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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

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.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Parampara: New 'GURUJI' style interview platform launched, first up the inspiring Jessica Walden

one of a number of pictures of Jessica on the interview platform

Big fan of Jessica Walden here,  all the more now after reading her in-depth interview with Lu Duong.

Lu has just launched an ad free interview platform in the style of the GURUJI book that he admired so much but like me probably felt was 150 odd interviews too short.

Jessica (authorised) is interviewed first,  her Husband Andrew (certified) is up next. It's like here in Japan, Andrew may be certified but Jessica took up the practice a little earlier so gets seniority and goes first.

Here's the link

A taste of some of  the questions Lu put to Jessica.

Speaking of Guruji, can you share with us your experiences of traveling to India to practice with him? Do you have any memories you would be willing to share?

You had a daily practice for a lengthy period before you had your first child. You are also authorized but have a traditional career. What shifts in your life and practice occurred as a result?

Have you dealt with a serious injury? Did it provide any insight? 

Jessica, I came to you for advice when I began finding myself naturally turning to a more vegetarian diet. This doesn’t appear to be too uncommon with those that have made a commitment to the practice. Any thoughts? 

Can you speak briefly about your past teachers? Their influence on you?

What would you share with a student making their 1st visit to KPJAYI and India.

Any final words about the practice?

The website is called ASHTANGA PARAMPARA

The Interview platform's mission statement.

"Mission: Ashtanga Parampara is a collection of interviews with authorized/certified practitioners and teachers of Ashtanga yoga as taught by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (KPJAYI). This platform seeks to archive the background and history of teachers that have been blessed by Pattabhi Jois or his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, to teach and spread the Ashtanga method. This effort is born out of sincere gratitude and devotion to the practice and seeks to illustrate and highlight the wide diversity of dedicated teachers across the world".

I hope the opportunity comes up to interview also some of those committed Ashtanga teachers who aren't perhaps authorised and certified but have been practicing and teaching for decades.

UPDATE: The first seven interviews have now been turned into a magazine, free to read online and download as pdf but also available as a print edition.


And links to my earlier posts on Jessica

Most sensational Kukkutasana B ever? Plus 25 Laws of Self practice for Ashtangi mums AND Ashtanga Yoga, Pregnancy, Birth & Motherhood

more Jessica Walden tutorials, Baddha Konasana, Padmasana, Dwipada Sirsasana ALSO Supta Kurmasana , modified and advanced

The posts above have several videos and I thought I might add another one here, in the interview Jessica mentioned she had spent some time with a handstand coach?

Not usually a fan of arm balances these days but this, what control and the focus! I'm fascinated by what she's doing with the breath here, try to breath along with her, is that one long inhalation all the way up, a kumbhaka at the top and an exhalation all the way down or more than one breath? Remarkable.



Wednesday, 17 December 2014

"Not Yoga? Not Ashtanga? "

"Not Yoga? Not Ashtanga? " -  A Play (on words?)
Subtitle: A conversation with myself on the question of kriya

"The physical exercise that is yoga, this asana kriya that is with us is more than enough for us (rather than importing foreign forms of exercise). Krishnamacharya 1934

Scene: A coffee shop around the corner from a yoga Shala. Two regulars who have never met find themselves sitting next to each other at the counter, both smell faintly of sandalwood and both order macchiato.

"I practice Yoga". 
"No, no you don't". 
"No really I practice Ashtanga". 
"Ashtanga? No, I don't think you do". 
"I do I...... No?"
"I don't practice Yoga?"
'...... Ashtanga?"
"Bugger....., So what the hell am I doing each morning?"

Let me explain, and I'm not intending to be critical.... Yoga, as I understand it, is the goal, it's what we're aiming at, working towards. Union, Ekagrata (one pointedness), the 'cessation of the fluctuations of the mind', overcoming of the identification with self or of the distinction between purusha and prakriti, whichever working definition of yoga you may have or feel most comfortable with. Yoga is the end game.
Are you at the end game, couple of moves to go? Still exchanging pawns perhaps...? Then you're not doing yoga, not yet BUT, that's not a bad thing, it's all kind of the same path, or the driveway at least.
And here's the good news, it's said that drop dead tomorrow and we pick up where we left off, born to a yoga family. 
Not sure how I feel about that actually. I worked with a guy once whose middle name was Siddhartha. When he was eight he wrote a book with lots of pictures called "It's not much fun being a hippies son". Yep his parents practised yoga, the horror. But I digress".

"Oh well, that's OK So I'm, practising........"

"Just practising".

"But Ashtanga right, surely,the practise... I'm practising.... towards yoga, it's Ashtanga yes. I have books, cheat sheets, t-shirts (this one, Ashtanga Blood Guard is my favourite), please tell me I'm an Ashtangi at least give me that".

"I wish I could.... really.... and perhaps (sniff) you should get more than one shirt for practice".

"Not Ashtanga then".


"You're sure......? Damn, I love this shirt.
So if not Ashtanga....?"

"Kriya, you're practicing Kriya, part of it anyway."

"Don't I have to stick a hose up my bottom or squat in a river or something...."

" Not anymore, that's a later usage of kriya, Kriyas plural, of course if you want to squat in a river and...."

"No, not really. What the hell is Kriya then, never heard of it. I have my Patnjali right here, look...

Yoga Sutra 1.1

The posture (asana) for Yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable, and this is the third of the eight rungs of Yoga.
(sthira sukham asanam)

Yoga sutra 1.2 

 The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.
(prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam)

Yoga Sutra 1.3

From the attainment of that perfected posture, there arises an unassailable, unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, good and bad, or pain and pleasure).
(tatah dvandva anabhighata)

See I typed the whole book out, keep it with me always, actually I have the second one tattooed on my right buttock... see?"


"Damned Right, but see, no mention of this Kriya stuff".

"OK, so you missed a couple of.... lines..."

"No, no that was the whole book, I did a teacher training and everything".

"Trust me there was more, another 193 actually and those three you mention are from the the second pada and are actually numbers 2.46, 2.47 and 2.48".

"Part II, Cool, a sequel, like "Empire strikes back".

"Pada 2,  It's more like Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers" let me explain. 

So In Patanjali, the Kriya section comes before the Ashtanga section. Ashtanga in Patanjali refers to eight steps. Kriya might be thought of as preparation for those eight steps. Here''s Frodo at the beginning of the two towers having just run aways from Boromir, he's like a frightened rabbit, by the end of the Two Towers he's more a Knight of Faith... OK let's forget about Frodo".

The Kriya's are all about transformation, they take us from how we are when we first walk into a Shala, wrapped up in the world and all it's temptations and delights and transform us into a focused disciplined... 'focused disciplined thing', a yoga student basically.

The practice we call Ashtanga has a mostly fixed sequence because we're seeking to build discipline through routine, we practice it everyday, pretty much. We practice the same postures, the same movements linked to the breath, quite slowly actually. We focus on every inhalation and every exhalation (we might include kumbhaka). We fix our eyes on a gazing point (or points) and turn further inwards by focusing on 'bandhas'. For 90, 120, hot, sweaty minutes the world drops away and there is just the mat and the sweat and we even forget about those. It becomes the most important part of our day and all it requires is 68x24 piece of rubber and preferably a pair of shorts or comfortable clothing of an appropriate kind. 
If the best part of our day makes us feel this good, this calm, this contented and doesn't cost a thing ( or relatively little) then it kind of puts everything else into perspective does it not. The temptations of the world lose a little of their hold, we find perhaps that we would rather read, even study, some worthy and often beautiful texts leading to reflection than go out and party. We begin to take more care possibly over what we eat and drink, too much makes our practice uncomfortable and if we are going to consume less then it needs to be the more nutritious, beneficial. As our needs become less, more simple we begin to detach somewhat from our attachments, to objects of the senses. Over time the practice too becomes less about me practicing and more about the practice itself, devotion to the path of the practice if you will, to where it begins within and where it's leading... Practice as kriya is preparing us for the further practice of a yoga student which Patanjali goes on to outline in the Ashtanga section of his yoga sutras".

"But you mentioned postures, breathing, aren't they the asana and the pranayama that come up in that Ashtanga section?"

"The very same but here, at this point perhaps we're practicing them as kriya as tapas actually, austerities, as preparatory practices. Asana and pranayama are tools that can be employed as kriya just as they are also a part of the eight steps of Ashtanga, it can be confusing that way".

So let me see if I've got this right. I'm not practicing yoga but working towards Yoga, I'm not practicing ashtanga but preparing myself for the path of Ashtanga...... 
So I shouldn't refer to it as Yoga or Ashtanga. Damn, I thought it was just those once a week Gym guys who were't doing real yoga..."

"You can refer to it however you wish of course, 'Yoga' if it's convenient, 'Ashtanga','Iyengar','Vinyoga', 'Vinyasa Krama', 'Original Krishnamacharya Ashtanga', 'transnational postural whatnot' or just asana practice, chances are we're still; working on the kriya aspect of it... but we're just talking it through here, an exercise in discriminative knowledge perhaps, we're all working on our own tapas, on Kriya, however we practice".

"Hey, what about my teacher, my teacher's teacher? My teacher's been to India and everything, goes every year is she practicing,  Ashtanga or ashtanga or still working on kriya?"

"Could be either there are many kinds of teachers, his/her job may be merely to pass along the system of tapasya,the kriya practice in the form that was passed on to them, for you to work on your detachment and discernment just as he/she continues to do in their own kriya practice. It's not a question of how advanced a practice appears from the outside. It may well be that like many teachers they move back and forth between the two, between kriya and the Ashtanga path, it's easy to slip a little just as it's possible to jump back on the path, 'ekam-inhale'

I say merely but that is a lot, a great gift, worry about our own detachment, not anyone else, not even our teachers".

"How will I know when I'm not doing kriya anymore but actually on the Ashtanga...?".

"You'll know.... probably"

(one week later)

I've brought you a present, I had a weeks worth made up but don't need Saturday's

" I don't know what to say"

" You're welcome".


"There are many types of pranayama.  The special pranavayu kriya sadhana that improves life expectany, brightens prana, corrects inhalation and exhalation from lungs is called “pranayama.” Krishnamacharya (Yogasanagalu 1941)

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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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