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Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010 My year in posts

I remember doing this last year ( 311 posts) and finding it curious seeing the year at a glance. Links to all these are on the right side of the blog.

Highlight of the year has to be the Vinyasa Krama TT course that ran from June to July. I'm still profoundly moved by the generosity and patience of Ramaswami's teaching. Also, as a home yogi, I never expected to take such delight in practicing with others as I did that month. Allow me to take this opportunity to send my best wishes and gratitude to Ramaswami and everyone who attended the course and classes LMU this summer.

The rest of the year has pretty much been an attempt to achieve some degree of balance to/between my Ashtanga and Vinyasa krama practice(s)

Happy New year to all the readers of this blog, thank you for all the comments ( yes all of them : ) Love to hear from you if you've haven't commented yet and let me know if you have anything in particular you'd like me to post on.

2010 (189 posts)

December (17)
David Williams' Complete Ashtanga Syllabus poster
Achieving balance
Christmas Morning practice : Festive Monkey mind
Winter wear and Ganda bherundasana
Practicing at home : Viranchyasana A, Christmas dinner
Updates : Pandava diet, Kandasana, Pungu kukkutasana
The Supta K shuffle
Old videos and new
The Complete Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus demonstrated by David Williams
I seem to have the hump in downward dog
Grimmly, write out 100 times.....
Yoga, health is a byproduct.
Vinyasa Krama tool kit : Primary without the forward bends
The Vinyasa Krama toolkit does it again,
Mark Togni's 4th Series and some encouraging words
'...the pandava's like the Yogi's, were eating once a day
Ramaswami's December 2010 newsletter; Story of Durvasana

November (19)
Yoga and Cricket
Medicinal Advanced A
Garbha Pindasana in Winter
Vinyasa krama, my 3rd series.
'Ashtanga is who I am, Vinyasa Krama who I'd like to be
Vinyasa Krama liberated
Towards Kandasana update
Can't wait.....
Regaining the discipline: A new pose.
The Dread
Rebuilding the discipline. First six morning Ashtanga practice for...
Rebuilding the discipline. I'm struggling here!
First intermediate series in a month
Did I dream those backbends?
Light on Yoga
That hurt.
Ashtanga Primary ; The stench of a detox practice....
Srivatsa Ramaswami"s November 2010 Newsletter-Yajnyavalkya

October (20)
Back on the mat
Out of action
UPDATED : 45 minute headstand, macrobiotics etc
30 minute headstand inc. variations,
Primary Mantra Japa : drishti for the mind
Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama at Home in Japanese... or ...
Core Vinyasa Krama asana : 5 minute Shoulderstand
Towards Viparita Dandasana UPDATED.... again
Core vinyasa krama asana : Five minute Paschimatanasana
First attempt to replicate the Mcafe Big Macro burger
Core Vinyasa Krama asana :10 minute headstand
Purna Matsyendrasana, after lunch on the Vinyasa Krama course
Looking at my morning Vinyasa Krama practice
from the practice diary
...talking of touchdown's, Hanumanasana, Oh and Ma...
Prasarita Padottanasana C Touchdown
Developing a home Practice Pt 27 Sept 09- Sept...
Ramaswami's Oct. 2010 Newsletter on the Five Koshas

September (13)
A short, vigorous evening practice.
Tirumular's Thirumandiram
Hanuman's leap
Injuries and Vinyasa Krama
Baddha padmasana, Supta vajrasana
Updated: Miscellaneous; Mouse, Ramayana, Coccyx, etc
Friday Primary
Asana madness
3rd, Primary and 2nd series that order
Response to "Yoga Gymnastique"
Moon days in Vinyasa Krama ?
Yoga Gymnastique

August (17)
Vinyasa Krama Meditative poses sequence
backbends ......behind the scenes
Tapas poses : On one leg sequences
Mantra meditation : Gayatrii Japam, 1008
New Vinyasa Krama Yoga Blog, sequences and subroutines
Aparigraha : A story
Two week Tadasana challenge
Garbha pindasana - getting the arms through
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana after standard Kapo
The itouch and the modern Yogi
My two ideal Vinyasa Krama practices
One more leg raise, Tirang mukkha Uttanasana
"...Forgive me for setting my feet and walking on ...
From the practice diary : Shorter practice
From the practice diary
August 2010 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami—2010 VK TT course feedback
Lotus to headstand from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

July (10)
The grip; Natajarasana and Eka pada raja kapotasana
The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga : Subroutines
Free time on the Vinyasa Krama 200 hour TT course
Work in progress ; Leg raises
Flotation tank yoga
Siva gave me Karandavasana back for my birthday.
Q&A Vinyasa Krama 200 hr TT course
First VK practice after getting home.
From Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama 200 Hr TT course
Story Time : From Ramaswami's July 2010 Newsletter

June (4)
500th post, Ashtanga Jump Back remembered
Alternative reading of Yoga,
'Come up from the hips first'.
Aching bones, four days minimal yoga

May (18)
Podcast on Prana, Pranayama and Kundalini
The dread of 2nd, gone AWOL
VK On your feet / Tadasana sequence
Aches and pains, 'tis but a scratch, I've had worse
Summer Shala
Peter Brook's Mahabharata
New Evening practice, Prep for Pranayama and meditation
A Joyous 2nd and backbend progress
Manduka prolite ? UPDATE picked up a Prana Eco hmm...
Developing a home practice Parts 1-26
Latest dropback plus checklist
' is a solitary journey...
Jazz and Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama; more form, more ...
Yoga and Bronchial Asthma
I saw my toes! Towards Viparita salabhasana & Ganda B
Kino MacGregor's podcast, The Power of the Breath

April (15)
kapotasana, heels from the air. Part II
Grabbing heels from the air. Part I
Full body Mudra
Vinyasa Krama Seated-angle pose subroutine
Epiphany. Deep down, I'm an Ashtangi
Sivananda Yoga, Alice through the looking glass.
Press to handstand, handstands, float ups
Zafu! Where have you been all my meditating life?
Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence Speeded up x 4
Vinyasa Krama Bow sequence Speeded up x 4
Adapted Bow and Seated sequence.
Vinyasa Krama Seated Sequence Speeded up x4
Straight leg jump back and through plus handstands...
Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu ?
Vinyasa Krama Jump through and jump back

March (25)
Do I take the manduka?
Squatting what's with the Squatting?
Knees down heels up.
And now Intermediate after the six week lay off.
First Ashtanga primary series in six weeks : )
Vinyasa Krama simplified Supine Sequence Speeded up
Vinyasa Krama Asymmetric seated Sequence, speeded up
More dropback exercises
Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence, speeded up x4
Something has to go. Vinyasa Krama 200 hr TT course
Tony Sanchez Yoga Challenge 84 classic asana,
Vinyasa Krama Inverted Sequence
An evening's backbends; dropback exercises and Kapo
Sun Salutation with mantras
Better Supine Sequence
Vinyasa Krama Supine Sequence
Dropback, it's the hips, stupid.
Towards Gandha Bherundasana
More work on dropbacks and hanging
Pranayama, Pranayama, Pranayama
Kapotasana, ankles I'm tellin ya, ankles!
Hanumanasana, there's an App for that :
VK Bow sequence,
Just hanging
Srivatsa Ramaswami's 200 hour VinyasaKrama TT course

February (19)
Back bends, current state of play
Two weeks off. Back bending!
First Hang back
Drop back, bent knee excercise
Vinyasa Krama Lotus Sequence,Some favourite asanas...
Vinyasa Krama Seated Sequence.
Pranayama? There's an App for that.
How to Approach S. Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa krama
Right argument, wrong discipline
S. Ramaswami's Newsletter on Meditation
Manduka have a sense of humour
YOGA NERVES from Srivatsa Ramaswami's February 2...
Iyengar Drop back challenge week Day 7
Iyengar Drop back challenge Day 6
Iyengar Drop back challenge Day 5
Your guru is your practice BKS Iyengar
Iyengar Drop back Challenge Day 4
Iyengar drop back Challenge Day 3, plus Iyengar Ka...
Back with the program.... ish : UPDATE

January (12)
Iyengar Drop Back challenge Day 1
Multiple Drop Back's
Pascal 'V' Kierkegaard redux
Iyengar : ""When I was young, I played. Now I stay...
Dropback progress : The Spring
Glucosamine & Chondroitin, Karandavasana.
Back with the program....pretty much.
New Manduka Equa towel. It's pink I tell ya, PINK!...
"Doing something every day is not the same as doing...
A sustainable, life long, Practice
Migrating for the winter ; new practice room

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

David Williams' Complete Ashtanga Syllabus poster arrives

So the David Williams Complete Ashtanga Syllabus poster arrived and is in pride of place in the home shala. I tried to find a frame large enough to take it but so far no luck, may have to have one made up. Barbara, the graphic designer who worked with David sent me some suggestions,

'I suggest a metal frame for the poster. Since the image is a standard size you should be able to have any frame shop order it. The metal frame would also be strong. Rather than glass perhaps you should consider Plexiglas. It's a bit more expensive, but it is much lighter in weight than glass.
You could also have it dry mounted to foam core or gator foam (more rigid
and more expensive). Another method of preserving is lamination. Due to
its size, it will be costly, no matter what you do'.

A couple of things to mention before you run off and order it. This is a poster of the syllabus as taught to David Williams back in the 70's. Primary and Intermediate are pretty much the same but David has the old Advanced A and B series that were later divided up into 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.

One of the benefits of being a home Ashtangi Kramarite is that you can choose your Ashtanga decade. I'm leaning towards the 70's of David Williams but you might prefer the 80's and the David Swenson and Richard Freeman books and teaching video's or perhaps the 90's and Lino's book. You could also go back to the 50's and Jois's own Yoga Mala or just go with Sharath and the present manifestation of the practice.

The poster matches almost exactly the sequence in the David Swenson Advanced A and B video filmed in 1997, described as,
'An historic presentation of the original Advanced A & B series never before documented. On this DVD you will find the original Advanced A and B Series of Ashtanga Yoga as demonstrated by some of it's first Western practitioners. It is an historic and aesthetic documentation.'

Three things that stuck me about the poster right off.

1. Advanced A is LONG, seeing it laid out it's not surprising that they decided break up Advanced A and B into shorter series, that said I can't wait to try it as it is on the poster, probably next Tuesday.

2. Mark Singleton may well be mistaken with regard to the extent of the influence of the Physical culture movement of the 1920's on Krishnamacharya's legacy in his book Yoga body.

When watching an Ashtanga practice your often struck by the Vinyasa, the linking of the postures, and when you think of these transitions, whether the half or full vinyasa, along with many of the standing poses, then there does appear to be similarities with some of the old videos of the physical culture movement. And yet, when you stand in frount of David William's poster of the complete syllabus all your seeing are the postures, these strange, wonderful, often intricate poses. Seen in this way it's difficult to draw any other association than with yoga.

Krishnamacharya may well have come up with many of theses postures, whether as modifications of or preparations for other postures but the influence seems more likely to have come from old texts, painting and perhaps the carvings on the walls of temples than anything in a western gymnastics manual. Vinyasa might have got Krishnamacharya through the door of the Mysore palace and a place in it's gymnasium but looking at this poster and it's all yoga baby.

The western influence of the Physical culture movement on modern postural yoga is only one aspect of Mark's Singleton's book, click HERE to read his clarification of his intentions.

3. What happened to the poster David Williams refers to on this, his own, poster and website, where he writes,

'When I arrived in Mysore in 1973, the "Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus" was framed and hung on the wall of Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Pattabhi Jois told me the syllabus was the list of the four series of postures and pranayama from the Yoga Korunta...'

David doesn't indicate how big it was, just that it was framed and that it was a list of the postures.

Does anyone have a photo of it, I've looked at all the pictures I could find of the old Shala? Has anyone else heard tell of it?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Achieving balance

A couple of weeks ago I was complimented, in the comments to a post, for achieving a balance between my Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga practice. At the time I didn't feel able to take any credit for that as I still didn't feel quite settled practicing both styles. I've started to notice thought that I have achieved a degree of balance. I just seem to be getting on with my practice and less concerned whether it's Ashtanga or Vinyasa Krama, it's taken a while.

My morning practice is basically Ashtanga Primary and 2nd series with one or two days of Advanced A. However, I always begin my practice with the ten minute Tadasana sequences from VK and I emphasise the Core Vinyasa krama postures, long holds in paschimottanasana (5-10 min) , shoulderstand ( 5 mins) and headstands ( 10 mins). I slip in a couple of extra postures to the Sequence, Maha Mudra before Janu A and the Shoulderstand prep subroutine.

In between each of the sitting postures, in Primary for example, I'll emphasise the dandasana with a stretch similar to that found in the tadasana sequences (but seated) arms raised above head, fingers interlocked palms turned upwards, really lifting out of the pelvis.

So it's Ashtanga but with a Vinyasa Krama influence. After practice I'll do 108 rounds of Kapalibhati, 10-20 minutes of Nadi shodana Pranayama and a couple of rounds of Japa mala.

My evening practice is straight Vinyasa krama, at least 20 minutes asana, 20 minutes pranayama and 20 minutes meditation but a little longer if I have more time. I'm using the asana section to work on new and newish postures. So I might take a VK subroutine as prep for hanumanasana or Kandasana, seems to be working nicely. The interest in the new posture helps gets me on the mat after just coming through the door in the evening.

In the new year I want to keep one morning a week for working through a complete Vinyasa Krama sequence on a kind of rotation basis, one week Asymmetric, the next lotus sequence, and so on. I want to keep up familiarity with the sequences as that allows me to comfortably adapt my ashtanga practice where and when I feel the need, when faced with injury perhaps or minor strains or a tightness here or there that might benefit from a little extra attention.

*The pictures, as well as illustrating the 'achieving balance' idea is also to show off the new David Williams poster and the fancy Uniqlo olive green, waffle design long johns that M bought me for Christmas, ideal for the chilly mornings.

* Just finished a delightful Vinyasa Krama practice with M, first morning practice together. Tadasana sequence, a couple of Sury's, Paschi, Shoulderstand, headstand, Kapalabhati, a little panayama and Pratyahara.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Morning practice : Festive Monkey mind

Up at five for practice this Christmas morn, roll out the mat, tadasans sequence, half way through "Frosty the blimmin Snowman' starts working it's way through my head ( at least it was the Dino version). Manage to banish Frosty from my mind by focusing on the breath but as I get a nice rhythm going in the sury's the version of 'Jungle bells Jingle bells rock' from Die Hard invades my mat space. Again, focus on the breath, all going well until half way through Primary I notice my Sunset Equ towel is really quite red in the half light and succumb to 'Rudolf the red nose ruddy reindeer'.

*Picture, 'Monkey Mind', by kind permission of the artist Heather Gorham, many thanks (click on her name to link to her site).

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Winter wear and Ganda bherundasana

This is a cold house. Old, Victorian, floorboards in the shala with huge gaps between them and a kitchen extension that doesn't have a door. The makeshift shala is just a couple of bookcases dividing off the room plus a curtain. In this, one of the coldest UK winters since records began practice is on the chilly side, a little..... fresh, bracing even.

Arturo mentioned he had similar problems keeping warm during practice, in his room in shanghai. In a comment I suggested he pick up some of that full length sportswear while he's back in the US. I had a look, myself in Sportsdirect on my lunch break yesterday and found something on 70% sale. Basically, running pants from Karrimore who we tend to associate with hiking/climbing over here, at nine quid down from forty, it was worth a try.

And they're fine, felt a bid strange at first but warm, definitely warm, couple of Sury's in and you're think it was June, well May perhaps. I practiced Intermediate today and the only thing worth mentioning is a zip above the ankle that I could feel in LBH, must be able to get them without. I thought I might get too hot but I guess the material breathes or something, it was a comfortable practice.

Only draw back was when I tried Garbha pindasana from Primary just to see if the arms would go through, nope. Ladies, how do you do Garbha P with leggings on? You can't even use a spray, seems impossible. So, fine for Intermediate and Advanced A but will have to cowboy up and put up with the cold for Primary.

Ganda bherundasana
Re the picture above, I had a eureka moment the other day watching a video someone posted on FB, was that you Ursula? I noticed that the woman in the video wouldn't be able to see her toes and yet she got her feet nicely on her head. I've tended to work towards it by taking my legs over as far over as possible in Viparita Salabhasana and then lowering so I can see me my toes and then try to bring them back to my head. For some reason I would just get locked up and couldn't go any further. In the video, she wouldn't take her legs over so far but would kind of collapse into an ever deeper backbend, an inverted Kapo.

Anyway, that's what I tried here, thinking Kapo, Kapo, Kapo, even tried to bring my head and chest through which of course is impossible given your laying on your neck but somehow it seems to trigger something in the back and helps.

I slip these two postures into my Intermediate series, in VK they come up after the Salabhasanas so I just keep them there in 2nd as extra prep for Kapo. Turned out my kapo wasn't so great this morning. Perhaps on a better kapo day my feet will end up a little closer to my head.

Just saw that the David Willams Complete Ashtanga Syllabus poster I ordered from the states is in the van on it's way to be delivered today. David mentions that there was a Sanskrit poster of the syllabus in the old Shala in Mysore. Anyone heard anything about that, seen it or have a picture or perhaps come across one that might show it, be interesting to see. Doesn't seem to be in the new shala, where is it now, what happened to it?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Practicing at home : Viranchyasana A, Christmas dinner and too much pasta

Late post, probably going to be rambling all over the place.

So I'm here making Christmas Dinner, a couple of days early, while listening to Mingus. Wild mushroom Wellington, figured it can sit in the freezer 'till Saturday. Sweating the mushrooms at the moment, smells good. Just eaten twice as much pasta (multi tasking) as I'd intended, kind of chilli pesto and mascarpone penne thing. I thought I'd save half for M's lunch, oops, sorry. So much for my iron yogic discipline.

Busy day today, another mouse in the house so disinfected and wiped down the whole kitchen , the little sod had got into the cupboards so had to wash up all the pans and dishes as well. This is the 3rd mouse, sonic deterrent doesn't seem to be working and loving kindness is wearing thin.

Practicing without a teacher.

Ended up doing Advanced A this afternoon. LBH is back on the menu now the back is fine again, couldn't resist it. Had been thinking about doing Intermediate and then adding on 3rd to Purna M but practice got delayed due to mouse. Relieved actually, still in awe of those who do that every day, keep meaning to try it but not exactly looking forward to it.

Was just thinking how much I love practicing at home without a teacher. I know, I know, I miss out on a lot and have several times thought about moving to London and thus being able to visit a shala every day but truth be told, I wouldn't change this for the world. I like working it out myself, don't want to be told by someone else to try it this way or that, really don't want to be assisted or have a pose tweaked for me. It comes on it's own, the whole practice and all is coming thing. I'm tweaking all the time anyway, working things out all the time, trying it this way trying it that. I like being solely responsible for my asana. Some have come on really well, some still very much work in progress and some of those are the most basic postures too, so be it.

Obviously I have picked up a lot from different teachers, not just the DVD's and books but also here, in comments and in the posts of others who do have regular teachers. I get to pick and choose and try the different options and of course I'm not going to offend anyone if I reject a suggestion out of hand or try something else instead. I think a workshop or two would suit me.

I just uploaded Viranchyasana A on Youtube, it's coming along, more comfortable every time I do it but I know there are a hundred things 'wrong' with it. I forgot the arm bind today, forgot which exit too ( need to check that later) and I'm looking at the video and thinking I need to get the leg higher next time and lengthen the back. The video is from after practice, I held each pose for five breaths earlier but short ones so that's another thing to work on, long slow breathing in all these arm balances.

There used to be the whole asana madness thing, that seems to have gone, still doing new and challenging asana but it's different somehow. It's not because I want an asana a new party trick but rather I want that focus you get on a new, tricky posture. Once you get a pose down your focusing on different things on the breath, bandhas perhaps, fine tuning, A new posture forces you to focus on the mechanics first, I enjoy that, perhaps it's the repairer in me.

Oh, was thinking about Mingus and yoga too but that can wait for another post

Monday, 20 December 2010

Updates : Pandava diet, Kandasana, Pungu kukkutasana, viparita dandasana etc

Cold here, manduka chilly on the feet in the morning.

Struck me that I've got all these little projects that I introduced but haven't updated on, so here goes.

This has stalled a little, the week is running Thursday to Thursday on this one. First week was cutting down to two meals a day, nothing, between breakfast and dinner, no snacking. That bit went well but the second week,the one just gone, I'd planned on cutting down the portion size by a half. The idea being to have the stomach half full, then a quarter for water and the other quarter left empty for 'air to circulate'. Hard to cut down though, breakfast is OK just half a cup of muesli instead of a full cup but once you throw on some berries and a banana it still feels a substantial breakfast and probably more than I need. I'm eating a little less in the evening but I wouldn't say half as much. It's not that I feel hungry but just that I find it hard to prepare so little.
The engine seems to be running well on it though, felt a little hungry around 4pm the first week but don't even think about it now, feels like a comfortable way to eat. This week I was planning on cutting down to one meal a day but with the holidays coming it seems a bad idea. Bound to eat more over Christmas and it doesn't seem healthy to go from eating so little to a eating more than usual before the experiment. Will stick with the twice a day thing and pick it up again in the new year.
Re weight
pretty much the same as the first week

Fri 76.2 kilo
Sat 75.8
Sun 75.9
Mon 76.4
Tues 76.2
Weds 76.2
Thurs 75.7

No sudden weight loss and feeling strong in the practice so this don't seem to be showing any adverse effects. Did notice this morning that I was 74.8 but that might just be a blip.

* the weighing myself everyday is just for the sake of the experiment, you get that right.

What else ...

This stalled a little because of the inflamed coccyx, need to be able to roll back a little to lift the feet up to the chest. Coccyx is a little better but it's slow going so I've mostly just been working on opening the hips and ankles more and just basically feeling more comfortable in the first part of the pose. Sometimes I'll work on bringing the legs around and down while lying on my back. Here it is from this morning. Looks OK head on but from the side the ankles are still a way from the chest.

This is something I've been working on in the evenings as part of my Vinyasa Krama practice, it's kind of my own extension of the lotus sequence. The idea of the evening asana practice is to make it vigorous because it is so short, just twenty minutes, basically just prep for pranayama and meditation. I'm getting more twist here and that's feeling comfortable but the landing is a little less controlled.

This was on hold for a while because I had some stitches in my head and hate to wait for them to come out, need to get back to it.

Back problem : Primary without the forward bends.

Back seems to be pretty much fine again now, laid off the forward bending in Primary and practiced a lot of 2nd series without doing the Leg behind head postures, just generally taking it easy. Friday it felt fine enough to do a full primary, felt good so I did the same Saturday. This morning I practiced full intermediate with the LBH poses back in and again felt fine. Did my first Karandavasana for about a month too and it felt very smooth and controlled 'though couldn't remember for the life of me how to flip out of it, too three goes before I got it right.

Still waiting myself, hoping it'll arrive before Christmas. the thought of it has made me consider exploring Advanced A and B more in the new year.

And that's it all caught up, phew. Happy holidays.

The Supta K shuffle.

I mentioned in earlier posts that I'd had a slight problem with my back, it's fine now but I held off forward bends and leg behind head poses for a couple of weeks. Mostly the problem was in lowering into and lifting out of forward bends, once I was down I was OK, skipping LBH was just a cautionary move. That was fine and I came up with some nice Vinyasa Krama work around's but I did come a little unstuck with Supta Kurmasana.

For the last couple of years I've been using the 2nd series Dwi pada entry (both legs behind head), now I had to try and remember how I used to get into it the old way. I used to do something I called the Supta K shuffle but it took me a week or so to re learn it. I'd always meant to film this as I've come across several bloggers mentioning that they struggle to get into the pose without a teacher to cross their feet for them.

So here it is while I remember, the trick is to shuffle the left foot as far over to the right as possible so it meets the right foot. Use the outside of the top half of the right foot to lever the heel up and over the left foot to hook them together, then you can move both feet to the center of the mat and curl your head in. You can get in tight enough that you can lift up almost as if you do have both legs all the way behind the head.

and here's the Supta K shuffle on it's own.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Old videos and new

Videos from when I first started Ashtanga

While hunting through some old files buried away on my hard drive I came across a file called 'griyoga' which turned out to contain a bunch of old videos, taken on my phone, from when I first started practicing Ashtanga ( probably around april/may 2007. Actually more like June as I notice the Jute mat I bought for a trip to Paris, so been practicing about three months) . I think I've come across one or two of these before but most I'd completely forgotten about. I've stitched them together, and while I cringe a little a little at the thought, here they are. Come to think of it, my Utthita hasta padangusthasana often doesn't feel that much better than here.

David Garrigues' Dropback with blocks technique

Took a while, but finally got on the mat for Intermediate series. Backbends had felt good so decided to play around with dropbacks a little more and try to splay the feet a little less. Remembered David Garrigues recent dropback posts where he puts a block between the thighs to narrow the stance, decided to give that a try.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Complete Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus demonstrated by David Williams

Oh My, just went to David Williams site to check something, re the old Ashtanga Syllubus and found that he's now selling a poster of the the whole Syllabus as he learned it from Sri K Pattabhi Jois. That's Primary, Intermediate, Advanced and B all on one giant poster designed, I believe by Barbara Stanley.

Something I hadn't heard before was that there was supposedly a framed poster of the syllabus on the wall of the old shala. he has this to say about it.

'When I arrived in Mysore in 1973, the "Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus" was framed and hung on the wall of Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Pattabhi Jois told me the syllabus was the list of the four series of postures and pranayama from the Yoga Korunta, written in the 12th century by the yogi, Vamana. He explained to me that this ancient text was taught orally to his guru, T. Krishnamacharya, by his guru in Tibet, Rama Mohan Brahmachari. Several years later, Krishnamacharya, following the directions of his guru, found a written copy of the Yoga Korunta in the library of the Maharaja of Calcutta. Krishnamacharya made a copy of the manuscript'.

Here's the link, I ordered one dear reader.

*Heard from Barbara this morning re ordering from abroad (I'd ticked the wrong box)

"SHIPPING PREFERENCES: U.S. Domestic orders, please choose USPS
preference. International orders, please choose USPS INTL-PRIORITY MAIL
to track your package. Your order will be shipped in a tube. Thank you."

Monday, 13 December 2010

I seem to have the hump in downward dog

I received this comment yesterday which for some reason didn't show up. Not sure if it was something wrong with blogger or if it was deleted by the sender because they felt it wasn't appropriate or that they might offend me ( not at all ).

deafsheep has left a new comment on your post "Grimmly, write out 100 times.....":

Hi Grimply I have a question:
Although I am just a beginner, so I might be wrong, but it seems to be something wrong with your down facing dog (or w/e it is called in english this one: When you do it your back seems to be bending very much in 1/4 of it's height from bottom. As I understand it shouldnt and it should not be bending at all if possible.
Am I getting something wrong?

Thing is I've always felt there was something not quite kosha about my down dog and my paschimottanasana too for that matter. I seem to have a bit of a hump. I'm not sure if it's just my anatomical make up, a result of years of slouching in chairs but there's definitely a bit of a hump.

This morning I'd planned on taking a rest day but thought I'd have a quick look at. To get the side on shot I'm short of space and right up against the wall so ignore the beginning and end of the Sury, all a bit squished. Once I get in downward dog I try to play with it a little so I can get some screenshots to look at later. At first I'm doing it lazily, trying to get the hump as pronounced as possible then a wiggle about in it for a bit to get the bind more in the pelvis (legs are a bit tight as this was the first and only Sury of the morning) then I take the hands a little further forward, Iyengar style...ish. Interestingly the hump seems more pronounced when I bring my drishti to my belly.
Just to stress again the video below is to explore what if anything makes a difference to the hump. I move my hands further forward half way through (kind of Iyengar style) and take my head lower to see if that makes a difference and because that seems to be the style in the picture deafsheep links to above. My usual downward dog is what you see before I move my hands forward and I usually take my drishti to the navel. When I practice Vinyasa Krama I tend to have my feet together.

A couple of screen shots. the one at the top of the page is with the hands further
forward. The first one below with the drishti on my belly and the second without. And of course there is a picture of my current pashimottanasana at the top of the blog.

and here is the earliest side on one I can find, think it's from around two years ago.

Grimmly, write out 100 times.....

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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Yoga, health is a byproduct.

Was irritated the other day and vomited out this post. I never intended to actually post it, kind of like a love letter you never intend to send. And yet, reading it back, I'm kind of stunned by the venom, the ferociousness of it, is this what I really think yoga is about. Thing is, on reading it again, I kind of do. Every now and again, when I reflect on what I suspect yoga is supposed to be about, the questions it asks of you, then yes, it is terrifying and as I say below, so it should be.

So here it is, feel free to dismiss it as a rant.

Something has been bugging me all week. I mentioned that I was exploring the old 'Yogi's eat once a day' adage and the response was basically questioning if this was healthy! There's this assumption that yoga is about health. Not surprising I guess, the whole health, fitness happiness thing. Is that then all this is about? really? Just getting healthy and having a better quality of life?

I started yoga/ashtanga to gain some mental clarity, some peace after being burgled, a response to rage. I'm fitter and healthier as a result but surely that's just a byproduct. Sure, yoga can help you get healthier and if that's what your after then fine, it'll do it. It'll make you think about your diet and your general outlook on life, it may well lead to an improved state of well being but is that all yoga is about really? getting healthy?

Yoga is terrifying. And so it should be. Isn't it about questioning everything you think you are, a rejection of everything you are, a denial of all that you are or at least what you believe you are?It's a confrontation. The discipline, and it's a harsh, cruel, discipline, is a preparation for that confrontation. The asana is a discipline, the pranayama is a discipline, the meditation a discipline and yes, so is the diet, the yamas, the niyamas and for my money, most of all, the pratyaharas, all discipline.

You can practice some asana to lose a little weight, to get fitter, a little healthier, such that you can go about your life a little more comfortably but yoga, surely, is a rejection, a tearing up, a destruction, denial, rejection of life itself, an attempt to transcend not just who you are but what you are, it's ontological damn it.

We know this, we've read the sutras, Upanishads, we've studied our Gita, what we're we thinking, that we could just play with asana? Just visit?

* told you it was a bit of a rant but don't take it personally, it's directed as much at myself as anyone else, It's saying Grimmly, did you think it was just about the pretty asana.

* Oh and despite the rant, I did appreciated the concern for my health and well being in the comments to the 'The Pandava's, like the yogi's, ate once a day' post

Friday, 10 December 2010

Vinyasa Krama tool kit : Primary without the forward bends.

Primary without forward bends, huh, ' What's the point Stan' (Life of Brian).


Primary on Friday is pretty sacred, despite all the experiments, the move into Vinyasa Krama, exploring of different Ashtanga series, I've managed to keep up my Friday Primary. However, as mentioned yesterday I have a problem with my back at the moment, going in and coming out of forward bends is painful and I'm trying to avoid that action, and as we know Primary is 99.999999ish% forward bends..... give or take 20%

The vinyasa krama tool kit yet again comes to the rescue. Last night I was thinking about this while replying to Micqui's comment (nice blog by the way, Ashtangi Angel). The Vinyasa Krama Asymmetric sequence has many of the same postures as the first half of Primary. The difference is that for each of the Primary poses there is a development of the pose, a couple of twists, counterposes etc. So how about I go through Primary as usual but skip the forward bend in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, say, and do the twist and side lift from VK instead ( don't worry, video to come). For Janu Sirsasana A I do Maha mudra , which is pretty much the same thing but without bending forwards, big focus on breath and bandhas. I still do the Jump backs and through between postures, so the key postures are kind of the same ,the Vinyasa's are the same, it feels like Primary but with a slightly different focus.

Interestingly I found that Mari B was OK, it seems the bind gives me the support to lower forward and come back up strain free, same with Yoga Mudra. What is the muscle group that lifts you out of forward bends and lowers you slowly, what did I do with my anatomy books.

The Sury's were OK too because I included the squat from VK, from forward bend you squat on to your haunches and then push up through the legs thus avoiding any back strain. Side bends in standing where fine, it's only the forward bend I'm having problems with. Finishing was pretty much fine as I mentioned yesterday, bending the legs towards the chest in Inversions is curiously fine.

Here's a speeded up video of the whole asymmetric series you can jump about pretty much anywhere to see how the Ashtanga postures we find in primary are developed and extended

The Vinyasa Krama toolkit does it again, plus The Pandava, once a day,diet update

I tweaked my back sometime last week, when was that, one of the days we had snow. I was pushing my bike, slipped, managed to stop myself falling on my padasana, but then the bike slipped and while managing to stop the handlebars twisting out and both myself and bike toppling over I twisted/tweaked something in my back. Didn't seem like much, figured I'd stretch it out in the morning.

I don't know, perhaps I made it worse. I avoided 2nd series and the backbends and stuck with Primary, skipping UD and dropbacks, for a couple of days. Curiously, the tentative back stretches in the VK tadasana sequence I do at the beginning of my practice seemed OK, it was just the forward bends bothering me. Forward bends didn't seem to be helping so I switched from Primary to VK to cut back on them on a little. Still the gentle back stretches seemed OK, I tried urdhava danurasana after my shoulderstand and it was fine. Yesterday I decided to do second series and again no problem with the back bends, come the first LBH, eka pada sirsasana, and I felt the need to back off. I tried dropping back instead, no problems, it's a weird one. It seems to hurt most while coming back up from a forward bends. Oh and having one of those japanese heat pads stuck on my shirt seems to help.

So whats in the Vinyasa Krama toolbox? Inversions! For some reason inverted 'forward bends' are fine. Up in headstand bringing one leg into half lotus and lowering the straight leg so that the toe touches the floor is OK as is folding down the lotus. Anything like that, whether in shoulderstand or headstand. Legs towards the chest good, chest to the thighs bad.

But that's OK, lots to play with in the VK inversion and or Supine sequence until it settles back down again.

Actually it's not once a day yet, working up to that( this week and next will be more interesting). I started exploring this last Thursday so it's been a week today. This first week I dropped to two meals a day, Breakfast and Dinner and cut out any snacking in between. For some reason recently I'd been eating a lot of biscuits ( McVities Caramels) and the odd bar of chocolate, anything not tied down actually. Think I must have had a sugar rush when I had the tooth out and lived on trifle and ice cream for a couple of days and have been craving sugar ever since.

Anyway, the discipline of deciding to eat just twice a day seems to have cured that. I've been having a big bowl of porridge or Alpen with fruit on and that's set me up, pasta, risotto, Japanese curry etc in the evening. Was tempted a couple of times, several packs of biscuits open in the workshop and our customers keep binging us boxes of chocolate but so far I haven't caved. Felt a little hungry a couple of times but just enough to make me feel noble.

Today I moved into the next stage of the experiment, eating less in those two meals. The idea is to explore this from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda

'... fill the stomach until it is half full. After this leave a quarter of the stomach for water and the rest empty to allow movement of air'. then he (K ) writes something interesting, ' For example, one who normally has the capacity to eat 1/4 measure of food should eat 1/8'.

This morning I had half as much for breakfast as usual and got through the day well enough. Perhaps I feel a little hungrier but I'll probably get used to eating less over the next couple of days. Next week I'll drop to eating once a day, I'm thinking Lunch.

The irritating thing is that because of the back issue above I haven't been able to keep my practice regular so can't really tell if I'm eating enough to sustain the practice. It's seemed OK, but then I haven't been doing full primary or 2nd. A preview then, will need to explore this more thoroughly after Christmas/new Year is out of the way.

I know some of my readers are uncomfortable with this, my mistake was perhaps to refer to it as a diet. But I meant that, not in the sense of a fad but rather as a style of eating. I'm not looking to lose weight, I've been the same weight for a couple of years and feel comfortable at this weight (77, give or take a kilo).

Weight hasn't changed that much this week

Wednesday 78.4 (I'm usually around 76/77 , as I said too much Junk recently).

Thursday 77.7
Friday 76.8
Saturday 76.6
Sunday 76.6
Monday 76.9
Tuesday 76.5
Thursday 76.8

So pretty much my usual fluctuation

It's all inspired by two comments ' Eat enough to sustain your practice' and '...the Pandava's, like the Yogi's, ate once a day'. How much IS enough to sustain my practice? If the Yogi's of old ate once a day, is that enough to sustain my practice today? What's it like eating once a day? Obviously the meal I do eat will need to be as nutritious as I can make it and going by the Makaranda above, it can't be binging out. One small, nutritious meal a day, is that enough?

Just curious.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Mark Togni's 4th Series and some encouraging words

OK, I know this video has been posted to death this week but I can't resist posting it again here. So many things I love about it.

I love that Mark is a Zen priest as well as an Ashtangi.

Love that it's not as polished as David Swenson's ( the only other 4th series I have on DVD ), David's videos are excellent but.... everything is just a little too perfect. There are a couple of places in this video where you can see Mark is still working hard to get into the pose, makes it look... doable ( OK half of it looks doable, the other half.....not so much ) something to perhaps aspire to after all rather than just sit back in awe.

Love the 'Encouraging words' that scrolls up like a Zen version of Star wars, never fancied a tattoo but there was a second there where the thought of having 'Practice heroically' on one forearm and 'only then you will realise you have not practiced well' on the other, passed through my mind

And there it is, the reason I practice, some might seek to know the self, god or escape the cycle of rebirth, me, I'll settle for,

'Still your mind, end wrong perceptions, concentrate and do not run after the objects of the senses'

plenty to be going on with.

Loved seeing Punga Kukkutasana, brings the asana madness out in me. Oh and the jump into lotus Jump through, very very cool. Only just managed to flip into lotus without using the hands, sitting down, now I find out there's a flying version, yep. Reminds me of some of thoseTibetan yoga videos on youtube where the monks are standing and then just drop to the floor in full lotus.

Anyway here it is, enjoy.

Monday, 6 December 2010

'...the pandava's like the Yogi's, were eating once a day.'

I wanted to pick up on a short exchange from the comments to the last post, concerning diet, and expand on it a little.

In his December Newsletter Ramaswami tells of the Pandava's magic pot from The Mahabharata.

'ThePandavas were in the forest incognito as per the conditions of their exile. The Pandavas with their mother Kunti were hiding in the forest for a year. They prayed to lord Krishna for food as they were not wanting to be seen openly in the forest looking for food. The Lord gave them a vessel which had the ability to give one meal a day for the family. Kunti used it to feed her sons, the Pandavas, every day with the limited food from the vessel. The cooking vessel would be washed with water and thereafter they could get food only on the following day. So the Pandavas, like yogis, were eating once a day.

roselil ask this question, in my comments section to this post,

"So the Pandavas like yogis were eating once a day."
Are yogis only eating once a day? Did Ramaswami elaborate on this fact or anything else regarding yoga practice and food during your TT?'

and my rushed response,

'He did indeed roselil, lots of little bits here and there. He told us that Krishnamacharya stressed taking control of your diet and that came up too in Krishnamacharya's's Yoga Makaranda,

'Food must be eaten in measured quantities'.

Ramaswami mentioned the next bit from the Makaranda a couple of times,

'... fill the stomach until it is half full. After this leave a quarter of the stomach for water and the rest empty to allow movement of air'. then he (K ) writes something interesting, ' For example, one who normally has the capacity to eat 1/4 measure of food should eat 1/8'.

So I guess he's suggesting we eat half as much as we used to. K then goes on to talk about satvic foods and avoiding Rajistic foods. ( I was wrong here, it's actually not that we eat half as much but that we eat half our capacity....of course if we usually fill ourselves up every mealtime then it would mean eat half as much).

Ramaswami mentioned that yogi's would eat once a day, in fact, I seem to remember he said they they would eat every third meal. So I guess, one day it would be breakfast, the next lunch, the next dinner. We found that funny because there was hardly any food on campus so we often ended up skipping meals.

Recently, on her blog, V quoted her teacher (certified) as saying ' You should eat enough to sustain your practice'. I thought that was nicely put.

My eating habits haven't been good recently, you've got me thinking perhaps I'll go back to eating once a day, maybe even the one in three thing and post on it.'

Ramaswami writes a little about diet in his excellent book, Yoga for the three stages of life. In the Mantrayoga chapter he writes about Kriyayoga which he says is '... a purification process of the aspects of body, speech and mind.' Diet, I guess, comes under the purification of body. He refers, too, to Tapas, which can refer to a '...well planned regimen of purification.' But he notes that '...tapas as austerity, should not be such that it does affect the humours of the body; one does not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater'. He also mentions that some yogic texts warn against extreme fasting, occasional fasting is OK, but not, say, forty days, not for a yogabhyasi. He sums it up thus, 'In short tapas in relation to food is taking satvic food in moderation and offering it to God'.

I've been concerned with my own diet recently, I used to eat in moderation and there was the short lived Macrobiotic experiment a little while ago, abandoned when I had to have a back tooth removed and couldn't chew. I didn't go back to it because, frankly, I wasn't that impressed. I'd hoped it would be of benefit to my practice but I actually felt heavy, uncomfortable, I was glad to abandon it. Perhaps if I'd stuck with it longer... , I know of a couple of Ashtangi's who seem to practice quite happily on a macrobiotic diet but it's not for me.

With the tooth being removed I lived for a few days on Sainsbury's trifle and Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Ice cream. Since then, for some reason, I've been eating a lot of junk and have been thinking that it was time to 'take control of my diet' again. The 'Yogi's eat once a day' quote was another reminder.

So as an EXPERIMENT/exploration

Step one
Cut out the junk, the eating between meals, the snacking

Step two
Eat twice a day, breakfast and dinner

Step three
Eat once a day.
Hmmm, what do you think a late lunch or early dinner?

Step four
Eat every third meal (very curious about exploring this).
So I'm a little Confused how this works and need to check with Ramaswami, I think it means that one day you eat Breakfast, the next day Lunch and then the third day Dinner. Something like that but can't remember how it was worked out as one in three meals.

Step five
Somewhere between step two and five work on cutting down to the 1/2 full, 1/4 water, 1/4 air idea.

Like I said, just an EXPERIMENT, as well as imposing a little discipline to take control of my diet again. Not recommending or suggesting anyone else try it.

If this is going to be an experiment I suppose I should mention weight. I've tended to be around 76/77 kilo for the last couple of years ( on the TT course I went down to 75 kilo but that was due to a lot of Yoga and very little food on campus). I noticed on Tuesday I'd crept over 78 which surprised me until I thought about it and realised I'd been eating a lot of junk recently. After a couple of days of the two meals a day step I'm back to 76.7 as of this morning. Oh, before I started yoga three years ago I was 94 kilo. Must say, practice felt great at 75 but I'm not sure I'd want to drop much below that.

Only three weeks until Christmas, be unsociable to practice this then. I started eating just twice a day Thursday so, switch to once a day this coming Thursday and then the once every three meals the following week. Bit of a short experiment, should have waited until the new year. Perhaps this will be a preview and I'll explore it again in the new year.

Anyway, I've gone ahead and lumped Step one and two together, cut out the junk and snacking and cut down to two meals a day (except for Sunday).

Satvic foods?
I've never really looked that closely at the whole satvic, rajistic food thing, glanced at it and figured that, as a vegetarian, my diet was satvic enough to be going on with and left it at that. Ramaswami mentions a commentator on the Yoga Sutra's who says 'Tapas is partaking of food that is hita or nourishing, easily digestible (that eleiminates macrobioics surely), and basically satvic.'

Here's a straight forward, one page, link to what is and isn't satvice, rajistic and tamastic. I'm pretty much OK but for the eggs, which I don't plan on giving up without a fight anytime soon, oh, and fishfinger sarnies.

My best tip so far for eating just the two meals a day? A bowl of Jumbo rolled oats for breakfast, been keeping me going until dinner since Thursday without too much effort just enough discipline called for to allow me to feel a little pleased with myself for resisting the work chocolate machine.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Ramaswami's December 2010 newsletter; Standing postures and the Story of Durvasana

Warm Greetings from bright and sunny Chennai, Madras that was. It is
almost the fag end of the monsoon season here, a three month period
when the Northeast monsoon is very active and brings copious rains to
the south eastern part of India. It has been a vigorous monsoon this
year I hear. The reservoirs, village tanks and millions of wells are
quite full., In the city of Chennai, during the last few years,'rain
harvesting' has been resorted to to recharge the underground waters.
Most of the households, and buildings with a terrace, direct the
rainwater to deep holes (about 20 feet) filled with small rocks and
sand and rain water quickly drains into these and helps to raise the
underground waster level. Due to the city being with roads asphalted
and pathways concreted, the rainwater has less chance to seep through
and hence this rainwater harvesting has been found to be quite
helpful. In my own house now the well water is hardly three feet
below the ground level. Of course it will quickly recede when the rain
stops and the early summer starts. But still this is good for the
city's water supply position during the long hot summer months.

Thanks to the kind efforts of our friend Jyoti Chittur, I will be
doing a 5 day 20 hour full yoga sutra program at Long Island
University in New York. I am also likely to teach for the Teacher
Trainees at Ananda Asram in New York State. I hope to be able to do a
couple of other programs outside of USA during 2011.

Standing pose sequences
(I've added some links to sequences mentioned in Ramaswami's newsletter : Grimmly)

In Vinyasa krama yoga practice there are three major standing
sequences. Each one has its own charm and challenges. The tadasana
sequence is very comprehensive routine, working on the major joints
and muscles. There is a certain nicety about the sequence involving
simple to involved vinyasas and asanas. According to my Guru this
sequence helps to align the chakras in the body and is perhaps the
best sequence to start one's practice and it helps to first normalize
the body. The various arm movements actually help to open up the
chest. The trikonasana series with such asanas as Trikonasana,
Virabhadrasana etc affords using the major joints and muscles in a
very powerful and graceful manner. Prasiratapadottanasana and
samakonasana may be considered as extensions of this sequence.

I have written earlier about the poses requiring balancing on one leg,
which may be termed as Tapas poses. This sequence requires
considerable focus or ekagrata while practicing and does help to bring
a sense of balance not only to the body but also the mind. There are
quite a few poses and vinyasas and some of them are quite challenging.
It helps to develop attention and patience.

For more details please refer to my book “The Complete Book of Vinyasa

Story of Durvasa:

Siva means auspiciousness, peace. But one aspect of Siva is Rudra,
which name indicates extreme anger, rage. It is said that Sakti once
told Siva that it was getting impossible to live with Him because of
His anger and short tempered nature. Siva took the cue and shed a part
of his anger and created a sage called Durvasa, the name Durvasa
itslef would indicate one who is impossible to live with dus meaning
difficult vaasa meaning to live. In fact it is common to refer to
those who are short tempered as Durvasa. You often find a daughter, a
wife or a son or a subordinate showing great reluctance to deal with
'that durvasa'. But being Siva's amsa or aspect, he was a great
tapasvin and was revered for his knowledge and because of his short
tempered nature many would not come near him as they were afraid of
his nature and his curses which because of his tapas could come to
pass. At the same time if ever he would be pleased he would confer
unprecedented boons.

King Ambarisha was a great king, highly venerated and a great devotee
of Lord Vishnu. He faithfully followed the religious observances and
rituals which he did with great devotion and sincerity with his
wonderful wife. A just king he was revered by his subjects. He was
also very charitable by nature. He regularly observed fasting on every
Ekadasi and on the next day as per the religious practice would
take an early meal on the following dwadasi (12th day after moon days)
day. He would piously follow the procedures faithfully including vedic
chanting like the Taittiriya Upanishad. Once he and his wife after a
day of ekadasi fasting were about to break the fast the following
morning when sage Durvasa came with a large number of his disciples
and landed at the doorsteps of King Ambarisha's palace. He grandly
announced that he and his wards would be the athitis (guests without
notice or invitation). The King immediately fell at his feet and said
that he was honoured to have him and his men as guests on such an
auspicious day as dwadasi. The sage said that he would go to the
river, have his bath and come back for meals.

Once in the river he and his men took an enormous time to complete
their ritualistic bath. In the meantime the King was waiting for his
guests, but it is stipulated that one should have the meals on Dwadasi
day very early, it being the day after a day of complete fasting.
After a while the priests of the palace—including sage Vasishta-- said
that the sastras demand that he should not delay having the meal but
the King said that with the guests expected to come, one should not
have a meal without the guests. Either way he would be violating some
dharma or the other the priests opined and suggested to the King that
instead of a regular meal he could just take a basil leaf and break
the fast and it could be construed also as not having a meal. This via
media suggestion finally appealed to the reluctant Ambarisha. So he
took one small basil leaf and put it into his mouth with a spoonful of
water and just then Durvasa made a dramatic entry. He shouted at the
king and said that he had insulted a great sage and would have to bear
the brunt of his curse. Durvasa, using his enormour tapas power,
created a demon to destroy the King for insulting him. The pious King
with the head bowed prayed to Lord Vishnu for guidance. The Lord
immediately sent His weapon the chakra, called Sudharsana chakra or
wheel which came whirling and instantly destroyed the demon and
quickly went after the sage. It is said that the Lord may sometimes
tolerate any disrespect to Him but never any insult or harm done to
His devotees. So the chakra went after the sage and the sage started
running for his life. He first went to brahma the creator and one of
the trinities., but he politely said that he has no powers to go
against the just actions of the Lord. Then the sage ran to Siva and he
also said something very similar, but advised him to go to Lord Vishnu
whose weapon was threatening him So finally after almost a year
running helter and skelter, the sage finally fell at the feet of Lord
Vishnu and prayed for forgiveness. The Lord then said that the only
person who could save him was King Ambarisha with whom he had behaved
very badly, The sage came running to Ambarisha's palace. As Durvasa
was about to fall at the feet of the king, the king bowed to him
instead in great reverence and directed the Sudarsana chakra to return
to Lord Vishnu without causing any harm to the great sage. Then the
sage granted extraordinary boons to the king and left chastened.

A similar story about Durvasa appears in the epic Mahabharata. The
Pandavas were in the forest incognito as per the conditions of their
exile. The Pandavas with their mother Kunti were hiding in the forest
for a year. They prayed to lord Krishna for food as they were not
wanting to be seen openly in the forest looking for food. The Lord
gave them a vessel which had the ability to give one meal a day for
the family. Kunti used to feed her sons, the Pandavas everyday with
the limited food from the vessel. The cooking vessel would be washed
with water and thereafter they could get food only on the following
day. So the Pandavas like yogis were eating once a day.

It is said that sage Durvasa wanted to create problems for the
Pandavas. So one day he came to their place after they had had their
lunch from the magic vessel. Then it was washed and kept aside to be
used only the following day. In the olden days, any stranger asking
for food should be provided with food. It is considered a sin not to
give food. So the sage with his army of followers descended on the
hide out of the Pandavas and asked them to keep the lunch and they
would return after bath in the nearby river. There was no way they
could get food because the vessel would not give food once it is
washed and kept aside. So Kunti prayed to Lord Krishna to save them
from the predicament and the wrath of the short tempered sage. The
Lord appeared before them and took the vessel and found a minute
particle of spinach sticking to the cleaned vessel. Smilingly, he took
it in his finger and put it his mouth with mouthful of water. As he
swallowed the piece of spinach, Durvasa and his army who were taking a
river bath, suddenly felt that their stomachs were full and started
bloating. They felt as though they had eaten a sumptuous meal and had
no space for even a morsel of food. They decided discretion was
better than going for a lunch, and teaching a lesson for which they
did not have the stomach. They quickly disappeared into thin air
giving a sigh a of relief to the Pandavas who praised the Lord for His
divine help.

Of course there are a few episodes that show Durvasa in a better
light. But Durvasasana is an exquisite pose though a difficult one.
Another one legged pose that is awesome in the one leg up pose called
Trivikrama. This truly is a majestic pose. Trivikrama is actually an
avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu and story of the avatar of Vishnu
as Trivikrama is very absorbing. A few temples in South India have the
icon of Lord Trivikrama. It is also one of the 12 names of the Lord
used in daily prayers.

With best Wishes

Srivatsa Ramaswami

NB. The picture above is of Chris and I on Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama Summer TT course. Chris has his own blog, here. Grimmly

In Ramaswami's book 'The Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga' , the pose Durvasana comes up in the 'On one leg' sequence. Grimmly

The hyperlinks that direct you to sequences mentioned in the letter were added by me, not Ramaswami. Grimmly

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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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