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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Interview With Krishnamacharya

from Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan
The first biography of Krishnamacharya

Unfortunately long out of print

"Q: What does the bhakti mean to a person who has no belief in Isvara?

Krishnamacharya: Love is bhakti for them".


The questions.

1. What is Yogasana?

2. What is the role of the mantra in asana practice?

3. What should the duration of pranava be during recitation?

4. What is the first step in dhyana for a beginner?

5. At what age can one start practicing yogasanas?

6. How many asanas are there?

7. Can everybody do all of the asana's?

8. Should asana vary according to age?

9. Can a person practice yogasana using photographs?

10. How many times should one practice yogasana's?

11. How long should a person stay in an asana every day?

12. How long were the sages practicing yoga?

13. What must form an essential part of a person's daily practice?

14. What should be done when there is limited time available for practice?

15. When can one see the results of practice?

16. What should be the ratio of practice between asana, pranayama and dhyana?

17. Should the asana practice be done fast and why not?

18. What does jitasana (asana jay am) mean?

19. What is meant by jitsvasam?

20. How long should one stay in Sirsasana and Sarvangasana?

21. Is there a difference in the practice for men and women?

22. How should very obese people and pregnant womnen be taught?

23. What about the practice for women after child birth?

24. What is yoga?

25. How many kinds of Yoga are there?

26. Who is competent to the practice the yogabhyasa?

27. What is yogabyasa krama?

28. What is the procedure one follows for yoga?

29. Why is there the division of hatha-yoga and raja-yoga?

30.On what basis do we follow the practice of yogasana? 

40. Is there any relation between the approach to sickness in Nathamuni's school and Ayurveda?

41. Is it possible to learn pratyahara and antaranga sadhana from a teacher?

42. How many kinds of vinyasa's are there?

43. There seems to be identical verses in Sivasamhita, Gherenda Samhita and hatha yoga pradipka. Does it mean they are all based on the same text or did they have a common teacher?

44. Which is the most important yoga text today?

45. Are the techniques like viloma pranayama, anuloma pranayama, pratiloma pranayama, the different asanas and vinyasas that we use mentioned in any adhara grant (text)? or does it follow a guru parampara?

46. How are the texts like Goraksa Samhita and the Hathayoga pradipka compare with the approach of the Yoga Sutra?

47. Why should one do vaidika-sastriya karma?

48. Why should there be upasana of the devata?

49. But this becomes kamayam. is it desirable?

50. What is dharma? Please explain in simple terms.

51. Thare are many approaches to the word 'Yoga', Which of these have to be refuted?

52. What is Adarmika yoga?

53. Where in the Yoga Sutra is the Sadanga yoga of nathamuni mentioned?

54. What is the evidence that bhakti alone leads to multi?

55. What does the bhakti mean to a person who has no belief in Isvara?

56. What is the difference between prakrti and prapancam?

57. Prakrti that has guns-s is mentioned as acaitanyam. haow is this?

58. How can there be a samyoga between the prakrti, paramatma and the jivatma?

59. What is Jnana yoga?

60. Are bhakti and prapatti the same?

61. What is Raja yoga?

62. Does Hatha yoga mean a forceful yoga?

63. Some people describe that the kundalini goes through the susumna to the sahasrara. is it correct?

64. What happens to the kundalini when the highest of hathayoga is mastered?

65. Is dhyana, dharana, samadhi a sadhana or a siddhi?

66. Should yama and niyama, precede the practice of asana and pranayama?

67. Yoga means to join. It is like many grains together?

68. When there is samyoga, how will there be viniyoga again? Is it also an activity? If so how does it happen?

69. What does prapancam mean? is it sat yam?

70. Is there any significance attached to our dress and to the sati to which we belong?

71. Is brahmacarya practiced in grhasthasrama? What is the difference between a brahmacarya in grathasrama and a brahmacarya in a brahmacarya asrama?

72. It has been said that our mind is linked to the kind of food we eat. What about our other samaras and  sahavasam?

73. There are many texts on Yoga. Which of them are important and which are less important?

74. Where is the evidence that Visnu is sattvika devam, siva rajasika devam and sakti tamasika devam?

75. How is it that we are able to understand the suksma visaya that has been mentioned in the sastras?

76. What is the difference between sa-guna and nir-guna?

77.  What is your message to humanity?

The Answers

See also my earlier post

A big thank you to Eric Shaw for sending me a copy of the book and to whoever passed the copy on to him.

More excerpts to come

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Life of a Yoga Blogger

It struck me a moment ago that there is perhaps a view, occasionally, of the yoga blogger as skipping around, hopped-up on the yoga cool aid or stomping about, rabid, consumed by angst and rage, envy and petty jealousies, a husk of a Yogi(ni) eaten up by bitterness and malice, all twisted out of shape. OK I exaggerate, nobody thinks we're that they? And not actually skipping or stomping around of course, because all we do all day is sit at our computers, plinking and plonking out our endless homages and/or diatribes ( because we switch seamlessly from one to the other). Blogging, (over)analysing our/the practice, it's all we do all day obviously.

Not quite. wish I could say we were that dedicated to the job .

So here's the day of one Yoga blogger, I've been thinking of doing one on this for a while, now seems as good a time as any.

I wake up a little before my alarm at 5AM...

I make my beloved her lunch, this morning there was a decision to make between the Potatas Praves I made last night, that she missed out on by coming home so late, or the Smoked Salmon I bought especially, a change from cheese, cheese and more cheese. I decide to go with the Salmon. I wrap it in cling film and then slide it into two cut off corners from a Pizza Express box for protection then tie a ribbon around, ( the ribbon from last Christmas' Pandoro). She also has a couple of stem ginger cookies wrapped individually in foil, so she can leave one for later, a small pot of grapes and a clementine.

This is one of my favourite time of the day.

I make an Nespresso, this morning it was a  vivalto lungo, the blue one, and then have a quick look around the web while I sip my coffee. I check the BBC news website, go over to FB and have a quick look at some of the status updates, perhaps 'like' a couple that catch my eye and wish somebody a Happy Birthday....always tricky when you have a couple of people with birthdays the same day, you don't want to say the exact same thing twice but also don't want one to sound nicer than the other, tricky. I'll have a quick look at my YouTube Subscription page to see if anything interesting has come up to watch later (see below).

This one on headstands came in last night form Kino, the treasured patron saint of the Home Ashtangi's. I have a friend struggling with headstand, this one's for her.

 I'll have a look at my blog list, usually I'll just glance at a couple of posts with the aim of coming back later to read them more carefully at another time. Something might provoke an idea for a blog post, connecting perhaps with something I've been meaning to bring up for a while, I'll sketch a couple of lines for the post or just a title and save it for later.
Example of possible future blog post, some broad outlines sketched, may or may not turn into something 
 Some suggest that you shouldn't go online before practice, never really found it a problem. Practice is practice and the monkey mind is no different if I do or if I don't. I've been practicing long enough now to be able to mostly switch it off and get on with practice. If something comes up I'll use the Mindfullness trick, acknowledge it and mentally put it in the to think about later tray.

And besides I have osteoarthritus, I need a little while for my back to loosen up, someday's it takes longer than others.

So I'm on the mat usually around 5:30, maybe 5:45. Practice has tended to be, for the last three years or so anyway and whichever way I cut It, either a Vinyasa Krama approach to Ashtanga or an Ashtanga approach to Vinyasa Krama. There tends to be an Ashtanga shape to the practice with Standing series/Main Sequence/Finishing but I tend to bring out the Vinyasa Krama sequence from a posture of the Ashtanga series. So that first section of Primary up to Mari D gets the VK Asymmetric treatment. If I want to practice Seated then those seated Ashtanga postures from Primary get a VK overhaul. The first half or third of 2nd series is pretty much Vinyasa Krama Bow and Meditative sequence anyway, I just add in the extra postures. these days my breathing is so slow (8 sec inhalation/8 sec exhalation with kumbhaka's ) that I can only do about a third of an Ashtanga series or part of a VK sequence.

Winter Runway- See SBP Runway project
Around 7AM I'm probably starting on the finishing sequence, there are long, ten minute, head and shoulder stands in the Vinyasa Krama approach. Around 7:30/7:45 I'm on to Pranayama, M. might pop in and sit next to me for a moment in frount of the Halogen heater while I breathe, before heading off to work. I'll finish off with Pratyahara and some Japa mantra meditation. Either after asana or meditation I'll lay down in savasana for ten minutes and listen to a chant of Ramaswami's from the LMU course that I particularly like...I usually fall asleep for a couple of minutes.

Then (around 8:15/8:30) I'll either go back to the computer to write (or half write ) a post or read and comment on somebody else's post that I found interesting or stay in the home shala and chant for a little from the sutras or some of the other chants that Ramaswami gave us. Still hate the thought of chanting in public but quite like it at home when there's nobody in the house.

If I post it'll usually come out in around ten minutes (been doing this a long time now, can knock them out pretty quick, although this has been one of the longer ones, spent forty minutes on this), often it's picking up one of the posts I'd sketched out or worked on an and saved or perhaps somebodies comment provided a hook for a post I'd had in mind (if a long response to a comment or a blog post comes out of your comment it's really nothing personal but something I've been mulling over for a while, I'm thinking out loud). I tend to spend longer looking for a picture on a Google image search than I do writing a post ( I know, it shows). I usually have to rush out the post because I need to get ready for work. I read it through quickly and hit 'POST' with the aim of coming back to it at lunchtime in the library to edit.

I don't eat Breakfast, Lunch, or Snack during the day, just a small meal in the evening around 7:30/8.00, although I do grab a glass of juice in the morning before I head out the door.

I tend to manage a quick shower and get dressed and ready in ten minutes flat, heading off on the bike at ten past nine ( takes 10-15 minutes to cycle to work).

I'm a Woodwind Repairer in a medium size workshop at a Music shop that specialises in Woodwind and Brass Musical Instruments, there are usually three of us in at one time. We'll chat a little throughout the day but most of the time we're wrapped up with out own repairs. I have a particular interest in vintage saxophones so always try to grab those especially the vintage overhauls.

I have little notes stuck up on my pad draws in frount of me of chants, at the moment I'm trying to learn by heart the 12 suryanamaskara mantras.

We have customers who come in for emergency on the spot repairs but mostly I can quietly get on with my repair. It allows me to mentally chant to myself or I might set targets of half hour ujjayi pranayama with bandhas or Japa mantra while cleaning or padding at different times throughout the day. Often I'm having to work out how damage happened to an instrument in the first place, what it is that stoops it from working, strikes me as a similar process to working out why one's not getting into a posture.

I used to be a teacher, the change in career was supposed to leave my mind untaxed to allow me to study in the evenings but concentrating on padding fries my brain more than teaching ever did ( it was also to allow me to work and play with vintage Saxophones all day).

Bit worried this morning, shoved a large, rusty, tenor sax needle spring half an inch into my finger yesterday. Didn't bleed much once I wiggled it off the spring but it's puffed up a little this morning and is going to be painful to practice on, no jump back for me today.

Conn 26 m check out the springs

Lunchbreak I tend to go to the library, commenting is difficult on the library computer for some reason but I'll tend to tidy up one of my posts and try to answer any of the comment that had come in. I tend to think of that half an hour in the library as blog gardening, taking care of business. I've been blogging for five years now, sometimes it does feel like a business (unpaid), a second job.

I leave work at 5:30, pick up some groceries on the way home and am usually back on the mat at 6pm for a short practice, some more pranayama and a little Japa. In the beginning I used to use this slot for working on postures that I was struggling with, thought of it as workshop time. Jump back's, Kapo, Karandavasana, tic tac etc. all worked out here. Later ( when I stopped giving a damn about new postures) I'd split my day between an Ashtanga and a Vinyasa Krama practice. Currently as my practice is a kind of Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama, in the evening I'm exploring a little Iyengar alignment with John Schumacher audio classes or practicing long Tikonasana's as I try to make sense of Prashant Iyengar's 'Alpha and Omega of Trikonasana' book.

Between 7 and 7:30 I'll tend to do some more blog gardening, perhaps put put down in sketch form some ideas for post, a little research. Currently I'm writing out an interview with Krishnamacharya from the old out of print biography.
Krishnamacharya in Mysore

Interview with Krishnamacharya

7:30 I'm in the bath with my iPad, it's my favourite place to read. Just started Hugo's Les Miserables, I watched the musical/movie last week ( not really a fan of musicals ...except Fiddler on the Roof obviously) but it weas OK and reminded me of how much I loved the book as a kid, those candlesticks, so decided to reread it. Reading it on the ipad is OK but bought the penguin classic anyway, still prefer a good sized paperback, especially in the bath.

Now, that's a bath book. the 12 Suryanamaskara mantras in the background
I'll make dinner at eight. Last night was Patatas Bravas (Thank You Enrique for the correct spelling), Roasted potato wedges with a thick, spicy smoked paprika tomato sauce, but I scoffed a bunch of the potatoes with salt and oregano before I'd finished making it. I only eat once a day now so try to make it nutritious, include an avocado perhaps, an egg...  I don't know, I should probably make more of an effort to eat better (Potatas Praves is a little too rajistic no?.
This time in wedges.

At 8:30 I go up to the Chinchilla's room, in Winter all he wants to do is sit between my ankles under a blanket for two hours while I read. At the moment I'm doing a close reading of Mala Srivatsan's out of print biography of Krishnamacharya and making notes for future posts, to share as much of the good stuff as I can on the blog. I'm also reading the Taittiriya Upanishad with Sankara's commentary again on my iPad.

M. gets home around 10pm and we get to chat for a bit, usually with Nietzsche ( chinchilla) still under the blanket. 10:30 I put both him and myself to bed, reading a couple of pages of Jung's Red Book before falling asleep.

And that's my day.

Tuesday is different, day off so a later, longer practice - currently one of the long Vinyasa Krama sequences in full. Nice long pranayama, 80 rounds and a decent sit.

I'm studying along with AG Mohan's online yoga Sutra course with a couple of other YS commentaries, and getting stuck into the new (and better, more of his magic coming through) translation of Heidegger's Contributions to Philosophy, a few chores around the house, takes up much of the day.

I also found out that our local cinema is only five quid on a Tuesday, £3:75 with my loyalty card, so have started going to watch something, last week Les Mis', today it'll be Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.

I try to cook something decent for M. on a Tuesday

What else.... Sunday, that'll be mine and M.'s day, you don't want to know about that although often we'll practice together or I'll give her a kind of Vinyasa Krama lesson, she never took to Ashtanga. Sunday is the one day I'll eat breakfast, lunch AND Dinner (often Japanese or Korean).

We have the chance to watch something together Sunday's, recently it's been the original version of The Killing, we started with the 3rd series, then the 2nd and now were on the 1st, working backwards. This weekend we did go and watch the Bolshoi's La Bayadere on the live feed from Moscow ( who knew watching ballet at the cinema rather than in the theatre could be SO good), Svetlana Zakharova just sublime.

And that's my day, my week, simple and dull perhaps looking at it like this and yet it feels

Previous posts
5% theory, 95% practice ?
What did Krishnamacharya study with his Guru in Tibet- Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan
What is Ashtanga? What is a Mysore Room?
Best Practice Dream Ever - My Mysore Room
Krishnamacharya on Samyama in Yogasanagalua and Yoga makaranda ( part II) Chakras, Jivatma, Paramata etc

Monday, 28 January 2013

5% theory, 95% practice ?

5% theory, 95% practice is both one of my  favourite and least favourite expressions.

Some quote it as 1% theory, 99% practice but I only remember coming across the former in direct quote, in an interview and video with Sri K. pattabhi Jois ( sure the 1%-99% example is out there too I just don't have a source). .

It's wonderful because it gets us on the mat without too much fuss and bother. Inhale slowly, the arms go up, exhale slowly ,the arms go down, that's the practice right there ( Thanks to Mark Whitwell for that one). So we inhale up, exhale down (as a general rule), the gaze is here ( or at a handful of other points), we hold onto the seat of our pants and off we go.

A fixed breathing pattern, set gazing point(s), a fixed sequence of mostly basic postures to a set count... and that's plenty to be going on with.

Do that for a year and then get back to me (don't worry about where you are in a sequence or series just come back in a year and we'll talk).

Of course you could get into the nitty gritty of anatomy, dwell on the best ways to achieve a posture and then another and another ( I know I did ), going ever deeper into the poses while trying to remain safe (does all that come under the 5%, never sure).

You can go to your local gym yoga class for this of course and there are I'm sure some excellent teachers to be found teaching there and often with a lot of experience, fun too.

At some point you may question why your doing this practice, is it just for fitness? Crossfit might be a better option, Flexibility? Circus skills and/contortion might be interesting, or is it Stress reduction that concern's us, How about Mindfulness meditation, or a spar break.

What is Yoga such that I want to practice it six days a week and organise my life around it?

You could begin with the Bhagavad Gita, that has much to say about Yoga and in pretty poetry too. It's not enough of course just to enjoy the musicality and imagery of a poem, at some point we're going to want to understand it, there are commentaries, some better than others, different versions. We might find that much of the current texts authenticity is questioned and so seek out the core text. As with any great text and, it's certainly that, we can search out scholars, take course, discuss it with friends who share an interest in the text but more importantly, at some point, we reflect on the extent it fits with our own experience and self reflection.

The Gita is considered a summary of the Upanishads, these too would be worth exploring, again not just reading the pretty lines but studying the texts just as we would the great philosophical texts of our own tradition.

As we begin to focus more on our breathing and the 'holding on to the seat of our pants' bit ( the bandhas) we might ask ourselves why this focus on the breath, the bandhas.

This will lead us to explore the idea of Prana, the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna model and we find ourselves with the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and perhaps other Hatha Yoga texts, the Gheranda Samhita and Siva Samhita. Of course just reading the verses isn't enough, we're going to need to study them, seek out teachers and commentaries....

So now I understand the details, the whys and wherefores of the practice, a little more but at some point I may perhaps again ask why, why am I doing this six days a week, why am I fitting my life around this practice.

I don't have to of course, by now I'm fit and healthy, calmer, more disciplined, have a clearer focus and attention, it gets me through the day better, this  may well enough perhaps.

And It's plenty.

But I might wonder why this practice was developed in the first place, what was it designed to achieve. This will lead me to Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras. Here we will find the pattern of our practice laid out for us as well as the goal,. The aim is to achieve one pointedness, fixed attention, that we can with diligent practice attend to any object and then without an object. We can bring that attention to bare on the tatvas (which we will need to study separately) and find that the self does not reside in any of these places. In the end we will see in the text that the self is perhaps not what we perhaps assumed, we will discover the idea of Purusha.

That one samhadi, one Smayama is not enough, there are another twenty four to go, negotiating this is highly skilled lifetime(s) practice.

Of course just reading the sutras wont get us very far this is yet another difficult text. We will need  to study the text word by word, sutra by sutra. We will need to study Vyasa's commentary and commentaries on that commentary.....

Sooner or later we will realise that we need an understanding of Samkhya philosophy, which underlies all six of the Indian philosophical systems and on which the purusha model is based.

We will need teachers and commentaries and self reflection, we may need to look at the Philosophy of Mind and Self in our own intellectual tradition and the systems in which those philosophies arise and  in which our thinking has been formed, better to understand our point of departure.

Krishnamacharya, for example traveled all over India seeking out libraries, all the great teachers and scholars and  in all these texts and disciplines to debate and dicuss and reflect..

Of course we might end up taking a different journey into this altogether, we might begin with the sutras and end up at the Gita.....

And at each point (and we're still just scratching the surface of some core essential texts here) we come back perhaps to our own practice and consider to what extent it best suits us in our search for a better understanding of Yoga. At some point we may wish to focus more on our overcoming of rajas and tamas (something else we will need to study, at another point more focus on pranayama practice my seem appropriate. Some asana rather than others might become preferred, a greater focus on meditation and different approaches to meditation and developing skill in meditation.

Perhaps our asana practice itself will take on a more meditative quality or we will realise anew the value of the practice with which we began. Or Like Prashant Iyengar, for example, one asana, Trikonasana, may be all that is necessary to explore each limb of yoga.

And throughout all this we just get on with our practice, day in day out however it may change in subtle and/or significant ways.

Of course in our study of the Yoga Sutras we will also find that Patajali offers us a short cut. For the religiously inclined ,and we don't have to be religiously inclined, we can just fix our attention on the divine in our practice and perhaps not worry about all of the above.

Me, I'm still scratching the surface of the surface of all of the above, no rush.

What did Krishnamacharya study with his Guru in Tibet- Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan

from Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan
The first biography of Krishnamacharya

Unfortunately long out of print
NB: Italics in brackets are my explanatory notes

"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. He prostrated before him, gave his name and asked to be his disciple. Krishnamacharya was questioned in Hindi on the reason for his visit. After he expressed his desire to learn yoga he was called in. He met his guru's wife and three children. he was given fruits called Ankula to eat and the escorts who accompanied him were dismissed with a cup of tea.

Krishnamacharya's first instruction from his guru was, to take a bath and perform acamana. The first precept of pranayama was then taught. For eight days, the master said he would not teach him anything else and that Krishnamacharya should eat only fruits.

Thereafter Krishnamacharya became a part of the Rama Brahmacari's family who belonged to the Kasyapa gotta (family lineage). His daily food was chapathu (Indian bread), halwa ( a paste of vegetable or fruits sweetened along with ghee and tea). His period of gurukulam (stay with the guru ) in Tibet lasted for seven and a half years. Rama Mohana Brahmacari made him memorise the entire Yoga Kurantam in the Gurkha language. The various stages of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra were dealt with in that book. Various kinds of of yoga practises were also described with great clarity. Only with the help of Yoga Kurantam' could he understand the inner meanings and science of the Yoga Sutra. The first three years he was made to memorise the Yoga texts in the form of adhyayanam ( to memorise and recite correctly, with proper accents). His focus was in the study of the Yoga Sutra, Vyasa Bhasya and the Samkhya Darsana. In the next three years he practiced yogabhyasa and for the next one and a half years he studied the siksana krama (planning of practices based on the stage of life of an individualand the cikitsa krama (therapeutic approach).

During his seven and a half year stay with his guru, Krishnamacharya learnt all aspects of yoga practice, therapy and philosophy. His capacity to learn, his previous education and his discipline made him an ideal student.

Having spent seven and a half years with his guru he would happily have spent the rest of his life learning and serving him but Rama Mohana Brahmacari then told him to go back to society, lead the life of a married man and spread the message of Yoga. Following his guru's words he returned from Tibet in 1922"

Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan p26-28


from Yoga Makaranda T. Krishnamacharya
"This text contains the essential concepts from many texts of antiquity listed below.
I have studied the texts listed below under the blessing of a great teacher and have explained the truths contained in them that I have personally experienced. I request that the Lord of the auspicious Karnataka throne, the great Lord and Emperor, the fourth Sri Krishna Rajendra, accept this work and allow my
humble self to fulfil my endeavor and bless me.
More than this, I have nothing to say in this preface.

1. Rajayoga Ratnakaram
2. Hathayoga Pradipika
3. Yoga Saravalli
4. Yoga Balaprathipikai
5. Ravana Nadi (Nadi Pariksa of Ravana) 6. Bhairava Kalpam
7. Sri Tattvanidhi
8. Yoga Ratnakarandam
9. Mano Narayaneeyam
10. Rudrayameelam (Rudrayamalam)
11. Brahmayameelam
12. Atharvana Rahasyam
13. Patanjala Yogadarshanam
14. Kapilasutram
15. Yogayajnavalkyam
16. Gheranda Samhita
17. Narada Pancharatra Samhita
18. Satvata Samhita
19. Siva Samhita
20. Dhyana Bindu Upanishad
21. Chandilya Upanishad
22. Yoga Shika Upanishad
23. Yoga Kundalya Upanishad
24. Ahir Buddhniya Samhita
25. Nada Bindu Upanishad
26. Amrita Bindu Upanishad
27. Garbha Upanishad

Thirty Minor Upanishads

tr. by K. Narayanasvami Aiyar



from Yogasanagaly T. Krishnamacharya
I did not attempt a detailed review of all ancient yoga treatises since it will make this book very long and perhaps cause boredom to the readers.  Please forgive.  This writing is mainly based on the following texts:
Upanishads related to yoga
Learning’s from my Guru and self-experience


I'll be adding more links to the available free online editions of as many of these texts over the next couple of days.
Feel free to come through with any links you have to online editions in the comments, unfortunately I didn't make a note of where mine came from and will have to hunt them down again.

A big thank you to Eric Shaw for sending me a copy of the book

More excerpts to come

Sunday, 27 January 2013

What is Ashtanga? What is a Mysore Room?

Excuse the ontic form of the question, perhaps it will lead us to the ontological.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, his Ashtanga, eight limb path to self inquiry
Some questions from the comments to my previous post Best Yoga dream ever - My mysore Room and my response ( I added a bit).

Question: "Grimm.... I think you are going to have to come up with a different name for your room. 'Mysore room' isn't just a couple of words, they actually refer back to what happens here in Mysore. I hope you can agree to call this an 'open self-practice room', or come up with another name for it, as I'm sure you can see that pointing it back towards Mysore is simply inaccurate?? This isn't a place where you choose what practice to do on the day.
I am kind of anticipating you objecting to that on the grounds that all of this originated with Krishnamacharya in Mysore in days gone by, but if so I think that would be a bit disingenuous, because it's pretty clear that 'Mysore style' refers to what's been going on in here in the last several decades and what is still being practiced here".

Mysore, it's a big place
Response: I think you still have a long time yet before we have to worry about what I call it ( and unless, I don't know, Anne Hathaway and/or Lady Gaga start practicing in 'my room' who's really going to care what I call it in my insignificant corner of yogaworld.... that said...

I'd probably just call it self-practice but your right Mysore style should perhaps refer to how it was practiced in Mysore, and Krishnamacharya used to teach ( while in Mysore and at the same time he was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois) long stays and long slow breathing and kumbhaka and vinyasa (variations) and....
old shala
I think what is confusing is that Pattabhi Jois used Ashtanga to refer to his approach. Story goes I think that David asked him what to call the practice and he just said Ashtanga as in Patanjali's Ashtanga approach. Less ego there than saying, call it Jois yoga but it would perhaps have been less confusing. Iyengar supposedly doesn't particularly like his approach being called Iyengar ( so he says). Desikachar forbade anyone calling it Desikachar yoga....all of them are Ashtanga (patanjali) yoga of course...confusing.

BNS Iyengar's Mysore room
I think that's where the problem comes with the '...intended for young boy's' thing. Ashtanga (Patanjali) yoga IS intended for everyone but the approach Pattabhi Jois got from Krishnamacharya probably was an approach originally intended for the young boys of the palace and designed for them in mind ( he was teaching Indra Devi differently supposedly for one). Now I think it can be adapted such that most anyone can practice it ( of course whether everyone would then allow that 'adapted Ashtanga practice' to be referred to as Ashtanga or Mysore style is another question) but was it an approach to practice originally intended for young boys? Probably.

There is a problem with the word Ashtanga being appropriated for a style of yoga that arguably mostly focuses on one of those eight limbs. What is Ashtanga? The approach to asana practice Patabhi Jois taught or the Yoga of Patanjali as found in the yoga sutras, the eight limb path....confusingly it refers to both.

New shala ( if anyone recognises themselves here and would like me to take this picture down and choose another let me know) Picture by Tom Rosenthal. 
What is a/the Mysore room or Mysore Style? is it the simplified approach to practice developed by Pattabhi Jois from what he was taught by Krishnamacharya or does it/should it refer to the approach to practice that was developed in Mysore by Krishnamacharya and still practiced there in myriad forms (think BNS Iyengar for instance) that is broader than the current generally known usage.

NB: Patabhi Jois said it was Krishnamacharya standing on him in Kapotasana, do you know how long a picture took to shoot back then (long stays)
Yes it is no doubt a political discussion that probably wont go away, it's a question of lineage and what comes after, I can't really be bothered with it myself anymore. Should it stir things up? Probably, if it gets people to question what their Ashtanga practice is and what self practice should be or what Mysore style means but I'm happy to leave it to the new crop of bloggers and the next and the next..... it wont go away, it has legs. We should be questioning what we practice, hell what else SHOULD we question.

Why should we question what we practice? Because Ashtanga is a practice of self inquiry, enquiry into self and all that self attaches too. Yoga is Applied Smakhya it's Raison d'être is to question...though not perhaps our Western idea of/approach to questioning.

Mysore, been around a while
We do this, don't we, we start out practicing for fitness perhaps but then we start to question that and start to pay more attention to the breath and what that means ,what's going on there and the same with the bandhas ('though, ideally, not during actual practice itself ).

What else is Sharath doing in those Sunday Conference talks than encourage us to question the meaning of our practice, our intention.

Those books of Krishnamacharya, Yoga Makaranda, Yogasanagalu (written in the 30's and 40's while in Mysore, and while teaching Pattabhi Jois), they were written for us, distributed freely by the state, he wanted us to know this stuff, this IS the lineage,

We question our practice as a series of postures and think of it as a whole, one great posture where each asana is part of that one great asana or perhaps mudra (ties in with that new anatomy idea you linked to on fb). We question it as an approach to physical fitness and begin to reflect on it as a means to mental fitness, as mental preparation perhaps and so on... at each stage we then question if the form of the practice best suits our shifting focus of practice. Should we practice a little more slowly, stay longer, are some postures more suited than others...should we focus on bandhas more in this posture or one or two bandhas more in this posture than another or should we focus on the breath here, both the inhalation and exhalation equally or in this posture more focus on the exhalation and this bandha and in that posture more focus on the exhalation and another bandha...should we introduce a kumbhaka here. Should we focus on each posture equally or practice these postures more quickly to allow us to spend more time in the finishing postures or should we cut out postures to allow for more time in finishing or for Pranayama or for Japa....and does this approach to practice despite all it adaptability, best suit us at each stage along the 'spiritual journey' or as I prefer, path of self reflection. All these questions come up over the years no? We don't have our guru or teacher to hold our hand, he gives us the tools and sends us off to do the work remaining there for when we require more tools or a better understanding of how to use them.

What would I do if a student asked me such questions if I hadn't asked them of my self. I would expect a teacher to not only have asked such questions but to have explored them. I'd value that much more than whether they could help me bind in marichi D or catch my heels in Kapo, my ankles after dropping back or flipping me over in a backflip....

And it doesn't stop there that's just the asana...

Surely this is Advanced practice or rather advancing in practice ( or better still, moving forward in practice let's get rid of the word Advanced)... and Primary series, even half of Primary series  or a little Vinyasa Krama or some Iyengar postures etc... is all we ever need for this. Krishnamacharya says it's not required to practice all the asana ( how can we there are as many as their are species of life' - we're just rediscovering/reinventing them) although it's good for some of us to learn as many as they can but just to preserve them, (and to have them available ) not because they are necessary for our practice.

"All asanas are not necessary for a routine practice for everyone. Age, ailments, peculiarities and individual constitutions are to be considered to find out which asanas are to be practised and which should be avoided.
One important thing to be constantly kept in mind when doing the asanas is the regulation of breath. It should be slow thin, long and steady; breathing through both nostrils with rubbing sensation at the throat and through the esophagus inhaling when coming through the oesophagus inhaling when coming to the straight posture and exhaling when bending the body

"...We have already mentioned that all asanas are not necessary for each individual. But a few of us at least should learn all the asanas so that the art of Yoga may not be forgotten and lost". 
Yoga Makaranda (Part II) Krishnamacharya p76

Krishnamacharya's Mysore room
OK, now it's time for practice... will look pretty much like the first part of of Ashtanga 2nd series with some Vinyasa Krama additions from Bow and Meditative sequences ( a few omissions from standing to make room), but only up to kapo because of the slow breathing and the longer stays, then a long paschimottanasana and on into finishing and pranayama, pratyahara, Japa mantra mediation. Is this an Ashtanga practice, is it Mysore style? Post this later.

This post is no way intended as a critique of Ashtanga, Patanjali's or Jois' but rather a celebration of the possibilities of both. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Best Practice Dream Ever - My Mysore Room

Had figured, that when I came back form the oh so brief sojourn to the metaphorical cave, I'd leave my voice behind and just post resources here,was too excited by this dream though not to post it. Oh well, nobody reads blogs over the weekend, can get away with it then bury it behind the upcoming Krishnamachaya biography.

The Dream
Woke up at 4:30AM from the best dream ever, laid there still half asleep trying to hold onto it, keep it going, so I'm not sure how much of this is the actual dream, how much the half awake state where I played with some of the dreams ideas and how much dream flashbacks during practice ( which ended up being a straight Primary without realising or intending it to be, had planned on doing part of VK Asymmetric this morning).

So there was a big Mysore room and I think I was aware in the dream that it was my room, I was teaching/guiding there anyway.  Just remembering that it seemed to change between an open plan Mysore room and a kind of mosque with pillars. At first I noticed all these mats and rugs even a couple of carpets and curiously office name plates at the head of the mats. Some had Ashtanga written on them, some Vinyasa Krama, one I remember had Slow Ashtanga and another Makaranda...later I remember seeing some hand written ones but that might have been a post dram addition.

Triopetra, Crete
the room in the dream was a little like this but without the green more Terracotta 
I started to realise that everyone was practising something different. There were a couple doing straight Ashtanga, quite fast, dynamic but also a young lean looking guy with Bradly Wiggins sideburns ( I know???) doing really slow Ashtanga, long long slow inhalations and exhalations. There were others doing a kind of blend of Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama, adding extra postures into their Ashtanga and others who were doing Vinyasa Krama sequences, somebody was doing Bow, somebody else the Asymmetric sequence.
Name plates like this but with the approach to practice written on, Ashtanga, slow Ashtanga, Yoga makaranda, Ashtanga, Asymmetric,....

There was a girl who seemed to spend the whole dream in paschimottanasana ( don't think I saw her face ) and an old couple who just seemed to do a handful of key postures....

And somebody else who was practicing so nice and slow and focussed that they didn't get past standing..liked that.

Would have been nice to have somebody doing nothing else but a Prashant Iyengar approach to trikonasna... perhaps they were in another part of the room...out of dream shot.

And I was working the room, adjusting here slowing the breath there ( squatting down beside making my ujjayi loud and slowing it so the guy in supta kurmasna started to slow his). There was a young guy doing deep uddiyana kriya's on every pose like I used to n my old VK videos...

I remember one adjustment where a woman was trying to go from her ankles up her calves and I took her hand back to her ankles and doing the slow ujjayi thing again.....not sure about that, perhaps I should have let her get on with it.

The Mosque well as everyone practicing there were little groups sitting around some chanting together some doing pranayama and others discussing what I'm guessing was Ramaswami's yoga sutra book.
a simpler mosque than this but that same idea of different groups doing different things

Oh and some where doing pranayama on their mats or counting mala beads and I had a flashback of a couple guys doing Shanmukhi mudra (pratyahara).....

That was pretty much the dream but I keep getting flashbacks of a notice board one of those old fashion boac ones covered in holes that you pin letters into. It had Mysore room 5-10 ( which seems a long time) but there were also evening led classes in Ashtanga and different vinyasa Krama sequences Asymmetric and Seated, perhaps the others would be on a different week...oh and the led classes had Dana written next to them.

I've talked about this idea of having a Mysore room with different styles being practiced before, I posted the idea once as an ideal retreat but what I think was different about this was the name plates at the top of the mats and this wasn't a retreat but my own day in day out room. You would just come in pick up a name/practice approach plate from a little table and then I who whoever was teaching would have an idea what you were practicing.

Krishnamacharya's old yoga shala in the Mysore palace maybe it was this rather than the Mosque
 Love the idea of this, everyone practising respectfully together, whatever their approach, supportive and without judgement, just getting on with their practice....this would be a reason to teach.....someday

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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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