Given that I reposted and shared my old 'Mysore Yoga Rooms around the World' page last week (http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/p/mysore-rooms-around-world.html), I wanted to give a shout out too to the teachers who reach out to students in other ways to teach Mysore yoga, in no less traditional or authentic approaches than the Mysore room (actually , I find the whole idea of 'authentic' and 'traditional' problematic
I mentioned that I was planning on rebuilding my Primary asana 'group' practice for the Mysore Yoga Tradition Retreat that I'm attending in February 2019. Rebuilding because I had washed my hands of Ashtanga for three months or so, practicing Tai chi, Qigong, Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal sequence instead, out of disappointment at the response of the Ashtanga community to the revelations of Pattabhi Jois' abuse. But even before then, I had started to practice fewer asana (see Proficient Primary), preferring less asana, less...intricate asana, but with longer stays and Krishnamacharya's kumbhaka option, outlined in his books Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) and Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) but perhaps not imparted to the boys of the palace.
https://www.mysoreyogatraditions.com/mysore-retreat and see previous post.
I was asked how I intended to go about rebuilding my Primary group.
Rather than just jump back in..., or rather jump back through between sides, I'm only including jump backs between actual postures while I rebuild some strength, as well as some fitness, later I'll add the jump backs between sides as well, just in case I end up in a full led Primary on the retreat.
I see this too as a good opportunity to look closely once again at my approach to the asana I practice, to that end I'm reviewing Simon Borg-Olivier's excellent 84 key asana on-line course based on the asana of the Ashtanga series (note I've provided an Ashtanga asana concordance on the blog post below.
See this post: http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2017/04/what-is-it-about-mudra-also-simon-borg.html
I can imagine some shaking of heads because Simon, strictly speaking, isn't what many would consider a 'traditional' Ashtanga teacher.
There is often this idea, especially outside Ashtanga circles, of an Ashtanga teacher as a wide eyed, obsessive, bootcamp, drill sergeant of a yoga teacher. That they get up at 4am each morning to practice Full Primary, Second AND Third series ( at least) on nothing but four cups of coffee, except on rest and moon days when they would rather cut off an ear than practice anything resembling a sun salutation. That they are up to date on their authorisation from Mysore, where they visit religiously every year, sitting at the very front row during conferences hanging on every word. That they would NEVER post a photo on Instagram of a posture they haven't personally been given by the Overguru himself or, perish the thought, assist, adjust, teach or give a posture to a student outside of the series they have official, unrescinded, authorisation for. Such a teacher, is of course first to man the barricades, to join the inquisition against any questioning of the holy, unchanging, method.
Only such a dedicated devotee of the one true yoga practice is surely qualified to teach Ashtanga.
Nope, don't know anyone like that either.
Perhaps a few start off a little like that, a little, but I suspect that after a year or two of teaching actual students most soften somewhat in favour of the needs of the student rather than the preservation of a catechism.
I prefer room holders should I happen to find myself in need of a space to practice. I personally don't wish to be assisted, as a home practitioner I learned the asana of the different series by myself at home. We'll get deeper into a posture over time... or not, an alternative preparatory posture or alternative has always seemed preferable to a 'crank', Manju for instance suggests bharadvajrasana for those who sturggle with Marichiyasana D ( Which btw was in Krishnamacharya's Middle group asana not Primary group) it's personal preference and I hear Sharath adjusts less and less. I have been assisted/adjusted in the past, I've attended Ashtanga yoga London on a couple of Sundays, workshops with Richard Freeman, Norman Sjoman, John Scott, two teacher trainings with Manju Jois based on adjustments and assists and I spent three months with Kristina Karitinou in Crete. All excellent teachers, I've learned a lot from all of them, but I still don't wish to be physically adjusted.
See this post perhaps for more
Sun Salutation / Suryanamaskara with mantra - Also the original Sun Salutation and What would Krishnamacharya's Sun salutation be like.
I do have affection for the romantic image of the Mysore teacher practicing in an empty shala before everyone arrives, inspiring the shala attendees to similar devotion in their daily practice, it's the approach I would personally like to take. But I also like and have great respect and admiration for the teachers who 'go to the student', meeting them in studios, in gyms, in their homes, their offices, going to them rather than waiting, hoping...., expecting students to come to a shala. Here In Japan I have come across so many who practice their yoga for an hour once a week, it doesn't seem enough, we need to inspire more home practice, ten, twenty minutes, in their homes, several mornings or evenings a week, a place to start perhaps on top of their visit to a shala or studio once or twice a month.
Krishnamacharya, was all about spreading yoga, rather than making it exclusive, his books were published free by the Mysore palace, the idea was to spread yoga not hide it away. As much as we might like to think so, the Ashtanga shala can hardly be considered traditional, it was an anomaly. As well as the unusual circumstance that brought about Krishnamacharya teaching the boys of the palace he would also teach his 'Mysore yoga', his Vinyasa Krama, in the side rooms of the palace, private students that he no doubt taught in a similar way to Ramaswami when he would go Ramaswami's family's house and give different asana for each member of the Ramaswami family (we see the same approach to shoulderstand and headstand vinyasa in the 1938 documentary video of Krishnamacharya practicing as he taught to Ramaswami).
The fixed sequence of Jois Ashtanga vinyasa practiced in a shala is a excellent tool perhaps as an entry into Mysore yoga but outside of the shala model, we need to adapt, modify, make our Mysore yoga accessible to the student, just as Krishnamacharya always did, in Mysore and later.
|see this post|
Krishnamacharya teaching Yvonne Millerand in his house - note the old Yoga Makaranda photos
that used to hang in the shala in the Mysore palace.
In fact, I raised the question in a post as to whether Pattabhi Jois ever practiced any of the sequences he shared with his students.
Pattabhi Jois was instructed by Krishnamacharya who taught more in 'groups of asana' rather than fixed sequences. Looking at the early photos of Jois, it's questionable as to whether he ever practiced many of those intermediate and advanced postures daily.
Were I to seek an Asana teacher, a Mysore yoga teacher, I would want a teacher who has practiced Mysore derived yoga with sincerity and dedication for an extended period at some point in their lives, who has good anatomy and physiology awareness, who has explored their asana in workshops perhaps with inspiring, and equally inquisitive, teachers who break asana apart and rebuild them rather than teaching fancy tricks and flourishes. I'd want a teacher who has reflected on their practice undogmatically, who has taught for a number of years, who is held in esteem and affection and strongly recommended by their long term students, preferable somebody who is a little older (though not necessarily older than me) who has had to deal with changes in their body, in their life experiences and yet still have a practice that is important to them, whatever time of day they happen to fit in their practice and however many asana they choose to include that day. I'd expect them to have explored some pranayama, have begun to Sit, long enough at least to decide if these other limbs feel of value to them.
You are as likely, to find such a teacher in a gym, a studio, a home practice room, as in an exclusively Ashtanga shala. It's always worth remembering that a flexible approach to asana sequencing is MORE authentic, more in keeping with Pattabhi Jois' teacher Krishnamacharya than the fixed series Jois employed as a tool for his Sanskrit college boys to learn (and be tested on) Asana.
Note: I may be rebuilding my Primary for the retreat but afterwards, I'm likely to go back to Simon's Spinal sequence for standing, four or five Proficient Primary postures and Krishnamacharya's shoulderstand and headstand vinyasas.