be a mosquito on the temple wall for that conversation. What differences in particular did Krishnamacharya explain to his son, Samatha perhaps, mindfulness of breathing? Did any of these practices find their way into Krishnamacharya's own practice and teaching. ?

http://www.longdriveholiday.com/bodhgaya/
Now, I was just reading again Ajaan Lee's book, Keeping the Breath in Mind (free download available HERE - Thank you S.) and looking at this use of focal points (or bases of the mind) in the Meditation practice he presents based on the breath.


from Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo Keeping the Breath in Mind
Lessons in Samdhi
by
"5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind—the resting
spots of the breath—and center your awareness on whichever one seems most
comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it)".

Doesn't that remind you of Krishnamacharya's use of focal points to bring Dharana into his asana practice as outlined by his son TK Sribhashyam in Emergence of Yoga.

BUT Ajaan Lee is of course Thai not Burmese (There is a Thai tradition of focal point/bases for the mind breath meditation- see Dhammakya at the end of post). However, I checked Ajaan Lee's autobiography and it turns out he spent time in Burma and, get this, also India and at Maha bodhi in particular. Was the focal point/bases of the mind approach to Samatha in vogue at mahabodhi at the time Krishnamacharya may have studied there if indeed that was where he encountered Burmese and perhaps Thai Buddhism. Was there a cross fertilisation between this encounter with Samatha and Krishnamacharya's reading of Yoga Yajnavalkya ( see No. 4 below).

http://www.longdriveholiday.com/bodhgaya/

Krishnamacharya was always all about the breath, in Yoga Makaranda he only seems to employ two focal points, the tip of the nose and between the eyebrows, he was however well aware of the employment of the vital points in one of his favourite texts YogaYajnavalkya (includes a pranayama technique where the breath -and prana- moved from vital point to vital point). Krishnamacharya would of course have been fascinated had he encountered a meditative tradition based on the breath that focussed on traditional focal points (those from the heart up are considered to be spiritual focal points rather than those for the emotions or those for the body.

  1. First up then the Question and answer from the interview with Sribashyam on Buddhism and Burma.
  2. Next a page outlining the focal points in Emergence of Yoga along with an outline of Krishnamacharya's own practice
  3. A couple of sections from Ajaan Lees book outlining the Meditation technique  with a link to a free download for the full method.
  4. Finally the relevant passages on moving prana from vital point to vital point in pratyahara and pranayama practice found in Yoga Yajnavalkya.

*

1. Krishnamacharya and Burmese Buddhist meditation
Interview with TK Sribashyam ( Krishnamacharya's 3rd son from this post http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2015/05/an-interview-with-krishnamacharyas-3rd.html

"11) You mentioned in the Life Sketch of your Father that he mastered Buddhist Yoga in Burma. Would you be able to tell us more about this and what influence this had on your father’s teaching?"

"My father’s teaching of Indian Philosophy (Yoga Sutra, Vedanta, and even Hatha Yoga) had very often comparisons to the Buddhists thoughts – either to make us understand the flaws that existed in the Buddhist logic and analysis or to bring to light some similar views, especially in the psychology of Buddhism, so that we develop conviction in the Buddha’s teaching.
Apart from this, he used to receive Buddhist monks who would have long discussions with him on this philosophy. As often it was a private discussion, we did not dare to attend these lessons.
In the late sixties, when I went with my father on a pilgrimage to Allahabad, Varanasi and Gaya, he took me to Bodh Gaya for two consecutive days. It is here that he gave some important points of Buddha’s teaching, as also their method of Dhyāna, particularly their very significant mantra: Buddham Sharanam Gachami, Dhammam (Dharmam) Sharanam Gachami, Samgham Sharnam Gachami. I remember some elderly monks saluting him and expressing their happiness at meeting him. They sat in a corner in the Buddha’s temple and had more than an hour’s discussion. The meeting was completed by a silent meditation. Later, my father told me that they were his colleagues when he studied Buddhism. He taught me the technique and practice of Pranayama applied by the Buddhists and subtle differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. However, he was not criticising Buddhism in his lectures. My father had great respect for Buddha’s teaching.
We should not forget that Buddha is considered as one of the incarnations of Vishnu.
A successful Vedic ritual or even a meditation requires a healthy body and mind so that we can stay during the rituals and in a meditation for a longer period without getting disturbances from the senses and the mind".
full interview HERE


*



2. Concentration on the the sixteen vital points

from Emergence of Yoga by Krishnamacharya's 3rd son SRI T K SRIBHASHYAM

Also example from the Book of Krishnamacharya's own practice to show how concentration of vital points might be employed.


http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2014/10/drishti-ashtanga-and-meditation-how.html


*Note in the second sheet ( EG. Baddha Konasana ) how the concentration  moves from point to point, mula to sirsa, on the inhalation although the exhalation always remains on a single point

*


3. Keeping the Breath in Mind
Lessons in Samdhi
byAjaan Lee Dhammadharo


Method 1
"Sit in a half-lotus position, right leg on top of the left leg, your hands placed
palm-up on your lap, right hand on top of the left. Keep your body straight, and
your mind on the task before you. Raise your hands in respect, palm-to-palm in
front of the heart, and think of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha: Buddho me n›tho—The Buddha is my mainstay. Dhammo me n›tho —The
Dhamma is my mainstay. Saºgho me n›tho —The Sangha is my mainstay. Then
repeat in your mind, buddho, buddho; dhammo, dhammo; saºgho, saºgho. Return
your hands to your lap, and repeat one word, buddho, three times in your mind.
Then think of the in-and-out breath, counting the breaths in pairs. First think
bud- with the in-breath, dho with the out, ten times. Then begin again, thinking
buddho with the in-breath, buddho with the out, seven times. Then begin again: As
the breath goes in and out once, think buddho once, five times. Then begin again:
As the breath goes in and out once, think buddho three times. Do this for three inand-out
breaths.
Now you can stop counting the breaths, and simply think bud- with the inbreath
and dho with the out. Let the breath be relaxed and natural. Keep your
mind perfectly still, focused on the breath as it comes in and out of the nostrils.
When the breath goes out, don’t send the mind out after it. When the breath
comes in, don’t let the mind follow it in. Let your awareness be broad and open.
Don’t force the mind too much. Relax. Pretend that you’re breathing out in the
wide-open air. Keep the mind still, like a post at the edge of the sea. When the
water rises, the post doesn’t rise with it; when the water ebbs, the post doesn’t
sink.
 When you’ve reached this level of stillness, you can stop thinking buddho.
Simply be aware of the feeling of the breath.
 Then slowly bring your attention inward, focusing it on the various aspects of
the breath—the important aspects that can give rise to intuitive powers of
various kinds: clairvoyance, clairaudience, the ability to know the minds of
others, the ability to remember previous lives, the ability to know where
different people and animals are reborn after death, and knowledge of the
various elements or potentials that are connected with, and can be of use to, the
body. These elements come from the bases of the breath. The First Base: Center
the mind on the tip of the nose, and then slowly move it to the middle of the
forehead, The Second Base. Keep your awareness broad. Let the mind rest for a
moment at the forehead, and then bring it back to the nose. Keep moving it back
and forth between the nose and the forehead—like a person climbing up and
down a mountain—seven times. Then let it settle at the forehead. Don’t let it go
back to the nose.
 From here, let it move to The Third Base, the middle of the top of the head,
and let it settle there for a moment. Keep your awareness broad. Inhale the
breath at that spot, let it spread throughout the head for a moment, and then
return the mind to the middle of the forehead. Move the mind back and forth
between the forehead and the top of the head seven times, finally letting it rest
on the top of the head.
 Then bring it into The Fourth Base, the middle of the brain. Let it be still for a
moment, and then bring it back out to the top of the head. Keep moving it back
and forth between these two spots, finally letting it settle in the middle of the
brain. Keep your awareness broad. Let the refined breath in the brain spread to
the lower parts of the body...."


from Method 2...

"As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, let this comfortable
breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body. To begin with, inhale
the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let it flow all the way down the
spine".

"Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both
shoulders, past your elbows and wrists, to the tips of your fingers and out into
the air".


"5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind—the resting
spots of the breath—and center your awareness on whichever one seems most
comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).

If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don’t focus on
any spot above the base of the throat. And don’t try to force the breath or put
yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the mind be at ease with
the breath—but not to the point where it slips away".

*

4. the Sixteen vital points in pratyahara 
from Yoga Yajnavalkya (AG Mohan edition)

However, we know too that Krishnamacharya stressed  the importance of the Yoga Yajnavakya and this text treats the vital points in the chapter on pratyaha, drawing the prana from one point to another. Perhaps then we don't need to look to Burmese Buddhist meditation to find the seeds of Krishnamacharya's employment of the vital points, to bring an element of Dharana to his asana and mudra practice.
from Yoga Yajnavalkya AG Mohan Translation


"The senses, by nature being drawn towards [their sensory] objects, their restraint by [conscious] effort is said to be pratyahara.
Whatever you see, look upon al of it as [being] in the self, and as the self. This is also called pratyahara by great souls who have realized [the essence of] yoga.
For all beings, the mental practice of the daily duties that are prescribed (by the Vedas), devoid of external actions, is also said to be pratyahara.
The following pratyahara is the greatest yogic practice and is praised and followed by yogis always. Having drawn the prana from one point to another, holding it in the eighteen vital points (marmasthanas) is spoken of as pratyahara. The Asvini Kumaras who are the best among the physicians of the celestials (devas) have spoken thus of the vital points in the body,
for the attainment of liberation through yoga".
p75

"I shall explain all of them in an orderly manner. Listen, disciplined [Gargi]!
The big toes, the ankles, in the mid-shanks, the root of the calves, the knees, middle of the thighs, the root of the anus, the center of the body (dehamadhya), generative organ, the nave], the heart, and neck pit, Gargi Then, the root of!he palate, the root ofthe nose, circular orb of!he eyes, the center of the eyebrows, the forehead, and crown of the head. [Gargi,] best among sages!
These are the vital points".
p76

"One must focus and retain the prana, using the mind, in these vital points. In one who does pratyahara, drawing the prana from one point to another, all diseases perish. Far him yoga attains fruition".
p77

This is perhaps the most interesting of all, employing the Vital Points in pranayama.
It should be noted that the seven vital points from the heart to the top of the head are considered those most important for spiritual practice, the others being for the emotions and the 'body', this approach then might be taken with just the seven 'spiritual' vital points depending upon ones intention.

"Some skilled yogis speak of[another] pratyahara. Listen, beautiful [Gargi], I will tell you [about] it. During the practice of pranayama, the prana must be held by the mind from the big toe to the crown of the head, like a totally filled pot. Drawing [the prana] from the crown of the head, one must focus it in the forehead. Again, drawing the prana from the forehead, one must focus it between the eyebrows. Drawing [the prana] from the center of the eyebrows one must focus it in center of the eyes. Drawing the prana from the eyes, one must focus it in the root of the nose. From the root of the nose, one must focus the prana in the root of the tangue. Drawing [the pranaa] from the roof of the tongue, one must focus it in the base of the throat (neck-pit). Drawing the prana from the neck-pit, one must focus it in center of the heart, from the center of heart in the center of the nave!, again from the center of the navel in the generative organ and then from the generative organ in the abode of fire (dehamadhya), from the dehamadhya (center of the body), Gargi, in the root of the anus and from the root of the anus in the [mid-] thighs , then from the mid-thigh in the center o fthe knees. Then, [from the knee] one must focus the prana in the root of the calf, from there in the middle of the shank, and drawing [the prana] from the middle of the shank in the ankle. From the ankle, Gargl, one must focus
it (the prava) in the big toes of the feet".
p78-79






Appendix


(Phra Mongkhonthepmuni (Sodh Candasaro; 10 October 1884 – 3 February 1959), the late abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, was the founder of the Thai Dhammakaya meditation school in 1914.

Samatha
As with many forms of Buddhist meditation Dhammakaya meditation has both samatha and vipassana stages. The goal of Dhammakaya meditation at the samatha level is to overcome the Five hindrances.When the mind becomes peaceful and stable as the result of successful practice for tranquillity, the mind will overcome the Five Hindrances and reach a state of one-pointedness (ekaggata) also known in Dhammakaya Meditation as the 'standstill of the mind' (i.e. to a state where it is free of thought). The indication of reaching this stage is that a bright clear sphere will arise spontaneously at the centre of the body. The mind should then be directed continuously at the centre of this sphere helping to transport the mind towards the ekalyânamagga path inside. attainment at the level of vipassana arises. 

There are several ways of focussing the attention at the centre of the body, namely:

following down through the seven bases of the mind, namely: the nostril, the corner of the eye, the centre of the head, the roof of the mouth, the centre of the throat, the middle of the stomach at the level of the navel and two finger breadths above the previous point.
visualising a mental image at the centre of the body: characteristically, a crystal ball [alokasaññâ] or a crystal clear Buddha image [buddhânussati] and repetition of the mantra ‘Samma-Araham’ (which means ‘the Buddha who has properly attained to arahantship’).
placing the attention at the centre of the body without visualising



7 bases of the mind






Dhammakaya meditation was re-discovered by Phramongkolthepmuni on the full-moon night of September 1914 at Wat Bangkuvieng, Nonthaburi.[1] This monk had practised several other forms of meditation popular in Thailand at the time with teachers such as Phrasangavaranuwongse (Phra Acharn Eam) of Wat Rajasiddharam, Bangkok; Phra Kru Nyanavirat (Phra Acharn Po) of Wat Pho, Bangkok; Phra Acharn Singh of Wat Lakorn Thamm, Thonburi; Phramonkolthipmuni (Phra Acharn Muy) of Wat Chakrawat, Bangkok and Phra Acharn Pleum of Wat Kao Yai, Amphoe Tha Maka, Kanchanaburi.[2] He claimed that the Dhammakaya approach he discovered had nothing to do with the teachings he had received from these other masters - but he did have previous knowledge of the Sammā-Arahaṃ mantra before discovering the technique. The technique of directing attention towards the centre of the body is already described in an obscure 18th century Sinhalese meditation manual that was translated into English as Manual of a Mystic. It was probably introduced into Sri Lanka by Thai monks during the Buddhist revival in the mid-eighteenth century, and taught to forest dwelling monks of the Asgiriya Vihara fraternity in the Kandyan Kingdom, who wrote it down.[3] After rediscovering the technique, Phramonkolthepmuni first taught it to others at Wat Bangpla, Amphoe Bang Len, Nakhon Pathom in 1915.[4] From 1916 onwards, when he was given his first abbothood, Dhammakaya Meditation became associated with his home temple of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. It is said that Phramongkolthepmuni was the rediscoverer of Dhammakaya meditation, because members of the Dhammakaya Movement believe that the Buddha became enlightened by attaining Dhammakaya, and that knowledge of this (equated with Saddhamma in the Dhammakaya Movement) was lost 500 years after the Buddha entered Parinirvana.


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T. krishnamacharya applying Tri-bandha from Paul Harvey Centre for Yoga Studies



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an earlier post on Pratyahara and marma points

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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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