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 .

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Seventh Day (2nd series), leg behind head..

Patanjali
*Three posts today, this one another 'Dear Nancy...' post and the full 45 minute 1938 Krishnamacharya movie.


First the intro bit again...
A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below (the headings in block capitals are mine).

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C (below)
Ashtanga Rishi Approach. Eighth Day Pincha Mayurasana to Headstands

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Seventh Day (2nd series).

Sury A x3 / Sury  B x 3

Ardha badha padma paschimottanasana (25  breaths each side) Added this as a preparation for the LBH asana to come.

Eka pada Sirsasana A & B (25 breaths each in A and B and each side). Spent a little extra time trying to get a deeper placement in preparation for the longer stay. Haven't practiced 4th series for awhile so my Buddhasana has left me and I can't get my leg as far down the shoulder as I used to. Eka pada A was comfortable enough (especially on the second side) but B is tough as your having your face squished between your knee and the foot behind your head, more irritating than anything else. on the second side I included a quick Purvottanasana between A and b to stretch out the neck. Fity breaths in A would be OK with improved leg placement but I'm not sure about B.

Dwi pada sirsasana (25 breaths) Still haven't worked out how sharath manages to keep his legs so far apart on off the neck, i think it's something to do with the placement of the second foot as if he gets it furth down the first leg, I have a go at it here but still haven't managed it. the 25 breaths felt OK but I'm hunched not looking up and seem to get a little more hunched as time goes on.

Yoga Nidrasana (50 breaths). I was looking forward to this, it's sleeping yogi, yu should be able to stay for a considerable time. It felt comfortable. I was expecting circulation problems but it was fine and I could probably have stayed for twice as long. dristi was the back of my eyelids.



Tittibhasana A (25 breaths). I normally point my legs up higher for this but went for a more horizontal position thinking it would be better for the wrists. As Arm balances go it's quite secure perhaps because you have the counterweight of your feet and backside, could probably stayed longer but 25 seems plenty for an arm balance. the Titthibhasana series has always been a weak area for me, haven't worked out out to jump my arms as far round my arm as I'd like.

Tittibhasana B (50 breaths). Fifty, but short ones. Don't think I've ever posted a video of this one, bit  embarressed or at least self conscious about it, have never seemed to be able to straighten my legs enough and get my body through. So I was surprised to notice half way through that I was pretty deep and had a very clear view of my ...mula bandha, perhaps the long stays in the previous postures have paid off. Again, had expected circulation problems because of the bind but either I've worked it out now or it's not such an issue in this particular bind.

Tittibhasana B walk (50 steps). Was feeling playful, how can you not with this charming but ridicullous  asana so went for fifty steps, ten up ten down etc.

Tittibhasana C (50 breaths). My least favourite asana in any series, give me 50 breaths in Kapo any day.



Sarvangasana (50 breaths).

Sirsasana (50 breaths).
-----------------------------------------------------
To reiterate the plan. The idea is to run through Primary and Second series with the Ashtanga breath, equal inhalation and exhalation, take a note of how long I'm staying in the asana and then revisit the asana with the Vinyasa krama breathing. Here I'll reduce the number of breaths by lengthening the inhalation and especially the exhalation and employing breath retention where appropriate. So the same time in the pose but perhaps half or a quarter the number of breaths. This seems a more interesting approach to me than just staying in the asana for 25-50 breaths, if we're going to be in the posture that long it seems to make sense to explore the breath as fully as possible.


UPDATE
Not sure what it was about that practice this morning, something to do with the a foot pressing against the back of my head but I've been feeling triply all day. Pranayama was buzzy, meditation Janaesque and I had a craving for a coke afterwards that had me heading off up the road to get a caffeine fix  and something cold and fizzy .

Just finished my evening practice, 2nd series up Supya ardha matsyendrasana, some more pranayama and a short sit and still ....tingly. What's that all about.

The full 45 minute Krishnamacharya (and Iyengar) 1938 silent Newsreel plus , jumping in and out of Vatyanasana.

Nice to sees new version of this in full (Thank you Tom and Youtube for allowing longer videos, up untill now it's been in five sections). Are there some bits that I don't remember from the chopped up version? Iyenger jumping straight into Vatyanasana for example at 29:09, at first I thought he was going for lotus but no.

Got to try that, the things Krishnamacharya used to teach those boys, no doubt for all the demonstrations they used to do. As with many postures and transitions (in the Advanced series for example, supposedly intended for demonstration only), practicing them daily would probably be too hard on the knees, joints but for the occasional demonstration, acceptable perhaps with enough training and preparation. Unfortunately these days, third is the new second and fourth the new third, many students are now practicing advanced postures daily, I wonder if this is wise.

Enjoy



Had to give it go, first side is just about OK but the second side a struggle, don't manage to get the foot high enough into the groin, cute party trick though, nice play a bit after such a heavy practice this morning.



This is a 'freestyle' approach to Vatayanasana As opposed to this one which is closer to the Ashtanga approach 'Working on getting my vatyanasana back'.

Should also add that it's perhaps something to think twice about before trying at home as your messing with your knees. I've spent quite some time playing with the hands free getting into lotus and hop to lotus jump through,

UPDATE
And on a similar theme, the jump in and out of padmasana


Monday, 30 January 2012

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Sixth Day (2nd series).

Vashistha
Everybody gets this is an experiment right? Still doing my regular straight Ashtanga practice in the evenings, this is temporarily taking the place of my morning VK practice thus the VK influence. Not suggesting anyone should replace their practice with the rishi approach but rather that it might be interesting to explore, extrcurricular as it were. If not ten asana then perhaps five or three.


It's looking at what is and perhaps isn't doable or advisable, what modifications might be called for, which asana benefit from a longer stay and which don't, what a longer stay shows up in a posture, in your technique, circulation issues for example. 


'I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficial.' David Williams


First the intro bit again...
A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below ( the headings in block capitals are mine.


I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Sixth Day (2nd series).

Sury A x3 / Sury B x 3

Ardha badha padma paschimottanasana (25 breaths each side) Included this as a warm up for Supta vajrasna

Supta vajrasana (25 breaths) Dropped back and stayed for 15 breaths but had to come up due to the circulation in my arms being cut off, went back down again managed only five and then again for five more, circulation is a real problem with the bind, might be something to do with dropping back over the bolster.

Bakasana (25 breaths) Kind of a cross between the squeezing the thighs against the outside of the arms and the balancing approach wanted to make the most of both techniques so the squeezing in the beginning to take some of the weight off the arms and then just balancing as my legs became too tired to squeeze. Arms aren't as straight as in the regular version. if I was still doing 3rd then I might be strong enough for fifty breaths but at what cost to the wrists, not sure of the value of long stays in the arm balances. 
Nicer floaty entry HERE, name of the game in this one is conserving energy, Sharath is excellent at that by the way, check out his Primary DVD in my post yesterday morning.



Bharadvajrasana (25 breaths each side) Was looking forward to this one, nice asana for a longer stay, could have stayed for fifty each side if I had more time.

Ardha Matsyendrasana (25 breaths ) As Bharadvajrasana above.

Pincha Mayurasana (15 breaths) Wanted to leave all the leg behind head postures for tomorrow and thought I'd do a trial run of Pincha M., hard, only managed 15 breaths before I dropped out of it.

Sarvangasana (50 breaths)

Salabhasana A & B (25 breaths in each) As counter to the shoulder stand. Re recent discussion in comments to day 5, I'm approaching a long stay in an asana differently than in the short stay, think 100m and 1500 or 5000m, still running but different approach. These salabhasana are less ...engaged (see HERE for my regular Salabhasana and the new approach I'm having success with lately), we're in for the long haul. Also, I use the Vinyasa Krama drishti for this asana here (looking straight ahead), don't see the point of looking up and squishing the back of the neck for five breaths let alone 25.



Sirsasana (50 breaths)

Pranayama.
---------------------------------------------


To reiterate the plan. The idea is to run through Primary and Second series with the Ashtanga breath, equal inhalation and exhalation, take a note of how long I'm staying in the asana and then revisit the asana with the Vinyasa krama breathing. Here I'll reduce the number of breaths by lengthening the inhalation and especially the exhalation and employing breath retention where appropriate. So the same time in the pose but perhaps half or a quarter the number of breaths. This seems a more interesting approach to me than just staying in the asana for 25-50 breaths, if we're going to be in the posture that long it seems to make sense to explore the breath as fully as possible.


Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C 

Ashtanga Rishi Approach fifth day (2nd series)

Vyasa
I know, I know I said I was going to take a break from this for a couple of weeks and work on the Vinyasa Krama version instead.

The thing is, the Vinyasa Krama 'Rishi approach' is to do the asana and then do it again for the same amount of time but with, say, half the number of breaths. The idea is to use fewer and fewer breaths but also to keep them smooth and steady. So it's useful doing the Ashtanga version first and getting an idea how long fifty breaths take so that I can then stay in the same asana for the same amount of time but start reducing the breaths, lengthening the exhalation, including retention where appropriate etc.

Even if the Rishi series/approach turns out to be a myth.

I kind of like the VK version better, feel there's more of a point to the long stays when your working with the breath, just staying for 50 breaths seems more like tapas, OK perhaps I get a boon from the gods and the poses do open a little more but it seems a wasted opportunity.

Anyway a reminder of the Rishi approach...

First the intro bit again...

A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below ( the headings in block capitals are mine.

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Fifth Day (2nd series).

Sury A x 3 / Sury B x 3

Pasasana (25 breaths each side) First side was OK, just made 25 but was slipping off one knee after 23. the second leg I placed a towel over my leg for grip. Needed to really lay on the bandhas to anchor myself, can't imagine doing fifty a side.

Krounchasana (25 breaths each side). Nice, gets easier and settle into the posture more as it goes on.

Salabhasana A (50 breaths). Both A and B were OK with the pelvic tilt engaged, really trying to push down and up through the mat. Used the belly button holding a pea technique as well (no not a real one). these techniques have been revolutionary in my approach to these bow sequence postures, much easier, makes the long stay possible and more of a stretch too, quite proud of my Salabhasana's now.

Salabhasana B (25 breaths). See A. above

Bhekasana (25 breaths). As Salabhasana A and B above with the pelvic tilt and pea techniques but I can't say I was pressing my feet down equally throughout, relaxed them a couple of times.

Dhanurasana (25 breaths). Bit lame, the will was weak and I baled after 25 breaths, fifty is possible with the above approach I think, perhaps if I did it first

Parsva Dhanurasana (25 breaths each side). Took both sides easy I have to admit as i knew kapo was coming up and I wanted to relax my quads a little.

Ustrasana (25 breaths). Fifty is doable but I wasn't sure how the kapo would go so wanted to save myself a little for that, nice to spend the time working on the pelvic tilt and pushing hips forward.

Kapotasana (25 breaths). And so Kapo which was hanging over the whole practice as ever, the elephant in the room. I'd done a trial run of this earlier in the week but had only held the side of my feet. Perhaps the good work in Ustrasana on the tilt and getting the hips forward allowed me to catch my heels, not from the air as I used to be able to do but then I haven't worked at kapo much for some time.

The long hold was difficult, no panic and I managed to keep the breath regular but I started to get all tingly and a little numb. Couldn't think of anyway I could be cutting off circulation as in Marichi D say, so figured it was psychological and stuck with it. Was tempted to carry on past 25, to 40 perhaps and then see but wanted to be sure of coming up so settled on 25 and just a couple of breaths in B. 

Interesting experience though, did iyengar REALLY stay 15 minutes in kapo? And what about that picture of Krishnamacharya standing on the young Patthabi Jois while he was in Kapo, that was in the 30's took forever to set up a photo in those days.
Sarvangasana (50 breaths).

Sirsasana (50 breaths).
--------------------------------------------------------------------

The next section of 2nd series should be OK, Dwi pada Sirsaasana is where I expect problems but that would be on the following day, the 7th day. Whether I explore that will depend on whether we manage to work out Sharath's Dwi pada secret.


Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C 



Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Fourth Day

Durvasana
First the intro bit again...

A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below ( the headings in block capitals are mine.

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.


Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Fourth Day

Yesterday I stopped at Badha konasana

FourthDay
Sury A x3 / Sury B x3

Paschimottanasana (50 breaths). Included  Paschi to warm up the hamstrings, didn't want to go straight into konasana

Upavishta konasana A (50 breaths). Familiar from Vinyasa Krama where we do long stays but with less prep here it took 25 breaths before my shoulders dropped to the mat.

Upavishta konasana B (50 breaths). Have had trouble with my coccyx in the past so put a folded equal towel underneath. Toes feel a bit strained half way through, stretching up through the heels helped

Supta konasana (50 breaths). Again, familiar from Vinyasa Krama, drawing the belly in, the inhalation shorter than the exhalation, comfortable.

Supta hasta padangustasana (25 breaths each side). I did these 25 breaths each side ,in this and Supta Parsvahita below, in the usual order. SHP is the tricky one as there's strain on the neck, really need to engage the bandhas and stretch on down through the trailing leg to take the pressure off.

Supta Parsvahita (25 breaths each side). See above

Ubbaya padangusthasana/Urdhava mukha paschimottanasana (50 breaths, 25 in each changing hand position). Again an extra towel beneath to protect my coccyx as there is a bit of waving back and forth as you try to keep balance for such a long time. Changed hand position after 25 breaths.

Supta Bandhasana variation ( 25 breaths) This seemed insane to even consider such a long stay but I remembered a vinyasa krama variation where the elbows are on the floor and hands on the thighs so less pressure on the neck, 25 seemed plenty.

Sarvangasana (50 breaths).

Ushtrasana (25 breaths ). As a counter pose to the shoulder stand.

Sirsasana (50 breaths).

Nice practice, not as tough as the section of Primary I practiced last night. Was thinking how useful Vinyasa krama is for the prep poses in the subroutines these postures appear, especially as they are taken out of the context of the full primary series.

Tomorrow it's on to 2nd series, Pasasana to Dhanurasana, pasasana is the one I'm worried about.

Re the Breath

I can see the arguments for simplifying the breath from Krishnamacharya's Ujayii of the Yoga Makaranda to the 'medium' breath with sound of Ashtanga. It seems to make sense for the series for the particular style of Ashtanga  but I wonder with regard to the Rishi series. This is supposed to be an advanced practice and without the jumping about perhaps there's no need to simplify the breath. I wouldn't like to do the long ujaii breaths in every posture perhaps but there are some, upavishta konasana to name just one from this morning, where the more sophisticated breathing patterns can be explored, that's how I learned it in Vinyasa krama.
Ramaswami posted this on FB this morning
'VINYASAKRAMA ASANA BREATHING: In Vinyasakrama asana practice, breath synchronization with slow movements is an essential element. One would start the movement with the beginning of inhalation or exhalation and complete the movement with the completion of that breathing phase. The time taken in actual practice may be between 5 to 10 or 12 seconds depending on one's capacity and control. If it goes below 5 seconds one would stop the practice and rest to regain the vinyasa krama acceptable breath. My Guru, Sri T Krishnamacharya would say 'breathe with hissing sound '(a la cobra, refer to ananta samapatti in YS) or 'with a mild rubbing sensation in the throat'--. Some hints about breathing in asanas as per vinyasa krama which will be discussed in my Teacher Training program in July/Aug 2012 at LMU. 
http://registration.xenegrade.com/lmuextension/courseDisplay.cfm?schID=1430'


I'm reminded too of this from Ramaswami and an advanced Vinyasa Krama approach to the long stays in postures. It's a different approach from Ashtanga Rishi series, In Rishi we're aiming to stay for more breaths (Fifty) but in the VK approach below the idea is to stay for same length of time but to take perhaps a fifth of the breaths, slowing them right down.

'When one is able to stay in the posture (utkatasana) for three to six breaths, then one should slowly increase the time to complete a stipulated number of breaths. Thereafter, one should remain in the posture for a predetermined number of breaths chosen by the practitioner or teacher, or for a fixed persiod, say three to five minutes. Then one's practice should be aimed at reducing the number of breaths while remaining in the posture for the same duration. for instance one may take a total of twenty breaths while in the posture. Later on, it may be possible to remain in the posture steadily and comfortably (sthira and sukha) for five minutes with perhaps only ten breaths. This is one method for attaining asana siddhi (perfection in posture) that one can test of oneself. Having achieved this level of comfort in the posture, one can then introduce the band has, which will increase the time taken for each breath'.
Ramaswami Yoga for the Three Stages of Life P 127




Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C 

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Third Day

Vajrasana
First the intro bit again...

A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below ( the headings in block capitals are mine.

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Third Day
First a couple of thoughts on The Rishi Series. It's been brought into questions, as indeed it should, pointed out that nobody talks about the rishi series these days, nobody seems to practice it before moving on to advanced, the senior teachers don't seem to teach it or even talk about it. 

And I have to admit that when I first read that line at the end of Nancy's article, 

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.

I thought perhaps Pattabhi Jois was pulling David William's leg, keeping him interested. I imagine David asking him about it the next time he visited Mysore and getting the description of the practice he relates above, a spur of the moment answer.

But think about it...what else did you think was going to happen after Advanced B or 6th series as we call it now. How long are you expected to practice six series a week, what happens when you reach your 50's, 70's are you still expected to to be doing, 3rd or even 2nd, jumping back between sides in primary? Yes it's possible but think yoga for the three stages of life. It makes sense that a point comes where you practice differently, where you take ten appropriate postures and stay in them longer than usual, fifty breaths, why not and perhaps even deeper breaths or dare I say Ujayii breaths in preparation for pranayama proper one of the main focusses of yoga in later life. The rRshi series, it makes sense ....doesn't it?

Wonder if Sharath practices it...don't suppose anyone is brave enough to ask him about it.

This evening was tough, really tough. Just happened to reach a group of postures that were always going to be a struggle. Yesterday I got as far as Navasana.

Sury A x3 / Sury B x3

Bhuja Pindasana ( 50 breaths) An arm balance so hard work, the feet soon began to rest on the mat, iIallowed that, the hardest thing though was having your chin on the mat that long, even resting it as lightly as I could. Plus there's a strain on the neck having the head tilted up for so long, important to keep drawing the shoulder blades down the back.

Kurmasana (50 breaths) My right hamstring was a bit tight so I was being careful, didn't risk trying to raise the feet off the ground. Not much forward bending prep building up to this either but otherwise it was OK.

Supta Kurmasana (50 breaths) There's a video below showing some of the problems of an evening practice. Again a bit stiff and not very sweaty so tricky getting the legs behind the head but then of course half way though the feet get sweaty and want to slide out of the bind, requires a lot of focus. The inhalation is shallower her because your so bunched up so the 50 breaths took less time. Notice how stuttering the full vinyasa's are after these long holds.



Garbha Pindasana (50 breaths) My arms still ache from this an hour later. Again not sweaty enough to get the arms through so had to use the spray. The legs are very tight on the arms, squeezing them, quite uncomfortable. I did twenty five breaths upright and then the other twenty five rolled on my back.

Kukkutasana (25 breaths) I cut this short after twenty five breaths, the lotus was sliding down the arms and I was a little worried about my wrists, more bandha focus and it would be doable but perhaps the arm balances aren't a good idea for such a long stay.

The rest are pretty much the same as the previous days.

Badha konasana

Sarvangasana

Bhekasana ( 50 breaths) Continuing the backstretch them after shoulder stand that ramaswami recommends and that I'm used to. Didn't push the feet down as hard after the first twenty five breaths. As with salabhasana it helps to really tilt the pelvis forward into the mat.

Sirsasana.

Tomorrow, Upavishta Konasana to Setu Bandhasana


Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dear Nancy... the breath in '73

The Context.
In Krishnamacharya' Yoga Makaranda of 1934 (free download here) Krishnamcaharya employs Ujayii breath, long exhalations are mentioned, there is breath retention after the exhalation, the forehead is down in most postures and there is no mention of drishti.

In Jois' Yoga Mala (1954) , Pattabhi Jois' forehead is down in his pictures also (though not in Sharath's introduced in the later English translation) but there's no mention of Drishti, Ujayii isn't mentioned either nor breath retention.

Why the questions? Well, I'm curious of course, about where and how the Ashtanga method as we know it  now came about. Was it a response to teaching Western students, to the increase in numbers as it became a worldwide phenomenon and the impossibility of direct supervision. How much has changed since 1973, was anything lost?

But more importantly, for me personally, is how to bring together the two practices I love, Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama (these days, while the jury is still out, I just get on and practice them separately, Vinyasa Krama in the morning, Ashtanga in the evening). Vinyasa Krama represents Krishnamacharya's late teaching as passed on to his student, of 30 years, Ramaswami. It's very close to what we find in Krishnamacharya's 1934 Yoga Makaranada, Ujayii, some jalandhara bandha (or at least a slight tilt inwards of the chin, the forehead down), longer exhalations, breath retention, no drishti to speak of as the head is almost always down.

Krishnamacharya's teaching then, doesn't seem to have changed that much, so how do we account for Ashtanga. Did Pattabhi Jois modify the teaching, bring the head up and introduce or at least develop, codify the drishti, eliminate Ujayii for breath with sound. These are quite major changes.

Was it a response to trying to pass on the method to western students, a simplification. How was it taught in those first encounters in the early 70's? Or do we go back further to the 50's and 60's when Manju was first taught by his father (aged 7) and also when Yoga Mala was written.

How innovative was Sri K. Patabbhi Jois?

I wrote to Nancy Gilgoff recently asking permission to publish her article Ashtanga As it Was (see this post), I couldn't help but ask about the breath in '73

'Dear Nancy.... can I ask how you were taught the breath in 73, Was it referred to as Ujayii? I'm guessing it was 8 breaths but was it also a longer exhalation or were inhalation and exhalation the same in every posture. I'm also curious about drishti, no mention in Krishnamcharya's Yoga Makaranda, Yoga Mala or Ramaswami's writing but then the chin seems to have been down more so perhaps no call for it'.


'aloha anthony     i never NEVER heard guruji say the word ujayii.   he said to breath, "free breathing" is how he would say it.   "breath with sound" was another of his pet phrases....perhaps this is why some interpreted it as ujaii....which is incorrect as ujayii is a pranayama where the exhale is twice as long as the inhale....we are to bring the inhale/exhale to the same length so ujayii is the wrong word to use when describing the breath in the ashtanga practice.  recently sharath made mention of this...kino mcgregor has put up a summary of a talk he gave...i will forward it to you. i am soooo happy he said this as i have been telling folks ujayii is incorrect.
i think folks are making a mistake to look at yoga makaranda and compare it to the ashtanga method of pattabhi jois.   true k.. was guruji's teacher but the series is a different practice than what is being talked about in the makaranda.  never, never retention in the practice.  i was taught 5-8 breaths is correct...equal on both sides.....he told us to breath faster if something was difficult.....movement follows the breath so if one is not able to "float" back and thru the breath has to speed up....also in yoga mak. he says to do jalandhara bandha in the poses which is VERY INCORRECT to quote guruji.....there is no jalandhara in the ashtanga asana practice.
guruji ALWAYS told us where to gaze as he taught us each pose......the drishti's are important to focus and calm the mind.
think that covers it.....looking forward to meeting you and having more discussions....n
be well safe and happy'


That's pretty clear, thank you so much Nancy.

Perhaps the clue is in the 'breath follows movement', with such a flowing practice maybe it would be a mistake to include breath retention plus there's the need to keep the energy up so equal inhalation/exhalation and again the head up to maximise the inhalation, all help to carry you through the practice
Oh well, back to the drawing board...

Dear Manju.....can I ask you how you were taught the breath by your Father in the 1950's and.......

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Ashtanga Rishi approach. Second Day

Vashishta
A series of posts exploring the the 'Ashtanga Rishi Series' mentioned at the end of Nancy Gilgoff's Article (see link below) and outlined in a reply by David Willams on his forum below ( the headings in block capitals are mine.

I'll be starting each of these posts with this same introduction/reminder of the the context.

'Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series'.


Ashtanga Rishi Approach
'...Doing a practice of 10 postures for up to 50 breaths is a method of preparing for "advanced series" after one has learned 1st and 2nd. It can be done once or twice a week. One does the "salutations" and then starts going thru the series, holding each posture for as long as comfortably possible. Notice which postures could be held for 50 breaths. The next time you practice this way, the postures which you could hold for 50 are omitted and new ones are added at the end. One gradually works thru the series, dropping and adding asanas, still doing 10 asanas per session. I have gone all the way thru 1st and 2nd this way several times over the years and have found it beneficiall'.

Ashtanga Rishi Series
'Then, once one has mastered all of the asanas, one can practice "the rishi series", the most advanced practice. One does the 10 postures that one intuits will be the most beneficial and appropriate for that day, holding each posture for up to 50 comfortable breaths'.

The Ashtanga Rishi approach, Second Day

I just got confirmation from Nancy (more on that later) that the breath was indeed taught then (1973) as now, equal inhalation and exhalation and no retention so I'll be sticking with that through the rest of this exploration of the Rishi approach.

The idea of the Rishi series then is to do your sun salutations and then work through the series, holding the asana for as long as comfortably possible with 50 breaths in mind. In my Vinyasa krama practice we are encouraged to practice Paschimottanasana, Sarvangasana and Sirsasana daily and for at least around ten minutes so I want to include those postures along with Padmasana in each practice. 

That gives me six postures to play with. One thing I'm wondering about is the question of sides, do we count the 50 breaths for each side of a posture or for both sides together, 25 each. Just joined David's foam so will be asking him how he approached it. 


Yesterday I got as far as Janu sirsasana A so today's morning practice (I'll be doing my regular 2nd series  this evening).

DAY 2

Sury A x 3 / Sury B x 3

Janu Sirsasana B (25 breaths each side ).

Janu Sirsasana C (25 breaths each side). I was a little concerned about this one as I have an old injury on my right knee but it was actually ok, was very mindful of the set up and kept the muscles above and below my knee engaged, using the knee bandha (janu bandha) to protect the joint.

Marichiyasana A (25 breaths each side ). Blood circulation is a problem here, note to self study where the main arteries in the body run, I have a general idea but.... took a little shifting about in the posture to avoid cutting off the circulation, start to notice it ten breaths in, something i guess we don't pick up on in regular practice.

Marichiyasana B (25 breaths each side ). Again, was concerned about the knee's here careful placement and set up made it fine, something else to remember in regular practice, do we rush the placement sometimes.

Marichiyasana C (25 breaths each side ). As  Mari A

Marichiyasana D (25 breaths each side ). The big one of course, wasn't sure if it would be doable, made a really big deal of the set up, made sure I was in nice and tight creating as much space as possible. Circulation became an issue around twenty breaths but a little adjustment allowed me to continue. Hope 25 breaths a side is right , don't fancy fifty. Actually took a video but really is like watching paint dry.

Navasana (50 breaths ). Wasn't sure how to approach this, should I stay in the pose for fifty breaths go in and out as usual for a count of five or perhaps ten. in the end I stayed for 25 then had to lower before going up for another fifteen and then again for the last ten.

(The rest of the practice was pretty much the same for Day 1 )

Sarvangasana

Parsva Dhanurasana ( 25 breaths each side). Ramaswami always adds a back stretch after Sarvangasana so i tend to stick with that.

Sirsasana

Padmasana  (for regular pranayama )
------------------------------------------------------------------

Again a nice practice, preferred yesterday with the long Vinyasa Krama breathing with retention but this was at least quicker, ran to two hours this morning.

Tomorrow will be Bhuja pindasana to badha Konasana

Practicing 2nd series later, want to give kapotasana a trial run and aim for 25 breaths.

UPDATE: Nice 2nd. Managed the 25 breaths OK, filmed it and was going to post it on youtube but then noticed I'd posted a 25 breath Kapo about a year ago in the context of a post on Iyengar who supposedly held Kapo for fifteen minutes.


Ashtanga Rishi Blog post series
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, first day Paschimottanasana to Janu sirsasana A
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, second day  Janu Sirsasana B to Navasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, third day Bhuja pindasana to badha konasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fourth day Upavishta konasana to Supta bandhasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, fifth day Pasasana to Kapotasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, sixth day Supta vajrasana to Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ashtanga Rishi Approach, Seventh Day  Eka pada sirsasana to Tittibhasana C 

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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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