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.

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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dear Nancy... ' Yoga as it was" Nancy Gilgoff article in full, plus UPDATED practice sheet

See this post for David Williams poster details

Dear Nancy
I've just read your Article 'Ashtanga as it was (the long and the short of it)', posted by Chris Conn on FB. I wanted to ask if it was OK with you to publish the article on my blog, Ashtanga Vinyasa krama Yoga at Home. I'd always suspected that there wasn't as big a break between the early and late Krishnamacharya's teachings as the current Ashtanga practice suggests, your article goes someway to confirm this, the lack of vinyasa between sides and some postures, more grouping of postures, I find it fascinating.

I will of course understand completely if you'd rather the article wasn't posted on a blog.


aloha anthony   thank you for writing and for sharing your thoughts.  it's interesting to me what you have said and i would love to hear more on this subject....guess maybe i should check out your blog :-).  yes, of course i am fine with you posting my article.  thank you for asking.....n
be well safe and happy

One of the things I've been drumming on about in this blog ever since I came across Ramaswami's Book The complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, representing Krishnamacharya's later teaching, was how to account for the seeming difference of approach between the early and late Krishnamacharya. But more importantly for me personally how to reintegrate, find consistency or at least allow the approaches to coexist in my own practice given that I have such love for both of them, Ashtanga and Vinyasa krama.

Coming across Nancy's article reminded me of one of my earlier approaches to integrating the practice from a couple of years ago where I would drop the vinyasas between certain groups of postures in Ashtanga, treating them as Vinyasa Krama subroutines. It worked somewhat but at the same time I was increasing the number of breaths and length of stay and including full vinyasa between the groups of postures, basically trying to practice Ashtanga as Vinyasa Krama. It kinda worked but not quite.

Recently I've been practising an integrated Vinyasa krama practice in the morning (subroutines, pranayama, meditation) and straight Ashtanga Primary and/or 2nd in the evening, keeping them separate. But still curious about this bringing together the early and the late ...even went so far as to put a section in my book describing a subroutine breakdown of the Ashtanga primary.

Below is Nancy's article, 'Ashtanga as it was' in full, you can probably tell why I was so excited about it.

Below that is an attempt to reconstitute the practice as she outlines it that I used to practice yesterday evening and again this morning. The practice, Primary and Intermediate came out at around 90 minutes and was actually quite beautiful, loved it and I'll probably stick with it for a while.

Here's the article in full.

“Ashtanga Yoga As It Was (The Long and Short of It)” By Nancy Gilgoff.

The following is the way in which Guruji taught me, Nancy Gilgoff, the Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga Yoga during my first trip to Mysore, in 1973. David Williams and I stayed for four months that trip, and had two classes per day (excluding Saturdays and Moon days).

In the first class, I was taught to do five Surya Namaskara A, plus the three finishing postures – Yoga Mudrasana, Padmasana, and Tolasana. The second class, later that day, was five Surya Namaskara A and five Surya Namaskara B, plus the three finishing. In the next class, Guruji told me to only do three each of Surya Namaskara A and B, and to keep it that way in my practice, and then began adding on at least two postures per class, always with the three finishing at the end. Guruji taught me the standing postures through Parsvottanasana, with no Parivritta Trikonasana or Parivritta Parsvakonasana. After Parsvottanasana he had me jump through to Dandasana.

In the seated postures, there were a minimal number of vinyasas. There were no vinyasas between sides. Moreover, there were no vinyasas between variations – so all of Janu Sirsasana A, B, and C were done together (right side, left side of A, right, left of B, right, left of C), then a vinyasa before Marichyasana. Then all of the Marichyasana variations, A, B, C, and D, were done together, without vinyasas between sides or variations; then a vinyasa before three Navasana. Baddha Konasana, Upavishta Konasana, and Supta Konasana were also grouped together without vinyasas between them. Ubhaya Padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana were also done together, with no vinyasa between – we were taught to simply change the hand position after Ubhaya Padangusthasana and go right into Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana.

After Setu Bandhasana, Guruji added in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana – but to be put in the series back in the standing sequence, after Parsvottanasana. (Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana were not in the series at this point, nor were Parivritta Trikonasana or Parivritta Parsvakonasana, all of which were added in later.) Once Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana were taught and added into their place in the standing sequence, after Setu Bandhasana, Intermediate began immediately with Pashasana. In fact, David and I had no idea that there were two separate series until the end of that first four-month trip, when we were leaving, at which point Guruji gave us a sheet of paper with a list of the postures, which were listed as Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, and Advanced B. At this point he told us to practice one series a day, and only once a day. While we had been with him in Mysore, we had learned both Primary and Intermediate series in the first two months. He had us practice both series, together, in entirety, twice a day.

Intermediate Series also contained fewer vinyasas back then. There were no vinyasas between sides (in Krounchasana, Bharadvajasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Eka Pada Sirsasana, Parighasana, and Gomukhasana). From Shalabhasana through Parsva Dhanurasana, the asanas were done in a group, with a vinyasa only at the end. Ushtrasana through Kapotasana also were done all together, with a vinyasa only after Kapotasana. The same went for Eka Pada Sirsasana through Yoganidrasana – there were no vinyasas until the Chakrasana after Yoganidrasana.

The Intermediate series, as Guruji taught it to us during that first trip, included Vrishchikasana after Karandavasana. We were taught to hold Pincha Mayurasana for five breaths, bring the legs into lotus and lower down into Karandavasana, hold five breaths, inhale up, and then exhale right into Vrishchikasana for five breaths. The series ended with Gomukhasana. David asked for more, and so, per his request, Guruji added Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana as well as the seven headstands –Baddha Hasta Sirsasana A, B, C, and D were taught first, with Mukta Hasta Sirsasana A, B, and C following. Guruji said these were from Fourth Series.

Backbends from both the floor (Urdhva Dhanurasana) and standing (“drop-backs”) were taught after Intermediate Series, as was the rest of the finishing sequence (Paschimottanasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana, Karnapidasana, Urdhva Padmasana, Pindasana, Matsyasana, Uttana Padasana, and Sirsasana). Up until this point, we had just been doing Yoga Mudrasana, Padmasana, and Tolasana at the end of our practice.

Guruji taught us Pranayama after we had learned the entire Intermediate Series (at the end of our third month in Mysore, about a month after learning all of Intermediate). I think it was when Guruji came to teach on Maui in 1980 (in Paia) that he added in so many vinyasas, while teaching led classes. When I asked him whether or not to do them in my own practice, as I had been practicing without – as he had taught me, he told me to add in the vinyasas to build my strength. By that trip in 1980 there was still no Parivritta Trikonasana, Parivritta Parsvakonasana, Utkatasana, or Virabhadrasana in the practice. (During another, later trip to the States, Guruji added in Parivritta Trikonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana. The next time he came back to Maui to teach, he saw us doing Parivritta Parsvakonasana, asked why we were doing it, and said that this was “crazy posture” and that we should take it out. But the whole Maui crew loved it so much that he said we could leave it in. (Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana were perhaps added in at some point in the late 1980’s.)

Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series.
And here is my attempt to reconstitute Primary and Intermediate as Nancy and David Williams learned it on that first trip to Mysore back in 1973 (those in italics Nancy doesn't mention in the article, I'm just assuming they are still here going by David Williams poster).

UPDATE: Nancy just pointed out that I had missed out Suptavajrasana, have added it in now. She also pointed out

'...also please note that i have written about how guruji taught ME. some things were different for david as he could do vinyasa's and  pretty much all the poses. guruji could put me into any pose which he did but i was very weak and pretty much new to yoga. he lifted me and threw me back each vinyasa and then helped me sail back through to the next pose. while we were practicing, i have to say, i was not able to pay attention to anything but what was happening to me....david and i would compare "notes" in the evenings to see what had happened in the days classes. the postures were the same but he was doing more vinyasana i think'. 

Three each of Surya Namaskara A and B, 
Standing postures through to Parsvottanasana,
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana etc. and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (added after learning all primary).
(Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana added in 1980s).

Jump through to Dandasana.
Vinyasa (?)
Ardha baddha padma Paschimottanasana ( No vinyasa between sides).
Vinyasa (?)
Tireng Mukkha Eka pada Paschimottanasana (No vinyasa between sides).
Vinyasa (?)
Janu Sirsasana A, B, and C (Done together, no vinyasa between sides or variations right side, left side of A, right, left of B, right, left of C).
Marichyasana A, B, C, and D (done together no vinyasas between sides or variations).
Navasana x 3
Bhuja pindasana
Vinyasa (?)
Supta kurmasana
vinyasa (?)
garbha pindasana 
Vinyasa (?)
Baddha Konasana, Upavishta Konasana, and Supta Konasana (No vinyasas between sides).
Supta hasta pasdangustasana
Supta parsvasahita
Ubhaya Padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha
Paschimottanasana (done together, simply change the hand position).
Setu Bandhasana,

(continue on in to..) 
Pashasana. (No vinyasa between sides).

Shalabhasana through Parsva Dhanurasana, (Done together no vinyasa in between sides).
Ushtrasana through Kapotasana (Done together no vinyasa in between)
Suptavajrasana x 5 , (no hold on the last one just the first)
Bharadvajasana, (no vinyasas between sides).
Ardha Matsyendrasana, (no vinyasas  between sides).
Eka Pada Sirsasana to Yoganidrasana, (no vinyasas until Chakrasana after Yoganidrasana).
Tittibhasana A B C
Pincha Mayurasana, Karandavasana, Vrishchikasana (done together).

Parighasana, (no vinyasa between sides).
Krounchasana, (No vinyasa between sides).
Gomukhasana (no Vinyasa between sides). 
Urdhva Dhanurasana

Paschimottanasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana, Karnapidasana,
Urdhva Padmasana, Pindasana, Matsyasana,
Yoga Mudrasana, Padmasana, Tolasana 

Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi" series (Choose 10 postures and stay for fifty breaths in each). 


  1. Hi Grimmly

    I too read this article and loved it. Still keeping with the 6 day a week practice, but I'm beginning to feel like I'm getting stiffer with all the practice and it's beginning to get me down. Did you find this at all?

    Might try the "original" practice for a while my body sorts itself out, seems less tough physical body and gentler psychologically :)

  2. the stiffness does pass Mixqui...and come back again ...and pass...
    This is nice though, perhaps once or twice a week. I find it ideal for practicing all of primary and 2nd together

    Guess we have to be careful with saying 'original' This is the 1973 version...there was probably a 1963 or 53 version that manju practiced and then the 33 version that Jois himself learned. this feels just a little closer to that cave in the shadow of Mt. Kalisha though.

  3. I'm pretty convinced that ashtanga started out being a little slower and very VK like.

    Great article.

  4. It's great that you shared this article. The question is how does one do their Ashtanga practice at 45 or 50, 60 years of age etc...The practice may need to slow down a little for some. Guruji said that any age could practice. If you look at what AG Mohan and Ramaswami learned from Krishnamacharya it appears it was slower than modern Ashtanga. Deschikar, Krishnamachary's son, also taught slower movements with little jump thrus. Don't know the answer but it may be that one has to keep the asana order but decrease the intensity with age??? Thoughts?

  5. This is how David Williams taught Primary and Intermediate in the workshop I went to, no vinyasa between sides nor the various groupings you mention (except he did do vinyasa between Janu A, B, C (not the diff sides) and Mari A, B, C, D). At the time I was hugely relieved to try it this way, because fewer vinyasa reduced the time spent on my hands and I was having a lot of wrist problems. I still practice primary this way frequently, although I sometimes feel guilty, haha. But it is a quieter, more gentle Primary, and you can easily do the whole thing in an hour.

    I recently met a student of Nancy's and we chatted in the grocery store for a few minutes. For some reason we almost instantly found ourselves comparing David's (as I had learned) and Nancy's (as she had learned) Primary. There were a few minor differences. I thought it hilarious that we somehow were talking our (minor!) differences rather than our (huge!) similarities. I mean, around here to meet another ashtangi in the grocery is unheard of! I had this flash of wondering if we were caught in echoes of D and N's divorce, haha, still carried through the ethers, bickering over vinyasa placement...just joking! I would love to study with Nancy, everything I have read/heard about her sounds terrific. I've got a serious jones to go to Maui....

  6. Coming out of the woodwork finally to comment... So interesting to hear of this more condensed practice. Sometimes I scrap the vinyasas between postures, sides, etc. when I'm not feeling strong enough. I always feel like it's better to hit the postures themselves than to beat myself up on the connecting movements. It's reassuring to hear that Jois "approved" of this, not that it matters to my home practice, I suppose.
    Anyway, I love your blog, Grimmly. Been following it for a few years now in Toronto, Canada.

  7. Fascinating, thank you for posting this, I've been wondering the same thing too. Was gonna write to David Swenson and ask him what his thoughts on all the changes were. Think I shall do this version a little as I am in the last throws of a nasty cold. Seems fairly intuitive though, no?

  8. Morning エスタ , just about to do my practice, this again. Fbnny but I did it Tuesday evening and my back has been feeling less stiff in the morning ever since allowing me to do a full practice.

    Let ne know what you think, nice feel to it.

    I think your probably right Chris

    I agree about the wrists Maya, love my jump backs as you know but it is a bit excessive if we're honest, even if your getting it just right every time.

    Love that you met het in a Grocery store

    Thank you for coming out of the woodwork YouChick, HI! Yes, nice to adapt the practice this way which as maya says is kind of intuitive and find that it wasn't that dissimilar from how Jois taught it.

    Nice way to approach Primary and 2nd together although later Jois told Nancy to practice a different series each day.....but that only makes four days...five if we count Rishi series which i don"t think they would have although David I believe explored it for a while.

    Hi BTW, David Williams addresses that exact question, Ashtanga for life. Ramaswami too, talks about different kinds of postures and how much time on them, more pranayama etc. See his book Yoga for the Three stages of Life.

    Time to practice....

  9. This is brilliant, will definitely make use of it on days when there's less time or energy but when I don't really want to cut out any poses. Thanks for posting!

  10. Improved the practice sheet outline at the end to include those postures (in italics) Nancy doesn't mention but that are on David William's poster

  11. Your welcome Bibi, thanks to nancy for allowing me to publish it, I'm enjoying it.

    of course we get into the habit of these we'll be screwed next time we do a regular led or perhaps attend Sharath's world tour,

  12. Hey Grimmly,:)
    Love that you wrote her and posted this! I read it on FB and was so intrigued. This is the way David Williams taught me(except he does do vinyasa between janus and marichi's, no sides though) it was a great reief to me as all those vinyasas exhaust me. I do get questioned however, when I go to a mysore drop in whilst on holiday:) I just do as the teacher asks but in my own shala aka the garage David and Nancy have set the tone:) I will try the primary/second, sounds good, thanks again:)


    You may find it interesting. It's an article by senior ashtanga teacher Gary Lopodota showing some of the changes in the sequences.

  14. I love this post about how the sequence has changed. Do you have any information on the 5th series (rashi)? Was it a series that was included in a week's practice, or was it something that a yogi did after only years of practice when they reached old age. I take it that the ten poses were the main one's with the most internal health benefits - maybe I'm completely wrong.

  15. Nancy just pointed out that I had missed out suptavajrasana, have added it in along with a note Nancy made about some differences between how she and David were taught. That probably fits in with how David taught you Jayakrishna, more vinyasas. Thanks for pointing that out.

  16. Annon , thanks for the link to Gary's site, I think I did a post here on him and that very article including videos of the advanced led, will try to find the link. Perhaps I just mentioned it on FB or in a comment to another blog. Am a big fan of his website, wonderful old pictures.

  17. re the Rishi series. Yes I have something on this but it's at home (in the library on my lunch break at the moment) will fish it out later and do a post on it, interesting idea. Seems you choose ten asana and then stay in them for fifty breaths. The note I have at home talks about choosing the ten asana.

  18. Looking forward to reading the post on rishi.

    As a change of subject and just incase you are running out of post ideas (haha), I could do with a little piece of advice on how to develop my kapotasana, so i can get closer to my feet. I understand it can take months or years, but just wondering whether or not there are any poses that have helped with your kapotasana or is repetition the key.

    Many thanks

  19. Left out an important aspect, David is very adamant about very strong Mula Bandha, but also super important is the 3rd Bandha...Jalandhara at the throat. David says unless instructed otherwise, the chin always needs to be tucked under(chin to chest) if you look at pics of Krishnamacharya, you'll see that he in fact does this and states to do so as well. Love to see the note on Rishi Series:)

  20. It makes sense that Guruji would cut back the vinyasas as someone was struggling, then add them in as one gained strength and stamina. The more you manage to do, the more strength you build, the more energy for more vinyasas, etc., etc.

  21. This is super interesting. I'll try this for sure.

  22. While I am dealing with tendinitis in my right wrist this sounds perfect

  23. This is how I learned Ashtanga for I had the privilege of attending several workshops by David Williams. His version is now called Ashtanga Yoga for Life, and if he does a workshop nearby, well worth the drive. I have not yet attended Nancy Gilgoff's classes, but hope to one day. (incidentally, I have read she did not utilize jump backs in the beginning. Any confirmation on this is appreciated.)

  24. Ok question: David and Nancy learned the entire Ashtanga curriculum at once in 3 months of daily practice 2x per day. Clearly there must have been asanas they couldn't do and would need to practice. Today at the Shalas we are stopped and not allowed to continue to the next asana until the previous one is relatively mastered. Should a practioner stop in a home practice or try to get thru the primary and intermediate even if all postures are not 100 percent? David and Nancy obviously did very well practicing what they were taught when they returned to the US from Mysore. Of course they were taught by Guruji himself!

  25. thanks so much for posting this!!!

  26. Thanks for posting this, Grimmly, and for writing Nancy. Very illuminating.

    I have also heard that at some point (in the 80s, maybe?), Hanumanasana and Samakonasana were done after the Prasaritas in the standing series. If you get a chance to communicate with Nancy again, can you ask her if she knows anything about this development (why they were there, and why they were subsequently taken out, etc.)? Thanks!

  27. Wow lot's of comments.
    Anon. re Kapo I highly recommend the Bow sequence from Vinyasa Krama, section on it and all it's subroutines in my book, you can download it for free over on the right of the blog or if that's a problem it's on kindle for the price of a cup of coffee. the notes for that section of the book are also posted on this blog November or December. Bow sequence is a bit like all those prep early backstretch postures at the beginning of 2nd leading up to kapo.
    For me the big thing i at the moment comes from Heather Morton there's search box on my blog. Really tilt your pelvis up while you keep pushing your hips forward, keep doing that all the way back and down, tilt push tilt push. I'll do another post on it though.

  28. jaya, i've written quite a bit over the years about jalandhara bandha and how Krishnamacharya in the makaranda and indeed Jois in yoga male seem to have their Chin down. Ramaswami also has the chin down in most postures, not always full jalandhara but often.

    Rishi post coming.

  29. I agree Karen re Nancy's last note it does the lack of vinyasas does seem to be more about the strength than there being less vinyasas in the beginning...oh well back to the drawing board : ) Still, it makes for a nice practice and for me at least a nice Ashtanga/Vinyasa Krama balance. I can do vinyasas all day but do like that moving straight into the next pose, loving the janu and marchi approach here.

  30. let us know how you find it Ursula. Perfect if you have problems with your wrists Flutter, keeps you more focused for the few vinyasa that are left too.

    Hi Quentin. I'm hoping to catch David's workshop next time he comes to the UK, David, Nancy, Manju about time I took advantage of living not so far from London, may be moving back to Japan in a year or two, need to make the most of being here. I heard something similar but don't remember from where, if it was a direct quote or not, that she used to step back for a long time but then jumping back and through has never really been a deal breaker I understand.

  31. Hi BTW I'm not sure they learned the whole syllabus in that three month period, my understanding was primary and intermediate and for David at least part of third. I though he went on to learn the rest of Advanced B over the next couple of years. Think he writes about that on his website or in the guruji book.

    I've written quite a bit over the years on on this. I pretty much just worked through the whole syllabus doing a fair approximation of some of the poses i was struggling with before moving on to the next., pretty much a new series a year over the four years. That said Vinyasa krama came up and i've flitted between the two quite a bit so didn't practice Advanced A for that long and advanced B as a whole series only a few times.

    I went through Primary series pretty much as a whole even though I had to bind with a towel or belt in the marichi's for example, basically I used Swenson's variations.
    Same with Intermediate. I practiced up to kapo for a while then just worked through the whole series, 'split'.

    3rd I just decided to try one day even though a lot if not most of the postures were pretty rough, it went Ok so I started to practice that too. same with Advanced B.

    THAT SAID.... I've come around to the idea of adding the postures on gradually. i loved the meditative feeling i got from Primary but because I rushed into 2nd series a bit it took a LONG time to get that feeling back in 2nd. Like the idea now of just adding the poses on so most of your practice feels comfortable, meditative if you like with just the couple of poses at the end that your struggling with.

    Now I mostly practice vinyasa Krama in the morning and Ashtanga primary and 2nd in the evening. I don't tend to bother with 3rd, not too interested in the arm balances and Advanced Ashtanga series I tend to practice in the VK context, seem to be happy with that at the moment.

  32. thanks Anon.

    Hi Noble, I'm English very uncomfortable asking nancy lots of questions (dying to ask her about the breath, how many how long etc : ) felt embarrassed enough asking her if I could use her article. So will have to wait till I'm in her workshop to check on the Samakonasana/hanuman question. I think I heard Tim teaches it after the parasaritas but I'm not sure if that's as postures rather than as an exercise. Don't quote me on that. They're in Davids poster in pretty much their usual place and I think the poster more or less corresponds with the List Nancy refers to so I'm guessing No.

    Sorry to rush my responses, hope they're readable wanted to squeeze Nancy's practice in this evening.

  33. Brilliant post and discussion Grimmly, thanks for stepping out of your Britishness and approaching Nancy with your questions :) The Ashtanga practice isn't a monolith, but we try to make it so, in searching for the "right" way to do it, the "right" sequence, the "right" terms, and forget that the best and the "right" way is usually what makes sense to our bodies at that point in time. Thanks for this.

  34. I once attended a Mysore style class, and was stopped during the wide-legged forward fold standing sequence. I was told the "correct" vinyasa transition was such and such...

    Prior to attending that class I had studied several DVDs and attended a few different teachers' workshops, all in search of the "correct" vinyasa for that very sequence! Since no two teachers taught it the same way, I concluded that "correct" is just an illusion.

    Nowadays when I talk with others, share the practice with students, etc. I'm very careful with my choice of words. And this discussion only reinforces the idea that even Ashtanga yoga is a an individualized AND changing tradition. Thanks so much!

  35. Great post, Grimmly!
    I've just finished translating Nancy's article into Russian for Ashtanga Yoga center in Moscow. Very facinating about how Rishi series formed.
    Would love to read your post on it.

  36. Nobel said:

    I have also heard that at some point (in the 80s, maybe?), Hanumanasana and Samakonasana were done after the Prasaritas in the standing series. If you get a chance to communicate with Nancy again, can you ask her if she knows anything about this development (why they were there, and why they were subsequently taken out, etc.)? Thanks!

    Nobel, I think I read in a John Scott interview somewhere that Guruji added Hanumanasana for Derek Ireland's practice and so all of Derek's students have Hanumanasana in their primary series. I'm sure someone else here can confirm or add to this. Best!

  37. Nobel,

    Actually it was Mark Darby who talked about Hanumanasana and Derek Ireland. You can read more here:

  38. Pranayama for twice the amount of time as asana and meditation for twice the amount of time as pranayama

    and how de we know what Krishnamacharya really taught in the earliest days, or what HE learned for that matter? Or what he himself practiced, the 1938 you tube videos don't look much like Ashtanga

  39. We'll most likely never know Anon though we do have Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda from 1934 (you can download a free copy from the link on the right of my blog). We can at least see what was important enough for him to put in his book. Interesting too to look at his later work, Yogasanagalu say or his student Ramaswami's teaching and see what has remained over the fifty year period, elements that never changed.

    Need to practice now will come back to this in a post of it's own.

  40. 'Pranayama for twice the amount of time as asana and meditation for twice the amount of time as pranayama'

    Ramaswami quoted that the other day didn't he Anon, something he overheard Krishnamacharya telling his father over fifty years ago.

    Assuming 30 mins Asana, 1 hour pranayma, 2 hours meditation... i read that in the context of yoga for the three stages of life, the ideal approach to yoga in later life with a stronger pranayama and meditation focus than asana.

    I double checked my Yoga Makaranda it includes vinyasas (half vinyasas) between sides and even though it's just a selection of asana (supposedly there was going to be a second part that included more asana and pranayama) most of primary series is in the version we have, so to is a good part of 2nd series and part of 3rd. Of course we don't know if he taught these asana in a series similar to Ashtanga or as subroutines similar to Vinyasa krama but the half vinyasa in beween sides leans more towards Ashtanga perhaps as we might expect give the time and context in which it was written i.e. Mysore Palace. Makes sense to teach a sequence to young boys, a set sequence with a jump back makes good pedagogic sense no? However the Yoga makaranda includes long stays in the posture and also includes breath retention, true Ujayii.

    I love this stuff, can you tell.

    In the end it probably doesn't matter, we know Ashtanga has changed, we can see the roots in Yoga Makaranda a lot of the changes make sense I guess but in the end surely it's just linking breath and movement, that's Krishnamacharya's teaching. The asana is great but we should never lose site of the breath and I do think Modern Western Ashtanga, as currently taught in Mysore has lost site of that a little. Good to look back at how the breath is described in Jois' Yoga Mala as well as well as Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda. Some interesting notes on the breath in the Mark Darby interview I;ve posted today.

  41. Modern-day Ashtanga losing sight of the breath? You're kidding right?

    Surely, Ashtanga is one of the only yoga methods that places great, great emphasis on the breath.

    It has been said time & time again, recently and many years ago, that if you are not giving the breath, the drishti and the asana key focus, you are not doing yoga, you are doing gymnastic exercises.

    As for the authorized, certified teachers & Sharath, it is highly likely that free breathing, is one of the first gauges they use in assessing a practitioners readiness for adding postures to anyone's practice.

  42. 'Surely, Ashtanga is one of the only yoga methods that places great, great emphasis on the breath'.

    I totally agree Steve and have argued that very point, even against Ramaswami's Introduction to The complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

    However, I'm not talking about other styles but whether Modern Ashtanga has simplified the breath by the standards of it's own tradition and dare I say lineage. Have a glance at your Yoga Mala, at Yoga Makaranda. We can argue it was necessary due to the sheer numbers of students but home Ashtangi's aren't tied to Mysore, to a shala and shala rules we're free to go back to the early texts and explore the breath again for ourselves (and I believe 'at home' is still in my blog title).

    Whether it has been simplified or not is of course open to discussion but seems a more worthy topic than whether somebody should or shouldn't be practicing in their pants for a gym video.

  43. Always feel uncomfortable about bringing gymnastics into the argument in this way. i would argue that gymnastics and contortion too (which is used in a similar way) take as much control, focus and concentration as asana practice. Pretty sure drishti bandha (though perhaps not called that) and the breath are used in much the same way. The difference is in the goal perhaps, in Yoga asana being at the service of the search for knowledge/understanding/awareness (of self?). If that's not the goal of our asana then perhaps it's more like gymnastics than we like to admit.

    Thanks for wading in, always appreciate your comments Steve.

  44. Grimmly,
    Please don't be shy about bothering Nancy. She is one of the most down to earth and easy going persons I've had the good fortune of meeting. Honestly!

  45. "Whether it has been simplified or not is of course open to discussion but seems a more worthy topic than whether somebody should or shouldn't be practicing in their pants for a gym video"
    HaHa! I found this amusing. Thanks for all this Grimmly, as a yogi with very little access to "certified" teachers I sometimes struggle with my position vis a vis the "traditional" way of learning. Which, with a little research, doesn't seem so traditional after all. That said I have never met an Ashtanga teacher who didn't emphasize the breath, and most of the teachers in my neck of the woods still emphasize the Ujayyi breath, which I gather Sharath now eschews for general practice and reserves as a pranayama exercise.

  46. I think if anything the Yoga Makaranda's section on asana resembles Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama teachings as much as Ashtanga. Sure, the vinyasas are there between poses, but the poses are held for such a long time, it makes one wonder what the daily practice would look like (there is no clear sequence). The only hint we get are the poses he encourages to do daily, which seem to be along the lines of the VK's core four. So the whole jump through thing might only be done a couple of times anyways. Plus it is clear that the Makaranda emphasizes the therapeutic (Cikitsa Krama) over the aestheticism of the practice. I think one can easily argue that Ashtanga favors the latter in many ways, and VK the former. Also, the oldest and only videos we have of Krishnamacharya don't really look like Ashtanga. May be the wrong thread for this discussion, but I don't believe necessarily that Ashtanga was Krishnamacharya's "early teaching" Just my view Thanks

  47. Thank you anon, hoping to attend her june workshop in London so will be sure to pester her then.

    Hi Deborah, One of the best things about ashtanga as it is, that we can cling to as home ashtangi's, is that it kind of works, for a lot of people. We can use that as a solid base to to explore and individualise our practice a little. Seems clear it was adapted due to the vast number of students and something of the individual aspect may have been lost. Practicing at home perhaps we're more free to experiment, it was always supposed to be an individual practice.

    I agree the breath seems to be emphasised by everybody and I'm not questioning that, the question I'm raising is has the breath been simplified ...too much. Sharath has a point, without breath retention it isn't really ujyaii . Krishnamacharya refers to the breath in asana as Ujayii but then he has retention in many asanas in the Yoga makaranda (1934) and Yogarahasya (1960's). In Jois' Yoga Mala there doesn't seem to be any mention of breath retention in the asana, (it's quite conspicuous by it's absence in fact), it's saved for pranayama.

    Does make you wonder why there is no breath retention, not even in padmasana, seems to have made a point of leaving it out.

  48. Hello Anon, yes, we can certainly see vinyasa Krama in the Yoga Makaranda and, as you say, in the 1938 video too, even more so. I lean towards it being closer to Ashtanga on this because of the context of the Mysore palace and the half vinyasas. If he's including a jump back between sides then he's probably including them between variations of the posture, janu A, B etc. But then it's all speculation of course. Would love to see the original of the original list of postures that Nancy refers too and see if it's in Kirshnamacharya's handwriting.

    I'm not sure it was his early teaching either...I'm thinking the Mysore palace was, if anything, his mid period and that it took on a different form because it was group classes of kids, a set sequence with lots of vinyasas seems to make so much sense in that environment. After Mysore he went back to one on one teaching and could individualise the practice more again.

    But so much speculation.

  49. Speaking of the function of the breath in asana, there is a really good discussion of it here by Prashant Iyengar. I learned a lot by considering what he says:

  50. Thanks for the link Anon, will check it out.

  51. Hi Grimmly,
    Nice post, you are really going deeper and deeper into this. One question I always had is about the practice.Now everybody who practice ashtanga is supposed to follow a six day practice starting with second series on Sunday and ending with first series on Friday. There are six series for six days. Earlier when there were only 4 series, how were they supposed to practice six days. Would they repeat Advanced A and B? Any ideas?
    Thanks for the wonderful blog.

  52. Hi Grimmly,

    I just bumped into your blog and this was the first article I read. It's almost amazing...the irony of life :)

    I love Ashtanga Yoga and I've been practicing at home, as I can't afford the extremely high prices of the classes.

    I try to practice 6x a week and attend 2 retreats a year with the Spanish certified teacher Tomas Zorzo, so I can ask questions, get corrections, maybe a new asana, etc...

    Although I love this practice, I was warned by my ayurvedic doctor NOT to practice ashtanga. I'm a very Vatta/pitta type, I'm skinny, can't afford to loose any weight and I have huge variations on my energy levels. Besides that, I tend to overheat and we know ashtanga creates inner heat.

    I dropped the practice once, I felt totally drained by the vinyasas. Got back on track and after 3 months of practice I feel the Vinyasas are harmful for me at this particular fase of my life.

    I was about to quit my practice today, as I didn't want to change the practice, till I saw your article, hehe

    I do believe Ashtanga is for all, I believe the vinyasas are extremely important and make perfect sense, but If for a health reason we have to drop them to continue the practice, it's ok and much better than to drop the whole practice all together.

    From today on, I'll follow the "older" practice with less vinyasas and that will help me getting stronger and better till I feel totally healthy again.

    Thank you so much for putting this info out! It just saved my practice!

    Lots of love from Portugal


  53. Sorry Anon, missed your question back in January. it's a good point and I have no idea, I'll try and find out.

    So nice to read your post Yara, glad you found the post timely.
    Richard freeman also writes about an abbreviated practice this week here
    best wishes for your health and practice

  54. Good reads as usual on this site! :) Eventually when one takes yoga practice serious they'll begin to dig deeper, e.g. read books out there by Krishnamacharya and his students, Jois, iyengar, Ramaswami or his son Desikachar and you will see they all eventually took different approaches to the practice that they learnt from their Guru as I am sure Krishnamacharya learnt different from his master, Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari in the Himalayas. Do your research seek out those that follow the true path of yoga practice, read great books on yoga practice, e.g. hatha yoga pradipika, yoga sutras and other spiritual works like the Gita, and importantly we need to "listen" to our bodies, if after we asanas we don't feel energetic or energized and we feel drained or tired then its this is not good or we are not doing yoga so we need to reflect on our practice and even though the ego doesn't want to we need to think about reducing asanas or vinyasa until it feels right our ego's want to compete or push so that I can do that fancy pose like the person in the book or mat next to me but this is life and although its hard we need to try and take it slow focus on the "Breath" and things will balance themselves out. This has been my approach and things really changed for me after. My body just eventually started to ease its way into asanas.


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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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