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 .

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Krishnamacharya and headstands, also Ramaswami's Inverted sequence and the Ashtanga seven deadlies.

My friend Ryan posted a picture of Krishnamacharya in Sirsasana (headstand) on fb today with this quote from Indra Devi.

"Sri Krishnamacharya used to tell me: 'Do the Headstand when you are tired and in need of a tonic; when you are unable to fall asleep; when you are hungry, nervous and unhappy. Do it when in need of relaxation, when the brain is clouded, when you are in low spirits. Do it when your thoughts are distracted and you cannot concentrate properly or meditate.'" ~Indra Devi

Thought it was a nice opportunity/excuse to show the great man in the headstand sequence from the classic 1938 Black and White movie

the headstands start about five minutes in.

With the minor back problem I had this week just sitting was painful, so no hip openers, no half lotus no lotus.... on the contrary, Ramaswami taught us the Headstand sequence and variations he had learnt from Krishnamacharya which allows you to explore your hip openers while inverted, perfect.

The sequence can be found in Ramaswami's books. Everyone seems to get the first one the Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga, which is excellent but check out the second, Yoga for the Three Stages of Life (actually Ramaswami's first book), still for my money one of the best books on an integrated yoga practice out there, I come back to it again and again and always discover something new or something I'd missed first, fifth, tenth time around.

Here's my own breakdown of the subroutines found in the Inverted sequence, you don't have to practice the full sequence of course, one or more subroutines or parts of one subroutine and parts of another are some of the myriad options available.

from my Vinyasa Krama practice book

Here's Ramaswami teaching headstand, he has this approach where you bring the heels close to the buttocks going up and coming down....he also gets you to try and bring  your knees, shins, backs of your feet back down to the mat at the exact same moment....tricky.

And if you want to develop an integrated yoga practice, Asana, Pranayama, pratyahara and meditation as well as  the study of Krishnamacharya's writing (line by line), Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (sutra by sutra) and an exploration of Yoga for the internal organs then try to get onto Ramaswami's 200hr TT this summer, it may well be that last year he runs it. The plan was to teach 108 I believe and I think he's pretty much there.

Ramaswami's 200 hr teacher training is running July to August this year at LMU in California

I took it in 2010 and can't recommend it enough. Here's a link to my recent post on the course

Ramaswami on teaching Pranayama and his teacher training 2013 at LMU


And why not, the Ashtanga seven deadlies while we're at it, the seven headstands from Ashtanga 2nd series.

You know was cloudy, never saw the Super moon.

Which means I can go practice said Inverted sequence.....


Krishnamacharya mentions in his 1934 Book Yoga Makaranda that he will be looking at Sirsasana, the headstand, in part II .

AG Mohan has released what he believes to be Yoga Makaranda Part II , here's the section on Sirsasana

This asana is so called because the head supports the whole body. This is also variously called KAPHALASANA, BRAHMASANA. These three, however, differ to some extent both in the technique and in the benefits derived. These differences have to be learnt under personal instructions form a Guru. This asana is beneficial in a large number of diseases and is rightly termed the ‘king of all the asanas’.
1. Place something soft, like a cushion, folded blanket or carpet on the floor touching the wall.

  1. Kneel on the ground facing the wall.
  2. Lock the fingers together, thumbs upright, and place them about four inches from
the wall. Let the elbows rest on the cushion, the elbows being not more than a foot apart.
4. Bend the neck and place the top of the head firmly on the cushion inside the knitted fingers. The thumbs should press behind the ears.

  1. Eyes are to be kept closed.
  2. Raise the hips, so that the knees are straightened and bring the feet as near the head
as possible. The toes, the feet and knees are to be kept together. The back will now rest
against the wall.
  1. Take long breaths twice.
  2. Life both the feet simultaneously to an upright position. Toes together, knees
together. The back will rest on the wall. Straighten the back so that the whole body may rest solely on the top of the head without the support of the wall.
Note: For beginners to raise the legs upright without bending the knees will be difficult and the help of another person may be taken. If necessary the knees may be bent, brought closer to the body, the back still kept in contact with the wall and with a slight jump the legs taken above the head, and the knees still bent. The legs are then straightened slowly, the knees together, the toes together and the toes pointed.

  1. Toes should be pointed and the thigh and calf muscles should be stretched.
  2. Slowly inhale and exhale deeply with rubbing sensation in the throat. When
exhalation is complete the abdomen should be well drawn in (UDDIYANA BANDHAM). Note: For proper benefit of the asana it is essential that the breathing should be regulated i.e., as long and as thin as possible, Normal shallow breathing does not give any benefit. (Concentration on Lord Ananthapadmabanabha gives added benefit.) (a combination of asana, pranayama and dhyana gives proper benefit.) (See in this connection Sutra 47 Chapter II of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Vaschaspati Misra’s and Bala Ramodasin’s commentaries.
For the first week do not exceed six inhalations and exhalations. There should be no retention of breath. Uddiyana bandha, in the beginning should be done only once a day. Every week the number of inhalations and exhalations may be increased by four, so that the duration of the asana is slowly brought up.
11. After the number of rounds of breathing is over, slowly bring down the legs. In the beginning the knees may have to be bent, but as practice advances, the knee can be kept
12. Lie on the back relaxed and take rest for at least for three minutes.
Note: 1. For people who are overweight over 190 lbs. Sirshasana should be begun only after the weight has been reduced.
SIRSHASANA-VIPARITAKONASANA (according to the Hatha Yoga)
1. Place something soft, a folded blanket, cushion, or carpet on the floor. Kneel on the ground. Bend the neck and place the top of the head firmly on the folded blanket. Stretch the arms in front of the body, with the palms upward, fingers together and pointed, and the palms not more than 21⁄2 feet apart.
2. Raise the hips, so that the knees are straightened, and bring the feet as near the head as possible. The toes of the feet and the knees are kept together.
3. While inhaling, lift both the legs together to the upright position. The legs are spread apart, toes should be pointed, and the thigh and calf muscles kept stretched.
4. Spread the legs apart while exhaling, and the thigh and calf muscles kept stretched. (toes should be pointed).

  1. Stay in this position for 6 deep breaths.
  2. Bring the legs together, while inhaling.
  3. While exhaling, lower the legs to the ground by bending the body at the hips. Bend
the knees and get to the kneeling position, and rest. SIRSHASANA-EKAPADA-VIPARITAKARANI - (Hatha Yoga) Technique:
  1. The first three steps are the same as for the last asana.
  2. While exhaling, slowly lower right leg to the ground so that the right foot will rest
on the right palm. The left leg is kept upright. The thigh and calf muscles of both the legs
are kept stretched.
  1. Stay in this position for 6 breaths.
  2. While inhaling, raise the leg back to the upright position.
  3. Repeat with the left leg.
  4. The next steps are the same as in step 7 of the previous asana.
  1. The first three steps are the same as for the last asana.
  2. While exhaling, both the legs are lowered so that the feet may rest on the respective
palms. The knees should not be bent. The thigh and calf muscles should be kept stretched.
  1. Stay for six deep breaths.
  2. While inhaling raise both legs together to the upright position.
  3. While exhaling bend knees and return to the floor and rest.
When Sirshasana has been sufficiently mastered so that one can stand steady without support, for at least 15 minutes, the following variations may be practised.
  1. The first eight steps are the same as for Sirshasana.
  2. Exhaling, the legs are spread apart, and the thigh and calf muscles kept stretched,
toes should be pointed.
  1. Do six deep breathing.
  2. Inhaling, bring the legs together.
The next steps are the same as 11 and 12 given under Sirshasana. DVIPADA VIPARITAKARANI
1. The first step is the same as Sirshasana.
2. While exhaling both the legs are lowered to the ground without bending the knees and keeping the thigh and calf muscles stretched.
  1. Do six deep breathing.
  2. While inhaling raise both the legs together to the upright position.
  3. While exhaling bend knees and return to the floor and rest.
(Note: The above three variations are according to Hatha Yoga).
Note: In the beginning it may be difficult to bring the body to an upright position without bending the knees. So the knees may be bent and the thighs bent over the body. The hips are raised from the ground and the back supported by the palms. The legs are now stretched. If there is still difficulty, the help of somebody should be taken.
If the body is fat and no help is available, the help of the wall may be sought so that it can support the heels at gradually increasing levels. This is done by lying on the ground facing the wall perpendicular to it. After some time the hips can also be raised by having a bedroll near the wall. When some strength is gained the heels are removed from the wall and the legs brought upright. (As breathing exercises are done in these positions the abdominal muscles get toned up and the stomach becomes more and more pliable and soft.
4. The chin should be locked in the neck pit. This ensures that the head is placed symmetrical with the body so that the neck muscles may not be strained. The neck pit is the depression in front of the thyroid between the collar bones.
Note: The chin lock will not be possible in the beginning stages, but it should be kept in mind that the head is kept symmetrical with the body and the neck muscles are not strained.

The full chin lock will become possible when the body is fully upright and the palms have reached a position in the back as low as possible.
5. Slowly inhale and exhale with even, long breaths through both nostrils, with rubbing sensation in the throat, not more than six times at the beginning. There should be no
retention of breath. The number of inhalations and exhalations may be slowly increased at the rate of two each week.
Note: The final duration of this asana can be 5 to 10 minutes when it is done by itself. If on the other hand other asanas are also being done the duration may be suitably reduced.

6. Exhale, bend knees, so that they approach the throat, lower the hips so that the back rests on the ground and then stretch the legs, so that the whole forms a rolling movement.
7. Take rest at least for a minute.
Benefits: The thyroid gets special benefits. The waist line is reduced. This tones up the liver. This helps in preventing piles, and helps in curing gastric troubles.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

AYA2 (Ashtanga) House recommendations....for the Home Ashtangi

I mentioned last week that the AYA2 (Ashtanga) House Recommendations were being turned into a small booklet designed by Laura Shaw Feit of Small Blue pearls and Well, here it is available free to download to your iPad (you just have to register) or it's a couple of quid for the printed copy.

Downloaded the pdf but kind of want a printed copy, have to check about International postage. Just did, ordered a copy, postage about a quid to the UK. $5.20 including postage, bargain.


So then I thought, how about a House Recommendations for the HOME Ashtangi, for the Home shala........

SAME book.

and highly recommended, will provoke thought and reflection for the home and shala ashtangi, beginner and more experienced alike, which is always good right ( off the mat obviously).

Here's What Small Blue pearls has to say about it.

"Designed and produced by yours truly, this incredibly helpful resource is now available as a free digital download (there are choices on format here) as well as a lovely printed version to keep mat-side. The printed version costs under five bucks and covers the printing and shipping only. Let's all thank Angela Jamison for crowdsourcing and curating this awesome pamphlet!"


I like the cover so much that I thought it deserved a larger shot all of it's own along with the contents and the introduction (double page spread here to give an idea of the design. Love the layout, marries well with the tone.

No doubt the main area the Home Ashtangi and the Shala Ashtangi part ways is in the question of relationship, we practice at home, solo, we have no relationships. This chapter (see below) perhaps provoked the most reflection for me, sometimes painful or at least uncomfortable, it's the area in which I'm most stubborn.

Are we missing out? Hard perhaps not to feel that you are on reading this section. No doubt we gain/develop something too, an independence and self reliance.... I'm reminded of the suggestion that Ashtanga focuses on the breath therefore Ashtanga includes pranayama, that Ashtanga encourages a highly focused drishti therefore Ashtanga is meditative. And yet if you actually practice pranayama and if you practice meditation then it's pretty obvious that it's not the same thing. Ashtanga is excellent preparation for pranayama and seated meditation but it's no substitute for either. In pranayama you're just focused on the breath, nothing else is going on, same with your seated meditation. Likewise perhaps with Shala practice. We might argue that the Mysore shala is a room is filled with eighty solo practices or a smaller Shala being a room with ten solo practices but that's not the case, not really. Home practice is solo practice, the only energy in the room is your own, the motivation, encouragement, the discipline.... the will is yours and yours alone. If there's any surrender, going on it's directly to the practice, your 121 is with the divine.

That's the stubborn bit, there's truth there and yet.... 

I think my practice has been developing nicely thus far. I've stuck with it for six years plus, managed to get on the mat everyday for practice. I've progressed through to Advanced B, realised the error in racing ahead and gone back to basics, to foundations... first principles, developing a practice with a stronger focus on the breath. I've moved into the other limbs, studied shastras somewhat.... it seems to be moving in a healthy direction but have I really done that solo?

Haven't I built relationships through blogging about my practice,? It's not the same perhaps as sharing a shala and yet there are nodding acquaintances, regular readers who never comment but I recognise their flag and less commonly noticed city come up on the Feedjit gadget, I know they come, that we share a practice. There are others who comment regularly as I do on their blogs and then some who have become dear friends, there's love here. And trust, not afraid to be critical at times to question each other strongly, there's also support and encouragement.

How can I say this is a solo practice.

And then there are the online teachers, some we learn the odd tip or trick from others we become attached too, Richard Freeman for one. I've read his book, his articles, practiced along with his DVDs over and over, listened to all his dharama talks and when I eventually took a workshop with him his voice and mannerisms were so familiar that I felt I'd known him for years.

It's one way (although isn't he speaking to us), not the same but there is relationship there...of sorts, isn't there?

It's not the same because I eventually studied with Ramaswami and developed a relationship with a teacher, I know the difference now, but even here despite the support and the encouragement over the last few years I only actually spent one month with him....he spent thirty years with his teacher Krishnamacharya, much of that time visiting him daily. Pattabhi Jois similarly spent twenty years plus studying with Krishnamacharya, Manju and Sharath spent similar lengths of time practicing and studying with their father and grandfather. 

Is such practice and study, a relationship with one teacher still possible in this day and age and in the West.

Well yes, it seems it is and it's something Angela is touching on here. It's an available aspect of Ashtanga practice, that six day a week practice with one teacher, year in year does give me pause.

Is it too late?

And what of the relationship we have with ourselves. Angela suggests at some point that we look for a teacher who know something we don't. For me that would be my common sense self, that side of ourselves that we listen to when we're tempted to get all gung-ho in our practice. How many other aspects of self do we have to listen to. How far can we equate the idea of the inner guru idea with the external teacher.  Argument goes that we're already Ishvara, already Buddha, already divine, we just have to chip away the marble. 

If this is the only teacher available to us in our solo practice, how do we listen....

Here's Angela's 'Relationship' section in full because this began as an Ashtanga at Home blog and us Home Ashtangi's perhaps we have a lot to hear from it. Besides, I want to give more of a feel for the marriage of tone and design of this big/little booklet

If you Like Laura's design of the book you might like to wander over to her website and have a look at her portfolio, we all have a book in us....or two

Book covers 
(bit embarrassed now with my own)

 Page designs

Self publishing?

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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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