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 .

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Mark Singleton's Krishnamacharya - Gurus of Modern Yoga (2014)

I just came across a chapter on Krishnamacharya written by Mark Singleton and Tara Frazer in Gurus of Modern yoga, so far I think it's only out on Kindle, the hardback and paperback to follow later this month. An interesting read as ever from Mark but I have some questions/concerns. After my rant there are some more details on the book from the publishers including the full contents.



Part Two: The Lineages of Krishnamacharya

Chapter 4: T. Krishnamacharya, Father of Modern yoga
Mark Singleton and Tara Frazer

The Krishnamacharya section of the book begins by looking at the areas listed below and I'd like to take a closer look at them perhaps coming back to the later topics in another post. Throughout I've referred to Mark Singleton as 'Singleton' and for some reason that seems a little abrupt, curiously more so than referring to Krishnamacharya as Krishnamacharya however, using 'Mark' throughout felt a little too familiar. I've also used Singleton out of convenience rather than Singleton and Frazer as I'm not sure of the contribution from Tara, at several point's Mark refers to her contribution in the context of field research ( It was actually Tara Frazer's Ashtanga book, found in the library that first got me started with yoga and with Ashtanga in particular). It might seem that I take exception to a lot of what Mark has to say about Krishnamacharya in this chapter, just as I have with many of his conclusions in Yoga Body however I appreciate both his book and this one and the dialogue he engenders. 

Lets look at the first few topics. 

Introduction

Life

Teaching principles

Krishnamacharya on the Guru

Rammohan Brahmacari, The "Yoga Guru"


*

Mark Singleton states that Krishnamacharya's reputation is "...largely due to the enormous influence of several of his students at the global level as well as the energetic proportion of his teachings by family members and the organisations founded in his name". He lists, BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi but focuses for much of the article on Krishnamacharya's son, TKV Desikachar, and grandson, Kausthub Desikachar.

"TKV Desikachar along with his son, Kausthub Desikachar, founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga and Healing Foundation (KYHF), specifically to provide training and regulation of teacher and therapists working in the Krishnamacharya tradition. In recent years TKV Desikachar's involvement in the KYM and KYHF has become minimal, apparently due to health issues. the management of these organisations largely fell to Kausthub Desikachar, who has enthusisatically  promulgated the legend and teachings of his grandfather. The establishment of the KHYF with it's bold mission statement and international ambitions heralded a major shift in pace and style that gained many new recruits but also saw established devotees, teachers, and students distancing themselves from the organisation. On October 2012, Kausthub Desikachar stepped down from the KYM and KHYF due to allegations of sexual abuse (see my blog post Varying allegations of sexual, mental and emotional abuse against Dr. Kaustaub Desikachar). Some months later, however two new organisations emerged out of Chennai: the Sannidhi of krishnamacharya yoga and Yoga Makaranda, The essence of yoga, which promotes the teaching of Kausthub Desikachar."

Singleton argues that Krishnamacharya's later teaching are indistinguishable from the interpretation and meditation on those teaching by Desikachar

It is this continuation of the idea of Krishnamacharya's early and late teaching that I find so problematic. In several places Singleton refers to Krishnamacharya's Chennai years as his 'mature teaching', was Mysore his immature teaching: However, Krishnamacharya was 50 when the famous 1938 documentary was shot in Mysore, being 50 myself this year I'm pleased to hear that I'm not so 'mature' after all.

In the section on Krishnamacharya's Life Singleton makes the claim that Krishnamacharya was complicit in the creation of his own 'myth', he refers to it as 'mischievousness'. I have had my own suspicious with regard to how long Krishnamacharya actually spent with his guru in Tibet, seven and a half years seems almost too much of a cliche. There is much that doesn't add up and  I've discussed it in this earlier post. Singleton  quotes a story where TKV Desikachar is supposed to have said that he continued the seven years in Tibet story to honour his father.

Singleton goes even further and questions whether Krishnamacharya ever studied with Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari in Tibet presenting the argument that perhaps he studied with his guru, if at all, in Southern India rather than Tibet.

Later however Singleton focuses on the Guru idea, this is after all the remit for the book. He brings out something interesting, the suggestion that the Guru plants the seed which germinates within the student eventually perhaps bearing fruit. The argument is that for all Krishnamacharya's innovations they all go back to the seed planted in him by his teacher  Ramamohana Brahmachari. If we follow this argument then all Pattabhi Jois' modifications are a result of the seed planted in him by Krishnamacharya, the same I imagine goes for Manju Jois, Sharath, Nancy Gilgoff,  David Williams, David Swenson, Kino and perhaps even Beryl Bender Birch (power yoga). Perhaps it comes down to how long you actually spend with the guru.

Singleton also of course questions the fabled Yoga Korunta as I too have done here, suggesting that Yoga Korunta actually just stands for 'Yoga Book', he suggests that this may well be another of Krishnamacharya's own compositions like the Yoga Rhyassa, where the story goes that  Krishnamacharya was somewhat divinely inspired to write it after a dream, back when he was 16. Yoga Rahasya was published in the 1980's by KYM.

Singleton characterises Krishnamacharya's Mysore years by reference to the 'dynamic jumping style' he taught, familiar to us now as Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa, this fits in with the image painted in Singleton's earlier book Yoga Body, presenting Ashtanga as being influenced by the fitness craze of the time. 

For me this is a misrepresentation of Krishnamacharya's teaching in Mysore. On this blog ( see my Krishnamacharya resource page )I've shown how Krishnamacharya's teaching of this period, as presented in his own book Yoga Makaranda, instructed long slow breathing, long stays, kumbhaka (breath retention), a linking of movement to the slow, not fast, breathing... there is even a focus on the chakra's all within the practice of asana. 

Singleton refers to dynamic sequences and yet I have also shown on this blog how Krishnamacharya preferred related groups of postures (Yogasanagalu 1941) rather than fixed sequences. Singleton continues to focus on the jump into and out of a posture but this is merely one element of a transition from standing to the posture and back to standing where each movement is linked to an element of the breath and where at the end of most inhalations and exhalations there is the suggestion of the appropriate breath retention. The jump through and back, is often performed slowly and gracefully and this seems more in keeping with Krishnamacharya's presentation of other aspects of his approach to asana. Krishnamacharya's asana is closer to pranayama and/or meditation, limbs which he also encouraged in the Mysore years,  rather than to the fitness craze of the time. 

That said Modern day Ashtanga is often but not always practiced at a faster pace than Krishnamacharya seems to have indicated in Yoga Makaranda, the stays in the postures are shorter, kumbhaka has been dropped altogether and the jumps in and out of the postures do often seem to be performed with the focus on athleticism. This perhaps has more to do with the temperament of the western students perhaps and the longer fixed sequence that Pattabhi Jois introduced based on Krishnamacharya's asana groups than Krishnamacharya's own methodology. 

But perhaps Pattabhi Jois did take his cue from the lessons Krishnamacharya taught to the boys of the Mysore palace where perhaps a faster pace was taken to keep the attention of the young boys. However Krishnamacharya was also said to keep the boys in a postures while having them chant also 'the boys' were not Krishnamacharya's only students. Indra Devi, mentioned by Singleton, can hardly be said to have a dynamic style of practice and yet she was a student of Krishnamacharya at this time as were the patients who would come to see the Maharajah's influential Yoga teacher for consultations, surely he was not teaching them the 'dynamic style' but rather perhaps his slower version of his methodology.
from the notes to this chapter

The Krishnamacharya section continues with a treatment of the topics

The "Krishnamacharya lineage",  Sri Vaisn avism and the Spriritual Master

Relogious Universalism

Reading and Writing tradition.

Bhakti

In the Conclusion Singleton focuses on the suggestion that Krishnamacharya is taking on an almost saint like status, that Krishnamacharya is considered the creator of modern yoga, 'the man who in the 1920's and 30s turned yoga into what it is today', he seems troubled by this. Personally I think he has nothing to worry about, in my own writing on this blog I've noticed my stats go down on the Krishnamacharya posts, but up on those mentioning Sharath, Pattabhi Jois or anything to do with back bending , I imagine that stats on the  blogs in the Iyengar tradition do much the same. There is some interest in the 'teacher's teacher but not perhaps as much as Singleton seems to suggest, despite perhaps the best efforts of the Desikachar family and the KYM.

For me Krishnamacharya is , for now, as far back as we can go directly in the Ashtanga vinyasa tradition ( the methodI practice myself). If a text turned up written by Ramamohana Brahmachari then I would probably focus on a close reading of that text and see what it offered me to explore in my practice. As it is, the first texts in the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition we have are Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934) and his Yogasanagalu (1941). In these I find all the elements, although many have been neglected,  of  Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa just as I do those of  Desikachar. Mohan and Ramaswami.

It bothers me not the least that the Yoga Korunta might never have existed or was just one 'Yoga Book' among many nor am I that concerned whether Krishnamacharya studied in Tibet for seven and a half years with his guru or with several yoga teachers in different parts of India. I love the stories of him stopping his heart but suspect that it was merely impressively slowed. But I do trust my teacher Ramaswami and the love and devotion he still bares for Krishnamacharya and that counts for a lot. 

What I most care about though is the raising of my arms slowly and with the breath and the idea that in the suspension of the breath at the end of the inhalation I might just see God...or the absence of God.


I believe there are still some places available.



Here are more details on the rest of the book from the publishers.

Gurus of Modern Yoga Paperback
by Mark Singleton (Editor) , Ellen Goldberg (Editor)
Amazon.com 
Hardcover $89.10
Paperback $23.96
Kindle $28.19
416 pages

The first collection of cutting-edge essays on the phenomenon of gurus in modern yoga.
Each essay represents an important facet of the modern yoga guru phenomenon.
Within most pre-modern, Indian traditions of yoga, the role of the guru is absolutely central. Indeed, it was often understood that yoga would simply not work without the grace of the guru. The modern period saw the dawn of new, democratic, scientific modes of yoga practice and teaching. While teachings and gurus have always adapted to the times and circumstances, the sheer pace of cultural change ushered in by modernity has led to some unprecedented innovations in the way gurus present themselves and their teachings, and the way they are received by their students.

Gurus of Modern Yoga explores the contributions of individual gurus to the formation of the practices and discourses of yoga today. The focus is not limited to India, but also extends to the teachings of yoga gurus in the modern, transnational world, and within the Hindu diaspora. Each section deals with a different aspect of the guru within modern yoga. Included are extensive considerations of the transnational tantric guru; the teachings of modern yoga's best-known guru, T. Krishnamacharya, and those of his principal disciples; the place of technology, business and politics in the work of global yoga gurus; and the role of science and medicine. As a whole, the book represents an extensive and diverse picture of the place of the guru, both past and present, in contemporary yoga practice.

Readership: Scholars and students of South Asian studies and yoga.

Table of contents
Note on Transliteration
Introduction - Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg
Part One: Key Figures in Early Twentieth-Century Yoga
Chapter 1: Manufacturing Yogis: Swami Vivekananda as a Yoga Teacher - Dermot Killingley
Chapter 2: Remembering Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: The Forgotten Lineage of Integral Yoga - Ann Gleig and Charles I. Flores
Chapter 3: Shri Yogendra: Magic, Modernity and the Burden of the Middle-Class Yogi - Joseph S. Alter
Part Two: The Lineages of T. Krishnamacharya
Chapter 4: T. Krishnamacharya, ''Father of Modern Yoga'' - Mark Singleton and Tara Fraser
Chapter 5: ''Authorized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois'': The Role of Parampara and Lineage in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga - Jean Byrne
Chapter 6: B.K.S. Iyengar as a Yoga Teacher and Yoga Guru - Frederick M. Smith and Joan White
Chapter 7: The Institutionalization of the Yoga Tradition: ''Gurus'' B. K. S. Iyengar and Yogini Sunita in Britain - Suzanne Newcombe
Part Three: Tantra Based Gurus
Chapter 8: Swami Krpalvananda: The Man Behind Kripalu Yoga - Ellen Goldberg
Chapter 9: Muktananda: Entrepreneurial Godman, Tantric Hero - Andrea R. Jain
Chapter 10: Stretching toward the Sacred: John Friend and Anusara Yoga - Lola Williamson
Part Four: Bhaktiyoga
Chapter 11: Svaminarayana: Bhaktiyoga and the Aksarabhraman Guru - Hanna H. Kim
Chapter 12: Sathya Sai Baba and the Repertoire of Yoga - Smriti Srinivas
Part Five: Technology
Chapter 13: Engineering an Artful Practice: On Jaggi Vasudev's ISHA Yoga and Sri Sri Ravi Shakar's Art of Living - Joanne Punzo Waghorne
Chapter 14: Online Bhakti in a Modern Guru Organization - Maya Warrier
Part Six: Nation-Builders
Chapter 15: Eknath Ranade, Gurus and Jivanvratis (life-workers): Vivekananda Kendra's Promotion of the ''Yoga Way of Life'' - Gwilym Beckerlegge
Chapter 16: Swami Ramdev: Modern Yoga Revolutionary - Stuart Sarbacker
Index
The specification in this catalogue, including with

Below an outline of Part Two the  Krishnamacharya Linage section of the Book




A taste of the chapter on Pattabhi Jois and parampara



Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Did Pattabhi Jois' teacher Krishnamacharya have an Advanced series, if so where is it?

Following on from the Krishnamacharya Primary series and Intermediate series and the subtle rearrangement of postures from his Yoga Makaranda (1934) and Yogasanagalu (1941), I was asked if I had a similar treatment for the Advanced series coming, if there was a Krishnamacharya Advanced Series practice poster in thew works.

Well no, not really, I'm not convinced the Advanced postures are best suited in a series or were ever intended as such but rather as optional extensions or perhaps substitutions for postures in the previous groups/series.

I remember Manju saying that these days he practices part of Primary, part of Second series and a couple of postures from Advanced series, 'just to feel I've still got it'. That struck me as quite a wise approach. It's similar to one I've been using in my own practice. In Vinyasa Krama the postures just keep progressing within the different groups of postures. So in the Asymmetric series we will move from Janu sirsasana's all the way up to leg behind head postures found in the Ashtanga 2nd series and then from the 3rd and 4th series. You practice just as far as you're able, eventually the more challenging postures become doable or more approachable.

In my own practice, I would go through my Ashtanga Primary and then, after the janu's add a couple of leg behind head postures before continuing on with the series. If you also practice 2nd series you may well be doing something similar by including the dwi pada sirsasana,  the both legs behind the head, entry to supta kurmasana ( Manju frowns at this approach btw, too much strain on the back of the neck).

In my Ashtanga 2nd series after Kapotasana I will often add the third series kapotasana variations. it seems natural to do so.

This is an alternative approach to introducing the more advanced asana rather than approaching these postures as a set series, it has the benefit of working up to the more challenging posture, of preparing for it with the primary of intermediate postures rather than jumping straight in.



It does seems to be more in keeping with Krishnamacharya's intention in Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu.

If Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya's student, had taught a two year course at the Sanskrit college then there probably wouldn't be an Advanced series anyway.

There's the classic Jois'ism that 'Primary series is for everybody, 2nd series for teachers and Advanced series for demonstration'. And we can see how useful the advanced postures are for getting your name around the circuit, for self promotion. "Come to my workshop, here's me in a ten minute Paschimottanasan" doesn't cut it as well as here "I am in a handstand version of kukkutasana".

Do we need the Advanced series? It's fun to practice but hard work (bit of extra tapas-never a bad thing), but it seems to me, and I know I'm not alone in this, that everyone is stuck in a cycle of the next posture, the next series.... approaching 3rd or 4th just as they did their Primary and 2nd series, the same emotional breakdowns at durvasana as at eka pada sirsasna, or at kandasana as when first approaching badha konasana ( puts my own hand up, yep that was me "WHY can't I get this pose", thankfully I'm now a little more chilled about it, it'll come....or not).

And I'm serious about this, I struggle with it myself. I feel I'm doing interesting work trying to go ever deeper within Primary and my Second series, exploring Krishnamacharya's original instructions from Yoga Makaranda, written by the way at the time he was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois. And yet part of me keeps thinking that perhaps I should get back to my Advanced A and B, that I'm losing those postures through lack of practice and I'm not getting any younger, perhaps when they've gone they've gone for good this time.

But what if we dropped the Advanced series altogether, and here I probably alienate the last of my Ashtanga friends. What if Sharath stopped teaching it, if in Mysore you just practiced Primary and Intermediate and nothing else. So you practice Primary three days a week, Intermediate three days a week for the next ten, twenty, thirty years perhaps occasionally filtering in an advanced posture here and there as merely a natural extension of a posture, how would that be?

Wouldn't that be how Pattabhi Jois learned his asana from his teacher Krishnamacharya back in the 20s and 30s in Mysore, there was no Advanced A and B or 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series. Pattabhi jois would most likely have learned the primary asana and then at some point have the middle and proficient group asana layered on top of the primary group, extending the basic asana into more advanced variations in preparation for the demonstrations he would have to perform. What a relief it must have been to no longer have to give demonstration.

From what I hear most long term practitioners drop most of the Advanced series postures anyway..... eventually.

Perhaps the Advanced series, the next series, the next posture is a distraction, dropping it might encourage us to explore the earlier series in new ways, a return to Krishnamacharya's original approach, to the asana instruction in Yoga Makaranda, an 'Advanced' approach to Primary series perhaps, more subtlety, more sophistication. Good news for those who perhaps never see themselves practicing beyond Primary series anyway, a going inside rather than outside to the next, next, next.

Every time I see a teacher busting out their Advanced moves these days I wonder at the effect on those working on the primary postures. Is it inspiring in the right way or rather most helpful way. Does it make us think we have to get the next posture rather than go deeper into the one we have, How many postures do we need. Sometimes we wonder why there are only a handful of postures in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka and other old yoga texts, why don't they show all the other asana,why are they hiding them from us. Perhaps it's that they had just moved on, got passed all that.

Sure there are 84, 000 asana but perhaps we only need ten and a handful of variations.

There is something going around at the moment attributed to Sharath, who supposedly at a conference suggested that the West has only imported 5% of Yoga, asking the question what about the other 95%.

I feel like shouting out asking politely "If that is indeed the case then what have you and your family been doing for the last forty years"!

Why have we only imported 5%, is it perhaps the strong asana focus, the structure of the practice.

Ashtanga's greatest strength, that sense of progression that it's thought keeps us interested may well be it's greatest weakness.

I'd like to ask Sharath what his plans are for the next forty years, how does he propose to encourage us to explore the other 95%.

I know there are some teachers reading this, do you just go with the student, give the student what they want, more candy or rather what you believe they need. Do we really need 3rd series, 4th, 5th....?

UPDATE

Next step here is a for a follow up post, to look at how and where the Advanced asana could be introduced as options/extensions/substitutions into the Primary and Intermediate series, to bring them into play other than as a distinct series.

Of course I only have to look as far as Ramaswami's Complete Vinyasa yoga Book for this, it's all there. Krishnamacharya had done the work already. Just need to pick it all out and put it back into the Ashtanga context.

It's an alternative, an option for those who have no interest or expectation of approaching or beginning a full Advanced series but would like to extend certain postures or areas of practice into more advanced asana.

This approach too was part of the tradition.

Appendix

Here are some of the postures from Yoga Makaranda rearranged into Primary series order




Below are the Intermediate or Middle group asana from the table in Krishnamacharya's second book Yogasanagalu (1941) you can see some slight differences in the order.


With a little rearrangement we can see how the postures in this group closely match those of the current Ashtanga Intermediate series.

Exploring Krishnamacharya's early approach to these asana is something I've begun working on more seriously this year. See this post



We can see a difference in the layout of the table in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu, there are I think clear sub routines in the Primary and Middle group that appear to be intuitively linked, one posture progressing into the next. That's not the case with the proficient asana group, they seem to be more thrown or lumped together

Below is a first draft of a Proficient 'group' practice sheet from an earlier post a couple of years back. I hesitate to call it a series as I suspect it wasn't intended to be practiced as such, this raises questions regarding how we practice currently practice advanced postures

This is sheet for my own use, to bring the yogasangalu table more alive and make it more... visual something for me work from and explore in practice. The pictures are all old ones I had on file, some better than others, some at the very beginning of approaching a posture. I'm still not sure of many of the versions of the posture referred to in the list ( there are some confusion over which version of a posture Krishnamacharya was intending as some postures have different names), it's a working document, hopefully from this something more accurate will develop.




* I didn't have 39. Trivikramasana(supta) 40. Trivikramasana (utthita) on file, the pictures here are just a reminder. 51. Suptakandasana is a sketch based onDavid Williams from His Complete Syllabus poster, it's a posture I've never tried and am probably still a way from realising.


Asana Table first four pages from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu 



...and here's Satya Murthy's translation of the asana lists.


The Primary and Middle series are pretty close to the Primary and 2nd series taught now in Mysore. A few 2nd series asana are missing from the Middle sequence but most of these turn up in the Proficient series. I seem to remember David Williams writing or saying in an interview that originally there was just Primary, Intermediate and Advanced series asana, the Advanced postures later being ordered into Advanced A and B series ( and then later again into 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series.

Proficient series correspondence with David Williams Ashtanga Syllabus
Advanced A Series
1-9, 13-20, 37, 39-41, 53, 
Advanced  B Series
21-28, 30, 35, 38, 42-45, 47-51, 55-56
2nd series
10-12, 29, 31, 33, 52, 54
?
34, 36, 46,

Yogasanagalu was written in 1941, Krishnamacharya continued to teach at the Mysore palace until 1954 so we might expect that the Asana list we have here would have been tweaked and played with a little, it may well have ended up even closer to the Ashtanga syllabus we have now.

It seems pretty safe to argue that this is the original Ashtanga syllabus.

Appendix 2 

This is a short paper I wrote for Ramaswami at the end of his TT course, he included it in his August 2010 Newsletter , Guess I was asking the same question back in 2010, perhaps it was the first time I began to ask it.

ANTHONY HALL 
the non- teaching,   'teacher in the class', 
wrote the following paper, reproduced in toto 

Asana Madness : 

Yoga Sutra III-37 
te samadhi vupasarga vyutthane siddhaya; 
For those interested in the ultimate samadhi these siddhis are 
impediments even though for a distracted mind they are yogic 
accomplishments YS III-37 

This sutra refers back to previous sutras describing such remarkable 
siddhis as gaining the strength of an elephant III-24, enormous mental 
strength III-23, knowledge of the universe III-26. Here though I want 
to consider this sutra in relation to advanced asana accomplishments. 
While not perhaps a siddhi, is there not a sense, where the attaining 
of ever more complicated and challenging asana might be considered an 
impediment to yogic development. 

I came to Vinyasa Krama via Ashtanga (here Ashtanga relates to the 
practice associated with Pattabhi Jois )and while many senior Ashtanga 
teachers will stress 'it's not about the asana' there is a tendency in 
Ashtanga practice to fall into the trap of asana madness and become 
fixated on the next posture, the next series. I've been guilty of this 
myself, I moved on to 2nd series quite quickly and then 3rd, I seem to 
remember I even tried a few 4th series postures. One of the reasons I 
became interested in The Complete book of Vinyasa Krama (available 
from all good bookstores) was that it covered a vast number of asanas 
and appeared to offer an approach to the more complicated postures 
through variations and postures that might be considered as 
preparatory, staging post, poses. 

A curious thing happened as I began to practice Vinyasa Krama, despite 
having the freedom to try any pose without fear of the Ashtanga 
police, the more complicated and challenging postures began to lose 
their star quality. A long stay in Paschimottanasana or a spread leg 
seated subroutine began to feel as challenging and satisfying as Purna 
Matsyendrasana. I noticed I tended to feel more grounded in this 
slower, deceptively gentle practice. Although the breath is stressed 
in Ashtanga especially Jois' Yoga Mala (on almost every page) it 
wasn't until I practiced Vinyasa Krama that I began to fully explore 
the breath and bandhas as well as the feeling of truly stretching 
through a pose as opposed to a mere nodding acquaintance. So the 
fixation on the 'next' asana, on the ever more challenging posture 
might indeed be seen as an impediment to finding the benefits inherent 
in the more subtle poses and sequences. 

Recently the question was raised on the Vinyasa Krama TT course, 'What 
should I teach for my first Vinyasa Krama Class?' 'Tadasana sequence', 
came our teachers reply. Pregnant silence. Everyone, other than our 
teacher perhaps, saw the problem. Tadasana isn't sexy. Used to the 
adventurous routines found in most modern yoga classes, the 'never the 
same vinyasa class', Tadasana sequence might seem a little....bland? 
And yet this is a shame because the sequence has been a revelation, 
I've probably learnt more about yoga through this sequence over the 
past month than in all three of the Ashtanga series I had practiced 
previously. 

And yet Vinyasa Krama, as I mentioned before, includes a vast number 
of postures and variations, it's one of the facets that originally 
drew me to system. Is asana madness, then, encouraged? There's a 
difference. In Ashtanga there is the desire to complete the series and 
then perhaps begin the next. In Vinyasa Krama the key word is Vinyasa 
(variation). It's not so much a question of the next posture but of an 
alternative posture. Vinyasa Krama seeks to exercise and access every 
muscle and organ of the body. As an example, take the deceptively 
simple Tadasana sequence again, three hasta (hand) variations change 
the focus of the stretch from the thoracic to the cervical and lumbar 
regions. 

Maintaining interest is also recognised as an important element of 
sustaining a lifelong practice and the large number of postures, 
subroutines and sequences help towards this. While there are some key 
postures that you are encouraged to practice everyday it is also 
suggested that you add additional, supplementary sequences, as many as 
time allows, so that you cover the majority of the poses available to 
you within a week or so. 

Vinyasa Krama does include some vary challenging postures, some found 
in the advanced A and B Ashtanga series, what of these, can't these 
lead to asana madness, fixation on a posture that can be an impediment 
to your practice? Challenging postures, I would argue, have their 
place, they can add spice to your practice and help maintain interest 
but they also focus the mind intensly, although perhaps no more so 
than a simple balancing posture. They can also allow you to access 
deeper organs, in Purna Matsyendrasana the heel is forced ever more 
deeply into the body than in a half lotus variation. I remember only a 
few months ago writing a possible daily practice schedule that 
included most the four and five star postures, this seems ridiculous 
to me now. In vinyasa Krama the 'challenging' postures inhabit a 
different environment they are features of interest in a landscape as 
opposed to ledges on a rock face. It is this environmental difference 
that helps me to avoid the asana madness of postural fixation that 
was, I now consider, an impediment to my yoga practice. 

We might take this further by considering that while challenging 
postures are put into context through the use of Sub-routines and 
sequences, asana too is contextualized through the importance our 
teacher and his before him have placed on pranayama and meditation. 
Where the challenging postures gain evermore importance as 'gate 
keeper' poses in systems like Jois' ashtanga, in contrast, their role 
becomes less significant in Vinyasa Krama where asana itself is placed 
on an equal footing with pranayama and meditation. 

Thank you so much for a wonderful course that has been everything I 
had hoped and so much more besides. 

Respectfully 
Anthony Hall 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Kumbhaka, some of the science - Simon Borg Oliver and Shandor Remete

I added this to an earlier post on Kumbhaka but then thought it deserved it's own post.
LOOK INSIDE

It's worth following the link to my earlier look at Simon's Borg- Oliver's, nine bandhas idea, very interesting, built around the idea of 'joint complexes', so there's a knee bandha, wrist bandha etc, fascinating idea.

I've received a couple of emails mentioning Simon and also Shandor Remote in relation to kumbhaka.

The ever excellent Wild Yogi, of course, has interviews with both men. Simon studied with Shandor for twelve years I hear.

Interview with Simon Borg-Oliver - "Traditional yoga for modern body"

Interview with Shandor Remete - “Only few understand how internal energy works”


I first heard about Shandor in connection with his book Shadow yoga ( a beautiful little book), there is a brief mention of Krishnamacharya's 'Salutations to the teacher and eternal one' in the preface. It was from that reference that I managed to hunt down a copy and post it on the blog, later AG Mohan released it in a different arrangement as Yoga Makaranda part II.

Amazon Look Inside
I must do a proper review of this beautiful book

M. says of the Japanese kanji on the front cover that the top is the kanji for Shadow, the one below is for belly.

Here are too more shots to give you an idea how beautifully the book is produced


Excellent treatment of Marma points, several more illustrations, rear, side and from the top views.


Simon, in the sections from his book above, is taking a scientific approach to kumbhaka and in comments to the earlier approach I was asked about taking Blood pressure and  heart rate readings before and after practice.

I have to say I'm a little.... reserved with regards to yoga science results/conclusions, more often than not the samples are too small ( think of Krishnamacharya 'heart stopping' article that we posted and translated here), few major studies have been conducted and when they are they tend to be  commissioned or conducted by those involved in the yoga industry ( think of the Jois Yoga connection with the US University study, forget where) which makes them a little questionable. I find it difficult to give any more value to them than to any of the other anecdotal evidence we have related in yoga. Last week Eddie Stern published Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Therapy article, again disappointing, no evidence to back up the great man's arguments of course other than his own experience teaching, not exactly hard science but interesting all the same.

That is not say I don't find it all fascinating, as yoga becomes ever more influential in the west more work like that being done by Simon will be conducted in the universities, more independent studies.....

But I wonder, while we might find 'proof' of the health benefits of yoga ( did we really doubt it) or perhaps any dangers from poor teaching or practice, can Science really have much to say about what is most essential, about the heart of yoga, the stilling of mind to encounter the self/ absence of self, god/absence of god. There's psychology of course, psychiatry but I tend to be, like most good Englishmen, even more reserved towards the Psych's.

I am in no doubt that Yoga is on the whole good for me but it's not why I practice

I'll continue to enjoy reading the science while getting on with my practice, the only experiment, examination, that really matters is my own/your own, right there on the mat, cushion, library and throughout the rest of the day through yama/niyamas.

Simon is teaching at the Yoga Rainbow festival in May, I'm teaching there also so should be able to take his classes, looking forward to it.

In case you are interested re heart rate, I do have a (cheap) watch with a heart rate monitor.

My usual reading through most of the day is around 63

after nespresso it jumps to 80

after a long five breath chatuaranga ( Krishnamacharya style) it goes up to 100

After Sury's it tends to be 85

throughout most of my slow Krishnamacharya practice it tends to be around 75-85 but 65 in seated postures.

Kumbhaka is interesting my heart rate goes up to the mid 80's for antha kumbhaka ( after inhalation)
but down to around 57 after bhaya kumbhaka.

I tried that in pranayama ( high 50s) and also in Kappotasana.

Heart rate goes up for Kapo but you can bring it down with bhaya kumbhaka which is interesting as it seems to tie in with Krishnamacharya's arguments for switching the breathing pattern around to Langhna for those overweight ( you would normally employ antha kumbhaka for kapo).

That's about as far as I got, got fed up with checking and just got on with my practice, bad scientist.

Your readings of course might be completely different,  my morning espresso might have screwed up the readings ( should try it without). I indulged a little over Christmas and my fitness is down as I've been practicing a slower Krishnamacharya practice.

Read into it what you will.

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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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