This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice as well as most of my practice videos in YouTube, other than those linked to my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book).

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

Blog Comments are turned off, there are no "members" of this blog .

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

REVIEW: Breath of God, Documentary on T. Krishnamacharya

Waiting for the boiler guy as well as my new 'free upgrade' high speed modem from Virgin to arrive, so time for a long post on the Krishnamacharya movie Breath of God.

One of my favourite things about the movie was the music, took some hunting but I found it on Youtube.

Song of India from Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov, sung by a very young Jussi Bjoerling in 1936

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji's magical Pastiche on the Hindu Merchant's Song from 'Sadko' by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Played by Marc-André Hamelin.

The movie begins with the director and Ashtangi/ indiologist Alex Medin, who many of you may know if you run in Ashtanga /Mysore circles, looking for the village in which Krishnamacharya was born. The land was owned it seems by Krishnamacharya's family but the village moved on account of large termite mounds.

The movie then includes a clip from the old 1938 Black and White film footage of Krishnamacharya and family demonstrating asana, with some captions I haven't seen before that may have been added.

His daily regime, hmmmmmm.

Here's the full movie from Youtube.
In Breath of God, different clips from this were inter cut throughout the film

After the clip the movie moves to Mysore where Alex tells the Director, Jan Schmidt-Garre, that its Guru Purnima, the day to honour your guru and also the late Sri k Pattabhi Jois' birthday.

This leads into a section on Pattabhi Jois as the first known student in Mysore of Krishnamacharya. There are some scenes of him leading Primary inside the Shala and talking about Krishnamacharya and how tough he was as a teacher. Alex brings him the old Mysore photo below and he identifies himself as the boy in kapoatasana that krishnamacharya is standing upon. He also points out Krishnamacharya's first son at the frount in Supta Trivikramasana and his best friend, Mahadeva Bhatt, supposedly one of the best practitioners at the shala, who we find out ran away from the shala, there's still a hint of sadness When Pattabhi Jois relates this..

Pattabhi Jois, sitting on his big chair in the shala then takes the director through Suryanamaskara A and B (just the three of them in big shala) and then tries to make him get into lotus. I keep expecting Jan's knee to pop out here, thankfully he gives up and says he can't do it...."practice practice practice and it is coming", says Jois.


Next we move to Pune and some wonderful scenes with Iyengar who pretty much steals the movie. We see him first in his shala practicing along with everybody else, hanging on some ropes in a backbend, a phenomenal man.

Again, more stories about how terrifying Krishnamacharya was but also how important he was for changing the perception of Yoga in India.

Iyengar mentions,

"When I came to Pune in 1937, I was seventeen and a half years old at that time, though I was with my  Guru for two years he must have taught me in all only about fifteen or twenty days not beyond"

Some nice Iyengar clips here from the 1938 movie above, Iyengar practicing Ashtanga

He also says that he was relieved to leave Mysore for Pune, 'a caged tiger escaping his cage'. He says that it was worse for him because he was family ( he mentions too that his brother ran away from the shala, I hadn't heard of Iyengar's brother before).

Back to Mysore and a scene of the Director and Alex in a busy restaurant. Alex sketches out Krishnamacharya's main students and family. This turns out to be the framework for the movie as Jan visits  many of the family members and students to gain a better understanding of Krishnamacharya's teaching.

Alex " If you seek out all these people who are still alive and try to get information from them I think you will get much more of value, true source of information about the life and teaching of Krishnamacharya".

Thank you for that Alex, nice plan.

AG Mohan doesn't appear in the main movie but has a few scenes in the extras DVD. Desikachar is sick and Ramaswami probably in the US.

KM= Krishnamacharya
PJ= pattabhi Jois (first student 1927)
BKS = BKS Iyengar (student from 1934)
ID = Indra Devi = (1947)

Krishnamacharya's six children  ( all learned Yoga from their father)
p = Pundarikavalli
A = Alamelu
S = Srinivasa Tatchar
D = Desikachar
S = Sribhashyam
S = Shubha

R= Ramaswami
AG = AG Mohan

The director asks if there is one true Yoga pointing out that Pattabhi Jois had said that yoga hasn't changed for 5000 years but that Iyengar's teaching is very different from Pattabhi Jois.


The next section of the movie is introduced by telling us that the yoga school was opened in Mysore in 1933/34 and that the Mahārāja took lessons there every morning with family, cousins etc.

He goes to the original site with Alex and some other of Pattabhi Jois older Indian students, Pattabhi Jois arrives later, looking quite frail, he was to pass away shortly afterwards.

This is an excellent scene. The school/shala ( now a Catholic elementary school) seems to have been outside. I'd always assumed that in the picture of the Mysore students (above), they had come outside just for the picture but it seems this is actually a picture of where practice took place.

The current director of the Sanskrit college explains that going by the official records the school was opened for "the Arasu boys, the caste, community, belonging to the royal family.

That's the Ashtanga vinyasa developed for young boys bit, it's there in black and white, right in the records....however we also hear elsewhere from Pattabhi Jois that he first saw Krishnamacharya giving a demonstration in 1927, where he was jumping from asana to asana. Jois was so impressed he secretly became Krishnamacharya's student for two years (that's not in the movie however).

Some interesting scenes in the Sanskrit college with the director looking at some of the records concerning the school. It seems there was the School inside the palace for the more immediate family members in the mornings and then the school outside for the wider members of the caste in the evening. Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar etc. practiced in the evening outside.

Now we have the first 'reconstruction scenes', little clips of demonstrations given by Krishnamachary'a students but actually actors. OK, kinda nice, but irritating too as it's not made clear that these are reconstructions, M. was a little confused. The captions too are the same as in the original movie suggesting all the captions in both movies were added by the director.

The next section of the movie introduces Krishnamacharya's youngest son TK Shribhashym. Sitting together in the Mysore palace. Shribhashym tells Jan that Krishnamacharya modified the asana practice for the more vigorous, sportsman Maharaja and close members of his family, this was taught inside the palace itself in the mornings. He suggests here that the style of practice was modified for the martial concerns of the Maharaja (given the uncertain times), a vigorous Vinyasa Krama to make the family fitter and faster) which we now know as Ashtanga vinyasa.


TK Shribhashym: "You have a series of asanas and then you have an asana where you have to stay, you come back to the original position. Normally in the Vinyasa Krama that my Father was teaching, you start in a standing position, I mean normally because there are many methods. So from standing you reach the asana, you stay in that asana, and then you come back to the standing position in a reverse order. That's why we call it Vinyasa Krama".

I loved the next bit, TK Shribhashym flicking through the original Yoga Makaranda, would be wonderful to get my hands on an original edition of this, of Yogasanagalu too (sigh)

Jan : "What do you think, what's the origin of the Asanas"

TK Shribhashym: It's not so obscure you know...there were very few yoga teachers in those days who could teach so many asansas but when you read Mahabharata, Ramayana, any other book you find yogis practicing and doing penance in these asana and my father, maybe, might have just indexed them in his mind and when he taught, he would teach them. because when my father taught us asanas he would always teach us the origin, from which book it came".

Nice story from Ramnayana here about shirsasana

Jan meets the oldest daughter Alamelu and the short interview is inter cut with the scene of her demonstrating in the old B and W 1938 movie with her sister. The screen shot of the movie above is of the two of them.

Brief mention of Krishnamcharya as a great scholar of the different Indian philosophies as well as going to the Himalayas to study yoga with Rama Mohan Brahmacharya, where he supposedly learnt three thousand asanas. Curiously this isn't dwelled upon in the movie.

We get a look at Krishnamacharya's old house where Krishnamacharya had planted seven coconuts trees to represent the seven planets, this is in Mysore where he taught his children.

More from the interviews with Krishnamacharya's daughters, such strong, smart wonderful woman in the Krishnamacharya household.

Now we come to perhaps my favourite scenes from the movie, about an hour in. These take place in the Sanskrit college in Mysore that Krishnamacharya taught at. 

'To understand where yoga comes from you have to see where my father taught' TK Shribhashym

There's a scene where TK Shribhashym is  doing acroyoga with, I'm guessing, one of his own sons, just as Krishnamacharya had done with his sons in the 1938 movie. That's followed by a group of boys practicing Ardha baddha paschimottanasana while chanting a mantra.

Krishnamacharya would supposedly have the boys stay in a posture while chanting a mantra, perhaps 108 names of God.....Long stays!

This is followed by a quite powerful scene where three men are practising in the Sanskrit college, led by TK Shribhashym. They are practicing adhomukhapadmasana, laying on their frount in padmasana, plus some other postures, paschimottanasana for example, their breathing long and slow. On the breath retention, the kumbhaka, I assume they are mentally chanting a mantra. The scene ends with them practicing  pratyahara.

M. was quite struck by this scene, mentioned there was a certain, almost ...ordinary...everydayness  about it.  As if this is a daily ritual, no big fuss and bother the way we make about our practice, an extension of their puja almost and just regular clothes too, no Lululemon or Nike here. And yet it's powerful, the breathing, the concentration, the focus, the way all this is incorporated into their daily lives.

I think she was wrong about the clothes ( although correct with regards to the boys) but right in regards to the puja aspect. These men are freshly bathed and robed, there is a devotional aspect to their practice.


The next section of the movie talks about how inclusive Krishnamacharya was in his teaching and particularly towards women.

"What men learn, woman have tried to learn also". TK Shribhashym

We have another highlight here, Krishnamacharya's youngest daughter, the really quite wonderful Shubha, sharing the practice her father had taught her and that she still practices every morning. The full practice is included on the DVD extras again shot in the Sanskrit college.

"Unless you have a coordination of breathing and movement your not doing any yoga...coordination of breathing and maximum level of coordination" Shuba

Another of those curious reconstructions, but this one with a quite remarkable Buddhasana where the young man almost puts his leg behind his head without hands.


Then it's back to Pune and more wonderful scenes with Iyengar. A little uncomfortable viewing here though as Iyengar relates how his Guru never gave him any guidance but just said do this asana, now this. He relates the story, that he's written about before, where he is forced to do Hanumanasana for the first time in a demonstration and tears a hamstring (which took two years to heal). He says that the reason he was told to do it rather than the other senior students present (he mentions Pattabhi Jois) was that he was family and Krishnamacharya could speak more firmly towards him.

This is part of the reason that Iyengar was so dedicated to uncovering the secrets of asana practice and discovering how best to practice them and more importantly how to teach them.

Jan: "So you taught yourself"?
Iyengar: " I was the student myself, I was the guru myself......the dialogue was between me only".

Jan (director) asks if he had a mirror, Iyengar laughs and says he didn't have enough to eat everyday let along enough to buy for a mirror.

"My friend, when I could not get even one meal for even two days or three days where is the mirror...tell me".

Instead he would experiment on himself, why this leg felt better than this one, what if I try it like this or like this...

'Instinctive intelligence.... let me think, let me work..."

I think I mentioned here once before that I thought Iyengar was the ultimate home yogi.

A wonderful scene.

Followed by more of Iyengar teaching, the subject and object of rotation....of backbends..

As I said, Inyengar steals the show somewhat.


The movie switches back to Mysore. Pattabhi Jois has passed away and there a few moments with Sharath sitting on the stage next to guruji's chair, saying that his Grandfather's last wish was to die at home in his room and not in a hospital and that his wish came true, there's a pause at the end that's really quite moving.

A scene of Alex doing some of 3rd series inter cut with Patabhi Jois talking about citta vritti nirodaha, about controlling the mind as the goal of Yoga.


Back again to Pune where Iyengar teaches Jan how to do shirsasana, headstand, something he's never been able to do before.

Iyengar's secret is to keep the forearm just behind the wrist in contact with the floor/mat, not to raise it at all.

Iyengar high-five's Jan - Another great Iyengar scene, lol.

Followed by a little criticism of Vinyasa Krama which here he's using I think to refer to Ashtanga.

His yoga he says reaches all the skin, every pore, every muscle and bone

"It's wholeistic I said wholistic W-H-O-L-E istc...because it is WHOLEistic it is Holistic"

"Where as other things, for example Vinyasa krama (here he means Ashtanga), there is no holisticity in it...., it's a part, you move certain parts in it is not holistic. So by staying in the asana you develop that...that wholeness....of attending from the consciousness to the skin and from the skin to the consciousness, receiving and acting and that's why it's a holistic practice that makes one to be holy at that time"

he was quite amused by this explanation Whole-Holistic-Holy : )

A beautiful sunset scene, set to the Pastiche by Hamelin (above), in Mysore, Krishnamacharya supposedly said that you should try and observe the sun set every night.

Stunning shot of the Mysore palace at night.

The director relates how the Yoga Shala was closed after India's independence and the struggles of Krishnamacharya's family and how Krishnamacharya reluctantly left to move to Chennai.

A nice walk around one of Krishnamacharya's first houses in Chennai, tiny place with a small room where only perhaps two students could practice at a time. 

I felt watching this that I didn't have an excuse not to teach in my own home shala.

Jan talks about how Krishnamacharya still sought to promote yoga when in Chennai, lecturing while his sons stayed in posture. He mentioned how Krishnamacharya oldest son now lives in seclusion in a temple.

Another nice scene with a former student of Krishnamacharya who had photo's taken during one of his lessons. Here we see Krishnamacharya employing adjustments something I hadn't thought he tended to  engage in.

Jan and Shribhashyam visit a temple that Krishnamacharya used to visit. Pointing at a small picture Shribhashyam explains that the origin of asana.

Shibrhashyam: "I would say it's the first Yoga asana in our the vedic times or even in mythological times, when we said asana, which is the position of God, this is the first one that we refer to. that's why he's called yoga narashima. That is, Narashima who is in meditation"

Jan " The sitting God, the Breathing God, it was breathing we participate in when we do yoga, is that the source"?

A beautiful scene from a home movie of Krishnamacharya in his 80's sitting on a swing reading at their final house

It was at this time in Chennai that Krishnamacharya was practicing what he referred to as 'The life saving session' and that he supposedly practiced up until his death.

The movie ends with Shribhsyam leading Jan through the Life saving sessions, again while in the Sanskrit college. The full sequence is on the DVD extras.

See this post for the life saving practice and at the end of this post

The last word from TK Shribhsyam

"Yoga is coming from a country in which God is very important, ever present in our life. So in one way it's easy for us to think of god, to keep him in our mind in whatever we do. But in the west it's not so. And as my father did not want to impose his personal religious beliefs to you he had to find a way in which he, let us say, develop in you the thirst for God or creator...

The more you practice this session, the more you come to shirsasana and sarvangasana, bhujangasana, you reduce your mental activities and since you've already reduced your sense perceptions from the external world your emotional activities also come down and you end up with maha mudra and paschimottanasana, which look like yoga postures but where the concentration is so deep that you are...already, knowing what the peace of mind is. And it finishes, naturally, with concentration on the spiritual heart. That is where, whatever our religion is we consider our soul resides. So, with a peaceful mind and the mind directed at the heart naturally you have a glimpse of what your own spiritual life is, even if it is for a few seconds. By practice you learn to live (experience this?) for a long time
TK Sribhashyam


And here's the movies own trailer

I believe the English version DVD comes out in the summer.


Alex Medin mentions Srivatsa Ramaswami as another student of note of Krishnamacharya.
See this article from Namarupa
My studies with Sri Krishnamacharya by Srivatsa Ramaswami


Chiara's translation of the Life Saving practice

"Life saving yoga session"

Starting from the 50s more and more visitors came from the West to Krishnamacharya in Madras, to learm Yoga from him, the 'teacher of teachers'. Krishnamacharya developed for them a specific sequence that he named 'Life saving yoga session'. Yoga to extend life, the name did not fail to work. Krishnamacharya's idea was to use this sequence to lead Westerners to an unconfessional and undogmatic experience of the Divine, since their pluralistic culture would not permit an automatic access to religious matters.
The sequence, which was not taught anymore after Krishnamacharya's death and which was taught by his son TK shribayam to director Jan Schmidt-Garre after years of acquaintance during the filming of 'Der atmende Gott', is here disclosed in its original form.
Characteristic of the later Krishnamacharya and of the 'Life saving Yoga session' is the connection of postures, breathing and concentration in the sense of the orientation of the gaze and awareness of a focal point. Only when these elements form an organic connection can Yoga happen, according to Krishnamacharya

1. sit for 30-60 seconds with crossed legs in Padmasana. Concentration on Nasagra (point of the nose)

2. 16-24 Kapalabhati breaths (breath of fire, energeti inhale and exhale)

3. 12 breaths of ujjayi anuloma. Inhale: ujjayi, with slightly constricted throat, to drwa air into the lungs. Exhale: the hand forms a claw with thumb, ring- and little-fingers with which one nostril is alternately kept closed. Exhale very slowly through the open nostril, without ujjayi, beginning with the left

4. 3 breaths in matsyasana. Legs are closed in the lotus position

5. 3 breaths in bhujangasana. Start with open eyes and during the progression of movement, which start with the forehead, close the eyes. Concentration on Bhrumhadya (between the eyebrows)

6. 12 breaths in sarvangasana. The chin is closed in front of the straightened body. Hands close to the shoulderblades, concentration on Kanta (throat)

7. 12 breaths in sirsasana. Concentration on Nasagra (tip of the nose)

8. 3 breaths in halasana. Arms on the floor, hands clasped, palms towards the outside

9. 3 breaths in bhujangasana. Again start with open eyes and close them during the movement. Cncentration on Bhrumadhya (between the eyebrows)

10. 12 breaths in Maha-mudra (one-sided forward bend) six times on the left, then six times on the right. With the first inhale bring the arms over the head, with hands clasped, palms up. With the exhale get into the posture. Concentration on navel

11. 12 breaths in paschimottanasana, preparation and in maha mudra. The hands clasp the big toes, the back stays straight, neck and back form a lune. Concentration on the navel.

12. 30-60 Bastri breaths (rapid alternate breathing) in padmasana. The right hand builds a clasp as for anuloma ujjayi. Inhale and exhale through the left nostril, then change the grip and rapidly inhale and exhale through the right nostril. No ujjayi. end with an exhale from the left nostril and without pause move ot a long inhale in nadi shodan. Concentration on Nasagra

13. 12 breaths in nadi shodan (alternate breathing). Inhale very slowly from the half-closed left nostril, exchange grip ad after a short pause exhale very slowly through the half-closed right nostril. After a short pause inhale very slowly through the half-closed right nostril, change grip and after a short pause exhale through the half-clodes left nostril. No ujjayi. The left hand counts the breaths, with the thumb gliding over the twelve parts of the four fingers, from the third falanx of the little fingers in the direction towards outside to the point of the index finger. Concentration on Hrudaya (heart)

14. Prayer. Concentration on Hrudaya (heart)

In the coming book fom Shribashyam "How Yoga really was" this and similar sequences are explained in detail


Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hidden Asana: The Asana before the Asana

Continuing with Krishnamacharya Week while looking forward to the English version of the Krishnamacharya documentary, Breath of the Gods, showing this week in the UK.

I'm going tomorrow afternoon, but in the evening showing however there will be Q&A with the Director

Notice the bhrumadhya-drishti above, one of the' vital' marma points, an internal drishti employed here during kumbhaka....another Rabbit hole

Asana having been perfected, suspension of either of the processes of drawing in external air and exhaling internal air constitutes a pranayama.(Yoga Sutra: 2.49)

Now this could mean that after perfecting ALL the asana, all 84,000 of them...

But it could also mean that after you have perfected, mastered or to use Krishnamacharya's term, become proficient in an asana you can begin to explore the suspension of the breath in the asana.

It can of course also mean both and more besides.

Is this what Krishnamacharya was up to in Yoga Makaranda (1934) with his stress on the kumbhaka's within the asana?

"Following the rules for tadasana (yogasana samasthiti krama) (Figure 4.1, 4.2), stand erect. Afterwards, while exhaling the breath out slowly, bend the upper part of the body (that is, the part above the hip) little by little and place the palms down by the legs. The knees must not be even slightly bent. Raise the head upwards and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose. While doing this, draw in clean air through the nostril, hold the breath firmly and maintain this position. This is called sahitha kumbhaka...." p51 Yoga Makaranda

One of the things Krishnamacharya does a lot in Yoga Makaranda is to explore the pose before the pose, the posture before the posture.

In uttanasana above, before folding all the way down into the full expression of the posture he will raise the head up, fix the gaze and at the end of the full inhalation , suspend the breath, kumbhaka.

The asana before the asana.

And this happens a lot, in purvottanasana too, before the fold, there's the full inhalation and kumbhaka.

Paschimottanasana, the janu sirsasana's in fact any forward bend there could be another asana before the asana, no wonder there were 84,000+.

We know this of course in Ashtanga, we transition into each asana through upward and downward dog, at each stage the breath is full. In the David Robson Primary with drums I explored recently there was no escaping it, each movement, each breath for the same regular cycle of the beating of the drum.

Ashtanga Vinyasa may have misplaced Krishnamacharya's kumbhakas but we shouldn't be in such a rush to get into the next posture. Savour that preceding inhalation, milk it for all it's worth, let it lead the body whether it's helping us to stretch up off the heads of our femurs and out of our pelvis in preparation for a forward bend or perhaps in a twist, lifting and twisting with the breath opening up ever further on the chariot of Vayu.

Hint: Those tricky postures that we struggle with, 9 times out of 10 the secret is in the preceding breath, the preparation.

In exploring Yoga Makaranda I've been paying more and more attention to those preceding inhalations and their kumbhakas, staying three five, ten breaths sometimes in that posture before the posture....

the asana before the asana.

And why not, the Sanskrit vinyasa count is intended to focus attention on the inhalations and exhalations, the matching stages of the vinyasa, The count is put on hold as we move into the full expression of the asana, that's why Pattabhi Jois, Sharath, your teacher etc. switch to English to count the number of breaths you stay in the posture before picking up the Sanskrit count as you exit the asana.

There is NO reason why you shouldn't put the count on hold at any stage of the vinyasa, because each of those stages is an asana in and of itself. That's perhaps why, in Yoga Makaranda Krishnamacharya breaks down each stage of the lead in and out of an asana and treats them as stand alone asana.

You might not feel happy about exploring kumbhaka in asana but there's no reason why you can't explore a couple of extra breaths at different stages of the vinyasa. Done absentmindedly, or while distracted or in hesitation it's just faffing about...but done mindfully it's the hidden asana.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Updated: The Breath in Pranayama and Yogasana : Krishnamacharya

Continuing with Krishnamacharya Week while looking forward to the English version of the Krishnamacharya documentary, Breath of the Gods, showing this week in the UK.

22.2.2013: Theatrical release in the UK: ICA, London -

See Earlier post

In a late interview Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois points out that Krishnamacharya is standing on him while in Kapotasana in the above picture
Tradition and Lineage (?)

Pattabhi Jois first saw Krishnamacharya demonstrating yoga asana in 1927, "...jumping from asana to asana", Pattabhi Jois was 12 at the time. Krishnamacharya agreed to give the boy lessons and continued to do so for the next two years until Pattabhi Jois ran away from home, aged 14, to study Sanskrit.

Pattabhi Jois caught up again with Krishnamacharya, in Mysore in 1932 while attending another Yoga demonstration, he was 17 and began to take lessons with Krishnamacharya once again.

Krishnamacharya wrote his Yoga Makaranda in 1934 'over a couple of days' suggesting the method of practice outlined in the book was well established (as also suggested by Jois' comment that Krishnamacharya was "jumping from asana to asana" seven years earlier). In this text we find the key elements of Ashtanga Vinyasa, the linking of breath to movement, the Sanskrit count of the movements associated with each asana, the use of Ujjayi breath, bandha control and drishti (gaze).

Yoga Makaranda was Krishnamacharya's first book and was published by the state and given freely to the schools and colleges to promote 'authentic yoga practice'. Yogasanagalu (1941) was published, again by the state and for free distribution to schools, and is perhaps a more accessible treatment of yoga practice. Both books were written by Krishnamacharya while teaching the young Pattabhi Jois.

After over twenty to thirty years of intense study and practice this is what Krishnamacharya wanted the state to know and understand about authentic yoga practice.


The breath in yogasana in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941)

"In pranayama practice (yogangabhyasis), inhalation and exhalation motion is performed using both nostrils, trachea, tip of the tongue, between two lips and in between two rows of teeth.

Normally during yogasana practice, inhalation and exhalation is performed via the trachea deeply, subtly and with sound.  This is common practice with everyone.  This type of breathing is called “anuloma ujjayi” and quoted in -

मुख॑ स॑यम्य नाडीभ्या॑ आक्रुष्य पवन॑ शनैः॥
यथा लगति क॑टात्तु ह्रुदयावदि सस्वनम्।
पूर्वावत्कु॑भयेत्प्राण॑ रेचयेदिडया ततः।
श्लेष्मदेषहर॑ क॑टे देहानलविवर्धन॑।
गच्छतातिष्टता कार्य॑ उच्छामोख्यन्तु कु॑भक॑।

Mukham samyamya nadibhyam aakrushya pavanam shanih
yatha lagati kantattu hrudayavadi sasvanam
poorvavathubhayetpranam rechayadhidaya tatah
shleshmadeshaharam kante dehanalavivardhanam
gacchatatishtata karyam ucchamochyamtu kumbhakam

(Hatayogapradipika, 2, 51, 52, 53)


51. Having closed the opening of the Nadi (larynx), the air should be drawn in such a
way that it goes touching from the throat to the chest, and making noise while passing.
52. It should be restrained, as before, and then let out through the Ida (the left nostril). This removes slesma (phlegm) in the throat and increases the appetite.
53. It destroys the defects of the nadis, dropsy and disorders of Dhatu (humors). Ujjayi should be performed in all conditions of life, even while walking or sitting.
from this online translation

Bending the head (face) forward, pressing the chin to the chest tightly, through both nostrils via the trachea all the way down to the chest, making a slight hissing sound, take a deep inhalation (first timers as per their capacity) slowly without difficulty exhale through the left nostril.  This is called gurumukha.

This will eliminate the kapha (phlegm) from your throat and make you hungry.  Eliminates impurities from the nadis, stomach, lungs, excretory organs, kidnyes, and bone joints.  Also prevents jalodhara and mahodhara ailments.  This can be practiced sitting, standing, walking and lying down".
T. Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu


"...In yoganga sadhana we don’t see these (above mentioned) irregularities and with regular practice all organs will become strong.  How is that?  When practicing asanas, we need to maintain deep inhalation and exhalation to normalise the uneven respiration through nasal passages.

 In yoga positions where eyes, head and forehead are raised, inhalation must be performed slowly through the nostrils until the lungs are filled.  Then the chest is pushed forward and puffed up, abdomen tightly tucked in, focusing the eyes on the tip of the nose, and straighten the back bones tightly as much as possible.  This type of inhalation which fills the lungs signifies Puraka.

In yoga positions where eyes, head, forehead, chest and the hip are lowered, we have to slowly exhale the filled air.  Tucking in tightly the upper abdomen, the eyes must be closed.  This type of exhalation is called Rechaka.

Holding the breath is called Kumbhaka.


"...Therefore, how many vinysas for asanas? Asana position comes at which vinyasa count?  When do you perform rechanka and puraka?  When to do antah kumbhaka and bahya kumbhaka?  What are its benefits?  For yoga practitioners 
iyoga instructors.  Yoga practitioners may be divided approximately on the basis of body type and the same instructor can teach them. In the same way, practitioners with common disease types may be divided and treated (with yoga). Yoga sadhana is without risk compared to many of the body exercises that require equipment.  Yoganga sadhana must be done standing, sitting, sideways and upside down.
All these types of asanas are given in this edition.  Interested practitioners and instructors must study carefully, practice and teach. Many asanas are also printed for ladies.  From this, we can get an idea of our ancestors behaviour".


"...The movement (activation) of these chakras are caused by the greatness (power) of pranayama and the variety of rechaka, puraka and kumbhaka". 

Examples of usage of Kumbhaka (Breath retention) in asana in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934)

In the examples below I am quoting just those elements of the asana description where the kumbhaka is explicitly noted. In #2 Parvottanasana, for example, just the Antara Kumbhaka, the breath retention after the inhalation, is mentioned before the fold into the full expression of the posture.Likewise in #8 Paschimottanasana, the same Antara Kumbhaka before the fold is mentioned.

"When practising asana, the breath that is inhaled into the body and the breath that is exhaled out must be kept equal. Moreover, practise the asana with their vinyasas by breathing only through the nose". p27

"Brahmana kriya means to take in the outside air through the nose, pull it inside, and hold it in firmly. This is called puraka kumbhaka.
Langhana kriya means to exhale the air that is inside the body out through he nose and to hold the breath firmly without allowing any air from outside into the body. This is called recaka kumbhaka".

"In each section for each particular asana, we have included a description and an enumeration of its vinyasas. The vinyasas in which the head is raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person...." p28


1 Uttanasana
"Following the rules for tadasana (yogasana samasthiti krama) (Figure 4.1, 4.2), stand erect. Afterwards, while exhaling the breath out slowly, bend the upper part of the body (that is, the part above the hip) little by little and place the palms down by the legs. The knees must not be even slightly bent. Raise the head upwards and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose. While doing this, draw in clean air through the nostril, hold the breath firmly and maintain this position. This is called sahitha kumbhaka...." p51

2 Parsvottanasana
"...Standing in tadasana krama, draw in clean air through the nose and practise kumbhaka...." p59

3 Prasarita Padottanasana
"...Stand in tadasana krama. Jump the legs apart, placing the feet 3 mozhams apart on the ground. Practise jumping and placing the feet at the correct distance all in one jump. While jumping, either puraka kumbhaka or recaka kumbhaka can be done...." p61

4 Ardhabaddha Padmottanasana
"From tadasana, do puraka kumbhaka. After this, choose either leg and place its foot on top of the opposite thigh. Slowly, little by little, move the foot up until the back of the heel is pressed against the lower abdomen. Whichever leg is raised, move the same hand behind the back and clasp the big toe of that foot (from behind the back). Keep the other hand in tadasana sthiti and do puraka kumbhaka. After this, slowly exhale through the nose and bend the upper part of the body forward down to the floor. Place the palm down by the foot and keep it firmly pressed against the floor. Release the breath out completely, and without inhaling, practise kumbhaka and lower the head, placing it on top of the kneecap of the extended leg...."p61

6 Urdhvamukhasvanasana
"This has 4 vinyasas. Vinyasas 1, 2, and 3 are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is to be done following the same method as for caturanga dandasana. But in caturanga dandasana, there are 4 angulas of space between the body and the floor everywhere. In this asana, the palms and toes are as in caturanga dandasana. However even while keeping the lower part of the body from the toes to the thighs just as in caturanga dandasana, raise the upper part of the body. Make sure that the navel rests between the hands and do puraka kumbhaka...." p65

8 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...." p69

11 Janusirsasana
"...This form follows the hatha yoga principles. Another form follows the raja yoga method. The practitioner should learn the difference. First, take either leg and extend it straight out in front. Keep the heel pressed firmly on the floor with the toes pointing upward. That is, the leg should not lean to either side. The base (back) of the knee should be pressed against the ground. Fold the other leg and place the heel against the genitals, with the area above the knee (the thigh) placed straight against the hip. That is, arrange the straight leg which has been extended in front and the folded leg so that together they form an “L”. Up to this point, there is no difference between the practice of the hatha yogi and the raja yogi.
For the hatha yoga practitioner, the heel of the bent leg should be pressed firmly between the rectum and the scrotum. Tightly clasp the extended foot with both hands, raise the head and do puraka kumbhaka. Remain in this position for some time and then, doing recaka, lower the head and place the face onto the knee of the outstretched leg. While doing this, do not pull the breath in. It may be exhaled. After this, raise the head and do puraka. Repeat this on the other side following the rules mentioned above.
The raja yogi should place the back of the sole of the folded leg between the scrotum and the genitals. Now practise following the other rules described above for the hatha yogis. There are 22 vinyasas for janusirsasana. Please note carefully that all parts of the outstretched leg and the folded leg should touch the floor. While holding the feet with the hands, pull and clasp the feet tightly. Keep the head or face or nose on top of the kneecap and remain in this sthiti from 5 minutes up to half an hour. If it is not possible to stay in recaka for that long, raise the head in between, do puraka kumbhaka and then, doing recaka, place the head back down on the knee. While keeping the head lowered onto the knee, puraka kumbhaka should not be done..." p79-80

12 Upavistakonasana
"This has 15 vinyasas. Recaka kumbhaka is its primary principle...." p83

13 Baddhakonasana
"This has 15 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is the asana sthiti. The 1st to the 6th vinyasas are like the 1st till the 6th vinyasas for pascimottanasana. In the 7th vinyasa, just like the 7th vinyasa for pascimottanasana, keep the hands down and bring the legs forward in uthpluthi. But instead of straightening them, fold the legs and place them down on the ground. Folding them means that the heel of the right foot is pasted against the base of the right thigh and the heel of the left foot is pasted against the base of the left thigh. When the legs are folded in this manner, the soles of the feet will be facing each other. Hold the sole of the left foot firmly with the left hand and hold the right sole firmly with the right hand. Clasping the soles together firmly, do recaka kumbhaka, lower the head and place it on the floor in front of the feet..."

14 Supta Padangushtasana
"...The first krama for this has 21 vinyasas. Through the 6th vinyasa, it is exactly as for pascimottanasana. In the 7th vinyasa, lie down facing upwards instead of extending the legs and sitting as in pascimottanasana. While lying down, the entire body must be pressed against the ground. The toes must point upwards and the back of the heels must be stuck to the ground. This is also called savasana by other schools. This is the 7th vinyasa for supta padangushthasana. In the 8th vinyasa, slowly raise the right leg straight up. Hold the big toe of the right foot with the fingers of the right hand, do recaka kumbhaka and remain in this position for as long as possible. .."p86

17 Utthitahasta Padangushtasana
"...First, push the chest forward and stand erect with equal balance. While standing this way, make sure that the head, neck, back, hips, arms and legs are aligned properly and gaze at the tip of the nose. The feet must be kept together. Now, raise one leg up slowly and maintain this position with the extended leg kept straight out in front at the height of the navel. The knee should not bend and the leg must be kept straight for the entire time that it is being raised. After the leg has been raised about 3/4 of the way without any assistance, take the first three fingers of the corresponding hand (the same as whichever leg was raised) and tightly clasp the big toe of the raised foot. Remain in this position for some time. Keep the other hand on the hip. Inhalation and exhalation of the breath must be slow and of equal duration. One says the sthiti is correct if there is the same measure of distance between the standing leg and the raised leg. In this there are many other forms.
After staying in this sthiti for some time, take either the face or the nose towards the knee of the raised leg and place it there. Recaka kumbhaka must be done in this sthiti. That is, expel the breath completely from the body, maintain this position and then without allowing any breath into the body, bend the upper body. Now carefully pull in the stomach as much as one’s strength allows and hold it in. Stay in this sthiti for at least one minute..." p99

18 Baddhapadmasana
"...Place the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on top of the right thigh. Take the hands behind the back and tightly clasp the big toe of the right foot with the first three fingers of the right hand and tightly clasp the big toe of the left foot with the first three fingers of the left hand.
Press the chin firmly against the chest. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Sit down, keeping the rest of the body straight. This has the name baddhapad- masana. This asana must be repeated on the other side (that is, first place the left foot on top of the right thigh and then the right foot on top of the left thigh) in order to exercise both sides of the body.
This has 16 vinyasas. The 8th and 9th vinyasas are the asana sthiti. The other vinyasas are like pascimottanasana. Study the pictures (Figures 4.52, 4.53) and learn how to keep the gaze. In this asana, one must do puraka kumbhaka..." p103

25 Marichasana
"This has 22 vinyasas. This needs to be done on both the left and the right sides. Study the sannaha sthiti (the preparatory state) of marichasana in the picture. This sthiti is the 7th vinyasa.
The right-side marichasana paristhiti is shown in the second picture. Maricha Maharishi was known for bringing this asana to public knowledge and hence it is named for him.
Stay in the 7th vinyasa for some time doing puraka kumbhaka. After this, do recaka and come to the 8th vinyasa. Stay in this position for as long as possible. In case your head starts reeling (you get dizzy), come back to the 7th vinyasa, do puraka kumbhaka, close the eyes and remain here for some time. The dizziness will stop.
The 9th vinyasa is like the 7th vinyasa. The 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th vinyasas are like the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th vinyasas of janusirsasana.
The 14th vinyasa is marichasana sannaha sthiti on the left side. This is demonstrated in the 3rd picture. The 15th vinyasa is the left-side marichasana paristhiti. This is demonstrated in the 4th picture. In the 14th vinyasa do puraka kumbhaka and in the 15th vinyasa do only recaka..." p115

26 Niralamba Sarvangasana
"This has 14 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is the asana sthiti. The form depicted in the picture is the 8th vinyasa. This is niralamba sarvangasana paristhiti. In order to get to this sthiti, slowly raise the arms and legs either together or one-by- one in the 7th vinyasa . Do only recaka at this time. Never do puraka kumbhaka..." p115

27 Ekapada Sirsasana
"This has two forms: dakshina ekapada sirsasana and vama ekapada sirsasana. Both these forms together have 18 vinyasas. The first picture depicts dakshina ekapada sirsasana and the second picture vama ekapada sirsasana. The 7th and 12th vinyasas are the asana sthitis of these different forms. For this asana, you need to do sama svasauchvasam (same ratio breathing). In the 7th vinyasa, the left leg, and in the 12th vinyasa the right leg, should be extended and kept straight from the thigh to the heel. No part should be bent.
Keep the hands as shown in the picture. In this sthiti one needs to do equal ra- tio breathing. When the hands are joined together in ekapada sirsasana paristhiti, one must do puraka kumbhaka. One must never do recaka..." p120

29 Yoga Nidrasana
"This has 12 vinyasas. The 7th vinyasa is yoga nidrasana sthiti. The first 6 vinyasas for kurmasana are the first 6 vinyasas for this. In the 7th vinyasa, sit like you did in dvipada sirsasana and instead of keeping the two legs on the back of the neck, first lie back facing upwards. Then lift the legs up and place them on the back of the neck.
In dvipada sirsasana, we joined the hands together in prayer and placed them next to the muladhara cakra. In this asana, following the krama, take the shoul- ders (that is, the arms) on both the left and right sides over the top of the two thighs, and hold the right wrist tightly with the fingers of the left hand beneath the spine. Study the picture.
In the 7th vinyasa, after doing only recaka, arrive at the asana sthiti. Then, one should do puraka kumbhaka and lie down...." p123

32 Bhairavasana
"This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th and the 14th vinyasas are the right and left side asana sthitis.
From the 1st until the 7th vinyasa, follow the method for ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th vinyasa, instead of keeping the hands at the muladhara cakra (as in ekapada sirsasana), hug both arms together tightly as seen in the picture and lie down looking upwards. While remaining here, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the neck upwards and gaze at the midbrow...". p129

33 Cakorasana
"This has 20 vinyasas. This is from the Kapila Matham.
After observing that this follows the form of flight of the cakora bird, this came to be called cakorasana. In the Dhyana Bindu Upanishad, Parameshwara advises Parvati that “There are as many asanas as there are living beings in the world”. We readers must always remember this. The 8th and 14th vinyasas are this asana’s sthitis. The 7th and the 13th vinyasas are like the 7th and the 13th vinyasas of ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th and the 14th vinyasas, press the palms of the hand firmly into the ground, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the body 6 angulas off the ground and hold it there. Carefully study the picture where this is demonstrated. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. The other vinyasas are like those of bhairavasana..." p131-132

37 Trivikramasana
"This has 7 vinyasas. From the 1st to the 5th vinyasas and then the 7th vinyasa, practise following those for utthita hasta padangushtasana. Practise the 2nd and 7th vinyasas as shown in the picture (study it carefully) and remain in these positions. The 2nd vinyasa is the right-side trivikramasana sthiti. The 6th vinyasa as shown is the left-side trivikramasana sthiti. The picture shown here only demonstrates the left-side trivikramasana. It is important that equal recaka and puraka kumbhaka must be carefully observed while practising this asana. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Both legs must be held straight and must not lean or bend to any side...".

38 Gandabherundasana
"This has 10 vinyasas. The 6th and 7th vinyasas show the asana sthiti. The first picture shows the 6th vinyasa and the second picture shows the 7th. In the 4th vinyasa, come to caturanga dandasana sthiti and in the 5th vinyasa proceed to viparita salabasana sthiti. In the 6th vinyasa, spread the arms out wide, keeping them straight like a stick (like a wire) as shown in the picture. Take the soles of both feet and place them next to the ears such that the heels touch the arms and keep them there.
Next, do the 7th vinyasa as shown in the second picture. This is called supta ganda bherundasana. In this asana sthiti and in the preliminary positions, do equal recaka puraka kumbhaka. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. This must not be forgotten". p142

Krishnamacharya, Sanskrit college, back left under picture frame of postures from Yoga Makaranda
Examples of usage of ujjayi and Kumbhaka in asana in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Part II?) date unclear (also called Salutations to the teacher and the Eternal one) 

"In SIRSHASANA, normally no kumbhakam need be done (in the beginning), though about two seconds ANTHAR and BAHYA kumbhakam automatically result when we change over from deep inhalation to deep exhalation and vice versa. During the automatic pause, kumbhakam takes place. When after practice has advanced and kumbhakam is deliberately practised, ANTHAR kumbhakam can be done up to 5 seconds during each round and BAHYA kumbhakam up to 10 seconds.
In SARVANGASANA, there should be no deliberate practice of ANTHAR kumbhakam, 10
but BAHYA kumbhakam can be practiced up to 5 seconds in each round.
These deep breathings along with the asana help in slowing down the breathing rate with a consequent elongation of life. Sayanacharya prescribes that the number of deep breaths one should practice per day should not be less than 320. This number could be spread out during the day-some may be done along with asana in the morning and evening, some along with pranayama, morning, noon, evening and at midnight, or whenever some spare time is
found".  p10-11

"...Take deep inhalations and exhalations with hissing sound in the throat with holding
in of breath after inhalation has been completed. It is important to do both types of Kumbhakam to get the full benefit from this asana. The total number of deep breaths should be slowly increased as practice advances from 6 to 16". p25

"...Take deep inhalations and exhalations with holding in of breath and holding out of
breath. Both types of kumbhakam are necessary. The total rounds of deep breaths may be slowly increased as practice advances, from 12 to 48." p30


"...Take deep breaths. The deep breaths in this asana can with advantage be with control both after inhalation and after exhalation i.e., both ANTHER AND BAHYA Kumbhakam. The retention of breath, in the beginning stages, should not be more than 5 seconds after inhalation and not more than two seconds after exhalation. The breathing in and breathing out should be as thin and as long possible, with rubbing sensation in the throat. The number of rounds can be as many as it is conveniently possible without strain". p40

"...Another variation which is effective combination of Ekapadasarvangasana-front with Karnapidasana. In this variation, one leg is kept upright and stretched, the other leg is taken behind the head as in Halasana and then the knee bent and brought back near the ear as in Karnapidasana. In the final position the thigh should press the abdomen. Repeat with the other leg.
In all these positions pranayama is to be done with holding out of breath after exhalation. Pranayama will have therefore periods of both Anther and Bahya kumbhakam. These two periods will be equal and be for 2 or 5 seconds. The number of bending of each leg will be as a maximum. The number of each leg should be the same so that both sides of the body may be equally exercised.
The above variations of the asana are according to RAJA YOGA. According to M
ATSYENDRANATH, GORAKHANATH and others of the Hatha Yoga school, a more strenuous variation of Karnapidasana is prescribed in the case of those suffering from stomach complaint"s. p44  



Yogasanagalu Asana table (1941), Primary, Middle and Proficient groups

Antah kumbhaka (purakha kumbhaka) = retention of the breath after inhalation
Bahya kumbhaka (recaka kumbhaka= retention of the breath after exhalation
Ubhya kumbhaka = retention of the breath after both inhalation and exhalation

*In the Primary group in the Yogasanagalu table kumbhaka is indicated explicitly in only three postures, baddha padmasana, uttanasana and sethubandasana. In the earlier Yoga Makaranda (1934) however, kumbhaka is indicated other primary postures. This may be that while learning the Primary asana we may forgo kumbhaka in most of the primary postures until gaining familiarity and a degree of proficiency with those asana when we would then begin to work in the kumbhaka. this may be made clearer as the translation continues.

There is a stronger focus on kumbhaka in the middle and proficient groups

Kumbhaka (mentioned explicitly) in the Yoga Makaranda Primary asana
Tadasana (here implies samasthiti )- purakha kumbhaka
Uttanasana -purakha kumbhaka (we can perhaps presume that all the uttanasana variations would also include antha kumbhaka EG. padahastasana, parsvauttanasa
na, prasaritapadauttanasana.
Ardha baddha padma uttanasana - recaka kumbhaka
Urdhavamukhssvanasana - puraka kumbhaka
Adhomukhssvandasana - recaka kumbhaka
Paschimottanasana - purkha kumbhaka (recaka kumbhaka implied ?)
janusirsasana - purka kumbhaka & Rechaka kumbhaka
Upavistakonasana "recaka kumbhaka is the central principle for this posture"
badhakonasana - recaka kumbhaka
Suptapaddangusthasana- recaka kumbhaka
utthitahastapadangusthasana - recaka kumbhaka
Bhujapidasana - recaka kumbhaka
marichiyasana - recaka kumbhaka ?

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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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