This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

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

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

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Monday, 30 December 2013

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Pattabhi Jois also states in the article

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

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

It's actually quite intuitive, how about the breath

'equal but otherwise, free breathing'.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu (19410 table in Ashtanga 2nd series order

Number in                                                                                        Asana
yogasanaglu        Asana                                      Vinyasas            position                       Breathing notes
table                                           

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

11.          Supta vajrasana                   18            9-11            Ubhya Kumbhaka


*


FIRST DRAFT

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





*

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

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

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The path of Yoga is one of radical enquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

Yoga For the three stages of life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Modifiable VINYASA KRAMA PRACTICE .

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

short prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kapalabhati, 
say for about 108 times

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

Shanmukhmudra
to be followed by five minutes
Shanmukhimudra

Meditative practice
chanting or meditation of about 15 minutes.

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




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

*

Handy print out version





Monday, 23 December 2013

Ashtanga Vinyasa Count - suspending the count

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

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

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

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

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

So the count can be suspended.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pattabhi Jois in Yoga Mala

PASCHIMATTANASANA

Sharath demonstrating in the later editions of the book

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

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

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


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

Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana


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

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

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

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ON THE SAME PAGE

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

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

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

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

Why is it so slow?

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

Krishnamacharya's asana practice becomes a pranayama practice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is the Youtube description.

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


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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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