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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Last post: 'Love your practice...', Routine - Discipline - Dedication - Devotion - Surrender - Notes to self

Love the practice for it is the path of enquiry, 
love the first step as much as the last.

Maybe it doesn't matter how fast or how slow we practice, or perhaps what we practice. More importantly, do we practice (something) everyday, has practice become a routine, the routine a discipline (tapas). Have we become dedicated to the practice such that other aspects of our daily lives support it (EG. bringing in other limbs, yama/niyama or reflection on our own cultural ethical traditions). Developing routine and dedication, we can spend a long time here, years even and may need to keep coming back to routine to re enforce dedication. Is dedication leading to devotion, devotion to a path of self knowledge, whatever that knowledge/realisation may end up being. Yoga is radical enquiry (in the form of direct experience), we can't prejudge what we may find, the surrender is in being prepared to accept whatever we discern to be true and devotion ( to the enquiry/practice) an end perhaps in itself.

My experience is that the Ashtanga approach is excellent for engendering...

Routine - Discipline - Dedication... and perhaps Devotion - Surrender

The argument goes that as we practice (routine) and as our practice becomes ever more sufficient for us ( dedication) we become less attached to the, lets call them sensory objects of the world. This is preparation for yoga, routine and a disciplined practice can help in this loosening of attachments.

As our practice, perhaps with the assistance of other limbs, deepens, as we become more reflective we may notice how the constructed, re enforced, propped up self can seem to drop back/away somewhat, become less dominant. A realisation arises that perhaps what I had hitherto experienced as self may not be quite what I had thought.

What then? Is there still awareness, consciousness, who is aware, what conscious.... Devotion to this line of enquiry is devotion to knowledge, yoga can develop a keen tool of enquiry, Ekagrata  one pointedness.

If the old texts are... insightful, perhaps as the constructed self drops away, what is left is (to employ the Samkhya model but are any of these pervious models still sufficient for us ) purusha, awareness, just awareness. I say 'just'  but for the shastras purusha is universal awareness, other terms for this depending on ones inclination/preference are Lord, Creator ( as in that which creates), God.

Devotion to practice then is profound love for the path of enquiry which may lead to greater knowledge and understanding of self and/or of god.

Love is surrender in that we seek not to own ( to project ) but to know (through direct experience).

In this line of thinking,  devotion to practice, whatever form the practice takes for you is an end and sufficient  in itself

Love your practice for it is the path of enquiry, love the first step as much as the last.


I'd  forgotten about the speeded up version of this video ( Speeded up x4 to pretty much the same pace as Sharath takes in his Ashtanga primary DVD for the same postures - no judgement implied just showing up a different approach
Link to Actual speed version :  (see below).

So this is Oscar Montero and I practcing at Yoga Centro Victoria, Leon, Spain last year.

Oscar is practicing Vinyasa Krama I'm running through Krishnamacharya's primary group asana in Ashtanga order but with perhaps longer, slower breathing and short kumbhaka (breath retention) on the appropriate inhalation or exhalation ( rough guide: if the head is up hold the breath in after inhalation, if the head is down hold breath out after exhalation).

Problems with the camera so we lost the standing sequence, video comes in at paschimottanasana and camera stops after about twenty minutes ( here speeded up to five minutes).

Because it's a slower practice I tend to practice half an ashtanga series each morning, one day the first half of primary, next day the second half, day after that the first half of 2nd series or middle group asana.

This is arguably the approach to asana Krishnamacharya presents in his 1934 book Yoga Makaranda (but put in the order of his second 1941 book Yogasanagalu - close to current Ashtanga).

This was at the time he was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois in Mysore.

Did Krishnamachaya actually get to teach this way, did he want to teach this way, was this his own approach to practice, how he was taught by his teacher perhaps.

The main difference with this and his later teaching is that later the vinyasa to and from standing tended to be more implied.

The sequence never seems to have been fixed, more groups of asana.

First the speeded up version then the actual speed version.

Previous post 
2014 My year in posts


Appendix : More on Purusha 

And today, how would we seed to elucidate the fulfilment of our enquiries, which model(s) would we, or those on our behalf, construct, in what world view would it be embedded, what language would we struggle to employ, how would we seek to support, justify, explain our experience. 
Here's what the ancients ( or perhaps not so ancients ) came up with, does it still speak to us, resonate?

The Purusha sutra : A text on transcendence and immanence 

The Primeval man ( Purusha)
The Rig Veda X.90 and the White Yajur Veda Ch.31

Purusha is explained in the Nirukta as one resting within the body (puri-shaya) or one pervading (filling) the cosmos.

Thousand heads has the Purusha,
So too He has thousand eyes and thousand feet;
Pervading earth on all sides (spanning 10 directions)
and heart measuring ten fingers (spanning 10 senses).
He yet exceeds all, within and without. …1

Purusha verily is all this that exists (in this creation),
What had been (in past creations) or would be (in future creations).
He exceeds the body that grows with food.
Indeed, the Lord of Immortality He is! …2

Such (aforesaid) is His pre-eminence,
Greater still stands the Purusha.
A quarter of Him is all beings that could have been;
Three quarters of Him sits immortal in heaven. …3

‘A quarter’ could be explained as the first quarter (waking state) of the Mandukya Upanishad.

With immortal three quarters, Purusha sits above.
His one quarter alone manifests here again and again.
He pervades all spaces and becomes all beings
That eat and eat not (i.e. worldly and liberated ones). …4

‘Three quarters’ possibly refer to the three immutables: Brahma (Universal Consciousness), Jīva (limited individual) and Prakriti (Nature).

From Him (or His Prakriti), Virāt [Hiranyagarbha] emerged,
Still Purusha is the sovereign
For He exceeds His creations.
Next, appeared the creations, both terrestrial and corporeal. …5

The Yajña that gods performed with offerings of Purusha [He being all this];
Spring was its purified butter, summer its fagots, autumn its oblation. …6

Contemplating First-born Purusha (primeval source) in heart or sacrifice,
Gods, Rishis and perfected ones (sādhyas) venerated Him as Yajña (= Venerable). …7

From Venerable Purusha invoked by all,
There appeared the edible foods.
He created animals and birds
And what are domestic and wild. …8

From Venerable Purusha invoked by all,
Issued forth the Rik and Sāma hymns.
From Him issued the Atharva hymns,
So too from Him issued the Yajus hymns. …9
Rik, Sāma and Yajus also signify the speech, life-breath and mind. (YV 36.1)

From Him were born the horses (or energy)
And also cattle with two rows of teeth (or senses behaving dually).
From Him were born the cows,
From Him were the sheep and goats born. …10

In what ways was conceived the stated Purusha!
What formed His mouth, the arms, the thighs? What to call His feet? …11

Brahmin (priest) was His mouth; arms were made the warrior (kshatriya);
His thighs are the merchants; from feet were born the menial workers. …12

From His mind, the Moon was born; from His eye, the Sun;
From His mouth, Indra and Agni were born;
From His breath, the Wind (Vāyu). …13

From His navel, the space (mid-region) emerged;
From His head, the heavens emerged;
From His feet, the Earth; from His ears, the directions;
Thus the worlds were conceived. …14

Seven are the boundaries, and twenty-one are the fuel-sticks:
In the Yajña with Purusha as its subject,
Spread out by the gods [in the beginning]. …15

With Yajña (offerings of Purusha),
The gods worshipped the Yajña Purusha
(Venerable One manifesting all and still exceeding);
These verily became the primary dicta (dharmas)
[like Brahmacharya, or treating all as Brahma (Purusha)].
Those gods became eminent ones and attained the highest heaven (nāka)
Where former gods and perfected ones together inhabit. …16

I know this Purusha of gigantic dimensions,
Golden like our celestial Sun, in striking contrast to darkness (tamas);
Knowing Him alone, one can surpass death;
Alternative course there exists none. (YV 31.18)

from here


a couple of other version with the sanskrit

and here

Interview: Kristina Karitinou on returning to Mysore after 12 years.

Kristina Karitinou, Agios Pavlos, Crete. Photo by Sandrine Fauconet
Back in November of last year I posted an interview with Kristina Karitinou,

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

I asked her how she first came to Ashtanga, about her late husband Derek Ireland and about visiting Mysore for the first time, the interview ranged far and wide.

Here she is from that interview on first visiting Mysore.

Anthony: How was it to visit Mysore, tell me about your experience practicing with Pattabhi Jois

Kristina: Sri K Pattabhi Jois was a truly wise man. He was a very generous teacher, as when you practiced in his yoga shala you could feel the intensity of his deep knowledge as well as the connection to the teachers of the past. He had the ability to transfer your practice to a deeper level of understanding the asana and all this would come through his own experience of life and all the hardships and strains he had gone through  which offered him a completely different awareness of the practice and the asana itself. He would always work through a deeper part of himself which had been shaped through the good and the bad times of life and had offered him a unique perspective of simplicity and substantially. At the same time he was a very sincere man and truly industrious while all his students were made to feel part of his greater family and were always offered this knowledge generously. Through all his hard work he managed to contribute to the shaping of a universal consciousness towards a better world. 

Pattabhi Jois, Old Shala

This year Kristina returned to Mysore for the first time in 12 years and I was keen to ask her about the experience, here are the ten questions I sent her before she left (Pictures chosen by me).


1. This is the first time you’ve been to Mysore in a long time, how long has it been, can you tell us a little about your last trip to Mysore.

Kristina: It was back in 2002 when I last visited Mysore. We were still practicing in the old Shala with Guruji and Sharath, and the room would fit around 12 practitioners at a time, and the classes were running from 4:00 in the morning up to 1:30 in the afternoon. Mysore always gave me the sense of family, with Guruji being the father figure of the place. He would look after us so much in our practice as well as outside of it. He would always find the time to ask about our personal life. Every afternoon his house was open to all of us either to answer our questions or just to let us be there with him. So much in Mysore as well as in all of his seminars around Europe he would always find the time to sit with me or me and my kids and ask about our well being and how we manage as he had a great connection with Derek.

2. Why have you left it so long to come again and what made you decide to come now.

Kristina: A lot of things happened since then. To begin with I moved from the UK to Greece where I had to start all over again, meaning adapting children to school, starting business from scratch, adjusting to a new way of life without having any support whatsoever, financial or practical. Being a single mother of two meant prioritising in a completely different way, while I kept contact with Guruji up to 2005 via his visits in Europe. Getting married again and having one more child meant even more responsibilities, which kept me away from Mysore. I did have the honour of having Manju visiting us twice a year at the time so I felt connected to the family. Guruji’s departure was not an easy thing and I needed the appropriate time to deal with it, just like the rest of his senior students. It was a time of grief and we had to respect that. I did keep contact with Sharath but visiting him needed time.
When the right time came it was very clear to me that I now had to go back and pay my respect so much to Sharath as well as the place that Guruji had made for his students. There was not just one thing that led me there but a number of occasions actually made it clear that the time had come to go back.

3. What’s it like being back in Mysore after all this time. Tell us a little about your daily routine

Kristina: Being back was a great experience once again. The place has totally changed just like we have. Now you can find many more amenities and facilities. The new Shala is located in a beautiful area that is changing to cover the ever more increasing number of students and visitors.
The daily routine would always start with a morning practice which was followed by a social breakfast as I called it. A lot of us would get together to have our breakfast and exchange ideas and views on so much personal as well as social matters for the Ashtanga community. It was a great opportunity to communicate and exchange opinions and beliefs. The rest of the day included rest, reflection upon the morning practice, reading and coming in contact with other spiritual teachers living in the area. Often I would find myself engaged in talks, guided meditations and even once I had the honour to attend a ceremony of the Association Yoga of Mysore of the Sanskrit College where the whole Jois family was invited.


4. How does the place you are staying now differ from in the past.

Kristina: This time I chose to live in a house which is more communal as I was there alone and spend some of my free time with the other tenants. Other than that there was not much of a difference.

5. What is it like to be in class again, in the shala, to be a student again rather than the teacher.

Kristina: It is a great relief. Being able to receive rather than give is most welcome by everybody. It is just you and your practice and as soon as you get on your magic carpet the flight begins. I don't mean to sound disrespectful and I love my job but there is a need for all of us to trust and let go and allow others to work with our bodies. At the end of the day this is what my teachers have taught me to trust and be trusted, in order to receive knowledge and acquire wisdom.

6. Tell me about the shala what is it like to practice in the there again afters many years, is the atmosphere the same as you remember 

Kristina: The new Shala naturally has a different feeling to the old one because it is a different Shala. This is the place that Guruji had showed me back in 2002 when they were still building it. It has been made to accommodate more practitioners as it can fit up to 100 people.
The atmosphere has also changed, as more practitioners are practising together it is a bigger challenge for the teacher to tune all their energies, which I think Sharath is managing quite well. In my opinion this must be the place where one can have the opportunity to experience deep effect on his practice and advance his level of understanding, and that is not just because of the magnitude of Guruji and Sharath there but because of the energy all these practitioners have deposited on this place which is still the root of this method.

New shala (picture source unknown)

The next four questions are answered together under 10.

7. How is it to see Sharat and Saraswati again

8. Do you feel Mysore itself has changed if so in what ways.

9. And what of the atmosphere surrounding the shala. I imagine there are many more practitioners than the last time you were. Do you still feel this is traditional Mysore practice

10. Do you feel that peoples reasons for coming to the shala are essentially the same as in the past or different

Kristina: The atmosphere surrounding the Shala has definitely changed. Unfortunately no senior teachers are there to be seen and many practitioners coming lack the essential of a yogic education. There seems to be a tendency of students visiting Mysore with the sole aim of advancing their practice without having the need to share with the rest and offer to the community. I got the impression that practitioners nowadays feel that tuition fees is all they need to give, while visiting Mysore should be a great opportunity of making the yoga community stronger by helping each other and sharing experience and knowledge. Expectations for more asanas or for an authorisation do not allow them to think and act with respect to the place and its history. Pushing around for a place of a mat, not allowing space for more people to fit in, being loud before and after conferences or the chanting classes, talking loudly after classes next to the coconut stands are traits of a new uneducated class of practitioners absorbed in their personal world of achievements. This is where the responsibility of senior teachers and yoga centres around the world comes in. It is our job, to teach our students to think about the community, about their fellow practitioners and pay respect so much to the lineage and its representatives as well as to the places they visit. At the same time the practitioners that have been given the appropriate education and have been granted with this knowledge remain silent and choose to keep a low profile although it would be more appropriate if they stood front and asked for this sort of respect contributing thus to the balance and flow of the place. Sharath made it clear to me that it is the personal example of students which is more important and which actually illustrates the right qualities of a practitioner.

This is definitely traditional Mysore practice as the practice itself has not changed any how. The same qualities are still to be found under the right circumstances and the same teachings are there to be conveyed to the students that are eager to open their ears and eyes to them. So much Manju as well as Sharath and Saraswati are now the cornerstones of this method and they serve as our common point of reference closely linked to the lineage bearing the absolute truth of this method. In my opinion a devoted practitioner should be able to receive teachings from all three of them and thus acquire a deep and well grounded knowledge of what Ashtanga truly means while at the same time he should offer his best qualities together with devotion and humbleness.

Kristina Teaching, Rethymno Shala, Crete.

Kristina is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, and has been teaching through the tradition of Sri K Pattabhi Jois since 1991.
She was qualified as an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher by Derek Ireland and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in 2002 and became Certified by Manju Pattabhi Jois in 2012. She has practiced intensively with R.Sharath Jois.
She teaches the Primary, Intermediate and Third Sequence and she offers classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings all year round in Greece, Europe and Asia. Kristina is happy to host workshops and teacher trainings with Manju Pattabhi Jois in Crete.

Kristina’s work is a continuation of Derek Ireland’s teaching principles. Her work is dedicated to him.

Kristina Karitinou Ashtanga yoga Greece (affiliated with Yoga Practice London)

Thank you again Kristina for agreeing to answer yet more questions and with such candour,

Kristina and I, Agios pavlos, Crete. Photo by Sandrine Fauconet!

And Thank you again to Nikos Michos for his assistance with this post as well as in Pada Hastasana.

Nikos with Kristina, Athens.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Blog to Book - Slow Ashtanga Jul 2008 Dec 2014

Came across a website called Blogbooker which can turn your blog not a pdf 'book' which you can then export to somebody like lulu for printing.

It's not perfect, at the moment I have a 7000 page book in need of a lot of editing, best of all though it's searchable.

Here's a look

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Nothing says Christmas Morning like "Ekam, inhale". Peace and Goodwill, one vinyasa at a time.

So you thought I hated Christmas.....

It's what Christmas isn't that I hate dislike intensely.

Here's Japan attempting  to get into the spirit or more cynically perhaps, the business associations starting to see the mercantile potential.

Christmas when I was here in Japan last time seemed to be a day for lovers and was all about KFC

But hey, nothing says Christmas morning like "Ekam, Inhale", which is Mysore for Peace and Goodwill to ALL, one person, one vinyasa at a time.

Below, the first meme I think I've ever shared, thanks to Maria for this who shared it from a friend  Brené.

It does not mean to be in a place 
where there is no noise, trouble, or 
hard work. It means to be in the
 midst of those things and still 
be calm in your heart.

Merry Christmas and or Happy Holidays.

.... and now to practice.


but first..... PRESENTS

This from my Lu Duong in my inbox this Christmas morning

A nice interview with my old friend ( and long time commenter on the blog) Steve Hyland on Lu Duong's Ashtanga Parampara platform for Interviews with Authorised and Certified Ashtanga teachers.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Ajay Tokas' Karandavasana repetitions and Sharath's Helsinki karandavasana and Dwi Pada Sirsasana

So Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, presents!

On an fb comment on my 'Kapo's from Ajay Tokas' yesterday I was asked if I'd seen his Karanadavasana repetitions video.... I have now.

I'll leave you to count how many he does.

Yesterday in the video Ajay was looking at different approaches to kappa I added one more, the long stay, here then we have another option repeating.

I'm all for repeating postures, do it once at regular pace then do it again slowing the breath by half, Ramaswami refers to this in his excellent Yoga for the three stages of life as a proficiency exercise in asana. On my own workshops we stand in utkatasana for three minutes (Ramaswami had us do it for five) and privately counting the breaths, take a mini savasana then repeat the exercise attempting to halve the number of breaths taken, its interesting exercise, try it.... then try it on you kapotasana.

Here's Ajaj

While I was hunting down Ajay's video I stumbled on this karandavasana by Sharath in Helsinki, I don't think I've come across it before.

 If those make you groan and think you'll never do it yourself, HERE's my own which was never great but  serviceable ( see also perhaps my 14 day karandavasana post ), been meaning to spend more time on Jessica Walden's approach where you come down a little way then go back up, then down a little further and back up and so on thus avoiding the face plant. her tutorial is HERE

 Nor had I seen Sharath's Helsinki Dwi Pada Sirsasana 'tutorial'. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ajay Tokas: How many different approaches to Kapotasana can you think of

I started watching Ajay Tokas' kapotasana video and he just managed to take his toes. I thought, that's great, he may be the floatiest of the floatiest but still working on his backbends and happy to share that. 

Then of course the examples kept coming, toes, heels, the noodle.... and then this : )

Here's the video

And just to add one more of my own, long stays, here 25 breaths. 

Now I have to say that due to lack of practice ( year and a half focusing on Krishnamacharya's approach to Primary group asana) I've lost my kapo somewhat, taking my toes at best yesterday as in Ajay's first example in the video. Still, it'll come back ( as it has before) and staying wherever you are for more breaths is always interesting. Not that bothered about calves or even grabbing my ankles any more but heels would be nice, gives something to hold on to and draw in and settle.

The above is part of Pattabhi Jois' 'Rishi Series approach, 25-50 breaths in an asana, 10 actually. david Williams had asked him what to do after completing Advanced series. 
See this post

A link to Ajay at his floatiest

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Developing a Home practice Part ( I forget, 33?) ASANA.

“Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.” 
Sri T. Krishnamacharya

NO, NOT a Christmas post!

This started off as a fb post but got too long...

I think I need to revive the old 'Developing a Home Practice' series and do an update, something on 'indifference to asana'..... No, not indifference, indifference to acquiring perhaps or of practicing so many of those I used to practice.

I'm more interested now in inhabiting asana.... no, that's not it either, not inhabiting, I don't necessarily want to stay SO long, not in the Iyengar sense, but perhaps experience the asana more fully as I pass through. 'Experiencing' the asana more in the Ashtanga context, that's closer.

Who writes on this, teaches.... THIS.  Richard Freeman perhaps, always Richard, who else?

There is a moment when you practice asana, in the early Krishnamacharya approach of Yoga Makaranda, when everything seems to click into place, the kumbhaka comes on line and everything seems to light up (especially the antara kumbhaka's, the short breath retentions after the inhalation), what IS that.... and it's accumulative, each asana lighting up in a temporal row.

Except that in my case it's like bulbs in the christmas tree lights have blown and not all of them are firing but there's a taste, it's there in my mouth now carried over from yesterday as I'm about to step on the mat, what if they all lit up one after another......

What were you up to T. Krishnamacharya, did you even know, was there a taste in your mouth too, a suspicion, What if one were to practice THIS way. But then perhaps the moment  was gone, another demonstration due, another book this one to be easier to understand, to practice.... commitments here, the Maharajah sending you there and then Chennai....

Pattabhi didn't seem to understand but then he was young, so young at the time, did you even bother to show him, to teach him THIS, did you show anyone or just bury it away in a phase of your own practice, from a lost or forgotten text perhaps, hidden in plain view in the Makaranda behind the 30 minute mayurasana that no one would ever practice.....

What WERE you up to for a moment there T Krishnamacharya.

from O Tannenbaum

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:

Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit

Gibt Mut und Kraft zu jeder Zeit!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,

Dein Kleid will mich was lehren!

or this version, not a translation of the above

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Thy candles shine out brightly!

Each bough doth hold its tiny light,

That makes each toy to sparkle bright.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Thy candles shine out brightly!

OK, so perhaps it is a christmas post, the only Christmas song I can put up with, apart from Dino and 'Let it Snow', obviously.


So you want to try it for yourself, a taste perhaps.

Try it in you sun salutations, take it a little slower at least five seconds for every inhalation and five second for every exhalation (yes, including chatuaranga) at the end of each inhalation and exhalation introduce a kumbhaka, holding the breath in after the inhalation, out after the exhalation. This tends to work out that if your down, if you folding over, then it's a kumbhaka after exhalation if the head is up then's after the inhalation.

Close your eyes's throughout ( your not going anywhere and know what your doing but keep the eyes fixed as if looking between the eyebrows, don't imagine it just look to that point even though your eyes are closed ( later, tip of the nose was introduced, so if the head's up then between the eyebrows, head down gaze just beyond the tip of the nose- even if the eyes are closed).

How long should the kumbhaka be? Long enough. Try 2-3 seconds.

It's like this. There is movement in the inhalation and in the exhalation, motion corresponds to time, the kumbhaka is the absence of motion and thus in a sense the absence of time, eternity is in the kumbhaka. You want to hold your kumbhaka just long enough to get a hint of that, a suggestion ( not in some new age way but rather a suspension of the Kantian).

You might want to make the kumbhaka a little longer to 'tune in', but no more than five seconds.

If all that is interesting try a full vinyasa paschimottanasana, starting from standing, kumbhaka's throughout all the way down to the asana, while in the asana and as you vinyasa back to standing.

If that's interesting imagine what the whole practice would be like if taken this way.

You can down load Yoga Makaranda from my free Downloads page.

See this post for what Krishnamacharya's sun salutation would be like

take a look perhaps at this post and my book also on Free downloads

In my own practice (outlined at the bottom of the blog) i tend to breath a little slow, eight seconds rather than five and take only around three breaths to allow for the kumbhaka's ( same amount of time in the asana), oh and I tend to only do half a series, so one day half Primary the next day second half of primary, third day first half of 2nd series then back to primary again.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Are Ashtanga interviews the new Ashtanga Blogs?

Seems there are a lot of interviews around at the moment. Yesterday I mentioned the excellent new platform set up by Lu Duong, Parampara, an Ashtanga interview platform. The first interviewee was/is Jessica Walden ,of those incredible focused lifts to handstand and general all round floatyness... but did you know she had a serious back injury, check out her interview here.

Such height! Back injury really? Check out the interview

After posting that, interviews started appearing everywhere. my dear friend HD sent me this one, Maia Heiss being interviewed on the buddhiblog. Maia is a certified (by SKPJ) Ashtanga teacher.

“The resistance of the earth in your hands…” (an interview with Maia Heiss, part 1)

UPDATE:   we now have “Yoga’s not about following a path of feeling good.” An Interview with Maia Heiss…Part 2

Reading this second part I was struck by the number of stories we tell about this practice, about what it is and what it isn't, it struck me how this has probably been going on since the first visitors to Pattabhi Jois' shala in Mysore and some of those have been repeated and past along so much that they form part of the horizon on which we view and probably even experience our own practice. Perhaps it goes back even further than that.

She seems to be going very much under the radar (which I like), I wondered if perhaps she might have been certified before Kino whereupon HD mentions that Kino was also interviewed on the same blog.

A (second) Conversation with Kino MacGregor

Interesting interview once you get passed the early gushiness, Kino for example muses at some point that Sharath and Pattabhi Jois had different... well, I'll let Kino put it in her own words...

"What are post-Guruji practitioners to do without Guruji?

I think that’s being figured out right now. Some students are already calling Sharath “Guruji,” and have been for years. It’s really just an affectionate name for teacher. Sharath’s vision for KPJAYI is different from Pattabhi Jois’ vision. Not better or worse, just different. It’s sort of like asking someone whether the orange or the pear is better. They’re both good, and you can’t compare the two. If you expect a pear and get handed an orange that is equally good in value, you’re going to be confused. They’re just different.

There are so many wonderful senior teachers here in the US, too. That’s another option for students who want to follow in the lineage. David Swenson, Tim Miller, David Garrigues, Richard Freeman…

I think the future of the practice is in the hands of the students. Ultimately, the students will decide."

Not a fan of the glossy photo's. This is a screenshot from an example of her advanced series practice one morning in her own shala
Why oh why doesn't the interviewer push her a little here, what does she mean exactly by different vision's? The interviewer shouldn't be too close to the person being interviewed, too much in awe, just respectful and curious. See the Wild Yogi interview linked down below for an excellent example of this.

There's a nice bit at the end of the Kino interview too where they discuss what it's like having two Ashtangi's in the house IE. her and her husband Tim.
 here's the link again A (second) Conversation with Kino MacGregor

Then last night Peg and I were discussing her Podcast

Episode 1 is with David Garrigues.

Episode 2 is with John Churchill 

Earlier in the week I was interviewed by Claudia for her Yoga Podcast, which she started setting up a few months back. She's been busily interviewing the likes of Matthew Sweeney, Gregor Maehle.... oh and now me. I know, I don't know either but Claudia and I go way back and she thinks the whole taught myself Ashtanga  at home and lost 20 kilo' story is interesting and perhaps inspiring for those starting out. We talked about all kinds of things actually and Ican't remember a single thing I said. Hope I haven't offended everyone I know..... again. Back in the 80s, in my travelling days, I was once interviewed live on a BBC daytime program about a book, my mother said she could barely watch, so afraid of what I might say, I've mellowed.

With Claudia I think I might have mentioned that half the time I put blog posts up as a way of thinking out loud and, to see if I still agree with what I've written a few hours later, damn, secrets out.

Claudia's Yoga podcast goes live mid January.

The Yoga Podcast

UPDATE: And of course I shouldn't have forgotten to mention Ryan Spielman's Lonelyguru Podcast which has been running for some time with excellent interviews, Matthew Sweeney, Mark Singleton, James Mallinson, and just recently John Scott come to mind. Here's the link

And then of course there was the interview I conducted with Kristina Karitinou last year, Entelechy, my favourite post, where I ask her, among other things, about her late husband Derek Ireland and the early days of Ashtanga in Europe

The Practice Place, Crete.

from the interview

Anthony: I noticed on your alter a small bust of Socrates do you have any thoughts regarding Ashtanga as a philosophy, yoga sutras etc and Greek philosophy?

Screenshot from Alessandro Sigismondi's 'Come Breathe With Us' ( below)
Kristina: It is of paramount importance for the practitioners to develop awareness of the cultural heritage of the place they are in. Being in Greece we bear great responsibility towards our ancestors and our roots, so having a small bust of Socrates triggers the energy that surrounds us and constantly reminds us why we actually practice. "Knowing thyself" is the epitome of knowledge, and it should always be there in our practice, in our breathing in our everyday life. "Practice and all is coming" incorporates the true meaning of knowing oneself as this is the only way given to us to actually manage and have some results. Greek and Indian civilisations appear to be connected on a spiritual level throughout the centuries, and they have both set the foundations for the development of philosophical thinking so much in the East as well as in the West respectively. Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us. Both of them have offered a means to free the mind from the conventionality of life as they give you alternatives and they both require freedom of thought so that man can reach the higher level of existence and the ultimate point of liberation and self - fulfilment. Freedom works as a prerequisite while it is the final destination of each of these two methods. Therefore the presence of both philosophies on my alter seemed like a natural thing to do.

I have another interview coming up with Kristina actually about returning to Mysore, watch this space.

And finally the interview I conducted with Simon Borg-Oliver in Turkey earlier in the year, where we talked about bandhas and kumbhaka's and all other of interesting things, another of my favourite posts. 

from the interview

ANTHONY: So Krishnamacharya when he does his jump throughs, jump backs, he is doing it on a kumbhaka. 

Yes, and that’s what he wrote in Makaranda right?  So that was a surprise to me that he wrote that, because Pattabhi Jois doesn’t teach that. He teaches inhale, and you inhale diaphragmatically, and I’ll come to that in a moment.  That’s what can be used to increase strength, but when weightlifters are studied doing this their blood pressure increases from a normal blood pressure of 120 over 70 to a very intense blood pressure of 380 over 360 which to me says that they’re super yogis of sorts, but actually they could also burst a blood vessel in the brain very easily. So it’s potentially very dangerous to do a Valsalva maneuver.

So this is what could be called a Muller Maneuver, is by the medical definition, a full exhalation and then a false attempt at inhalation. 24:33  So the act of pretending to breath in the chest looks like uddiyana bandha. But it’s not the uddiyana bandha that some people use. Many people say that uddiyana bandha is something to do with hardening the abdomen.  But actually the uddiyana bandha that BKS Iyengar described in his book, that many yoga texts describe is actually, purely and simply an expansion of the chest, the same way you would breath into the chest but without breathing. But it is done without tightening the abdomen at all.


So more interviews and links to interviews to come, Ashtanga interviews are the new Ashtanga blogs perhaps. I'm excited about it, as long as, like many blogs recently ( as well as youtube videos) they don't end up being a new way of promoting oneself or a product but then we should be able to tell by how long the interview is, how seriously  both parties take the opportunity, which is perhaps revealed by how much time and engagement they gave to it.

This is an excellent example of this perhaps, The Wild Yogi interview with Ramaswami.

"Huge variety of Krishnamacharya`s teachings" Interview with Srivatsa Ramaswami

from the interview

"Krishnamacharya wrote several books throughout his life. He wrote in his mother tongue, Kannada. What was his target audience - who was he writing for? E. g. Yoga Makaranda has a very different form than Yoga Rahasya.

I think Yoga Makaranda was written for Indians in general. It was not addressed for Western audience per se. He wanted  many Indians who were not practicing yoga to start practicing. He was probably directed by Maharajah of Mysore to write a book, and I understand he wrote it in two-three days time; pictures were taken, and he wrote the whole thing. It was two things - one is the instructions for Maharajah, and two - he wanted more Indians to practice yoga.

Whereas Yoga Rahasya is a text which was lost, remember, I told the story of Natamuni wanting to transmit a knowledge to his grandson. He wanted to represent the Vaishnava Yoga, yoga based on vaishnavite philosophy, and also number of other things that he wanted to say: the therapeutic benefits of some of the procedures, like pranayama, etc. So he wrote that book. I don't know when he wrote that, because during the class he used to quote from Yoga Rahasya, he would say "this is what Yoga Rahasya says." I used to note down many of those things. But later on Desikachar was able to collect all of them and publish it as a book, I found that some of the shlokas he taught in the class are not there, and some of the shlokas the he did not teach were actually there. Let us assume that he wrote everything himself, with the inspiration from Natamuni, if you take it that way.  It was addressed partly the vaishnavite philosophy, partly the therapeutic applications. And also I could see he was talking about three stages of practice. There were few other ideas you do not find in Yoga Makaranda.

I think later on, towards the end of his life, he wrote a commentary for first chapter of Yoga Sutras. He wrote it in Kannada, translated to Tamil, and then published. Unfortunately, I don't know why it was not translated in English. I don't know if he wrote the commentaries on the other three chapters".

And then there are the interviews with students. I was sent this
 Rachel Leshaw , a student of Tim Miller's  has a great student interview blog, People We Know - as does Mysore Yoga Paris.


It's nice to have the time and space to go deeper into understanding the practice of those who have gone before us, to look beyond the asana. For me personally, I'm interested in those who have practiced for decades, 30 years + and who have pretty much gone under the radar, quietly getting on with their practice and teaching, the odd workshop perhaps but the minimum of self promotion. I'm interested in how they've managed to maintain their practice, how it's shifted over the years not merely their asana practice but how the seed of asana has begun to blossom and perhaps bare fruit. But I also suspect that though the workshop circuit is mostly focused on asana the teachers of asana would love to move beyond that aspect of practice perhaps the interview platform will give them the opportunity to do so and might encourage,/tempt us to look beyond the postural practice that consumes so much of our free time and attention.

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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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