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Friday, 5 August 2016

Krishnamacharya recommended Four Key asana/mudra..... make that six..

I was just sent an email asking for a recommendation

"What 3-5 yoga poses should all men practice daily?"

In several posts in the past I know I've referred to the four key asana Krishnamacharya strongly suggested should be included in daily practice but I can't for the life of me find a link to a particular post were I outline them clearly. 

The Four key Asana/Mudra that Krishnamacharya recommended to Ramaswami for daily practice are....

1. Paschimattanasana
2. Maha mudra ( Janu Sirsasana)
3. Sarvangasana
4. Sirsasana.

See my post on alternatives to headstand

Elsewhere Krishnamacharya also recommended....



baddha konasana.

And of course Padmasana probably goes without saying as would pratkriya (counter posture).


The notes below are from my Proficient Primary Page ( at the top of the blog) of 10 key daily asana/mudra that might make up our practice or be perhaps stressed in our Ashtanga practice....., where longer stays might be encouraged.

Out of habit/familiarity/affection I tend to practice regular Ashtanga Primary series and once or twice a week the first half of second but give extra emphasis to these key asana/mudra such that I will often only have time for half a Series followed by my pranayama and a Sit.

See the proficient primary page perhaps for more on this


Krishnamacharya presupposes that a posture begins and ends at standing, this is explicit in his early writing but implied later. Krishnamacharya often taught asana variations flowing into one another, one might start and end a group of asana at standing rather than each individual asana however each and every asana could start and end at standing which would give it a vinyasa count.

see also

1. Dandasana/Pascimattanasana/ Asvini Mudra

Asvini mudra locates between Dandasana and Paschimattanasana, before lowering into asana we may practice the posture as mudra. Krishnamacharya's third son T.K.Sribhashyam indicates that his father suggested practicing Kapalabhati here, 32 or 64 times. We may also practice 12 Ujjayi breaths, sama vrtti (equal) the same long slow inhalation, perhaps 8-10 seconds followed by kumbhaka (breath retention) as with the long slow exhalation and it's kumbhaka. After the exhalation we might engage uddiyana bandha more fully along with mula bandha. Jalandara bandha is engaged throughout.

As mentioned in the earlier post we might employ the default points of focus, Bhrumadhya (between the eyebrows) where the head is up or Nasagra (tip of nose) when the head is down as here with the jalandara bandha.

Mudras unite the body with the mind, internal points of focus and concentration may be employed, indeed they are recommended.

In Asvini Mudra we might shift the concentration on the inhalation from mula (perinium), to Sroni (centre of pelvis), to nabhi (navel), to hrdaya (middle of heart), to Kantha (back of throat). Focus on Bhrumadhya (between the eyebrows) on the kumbhaka after inhalation. Exhalation is always only one concentration point, here nabhi (navel).

Asvini Mudra is a recognised mudra however we might also take a 'mudra like' approach to Paschimattanasana itself. Given the deep fold, a longer exhalation is suited, kumbhaka and a deeper uddiyana bandha might be employed. On the shorter inhalation the jalandara bandha may be slightly relaxed we may even lift slightly out of the fold on the inhalation before folding back in on the next exhalation engaging jalandara fully again in time for the next kumbhaka.

Krishnamacharya suggests staying in Paschimattanasana for around ten minutes and indicates it is a key posture to be practiced daily along with its counterposture Purvotanasana.

For more on the practice of mudra and internal concentration points see T.K Sribhashyam's Emergence of Yoga.
see also this earlier post

2. Maha Mudra (great seal) 

Essentially the point of the Proficient Primary Project is to approach asana as mudra.
Traditionally hand gestures accompanying Mantras, Krishnamacharya's third son T.K. Sribhashyam informs us that mudras later entered yoga as full body postures, the intention was always the same however, to unite the body and mind.

Mudra have always been executed with Ujjayi breathing, the exhalation tends to be longer than the inhalation, the breathing is slower than in regular asana practice, a point of focus is maintained, kumbhaka is employed, traditionally after exhalation and bandha are employed. Maha mudra is called the great seal because mula bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandara bandha are all employed effectively.

Ramaswami, following Krishnamacharya, encouraged us to practice maha mudra for five minutes each side every day, it was to be considered a key element in our daily practice. However mudra can be practiced at any time, I will often practice it in the evening followed by baddha konasana then settle into padmasana for pranayama and a Sit.

Maha mudra may also be practiced in regular Ashtanga practice, pausing the count for six, twelve perhaps twenty-four breaths before folding into Janu Sirsasana.

3. Sarvangasana (shoulderstand)

Krishnamacharya stressed the importance of including three key daily postures held for an extended period,Paschimattanasana(posterior forward bend), Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). On his Vinyasa Krama TT course Ramaswami would recommend spending five to ten minutes in Sarvangasana, the first three minutes or so with the legs relaxed.

We can employ sarvangasana as both a preparatory pose for Sirsasana as well as it's counterposture. On Ramaswami's advice I save the shoulderstand variations for the sarvangasana after the headstand.

Before sarvangasana preparatory postures are advisable, Dwi pada pitam (table posture) especially.

After the first long sarvangasana a counterposture is advised perhaps bhujangasana or its mudra equivalent Bhujamgi mudra (see tomorrow). Because of the longer stay a blanket or folded mat under the shoulders might be considered.

One of the key principles of sarvangasana is slowing the breathing, if sarvangasana is currently too challenging most of the postures mentioned earlier in this project, practiced as mudra may be suitable alternatives, so too laying with the feet up against a wall.

The breath may be slowed to two even one breath a minute, if a kumbhaka is included after the exhalation then it should be short, 2-5 seconds, if taken after the inhalation it may be longer.

See post and video here

Ongoing #proficientprimarypost page here

4. Sirsasana

Sirsasana #proficientprimaryproject 

Sirsasana, no variations.

twenty five breaths, 
two breaths a minute. 
10 sec. Inhalation
5 sec. kumbhaka 
10 sec. Exhalation
5 sec. Kumbhaka 

1. Start with slowing the breath down to 8-10 seconds for inhalation and the same for exhalation.

2. Add 2 second kumbhaka (breath retention) after inhalation (can't employ full jalandhara bandha here with the chin lock so instead, swallow at the end of inhalation to close throat.

3. Once 5 second kumbhaka is comfortable introduce 2 sec kumbhaka after exhalation with Mula and Uddiyana bandha- build up to five second.

Followed by ten minutes of variations in Sirsasana with appropriate breathing.

See my post on alternatives to headstand

See this post also perhaps for a range of inversion variations


Two extras key asana

Krishnamacharya mentioned six key asana in Yoga Makaranda, the four above and most likely 



Baddha konasana

Padma Mayurasana.

(or Vajrasana with stomach lock)

Padma mayurasana

Mayurasana, practicing on the toes or perhaps lifting up first one leg then the other would be perfectly acceptable.

Once again I break my own rules by including an asana outside of Primary in this project. However the Padma variation of Mayurasana might be considered more Primary than the regular version and Mayurasana is an asana Krishnamacharya recommended practicing daily, this will depend on the strength in your wrists, I tend to avoid the posture these days due to a recurring wrist injury. 

The important aspect for Krishnamacharya I believe was that the elbows dug into the belly, massaging the internal organs. If both Mayurasana and padma mayurasana are currently too challenging, mayurasana on the toes should be considered perfectly acceptable, perhaps lifting one leg from the ground for  six breaths before switching to the other leg for six breaths.

An alternative to mayurasana that I tend to practice is is the stomach lock that Krishnamacharya taught to Ramaswami. Take up virasana or vajrasna, press the heels of the palms into the lower abdomen a couple of inches apart, link the fingers and fold forward on the exhale, stay for six to twelve breaths. This perhaps has similar benefits/effect to mayurasana ( an no doubt nauli) and is I find excellent for digestion.

Mayurasana is also a posture Krishnamacharya recommended practicing regulated breathing (kumbhaka is perhaps suggested by 'proper practice' of pranayama, I include a two second kumbhaka after both inhalation and exhalation).

"For maximum benefit Pranayama should be done for 5 minutes, when the body is held as a plank in the horizontal position. Proper practice of Pranayama is difficult, but becomes easy after practice".

"If at this stage, regulated breathing is practiced in Padma Mayurasana position, it becomes easy later to practice Pranayama even in the ordinary Mayurasana position". 

This is from the Mayurasana instruction from Yoga Makaranda part II. Interestingly Krishnamacharya doesn't mention employing kumbhaka in the Yoga Makaranda instructions from part I which is where we usually find kumbhaka indications. And in the main body of the Yoga Makaranda part II instructions he specifically says NOT to include kumbhaka ( but this fits in with the apparent introductory focus of YM2.). The reference to practicing pranayama and thus kumbhaka comes as an addition at the end.

How Long to spend in Mayurasana

Three durations are mention for mayurasana, the shocking...

"This asana sthiti should be held from 1 minute up to 3 hours according to the practitioner’s capa- ability".
from Yoga Makaranda Part 1

which thankfully is followed immediately by...

"If we make it a habit to practise this asana every day for at least fifteen minutes, we will attain tremendous benefits".

And finally in Yoga makaranda part II

"For maximum benefit Pranayama should be done for 5 minutes, when the body is held as a plank in the horizontal position". 

Which is attainable.

I choose to include Padma Mayurasa in my shortened practice at the expense of the other Primary series arm balances and following Simon Borg-Olivier practice it with a soft abdomen rather than firmed.

 Baddha Konasana 

If we can promote advanced asana through Instagram then perhaps we can also promote Primary asana and work on proficiency there. Ramaswami and his teacher Krishnamacharya suggest timing how long we stayed in a posture, then repeat it staying the same length of time but taking only half the number of breaths.

Here I'm working on 8-10 second inhalation, equal exhalation and a 2-5 second kumbhaka (breath retention, here retaining the breath out) at the end of the exhalation. Staying in that posture for five to ten minutes. Padmasana is a counter posture and feels much more comfortable following a longer baddha konasana. For this reason I tend to shift it to the end of my practice just before my Pranayama and Sit.

If you don't want to explore such long stays in regular practice this makes a nice pre-Sit evening practice. Five minutes each side in Maha mudra (janu sirsasana A without folding forward and long slow inhalations and exhalations perhaps with jalandhara banndha and kumbhaka 5-10 seconds after the inhalation), then baddha konasana, Siddhasana for some Nadi Shodhana pranayama perhaps and then padmasana (or other preferred meditation posture) for your Sit.

In Yoga Makaranda Krishnamacharya also mentioned daily practice of trikonasana.


"The inhalation and exhalation of breath must be equal and slow. Practise this on both sides as described here. This asana must be practised for a minimum of 10 minutes. However slowly and patiently we practise this, there is that much corresponding benefit".
Krishnamacharya : Yoga makaranda (Mysore 1938)

Photo is of the Vinyasa Krama version with the feet facing the frount.
Krishnamacharya also demonstrates this asana with his hand resting on his foot as well as off.


Padmasana perhaps goes without saying

  Padmasana / Parvatasana / Bhairava mudra,

Arms above the head postured are helpful when exploring uddiyana bandha by lifting the ribcage, our breath and heart rate slow, the kumbhaka stills the mind. For these reasons taking the arms above our head at the end of our practice may be considered beneficial before moving into our pranayama practice. 

Parvatasana is the final asana in Ashtanga Advanced B Series but it can perhaps be seen as the final asana of our practice, whichever series we may practice Manju ends his led class with this asana. It can be practiced with a mudra like approach as with Vrikasana above ( longer exhalation than inhalation, kumbhaka after exhalation, focal point to unite the mind with the body) but with the focus perhaps on hrdaya (centre of the heart) and held for 6, 12, 24 breaths. 
Variation B, folding forward is optional but we might end our asana/musra practice as Manju Jois does with Bhairava mudra, sitting in padmasana with one hand resting on the other, taraditionally the right above the left for men, left above the right for women.

A counter posture/mudra

If you are including a regular vinyasa transition from standing to and from the asana then you will be getting a pratkriya (counter posture) in that transition. If not Bhujangasana and or variations might be introduced after the forward folds. Ramaswami recommends practicing it between sarvangasana (shoulderstand) and sirsasana (headstand).

 Bhujamgi Mudra / Bhujangasana   

 Bhujangini Mudra: Stay in bhujangasana, stretch the neck out in front and according to vata sara krama, pull in the outside air and do puraka kumbhaka". 
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda

Krishnamacharya/Ramaswami recommended practicing an asana like Makrasana / Bhujangasana / salambhasana as pratkriya (counter posture) to Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). Before practicing the asana we might practice it's sister mudra Bhujamgi or take a mudra like approach to makrasana, Slambhasana, dhanurasana

Bhujangini Mudra: Stay in bhujangasana, stretch the neck out in front and according to vata sara krama, pull in the outside air and do puraka kumbhaka". 
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda

As Mudra

Bhujangi mudra can be practiced with the arms bent, hands beside the ribs, legs and feet on the floor, neck elongated, looking towards the horizon (trataka) rather than taking the chin forward, up and back.

Exhalation twice as long as the inhalation

The neck lengthened, kumbhakha after the inhalation
Focus of concentration Taraka (the horizon) or Bhrumadhya (between the eyebrows)

As asana, 


The chin can be taken forward and back

Throughout the project I've suggested full vinyasa following Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda instruction, there are only around ten asana/mudra after all. Given the longer stay in several forward folding postures I will often include postures like Makrasana, Bhujangasana, salambhasana, dhanurasana after the chatauranga.



notes from my proficient primary page

Notes on practice 1.

Uddiyana bandha

Most if not all of the pictures I will be posting in the Proficient Primary Project will show a deep uddiyana bandha, this is to draw attention to the focus on the breath (long and slow) and in particular the kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out). Such a dramatic Uddiyana bandha as in the photos tends to be practiced on the hold at the end of the exhalation, however a more subtle, less dramatic, uddiyana may be employed and is perhaps advisable in the beginning stages of this approach to practice especially.

Exhale fully and before inhaling draw the belly, below and above the navel, in and up. Mula bandha will follow. Hold for 2-5 seconds.

Personally I tend to find the deep uddiyana a distraction from the stillness of the kumbhaka, bandhas should no doubt gain in subtlety, a background practice.

Krishnamacharya said that in the kumbhaka we see god.

I would go further and suggest that in the kumbhaka we see god... or the absence of god

Personally, when approaching my practice this way (and it's been around four years), I just find stillness, a quite profound stillness that on a good day joins up kumbhaka with kumbhaka throughout my practice, and stays with me for much of my day.

The photos tend to be screen shots taken from videos of my practice rather than being posed for, thus the poor quality.

The Proficient Primary approach to practice is based on the idea of rather than 'progressing' to ever more 'advanced' postures we instead explore proficiency within primary postures, longer slower breathing in asana, kumbhaka (where and when appropriate) and longer stays with an appropriate internal point of focus ( in short, merely Krishnamacharya's original instruction in Yoga Makaranda written in Mysore 1934 when Pattabhi Jois was his student) .

For this reason it is unlikely that we would be able to practice a full primary series and I tend to recommend a modified, flexible half Primary.

Note: an alternative is to go through the series as normal but pick out a different asana or two to explore as a longer stay and emphasise the full slow count in finishing.

Because of the static nature of so many of the postures I recommend and practice full vinyasa ( however vinyasa could be skipped between sides or only included between groups of asana) as well as including some variations in the long inversions, sarvangasana and sirsasana.

Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) can be practiced after the inhalation and/or after the exhalation.

Most of the asana and mudra below present the kumbhaka after the exhalation, however we may 'balance out' the kumbhaka throughout our practice.

When sitting up we might practice the kumbhaka after the inhalation or exhalation, when folding forward (into the asana for example) we might include a short kumbhaka of 2-5 seconds after the exhalation).

Kumbhaka tends to be avoided in twisting postures

Below, my typical practice

Built around 10 key asana  and mudra ( a Rishi Series?) with optional variations and preparations 
see below for an approach to each asana and mudra
Surya namaskara

1. Trikonasana 
2. Dandasana/Pascimattanasana/ Asvini Mudra 
3. Maha Mudra 
4. Bharadvajrasana
5. Padma Mayurasana or Vajrasana
6. Sarvangasana 
7. Bhujamgi mudra 
8. Sirsasana 
9. Baddha Konasana 
10. Yoga Mudra/parvatanasana/padmasana


Can it...., should it, still be considered 'Ashtanga vinyasa', there is still the vinyasa, the focus on the breath, drishti, bandhas.... , it hardly seems to matter but Jois talked about practicing less asana at some point and staying longer in those postures we believe are of most value, giving more attention perhaps to the later limbs and from fifty he gave us carte blanche to practice what and as we will.

.......we don't necessarily have to wait that long of course.


Practice framework

Kapalabhati - 36
Pranayama 6-12rounds



Short tadasana sequence of arm movements


Surya namaskara 3 A + 2 B 
( the first with 6 breaths at each stage, 12 breaths in Ardho Mukha Svanasana )

1. Trikonasana 
6 or 12 breaths each side

Optional extra standing posture(s) alternating each day

2. Dandasana/Pascimattanasana/ Asvini Mudra 
12 breaths
(followed by it's pratkriya purvottanasana)

One or more Optional Asymmetric asana approached as mudra 
(alternating daily) - 6 breaths each side

3. Maha Mudra 
12 - 24 breaths

4. Bharadvajrasana
12 breaths
(as an alternative to Marichiyasana)

5. Padma Mayurasana (optional )

Or Vajrasana with stomach lock.
6 -12 breaths
(Krishnamacharya recommended that we practice Mayurasana daily in Yoga Makaranda but it may depend on the strength of your wrists, I tend to avoid it these days due to a recurring unrelated wrist injury)

Tatka Mudra 
12 breaths


Dwi pada pitam
(sarvangasana preparation)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (optional)
6-12 breaths

6. Sarvangasana 
5 minutes
(Without variation, practiced as mudra)

7. Bhujamgi mudra 
6 -12 breaths
(as pratkriya to sarvangasana)

8. Sirsasana 
5 minutes as mudra - Viparita karani
5 minutes with variations

6 -12 breaths

approx. 5 minutes with variations


9. Baddha Konasana - 6, 12, 24 breaths

10. Yoga Mudra
6 -12 breaths

12 - 24 breaths

Bhastrika - 60 breaths
Nadi sodhana (6), 12, 24, 48 breaths

Formal Sit.
20, 40 minutes

Ideally practice A, B and C together early each morning.
If time is an issue ,A followed C might be practiced in the morning with B ( and perhaps C ) practiced later in the day.


Notes on practice 3



I'm never quite sure what to make of my Vinyasa Yoga practice book, on the one hand I feel like rewriting the whole thing but on the other, it's so tied to practice that I'm not sure where I would begin. I wrote the book as a separate blog over three months, doing my regular practice each morning then practicing a subroutine, filming it and then writing up the notes directly, the notes are very much a part of the experience of practicing that morning.

Paschimottanasana (posterior stretch) subroutine practice notes


Paschimatanasana is one of the 4 Key Vinyasa Krama Asana that Ramaswami recommends we spend a considerable time in every day, the other three are Maha mudra ( day ) Sarvangasana ( shoulder stand) and sirsasana ( headstand).

'Yoga texts recommend vaseth, which means one should stay in this posture for for a long time. Even a stay of five minutes has a tonic effect on the posterior muscles, the abdominal muscles and the pelvic organs, because of the rectal and abdominal locks'. Srivatsa Ramaswami Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga p 75

Paschimatanasana is one of only two asana that I remember Ramaswami giving hands on adjustment, he would push forward our sacrum as we folded forward into the posture (the other adjustment was in tadasana where he would grip the pelvis and lift and hold up while we would do the hand arm variations).


In dandasana (pic 1) stretch fully as in standing tadasana, lifting up out of the pelvis, fold forward from the pelvis, imagine pushing your backside back as when we practiced uttanasana (standing forward bend).

The slight bend you may find in the knees is GOOD, this is protecting your hamstrings, eventually, over time your legs will be able to stay flat.

It took me about a year before my legs would stay flat on the mat, there was always a slight bend of my knees.


Forcing the legs to flatten could damage your hamstrings, this is not fun and even a tweak of the hamstrings will take weeks if not months to pass completely. It's the pelvis we're most interested in working anyway in this posture, be kind to your hamstrings.

As you become more comfortable in the posture, a gentle way to work towards getting your legs a little flatter ( not necessarily all the way) is to spend a minute or so in the posture then shuffle your sit bones backwards this will gently lengthen your hamstrings and allow them to flat them a little more. Settle for another minute and then shuffle back a little further.

Engaging mula bandha ( drawing up the anus ) helps to protect your hamstrings, it seems to activate the gluteus maximus taking some of the stress off the hamstrings.

Engaging uddiyana bandha, sucking in the belly creates space for you to deepen your forward bend.
In Vinyasa Krama, in an extended stay in paschimattanasana we may lengthen the exhale and even hold the breath at the end of the exhalation and engage the bandhas strongly.

Inhalation 3-5 seconds, exhalation 5-10 or even 15 seconds.

In vinyasa Krama the chin is tilted to the chest and in an extended stay we may engage jalandhara bandha, the throat lock more strongly.

Occasionally I find tatkamudra a useful pre paschimottanasana posture, here's a link to a post concerning this Here's the gist of the post.

The other week, while practicing Primary series I was trying to settle into paschimattanasana but was feeling a little stiff. I laid back on the mat for a moment and figured while I was there I'd get my bandhas warmed up, better to engage them in the forward bend ( I tend to spend five to ten minutes in paschimottanasana, Vinyasa Krama style). So I raised my arms over my head for tatakamudra stretched and at the end of my exhale stopped the breath and drew up and back mula bandha, connected it to uddiyana, drawing my abdominal muscles inward and backward and bringing the small of my back onto the mat. A few long slow breaths and I went back to paschimottanasana, low and behold, the stiffness was gone and paschi felt comfortable enough for a long deep stay. 

Maha mudra (great seal) subroutine practice notes



Ramaswami mentions mahamudra as a key posture in Vinyasa Krama and encourages us to include it in our daily practice.

Ramaswami also advises us to stay in the pose '...a long time, say about five or more minutes'.
Because we are encouraged to stay in mahamudra for a significant amount of time we may choose to practice just janusirsasana in this subroutine and then later, at the end of our practice, dwell in mahamudra as preparation for pranayama.

I like to practice it in this subroutine for the usual three to six breaths and then do an extended stay at the end of my practice followed by badha konasana before entering padmasana (lotus) for my pranayama practice.

Maha mudra is an excellent posture for working on mull, uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas.
As we take hold of our toe we have sit forward on our sit bones, grounded in this way it becomes easier to focus on exploring mula bandha, the holding of the toe, gives a sense of stability when engaging uddiyana bandha

Mula and Uddiyana bandha
'The other two bandhas, however, should be practiced in most of the asanas, especially after exhalation. The first is mula bandha, which means "constricting of the anus" It is done after a complete exhalation. After the exhalation is over, the abhyasi (yoga student) should anchor the body in the asana he or she is in and then slowly and deliberately close the anus and draw in the rectum by contracting the perineal and surrounding muscles of the pelvic floor. Then as if in a continuous movement, the abdomen, including the navel, is drawn in, pushing up the diaphragm into the now almost empty chest cavity, which is then called uddiyana bandha ( drawing in of the diaphragm)... This technique is one of the specialities of yogic breathing" p127
Leaning forward to grab our toe we allow our head to tilt forward bring our chin down. the chin tilted down is almost the default positing in Vinyasa Krama for the beneficial effect it has in the spine. We can practice it lightly or bring the chin tighter into the breastbone for Jalandhara bandha

Jalandhara bandha
'There are three important band has. the first is jalandhara bandha, or locking the chin against the breastbone. This may be done during kumbhkas and whenever the the posture requires the chin to be locked, which is normally the case during forward bends and when keeping the back erect. In backbends and twisting postures it is not possible to do jalandhara bandha'. p127 

Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) preparation subroutine practice notes


Ramaswami states in The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga

'Even though all the vinyasas we have considered so far under the category of supine poses can be reckoned to be preparatory for the shoulder stand, three of them are considered essential before going in for the shoulder stand pose in the Vinyasa method of yoga practice.' p122

The three are

General Anapanasana (pictures 2-5) see Day 59 Dwipadapitam (pictures 6+7) see Day 60 Leg and arm lift (pictures 8+9) see Day 62


Ramaswami also recommends the hand and arm variations in tadasana (Day 1) from the On your feet sequence, as useful for relaxing and loosening up the neck and shoulders.

The practice sheet above represents my default preparation, I like to do all three of
the pavamuktasana, neck tilts, bringing the chin, nose and then forehead to the knee (anapanasana pose is when the head remains on the mat, pavamuktasana when the head tilts). Here I've done the both legs together version but you could just as well do the single leg version on both sides instead.

The same goes for the arm and leg lifts, here too, I've gone for the both legs together version but you could do the single leg vinyasas, either same arm/same leg or cross body.

In Dwipadapitam any of the vinyasas would be acceptable or even a long stay in just the ankle hold, lengthening breath and engaging bandhas.

Anapanasana (pictures 2-5) see Day 59
In all the anapanasana vinyasas the head stays on the mat, the hip lifts to bring the knee

or knees to the chest.

In all the pavamuktasana vinyasas the head lifts off the mat to bring with the chin, nose or forehead to the knee or knees.

It's acceptable to raise the head when catching the knee in anapanasana but once caught lower the head, and tighten the grip around the leg or legs and press the thigh(s) against the lower abdomen.
In the pavamuktasana vinyasas be careful not to strain when bringing your forehead to your knee, stretch up through the length of your spine and drop your shoulder blades down your back.
Engaging uddiyana at the end of the exhalation may also help to allow the forehead to reach the knee.

Dwipadapitam (pictures 6+7) see Day 60
Keep the legs strong throughout, push the feet into the mat especially the toes and stretch

though the whole length of the leg(s).

Explore nutation, tilting the pelvis upwards, to create more space for the spine to arch.

Take the weight on the shoulders rather than the neck, make sure the shoulderblades are dropped down the back and not hunched up and compessing the neck
Push the chest up and almost over the shoulders.

Leg and arm lift (pictures 8+9) see Day 62
Raise the arm(s) over the head on the inhalation, raise the legs on the exhalation Hold each posture for three to six breaths

Ideally we want to keep the sacrum, the small of the back on the mat while lifting the legs, difficult, engage mula bandha to anchor.

Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) lead in subroutine practice notes


Ramaswami has Sarvangasana (shoulderstand0 along with Sirsasana (headstand) and paschimottanasana (seated posterior stretch) as the three postures his teacher, Krishnamacharya recommended practicing every day and for a considerable length time.

Sarvangasana, it is suggested, should be practiced for anything between five and twenty minutes daily.

Ramaswami recommended we spend three minutes in Sarvangasana with the legs relaxed then another two minutes with them straight in classic sarvangasana. After that first five minutes we might then consider exploring some of the vinyasas.

Looking ahead I think we have seven sarvangasana subroutines.

Ramaswami would also recommend a counterpose after sarvangasana so as to relieve the strain placed on the neck and shoulders, he suggests bhujangasana (cobra, Day 45) and especially makrasana (crocodile, Day 44) as ideal counterposes, stating that, 'The counterposes, as a rule, should be simple, effective and targeted' (Yoga beneath the surface p105).


The above practice sheet shows the advanced lead in, it requires a degree of flexibility in the neck and shoulders at picture 8 that may not be available to you.

It is important that in Picture 8 the shoulders are on the mat rather than the back of the neck, engage jalandhara bandha ( the chin lock)

Rather than risk strain in the early stages one may consider the alternative approach on the following page.

Here a blanket is used beneath the shoulders, creating space for the neck and avoiding any strain.

INVERTED : Sirsasana (headstand) Lead in


Ramaswami writes concerning Sirsasana (headstand) and it's subroutines
'...inversions should be considered as unique contributions of Yoga, for health. Within the first few minutes of Sirsasana practice, the leg and thigh muscles, the gluteal
muscles, relax. The chest, back, shoulders and neck muscles also relax as all these are not required to maintain the postural tone as in the upright position. It has been found that due to the relaxation of the leg muscles, the blood pressure in the legs drop to about 30mm.There is no great rush of blood to the head among the adept yogis due to
auto regulation; yet the gravity helps to open up many capillaries in the brain, head and face which may otherwise remain partially closed. People with high blood pressure and retinal problems will have to be careful. However persons with mild hypertension and under control with diet, life style change and even medication could benefit from
this posture if they had learnt it from early life. It appears to increase pressure on the shoulders which would result in the brain trying to reduce the blood pressure. Therefore if one would practice Sirshasana regularly for a sufficient duration, one’s pulse rate tends to reduce, thereby reducing the strain on the heart. Gradually there is a reduction in the blood pressure'.
Srivatsa Ramaswami Newsletter Aug 2009

There are several approaches to headstand, the above is the standard Vinyasa Krama approach.
If your new to headstands here is a link to a tutorial 


Consider using a wall while building confidence ( this us useful when kicking up into headstand as you can tap off the wall - see tutorial link above)

When interlacing the fingers, engage the little fingers (pic 2)

Make a firm base with your arms, your going to press down through your arms and take most, if not all, of the weight on them rather than on your head.

Headstand is an arm balance

Walk in bringing the hips over the shoulders and even beyond them to use as a counterweight for your legs. (pic 5)

Engage moola and uddiyana bandha,

Raise the feet off the mat while exhaling and bring the legs close to the body (Pic 6)
Press down through the length of your forearms, especially your elbows as you raise your feet.
Focus on the hips or the pelvis in space.

Drop the shoulder blades down the back, this should create space stop your neck getting pinched
Stretch out through the whole length of your body, engage your legs and bring your attention to the
furthest point, your toes

Focusing the mind on the toes will control the balance when fully extended. Come down by going back to half headstand, bring the legs to the chest Make sure the toes are turned up so you land safely. 


Uttita Trikonasana subroutine practice notes



I've re shot the video for the first Triangle subroutine. The older video was cut from the full Triangle sequence and at the time I was looking at Vinyasa Krama from a Sequence perspective. Here I'm focusing on Vinyasa karma at a subroutine level and find I'm noticing details I'd missed. I've mentioned several times that this series of posts or my practice book are no substitute for Ramaswami's book. I can't stress that enough, every time you dip into his Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga you find little details, subtleties that you missed in first, second or even tenth reading. What I present here and in my book are just cheat sheets, the broad brushstrokes of a practice.
So what did I miss first time around?

For one thing the jump. Actually, I didn't miss it, I avoided it and stepped my legs apart. There's a jump into the triangle postures in Ashtanga too but nobody seems to do them anymore, truth be told I think we feel a little ridiculous, Vanity vanity and in yoga too, now that really is ridiculous.
Iyengar always seemed to jump into the posture and I seem to remember Krishnamacharya did in the old 1938 video, he did it with a twinkle in his eye too. Ramaswami had us jump into triangle on his TT course.

We have become yoga mat centric and this leads to confusion. Ramaswami used to wonder why we didn't all have carpets rather than fancy yoga mats. On a yoga mat we have turn to the side before jumping our legs apart or we have to jump and turn to the side in midair before landing with our legs apart.

Better, in VK anyway, is to turn sideways on the mat.

Ramaswami has us raise our arms out to the side on the inhalation, exhale and then, before inhaling with our exhale still held, jump our legs apart.

Notice the feet, facing forward, turned out just a little.

I remember on the TT Ramaswami was asked or rather informed by a couple of the students that they had always practiced triangle poses with the foot your were bending towards turned out 45 degrees.

I loved Ramaswami's response. He didn't say his way was right, the proper way, the only true way and back it up with an anatomical or physiological argument but rather that it was just the way his teacher, Krishnamacharya, had taught him, that he had tried the other ways himself but found he felt more comfortable with the way he had been taught.

Later I managed to see Krishnamacharya book, the Yogasanagalu and there he is in several pictures just as Ramaswami had taught the posture to us along with everything else..

With triangle pose I tend to take a few minutes in the beginning posture trikonasana sthiti. I'll treat it like tadasa, the on the feet sequence, take a few breaths to move the hips back and forth and to the side, find the best point of balance. Then I'll do some hand variations, again similar to the on your feet sequence, just getting a feel for that starting position from which several of the subroutines will develop. I don't know of Ramaswami teaching this but it seems in keeping with his approach. Take a moment perhaps in all the stithi postures to the different sequences, asymmetric, seated, lotus, like an old Zen monk getting comfortable on his zafu.

As with the sideways bends and twisting in the On your feet subroutines, paying attention to the feet is important in triangle. Press down the opposite foot to the side your bending but also the inside of the foot on the side your bending in to, from the heel all the way to the big toe.

The more stable the base the more protected the knees, pushing down into the mat takes some of the stress off the knees.

Again as with the side stretches in On your feet, really stretch out of your hips before beginning your bend and keep stretching up along both sides of your body. The tendency is to stretch the outside and collapse the inside, stretch through both.

Breathe, strong ujjayi. Engage bandhas

Both will protect your knees.

When I first started asana practice I couldn't get much further than just below my knees, no rush, don't force it, it'll come. Besides the hand to the floor bit isn't the point of the pose, the stretch is. 

Badha konasana subroutine practice notes

I mentioned in the previous post that credited working on Upavishta konasana (Day 41) with a much improved badha konasana allowing me to bring me feet closer to the perineum and the knees to the mat. As it's a favourite posture I sometimes like to include some of the hand/arm variations we find in the tadasana sequence as well as Day 41's Upavishta konasana.


To get deeper into badha konasana prepare with extended stays in paschimottanasana and upavishtas konasana.

Sit up tall lifting up out of the pelvis

sit as far forward as possible on the sit bones

As you bring your feet closer towards the perineum, keep a little space between your feet to allow the turn outwards as if opening a book, turning your soles up to face you.

To allow this to happen there is a rotation in the hip joint, this should not be forced but something that will come over time as you work with hip opening postures like those in the Seated and Asymmetric particularly the janu sirsasanas.

Thinking.directing  the coccyx is coming through towards the heels seems to help, especially if folding forward to bring the chin to the mat.

Mula bhandasana
In this version you lift up and sit on the heels holding onto the feet (there is another advanced posture where you roll your feet over so that your heels face forwards and your toes point backwards before sitting on your heels), engage Mula, Uddiyana and Jalandhara bandha

Padmasana will be looked at in more detail in Lotus subroutines

Gomukhasana has too different versions, one where you sit on the heel and the one shown here practiced in Vinyasa krama where you sit between the heels. 

LOTUS : Padmasana (lotus) subroutine practice notes.


Padmasana (lotus) can be a challenging posture and there are many places to work towards it in Vinyasa Krama.

In Asymmetric Sequence: Padmasana doesn't appear as such but there are several hip opening postures, janusirsasana leading to mahamudra in particular, that prepare you for ardha baddha padmasana (half lotus).

In Lotus sequence : The lotus sequence picks up where Asymmetric leaves off with more vinyasas in half lotus before moving on to full lotus.

In Seated sequence : Padmasana (lotus) follows the deep hip opening subroutines of upavishta konasana and badha konasana.

In Supine sequence : More half lotus variations, this time in dwipadapitam (table pose). In shoulder stand we have the half lotus vinyasas of Day 68 but also the extreme hip openers of the previous (Day 69 ) Urdhva Konasana subroutine.

In Inverted Sequnece : As with Supine and Seated the lotus vinyasas in headstand follow, konasana and badha konasana subroutine.
In all of the above sequences we can see that padmasana (lotus) follows hip opening postures, this is because padmasana (lotus) involves a rotation of the hip joint rather than a twisting of the knees.


Getting in to full Lotus
NB: THE most important thing to remember is to protect your knees, that it's the hip joints that do all the work, the knees only bend one way it's the rotation of the ball and socket hip joint that makes padmasana possible

Right leg
Bend the right knee and bring it up towards the chest. Reach with the right hand down inside the thigh and take hold of the right ankle.

Allow the right knee to drop out to the side through the rotation of the hip joint. Focus on that hip action, of the ball and socket joint, the femur head rotating in the hip socket, encourage it.

There's a tensing of the right buttock a lifting almost and a stretching of the thigh as you encourage the rotation in the hip joint that will bring the knee down towards the mat and the ankle to come up. This action should only happen at the hips joint your NOT pulling up the ankle and your NOT forcing the knee down.

If this isn't happening it might be best to work on more hip opening postures, mahamudra in Asymmetric, badha konasana in Seated.

Lift up through the torso, support the right foot with the left and right palms and guide NOT pull the foot to the left thigh.

Lift up again and bend forward slightly, roll onto the front of the sit bones and guide the right foot a little further up the left thigh into the groin.

Again lift and roll further onto the sit bones allowing the right knee to rest on the mat.

Left leg
Bend the left knee and again focusing on the hip joint allowing the left knee to drop out to the side.
Rock your body forward and draw the right knee out to the side through the thigh muscles. Lock the knee by pressing the calf muscles against the thigh.

Reach over the left foot and support the left ankle with the left palm, cupping under the foot with the right palm, encourage the hip joint to rotate further and allow the knee to drop further out and down. Again, your not pulling on the foot but rather supporting it to allow the hip joint to do it's work.

Lift up through the torso, rock further forward on the sit bones and stretch out through the left thigh to allow the foot to come up over the right leg.

Using the strength of the thighs bring the knees a little towards each other this will bring the right foot finally up onto the right thigh closer to the groin.

Shuffle around on your sit bones if necessary, encouraging more rotation of the hip joints to tighten the lotus, this is preferable to wrenching, tugging, pulling the feet.

Ultimately, for many of the lotus vinyasas you will require a nice tight lotus where the heels are digging slightly into the belly, the soles of the feet pointing up and the knees closer together. In fact, the heels can be considered to be massaging the inner organs in some of the vinyasas by pressing deep into the belly
To release
Sit up straight lifting up through the torso, focus on the left hip joint and encourage it to rotate by engaging the thigh muscles which will press the left knee into the mat this will allow you to very gently encourage the left foot off of the right thigh.

As you allow the knees to draw apart the lotus will unfold, again allow the right hip joint to do it's work bringing the right knee down into the mat and allowing the right foot to glide off the left thigh.

Padmasana subroutine
Ramaswami recommends coming into half lotus, taking a breath or two, continuing into full lotus, staying for a three breaths and then releasing the lotus before repeating six times.
You may wish to enter and exit your lotus for each of the vinyasa in this subroutine. Over time you may feel comfortable staying for a couple of the vinyasas and eventually the whole subroutine even sequence.

Lotus postures are excellent for working on the bandhas, the perineum is grounded allowing for greater focus on mula bandha, the lotus a stable base for deep uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas ( see practice guidelines Day 1 for more on bandhas).

Bhadrasana The hand position can be low on the thigh fingers tucked under the feet (pic 5) or closer to the knee (pic 6). If the knee be careful not to press the knees down, especially if the lotus position is still new to you.

Laghu yoga mudra (pic 8) is a deep forward bend, draw the buttocks back, come onto the front of the sit bones, engage mula and uddiyana bandha, sucking in the belly in to create more space for the body to fold forwards over your lotus. The same goes for the side vinyasas of yoga mudra (pic 11 & 12), be careful not to allow the opposite knee from the side your folding in to to raise, encourage it to stay down by grounding the sit bones.

Utpluthi (Pic 9) is all about hand placement. place the hands too far forward and the weight of the hip bones will keep your grounded, too far back and the weight of the knees will stop you from achieving lift. So place the hands just forward of mid thigh as close to your thighs as possible.
Bring your shoulders over your hands, bring your shoulders down, engage the shoulder girdle and after exhaling hold the breath out and push down into the mat through your hands and lift
Mula bandha should be engaged but engage it more strongly, tuck the tailbone under, the lower half of your body should feel tight and compact, draw your pelvis up into your torso and hold.
Keep the bandhas engaged and the tailbone tucked while your breath.

In this version of utpluthi you bend the body over the lotus, in a later version in the lotus sequence the body is more erect. 

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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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