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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Being Interviewed by Claudia for the Yoga Podcast : Some clarifications

Thank you to my dear friend and fellow blogger Claudia for choosing to interview me for her Yoga Podcast recently which was aired yesterday, follow the link below to her Blog which gives a kind and flattering backstory and introduction, had me blushing more than once.

The Yoga Podcast: Episode 2: Anthony 'Grim' Hall The Choose Yourself Yogi

 click here to start listening

I thought in this post I would provide an opportunity to clarify and perhaps expand on a anything that came up

First though, that picture (above)...

It was originally intended as a joke about how to find the time to practice my Ashtanga Vinyasa and keep up with my flute lessons but then turned into a semi serious exercise in playing long tones while in a posture to show up the quality of the breath.

see this post Chanting or playing the flute in Asana

Another thing Claudia mentioned is that I have 2,500,000 visitors to this blog, that's actually the number of hits, visits to the blog rather than individual visitors and 2,000,000 of those hits are probably from M. 

A large chunk of the rest are my going back again and again to re edit the posts and/or to try and decide if I still agreed with what I'd written an hour, week, year, later. 

Claudia has already interviewed some great practitioners and teachers, whose interviews are being transcribed and will be appearing on her Yoga Podcast page at regularly intervals (first up was David Keil).

In this episode David will charm you with his ability to buy x-ray yoga vision at Walmart, his million dollar secret for wrist pain, and the anatomy you need to know for a healthy practice, as well as his favorite book and that one thing that took him a long time to understand. Transcript here

I have to say I felt a bit embarrassed to be included in that company but Claudia and I are friends, fellow bloggers, and it's nice that she wanted to include a home practitioner in her interviews. 

Not all of us have the opportunity to go to a shala or studio or indeed to Mysore. 

Others, myself included, have perhaps little interested in practicing in a room with 80-100 bodies (or even 20 in a small ,tight room... although I have a soft spot for Rethymno). Nor necessarily see today's Mysore as any more or less a source of the practice than Boulder, Encinites...Rethymno or indeed our own home practice rooms and the texts themselves (primary sources?) Yoga Mala, Yoga Makaranda, Yogasanagalu, Yogas Sutras, Yogayajnavalkya....

Exploring, practicing, at home and breathing ones own air in this 'breathing practice' is a more than comfortable and satisfying experience. Nor are adjustments/assists (however skilled), being taken ever deeper into yet another asana to 'experience the  full expression' of a posture the only way to approach this practice. Home practitioners know this although would perhaps always welcome the subtle alignment suggestions of an experienced teacher, selfies at home only go so far. 

Many home practitioners are also exploring pranayama and meditation after their asana practice, the integrated approach Ramaswami and his, as well as Pattabhi Jois' own teacher, Krishnamacharya recommended. At home there is no rush to vacate mat space, nor the feeling one needs to follow 'shala rules' and/or stick to a sequence, an authorised, official practice (although some shalas are more flexible than others as well as being more or less hands on
At home we can cut our asana practice short and move straight to pranayama, chanting perhaps as manju suggests, meditatio, and at a time when we feel we are ready rather than when dogma dictates.

Shalas and experienced teachers can be wonderful but home practice is very much an option, one that most Ashtanga teachers themselves end up having to turn to as they getup for their own practice a couple of hours before opening their shalas. I hope the interview with Claudia conveys that home practice is an approach that is perfectly justifiable, satisfying, and once the routine and then discipline attained, can work. 

And of course there are always workshops (see Ashtanga workshop reviews ) although these too tend to be too often dictated by mercantile and promotional forces that give the impression that more and deeper backbends, more floating and more of whatever angle that seems to get attention and people in the door are what we really need to progress in our practice.

What we really need has always been right there on our mats with us, the space to follow the breath.

There's a full transcript of the interview here

TRANSCRIPTYoga Podcast Episode 2: Anthony Grim Hall 

I'm tended to have comments turned off on the blog for much of the last year what with all the travelling and settling back into Japan ( I think it comes up that you need to be member of the blog team or something, some strange google thing I don't understand, there is no team) I'm turning them back on for this post so if there are any questions (especially as the sound occasionally wavers ) , would like clarifications or have me expand on anything that came up please let me know below. thank you again to Claudia, it was fun.

Claudia has a new book out, here's the link

Link to Amazon

Janusirsasana : Examples of kumbhaka in Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Also 'kumbhaka' or Tibetan 'bumpachen'

This post has been sitting in draft for sometime (June 2014), my friend Ilya mentioned I haven't posted much on the whole Krishnamacharya/Tibet connection. I have some material but never really pulled it together in one post, I should take another look. There clearly seems to have been an influence, especially in the relation to the dynamic practice of asana and as is suggested below, the Tummo/kumbhakha suggestion as well as this on pratyahara that iIwas sent a while back.

Yantra of the Liberating Lion 

The Yantra of the Liberating Lion or Senge Namdrol Trulkhor (seng ge rnam grol ‘phrul ‘khor) is well-known from many texts related to tummo and sexual practices. However, the texts and instructions for the illusory movement or trulkhor are not always very detailed. In contrary the instruction on this painting are quite complete.
This painting is found in the Secret Temple of the 5th Dalai Lama and reproduced in the book The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple. Comparing the painting and its accompanying text with the explanations, transliteration and translation in this book page 61 and 64 I discovered that it is full of mistakes. The Tibetan is incomplete and replete with reading errors. The translation is more complete than that Tibetan rendering itself but has at least two big misinterpretations: 1. The title of the yantra or trulkhor is given as ‘The Lion’s Play’ which would be in Tibetan senge namrol (seng ge rnam rol) and not senge namdrol (seng ge rnam grol). 2. At the end it states ‘…exhale three times’ which makes not so much sense as one exhalation should be enough following after an inhalation and controlled holding of the breath together with the subtle energies. The Tibetan (bsig bsig gsum) is an Tibetan expression that is quite often used for shaking the body and the limbs three times or shaking and agitating the whole of the body (bsig sprugs) at the end of an illusory movement or trulkhor. This shaking of the body is often accompanied with an exhalation but it signifies not the exhalation itself.
Here follows the transliteration of the Tibetan and its translation into English; part one is from the book The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple p. 61 /64 and part two is my rendering from the image, found also in the book p. 95/97.

The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple p. 61 /64
rtsa drug seng ge rnam grol ni mdzub mo gnyis kyis mig gnyis bsdoms/
mthe bong gnyis kyis rna ba bkab/
mdzub chen gnyis kyi sna bug bkag/
de nas bsig bsig lan gsum bya/

Sixteenth „The Lions’s Play“:
Hold the eyes with the two forefingers,

Block the ears with the thumbs and

from June 2014

"kumbhaka or bumpachen (bum pa can) 
These Sanskrit and Tibetan word
s for a so-called vase-like or pot-like holding of the breath is a complete and controlled holding of the vital energies or inner subtle winds (rlung) together with the flow of one's breaths (dbugs). Having mastered the respiration in the four phases of inhaling (jug pa), open holding after having remaining filled (dhang ba), pressing down (gzhil ba) and exhalation ('phenpa) one prolongs the empty state of holding after exhalation (rtsa stong 'khil ba) and the holding after a complete inhaltion (bzhung ba bum pa can ltar).
Therefor one uses the streched arms with the back of one's hand pressing on a energy point on the upper thighs. Instead often a meditation belt (sgom thag) is used for this, keeping the back streched
The Tibetan Yogas of Movement are known in Sanskrit as Yantra Yoga and in Tibetan as Trulkhor ('phrul 'khor 'khrul 'khor yan tra) །འཕྲུལ་འཁོར་འཁྲུལ་འཁོར་ཡན་ཏྲ༌།by: Naldjor

A big Thank you to my friend Tenzin Dechen for sharing this with me this week.

Krishnamacharya: the Tibet story from The King and the Young Man 
It happened that at that time Lord Irwin was Viceroy. His Headquarters were in Simla. Ganganath Jha wrote to the Viceroy recommending his young friend Krishnamacharya for his proficiency, ambition and knowledge of the Sastras as well as for his personal qualities. He requested the Viceroy's help in obtaining the necessary documents to travel into Tibet. But, as luck would have it, the Viceroy was ill with diabetes. The military doctor, Devendra Bhattacarya, was in charge of the case, but could not bring about a complete recovery. This doctor was, as we have seen, the son of Krishnamacharya's teacher at Kasi, Vamadeva Bhattacharya.

One day Krishnamacharya was surprised to be visited by an aide of the Viceroy hand carrying a letter from the Viceroy to him, and requesting him to come to Simla. He stayed in Simla for six months teaching the Viceroy yogic practices. The diabetes was largely controlled. The Viceroy was extremely pleased and developed respect and affection for the young man. He was happy to make all the necessary arrangements for Krishnamacharya to cross the Himalayas, out of India, across Nepal, and into Tibet. Here is the story of that voyage as retained in Krishnamacharya's memory:

"The Viceroy sent three aides with me. This was some time in 1919. The expense of the journey was covered by the British government. Clothes of leather were made to order to protect us from the cold. On the trail we came across a recluse named Pilmugi living in a cave. We stayed in the cave with him for several days, and then continued on our journey. We reached Manasasarovar and from there went on to Mela Parvatham. We had dharsan of Thirayambaka Narayana and finally reached the dwelling place of Rama Mohana Brahmacharya who was to be my Guru. We had been walking for two and a half months.

"On meeting my Guru I prostrated myself before him. It was evident that Ganganath Jha had written to him about me. He received me with great love and kindness. I noted that even though he was called 'Brahmacharya,' he was living with his family. His eldest son, Ramachandra Brahmacharya, is still alive today, about eighty years old. Our food was puri (Indian bread), halwa (a paste of vegetables or fruits with sweetening and ghee) and tea. My period of gurukulam here in Tibet lasted for seven and a half years. Rama Mohana made me memorize the whole of the Yoga Gurandam in the Gurkha language. The various stages of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra are dealt with in that book in a very precise but extensive commentary. That is necessary because Sutras are by definition very concise. In the Yoga Gurandam, the various kinds of Yoga poses and movements are described with great clarity. Only after studying this book can one understand the inner meaning and science of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali."

After Krishnamacharya's return to Kasi as an outstanding scholar and Yoga expert, the Maharajah of Jaipur called him to serve as principal of the Vidya Sala (Centre for instruction in philosophy and Yoga) in Jaipur. This situation, with its regular schedule of classes and the requirement of being answerable to various people, did not suit the free spirited Krishnamacharya. The Sradha (annual homage) of his father was approaching, so, with this pretext, he returned to Kasi. He enjoyed meeting and holding conversations with the various pandits who had studied with him in Kasi. Impressed by Krishnamacharya's newly mastered techniques, Amarnath Jha, the son of Ganganath Jha, introduced him to various monarchs and he was widely honored.

At this time the Maharajah of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar, appeared in Kasi to celebrate the Shastiabdapurthi (60th birthday) of his mother. On hearing of Krishnamacharya, he invited him to come to the Palace at Mysore. The Maharajah was greatly impressed by the young man's demeanor, authority and scholarship.

In Mysore, Krishnamacharya was given quarters within the Palace and, as he desired, Yoga studios were constructed. He went to teach Yoga asanas once or twice each week and within three years seven or eight students were ready to teach and the King built three more studios at a total cost of two hundred thousand rupees, a great investment at the value of currency in those days. Krishnamacharya became the Maharajah's most valued counsellor and was given the use of the Jayanmohan Palace. At the Maharajah's request, he wrote several books including Yoga Magarondam, Yoganjali, and Yogasanalu. These books were all published by the Palace and by Mysore University. With the support of the Maharajah, the Yoga teaching continued with great success for about sixteen years, until 1946.
from The King and the Young Man - by "Hastam" in Kalaimagal, Pongal, 1984
(translated by Bert Franklin and S. Venkataraman) An Interview with Sri T Krishnamacharya.


Last weeks post, a case study on the suggested healing benefits of kumbhaka, brought requests for examples of how kumbhaka might be incorporated into our asana practice.

This week I thought I would put up some practice sheets relating to Krishnamacharya's primary group asana that I've been working on, a different sheet each day but with the same opening introduction to link them to the earlier post as well as the same guidance notes for practicing kumbhaka. I'll probably add a couple of 'extras' here and there. If you've read the previous post you may want to jump straight to the practice sheets and notes below.

So here again is the link to last weeks Guest post by Mick Lawton on which this series of posts is based.

CASE STUDY: "The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) during Asana." Guest post by Mick lawton

"I have a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease. As a result I am in the fortunate position that I get extensive blood and medical checks performed on an almost weekly basis. Without going into huge medical details, the tests include full blood test, inflammatory markers, kidney and liver fiction, blood pressure, blood sugars............, the list is endless.
I decided that I was in the very fortunate position to run my own experiment.  I decided that I would spend 2 months practising with Kumbhaka and then 2 months practising without Kumbhaka. This process was repeated three times across the course of the year.  I was then able to compare my medical results while practising Kumbhaka to my medical results while not practising Kumbhaka".

First my Krishnamacharya ' Original Ashtanga Primary series' poster.

See the link to the making of the poster and the idea behind it.

Basically, I've taken the asana descriptions and photos from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934), those corresponding to the current Ashtanga primary series, and rearranged them into the current order. This is also pretty much in line with the order found in the asana tables from Krishnamacharya's 2nd book Yogasanagalu (1934). For this project I've stuck with those pictures and descriptions found in Yoga Makaranda however the Primary asana list in Yogasanagalu includes the other asana not found in Yoga Makaranda. The biggest omission perhaps is purvottanasana which follows paschimottanasana, in fact it appears in brackets under paschimottanasana in the list but is not described or pictured in Yoga Makaranda.

see this post for the complete table of asana from Yogasanagalu (1941)



  22 Vinyasas 8th and 15th = states of the asana

from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga

from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga

from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga

Below is the full treatment of Janusirsasana  from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934) from which the above practice notes are taken.

11 Janusirsasana (Figure 4.33, 4.34)
This form follows the hatha yoga principles. Another form follows the raja yoga method. The practitioner should learn the dierence. First, take either leg and extend it straight out in front. Keep the heel pressed firmly on the floor with the toes pointing upward. That is, the leg should not lean to either side. The base (back) of the knee should be pressed against the ground. Fold the other leg and place the heel against the genitals, with the area above the knee (the thigh) placed straight against the hip. That is, arrange the straight leg which has been extended in front and the folded leg so that together they form an “L”. Up to this point, there is no dierence between the practice of the hatha yogi and the raja yogi.

For the hatha yoga practitioner, the heel of the bent leg should be pressed firmly between the rectum and the scrotum. Tightly clasp the extended foot with both hands, raise the head and do puraka kumbhaka. Remain in this position for some time and then, doing recaka, lower the head and place the face onto the knee of the outstretched leg. While doing this, do not pull the breath in. It may be exhaled. After this, raise the head and do puraka. Repeat this on the other side following the rules mentioned above.

The raja yogi should place the back of the sole of the folded leg between the scrotum and the genitals. Now practise following the other rules described above for the hatha yogis. There are 22 vinyasas for janusirsasana. Please note carefully that all parts of the outstretched leg and the folded leg should touch the floor. While holding the feet with the hands, pull and clasp the feet tightly. Keep the head or face or nose on top of the kneecap and remain in this sthiti from 5 minutes up to half an hour. If it is not possible to stay in recaka for that long, raise the head in between, do puraka kumbhaka and then, doing recaka, place the head back down on the knee. While keeping the head lowered onto the knee, puraka kumbhaka should not be done. This rule must be followed in all asanas.
While practising this asana, however much the stomach is pulled in, there will be that much increase in the benefits received. While practising this, after exhaling the breath, hold the breath firmly. Without worrying about why this is so di⇥cult, pull in the stomach beginning with the navel, keep the attention focussed on all the nadis in and near the rectal and the genital areas and pull these upwards — if you do the asana in this way, not only will all urinary diseases, diabetes and such diseases disappear, but wet dreams will stop, the viryam will thicken and the entire body will become strong.
Whoever is unable to pull in the nadis or the stomach may ignore just those instructions and follow the instructions mentioned earlier to the extent possible. Keep the nadis in and near the rectal and genital areas pulled up, the stomach pulled in and hold the prana vayu steady. Anybody with the power to practise this will very soon be free of disease and will get virya balam. Leaving this aside, if you follow the rules according to your capability, you will gradually attain the benefits mentioned below.
Important Observation:
After practising the asana for just one or two minutes, do not whine that you did not receive any benefits. However little eort there is, if you keep practising the asana daily for at least 5 to 10 minutes, you will start experiencing its benefits in a few days. There is no doubt about this. If you keep practising it from half an hour to an hour following the given rules, you will get the benefits mentioned below.
1. Diseases of the spleen will be removed.
2. People suering from a low-grade persistent fever in the stomach will notice that the fever, the resulting anaemia and other such dangerous diseases will be wiped out. Continuous and recurrent cough, bloated stomach, flatulence and the first symptoms of tuberculosis will disappear. As a result of these intestinal doshas being removed, the digestive power increases and one feels hunger at the appropriate time. When you are very hungry, it is essential to eat sattvic foods cooked in pure ghee or cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Rice avul, kara boondi (fried peanut flour), kara vadai, peanuts, chickpeas — these tamasic foods should never be eaten. Eating high-quality fruits and kanda mulam is very beneficial.
When they are hungry, some people will eat terrible things without thinking about it. This is a despicable matter. Because of this, they keep catching various diseases and suering as a result.
If one keeps practising janusirsasana according to the rules described above, then whatever diseases cause blocking of urine and faeces, increase the heat in the nadis, cause an increase in vata, if any such acute diseases occur, they will be destroyed from the root and the practitioner will be in good health very soon.
Heavy head, burning eyes, weakness of the body, burning in the urinary area, fever caused by toxins built up due to indigestion and constipation, loss of ap- petite and sense of taste in the tongue due to a spoilt tongue, laziness or lethargy — all these will be removed by practising the asana in the highest standard. That is, all diseases caused by weakness of the nadis nearby will be removed.
It is important to always remember that it is necessary to practise such asanas like janusirsasana on both the left and right sides. The reason for this is that the strength of the body should be the same on both the left and right sides. Nowadays, modern games and physical exercises give strength to only one side of the body without developing proper blood circulation on the other side. This will result in paralysis and other such diseases. Therefore, every asana must definitely be practised equally on both the left and the right side.

Janusirsasana 2nd Krama
Whichever leg was folded and placed such that the back of the foot was between the rectum and genitals, place the back of the sole of that foot instead against the top of the thigh of the outstretched leg, firmly pressing against it. Now practise according to the rules described earlier. But the benefits of this will be received very slowly. Some people will not be able to place the head on top of the knee on the first day. But one should not abandon the eort thinking that this is impossible. If one keeps practising this for one or two months daily without fail, following the prescribed rules, then it will become possible.

It will be very diffcult for those who have allowed excessive flesh to grow in the stomach and hips to practise this. By practising this regularly over a period of time, all the excessive flesh that has grown in or near the stomach and hips will melt, the joints of the bones and nadis will clear up, the stomach will grow thinner and eventually the head will touch the knee. The deposits of excessive flesh are the main cause for the lack of flexibility in the body. All this can be melted away with asana abhyasa.
Many people who have a protruding stomach like a pumpkin believe that they are healthy. Others think that they have correspondingly as much more strength as their arms, legs and thighs are excessively huge, and they keep trying to enlarge the girth of the body. One can clearly say that this is a result of their stupidity. Being blessed with good health is not in the plumpness of the body. The limbs of small children are soft and supple — to lift and bend them is easy. The limbs of adults should be similarly soft and supple and strong and there should be no obstruction to the prana vayu and the blood circulation. Everybody knows that people who have overly large stomachs or who are obese often have excessive breathlessness and bloating of the stomach.

But they have not realized that the vayu sancharam is not proper in any part of the body. When there is no proper movement of air in the body, mounds of excessive flesh will collect in the body forming a barrier. Without proper air circulation, how will the dust fly away? Without water, how can the earth become soft? Similarly, in our bodies, if we want the blood to circulate and the prana vayu to flow properly without obstruction, we need to first knock down and remove the bad deposits of flesh (durmamsam) which appear like a wall. Only prana vayu has the capacity and power to completely destroy the excessive blobs of flesh that exist here and there in the body. This cannot be done with any other medicine.

The stomach is the only cause of an untimely death. There is no other reason. The dwelling place of death in the body is only the big stomach and nowhere else. Even though we desire long life and good health, why do we make our stomachs very large and leave room for death in them? Is this not a terrible thing? Therefore, by practising janusirsasana following the krama with correct instructions, one can melt away the stomach, no matter how large it is. You can definitely believe that as the stomach reduces in size, the death dwelling in it will leave the body. There is no doubt about this.
It is superior to regularly practise this janusirsasana before becoming preg- nant. One should not do it after becoming pregnant. If women who have stomach pain during menstruation practise this asana following the instructions mentioned above, in one or two months, all the germs that cause the stomach pain will be removed from the blood channels and will be expelled out of the body through the urinary tract.
This has 22 vinyasas. The 8th and the 15th vinyasas are themselves the asana sthiti. The benefit is correspondingly as great as one’s capacity for recaka.

Kumbhaka guidence notes from the earlier post.

In general, when inhaling the head goes up, exhaling it goes down, if up then there may well be the option of puraka kumbhaka, retaining the breath for 2-5 seconds at the end of the inhalation. When folded over rechka kumbhaka may be an option to consider.

"The vinyasas in which the head is raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person". p28
Yoga Makaranda T Krishnamacharya

In forward bending postures there is often the opportunity to include puraka kumbhaka before exhaling, folding over into the posture, and performing recaka kumbhaka. We might choose to spend a period of time in the preparatory posture taking a number of breaths and engaging in puraka kumbhaka after the inhalations. After completing the folded state of the asana and returning to the preparatory position we might again take a number of breaths and include purkaka kumbhaka after our inhalations.

We can perhaps think of many asana where we might introduce short kumbhaka's at the preparatory stage, the state of asana and following the asana on returning to the preparatory stage before transitioning back to standing or to the next posture.

Krishnamacharya stresses ( In Yoga Makaranda part II) that the kumbhaka in asana should be short, 2-5 seconds.....

Update: Paul Harvey has commented on this short kumbhaka in asana

Paul"My understanding from my discussions over the years with TKV re the context and content of YM, is that when teaching youngsters the length of the breath was minimised to a relatively short fixed length and use of Kumbhaka was limited to a few seconds AK and BK.
However no limitations on the range or intensity of Āsana and lots of use of variations to be engaged with within each Āsana.
In the adult there were no such limitations for the breath and the work with variations of the Āsana was re-prioritised to working with a fewer Āsana and fewer variations within each Āsana, but with the challenge of a greater range of breathing patterns both in length and combinations.
Certainly AK or BK of 10" was commonplace in the adult practice and here the 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the breath rather than for the youngster, where 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the form.
This was consistent with his teaching in Yoga Rahasya on Yoga Sādhana and Stages of Life.
Begin by noticing the 'natural kumbhaka' between the stages of the breath. If we breathe long, slow and full, "like the pouring of oil",  as is recommended by Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois we should notice the faint hint of a pause between the inhalation and exhalation, we notice this more clearly the slower the breath. Begin by extending that pause, that 'natural kumbhaka'  to a full second and then to two seconds. As this becomes comfortable we might increase it to three building up to perhaps five seconds but no more in asana ( mudras are a different case as is pranayama proper)".

 I did wonder if the short kumbhaka recommended in yoga makaranda Part II  was a question of pedagogics, Krishnamacharya doesn't mention how long to hold the kumbhaka in Yoga Makaranda Part One and it is a pretty extreme book with it's long stays in certain challenging postures, the kriya section etc. He doesn't mention keeping kumbhaka short in Yogasanagalu (1941) either. It's only in Yoga Makaranda II ( 1950s- 60s?) that he seems to draw back a little and talk about restricting the kumbhaka to 2-5 seconds, introducing it slowly. I was never sure if it was a reevaluation or just for the teaching purposes of the manual. Ramaswami has Kumbhaka too of course so I knew Krishnamacharya was teaching it in his later years but it seemed shorter except in mudras. What Paul is  describing here seems to treating almost any asana as a mudra which is interesting but my understanding of mudra was that they were in a sense custom made for bandhas and thus kumbhaka.

Paul: "Yes my understanding is that if we use a particular Āsana with all its permutations of form and thus less focus on the variations of the breath it operates more as an Āsana. 
If we use an Āsana with all its permutations of breath and thus less focus on the variation of the form it operates more as a Mudrā.
Sarvaṅgāsana is such an example with its 32 variations devised by TK emphasising its role as an Āsana and its static solo form with its focus on extensive breath ratio, perhaps augmented by the Tribandha, emphasising its role as a Mudrā".

In the beginning we might introduce kumbhaka into only a handful of selected asana in our practice, paschimottanasana perhaps, janu sirsasanabadha konasana, later we might introduce it to others while avoiding including kumbhaka in the twists, binds and back bending.

The more we slow our breath and introduce kumbhaka into our practice the more time becomes an issue. there are several ways to address this.

  • We might alternate the postures throughout the week in which we introduce kumbhaka
  • If our breath is becoming particularly long and slow we may wish to take three rather than five breaths within the state of an asana perhaps saving particularly long stays for postures like paschimottanasana, janu sirsasasana and baddha konasana or again alternating longer stays in different postures over a week cycle.
  • We might divide our practice up over two or four days, practicing perhaps full vinyasa and including kumbhaka but only up to and including Marichiyasana D before moving straight to the finishing postures. n the second day we might go from the standing postures directly to navasana and then on through finishing. A similar approach could be made to the intermediate series.
  • We might choose one day a week, when we have more time our day off or Sunday perhaps, to explore kumbhaka and or full vinyasa.

For more on Krishnamacharya see my Krishnamacharya resource page at the top of the blog or here

 for Yoga Makaranda in pdf and more

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

1:14 Practice continually.... but what exactly

Aranya's Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali my personal favourite presentation of the Yoga Sutras partly because he had lived in a cave for twenty odd years before writing it and had also studied western philosophy as well as that of his own culture.

Patanjali had of course never heard of Ashtanga Vinyasa, he's referring to practice in general, to quietening and ultimately focussing the mind...., he has suggestions, collected them together.... tips, recommendations, some that had worked for others for hundreds perhaps thousands of years.

The form practice takes may change, practice Ashtanga Vinyasa, switch to Iyengar for a few months come back to Ashtanga, Vinyasa Krama, hell, try Bikram or go to the gym class if that's the only one available.... or practice something, whatever it is, at home.

Do a fixed series or be more flexible, a couple of Sun salutations or never do another sun salutation in your life, do headstands instead or just sit and breathe, practice pranayama ( a straight forward nadi shodhana, with or without mantra, is sufficient).... or not.

Or sacrifice mat time altogether in favour of bringing the mind back to the breath throughout the day, to the yamaniyamas, an object of devotion...

A regular form of practice at a regular time can be a useful tool for developing discipline but a tool nonetheless and probably of little value if it doesn't begin, after a time, to permeate our whole day.


What constitutes the practice Patanjali is referring to ?

Practice =  The repeated, enthusiastic, attempt for attaining the undisturbed calmness of mind


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Ashtanga Vinyasa is how old?

Vamana Rishi

'Vinyasa is very old. You don’t see this is any other style of Yoga. This is based on, what I heard, based on Yoga Korunta, which Vamana Rishi wrote. Vamana Rishi is a very big saint, who wrote this system of Asana Practice. So this has come from generations, I don’t know, maybe 3,000-4,000 years up to Rama Mohan Bramachari, it’s gone beyond that'. 


“Finally he (Krishnamacharya) conceived the idea of what is called Vinyāsa. In fact, in the beginning of his teaching, around 1932, he evolved a list of postures leading towards a particular posture, and coming away from it.
This is different Āsana linked to one another in a scheme as though one posture leads to the following one. And this scheme was very important, especially for children, who find it very interesting.
He continues to have the same faith in this, although you cannot always follow these schemes for adults or people who are sick.
Still the idea of Vinyāsa, begin from where you are, go to a point, and come back to where you have to be, remains valid.”

– TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’, given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.


“Let us look at his (Krishnamacharya's) usual day. Whether you believe it or not, this old man gets up at one o’clock in the morning. Anybody is welcome to wait on the verandah and see that he gets up at one o’clock in the morning. And one o’clock in the morning is something for us, I mean it is like a terror to get up at one o’clock, and he is 93. He prepares his own tea and then he practices.

I did not believe that, until I saw, because he is staying with me, that he practices Yoga Āsana and Prāṇāyāma every day. In fact more than once every day, including headstand and Padmāsana, I am mentioning Padmāsana you see, because we are all sitting on chairs.

Headstand, Padmāsana, everything he does, and at 5 o’clock the bell rings and we know that he has started his Pūja. And the bell is not one of those small bells like they have on dining room tables. I am sure that bell must weigh 1½-2 kilos, because it is made of bronze. It must meet certain specifications, and the bell must produce the tone of OM, so it is quite heavy.

I often wonder whether I could ever do this for five minutes, like he does. He goes on waking God-come on, get up, get up, get up- also with some recitation, and all the family at that time curses him because he is waking all of us. At 6.30, when he has done all the chantings, it is very interesting to watch him doing these, he makes his own breakfast.

Then I go to see him at 7 o’clock in the morning and we chant for one hour. And then sometimes he has somebody at eight o’clock for chanting; somebody else at nine. So he will be teaching this Vedic chanting for 3 hours, after one hour of Pūja. You must try to chant for fifteen minutes, it is so tiring, but he manages. He has a great will.”

Some Wikipedia quotes, convenient  but more importantly tend to cite sources.

The Yoga Korunta is a purported ancient text on yoga written in sanskrit by Vamana Rishi and allegedly discovered by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in the National Archives of India in the early 20th century.Krishnamacharya later related an oral translation of the text to his students, such as K. Pattabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar. Jois used it as the basis to create the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system.The original text reportedly was not preserved, and its historicity and existence has been questioned.

The text is said to have described several lists of many different asana groupings, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras and general teachings.[

The name Yoga Korunta is the Tamilized pronunciation of the Sanskrit words Yoga grantha, meaning "book about yoga".


The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are 196 Indian sūtras (aphorisms) that constitute the foundational text of Ashtanga Yoga, also called Raja Yoga.

The Yoga Sutras were compiled around 400 CE by Patañjali, taking materials about yoga from older traditions. Together with his commentary they form the Pātañjalayogaśāstra.

The most recent assessment of Patañjali's date, developed in the context of the first critical edition ever made of the Yoga Sūtras and bhāṣya based on a study of the surviving original Sanskrit manuscripts of the work, is that of Philipp A. Maas. Maas's detailed evaluation of the historical evidence and past scholarship on the subject, including the opinions of the majority of Sanskrit authors who wrote in the first millennium CE, is that Patañjali's work was composed in 400 CE plus or minus 25 years.


The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā (Sanskrit: haṭhayōgapradīpikā, हठयोगप्रदीपिका) is a classic Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, written by Svāmi Svātmārāma, a disciple of Swami Gorakhnath. It is among the most influential surviving texts on the hatha yoga, and is one of the three classic texts of hatha yoga, the other two being the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita. A fourth major text, written at a later date by Srinivasabhatta Mahayogaindra, is the Hatharatnavali.

New research on the history of yoga in medieval India is throwing much new light on the origins and meaning of Haṭha Yoga.

In compiling the Hathapradīpikā it is clear that Svātmārāma drew material from many different sources on various systems of Yoga such as Yajñavalkya's and Vasistha's Aṣṭāngayoga, the Amanaskayoga's Rājayoga, the Vivekamārtaṇḍa's Ṣaḍdaṅgayoga, Ādināth's Khecarīvidyā, the Virūpākṣanātha's Amṛtasiddhi, and so on. He assembled it under the name of Haṭhayoga and, judging from the vast number of manuscripts of the Haṭhapradīpikā, its numerous commentaries, and the many references to it in late medieval Yoga texts, his Haṭhayoga grew in prominence and eclipsed many of the former Yogas. As a label for the diverse Yoga of the Haṭhapradīpikā, Haṭhayoga became a generic term. However, a more specific meaning of the term is seen in the tenth- to eleventh-century Buddhist tantric commentaries, and this meaning is confirmed by an examination of the adverbial uses of the word haṭha in the medieval Yoga texts predating the Haṭhapradīpikā. Rather than the metaphysical explanation of uniting the sun (ha) and moon (ṭha), it is more likely that the name Haṭhayoga was inspired by the meaning 'force'. The descriptions of force fully moving kundalinī, apāna, or bindu upwards through the central channel suggest that the "force" of Haṭhayoga qualifies the effects of its techniques, rather than the effort required to perform them.


The Yoga Yajnavalkya (Sanskrit: योगयाज्ञवल्क्य, yoga-yājñavalkya) is a classical treatise on yoga traditionally attributed to sage Yajnavalkya. It takes the form of a dialogue between Yajnavalkya and the renowned female philosopher Gargi. The extant Sanskrit text consists of 12 chapters and contains 504 verses. Most later yoga texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Yoga Kundalini and Yoga Tattva Upanishads have borrowed verses almost verbatim from or make frequent references to the Yoga Yajnavalkya. In the Yoga Yajnavalkya, yoga is defined as the union between the living self (jivatma) and the supreme self (paramatma). The yogi, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, considered Yoga Yajnavalkya to be one of the most important yoga texts and refers to this text in the introduction to his book, Yoga Makaranda (1934).
Wikipedia ( mostly based on the introduction from AG Mohan's own edition of the text)


The corpus of Haṭhayoga texts consulted for this essay is as follows
1. These dates are merely an approximate guide, designed to facilitate the reading of this essay.

Early texts: Amṛtasiddhi of Virūpākṣa (11/12th century), Amaraughaprabodha (14/15th century), Dattātreyayogaśāstra (12/13th century), Khecarīvidyā (13/14th century), the original Gorakṣaśataka (14/15th century), Śārṅgadharapaddhati (1363 ce), Vasiṣṭhasaṃhitā (12/13th century), Vivekamārtaṇḍa (13/14th century) (including the Gorakṣapaddhati, the Gorakṣaśataka, Yogamārtaṇḍa, and one edition of the Gorakṣasaṃhitā), Yogayājñavalkya (13/14th century), Yogabīja (14/15th century).
Haṭhapradīpikā (15th century)
Late texts: 13 Gheraṇḍasaṃhitā (17/18th century ), Haṭharatnāvalī (17th century), Haṭhatattvakaumudī (18th century), Śivasaṃhitā (15th century), Yogacintāmaṇi (16/17th century), Yogatārāvalī (15/16th century).
Dr Jason Birch 'The Meaning of Hatha Yoga'  from Journal of the American Oriental Society 131.4 (2011) 527


500 -1000 years between Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga texts.

Early 'yogic practices' of the Buddha (sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE)
Gautama initially went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life by begging for alms in the street. After King Bimbisara's men recognised Siddhartha and the king learned of his quest, Bimbisara offered Siddhartha the throne. Siddhartha rejected the offer, but promised to visit his kingdom of Magadha first, upon attaining enlightenment.

He left Rajagaha and practised under two hermit teachers of yogic meditation. After mastering the teachings of Alara Kalama (Skr. Ārāḍa Kālāma), he was asked by Kalama to succeed him. However, Gautama felt unsatisfied by the practice, and moved on to become a student of yoga with Udaka Ramaputta (Skr. Udraka Rāmaputra). With him he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness, and was again asked to succeed his teacher. But, once more, he was not satisfied, and again moved on.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions led by Kaundinya are then said to have set out to take their austerities even further. They tried to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practising self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path. Then, he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had been watching his father start the season's ploughing. He attained a concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing, the jhāna.

Biographical sources. The sources for the life of Siddhārtha Gautama are a variety of different, and sometimes conflicting, traditional biographies. These include the Buddhacarita, Lalitavistara Sūtra, Mahāvastu, and the Nidānakathā.Of these, the Buddhacarita is the earliest full biography, an epic poem written by the poet Aśvaghoṣa, and dating around the beginning of the 2nd century CE. The Lalitavistara Sūtra is the next oldest biography, a Mahāyāna/Sarvāstivāda biography dating to the 3rd century CE. The Mahāvastu from the Mahāsāṃghika Lokottaravāda tradition is another major biography, composed incrementally until perhaps the 4th century CE. The Dharmaguptaka biography of the Buddha is the most exhaustive, and is entitled the Abhiniṣkramaṇa Sūtra, and various Chinese translations of this date between the 3rd and 6th century CE. Lastly, the Nidānakathā is from the Theravāda tradition in Sri Lanka and was composed in the 5th century CE by Buddhaghoṣa.


and my page

Saturday, 24 January 2015

" The word Guru has become a doubtful concept" TKV Desikachar

TKV Desikachar with His father T. Krishnamacharya
Krishnamacharya sonTKV Desikachar in conversation with Rajiv Mehrotra

Rajiv Mehrotra has been a personal student of HH The Dalai Lama for more than thirty years & describes himself as “a most unworthy chela” of his. Till 2012 he was the host one of the country’s longest running, and most widely viewed talk shows on public Television, In Conversations. It was rated the most watched programme in its genre across all television channels in India. He was a familiar face on Indian television for more than 40 years.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Connecting Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama,

legs together jump through
legs together jump through

Sometimes it's hard perhaps to see the connection between the Ashtanga Vinyasa of Pattabhi Jois and the Vinyasa Krama of Ramaswami, the 'Viniyoga' of Desikachar, and AG Mohan's presentation etc. the temptation is to think of an early and late Krishnamacharya as if there was a turning, a major change in direction.

In Vinyasa Krama the vinyasa that take you from standing to an asana and back again are often not present, perhaps reserved for the beginning and end of a sequence or subroutine. However asking Ramaswami about this, he mentioned that these vinyasas, the vinyasa count, was always implied in each and every asana whether it was included or not.

In the early days when Krishnamacharya was teaching the young boys of the Mysore palace each and every transition (the jumping as Iyengar called it) seems to have been present present. Later, teaching individually and often older students and/or perhaps at the beginning of their asana education when they perhaps less fit, less of the 'jumping to and from asana was included, it depended it seems on the student and the pedagogic situation. It should be noted that even back in Mysore in the 30s Krishnamacharya had other students visiting him on a one to one basis. Pattabhi Jois one of his young assistants at the time might take the younger boys through their practice in the main shala while Krishnamacharya was in a side room giving an individual practice to a student or patient. In the 1938 video we see Iyengar practicng a more Ashtanga style while Krishnamacharya demonstrates the head and shoulderstand sequences that we find in Vinyasa Krama.

Here is a demonstration by Lara Abiesheikh outside the original  KYM ( Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram) building, Lara was an asana teacher there as was Ramaswami. Here we can see the vinyasa often to and from standing. Lara also shows us the legs together jump through that Ramaswami presents in his book, very hard. Also kapotasana with the legs together, terrifying as there is such a narrow base.

knees and heels together kapotasana
You might argue however that in Ashtanga the sequence of asana is fixed, here the asana are not presented in the same order.

Watching the videos below I'm more reminded of the Iyengar section of the old 1938 Mysore demonstration, we need to remember that originally for Krishnamacharya the asana were not ordered into a fixed long sequence although there clearly seem to have been groups of asana that would progress one to the other, a subroutine.

When we look at the asana table in Krishnamacharya 1941 Mysore book Yogasanagalu, written while Pattabhi Jois was his student, we see the asana listed pretty much in the same order that Pattabhi Jois was later to present them in Ashtanga vinyasa. But in Krishnamacharya it seems to have been more flexible, different subroutines presented on different days and as in the demonstrations below, as a student progressed the more challenging asana seem likely to have been added to the subroutine; so as the hips began to open the leg behind head postures might be added on to janu sirsasana just as Krishnamacharya was to teach them to Ramaswami many years later. I might note here that in Krishnamacharya's 1941 list marichiyasana B and D are listed under Intermediate asana ( which makes sense).

from the Youtube video info
Mr.A.F. Lara Abiesheikh is an exponent of yoga, having practised the entire array of asanas and pranayama techniques since the age of fourteen. He learnt at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, where he continued to teach for nearly eight years. His quest for perfection propelled him to further seek guidance from other senior and popular teachers in the field of Yoga. His unflinching vigour and steady commitment has made him the embodiment of excellence in asana postures, prana kriya and pranayama. His dedication to practice has earned him the rare distinction of modeling for reputed yoga books of international standard. In fact, his mastery of the techniques of pranayama is such that he can voluntarily stop his own heart beat (pulse) for more than 20 seconds.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Turning Ashtanga's KPJYI into KPJYF, a charitable foundation?

Originally published 22/01/2015 

Update 2018: When I originally wrote this post I was thinking of KPJAYI being turned into a not for profit foundation. It seems clear now, to me at least and I suspect many others, that what is needed is something completely independent and that doesn't itself offer training or certification but perhaps merely recognises teachers of the tradition, perhaps along the lines of the list

UPDATE: This has come off the top off my head ( and shows I think, all a bit half-baked at the moment), somebody with a better understanding of how foundations work.... or perhaps don't work could do a better job of this I'm sure. Utopias and indeed dystopias are useful to reflect a current situation against to see which aspects show up favourably and which less so, what would one keep as it is and what modify.

I was looking at the picture below from Paul Harvey's excellent  Centre for Yoga Studies. It's of him standing outside the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram with some of the founders, trustees and teachers. Ramswami was another of the original trustee of KYM, he's not in this picture but Paul mentions in it's caption how he would also have lessons with Ramaswami while studying at KYM with his principle teacher TKV Desikachar.

The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram was founded by Krishnamacharya's Son as a tribute to his father and mentor, it is a Public Charitable Trust, recognised by the Health and Family welfare Ministry, Government of India.

It gave me pause, why I wondered didn't Ashtanga become a charitable trust after Pattabhi Jois' passing. I know that the Jois family donates money to certain charities but that's not the same as being a foundation.

I tried to work out the income of KPJYI once, what are there around three hundred students a month with the shala open for six months so around 1800 students a season? Some months are less of course shall we bring that down to 1500, is that fair, bit less perhaps? It's what around $500 a month (you pay more for the first month less for the following months), so what's that, around $750, 000 a season. That would make for quite a charitable foundation.

Then of course there are the world tours, large sums involved there....not sure how I feel about this, should it count as separate from the proposed 'foundation'? Sharath is touring as head of KPJAYI though, the vast numbers who attend are partly due to  the position he holds and it's also promotion so perhaps including it under the foundation is fair. I'll leave you to work out the sum involved but I imagine if we lump the Mysore Shala, world tours and merchandise income together it comes to well over $1000,000 a year.

I wonder what the expenses of KYM are.

A foundation would have trustees.

Here's a parlour game, who would be the trustees of such a foundation. Sharath, Manju Saraswathi obviously but who else would be on the board? David Williams, Nancy Gilgoff, Tim Miller perhaps, Richard could play this game at home.

Rather than passing directorship from father to son (or grandson) it could be open to election by the board. That might allow for a separation between the shala and the institute, Sharath might find that quite appealing, there could perhaps be a revolving directorship based on election by the board, representatives of the authorised teachers could be elected and perhaps of unauthorised students also. Perhaps a small nominal membership fee offered to shala as well as home Ashtangi's.

As a home Ashtangi I don't have shala fees but would be happy to pay a small membership fee to a charitable foundation. Recently I received email from somebody practicing in a small village in Iran, would be nice to think that a foundation might make short 'scholarships possible for people who would be perhaps unable to get to Mysore to practice any other way, and perhaps to subsidise schools based in deprived areas, more outreach.

There could also be decentralisation, a setting up of centres of teaching excellence recommended and voted on by the board.

Training centres around the world, another parlour game. Which shalas come to mind, those with certified teachers might be a start many of whom were certified by Pattabhi Jois himself.

I like this idea, like the idea of connections and cooperation between shalas, there's something like this happening in Greece actually. Be nice to see it extended to other countries and then perhaps on a continent level....

It turns out I'm more of a purist than I thought. It seems I do feel that you should have been practicing Ashtanga for a number of years before you teach it. Just because you may have been teaching other styles of yoga and can pick up the first two or three Ashtanga sequences in a couple of weeks doesn't seem quite the same to me. There's something about how we learn this practice, that slow grinding it out, whether at home or in a shala, seems to constitute an important aspect of the tradition.

A membership of the foundation would give some indication of how long somebody has been practicing. The Iyengar institue has something like that I think, you need to have been practicing Iyengar yoga for 8 years before being accepted to study at the Institute in Pune I believe. I don't think there should be a similar restriction on when you can practice at the Mysore shala but perhaps length of practice could decide whether you were accepted on a teaching intensive at one of the new training centres.

Whether somebody has or hasn't been to Mysore is of less interest to me personally. More important for me is how long somebody has been practicing and perhaps who their teacher was/is. Authorisation/Certification, whether their name is or isn't on a list this month is of little importance to me either. I imagine there are students at say Tim Millar's shala or Richard's in Boulder who have been practicing for decades and never been to Mysore.

Sharath has stressed in several conferences recently that nobody owns Yoga, the same goes for Ashtanga, it's not a family business  it seems to me more of a sangha, an international community of practitioners rather than teachers and students, Sharath too is a practitioner, a foundation might reflect that quite well.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Confessional, Note to self, Yama Niyama

Around the Blogosphere

"Oh, student. This is the next posture. The fact that you cannot tell the difference between how you're doing it now and the last time you did it tells me that you're still a beginner."
My favourite bit from David Keil's detailed interview with Claudia is actually from Claudia herself


Also, another excellent interview from Lu Duong on his Ashtanga Parampara interview platform.
this time he's with with Megan Riley 
Nice long answer on 'Home practice' and most Ashtanga teachers end up as home practitioners sooner or later.

Confessional, Note to self, Yama Niyama

Handwritten notes are supposedly IN
OK,  this is cheating, a handwriting font but it's still knocked off with minimal editing, it is as it is...

( as it happens I wrote this yesterday before practice and ended up with a nice 2nd so perhaps it helped, therapy)

Re the note to self. This is the practice that has worked for me for the last few years but that I've allowed to slip somewhat over the 9 months. It's a reminder to myself than anything else.
Not everyone will feel they have time to practice in the evening as well as a little pranayama at noon or before bed, however a gesture can be enough, taking a few minutes to bring attention to the breath and if alone perhaps to formally raise and lower the arms with the breath....

Here are a few different treatments of  the Yama and Niyama's first Ramaswami's overview from his book Yoga Beneath the Surface, then his teacher of over thirty years Krishnamacharya's ( Yoga makaranda 1934 and Yogasanagalu 1941)who has ten of each rather than five  and finally Pattabhi Jois from Yoga Mala who goes into more detail quoteing from Patanjali throughout.

It's unlikely many will have time to read all of this in one go so I've turned this and an earlier post with flashcards into a stand alone page at the top of the blog.

from Yoga beneath the Surface

Yama comes from the root yam, meaning "to control." Control
of what?  Control of one's relationship with the extemal world.

The yamas are:

Ahimsa (nonviolence) - don't harm others. Your rela­ tionship with ali beings in the universe is governed by ahimsa. You should practice nonviolence in your rela­ tionship with ali beings, without exception. According to the texts, you should not harbor violent thoughts, nor speak in a way that hurts or physically harms others.

Satya (truthfulness)- don't lie. Truthfulness should gov­ ern your communication with others.

Asteya (noncovetousness)- don't steal or covet others' possessions.

Brahmacharya (celibacy/faithfulness)- don't transgress the institution of marriage.

Aparigraha (nonaccumulation) - do not pursue wealth and power.

Why are these controls necessary? Because without them, you will constantly be distracted by the elements of the externa! world and all of your time is going to be consumed by fights, deception, and other corrupting thought processes, the very mental activities the yogi wants to eschew to begin with. These are not far ordinary people, but a serious yogi can make little progress without them.

The yamas are the "don'ts," whereas the...

are the "dos:' They are:

Saucha (cleanliness) - cleanliness of the body and purity of rnind.

Santosha (contentment) - contentment all the time, irrespective of the situation.

Tapas (austerity) - restraining the senses. My teacher would say that moderation in food and speech are the hallmarks of this yogic trait.

Swadhyaya (study of scriptures) - study of all relevant yogic and other spiritual texts, which helps the yogi to understand yoga better.

Ishvarapranidhana (worship of the Lord) - doing one's duties diligently as an offering to God.

There is no violent yogi. Nor is there one who utters falsehood. Bandit yogis are nonexistent. Philandering and yoga do not mix. Avarice also is not a yogic trait. Yogis have clean minds and bodies. Contentment is the hallmark of a yogi. Moderation is a yogic virtue. A yogi is a scholar as well. All that the yogi does, he does so with a sense of loving offering to God.

All the yarma niyamas are to be practiced, or may I say adopted, by the yogi. They are necessary prerequisites and required to be developed as a habit.

Here's Krishnamacharya's list of ten each (yep he has 10 not, sorry) from Yoga Makaranda (1934).

The language may at times seem strange, the game is to find ways to frame them such that they become relevant to us today, it's an interesting and revealing exercise.

Link to Amazon


2.1 Yama and Niyama  from Krishnamacharya's Yoga makaranda

Ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, kshama, dhrthi, daya, arjavam, mitahara and sauca — these ten are called yama. 

1. To never harm anybody through mind, speech or action is ahimsa.

2. To always speak the truth with good intentions and through that be of use
to all living beings is satya.

3. To not usurp other people’s wealth through mind, speech or action is called

4. To not waste your viryam by any means is called brahmacharyam.

5. To not change the state of your mind irrespective of whether you get the expected benefits of your actions or not is kshama (equanimity).

6. Whatever hurdles arise to your happiness or welfare, to continue to undertake with mental steadfastness and courage whatever work that has to be done is dhrthi.

7. Be it enemy, friend, stranger (an alien or somebody you are unconnected to or indifferent to) or relative, to behave towards all with the same good intentions without differentiation is daya.

8. To keep the state of mind honest (on the straight path) is arjavam.

9. To use half the stomach for food and to keep the other half in equal parts
for water and for air flow (vayu sancharam) is mitahara.

10. To maintain cleanliness internally and externally is sauca.

To not hoard money is called asanchayam and this is also a yama. To perform good deeds without fear is a yama. 

Tapas, santosha, asthikya, daana, isvara puja, siddhanta vakya sravana, hri, mathi, japa, homam — these ten are called niyama.

1. Cold and hot, joy and sorrow, adoration and aversion — to maintain a steady state of mind when encountering these and to follow the dharma of your caste is tapas.

2. The sorrows and pleasure that result from any occurrences due to variations of time and place — to accept these with a peaceful, contented mind is santosha.

3. To have definite belief that for all the fourteen worlds, there is one para- matma who protects these worlds and to be sure that without him, this diverse universe could not have come into existence, and to make up your mind to find and know (realize) this paramatma is asthikya.

4. To give away your earnings (earned honestly) to good causes without any reason and without expecting any returns is daana.

5. To worship one’s chosen deity in the proper manner according to the vedas is isvara puja.

6. For the purpose of establishing sanatana dharma, to study the vedas, the vedanta, smrti, the puranas and ithihasas, to do vedic study and recitation of these, to understand the functioning of various dharmas, and to listen to the discourses of great sages is siddhanta vakya sravana.

7. If you have strayed with one of the three — your body, possessions or spirit — out of ignorance, to inform the elders about this without hiding it, to feel remorse and promise never to repeat it, and to be humble in one’s mind is hri (modesty).

8. Following one’s path as specified by the sastras and while doing this to visualize with one-pointed mind the divine auspicious form of one’s chosen deity and to perform dhyana on this deity is mathi.

9. To properly chant the great mantras learned under the guidance of one’s guru with correct intonation, metre and rhythm and with understanding of their meaning is japa.

10. Nitya naimitika kaamya are the three types of srouta smarta karmas (pre- scribed or recorded vedic rites and rituals). Leaving aside the kaamya karma (action or rite performed with a self-interested motive or with a view to- wards desired results), to perform the nitya naimitika karmas (nitya karma is a constant or continuous rite or action, naimitika is a regularly recur- ring or periodic rite or action) at the proper time in order to please the devatas, and after reciting all the mantras to put the havis (rice) in the fire as described in the sastras is homam.

These ten yama and niyama should be carefully practised as far as possible. This will have many benefits. The third part of yoga is asana.

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But if you prefer to stick with just five for now here's Pattabhi Jois fromYoga mala


This is what ashtanga yoga teaches.

The word ashtanga means eight limbs, or steps, and these comprise: yama; niyama; asana; pranayama; pratyahara; dharana; dhyana; and samadhi.


Yama, the first limb, consists of five parts: ahimsa; satya; asteya; brahmacharya; and aparigraha.

Ahimsa means not causing injury to anyone, including animals, in any form, at any time, or for any reason, in word, thought, or deed. If an injury has Vedic sanction, it does not constitute ahimsa. Two animals hostile to each other will forget their hostility in the vicinity of those who practice absolute ahimsa.

Ahimsa pratishthayam tat sannidhou vairatyagah.
[Upon being established in non-hurtfulness, there is
a relinquishing of hostility in the presence of that (ahimsa).]
—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 35

What is satya? Satya is truthfulness. One should always tell the truth in thought, word, and deed. The truth must be pleasant to others; an unpleasant truth should not be uttered. If one follows the truth in this manner, all one’s words will become true and all one’s desires will be fulfilled.

Satya pratishthayam kriya phala shrayatvam.
[Upon being established in truth, there is surety in the result of actions.]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 36

Asteya means not stealing the property or possessions of others. Being envious of or begrudging another; cheating someone with sweet words; gaining selfish ends under the guise of truthfulness: all are to be abandoned. Heaps of gems fall before the yogi who practices asteya, and he becomes the abode of all gems.

Asteya pratishthayam sarvaratna upasthanam.
[Upon being established in non-stealing, there occurs the attainment of all prosperity.]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 37

Now, let us discuss brahmacharya. What is its meaning? Is it
merely the retaining of vital fluid? Does it signify unmarried student life? Brahmacharya is not possible by means of the mere retention of vital fluid. Becoming one with the supreme Brahman alone is brahmacharya. Were the holding of vital fluid itself brahmacharya, it would be a thing impossible to do. There are currently many obstacles to the easy
practice of this limb of yoga, and our Shrutis and Smritis, too, speak of eight types of obstacles:

Smaranam kirtanam kelih Prekshanam muhyabhashanam Sankalpah adhyavasayascha Kriya nishpattireva cha
Etam maithunam ashtangam pravadanti manishinah.
[Remembering; celebrating; amorous play;
viewing; infatuated discussion; planning; determination; and the effort of one who has no partner: the wise declare these to be the eight limbs of romantic activity.]


Maintaining brahmacharya nowadays is difficult because there are so many things that attract the mind in different directions, such as theaters, pleasure houses, restaurants, and the like. The preservation of brahmacharya is thus an uphill task.

Now, a question arises. If we cannot maintain brahmacharya, does it not amount to saying that yoga is impossible for us? No, a man can achieve some degree of brahmacharya. If he is to achieve it, however, he must avoid the following as much as possible: mixing with vulgar people; going to crowded areas for recreation; reading vulgar books which disturb the mind; going to theaters and restaurants; and conversing secretly with strangers of the opposite sex. If these are avoided, brahmacharya can be preserved in part. For it is by brahmacharya alone that we are able to achieve impossible tasks: to live longer; to conquer death; and, above all, to know the true Self. This is the substance of Patanjali’s sutra:
“Brahmacharya pratishtayam virya labhah [Upon being established in brahmacharya, vital energy is obtained].”

We should thus first seek to preserve this yogic limb.

As Patanjali’s sutra clearly states, a gain in vitality is brahmacharya’s fruit. If a gain in vitality is the fruit and, in the case of householders, there is occasion for a loss of vital fluid, does it mean that a householder cannot attain brahmacharya? This, of course, is true: householders lose brahmacharya owing to seminal loss. With the loss, they lose the strength of their bodies, minds, and sense organs; in addition, moksha [spiritual liberation] and the capacity to perceive the soul or realize the true Self become impossible. In the absence of the knowledge of one’s own Self, one remains in the cycle of birth and death, and thus must continue to suffer in this sapless and despicable world. However, understanding properly the meanings of the words brahmacharya and virya labhah, and then putting them into practice, leads us to the supreme goal.

Tasmat shastram pramanam te karyakarya vyavasthitou Jnatva shastra vidhanoktam karma kartumiharhasi [Therefore, the sacred teaching (shastra) is your measure in deter- mining what is to be done and what is not to be done. Knowing what is said in the shastra, you should act, here in this world.]
—Bhagavad Gita xvi : 24

In accordance with these divine words, it is important for us to study the scriptures perfectly, to understand their import properly, and to bring them into practice. The scriptures should never be neglected, for they have been given to us for our upliftment. If we denounce them, and behave like animals instead of following their path, then there will be nothing but ruin in store for us. Hence, the righteous path of the scriptures is vital.

Among the stages of life, the second is that of the householder. If we take only seminal loss into account, then a householder cannot attain mukti [spiritual liberation]. However, when we consult the scriptures, we find it said that, for householders, seminal loss by itself does not endanger brahmacharya and that, in the truest sense of the word, the householder alone can attain brahmacharya. In the words of the mantra:

Ye diva ratya samyujyante pranameva praskandante Tatryrudrarau rathya samyujyante brahmacharyam eva [Those who daily engage their energy through romantic activity truly dissipate (their energy). Those who take delight when the enemy of Shiva (Kama/Cupid) is in decline indeed engage in brahmacharya.]

By examining this scriptural statement, we come to know that if a man has sexual intercourse with his wife during the daytime, his power of vitality will be lost and, in a very short time, death will conquer him. To counter this, the young men of today offer a different argument. They say, “If a man has sexual intercourse with his lawful wife during the day, his power of vitality is, of course, decreased. Agreed! But what about sex with other women? Where is the fault in that?!” This is only the question of perverted rationalists. Intercourse with other women is always forbidden and, as has been said before, it is, even mentally, harmful to brahmacharya.

Leaving that aside, the shastrakaras state that if sexual intercourse is engaged in only at night and in accordance with the menstrual periods, then even householders and the like can be regarded as
brahmacharis.  But the matter of day and night, as well as of the appropriate time for copulation, have to be taken into consideration. Normally, we consider day as the period from sunrise to sunset. Similarly, we consider night as the period from sunset until the time of the sun’s rising again. However, the way of determining day and night for yogis is different. Of the nostrils of the nose through which we breathe, the

right one is known as surya nadi, and the left one, as chandra nadi.  For yogis, day and night are determined on the basis of these two nadis. During the day, meaning from sunrise to sunset, the two nadis are not to be heeded. However, during the nighttime, their transformation should be considered. If, during the night, the breath is felt to be moving through the surya nadi, that is, if the wind is coming and going through the right nostril, then that is to be regarded as the daytime and, during that period, copulation and the like are not to occur. If, during the night, on the other hand, the breath is moving only through the chandra nadi, then that is the occasion for sexual activities. (Should the chandra nadi become active during the daytime, however, it must not be taken as an occasion for engaging in sexual activities.) In this way should householders who are righteous—whether they be yogis or not—ascertain day and night.

In addition to the matter of day and night, the menstrual cycle must also be considered. The interval between the fourth and sixteenth day of a woman’s cycle is regarded as the correct time for intercourse by scriptural experts. Beyond the sixteenth day, however, it ceases to be correct; vitality will be lost and the act will not be fruitful following intercourse after the sixteenth day. When we accept the stage of the householder, we make a promise to God, Guru, and our parents in this way. We also make a promise that we will do nothing apart from our lawful wife with respect to dharma, artha, and kama [righteousness, wealth, and desire, respectively]. Hence it is very important that we beget legal progeny. Engaged in after the sixteenth day, as well as on the days of the new and full moons, the transitory day of the sun (when the sun monthly enters a new constellation), and the eighth and fourteenth days after the full and new moons, sexual intercourse and the like are not related to brahmacharya. Union with one’s lawful wife should be undertaken for the sake of begetting good progeny, and only after determining the vitu [period between the 4th and 16th days] and kala [time], and not on any other days, not even in the mind. Thus, in view of the fact that scriptural experts inform us that a householder who follows the injunctions and rules can be regarded as a brahmacharin, then even a family man becomes highly eligible for the practice of yoga, due to his ability to preserve his brahmacharya. Thus, brahmacharya does not mean the holding of vitality, though there is still no room for its squandering.

In truth, establishing the mind in the supreme Brahman, without allowing it to wander here and there, is brahmacharya. The word veerya means vitality. The transformation of the thirty-second drop of blood is veerya, or dhatu [semen]. If the strength of the mind, as well as of the sense organs, is to be preserved, then the strength of the dhatu, which is the effect of the blood’s transformation, must also be preserved. If dhatu is lost, the strength of the mind, as well as that of the sense organs, will also be lost, and it will not be possible to perceive the nature of the Self. Therefore, to say that from brahmacharya there will be a gain in vitality is to say that if the mind turns toward the Inner Self for the sake of knowing the nature of the Self, then the strength will increase. Conversely, if the mind is interested in external objects, then the strength will be dimininished. From the scriptural statement, “Nayam atma balahinena labhyah [The Self cannot be gained by the weak],” we see that mental strength is greater than physical strength. Therefore, if the mind is to be steadied and brought to concentration, it must contemplate the Supreme Self at all times. In other words, whether working, sleeping, eating, playing, or even enjoying intercourse with one’s wife—that is, during the three states of experience, namely waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, and in all objects—one should think of the Supreme Self at all times. If the mind is thus given to the constant thought of the Supreme Self, then its strength will increase. And it is this strength that should be regarded as brahmacharya.
If brahmacharya of this kind is achieved, then the capacity to realize the Self, which is the result of a gain in vitality, will be attained. With this, the dhatu, which is the effect of the transformation of the blood, will not be lost, but will continue to nourish the body properly. Only the strong, not the weak, can perceive the Self, as the scriptural statement above tells us. Therefore, the meaning of the phrase virya labhah is indeed correct. Hence, the great importance of brahmacharya.

Brahmacharya pratishthayam virya labhah.
[Upon being established in brahmacharya, there is the attainment of vital energy.]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 38

What is aparigraha? If the mortal body is to be sustained, things like food are essential. After all, by sustaining the body, does one not attain divinity through following the righteous path? Thus, the food we eat should be pure (sattvic), untainted (nirmala), and acquired through righteousness, and not be secured by cheating, deceit, persecution, or other unjust means. Only taking as much food as we need to maintain our bodies, and not desiring things of enjoyment which are superfluous to the physical body, is aparigraha. If the limb called aparigraha is firmly practiced, details of previous and future births are revealed to the yogi.

Aparigraha sthairye janma kathamta sambodhah.
[Upon a foundation of non-possessiveness, there arises the full understanding of the wherefore of birth.]
—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 39

EACH OF THE FIVE SUB-LIMBS ABOVE IS ASSOCIATED WITH YAMA, THE FIRST limb, and only the actions of previous lives will lead us to practice them. Thus, the mind will turn itself to the practice of yoga only when a samskara or vasana is present. Yet even where a samskara exists, aspirants must expect to practice the yogic steps with effort.


We come now to a discussion of niyama,
the second step, which has five sub-limbs: shaucha; santosha; tapas; swadhyaya; and ishwarapranidhana.

There are two types of shaucha, or purification: bahir shaucha [external purification] and antah shaucha [internal purification].
Bahir shaucha, the first, involves washing the outer part of the body with red clay and water. By rubbing the body with clay, sweat and dirt are removed, and the body becomes soft and shiny.
The second, antah shaucha, means viewing everything and every being as a friend, and treating all with affection (maitri). This means engaging the mind with the supreme feeling that all are our friends, and considering everything to be a reflection of God. Such focusing of our attention on the Supreme Being is antah shaucha.
From this twofold shaucha, a loathing is developed for the body, which is seen as abominable, essenceless, and perishable, and a disgust is felt when touching the body of another. It is then that one feels the body’s purity and thus hesitates to indulge in sin.

Shauchat swanga jugupsa parair asamsargah.
[Owing to purity, there is a desire to protect one’s own body, being the non-contact with whatever is adverse (to that).]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 40
Santosha, or contentment, is a notion we are all quite familiar with. Ordinarily, human beings experience elation when their incomes unexpectedly rise or they experience a windfall of some type. Yet happiness of this kind is momentary and short- lived. Whether one is rich or poor, whether the Goddess of Fortune smiles on one or not, or whether honor or dishonor comes to one, one should never feel dejected. Keeping the mind focused in a single direction, always being happy, and never feeling regret for any reason, this is the contentment known as santosha. If santosha is practiced, unsurpassed joy comes.

Santoshad anuttama sukha labhah.
[Owing to contentment, there is an unexcelled attainment of happiness.]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 42

Tapas means observances performed to discipline the body and sense organs. According to the Yoga
Yagnavalkya: “Vidhinoktena margena Krchra Chandrayanadibih, Sharira Shoshanam prahuh tapasastapa uttamam [Sages well- versed in austerity say that performing penances such as krchra and chandrayana (food regulation in accordance with the lunar cycles), which discipline the body in accordance with the scriptures, is the greatest of all the tapas).”
Thus, tapas that follow the injunctions of the shastras should be regarded as great. By means of them, impurities are destroyed, the antah karana [the inner instrument, made up of mind, intellect, ego, and the faculty of discrimination] becomes purified, and the body and sense organs are perfected.

Kayendriyasiddhirashuddhiksayah tapasah.
[The perfection of the body and sense organs is due to intensity in spiritual practice, being the elimination of impurities.]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 43

Swadhyaya is the recital of Vedic verses and prayers in accordance with strict rules of recitation. Vedic hymns must be recited without damaging the artha [meaning] and Devata [deity] of a mantra through the use of a wrong swara [pitch] or the improper articulation of akshara [letter], pada [word], or varna [sentence].
The Gayatri mantra forms the basis for the study of all Vedic verses, or mantras, which fall into two
categories: the Vedic and Tantric. Vedic mantras consist of two types, namely the pragita and apragita, and Tantric mantras, of three types: the strilinga; pullinga; and napumsakalinga. To learn their nature, a text known as the Mantra Rahasya must be studied. However, as mantras such as these are not very helpful to raja yoga, we shall put off discussing them for the time being.
Gods related to the mantras give siddhis [powers] to those who chant them and ponder their meanings, and a Satguru [true or supreme Guru] should be consulted to learn their secrets.
Swadhyayad ishtadevata samprayogah.
[Owing to the learning and application of personal mantras, there is union with (one’s) desired deity.]

—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 44

Ishwarapranidhana, or surrender to God, means carrying out all our actions, spoken or unspoken, without desiring their fruit, and offering their fruit to the Lord. This is the message of the great sages:

Kamatah akamatovapi yat karomi shubhashubham tat sarvam tvayi vinyasya tvat prayuktah karomyaham. [Whatever I do, whether out of desire or not, good or bad, having surrendered all that to you, I act as directed by you.]

Such an offering is known as ishwarapranidhana. Through ishwarapranidhana , samadhi [union with the Supreme] is attained, which in turn leads to the attainment of perfection and fulfillment.
Samadhi Siddih Ishwarapranidhanat.
[The perfection of samadhi is due to the perfect alignment of attention with the omniscient seer within.]
—Patanjali Yoga Sutras ii : 45

Link to
Beware the kindle edition



Krishnamacharya on Yama  Niyama in Yogasanagalu (1941)
See page at top of blog with ongoing translation ( the translation of the original book is complete but still an additional chapter included in later editions to come).

6. Yogangas

Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi are the eight steps in the yoga sadhana.

7.  1st Limb: Yama and its inner modules

Non-violence, honesty and truthfulness, non-stealing, Brahmacharya (chastity) and non desire for other’s property.  These are the five Yama’s under the first step of yoganga.

If we continue to practice this in the right way, our conflicts and other evil behaviors will be burnt to ashes from its roots and the author can envisage that such grossness of body and mind can not become reestablished.

8. Fruits of the 1st Limb

Above listed five foundations of the the 1st limb are: Ahimsa, Sathya, Asteya, Brahmacharya-Pativratya, and Aparigraha.  If we start practicing these principles in a small way, diseases related to the body, organs and mind will stop being obstacles to a happy life.  Practicing these will become joyful.

9. 2nd Limb: Niyama and its classification

1. Cleanliness in food, pleasure, sports, bath, body, mind and other activities in both internal and external aspects – this is called purity.

2.  Not feeling jealous of other people’s wealth and not feeling proud compared to other’s poverty, being always cheerful.  This is called contentment.

3. Not feeding our body which carries our life effortlessly with excess fat and performing fast at appropriate times so that the body fat can be decreased, eating moderately and on time.  This is called Tapas.

4. To prevent evil and impediments in life and to gain knowledge one must read vedas, puranas, scriptures, chant holy mantras while ruminating on its meaning and teach others.  This is called Swadhyaya.

5. Who built this tree of universe that has not stopped changing from the very minute (atomic) times undergoing many beautiful and wonderful changes;  Who must eat fruits bearing from this tree?  Why is that all are not eating these fruits equally without differences?  What is the reason?  Could someone like us plant another tree like that?  Why not?  The eternal that does not dry up but continues to give required fruits to the souls.  This creator, is he in front of us or not?  If not how does this work?  Without doubt we all realize that work does not happen without a reason. Therefore, one who is giving us this variety of unlimited fruits without end in this tree of universe must be immensely powerful, with unlimited knowledge, unfathomable, have infinite empathy and having many other amazing qualities.  His existence is documented in all vedas and puranas.  Although he exists, the reason we are not able to witness, we have to admit is our deficiency in body, faculty and mind.  Our ancestors called and praised him as “Paramatma and Sarveshvara.”  We have to resolve that we will practice sadhana to be able to see Paramatma and offer to Sarveshvara with great devotion our spiritual practices, without desire for any benefits. This is called Ishwarapranidhana.

10. Benefits of the 2nd Limb

From the above five, the first one will purify body and mind, remove environmental flaws, second will give mental happiness/contentment at all times, third one will reduce bad fat
from the body making it swift and light, fourth one will make you realize Jeevatma, Paramatma, and the essense of the universe, fifth one removes ego and selfishness.  In today’s state, we need all of the above five that are elements of the 2nd limb.


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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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