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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Monday, 30 December 2013

Exploring Kumbhaka ( breath retention) in Krishnamacharya's Intermediate 'series' inc. Practice Sheets primary- 2nd series


For much of last year I found myself exploring Krishnamacharya's asana descriptions in Yoga Makaranda, culminating in a reordering of the asana from that text into Ashtanga Primary series order. That allowed me to follow, in my own practice,  the regular sequence with which I'm so familiar and yet bring in other elements of Krishnamacharya's approach, the longer stays, slower breathing and in particular his employment of kumbhaka (breath retention).

For the coming year the plan is to take a similar approach to Ashtanga 2nd series. So what we have below is a slight reordering of the table from Krishnamacharya's 1941 book Yogasanaglau to bring it into line with current Intermediate series. ( I've also included the reordered table for Standing primary and Finishing sequences).

Looking forward to exploring second series again, have missed it. I've often included in my practice this year the backbend section from 2nd series whether in an Ashtanga context or Vinyasa Krama but pretty much abandoned everything after that. My lotus comes down in Karandavasana still but is reluctant to go back up.

I added most of this post to the previous one as an update but want to make it available as a separate post so anyone else wants to play can.

The beauty of this approach I think is that you can introduce as much or as little of Krishnamacharya's approach into your own practice as you wish. Explore the kumbhaka option perhaps in one or more asana, or better, explore the kumbhaka option in, say, a different group of five postures each practice. Choose perhaps a similar group of five postures and explore slowing the breathing right down, we do something anyway with our standing and finishing postures where the breathing is often slower. And we can choose to explore longer stays in certain postures, choose a different posture or two and stay for ten full breaths rather than the usual five. All options to explore and approaches that Krishnamacharya chose to present in what was essentially a manual


For me, approaching my whole practice this way, it'll be a case of splitting the series into two allowing me to take it slower and include the longer stays and kumbhaka's, perhaps with a longer full 2nd on Tuesdays and full Primary on Sunday.

In the rediscovered Pattabhi Jois Yoga Therapy article Vamana's use of Vinyasa is translated as 'inhalation and exhalation' in keeping with the current presentation of Ashtanga in which no Kumbhaka is employed.

Pattabhi Jois also states in the article

'This method can be learnt only from an experienced yogi well versed in Yoga Shastra'.

Breath in the arms come up, 
breath out the arms go down, 
breathe in - come up, 
breath out - bend forward....

It's actually quite intuitive, how about the breath

'equal but otherwise, free breathing'.

Why do we need an 'experienced guru well versed in the shastras' to teach us something that appears so intuitive?

I have theory (what, another one)....


This year I've been exploring, through practice, Krishnamacharya's approach to asana, in particular, his employment of kumbhaka. I've slightly reordered the Primary Group asana from the table found in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941) to bring it more in line with the current Ashtanga primary series sequence. I'm presently doing something similar for the middle group also, bringing the Yogasangalu table order in line with current Ashtanga Intermediate series. The plan is to explore this approach to 2nd series in my practice this coming year. 

Krishnamacharya doesn't seem to have followed a fixed series although clearly there are sequences and subroutines that closely follow sections within the current practice of Ashtanga, that's to be expected of course much of it is intuitive, one asana often logically follows another. The Primary group asana table in Yogasanagalu is almost exactly the same as we find in the current Ashtanga Primary series, the Middle group is close, very close, however the Proficient group is more 'lumped together'. 

The story goes that when Pattabhi Jois was invited to teach at the Sanskrit college he came to Krishnamacharya with the asana he had been taught by Krishnamacharya grouped into Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B. Krishnamacharya is said to have given his approval.

I'm familiar with the Ashtanga series having practice Primary to Advanced series for a number of years, it makes sense to me to practice Krishnamacharya's instructions for asana in an order I'm familiar with as well as allowing me to offer it to others as an option to explore in their own practice.

Looking at this section of the 2nd series table that I'm currently working on, with it's employment of different kumbhaka depending on the asana, we can probably agree that this is significantly more complex. 

Actually it's even more complicated than the table suggests. In Yoga Makaranda Krishnamacharya gives instructions for different kumbhaka at different stages of the vinyasa of a single asana. We can see perhaps why the assistance of a guru well versed in the shastras ( here I read those related to pranayama practice) is advised particularly as there is an intimate relationship between kumbhakam and the employment of the different bandhas. I have been fortunate in that my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya's student of 30 years still teaches, to some extent, the use of  kumbhaka in certain asana vinyasas, within the Jois Ashtanga lineage however this element of the tradition seems to have been misplaced. Manju Jois went so far as to tell me recently that Krishnamacharya was mistaken in his use of kumbhaka in asana, perhaps he is right. However we are not talking about one reference in passing to kumbhaka. Yoga Makaranda is all about the breath, each individual element of the breath, we find kumbhaka's described in almost every asana. 

Perhaps the employment of kumbhaka is something that Krishnamacharya didn't teach to his student Pattabhi Jois, and yet we find it detailed in Yoga Makaranda (1934) written while Patabhi Jois was Krishnamacharya's student and even in some cases teaching assistant (It is thought Pattabhi Jois, being a senior student, would have led the Mysore boys in their classes while Krishnamacharya would, on occasion, teach a more Vinyasa krama approach on a one-to-one basis in another room). Perhaps kumbhaka was not intended for the young boys of the palace or beginners.

Yet kumbhaka is everywhere in Yoga Makaranda (1934), in almost every asana description detailed instructions are given, likewise in Yogasanagalu (1941) and its presentation within the form of a  table. These were texts Krishnamacharya was instructed to write as pedagogic manuals for schools and elsewhere. Krishnamacharya wanted to share this approach to asana, he wanted us to practice asana this way.


Section of the 2nd series table I'm presently working on 

Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu (19410 table in Ashtanga 2nd series order

Number in                                                                                        Asana
yogasanaglu        Asana                                      Vinyasas            position                       Breathing notes
table                                           

1.            Pasasana                            14             7-8              Bhaya kumbhaka
2.            Krounchasana                     22        7-8-14-15        Bhaya Kumbhaka
6.            Shalabasana A and B          10            5-6              Antah Kumbhaka
10.          Bhekasana                            9               5                Antah Kumbhaka
3.            Dhanurasana                        9               5               Antah Kumbhaka
4.            Parshva Dhanurasana         12           6-7-8            Antah Kumbhaka
9.            Ushtrasana                          15           7-8-9            Antah Kumbhaka
12.          Lagu Vajrasana                    15           7-8-9           Ubhaya Kumbhaka
15.          Kapotasana A and B            15              8               Antah Kumbhaka

11.          Supta vajrasana                   18            9-11            Ubhya Kumbhaka


*


FIRST DRAFT

Note - Length of Kumbhaka's
Extend the natural/automatic mini kumbhaka between the inhalation and exhalation or between the exhalation and inhalation to 2-5 seconds in the postures indicated, certain more 'meditative' postures the kumbhaka might be extended to those employed in regular pranayama.





*

See previous post for a look back over my posts this year, favourite posts as well as new resource pages on Ashtanga History, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Manju Jois and Srivatsa Ramaswami.

2013 A year in posts - New Ashtanga Vinyasa resource Pages, favourite posts of the year

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

We're all Yogi's - Yoga for the Three Stages of Life - how to practice Vinyasa Krama from Ramaswami's Sept 2009 Newsletter

Making Timpano toaday, try and find two recipes the same..

In the previous post on the new Vinyasa Krama Practice manual from Harmony Yoga I mentioned that Ramaswami's  Sept 2009 Newsletter was included at the back of the book. Reading it again it's an excellent newsletter, it lays out a clear, modifiable, daily Vinyasa Krama approach to practice as well as introducing the idea of Yoga for the three stages of life.

I've come across a few comments/posts/rants recently where somebody, quite pompously it has to be said, raves about people calling themselves 'Yogi's'. One can perhaps imagine the idea of the yogi these guys have in their head, ash and loincloths come to mind, perhaps a meditative renunciant .

Below Ramaswami mentions how Krishnamacharya would talk about 'Yoga for the three stages of life' (Ramaswami used this for the title of my favourite book of his), the youthful yogi would have a very much asana based practice, the midlife yogi would still have quite a bit of asana but perhaps less acrobatic and more pranayama, also a little meditation. In the final stage of life the yogi would have some simple asana for health but a more meditative, spiritual practice.

So you see, by this reckoning, we're all yogi's if we practice any of the elements of yoga, any of the limbs, sincerely and with commitment.

I probably have the same image of a yogi as those who rant so don't tend to refer to (except occasionally out of convenience, same with 'Ashtangi') or even think of myself as a yogi but I practice, I'm on the path, working on the limbs and so are you, so perhaps we are Yogi's.

But then of course that means that if we have yogi's we have non yogi's and we end up with a them and us situation. But I have no idea what the guy on the other side of the train is practicing, no doubt he's working at whatever moral (yama/niyama) code he has, perhaps he has a devotional practice, trying to come to terms with, understand, make sense of, the world and his place within it. Perhaps he has a physical practice of some kind which he is committed to or an art he practices, perhaps before falling asleep he reflects for a moment on his day..... perhaps we are all yogi's, all on the path, stepping back on and off, Descartes thought we are defined by the fact that we think, I'd narrow it down and suggest that we are that which questions.... sooner or later. Questioning is Yoga, questioning everything, one tatva at a time....., employing the mind to overcome the mind.

The path of Yoga is one of radical enquiry

There's a point in the newsletter where Ramaswami is critical of a fixed practice...

"Hence, to suggest a practice of a set of asanas or a routine for everyone
irrespective of the age, condition, temperament and goal is incorrect"

I can imagine my Ashtangi readers prickling at that somewhat, "Is he talking about us"?

But of course there is no fixed Ashtanga, we all  practice it differently, our teachers if we have them are aware of where we each struggle in our practice and give us assistance, at home we make allowances for old injuries or areas of difficulties, either we do the best we can and move on or stop there move to finishing and try again tomorrow. Our breath is different one mat to the next, a little slower a little fuller all working towards consistency. We all focus a little more a little less on different asana in the series, we know what our bodies need that morning. Sometimes we might add an extra asana, cut one or more out (if the reason is good enough) or spend a little longer, breath a little slower in one we neglected the day before or that we have a particular asanacrush on and we have a LOT of asana to play with.

Ashtanga has a count but so does Jazz, we can make as much or as little space for our runs as we need, we all improvise, to some extent (if you can listen to Mingus and how he now slows, now speeds up the beat).

Notice too how our Ashtanga practice, including  the Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda Primary series I'm currently practicing/exploring fits within the model of the Modified Vinyasa Krama practice in the sheets below, surprised, we shouldn't be, it's all Krishnamacharya.

*

Here then is part of Ramaswami's Sept 2009 Newsletter, I've cut it about a bit and reformatted the paragraphs to focus on certain elements, the full untangled newsletter can be found here, as well as in Harmony Yoga's practice manual.

And if Christmas is your thing, have a wonderful day today, a very Merry Christmas, if it's not your thing, then have a great practice (which is just what I'm off to do, Ramaswami's Modifiable VK practice below).

VINYASA KRAMA PRACTICE from Ramaswami Sept 2009 Newsletter
(my reformatting and titles)

Adapting yoga to individual requirements is an art by itself. We must
understand that there is no one standard practice that is suitable to
everyone. In medicine you have to give different treatment to
different patients; what is suitable to one suffering from digestive
problem would be different from the one that is suitable for one who
is suffering from some low back pain. According to an important motto
of Krishnamacharya, yoga for children and the adolescents (growth
stage) is different from yoga practice in their midlife which again is
different from the practice in old age. The body, mind and goals
change during different stages of life. Sri Krishnamacharya’s teaching
is based on this principle as we could discern from his works, Yoga
Makaranda and Yoga Rahasya.

Yoga For the three stages of life

Yoga for the young
Basically yoga for kids and young adults will have a considerable
amount of asana vinyasa practice -- many vinyasas, difficult poses,
etc. It will help them to work out the considerable rajas in their
system and proper growth (vriddhi). Of course they should also
practice some pranayama and meditation or chanting.

Yoga for the midlife Yogi
For the midlife yogi, the practice will still include some asana, but specifically
some of the health giving  and restorative postures like the
Inversions, Paschimatanasana, Mahamudra, etc., in which poses one may
be required to stay for a longer period of time. There will be more
emphasis on Pranayama and then more meditation, chanting, worship etc.
When I started studying with my Guru I was 15 years old. During the
beginning years of my study it was mostly difficult asanas and
vinyasas. Swing throughs, jump arounds, utplutis etc and other fun
filled unique sequences were the order of the day. As I grew up, my
teacher slowly but surely changed the mix, focus and direction of my
yoga practice. On the last day I was with him (I was close to 50 then)
it was just chanting of Surya Namaskara (Aruna) mantras for the entire
duration with him.

Yoga for the third stage of life
During the third stage of life, the old age, the
emphasis is usually spiritual and/or devotional even as one is
required to do some simple movements and pranayama.

And within the group, the daily practice can be varying depending upon
the requirements and goals set forth by the yogi for herself/himself.

For instance, for the midlife yogi, the main goal will be to maintain
good physical and mental health, rather than being able to stand, say,
on one leg or even on one hand (Of course the child in me wants to do
that). He/She would like to avoid risky movements so that the practice
would be safe and does not cause injuries—immediate or cumulative. Too
much exertion (kayaklesa), like several rounds of continuous,
breathless Suryanamaskaras again should be avoided, says Brahmananda
in his commentary on Hatayogapadipika. A few may be more inclined to
have some spirituality thrown in. Many would like to develop the
ability to and the habit of visiting the peace zone of the mind daily.
There are some who are more rajasic or tamasic in which case the mix
of asana and pranayama should be properly adjusted, sometimes taking
care of even the day to day variations of the gunas. It requires some
careful attention in deciding a particular day’s practice.

Hence, to suggest a practice of a set of asanas or a routine for everyone
irrespective of the age, condition, temperament and goal is incorrect.

Such an approach does not take into consideration not only the
versatility and richness of orthodox, traditional vinyasakrama yoga
practice but also does not take the varying factors of individual
requirements. Sri Krishnamacharya’s yoga can appropriately be termed
as ‘Appropriate Yoga’.

However, as a general rule, for the serious mid-life yogi, a daily
practice of about 90 mts to 2 hrs will be necessary and sufficient.


A Modifiable VINYASA KRAMA PRACTICE .

Everyday before the start of the practice the yogi should take a
minute and decide on a definite agenda and as far as possible try to
stick to the agenda. What asanas and vinyasas, which pranayama and how
many rounds and other details should be determined before hand and one
should adhere to it. It brings some discipline and coherence to one’s
practice.

short prayer

Tadasana 
doing the main vinyasas two or preferably three
times each. It should take about ten minutes.

Triangle subroutine
One may do a subsequence of Triangle pose like warrior pose and /or one sequence in one legged
pose.
Asymmetric
Then one subsequence in the asymmetric could be taken up, say Marichyasana or Triyangmukha or
the half lotus. The choice may be varied on a daily basis.

Paschimottanasana
Five minute stay in Paschimottanasana and the counter poses may be practiced.

Sarvangasana Preparation
Sarvangasana
Sirsasana
Sarvangasana
Then one may do preparation of Sarvangasana and a brief stay in it,
followed by headstand stay for about 5 to 10 minutes or more and then
staying in Sarvangasana for 5 to 10 more minutes, if one can do
inversions.

Paschimatanasana, Sarvangaana and Headstand are to be
practiced preferably daily for their health benefits.

If time permits one may do few vinyasas in these inversions.

Maha Mudra
Mahamudra for about 5 minutes each on both sides can then be
practiced.

Kapalabhati, 
say for about 108 times

Pranayama,
Ujjayi, Nadisodhana or Viloma with
or without mantras for about 15 minutes

Shanmukhmudra
to be followed by five minutes
Shanmukhimudra

Meditative practice
chanting or meditation of about 15 minutes.

Peace Chant
It is customary to end the practice with peace chant.




If interested, one may allocate an additional 30 minutes (or practice
at another time in the day, say, in the evening) during which time one
may practice a few subroutines from the other scores of sequences that
have not been included in this core yoga practice.

*

Handy print out version





Monday, 23 December 2013

Ashtanga Vinyasa Count - suspending the count

The Count
I've bumped up against the 'count' a couple of times this week ( and this post is in no way intended as a criticism, more supplimentary). I seem to have a different view on it than many, I'm sure I just picked it up from somewhere so let me know if reading this you remember somebody, Richard Freeman perhaps saying something similar (and if you can find me quotes even better).

The count, I'm referring to is of course the vinyasa count that we find in Pattabhi Jois' book Yoga Mala but we also find it in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda, in fact Pattabhi Jois' style of writing Yoga Mala asana descriptions seems to be based on the approach of Krishnamacharya.

The vinyasa count often seems to be presented as fixed, I used to think of it as the tyranny of the count. Not necessarily a bad thing though as there's a tendency in the beginning to faff about in our practice, the count can keep us focused.

However, something interesting happens half way through the count.....it's suspended.

You follow the vinyasa to the posture then the count is put on hold while you stay in the posture for five, perhaps, eight, perhaps ten breaths, even  fifteen or twenty-five depending on the posture, and also when you were taught the practice and who from. Back in the day there was supposedly ten breaths in the seated postures, that seems to have been dropped to eight and then five. I liked practicing with Manju, he doesn't seem to count the breaths while in the posture which allows me to take three long slow breaths where perhaps others in the room are taking five quicker ones.

So the count can be suspended.....

The count appears to be there to indicate the relationship between the movement and the stage of the breath, it can go so far as to indicate the inhalation and the exhalation, odd numbers seem to be inhalation, even numbers exhalation. In krishnamacharya that might also give a clue to the kumbhaka (breath retention), puraka kumbhaka often after inhalation when the head is up, rechaka kumbhaka often after the exhalation when the head is down.

But Krishnamacharya often talks about practicing kumbhaka's at different points of the posture's vinyasa suggesting that the count might be suspended at different places to spend more time on the breath. I've highlighted one example below, where jumping through to dandasana the count is suspended to engage in puraka kumbhaka.

"Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose". yoga makaranda - Krishnamacharya

"Then, doing puraka and with only the strength of the arms, jump the legs between the hands without allowing them to touch the floor, and stretch out the legs. Then press the hands to the floor on either side of the hips, straighten the chest and waist, lower the head a little, draw the anus up tightly, lift the lower abdomen and hold firmly, and sit erect, slowly doing rechaka and puraka as much as possible; this constitutes the 7th vinyasa". Yoga Mala - Jois

Jois refers to this suspension of the count, dandasana, as the seventh vinyasa. So there's a suspension of the count at the 7th vinyasa  and also at the the 9th, the asana proper.

"Then, doing puraka slowly, then rechaka, straighten both legs, and place the head between the knees; this is the 9th vinyasa and the state of the asana. While in the state, do puraka and rechaka slowly and deeply, as much as possible". Yoga mala - Jois

Actually for me, every stage of the vinyasa is an asana, we have to make up those 84, 000 asanas somehow, Krishnamacharya even treats each stage of the surynamaskara as an individual asana, each gets a full description

Dandasana is perhaps an obvious example, but in Yoga Makaranda we find several examples of this, hunt through your Yoga Mala and see if you can find examples there too. What your looking for are places in the vinyasa count where it's suggested one takes extra breaths, look at kukkutasana perhaps, baddha konasana, anything?

This doesn't strike me as new or controversial, we all need to adjust our practice especially as we are learning new postures or working with challenging ones. What's important I think is the attitude we take, do we try and rush into the posture sacrificing our breath to keep up with the count (and the rest of the class) or do we take the time we need suspending the count to work into our postures with the integrity of each inhalation and exhalation maintained before picking the count back up on the appropriate inhalation or exhalation.

In my own practice with my old knee injury I need to take extra breaths folding my left leg in and out of lotus or baddha konasana. I take extra breaths but not quick ones while trying to rush into the posture. I tend to suspend the count but not the integrity of the breath. So I will stop the count, and take two or three extra breaths, long full deep inhalations and exhalations linking my movements as I work my leg deeper into half lotus....Once there I'll pick up the count again.

You might wish to do the same as you work your way into marichiyasana D, suspend the count and then take a couple of formalised breaths as you work yourself deeper into the bind, once there take your five breaths or even perhaps one good one if your in a led class and wanting to catch up then pick up the count along with everyone else.

Much better than trying to wrench yourself into a posture to keep up with the group.

Lets look at Paschimottanasana in the texts as many of the later asana get referred back to the vinyasa count for this one.

Pattabhi Jois in Yoga Mala

PASCHIMATTANASANA

Sharath demonstrating in the later editions of the book

There are sixteen vinyasas to this asana. The 9th is its state (see figures).
METHOD
To begin, follow the first Surya Namaskara through the 6th vinyasa. Then, doing puraka and with only the strength of the arms, jump the legs between the hands without allowing them to touch the floor, and stretch out the legs. Then press the hands to the floor on either side of the hips, straighten the chest and waist, lower the head a little, draw the anus up tightly, lift the lower abdomen and hold firmly, and sit erect, slowly doing rechaka and puraka as much as possible; this constitutes the 7th vinyasa. Next, doing rechaka, grasp and hold the upper parts of the feet; this is the 8th vinyasa (as your practice becomes firm, you should be able to lock your hands behind your feet). Then, doing puraka slowly, then rechaka, straighten both legs, and place the head between the knees;
this is the 9th vinyasa and the state of the asana. While in the state, do puraka and rechaka slowly and deeply, as much as possible. Then, slowly doing puraka, lift only the head; this is the 10th vinyasa. Next, doing rechaka and then puraka, let go of the feet, press the hands to the floor, bend the legs, and lift the entire body up off the floor merely with the strength of the arms; this is the 11th vinyasa. The remaining vinyasas are the same as those for the Surya Namaskara.

There are three types of Paschimattanasana: 1) holding the big toes and touching the nose to the knees; 2) holding on to either side of the feet and touching the nose to the knees; and 3) locking the hand and wrist beyond the feet, and touching the chin to the knee. All three types should be practiced, as each is useful.

BENEFITS
The practice of this asana helps the stomach to become slender by dissolving its fat. It also increases jathara agni [the fire of hunger], helps food to digest well, and strengthens the organs of the digestive systems ( jir-nanga kosha). In addition, it cures weakness in the hands and legs resulting from a loss of appetite and low digestive fire, as well as indolence and giddiness stemming from an aberration in the liver, and gas problems in the stomach".


....and here's Krishnamacharya from Yoga Makaranda (1934) While in Mysore and teaching the young Pattabhi Jois

Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana


This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.

The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose. After this extend both arms out towards the feet (the legs are already extended in front). Clasp the big toes of the feet tightly with the first three fingers (thumb, index, middle) of the hands such that the left hand holds the left big toe and the right hand holds the right big toe. Do not raise the knees even slightly. Then, pull in the stomach while doing recaka, lower the head and press the face down onto the knee. The knees should not rise from the ground in this sthiti either. This is the 9th vinyasa. This is called pascimottanasana. In the beginning, everybody will find it very difficult. The nerves in the back, the thighs and the backs of the knees will feel as though they are being fiercely pulled and this will be extremely painful. The pain will remain for 8 days. After this, the pulling on the nerves will release and it will be possible to do the asana without any problem. This pascimottanasana has many forms. After first practising this asana with the face pressed onto the knee, practise it with the chin placed on the knee and then eventually with it placed 3 angulas below the knee on the calf. In the 10th vinyasa raise the head. In the 11th vinyasa, keeping the hands firmly pressed on the ground, raise the entire body o the ground and balance it in the air without touching the ground. The 11th vinyasa is called uthpluthi. The 12th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana. The 13th is urdhvamukhasvanasana. The 14th is adhomukhasvanasana. The 15th is the first vinyasa of uttanasana. The 16th vinyasa is the 2nd vinyasa of uttanasana. Afterwards, return to samasthiti. You should learn the intricacies of this vinyasa only from a guru.

Benefit: This will cure all diseases related to the stomach.
This asana can be done on the floor or on a mat according to the capabilities of one’s body. Learn some of the other forms of pascimottanasana krama by studying the pictures carefully. Pregnant women should not do this asana. But this can be done up to the third month of pregnancy. For men, there are no restrictions to practising this asana. If this is practised every day without fail for 15 minutes, all the bad diseases of the stomach will be removed.

****

ON THE SAME PAGE

PS. Seems like it was a good conference from Sharath in Mysore yesterday, see these two posts for conference reports, hoping somebody recorded and will transcribe this one, curious about his actual wording.


"Swadhyaya means self-study, but not in terms of studying on our own but rather to dig deeper and enquire beyond asana practice and see how the physical practice is connected to the spiritual. The teacher, Sharath said, will teach you for 2 hours in the morning but after that you need to go home and continue your practice (non-physical) for the rest of the day. You need to look at your mind (introspection) and do research and read lots of yogic books. Reading these books brings a lot of knowledge. The student should put in the effort to acquire knowledge – but many students do not. Instead they socialize on the Internet, hang at the Coconut stand or other places. But it’s only if you put in the extra effort to go beyond the 2 hours of asana that you will go deeper in yoga. Asana practice calms the mind but only by continuing the effort to practice all the limbs of Ashtanga yoga and do research into yourself and ancient yoga texts will make you see how your practice is connected to the spiritual side".

"
Spirituality has nothing to do with religion. Religions started often like this. You believe someone else’s experience instead of finding it inside of yourself."

And Suzy's typically extensive treatment just in
Conference – Kriya Yoga – 22nd December 2013

*

Now if Sharath would only let me practice this slowly and take my kumbhaka's.....and take bookings this late

PPS
Running late for practice and started to rush M's sandwich/wrap (feta, sundries tomato, kalamata olives, spicy pesto, gem lettuce) but then remembered that this yoga is supposed to follow us through out the day both before and after our practice (Kriya Yoga, thank you Sharath for the reminder) , slowed back down, tied the bow around her wrap on the breath with the integrity of loving intact, it's Christmas, don't skimp on the loving'.


Saw a post yesterday about whether buddhists celebrate Christmas, everyday they celebrate Christmas, loving Kindness, generosity, giving... what tradition doesn't.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

HD version of Krishnamacharya Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama practice - Why so slow

I managed to upload the HD version of the video I posted yesterday, I'm posting it again because it's been playing on my mind, I was a little shocked watching it back. Oscar mentioned in a comment that in the speeded up x4  version I posted yesterday he's moving quickly but it looks as if I'm practicing at regular speed. I am practicing excruciatingly slowly, if not for Oscar the video would be unwatchable, like watching grass grow or paint dry.....

And yet it doesn't feel that slow when I'm practicing, I mean, I know it's slow but I'm stunned watching this back how slow it actually is. It makes Oscar's Vinyasa Krama look brisk. I thought it would have been nice to have one of Oscar's Ashtangi's practicing along with us in the middle.

Why is it so slow?

Krishnamacharya writes about long slow breathing, like the pouring of oil, he writes about full breathing, my inhalations are around 8-10 seconds, I try to keep my exhalations the same.
Krishnamacharya includes 2-5 second Kumbhaka (breath retention) in his asana descriptions, if the head is up in a posture or perhaps before going into a posture then more often than not there's puraka kumbhaka, if the head is down then rechaka kumbhaka. In the second version of dandasana with which the video opens I'm employing puraka kumbhaka, holding the breath in for around five seconds. In the book krishnamacharya seems to include coming up out of forward bending postures for the full inhalations.

Krishnamacharya's asana practice becomes a pranayama practice.

Krishnamacharya describes full vinyasa in the Yoga Makaranda descriptions, so there's a coming back to standing, that makes sense to me in such a slow practice, I want to stretch the posture out with the vinyasa after staying so long. It's intense, the kumbhaka certainly keeps you warm

What to make of this, who would want to practice this slowly, it's limiting. If you only have an hour you won't get through many asana (not necessarily a bad thing, practice half a series). The full practice took around two and a half hours and I had to cut back on my pranayama but then perhaps there had been enough pranayama in the asana practice already, perhaps half an hour of nadi shodana,  rounds it off nicely. Krishnamacharya includes a chakra focus in asana in Yoga makaranda that I'm only just beginning to explore so perhaps a little Japa meditation to close and I'm good to go. Three hours? Cut back a few asana to bring it down to two?

Watching this I wonder if anyone else would want to practice this way and yet I feel strongly somebody at least should. I've been exploring it off and on ( more and more on recently) for a year and a half, I'm settling in to it. This is such an intense practice and shouldn't be buried away in an old text, a museum piece, it should be a living tradition.

Did Krishnamacharya actually practice like this himself, we know he only had an hour lesson with the boys of the Mysore palace, it's unlikely it was this slow, Vinyasa Krama as we can see is faster, again perhaps because of the time limitations of a lesson. In the 1938 demonstration the asana flow into one another but then that was a demonstration.

But surely he must have practiced this slowly, at least for a time, otherwise why write Yoga Makaranda in this way, why want to share the practice in this way. Yoga Makaranda was Krishnamacharya's first book, as far as he knew it might have been the only book he would publish and there is at times a non compromising attitude to the text.

Watching this back I feel ever more strongly that Mark Singleton is mistaken regarding the influence of western gymnastics on Krishnamacharya's practice. It's not the international fitness movement influencing Krishnamacharya here but traditional pranayama practice brought into asana, surely it's that which most characterises this approach to practice.

Below is the Youtube description.

Video Description
Oscar and I practicing alone in his studio Yoga Centro Victoria in Leon, Spain, recorded on my Krishnamacharya workshop last weekend. Oscar is on the left practicing Vinyasa Krama along the lines of that taught to Ramaswami in the 1950's-80's. I'm on the right practicing excruciatingly slowly employing kumbhaka's (breath retention) following the asana instructions found for the Primary group of asana in Krishnamacharya's 1934-38 'Mysore book' Yoga Makaranda, written while Krishnamacharya was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois. The Video is of part of the seated section of our practice.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu - the extra asana (descriptions taken from his other works).

NOTE: Krishnamacharya wrote Yogasanagalu in 1941 while still in Mysore and while still teaching the young Pattabhi Jois. These 'extra' asana in Yogasanagalu ( the earlier asana in the book are lifted from Krishnamacharya's 1934 book Yoga Makaranda) seem to have been added in a latter reprint of Yogasanagalu, most likely 1972. However, we know from Indra Devi's account of her period of studying with Krishnamacharya in 1937 as well as the 1938 video of Krishnamacharya himself practicing, that he was teaching both the Ashtanga vinyasa approach we are familiar with from Yoga Makaranda (1934) and later the teaching of Pattabhi Jois as well as a Vinyasa Krama approach familiar from Srivatsa Ramaswami's, Desikachar and Mohan's teaching. Both approaches to asana seem then to have gone hand in hand, were taught at the same time, and may well be considered to be consistent with, as well as complimentary to, each other rather than the more prevalent opinion that there was a transition in Krishnamacharya's teaching from one style/approach to another. 

I recently heard from Satya ( who is translating the Yogasanagalu 1941 for us), he mentioned that we are well into the last section of Yogasanagalu just a few extra postures and then nadishodana and that he planned on skipping the extra asana for now and moving on to the nadishodana pranayama.

He mentioned that we probably had outlines of the postures mentioned to be going on with. If you remember the other postures mentioned in Yogasanagalu are lifted directly from Krishnamacharya's earlier book Yoga Makaranda 1934.

Here's Satya's recent mail to me.

"I don't think I mentioned it when I completed the last segment.  The next section is descriptions of asanas in the order below (photos 1 - 16)
Dandasana 1
Dandasana 2
Pashchimatanasana
Poorvatanasana
Chatushtapeeta
Navasana
Ardabaddha paschimatanasana part 1
Ardabaddha paschimatanasana part 2
Matsyendrasana
Adhama matsyendrasana

Followed by last section on Nadhishodhana pranayama 

Nothing new in these sections that you haven't already seen in other works.   
Satya"

To mark Krishnamacharya's birth, he would have been 125 today, I thought I would fish out the descriptions we have for the postures Satya mentions that are added to the end of Yogasanagalu and see what we do actually have available from his other works.

Here are the pictures ( if I'm not mistaken krishnamacharya is in hi 90's in these), just the first sixteen mentioned above (plus two extras).





See here for our ongoing translation of Yogasanagalu page
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/yogasanagalu-translation-project.html

and here for the free downloads of Yoga makaranda parts 1 and 2 and much more besides
Free Downloads
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/free-downloads.html

Here are the descriptions I found. Most of these come from Yoga Makaranda part II, made available by AG Mohen (a different ordering of the text circulated by Krishnamacharya's students that had come to be known as Salutations to the Teacher).

Dandasana 1
Dandasana 2
Pashchimatanasana
Poorvatanasana
Chatushtapeeta
Navasana
Ardabaddha paschimatanasana part 1
Ardabaddha paschimatanasana part 2
Matsyendrasana
Adhama matsyendrasana

Dandasana 1



from Yoga Makaranda

DANDASANA: With the arms stretched and the palms flat on the ground by the side of the body. Six rounds of deep breathing with ANTAR and BAHYA kumbhakam of one second each, each round.

Dandasana 2 ?



Pashchimatanasana


from Yoga Makaranda

8 Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana (Figure 4.19 — 4.28)
This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.
The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose. After this extend both arms out towards the feet (the legs are already extended in front). Clasp the big toes of the feet tightly with the first three fingers (thumb, index, middle) of the hands such that the left hand holds the left big toe and the right hand holds the right big toe. Do not raise the knees even slightly. Then, pull in the stomach while doing recaka, lower the head and press the face down onto the knee. The knees should not rise from the ground in this sthiti either. This is the 9th vinyasa. This is called pascimottanasana. In the beginning, everybody will find it very di⇥cult. The nerves in the back, the thighs and the backs of the knees will feel as though they are being fiercely pulled and this will be extremely painful. The pain will remain for 8 days. After this, the pulling on the nerves will release and it will be possible to do the asana without any problem. This pascimottanasana has many forms. After first practising this asana with the face pressed onto the knee, practise it with the chin placed on the knee and then eventually with it placed 3 angulas below the knee on the calf. In the 10th vinyasa raise the head. In the 11th vinyasa, keeping the hands firmly pressed on the ground, raise the entire body o the ground and balance it in the air without touching the ground. The 11th vinyasa is called uthpluthi. The 12th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana. The 13th is urdhvamukhasvanasana. The 14th is adhomukhasvanasana. The 15th is the first vinyasa of uttanasana. The 16th vinyasa is the 2nd vinyasa of uttanasana. Afterwards, return to samasthiti. You should learn the intricacies of this vinyasa only from a guru.
Benefit: This will cure all diseases related to the stomach.
This asana can be done on the floor or on a mat according to the capabilities of one’s body. Learn some of the other forms of pascimottanasana krama by studying the pictures carefully. Pregnant women should not do this asana. But this can be done up to the third month of pregnancy. For men, there are no restrictions to practising this asana. If this is practised every day without fail for 15 minutes, all the bad diseases of the stomach will be removed.


from Yoga Makaranda part 2

40. PASCHIMATANASANAA Preliminary Exercise
While the exercise mentioned below, has not been prescribed in any of the old treatises on asanas, I have found, by experience, that a preliminary practice of this exercise makes it easy for the Paschimata and Purvatan asana positions being attained.


Technique:

1. Sit on the ground, with both legs stretched in front, knees together, and feet perpendicular to the ground. Sit erect and keep spine stretched.
2. Stretch the arms and catch hold of the toes by the thumb and forefinger of the hands.
3. While exhaling, bend the trunk as far forward as possible, keeping the spine
stretched.
4. While inhaling, lift the trunk and bring the body to the erect position of step (2).
5. Swing the stretched arms to either side of the body, till the arms are in a straight line
at the shoulder level. By a rotary movement of the stretched arms round the shoulder joint, first move them upwards, then forwards and then backwards and place the palms, fingers pointing to the front, above 12 inches behind the buttocks and about 18 inches apart. Keep the arms stretched.
6. While inhaling, lift the body, so that it rests on the palms and heels and is as straight as a plank. Bend the head backwards and stretch the feet so that the toes are pointed.
7. While exhaling, lower the body and reach position in step (5).
8. Bring the stretched arms to either side of the body, till they are in a straight line at
the shoulder level. Twist the arms so that the palms face upwards and rotate the arms first upwards till the arms are upright and then move them forward to catch hold of the toes by the thumb and forefinger of the hands and thus get into position in step (2).
9. Go through this cycle of movement and regulated breathing.


Note:
It may be difficult, especially in the case of those with fatty bodies, either to catch hold of the toes in step 2 & 8 or raise the body sufficiently high till it is as straight as a plank in step 6. No attempt should be made to reach these positions by unduly straining the body. It is enough to make these movements to the extent possible. In the case of step 6 undue strain will be indicated by the arms beginning to shake. By practice the body will become supple and the final positions reached in course of time.

41. PASCHIMATANASANA
Technique:

     
1. Sit on the ground, with both legs stretched in front, knee together, and feet perpendicular to the ground. Sit erect and spine stretched.

2.     Stretch the arms and catch hold of the feet, by making the palms of the hands rest on the toes of the feet, and the fingers of the hands touch the soles of the feet.
3. Chin lock the chest forward.
4. While exhaling, bend trunk forward at the hip keeping the spine straight, till the
forehead touches the knee.
Note: For beginners it may be difficult to catch hold of the feet by the hands. Even if this is possible it may be difficult to bend the trunk so that the forehead touches the knees. Every attempt should be made to reach these positions, but if these are not attainable, make these movements as far as possible, and avoid undue strain. With the breath regulation to be mentioned below, the positions will become easier as practice advances. When practice has further advanced, effort should be made when bending the trunk, to make the forehead ouch the shin as far away from the knees as possible.

5.    Take not more than 12 deep breaths. In the beginning one should start with 3 deep breaths and slowly increase it to the 12 mentioned above.

6.     While inhaling, life trunk.
Note: In the case of all TAN asanas it is important that the counter pose is done immediately after. The appropriate counter pose is given after each asana. TAN asanas are those which stretch the nerves e.g., PASCHIMATANASANA stretches and straightens up the nerves on the backside of the body, while PURVATANASANA the appropriate counter pose, stretches the nerves on the front side of the body.


A variation to the above asana which is somewhat more difficult is given below. This is attributed to Gorakshanath.


Technique:
1. This is the same as given under Paschimatanasana.
2. Place the palms with fingers to the front, about 12 inches behind the buttocks and
about 18 inches apart. Stretch the arms.

3. While exhaling, bend trunk forward at the hips, keeping the spine straight, till the forehead touches the knees or as low down on the shin as possible. The knees should be kept together and not raised from the ground.
4. Take deep breaths.
5. While inhaling, lift the trunk to the position in step 2.

PASCHIMATANASANA - Final pose

This can be practised only after mastering Sarvangasana. Halasana, Parsva Halasana Uttana Mayurasana, Paschimatanasana Purvatanasana etc.


Technique:

1. Sit on the ground, with both legs stretched in front, knees together, and feet perpendicular to the ground. Sit erect and spine stretched.

2.     While exhaling the trunk is twisted to the leg and bent forward at the hips. The right hand catches the left foot on the outer side and the left hand on the outer side of the right foot. Please note carefully the position of the hands in the illustration. In this position the right shoulder touches the right knee cap and the trunk gets a 90 degree twist to the left so that the line joining the shoulders is at right angles to the ground.
3. Take three deep breaths.
4. While inhaling, get back to position in step (1).
5. Repeat on the other side.

Purvatanasana


from yoga Makaranda part 2

42. PURVATANASANA

This is the counter pose to Paschimatanasana and should be practiced immediately after it.

Technique:

1. Sit on the ground, with both legs stretched in front, knees together and toes pointed. Sit erect and with spine stretched.

2. Place the palms with fingers to the front, about 12 inches behind the buttocks and about 18 inches apart. Stretch the arms.

3. While inhaling, lift the body supporting it on the palms and the heels. The body should be straight as a plank and kept stretched. Bend the head backwards as far as possible. This stretches all the nerves on the front side of the body.
4. While exhaling, lower the body to the position mentioned in step 2.
5. Do three rounds.
Note:
It may be difficult, especially in the case of those with fatty bodies, to raise the body sufficiently high in step 3, to make the body straight as a plank. Undue strain should be carefully avoided, and it is enough if the body is lifted to the extent that it is conveniently possible. Undue strain will be indicated by the arms beginning to shake. As practice advances the final position will become possible.

Chatushtapeeta ?



Navasana ?


from Yoga Makaranda

20 Navasana (Figure 4.59, 4.60)
This has 13 vinyasas. In this asana, we need to keep our bodies like a boat (look at the picture). In the 7th vinyasa, maintain the position observed in the picture. That is, only the seat on the back of the body must be on the floor and all the other parts of the body must be raised o the ground. Similarly raise both legs o the ground, keeping them extended. Extend the shoulders out in front, extend the arms forward and place the palms on each leg not quite touching the knees. This is called paripurna navasana (Figure 63).
In the 7th vinyasa, lie down just as in supta padangushtasana, raise the ex- tended legs o the ground. Join the hands and interlace the fingers behind the neck, placing the head on the palms and hold the head tightly with the clasped hands. Then, as observed in the picture, raise the upper body halfway using the back and stop. This is called ardha navasana (Figure 64).

Ardabaddha paschimatanasana part 1


from Yoga Makaranda part 2

43. ARDHA BADDHA PADMA PASCHIMATANASANA


Technique:
1. Sit upright on the ground.
2. Stretch the right leg in front of the body. The leg should be kept stretched, toes
pointed, the back of the thigh, calf and heel touching the ground. Knees should not be raised throughout this asana. This position of the right leg should be maintained undisturbed throughout this asana.

3.      Place the left foot on the right thigh as near the groin as possible, the heel should be to the right of the navel and as near to it as possible, the sole of the foot upturned, the toes pointed and the muscles stretched. The outer side of the left knee and the left thigh should touch the ground. The two knees should be as close as possible.

4.      While exhaling, stretch the spine, keep the body upright, and take the left hand round the back and catch hold of the big toe of the left foot with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand.
The trunk should not be twisted to the left but kept facing the front.

5.       Inhale and then while exhaling, stretch the right arm and catch hold of the big toe of the right foot with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. If it is possible, and it becomes easy with practise, the fingers of the right hand may encircle the right foot.

6.      Throw the chest forward, chin lock, keep eyes closed, stretch the spine, and take two deep breaths with rubbing sensation in the throat. The breathing is done by both nostrils, and effort is taken to make the inhaling and exhaling as slow, thin and long as possible.

7.      While exhaling, slightly twist the trunk to the right and slowly lower the trunk by bending the body at the hips without arching the spine, till the forehead touches the right kneecap. As practice advances attempt should be made for the forehead to progressively touch the shin beyond the knee and nearer the ankles.

8.      Take two or three deep breaths. This is for beginners, as practice advances, the number may be slowly increased to not more than six. Normally no retention of breath is necessary. But as practice advances, breath may be retained after inhalation and breath may be kept out after exhalation for one second each.
9. While inhaling, lift the trunk and come back to the position in step (5).
10. Repeat on the left side.

Benefits:
This asana tones up the liver, spleen and the intestines by the internal massage of these parts during controlled breathing. The waist line is reduced and the spinal column strengthened. It gives relief to those suffering from chronic stomach ache and cures the disorder.

Ardabaddha paschimatanasana part 2 ?

Matsyendrasana

Adhama matsyendrasana


from Yoga Makaranda Part 2

31. ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA - Section A.

Technique:
1. Sit erect, with both legs stretched in front.
2. Bend one leg, say the right, at the knees, and place the foot of the right leg on the left
thigh, so that the heel of the right foot is as near the naval as possible. The tendency of the stretched leg to twist to the left should be resisted. The foot of the left leg should be perpendicular to the ground. The knees should not be more than 12 inches apart.

3.      Exhale slowly, and twist the trunk to the left, keeping the spine erect. Take the left hand behind the back so that the fingers of the left hand may catch hold of the right leg at the shin, just above the ankle.
4. Twist the head to the left so that the chin is above the left shoulder.
5. The right hand is stretched and the outside of the left foot is caught hold of by the
palm of the right hand. The fingers of the right hand should touch the sole of the left foot. In this position the shoulder blades and right arms will be in a straight line.

6. The eyes should gaze at the tip of the nose in the case of married people. In the case of those who are unmarried the gaze may be to the midpoint of the eyebrows.

7. Take deep breaths. Not more than three at the beginning stages. The number may be slowly increased to twelve as practice advances.

8. Repeat on the other side.


Note: It is important that the counter pose should be done soon after the above asana is completed. The counter pose BADDHA PADMASANA, will be described later.


32. ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA - Section B

Technique:
1.    Sit upright, with both legs stretched in front. Bend one of the legs, say the right, at the knee and bring the heel below the seat. The outside of the knee and the thigh should touch the ground. Bend the left leg and place the left foot by the side of the right knee and to the right of it. The left foot will be firmly placed flat on the ground and left foreleg will be perpendicular to the ground.
2.     While exhaling, twist the trunk to the left and bring the stretched right arms so that the armpit is above the left thigh and the left knee touches the outside of the right upper arms and fingers of the right hand catch hold of the left foot.
Note: It should be carefully noted that to avoid danger to the elbow of the right arm, the right elbow reaches a position below the left knee as low as possible. See the illustration and note the position carefully.
3.     The left arm is taken round the back, so that fingers touch the right thigh. Care should be taken that the spine is kept erect.
4. Turn the head to the left so that the chin is near the left shoulder.
5. Take three deep breaths.
6. Repeat on the other side.

Note: The deep breaths should be taken without retention of breath and without strain to the lungs.
As a variation, to make the asana somewhat easier, the heel of the right leg instead of being placed below the seat, may be placed a bit to the left so that balancing is easier in the final position.
Benefits: This is of special benefit to those suffering from stomach complaints. This rapidly reduces the waistline.

************

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Facts/stories - Seven years in Tibet: Krishnamacharya in the Himalayas with his Guru.....Where exactly?

On an recent post ' The Old man of Hassan', about the possibility of a lost student of Krishnamacharya's pre Mysore teaching, it was suggested in a comment that I should just get in touch and check the facts. Good advice indeed and I usually tend to spend quite some time researching most of the historical posts I put up here, they are still always full of speculation but not without some supporting evidence at least.

The Old man of Hassan post was a bit of fun though, here's my response to the comment.

"I could (get in touch and check the facts) but where's the fun in that Enrique, there is a time for facts and a time for romance, the idea of 'The old man of Hassan' is romance.,
Here's a thought, what if Krishnamacharya had never met the Maharaja, perhaps HE, Krishnamacharya, would have been the Old man of Hassan, or if the young Pattabhi Jois hadn't run off to Mysore, maybe the old man of Hassan would have been him (Pattabhi Jois went to High School in Hassan), or perhaps going by yoginigabi's comment above it could be an old Woman of Hassan rather than an old man. Besides I've been in this game long enough to not lay much store by facts, I've come to the conclusion there are stories and there is practice.

There is a great line from the classic Western, The man who shot Liberty Valance

Ransom Stoddard: You're not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Romance, stories, facts and legends..... does anything sum that up better, in our line of work/interest, than the Story of the young Krishnamacharya going to the Himalayas, to find his guru in a cave by Lake Manasarova and studying Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga with him for seven and a half years.

It is the source of our Ashtanga Vinyasa lineage ( and of many of the other spin-off styles), Pattabhi Jois was taught by Krishnamacharya who was taught by Rama Mohana Brahmacharya in a cave in the Himalaya's, Rama Mohana Brahmacharya was taught by...... well, we don't know.

But is this Seven years in Tibet fact, fiction, a little of both....

I stumbled across this stunningly beautiful video of the lake recently and there's a cave! The first thing to go through my mind was Rama Mohana Brahmacharya cave?



Below we have the story supposedly in Krishnamacharya's own words, or in translation at least.
"The Viceroy sent three aides with me. This was some time in 1919. The expense of the journey was covered by the British government. Clothes of leather were made to order to protect us from the cold. On the trail we came across a recluse named Pilmugi living in a cave. We stayed in the cave with him for several days, and then continued on our journey. We reached Manasasarovar and from there went on to Mela Parvatham. We had dharsan of Thirayambaka Narayana and finally reached the dwelling place of Rama Mohana Brahmacharya who was to be my Guru. We had been walking for two and a half months".

from The King and the Young Man
AYS Ashtanga Yoga Sangha

I've always had the romantic image of Krishnamacharya living in a cave for seven and a half years with his guru learning about yoga, doing his practice down by the lake, melting the snow with his pranayama. But look again at the passage from the interview.

"We reached Manasasarovar and from there went on to Mela Parvatham. We had dharsan of Thirayambaka Narayana and finally reached the dwelling place of Rama Mohana Brahmacharya who was to be my Guru".

Interestingly this is left out from the old KYM biography of Krishnamacharya (Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan) which seems to have been based on the same interview. Instead we get

"Krishnamacharya set out for nepal and visited the MUktinarayana Shrine and bathed at the origin of the river Gandaki. here he picked a Saligrama. He continued his journey and reached Manasarovar after twenty two days having trekked 211 miles

Krishnamacharya went searching for the ashram of Rama Mohana Brahmacari. In a cave, a very tall hermit with a long beard, wearing wooden shoes, stood at the entrance. it was evident to krishnamacharya that this was his guru"

The next paragraph begins with "The master took Krishnamacharya to the Manasarove Lake and showed him round the place".

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend?

No mention of Mela Parvatham ( Parvatham festival) not in Desikachar's Biography of Krishnamacharya or the one by the grandson either.

We are left with the image of Krishnamacharya living with his guru in a cave by a lake but it appears he traveled further on from the cave to meet and live with his Guru. There's reference to Parvatham (five peaks) in connection to the shrines at Kedernath and Jyotirmath both with shrines and temples where festivals are celebrated.

"We reached Manasasarovar and from there went on to Mela Parvatham. We had dharsan of Thirayambaka Narayana and finally reached the dwelling place of Rama Mohana Brahmacharya who was to be my Guru".



"Kedarnath is situated in the Himalayan slopes in the Gharwal district of Uttar Pradesh. The uniqueness and greatness of this temple sees mention in the vedas, ithihaasaas, epics.

The term Kedara for the Lord denotes
* The Lord who holds the holy Ganges in his matted locks & allows it to flow evenly to the world. 
* It could also mean the mark that is left on the Lord's head from the time when Arjuna got the Paasupathastram.

This shrine is located at an elevation of 11,735 feet above sea level. The region of the Himlayas, where the shrine is located is known by several names such as Gandhamadana parvatham, Sumera parvatham, Pancha parvatham, etc. (Pancha parvatham, for this is the spot of five sacred peaks namely Rudra Himalayas, Vishnupuri, Brahmapuri, Udayagiri & Swargarohini.

The exterior of the temple is rather simple, but the interior is adorned with marvellous sculptures. In the garba griha is an irregular shaped conical rock which is about five feet by four feet. Lord Siva in the form of jyotirlingam is worshipped here as Lord Kedareshwar. It is believed that the jotirlingam is actually the rump of the bull, which was the form that Lord Siva assumed, when the Pandavas tried to reach him to atone the sins of the Kurukshetra war. Since it was not time designated for humans to worship the Lord here, Lord Siva tried to go away in the form of a bull. It is believed that temple structure that exists till date was actually the one constructed by the Pandavas.

The sannadhi of the Lord is facing South. There are the idols of Kedaragowri, Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, Vinayagar, Veerabadrar, Kaarthikeyan, Nandi.. The shrine is covered by snow for 6 months in a year (closed from Oct-Nov upto Apr-May). It is believed that this is the time when the Devas are worshipping the Lord.
There is mountain path called Sorga Vaasal, through which the Pandavas, Sankaracharyar are supposed to have gone through. he river Mandakini flows down from near this area".

*

Perhaps it was here or somewhere like it rather than on the shores of the lake that Krishnamacharya stayed with his Guru.

Notice though that the paths are closed six months a year and yet Krishnamacharya was supposed to have travelled back to visit and 'treat' the British Viceroy every three months as per their (visa) agreement. That would make it difficult. Did krishnamacharya stay with his Guru for an uninterrupted seven and a half years or did he travel back and forth avoiding the winter months when travel would have been almost impossible.  

How long did he actually spend with Rama Mohana Brahmacharya an uninterrupted seven and a half years or for a number of months over seven and a half years. Did he visit him perhaps as the Western Ashtangi's visited Mysore in the early days of the old, small shala?


A: Shimla ( summer residence of British Viceroy) B: Lake Manasasarovar  C:  Joshimath (mela parvatham?)
How long did krishnamacharya actually spend with his teacher, just the summer months? he could perhaps have gone in the spring, as soon as the journey became possible come back after three months gone back again for another three months and come back just before winter made the trip impossible. But remember Krishnamacharya was walking, how long would that journey have taken? 

"He continued his journey and reached Manasarovar after twenty two days having trekked 211 miles".

The journey from Shimla ( summer residence of British Viceroy) to Manasarovar took 22 days and then a few more days to travel on to his Guru's cave, although he would surely have taken a more direct route now he knew where his teacher lived, either way, what's that a month round trip?

Notice that Shimla was the Summer residence of the British Viceroy.

So perhaps Krishnamacharya left Shimla for the Mountains after winter as soon as the journey became possible, stayed for a couple of months with his teacher, made the trip back to visit the viceroy again before making another trip to his teacher.

"I've come to the conclusion there are stories and there is practice, I love the stories but I love my practice more".

Perhaps the stories don't matter, perhaps origins don't matter, whatever the stories we still have to fit them to our own experience, are they true... to us, in our practice.

But as stories go......

Here's the full Himalaya section from The King and The Young Man.

The Final Goal

It was surprising to listen as Krishnamacharya recalled these memories of names and places without the slightest hesitation. But how did he master the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali and the Yoga Rahasya of Nathamuni?How is it possible that still today he is a wonderfully expert teacherof Yoga? When asked these questions he answered simply, "For this also Mahamahopadyaya Ganganath Jha has my lasting gratitude."

Ganganath Jha had the title of Yogacharya (Teacher of Yoga). When Krishnamacharya sought his guidance, Jha asked him if he was sure he had a serious inclination to learn Yoga. Krishnamacharya was still hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. He told Ganganath Jha that this indeed was his ambition. It was, after all, his father who had first advised him to master the Yoga Sutra. He recalls today that Ganganath Jha said to him, "If you really want to master Yoga you must travel beyond Nepal for that is where Yogeswarar Rama Mohana Brahmacharya is living. In the Gurkha language there is a book called 'Yoga Gurandam'. In that book you can find practical information such as Yoga practices which give health benefits. If you go to Rama Mohana you can learn the complete meaning of the Yoga Sutra." When he heard this, Krishnamacharya was eager to attain this new goal. He wanted to travel with the speed of thought, but there was to be a delay.

It happened that at that time Lord Irwin was Viceroy. His Headquarterswere in Simla. Ganganath Jha wrote to the Viceroy recommending hist oung friend Krishnamacharya for his proficiency, ambition and knowledge of the Sastras as well as for his personal qualities. He requested the Viceroy's help in obtaining the necessary documents to travel into Tibet. But, as luck would have it, the Viceroy was ill with diabetes. The military doctor, Devendra Bhattacarya, was in charge ofthe case, but could not bring about a complete recovery. This doctor was, as we have seen, the son of Krishnamacharya's teacher at Kasi,Vamadeva Bhattacharya.

One day Krishnamacharya was surprised to be visited by an aide of the Viceroy hand carrying a letter from the Viceroy to him, and requesting him to come to Simla. He stayed in Simla for six months teaching the Viceroy yogic practices. The diabetes was largely controlled. TheViceroy was extremely pleased and developed respect and affection forthe young man. He was happy to make all the necessary arrangements for Krishnamacharya to cross the Himalayas, out of India, across Nepal, and into Tibet. Here is the story of that voyage as retained in Krishnamacharya's memory:

"The Viceroy sent three aides with me. This was some time in 1919. The expense of the journey was covered by the British government. Clothes of leather were made to order to protect us from the cold. On the trail we came across a recluse named Pilmugi living in a cave. We stayed in the cave with him for several days, and then continued on our journey. We reached Manasasarovar and from there went on to Mela Parvatham. We had dharsan of Thirayambaka Narayana and finally reached the dwelling place of Rama Mohana Brahmacharya who was to be my Guru. We had been walking for two and a half months.

"On meeting my Guru I prostrated myself before him. It was evident that Ganganath Jha had written to him about me. He received me with great love and kindness. I noted that even though he was called' Brahmacharya,' he was living with his family. His eldest son, Ramachandra Brahmacharya, is still alive today, about eighty years old. Our food was puri (Indian bread), halwa (a paste of vegetables or fruits with sweetening and ghee) and tea. My period of gurukulam here in Tibet lasted for seven and a half years. Rama Mohana made me memorize the whole of the Yoga Gurandam in the Gurkha language. Thevarious stages of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are dealt with in that book in a very precise but extensive commentary. That is necessary because Sutras are by definition very concise. In the Yoga Gurandam, the various kinds of Yoga poses and movements are described with great clarity. Only after studying this book can one understand the inner meaning and science of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali."

After Krishnamacharya's return to Kasi as an outstanding scholar and Yoga expert, the Maharajah of Jaipur called him to serve as principalof the Vidya Sala (Centre for instruction in philosophy and Yoga) in Jaipur. This situation, with its regular schedule of classes and the requirement of being answerable to various people, did not suit the free spirited Krishnamacharya. The Sradha (annual homage) of his father was approaching, so, with this pretext, he returned to Kasi. He enjoyed meeting and holding conversations with the various pandits who had studied with him in Kasi. Impressed by Krishnamacharya's newly mastered techniques, Amarnath Jha, the son of Ganganath Jha, introduced him to various monarchs and he was widely honored.

At this time the Maharajah of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar, appeared in Kasi to celebrate the Shastiabdapurthi (60th birthday) of his mother. On hearing of Krishnamacharya, he invited him to come to the Palace at Mysore. The Maharajah was greatly impressed by the young man's demeanor, authority and scholarship.
******



*
And what do I think, my own best guess, my version of the story?

How about this

Krishnamacharya was with his guru off and on over a period of seven and a half years. In that time he encountered, was taught or came up with this interpretation of the yoga sutras.

 Yoga Sutra II-47 By making the breath smooth (and long), and by concentration or focussing the mind on the breath, the perfection of the posture is obtained.  Note: Krishnamacharya interprets this sutra differently than other teachers. he gives the correct technical meaning (in this context) fromn prayatna or Jivana prayatna, or effort of life which is breath. he says that it is the breath that should be made smooth and effortless, not the posture. it is not physical. Ramaswami.

I like to think everything else followed from this, the use of breath in the asana, the kumbhaka.... and with such a focus on the breath, continuing that focus in and out of the posture,  the vinyasa method, linking movement to breath....

I dwell on this passage

Rama Mohana made mememorize the whole of the Yoga Gurandam ( Yoga Korunta?) in the Gurkha language. The various stages of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are dealt with in that book in a very precise but extensive commentary. That is necessary because Sutras are by definition very concise. In the Yoga Gurandam, the various kinds of Yoga poses and movements are described with great clarity. Only after studying this book can one understand the inner meaning and science of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali."

We know that soon  after Krishnamacharya came back from Tibet he had an impressive asana practice and was giving the kind of Demonstration of 'jumping from one asana to the next' that the young Pattabhi Jois related many years later. We know ourselves how long such a practice takes to develop, it makes sense then that that was the approach to practice that Krishnamacharya was practicing those seven and a half years.

My own best guess is that the focus on the breath is what Krishnamacharya took to be the key to the yoga sutras and what he took away with him from his Seven years in Tibet.

"While practicing yoga with reverence, one can offer their essence to God during exhalation and during inhalation, imagine/suppose that God is entering your heart.  During kumbhaka, we can practice dharana and dhyana.  Such practices will improve mental concentration and strengthen silence/stillness.  Eliminates agitation and restlessness".  Krishnamacharya: Yogasanagalu (1941)

But no doubt you have your own best (better) guess/story.

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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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