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Thursday, 27 November 2014


Eddie Stern wrote at some length on Krishnamacharya's YogaRahasya of Nathamuni in this months Namarupa. I thought it might be a good opportunity to take a closer look at this fascinating text. Below are selected verses from the "hurried" translation by Ramaswami who wanted to teach the text on his LMU teacher training but at the time the KYM version was not readily available.

My friend Claudia gives a nice intro to the story of the text over on her blog

T. Krishnamacharya



The learned person (dvija) can follow the yoga of devotion (Bhakti) or Prapatti (surrender). But the ignorant person should follow only the prapatti yoga,( as he has not the training and knowledge of Bhakti Yoga ). Bhakti Yoga is hat which is contained in Patanjala Yoga. Nyasa Vidya is suitable to those who are not well versed in shastras and Patanjala Yoga. (11)

More than men, women have the right and obligation to practice yoga, as they hold the key to healthy progeny. Women need to maintain good health to bring forth healthy offsprings and need to be free from afflictions and diseases due to microbes, and women shoul not allow themselves to become ill and diseased. (14,15)

Ashtanga yoga

In Ashtanga Yoga Yama along with Niyama come first. After having practiced these, one should practice asanas properly and regularly. (19)

Thereafter one should practice Pranayama and thence Pratyahara or sense control. Then one should practice dharana and dhyana to complete Samyama with Samadhi in the end. (20)

Without following this sequence (krama) or methodology, if one practices yoga as per the dictates of likes and dislikes, such an approach will not give any benefits os Ashtanga Yoga.(21)

Patanjali says in clear terms that one can get (Bhukti) material benefits (through Siddhis) and liberation from suffering (Mukti or Kaivalya). Those who practice different Samyamas to get material benefits (Siddhi) get material but impermanent benefits. One who desires liberation (Mokshaarti) through the path of Bhakti Yoga obtain it by the two tiers of Vairagya or dispassion, (I -22)

Let the lazy, non believers, ignorant, say whatever they want. What do we lose by their disparaging remarks? So thinking the Muni (yogi) goes about his pursuit with a determined mind.

The Yoga Teacher , who is well informed, quiet, self controlled should ponder over the time, place, age, avocation and energy of the student and instruct appropriately.

All asanas are not suitable for everyone, as the body structures are different being obese, lean, weak, crooked or disabled.

The yogic sages have averred that the teacher should first determine what is appropriate after finding their capabilities and the causes for their incapability.


During daily (asana) practice, the practitioner should do inhalation, exhalation and breath holding following the Ujjayi method, within one’s capabilities.

Breath control is a necessary practice as everyone knows that life lasts only until the breathing lasts.

In Yoga practice, the exhalations and inhalations should be long and smooth. When prana is outside (exhaled) then it is called Recaka.

The yogic scholars proclaim that the breath enters the body correctly it is called puraka. !
If one is free from diseases and healthy, the breathing and worship of the Lord become easy to perform.

The Body/Senses

Even if one is a king, rich or a great scholar, if one is ill, one can never have mental peace in this world.
If one keeps one’s body under control, the senses also will be under control . With the senses under control, one enjoys peace of mind always.

The senses of perception are five in number, so are instruments of action (karmendriys). The eleventh Indriya is the mind. And the pranas are said to be ten in number.
Due to the agitation of Prana, all the indriyas also are disturbed and with the mind go towards external objects of the senses which are said to be poisonous. Therefore, one should control the Prana or vital force though recaka, puraka and kumbhaka.

The body is said to have six kosas (sacs or bag like organs) say the sages. They are the breathing bag (svasa kosa), anna kosa (food bag or stomch), mutra (of urine or bladder), mala (of feces or large intestines), rajo (blood or uterus) and virya (vitality or prostrate). (In some notes it has been mentioned virya or Rajor kosa and the other kosa would be hrudaya kosa or the heart).
By pranayama the kosas are purified. With that the whole body gets purified. And even the indriyas get purified with satwic food.


Without proper asana practice there can be no proper pranayama practice. Without Prana control, the mind cannot attain steadiness.

If the mind is steady one gets happiness (sukha) and mental peace. With a serene mind, all accomplishments take place easily. Those whose minds are in pain due to involvement pranayama is the best recourse


For everyone, the rate of breathing is about the same (about 15 per minute). But that number is greatly reduced by yogi by Pranayama practice. ( I-56)

It is therefore necessary to know the correct movement of the vital force (prana) The three activities (vritti) of Prana are racaka, puraka and kumbhaka.

There are three Bandhas that are important, the Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandharas. They are very helpful in controlling the prana (Pranayama).

Those who do not know the intricacies in detail, even if they practice pranayama, it will not fruitful.
The portions above below the navel should be drawn inward with effort, by contracting the mula, after complete exhalation. ..

The eyes must be kept closed and the eyeballs should be steady moving neither to the sides nor up and down. The head should be kept steady and the moth closed. (I63)

Uddiyana Bandha should be done only before eating. It can be done in different asanas, standing, sitting or even lying down.

This Bandha (Uddiyana) has the capacity to eradicate ailments of the spleen, liver and other diseases of stomach. It helps to move the shakti (kundalini). This should be practised after learning from a teacher and properly practising it.
Incorrect practice of this Bandha could lead to the disturbances of the Prana. Therefore one should approach a teacher who has learnt the Uddiyana Bandha correctly and practice it.

Uddiyana Bandha is an essential prerequisite of Jalandhara Bandha. So if one would practice Uddiyana Bandha firmly, all the nadi cakras become purified and also strong.

All the impurities that have accumulated in the spleen and liver are regularly cleaned up. Further the digestive fire increases and urinary ailments are also eradicated.
All the groups of diseases that arise out of the improper functioning of Apana Vayu are rooted out and the blood circulation also improves.

Uddiyana Bandha also removes completely tardiness and fatigue. By moderate diet one gets to do Uddina Bandha properly.
Now is explained the method of doing Bandha known as Jalandhara. It is so known as it always arrests the essence (jala) of raktha flowing through the fine vessels (capillaries) called sira

In yogic parlance, this Bandha is appropriately called Jalandhara. The essence of rakta (also known as amrita or necter) flows throg the capillary and spreads and maintains life. Since it arrests wasteful flow of the necter it is called Jalandhara Bandha.

(One may practice this Bandha) in padmasana, Brahmasana, Siddhasana, svastikasana, vajrasana, Baddhakona Bhadrasana and Mulabandhasana.

Further some yogis say that Dandasana, Kraunchasana, virasana, also are suitable to master Jalandhara Bandha.
Specifically, by contracting the throat, one should place the chin against (the region) of the heart. Then keeping the focus between the eyebrows, the eyes should remain closed. !
The wise yogi would keep the body straight and keep the backbone like a staff without any crookedness in the body and the seat firmly placed.

Placing the hands on the knees, keep the body straight and steady and keeping the throat contracted and placed firmly (against the chest)

Beginners may experience some pain in the neck in the head. But it goes away quickly with daily practice.(I-78)

Pranayama, japa, home  (fire worship), meditation, and teaching a student should be done seated for the sake only of stability of the mind.

This Bandha should not be done while standing, lyind down or walking, except in asanas where it is specially considered to be useful. It should not be done after a meal or drinkinga lot of water.


One should use the appropriate mantra in Pranayama practice. In the treatment of all diseases Pranayama gives results.

In the world people with absolute faith in God or with full of detachment are very few. So the Shastras mention about the fruits of our action in the beginning itself.

In the world people make any efforts only after knowing the benefits of such actions. The main benefits (of pranayama with Mantras) are mental stability, relief from sorrow/ mental pain, long life and development of devotion to the Lord.

It is ordained that one should do all aspects yoga as an offering to the Lord, Sriman Narayana, the Supreme Bing.


As in Asana practice, in Pranayama also one should follow the correct procedures.
One should practice exhalation at the beginning to one’s capacity and then inhalation, and then breath holding. Thereafter one should increase duration of exhalation, inhalation and breath holding. (I 90)

The wise say that the breath should be smooth via the throat nadi , with a slight sound but without any break. It should be done with the mouth closed and uniformly.

One should do breathholding after both inhalation and exhalation, consistent with one’s capability. It should be done in a proper seated posture with a straight body and eyes closed.
It should be done before taking food or six hours after taking food so that the inhalations and exhalations will be be long and smooth and not rapid.

One should unequal vrittis of inhalation and exhalation only after practicing the equal duration (samavritti) pranayama.
Pranayama done without the three bandhas are not useful. Further it could lead to some ailments.

Pranayama is of two types, one done without mantras and the other with mantras. One should choose the appropriate manta for individual requirements.
Sagarbha is with mantra and vigarbha is without mantra. The smritis (texts) say that Pranayama done with mantra is commendable while the other is considered inferior.

Sagarbha pranayama destroys fluctuations/ unsteadiness of the mindl quickly. Further it it brings in longer life, clarity of the mind and removes several ailments.
By the practice of pranayama, one becomes fit to practice dharana and dhyana (meditation) . So Pranayama is very useful practice indeed.

Ujjayi, Nadishuddhi, Suryabheda, Bhastrika, Sitkaari, Sitali, lahari, Bhraamari, Kapalabhati, aandoli, are the ten pranayamas texts refer to.
But for Bhastrika and Kapalabhati, all other pranayamas should be practiced with the three bandhas, whereas the two should be done with Jalandharabandha.

All pranayamas can be done either in samavritti or vishamavritti modes. With Kapalabhati and Bhastrika, vishamavritti is not permitted.
As Headstand and Lotus are considered the best among asanas, Nadishodhana is considered the best of pranayamas.

Other pranayamas give specific benefits whereas Nadishodana gives all the benefits.
As you have faith so will the benefits be with pranayama. With devotion to the Lord Narayana always one should always partaking limited satwic food . (105)

For measuring the length of the breath ‘Om’ is agreeable to the scriptures. Whether the pranayama is equal and variable duration, mantras should be used.
All mantras merge (emanate from) Pranava, the head of all Vedas. As all rivers merge in the oceon, all mantras merge into the Pranava.

In Patanjala Yoga Sutra, Paramatma is identified with Pranava. It should be repeated (japa) with the mind meditating on its meaning.

Some experts proclaim using Gayatri with the he seven Vyahrutis and Siras in Pranayama, reflecting on the meaning as well.

This mantra pranayama referred to should be used in only vishama vritti pranayama.
Doing this with mantra pranayama while holding the breath three times, is referred to as pranayama, by the great sage Manu.

Selections from chapter 1

Selections from chapter 2

Selections from chapter 3

Selections from chapter 4


Relates to comments from Charlie
Bhadrapitham translated as Bhadrasana.

Sloka 1-73 from Yoga Rahasya
Translated by TKV Desikachar


  1. "Women need to maintain good health to bring forth healthy offsprings and need to be free from afflictions and diseases due to microbes". This doesn't seem to make much sense. We're talking about a IX centuty text here. The existence of microbes was discovered about one thousand years later.

    1. 'microbes' could of course be an insertion by the translator but nobody really believes it's a IX cenutry text.... do they?

      Ramaswami mentioned in his book that every time K. would quote from it the quote would be different, suggesting that he was constantly updating it/rewriting it as he went along.

      But perhaps K. did have a yoga dream as an impressionable young man at an important temple in which his ancestor Natahamuni told him something about yoga that he remembered when he work up and that formed the original inspiration for the book.

      Perhaps Krishnamacharya interpreted all his future insights as in a sense remembering what was lost when he woke up from the dream.

      Or he chose to believe that the yoga his father taught him as a child had been handed down father to son for hundreds of years

      Or perhaps it's just a story that grew in the telling.

  2. Hello Anthony,

    I see that Ramaswami lists bhadrasana for his translation of I.73. You seem to have knowledge of or access to the original text. Instead of bhadrasana, is the posture in fact named bhadra-pitha in the Yogarahasya? I don't have the original Sanskrit available, and so it would help to confirm this detail. Thank you!

    1. There is no original Sanskrit Charlie, Krishnamacharya made it up himself, I don't have access to the original in Kanada or tamil that he wrote it in before translating them into Sanskrit. That said he could supposedly converse in Sanskrit with other scholars so no doubt constructed a few slokas into sanskrit off the cuff. Sorry.

    2. It strikes me as more likely Bhadrasana

    3. Anthony, thank you for the reply. I supposed Sanskrit, as I saw the Sanskrit title, Yoga Rahasya, and Worldcat lists the 2003 T.K.V. Desikachar translation as written in Sanskrit & English. Regardless of the original language, I am interested in the terminology. Gharote's Encyclopedia of Traditional Asanas lists the Yoga Rahasya as having "bhadrapitha" and not "bhadrasana", and I would very much like to corroborate if this is indeed true. Furthermore, it seems as if Krishnamacharya preferred the term "bhaddhakonasana" to "bhadrasana" or the like in Yogamakaranda. I don't have access to the original Yogarahasya at the moment, and I was wondering if you could give me a quick response RE: bhadrapitha or bhadrasana. Thank you!

    4. Perhaps you're on to something Charlie. This is from the Desikachar edition
      the translation from the devangari skript bhadrapitharn but they translate it as Bhadrasana. Was that a mistranslation or perhaps a correction by Krishnamacharya himself.

      Sloka 1-73

      padmarn brahmarñstathasaiddham svastikarn vajramasanam /
      baddhakonarth bhadrapitharn mülabandharn tathaiva ca //

      This bandha can be practiced in Padmasana, Brahmasana, Siddhasana, Svastikasana, Vajrasana, Baddha konasana, Bhadrasana, and Mülabandhasana.

    5. Anthony, I appreciate you having confirmed this detail for me. So, it also seems that Krishnamacharya originally would have distinguished between a "bhaddakona" and a "bhadrapitha". Is your or Desikachar's transcription exact?, i.e.: baddhakonarth and bhadrapitharn and not something like baddhakonam and bhadrapitham? In any case, it seems that "bhaddakona" and "bhadrapitha" are distinguished as two separate poses as compared to one compounded term: bhaddakonabhadrapitham.

    6. Charlie I've added an appendix with two photos from TKV Desikachar's translation so you can see for yourself. They've actually included a photo of Bhadrasana.

  3. Anthony, thank you for the appendix photos. They help clarify the transcription and also give a concrete reference point. I'm working on a specific project about bhadrasana-, and I came upon a Jain text (Bhandusena's commentary on the Bhairavapadmavatikalpa) that also lists bhadrasana- as bhadrapitha-. Although Krishnamacharya is of a much different time and place, it is helpful to have a counterpoint reference for bhadrapitha-. By the way, if Desikachar gives the photo as titled bhadrasana-, does he provide a depiction for bhaddakona- and mulabandha- and, if so, are they noticeably different than bhadrasana-/bhadrapitha-? Thank you!


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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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