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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Original Ashtanga syllabus as a teaching tool ( Danny Paradise's copy) Evolution of the Ashtanga syllabus (Yoga Korunta?).

On a previous post on the Ashtanga Advanced series my friend Gilad Harouvi posted the Ashtanga syllabus he was given by his teacher Danny Paradise, a cheat sheet for Ashtanga. I got in touch with Danny and asked him if it was OK to share here on the blog and after taking a look again (he hadn't seen this for years I suspect) he kindly gave me the go ahead.

We've seen this syllabus before of course, this is the original Ashtanga Syllabus ( see appendix at the end of the blog) given to David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff  (Danny Paradise's own teachers, he began the practice in 1976) on their first trip to Mysore to practice with Pattabhi Jois in 1973. Nancy too was kind enough to let me share the original ( and I have a copy framed in my home shala) but what I love about this one from Danny is that we can see it being used. I love all the little diagrams, the notes and check out the numbers, these correspond with the asana in BKS Iyengar's Light on yoga, more on that in a moment.

Gilad has this to say regarding the syllabus and Danny...

"As It Happens, Danny Paradise taught me first  in Summer 1986, This is how Ashtanga Started in my part of the Middle east (Israel. with Miri Harouvi Ashtanga-yoga and myself).  He Photocopied and gave me that above Mysore Syllabus, a few other cheat-sheets,the Mullabandha book and a worn out copyof  Iyengar's book (still got it!), spreading the  David williams and Nancy Gilgoff story,  and Sri KPJ. and Manju Pattabhi Jois.  Danny is the first OR among the very first few "Ashtanga Travelling persons",together with Marceau Baptiste- teaching the form  and breaking new Ashtanga ground in zillions of places around the known 5 continents - round about the same times or a bit before  Derek Ireland and Radha warrell started the first EU Ashtanga Hub in Crete. Danny Paradise was the first to be invited later to teach the high profile people like Sting and Madonna- and that started the Ashtanga BOOM and the Mysore craze. Can you Imagine, Ashtanga was not recognized at all. "Is that Yoga?" was the phrase used by Other Yoga Practitioners. Praise those first Babas!  forever indebted to them. BOM!"

Danny is one of those teachers who seems to have been teaching Ashtanga forever, (since 1979) so often we get stuck in the idea that Mysore is the centre of the Ashtanga world but there are many such centres and Ashtanga has spread out from these as much as from Mysore. There's Hawaii of course with Nancy Gilgoff, David Williams even Norman Allan is still teaching there. Encinitas and Tim Miller's Shala comes to mind of course, Boulder and Richard Freeman's yoga Workshop, Eddie's Stern's Brooklyn Yoga club in New York and that's just in the US. Manju Jois is of course is another home of Ashtanga but more of a gypsy caravan perhaps constantly traveling around the world to share his fathers teaching, likewise Danny Paradise... which corner of the world hasn't he taught Ashtanga in?

Danny is also a musician and song writer he has a charity film screening at Triyoga, Camden, London on 6th August 2016, 18:30-20:00 of a song he wrote recently on the issue of child trafficking. here are the details

If you're not in London you can watch it below


triyoga Camden
£5 recommended donation (all proceeds go to Children of the Forest)
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“Love will rescue you” is an animation made by Céu d'Ellia, and music by Danny Paradise and Matthew Kelly, illustrating the work done by Children of the Forest Foundation. It is short animated film which tells the story of refugees worldwide and in particular displaced and stateless children. 

Join Danny Paradise for the screening of this short film to conclude his weekend of workshops at triyoga. The film will be followed by a live auction at triyoga and then everyone is invited to the nearby bar Boho in Camden for buffet food and 1/2 price cocktails until midnight (address: 6 Inverness Street NW1 7HL)

Items being auctioned include:
- Diamond print by photographer Gem Rey, special edition signed
- Original signed + hand painted by Dom Pattinson (hand painted original)
triyoga 10 class pass
- 2 places for Danny’s Paradise 2017 triyoga workshop
- BodyTalk session with Merran Lusher
- 3 course vegan dinner for 2 at your home by Vegan Chef Day Radley, finalist of the vegetarian society chef competition (ingredients not included)
- Degustation Omnivore Menu dinner for 2 at your home by Cordon Bleu chef Alessandra Spagnoli (ingredients not included)

I remember this Youtube video of Danny Paradise from a couple of years after I started Ashtanga.

Back in 2014 when I was in Rethymno, Crete at Kristina Karitinou's summer shala for three months (Crete, Greece is another 'spiritual' home of Ashtanga, so many European Ashtanga teachers studied with Derek Ireland here at the yoga place), Kristina fished out an old file of Derek's, inside were some old cheat sheets from the 80s and 90s, including this one which also included the numbers corresponding with Iyengar's Light on Yoga. Seems it was quite common in the early days to use Iyengar's book as a reference.


The evolution of the Ashtanga syllabus

The story goes that while a student of Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi jois was asked by the Maharaja of Mysore to teach a four year yoga course at the Sanskrit college in Mysore. Pattabhi Jois needed a four year syllabus. It seems he took (with approval) his teacher Krishnamacharya's table of asana, added Surya namaskaras but kept primary and Intermediate pretty much as it was in the table ,with minor tweaking, and re arranged the Advanced group of Asana into Advanced A and B. We know from the 1938 video that Krishnamacharya was teaching many more Advanced asana than are listed in the table, Pattabhi Jois, who also practiced and demonstrated many of these asana, no doubt added them in.

It should be stressed that Krishnamacharya lists 'groups' of asana not sequences. Following Pattabhi Jois we are so accustomed to think of Ashtanga as consisting of sequences and to assume that Krishnamacharya later changed his teaching that it's hard to view the related asana Krishnamacharya taught otherwise. However,  Krishnamacharya barely mentioned sequences or series in his writing, he stressed related groups of asana. While we tend to think of Krishnamacharya as mostly teaching the young boys of the Mysore palace, the truth of the matter is that he may have had much less contact with the boys than we imagine. Iyengar mentioned that he was taught directly by Krishnamacharya a couple of hours at most. Generally the asana class in Krishnamacharya's Yoga school seems to have been Led by Krishnamacharya's senior students, Pattabhi Jois for example being one of them. No doubt the classes followed a loose structure not unlike the order in which the asana are placed in Krishnamacharya's table, while Krishnamacharya was in a side room teaching patients and private students a less dynamic approach to asana, the Vinyasa Krama perhaps that Krishnamacharya CONTINUED to teach throughout his life (in the 1938 video we see some of the variations that Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya's student of 30+ years teaches today). On occasion when Krishnamacharya wasn't teaching privates he no doubt worked the room, giving extra preparatory asana here, more advanced variations or progressions there, the mountain of asana that Pattabhi Jois refers to.

Did Krishnamacharya develop the Ashtanga method for the boys of the palace? 

It is tempting to think so, however, Pattabhi Jois mentioned that when he first encountered Krishnamacharya in Hasan giving a lecture and demonstration, Krishnamacharya was jumping from asana to asana. This was in 1924, several years before Krishnamacharya began teaching asana to the boys of the Mysore palace. Anyone who has worked on jumping back and through knows it takes several years to master, certainly for it to look good enough for a demonstration. We may expect then that Krishnamacharya had been jumping from asana to asana for several years, perhaps learning it from his own teacher several years before. The jumping suggests what we tend think of as vinyasa, the connecting each stage of the breath to each movement towards an asana and back to standing as well as the placing of the attention on a fixed spot (between the eyebrows or the tip of the nose).

I suspect ( and this is really only my own current theory) that there was indeed a text of some kind (not necessarily as old as is often suggested) that has become know as the Yoga Korunta that Krishnamacharya or his teacher Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari knew of, perhaps having the table with the asana, and perhaps the vinyasa and/or kumbhaka indicated in the form of notes and this was what either Ramamohana Brahmachari used to teach Krishnamacharya or that Krishnamacharya used in developing his approach to practice. I suspect that it was Krishnamacharya's teacher who used the table and perhaps knew of or had heard about a copy of the text existing in the Calcutta library (leading to the eaten by ants story). 

Of course it may well be that there was no text and that the asana table was Krishnamacharyas cheat sheet with notes from him or his teacher along with some vague reference that it was all or in part somehow connected with a text called yogakorunta, as with Danny Paradise's cheat sheet above perhaps.

Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari was said to have been recommended to Krishnamacharya because of his knowledge of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, I suspect it was from him that Krishnamacharya encountered the unusual interpretation of yoga sutra 2-47 ( see Ramaswami below) as being concerned with the breath and that this became connected with the vinyasa count in the asana table in Ramamohana Brahmachari's teaching. The asana table Krishnamacharya gives us in his Yogasanagalu (1941) is incomplete, if he had come up with the table of asana himself I suspect he would have have completed it (I could no doubt come up with the appropriate kumbhaka I suspect in a few minutes to complete the table). Krishnamacharya seemed to want to keep the table just as it was.

It's worth noting perhaps that while Krishnamacharya doesn't mention a Yoga Korunta in the long bibliography for Yoga Makaranda (1934) he does mention a Yogakuranti in the short bibliography for Yogasanagalu (1941) which includes the table of asana.

A vinyasa Krama variation from the 1934 Yoga Makaranda photo shoot?

from Srivatsa Ramaswami's newsletter June 2012

"My Guru had written a book called “Yogasanangalu” in Kannada, a copy of which I have had for a long time, but never read it as it is in Kannada. Of course I have gone through the wonderful asana pictures of my Guru in it many many times. Recently I found a few pages of the translation in the blog pages of my friend Antony Hall and I am reproducing the relevant portion from it hereunder (Thank You Tony)

Sri Krishnamacharya wrote:

“Vinayasas” many people are curious about its secret. Some others want to know its basis. I agree.
“prayatnashithilyanantasamapattibhyam” (Yoga Sutra II 47)

Please see Patanjala yogasutra and Vyasabhashya (P 2, S 47)

Both type of people (practitioners), be happy . Vachaspathi Misra in that commentary

“Saamsiddhiko hi prayatnah shariradharako na yogangasyopadeshtavyasanasya kaaranam. Tasmat upadeshtavyasanasyayamashadhakah virodhi cha swabhavikah prayatnah. Tasya cha yadruchhikasanahetutayaa sananiyamopahamtyatvat.”

Here is my translation: 
Surely the innate effort--prayatna-- (in every being) is to sustain the body (which is prana, Prana and sariradharaka are considered synonyms). But it (the normal innate breathing) is not helpful in achieving the task on hand (achieving the yoga pose). Therefore the natural/involuntary effort/breathing (swabhavika prayatnah) is counterproductive in achieving the intended goal. Consequently a man, practicing the specific posture as taught, should resort to an effort(prayatna) which consists in the relaxation (saitilya) of the natural/innate(swabhavika) effort (breath). Otherwise the posture taught cannot be accomplished

Krishnamacharya continues to talk about using breath in asanas. “Therefore, how many breathings for which asana? When is inhalation? When is exhalation? In what way? When body is stretched forward, inhalation or exhalation? What about when you raise your head? To know this mystery and practice in order is called Vinayasa. These along with the significance of each asana will be discussed in 1 to 32.”


My 2012 post on the original Ashtanga syllabus

The 'Original' Ashtanga yoga Syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in 1974 Mysore 
Posted Thursday, 30 August 2012
The 'Original' Ashtanga yoga Syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in 1974 Mysore

"In fact, David and I had no idea that there were two separate series until the end of that first four-month trip, when we were leaving, at which point Guruji gave us a sheet of paper with a list of the postures, which were listed as Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, and Advanced B. At this point he told us to practice one series a day, and only once a day".
 from Ashtanga Yoga as it was (The long and the short of it )  Nancy Gilgoff

many thanks to Anon for passing it along and especially to Nancy for giving permission to post it this morning and share with the community at large.

Available as pfd download from googledocs

See my earlier blog post on Nancy's article

also here

and here


What fascinated me seeing Nancy and David's original syllabus is how closely it resembles Krishnamachaya's table of asana in Yogasanagalu 1941

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Complete asana table from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu, Primary, Middle and Proficient asana groups

Visit The ongoing Yogasanagalu (1941) Translation Project page for the translation we have so far.

Yogasanagalu ongoing translation page

'Therefore, how many vinysas for asanas? Asana position comes at which vinyasa count?  When do you perform rechanka and puraka?  When to do antah kumbhaka and bahya kumbhaka?  What are its benefits?  For yoga practitioners information, it is listed in the table below'.

Yogasanagalu Asana table



Antah kumbhaka (purakha kumbhaka) = retention of the breath after inhalation
Bahya kumbhaka (recaka kumbhaka= retention of the breath after exhalation
Ubhya kumbhaka = retention of the breath after both inhalation and exhalation

*In the Primary group above kumbhaka is indicated explicitly in only three postures, baddha padmasana, uttanasana and sethubandasana. In the earlier Yoga Makaranda (1934) however, kumbhaka is indicated other primary postures. This may be that while learning the Primary asana we may forgo kumbhaka in most of the primary postures until gaining familiarity and a degree of proficiency with those asana when we would then begin to work in the kumbhaka. this may be made clearer as the translation continues.

Kumbhaka (mentioned explicitly) in the Yoga Makaranda Primary asana
Tadasana (here implies samasthiti )- purakha kumbhaka
Uttanasana -purakha kumbhaka (we can perhaps presume that all the uttanasana variations would also include antha kumbhaka EG. padahastasana, parsvauttanasa
na, prasaritapadauttanasana.
Ardha baddha padma uttanasana - recaka kumbhaka
Urdhavamukhssvanasana - puraka kumbhaka
Adhomukhssvandasana - recaka kumbhaka
Paschimottanasana - purkha kumbhaka (recaka kumbhaka implied ?)
janusirsasana - purka kumbhaka & Rechaka kumbhaka
Upavistakonasana "recaka kumbhaka is the central principle for this posture"
badhakonasana - recaka kumbhaka
Suptapaddangusthasana- recaka kumbhaka
utthitahastapadangusthasana - recaka kumbhaka
Bhujapidasana - recaka kumbhaka
marichiyasana - recaka kumbhaka ?

Pictorial representation of the table (made up of my old file pictures ).

Krishnamacharya's Primary group (Incomplete ; made up of pictures from his Yoga Makaranada).
Original table

Friday, 15 July 2016

A response to The Luminescent's article "VINYĀSA: Medieval and Modern Meanings

Interesting article on '' from The Luminescent.
(My post below needs a drastic rewrite - it's more of a work in progress)

"VINYĀSA: Medieval and Modern Meanings

"The term vinyāsa rarely occurs in medieval yoga texts. However, it does appear more frequently in the ritual sections of medieval Tantras. Nonetheless, never does the term vinyāsa mean the movement that links breath with postures (āsana) as is the case in modern yoga."
The Luminescent 

A lot of focus is given to the term Vinyasa in the teaching associated with Pattabhi Jois, as well as 'methodologies' that have derived from his teaching which also emphasise 'Vinyasa', going so far as to name the latter approach to practice Vinyasa Yoga.

Pattabhi Jois, when asked what the method he taught was called supposedly just said Ashtanga. For Pattabhi Jois it seems Yoga was the eight limb Ashtanga methodology outlined by patanjali in his yoga sutras, 'though he focussed on asana as an entry point to that methodology it was still as far as he was concerened, just Yoga, Ashtanga yoga. Later with the focus on vinyasa coming to the fore, no doubt in the 90s especially when Lino Miele and John Scott focussed on the Vinyasa count it started to be referred to as Ashtanga Vinyasa, I tend to call it that myself to distinguish it from Patanjali's Ashtanga in my writing on the blog. Sharath oflate seems to be referring to the practice as Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama. To his crefit pattabhi Jois never wanted to refer to his teaching as Jois Yoga, unfortunately referring to it as Ashtanga has caused perhaps more confusion than it's avoided.

Vinyasa in Pattabhi Jois' teaching has come to be associated with the dynamic movement that perhaps characterises the style/approach/methodology, this is unfortunate. And it is this association of vinyasa with movement that the  Luminescent article seems to be addressing. Pattabhi Jois' methodology is claimed to be Old, going back to a mythological text Yoga Koruna, the only quote from which is supposedly "Hey yogi don't practice asana without vinyasa'. The Luminescent  article questions the understanding of vinyasa as movement historically by pointing out that nowhere is such a usage found in the ancient texts.

I argue here that vinyasa for Pattabhi Jois and his teacher Krishnamacharya is connecting each movement to and from an asana with a stage of the breath such that each stage can be counted, giving a vinyasa count. Also a point of attention is given (fixed) for each movement. For the purpose of shorthand perhaps we may refer to vinyasa as movement but what we are really saying is that each vinyasa is breath stage-movement-with fixed attention. In paschimottanasana in this system there are fifteen such breath stage movements with fixed attention leading too and from the asana. And this is still an asana practice, the vinyasa is the framework for the asana. Krishnamacharya suggests long stays in most of his asana with a pranayama kumbhaka aspect. Rather than just dropping down into one asana then get tingup and doing another, every movement in this approach to and from every asana is fixed on a stage of the breath and point of attention, the whole practice has a focus on the breath as well as perhaps cakra focuse (drishti).

Of course many of Pattabhi Jois students and Krishnamacharya's also were young and focussed on the dynamic aspect of this movement rather than perhaps the asana itself, the breath focus has always been there but the attention perhaps has shifted to the movement and this is perhaps why vinyasa has become associated with movement e specially perhaps to those looking in from outside or who focussed on different aspects of Krishnamacharya's later teaching


''Vinyasa' has been used to ground the practice historically, it being suggested that the approach to asana practice derives from a text 'Yoga Korunta' by one Vamana Rishi, the only quote passed around being ' Hey Yogi, don't practice asana without vinyasa'. Pattabhi jois credits his teacher Krishnamacharya with his methodology but other later students of Krishnamacharya have perhaps down played the more dynamic aspect of vinyasa and reinterpreted the term or denigrated it's usage somewhat in Krishnamacharya and his early students teaching

The Luminescent article looks to Vinyasa's historical usage in this article to suggest perhaps that it gives no ground/foundation to the current practice in that vinyasa is rarely used in historical documents and suggest that current usage is a misuse of the term.

Krishnamacharya was a sanskrit scholar and creative debater, I would argue that he made full use of linguistic variants of the term in coining vinyasa in relation to his teaching. I argue below that vinyasa was one complementary aspect of his teaching of yoga and of asana. Vinyasa as breath linked movement acted as compliment to the static nature of his approach to asana with it's long stays and employment of kumbhaka.

Did Krishnamacharya invent this approach to practice, did it derive from his own teacher or a text, we may never know but asana is ancient, as is pranayama, the framework in which that asana is approached no doubt less so, it may only be 80 years old, this should not concern us, asana practice is old enough if such things interest us. As far as the framework is concerned perhaps its enough to ask if it's useful, beneficial and not to lose sight of what is contained within that framework rather than focus too closely on the framework itself.

Note. Some (Vinyasa Yoga ) teachers have sought to ground their teaching in historical accounts where 'vinyasa' is said to be employed, with suggested (perhaps tenuous) links to Krishnamacharya . However, this research never seems to be presented in journals of their peers but rather online magazines and downloadable online courses. I'm not a sanskrit scholar nor an historian, until such research is reviewed by it's peers it's pretty worthless to me, interesting perhaps fascinating even but worthless without review of the evidence by someone qualified to do so, without that it is perhaps f no more value than my own speculations here, based on Krishnamacharya's own texts ( freely downloadable) and my practice of them. 


This line below from the Luninecent article struck me and seems to tie in with my own understanding of Vinyasa.

"In discussions on the practice of āsana and other techniques in medieval yoga texts, the term vinyāsa is not used. However, when related verbal forms (such as vinyasya) are used, they mean 'to fix or place'."

This makes sense to me, we tend to focus on the movement these days and think of that as 'the vinyasa' but my understanding is that the vinyasa is 'fixing' the movement to the stage of the breath. Arms going up say on the inhalation, folding over on the exhalation. The point is NOT the movement or the count (vinyasa count - which just follows) but that connection between the breath and the movement as well as the fixing of the attention ( generally the attention is placed between the eyebrows on the inhalation, at the tip of the nose on the exhalation). Lots of 'fixing' and 'placing' in this system. Given Krishnamacharya's fascination with language it would be surprising if he didn't have that usage in mind. I've never tended to believe the system/approach is that old, did Krishnamacharya come up with this inspiration to connect the breath and movement himself, his teacher... it hardly seems to matter.

My current theory is that Krishnamacharya's teacher connected an old text with his interpretation of the yoga sutras and it was that methodology he taught Krishnamacharya over a period of time. Krishnamacharya later sought out the text and perhaps copied out a table of asana with vinyasa and kumbhaka mentioned. Pattabhi Jois mentioned that Krishnamacharya was jumping in and out of asana before he went to teach at Mysore. Perhaps this approach suited the fitness ideas in vogue at the time and was deemed suitable for the boys of the palace. Krishnamacharya put the table in his 1941 text Yogasanagalu, it is clearly incomplete. If Krishnamacharya had developed the table himself surely he would have completed it, I could add the appropriate kumbhaks myself I suspect in a few minutes, Krishnamacharya seemed to want to keep it as it was. BUT Krishnamacharya in his writing always seemed more interested in the Asana, the attention is on long stays, on the breath, the point of attention. While the boys were being led through their dynamic asana practice krishnamacharya would be in an other room teaching private patients where the vinyasa played less of a role although perhaps always implied as it was in his later teaching. It's this weeks theory. 

Krishnamacharya only seemed to be interested in the hatha yoga pradipka and tantra inspired texts when it suited him, he seemed to be more concerned with whether his approach to asana was in keeping with Patanjali, his apprach to yoga sutra 2-47 is perhaps telling

'By making the breath smooth (and long), and by concentration or focussing the mind on the breath, the perfection of the posture is obtained'. See the Appendix for Ramaswami's treatment of this sutra.

"Note: Krishnamacharya interprets this sutra differently than other teachers. He gives the correct technical meaning (in this context) fromn prayatna or Jivana prayatna, or effort of life which is breath. he says that it is the breath that should be made smooth and effortless, not the posture. it is not physical; it is the breathing" p55 Ramaswami

Vinyasa has tended to strike me as being overrated in the Pattabhi Jois tradition or rather given too much attention. My main problem with Mark Singleton's book Yoga Body was that he seemed to look at the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, focus on the dynamic, gymnastic, aspect that characterised it's modern practice and then look for gymnastic influences. However a close reading of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda balances out this view of the practice, the Vinyasa is there to complement the static aspect of the practice of asana, the long stays, the pranayama aspect.

In Krishnamacharya's own writing we do indeed see a focus on the physical quality of the practice, improving the physical condition of the nation was something he argued strongly for in Yoga Makaranda (1934), we see this too in his later Yogasanagalu (1941) where he suggests the vinyasa can keep us strong, even powerful but this for Kishnamacharya is in relation to the other limbs of ashtanga.

Krishnamacharya gives more attention I would argue to the actual asana, where Kumbhaka is practiced and the assumed benefits of the asana stressed. Krishnamacharya writes of long slow breathing, long stays, the vinyasa too and from the asana are more complementary a pratkriya t( counter or compliment  in Krishnamacharya usage) to the static nature of asana.

When the Young Americans came to India of course they focussed on the dynamic aspect of the practice, more so those who followed them. In the 1990s attention was given to the VINYASA COUNT, Vinyasa gained in ever more importance while in Krishnamacharya's own teaching it seemed to decrease as he focussed on older students and helping patients. The vinyasa was often implied more than practiced. Each asana may theoretically begin and end at samastithi but more often than not there would movements to the asana then variations of the asana ( also referred to as vinyasa) practiced. A movement back to Samasathi might come after several asana or even at the end of the practice and might have a more leisurely form not fitting in with the original vinyasa count of his table.

Later students of Krishnamacharya seeing the attention given to the dynamic aspect characterising the practice of the young boys of the Mysore Palace and continued into Pattabhi Jois' teaching and the spin off styles would talk almost dismissively of Vinyasa or they would reinterpret the term as Krishnamacharya himself may have done to more closely reflect their current teaching.

As ever we ended up focussing on one aspect of teaching. In the beginning I too focussed on the movement aspect of Ashtanga practice, a moving meditation, where the attention was fixed on the breath. No sooner had I arrived in one asana than I was ready to enjoy the transition to the next.

Later under Ramaswami's influence I began to focus more on the asana and it's variations as well as the study of Krishnamacharya actual text, again with Ramaswami and began to focus more on the actual asana, on the kumbhaka in particular and later with Shribhashyam's influence, the internal focus of attention during those kumbhaka.

At some point I had lost sight of vinyasa, I was practicing them less. It was only on coming back to reading Yogasanagalu yet again and the passage on vinyasa springing out of me that I rebalanced my practice, enjoying the benefits of the vinyasa as well as of the asana and it's accompanying kumbhaka and focus of attention. Krishnamacharya talked about giving equal attention to each and every breath, to each and every stage of the breath, the inhalation and exhalation but also the kumbhaka between.

The vinyasa approach was a stroke of genius, it allowed us to maintain focus to and from an asana, on every aspect of the breath throughout our postural practice, a ninety minute or more meditation but the vinyasa, the attention given to the movement to and from the asana, also complimented the static asana.

Always in Krishnamacharya the asana practice was integrated in the practice of the other limbs, in the yama and the niyama, the asana would be followed by pranayama, by pratyahara and the meditative limbs.

The mistake is to focus too far on the dynamic aspect of postural practice, it's a mistake made by practitioners and teachers as well as by commentators.



from Ramaswami’s Vinyasa Krama Newsletters June 2012

Asana and Vinyasa

Vinyása Krama was the mainstay of Krishnamacharya’s teaching of Hata Yoga. The word vinyása is used to indicate an art form of practice. This word is used in several arts, especially in South Indian Carnatic music, a fully evolved classical music system. Vinyása Krama indicates doing ásana with multiple aesthetic variations within the prescribed parameters. Yoga was considered one of sixty-four ancient arts. Hence if you approach yoga ásana practice as an art, that methodology is Vinyása Krama. The beauty and efficacy of yoga is eloquently brought out by Vinyása Krama. What about breath synchronization, another important ingredient of Krishnamacharya’s Vinyása Krama? What about mental focus on the breath while doing ásana practice, central to vinyása yoga? None of the yoga schools teaches yoga in this manner and no classic HathaYoga texts mention breath synchronization in ásana practice specifically. Where can one find references to these?

This was one of the few questions I asked my guru: Is Vinyása Krama an old, traditional practice? Sri Krishnamacharya quoted a verse indicating that reference to this practice can be found in a text called Vrddha Sátápata and also in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali. There was no point in looking for an obscure text like Väddha Sátápata, but Yoga Sutra was at hand. But where is the reference? There are hardly two Sutras explaining ásana, and there is no reference to breath in them—or is there? Going back to my notes on Yoga Sutra classes with my guru, I found a very interesting interpretation of the sutra, Prayatna-saithilya anantasamápattibhyám. The word prayatna, very commonly used in India, basically means “effort.” saithilya indicates “softness.” So Prayatna- saithilya could mean “mild effort”; hence you find that many writers on the Yoga Sutras declare that the way to achieve perfection in a yoga posture is to “ease into the posture effortlessly.” This is easier said than done. There are hundreds of practitioners who cannot relax enough to be able to easily get into a posture like the Lotus, for example. So we have to investigate the meaning of the word prayatna as used by the darsanakáras in those days. Prayatna according to (Navya)Nyáya, a sibling philosophy to yoga, is a bit involved. Nyáya explains prayatna of three kinds (prayatnaê trividhaê proktam). Two of them are the effort put in for happiness (pravätti) and the effort to remove unhappiness (nivätti). Every being does this all the time. One set of our efforts is always directed toward achieving happiness and the other toward eradicating unhappiness. But the third type of effort relevant here is the effort of life (jàvana-prayatna). What is effort of life? It is the breath or breathing. Now we can say that prayatna-saithilya is to make the breath smooth. Thus in ásana practice according to Vinyása Krama, the breath should be smooth and by implication long (dàrgha).

The other part of the sutra refers to samápatti, or mental focus. Where or on what should the mental focus be? It is to be on ananta (ananta-samápatti). Now we have to investigate the contextual meaning of the word ananta, translated as “endless” or “limitless,” which many writers equate with infinity. So some schools tend to say that while practicing ásanas, one should focus the attention on infinity, which is inappropriate—and impossible, at least for the vast majority of yogàs. Ananta also refers to the serpent, Ädisesa, whose incarnation Patañjali is believed to be. So some schools suggest that one should focus on a mental image of Ädisesa or Patañjali. It may be possible, but it is uncomfortable to think that Patañjali would write that one should focus on his form for the success of ásana practice. So what might ananta symbolically signify? The word ananta can be considered to be derived from the root, “ana”— to breathe (ana sváse). We are all familiar with the group of words--prána, apána, vyána, etc., names of the five pránas derived from the root “ana.” So in the sutra, ananta could mean “breath”; ananta-samápatti is then translated as “focusing the mind on the breath.” In fact Ananta, or the serpent king, is associated with air. In mythology the cobra is associated with air; there is a common mythological belief that cobras live on air. If you look at the icon of Natarája (the dancing Siva), you will find all five elements of the universe (earth, water, air, fire, and space) represented symbolically in Siva. The matted red hair represents fire, the Gangá in his tresses, the water element; the air element is said to be represented by the snake around the Lord’s neck. So ananta- samápatti would mean focusing the attention on the breath or prána.

Thus this sutra means that while practicing ásana, one should do smooth inhalations and exhalations and focus the attention on the breath. Since Vinyása Krama involves several aesthetic movements into and within yoga postures, to achieve the coordination of movement, breath, and mind, one should synchronize the breath with the movement with the help of the focused mind. By such practice, slowly but surely, the union of mind and body takes place, with the breath acting as the harness. But why don’t other texts talk about it? There is a saying, “Anuktam anyato gráhyam.” If some details are missing from one text, they should be gathered from other complementary texts. Hatha-yoga- pradàpiká explains a number of ásanas but does not mention breath synchronization and other basic parameters. But Hatha-yoga-pradàpiká proclaims that its instructions are like a prerequisite for the Rája Yoga practice of Patañjali. These two texts are therefore compatible. Thus we can conclude that Patañjali gives the basic parameters of ásana practice (and also of the other angas like Pránáyáma), but for details we have to refer to compatible texts like Haôha-yoga- pradàpiká,Yoga-Yájñavalkya and others.

My Guru had written a book called “Yogasanangalu” in Kannada, a copy of which I have had for a long time, but never read it as it is in Kannada. Of course I have gone through the wonderful asana pictures of my Guru in it many many times. Recently I found a few pages of the translation in the blog pages of my friend Antony Hall and I am reproducing the relevant portion from it hereunder (Thank You Tony)

Sri Krishnamacharya wrote:

“Vinayasas” many people are curious about its secret. Some others want to know its basis. I agree.
“prayatnashithilyanantasamapattibhyam” (Yoga Sutra II 47)

Please see Patanjala yogasutra and Vyasabhashya (P 2, S 47)

Both type of people (practitioners), be happy . Vachaspathi Misra in that commentary

“Saamsiddhiko hi prayatnah shariradharako na yogangasyopadeshtavyasanasya kaaranam. Tasmat upadeshtavyasanasyayamashadhakah virodhi cha swabhavikah prayatnah. Tasya cha yadruchhikasanahetutayaa sananiyamopahamtyatvat.”

Here is my translation: 
Surely the innate effort--prayatna-- (in every being) is to sustain the body (which is prana, Prana and sariradharaka are considered synonyms). But it (the normal innate breathing) is not helpful in achieving the task on hand (achieving the yoga pose). Therefore the natural/involuntary effort/breathing (swabhavika prayatnah) is counterproductive in achieving the intended goal. Consequently a man, practicing the specific posture as taught, should resort to an effort(prayatna) which consists in the relaxation (saitilya) of the natural/innate(swabhavika) effort (breath). Otherwise the posture taught cannot be accomplished

Krishnamacharya continues to talk about using breath in asanas. “Therefore, how many breathings for which asana? When is inhalation? When is exhalation? In what way? When body is stretched forward, inhalation or exhalation? What about when you raise your head? To know this mystery and practice in order is called Vinayasa. These along with the significance of each asana will be discussed in 1 to 32.”

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

On Series and Vinyasa - from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

"This yoganga sadhana has been divided into three series: 
power (strength) series, treatment series and the spiritual series".


"Yogasanas must be only practiced with vinyasas and never without it. Vinyasas from 1 to 7 are equal in all asanas.  Vinyasas create movement in the kosha (sheath), nerve, arteries, muscles and spaces between bones and helps eliminate impurities in these areas.  In addition, muscle tissue develops and becomes strong."

I've been puzzling over these quotes below on Series, from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941), for some time. In much of my writing on this blog over the last few years I've been stressing that Krishnamacharya seemed to approach the asana in his Yogasanagalu table ( see Appendix below),later the Ashtanga syllabus), as groups of Primary, Middle and Proficient asana rather than as different series. Satya who has translated Yogasanagalu for us stressed to me that the translation in the table section is 'group' not 'series'.

And yet here below, in this section of Yogasanagalu (1941) Krishnamacharya is talking about Series not group, it would make sense for him to have his assistants ( Pattabhi Jois being one) drilling the class of Mysore boys through a relatively fixed led class, a Primary or Middle series, especially as the class was supposed to be just an hour. Krishnamacharya would often be in a side room teaching patients and other students one to one in a more Vinyasa Krama approach perhaps as he did with Indra Devi. 

On the occasions when he was free perhaps he might work the room demanding different students to attempt more challenging variations of asana or new asana perhaps from the proficient group of asana ( Pattabhi Jois mentioned that Krishnamacharya taught '...a mountain of asana'). Or in his smaller classes at his home with the senior boys ( among them Pattabhi Jois) he would perhaps take a less fixed approach preparing them for the demonstrations with ever more challenging asana and variations.

This would then give us two approaches, a Led class series approach ( often led by his assistants inc. Pattabhi Jois) and perhaps also more of a Mysore room approach within a directed class situation or in small groups of more advanced students.

Pattabhi Jois always seemed to stress that he taught just as Krishnamacharya taught him, perhaps then the table of three asana groups in Yogasanagalu were also taught as Series, at least the Primary and Middle groups but more flexibly than the fixed series Pattabhi Jois tended to keep to and later nailed down.

"On Series

from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941)

5.  Classification

This yoganga sadhana has been divided into three series: 

power (strength) series, treatment series and the spiritual series.

The power series is further classified into mind and body

The treatment series is divided into kosha (sheath) and Nadi (pulse)

Spiritual is only one


First series requires many yogasanas and some pranayama

Second series needs some easy asanas and three pranayamas

Third series requires pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi

Later a table is shown that includes these".

Note: The description of the above series however is problematic and doesn't seem tie in with the table Krishnamacharya is referring to. His description sounds more like Yoga for the Three Stages of Life, lots of asana for the youth, asana and more pranayama focus in middle age, some asana and pranayama but more of the later limbs in the final stage of life.


I also came across this section of Yogasanagalu, once again where Krishnamacharya is stressing the importance of Vinyasa. He was perhaps concerned that many yogi's and yoga teachers by spending too long in static asana were losing strength and fitness. 

Vinyasa for Krishnamacharya seems to have served the role of making the body, strong, powerful and healthy, as if one were preparing the body of the spiritual warrior for his Kurukshetra  (the Bhagavad Gita battlefield), his Field of Dharma, of Truth.

In slowing down my practice in the past and exploring long stays I have at times neglect vinyasa. Where once I practiced full vinyasa even in the Advanced series, more recently I dropped back to half vinyasa, dropping vinyasa between sides and often between groups. Focussing on Krishnamacharya's Yoga makaranda instruction along with a growing distaste for the Instagram arm balance fetish led me to drop most of the more physically demanding asana. As a result I grew soft, put on a little weight, lost strength, I no longer feel as fit and healthy and yes powerful as once I did.

These quotes below then are perhaps a wake up call to balance practice, to remember the value of vinyasa and the role of a few at least more physically demanding postures ( ex. arm balances).  

Recently I've returned to the more traditional and much loved Ashtanga Primary and half Intermediate I first began with, appreciating the vinyasa and occasional arm balance for the strength flowing back into my arms and legs, the wringing out of my body in the twists but balancing this by choosing appropriate asana to inhabit longer, exploring the breath more fully, the kumbhaka option. Elsewhere I've referred to this as a Proficient Primary approach ( choosing key asana through the series to practice as mudras).

"On vinyasa

from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941)

Yogasanas must be only practiced with vinyasas and never without it. Vinyasas from 1 to 7 are equal in all asanas.  Vinyasas create movement in the kosha (sheath), nerve, arteries, muscles and spaces between bones and helps eliminate impurities in these areas.  In addition, muscle tissue develops and becomes strong.

Practicing  yogasanas without vinyasa will make the body lean and emaciated.  Some people who did not learn yoga through a guru and practice without vinyasa have brought bad reputation to yoga  which is very unfortunate.

Information, it is listed in the table below.

Therefore, how many vinysas for asanas? Asana position comes at which vinyasa count?  When do you perform rechanka and puraka?  When to do antah kumbhaka and bahya kumbhaka? What are its benefits?"  


and later in Yogasanagalu from the section Rememberance

How Gandharva veda (classical music) is differentiated into seven different notes, Veda chatushtaya is discriminated as udatta, anudata and swanta, Mantras are divided into anganyasa, karanyasa and vyapakanyasa, the third step of yoganga called yogasana was rooted in vinyasa and practiced customarily with vinyasa.  Only some people still have that practice.

However, some of our people of the country of Bharata, by peer pressure,  are forgetting our rooted customs with respect to dress, language, food, drinks, bathing and sandhyavandana practice.  Similarly, if we say that people are forgetting the vinyasa that goes along with the asana practice for the  third step of yoganga, it is not incorrect. 

While practicing yogabhyasa, the variations of inhalation and exhlations are known as vinyasa.  This is explained in Patanjalayogasutra 2, (47 - 48).  Please see the appropriate translation and commentary.

It is enough if you remember “Samsargaja doshaguna bhavanti.” 

Music needs shruti and laya, yoga requires deep breathings and mind needs concentration.  If you miss one of these elements, yoga and raga becomes unbearable.


The Series, I suggest, has always been intend as a support  (routine being the mother of discipline), for the discipline required of focussed reflection, concentration, one pointedness, so too the vinyasa, preparing the body for the field of dharma. The physical practice is also a support for the Yama/Niyama in daily life just as the yama/niyama can be a support of the physical practice.


The asana table from Yogasanagalu
see translation here

The picture sequences below are intended as a rough visual representation of the list above. 

Primary group : Standing

Primary Group : Seated 

Middle Group

Primary Group : Finishing 

Proficient Group

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

34, 36, 46,

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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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