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Friday, 30 September 2016

Final chapter from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu Part I An asana sequence.

First edit of the full English translation of Yogasanagalu can now be downloaded for personal study from here.
(future edits to come perhaps with some of my own notes on the text)

Thank you to Satya for coming back to Krishnamacharya's Yogasanaglu (Mysore 1941) for us and translating the final chapter that was added to the 3rd edition of the text in 1972, along with all the photos of Krishnamacharya practicing in his eighties.

The full text is being translated on this page above
and is now virtually complete, I will post the final section on pranayama next week.

Yogasanagalu was Krishnamacharya's second Mysore text following Yoga Makaranda ( Mysore 1934) and contains the table of Asana from which Pattabhi Jois, with some minor tweaks, taught his course at the Sanskrit College that formed the basis of today's Ashtanga Yoga 'style'.

This additional chapter added in 1972 will be more familiar to those who have been exposed to Ramaswami's teaching of 'Vinyasa Krama', however it appears that Krishnamacharya was teaching along these lines while in Mysore to private students and 'patients', perhaps in a side room while Pattabhi Jois, one of his assistants, would lead the boys of the palace through their group asana class. The slower breathing and Kumbhaka instruction we see here were all present in Krishnamacharya's first Mysore text Yoga makaranda ( available for free download above

Note on Photos: In the original text of Yogasanagalu (1941) Krishnamacharya included instruction for twenty-one asana, these are the same instructions we find in the earlier text, Yoga Makaranda 1934 ( although that text contained twice as many asana). It seems likely that early editions of Yogasanagalu contained the same photos relating to the instruction as in Yoga Makaranda.

Krishnamacharya kept the instructions for the twenty-one Yoga Makaranda asana in the later editions of Yogasanagalu but not the photos. Instead, from the 3rd edition of Yogasanagalu onward, he included 120 photos of himself practicing, in his mid eighties,

In the additional chapter below, added in 1972, he gives instruction for seven of those asana in a short sequence. Although the photos are added at the end of the book I've embeded the seven relevant photos in the instructions just as Krishnamacharya did in Yoga Makaranda.


Yogasanagalu Additional Chapter 1972 (first part)

Yogasana Style

Dandasana is the first posture among the sitting asanas. Vyasa has spoken highly of this (posture) in the Yogasutrabhashya.

First part: Please see photograph No: 1 shown in this book.


Procedure to practice: Place a soft blanket not less than 6 feet in length, sit down facing eastern direction with legs stretching straight forward and lift both hands above the head. Left and right forearms are aligned with the respective left and right ears and stretched upwards without bending the elbows.  Hand fingers are interlocked tightly in such a manner that the palm is facing upwards and then the chin is lowered into the chest by bending the neck. The two feet are joined together with the heels touching the floor and the toes stretched upwards.  Without bending the knees, keep the thigh muscles stretched tightly and hold the back erect.  Softly close the eyelids and as explained before and take six deep inhalation and exhalations.  After exhalation, pull in the region of abdomen in all the way into the navel.  During inhalation, the chest is to be expanded. Breath should not be held for more than a second.  In the yoga shastra, exhalation is known as Rechaka and inhalation is referred to as Puraka.

Kumbhaka is retention of breath. When we are practicing breathing like this, our stomach, neck, head and chest should not be moving up and down. Rechaka has to be longer than Puraka and also must be subtle. One Rechaka, one Puraka and one Kumbhaka make one Avrutta.  Initially, only six Avrutta’s are enough and must be increased over time.

In this Asana, the body remains straight like a stick (Danda) and strengthens the spine, hands and legs and therefore is called Dandasana.

Benefits: Eliminates indigestion and rheumatic conditions

During each breath we should be practicing remembrance of God.

Dandasana part 2 (Photo # 2)

In all respects this asana follows part 1 except that the palms of the two hands are now behind the back. In addition, both the palms are near the hips on the floor.  The elbows must be straight and Kumbhaka must be performed after exhalation (Bahya kumbhaka).  Please study the photo.

This posture is easy for obese as they have a hard time keeping the forearms up due to impediment from the lower half of their body.

Pashchimatasana (Photo #4)

Although this posture has been practiced by yogis from ancient times, Swathma Rama yogi, the author of Hathayoga pradipika has praised this posture.

Practice: Please study the photo and practice

From Dandasana, take a deep Rechaka, pull in the stomach, keep the hand fingers interlocked, slowly bend forward, wrapping fingers around the legs with the palms facing on the outside.  Rest the forehead on the knee caps or slightly beyond, perform Rechaka and Puraka, and keep the knees stretched straight without bending.  Starting with three Rechaka and Puraka on the first week, keep increasing by one every week for a maximum of twelve Avruttis.  This state is called Paschimatanasana.  After this come back up from the posture and take rest.

Benefits: Pranavayu has two states called purvavahini gati and paschimavahini gati.  purvavahini gati is wheezing or difficulty in breathing such as ashtma.  This results from indigestion.  People’s health deteriorates resulting in enlargement of stomach. In paschimavahini gati, the movement is behind the muladhara chakra.  Enlarged stomach is made smaller by increasing the digestive fire, destroying indigestion and extending rechaka without wheezing.  Isn’t this enough? One should not practice this on a full stomach.  This posture is forbidden for pregnant women.

Purvattanasana (photo# 5)


This is also called as the rejoinder to pachimattanasana.    

When pain is experienced due to a particular type of body situation, space between bones, movement of pulse nodules and discrepancy in musculature, practicing these counter poses will alleviate such pains.  This will help set the junctions, nodules and muscles into their original spaces. That means it will realign the body into original state.  This secret was not known for many years.  The reason?  Not receiving advice from a Guru.  

After experiencing this type of pain, people are deterred from practicing Yoga.  They have been hesitating and becoming more reluctant to take up yoga practice. Even though they may be breaking limbs and bleeding from sports injuries, they don’t hesitate.  In spite of spending lots of money on sports, they will continue to play, limp and make merry.

This Kali influence is said to be the main reason for disappearance of ancient Indian Arts and Sciences.  In this way, every yoga posture has a counter pose. If we learn this practice  from a Guru and yoga practitioners promote and teach others, it does not cause any harm to people.  The yogic sciences will not disappear.

Procedure:  Please see photo # 5.  From Paschimattanasana position, inhale and lift both hands straight up and while exhaling deeply take the shoulders slowly behind the back and place the palm of the hands on the floor about 1 foot distance from the hips with the fingers facing forward. Similar to the second step in dandasana, push the chest forward and do a deep puraka kumbhaka.  Pressing the heels and the palms tightly against the ground, lift the entire body in a straight line and drop the neck backwards.  Close the eyes and keep still for at least 5 seconds.  This is Purvottanasana position.  After this, bend the neck to bring the chin to the chest, exhale and place the body down.  In this way, practice three times in the first week and gradually increase to six repetitions.

Benefits:  Eliminates pain at the back of the body.  Eradicates fragility in the forearms and neck.

This posture is reciprocal to paschimattanasana since in paschimottanasana the entire body movement and position consists of bending forward in exhalation (rechaka) mode with the head bent forward.

Purvottanasana is the riposte with the body movement and position in contrast is not bent but straight, upward facing with hands behind in the mode of inhalation (puraka).

Chatushtada peeta (Photos # 6, #7 and #8)

After stepping down from Purvasana, sit in Dandasana pose and without changing the position of hands bend the two legs and join the heels and knees in front of the hips.  Keeping the back straight, bring the chin to the chest and perform rechaka. (see photo # 6).  

Pull the abdomen in towards the navel while doing puraka for five seconds and expand the chest area outwards while keeping the heels pressed to the floor. Lift the midsection and hips upwards and tilt the head backwards.  Now the midsection of the body should look like a plank by lifting as much as possible #7. Remain still and do not change the positions of hands and legs.  This posture is called chatushtada peeta.  This will be hard for a couple of weeks.  Afterwards becomes easier.  Must be practiced slowly and patiently.

Benefits:  All types of indigestion are removed. Must be practiced twice during the first week.  After that three times.  After five seconds of lifting the midsection come down while slowly performing rechaka and rest.  Contra indicated after five months of pregnancy.

In yoga shastra, our body is divided into three parts: urdhva (upper) part, madhya (middle) part and adho (lower) part.  Above the neck is urdhva, neck to reproductive organs is madhya and from there to the sole is adho.  One can practice chatushtada peeta as tripada peeta by placing one foot in padmasana.  Thighs will get stronger in this pose.  Please see photo # 8 and practice.


Navasana (Please see photo # 9 and practice)

Come down from chatushta peeta and without changing the position of legs perform two rechaka and purakas and as illustrated in the picture without bending the knees lift the legs up while lowering the neck a little bit.  Staying in this position without movement, perform rechaka and puraka for as long as possible.

Benefits: Slims down the waist and creates appetite

Ardha baddha padma paschimatanasana, part 1, (photo # 10, #11)

Procedure for practice: As in pachimatanasana, stretch the left leg forward and bend the right foot and place it on the left thigh with the bottom of the foot facing up.  As shown in the photo, from the back, take the right hand and grab the right foot big toe with the palm facing down.  Extend the left hand with a forward bend and tightly hold the left foot big toe with index and middle fingers or if possible with all fingers. Keeping the back straight, pressing the chin to the chest, perform not less than three rechaka and purakas (see Photo #10).  


While doing the 4th rechaka, fully extend the mid portion of the body and while lowering the head place the forehead on the knee (see photo #11).  Now repeat the corresponding posture with the right leg extending forward.  In this posture, one foot is like paschimatanasana and one foot is in baddha padmasana. Therefore, it is called ardha baddha padma paschimatanasana.

When people with obese or lean body types start practicing yoga and pranayama vigorously, it is natural to experience some pain in bone joints and musculature.  Because there is no type of exercise that will not induce such pain, we should not hesitate.  If we can tolerate for a few days and continue to practice, it will be most beneficial.  

Without practice, no one can achieve the ideal posture shown in the photos.  By gradually increasing the practice daily, we can achieve the perfect posture.  We should not use force.

Ardha baddha paschimatanasana part 2 (photo #14)


While sitting similar to part 1, if the left leg is stretched out, turn the left palm outwards and grab the left foot just beneath the big toe.  Turn your neck towards the right shoulder and look at the back.  Do not change the position of the right hand.

When the right leg is stretched out, turn the right palm outwards and grab the right foot underneath the big toe.  Turn the neck towards the left shoulder and look at the back.

The benefits are so many that it is impossible to discuss them all.  Many afflictions that have their roots in waist, neck, stomach, arms and vision will be removed.  

This posture must not be done immediately after eating or by women who are more than 5 month pregnant.


This is divided into uttama, madhyama and adhama (full, half and quarter) stages.
If one can practice, adhama matsyendrasana adequately, they are ready for madhyama and once proficient they will be eligible for full matsyendrasana.  Otherwise, they will be the target of so many afflictions.

It is unfortunate to do yoga practice without knowing this secret. Those with obese body type  must become proficient in the two parts of ardha baddha paschimatanasana before jumping into matsyendrasana.  Some people have obesity from childhood.  Now a days, 70 percent of both male and female children have obese body type.  This is a danger to a healthy life and acts as seed for the development of asthmatic condition. These kids must be coerced into learning yogabhyasa.  

Adhama matsyendrasana (photo # 15)

One must practice this posture for some time before moving on to other matsyendrasana postures.  Those who want to practice matsyendrasana and baddha padmasana must remain light eaters.  Otherwise, it will be hard to master these postures.  I’m going to stop providing detailed descriptions of postures now because I’m afraid that this manuscript will become huge.

I trust that those who are interested in practicing will learn from a qualified yoga teacher.  



Including the sequence in a practice.

Krishnamacharya recommended practicing certain asana daily.

Trikonasana, Pascshimattanasana, Maha mudra ( janu sirsasana without the fold) Baddha konasana,  Sarvangasana, Sirsasana, Baddha padmasana.

We might start our practice with

A few hand/arm movements from the tadasana  (first ten or twenty minutes perhaps)

Surynamaskara (perhaps with with mantra)

or kaghasana (flying bird sequence),

Supposedly a favourite of krishnamacharya's, perhaps because of that full exhalation as we jump directly into utkatasana on the exhalation.

Trikonasana (variations perhaps)

The yogasanagalu sequence below

Sarvangasana ( shoulderstand) perhaps with some variations.


Maha mudra (janu Sirsasana without the fold forward)

Baddha Konasana

Baddha padmasna




I will be posting the final part of this chapter, completing the translation of Yogasanagalu next week.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Notice how, for Ashtangi's...

An Ashtangi friend who has attended one of Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama workshops finds himself confused perhaps at how now to proceed,  Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama seem So far removed from each other....

Part of the problem perhaps is our perception of both. Ramaswami presents the 'Vinyasa Krama' asana in around ten medium to long sequences. Although he will stress that this is for pedagogic purposes and that we need to choose the asana we will practice each day it's hard not to fixate on the sequences, especially if you're an Ashtangi with the view that Ashtanga itself fixates on fixed sequences.

Our view of Ashtanga is often of a fast practiced, dynamic, cardio workout, it can be practiced like that perhaps but it's not the only way to practice and I would suggest not the approach to practice most Ashtangi's settle on over time.

Here however are some things to notice about Ashtanga that may allow us to see that Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga are perhaps not so far removed from each other, if not essentially the same.

Notice how, for Ashtangi's...

- Notice how calm and focussed the practice of Ashtanga becomes as practitioners become more experienced.

- Notice how smooth and steady the breath

- Notice the longer stays in the same key asana as Vinyasa Krama,  Paschimattanasana, Janu Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, Sirsasana as well as in others.

- Notice that however Ashtangi's may approach the series they are working on, the finishing sequence might well be something else altogether, practiced more slowly, with more focus and with the longer stays indicated.

- Notice the variations of asana in the likes of prasarita series, paschimattanasana, Janu Sirsasana, Marichiyasana etc.

- Notice the variations in sarvangasana.

- Notice that many Ashtnagi's DO modify their practice.

- Notice that many Ashtangi's will emphasis certain asana on different days, depending on their perceived needs of the day, passing quickly through some asana, staying longer in others.

- Notice how many Ashtangi's will often repeat an asana, two or three times.

- Notice that many Ashtangi's do begin to integrate pranayama

- Notice that many Ashtangi's do have a separate seated practice

- Notice that though many don't have a 'sitting' practice more often than not they include a long focussed savasana.

- Notice that many Ashtangi's study Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as well as other texts or at least have a passing awareness of the basics of yoga philosophy.

- notice that many Ashtangi seek to integrate the Yama and niyama in their lives.

- Notice that most Ashtangi's begin their practice with a chant and many follow their practice with a chant or chanting also.

- Notice that many teachers DO modify their students practice.

- Notice how an experienced practitioner will often slow down their practice over time.

- Notice how many experienced and proficient Ashtanga practitioners will, at some point, let go of the intermediate and advanced series and come back to Primary asana and seek to practice them more deeply.

- Notice how the majority of Ashtanga teachers share the practice with humility in shalas that barely make a profit, as service.

-  Notice how teacher maintain their own practice

- Notice how experienced practitioners whether teachers or not are constantly seeking to deepen the understanding of their practice and how it relates to their practice of yoga as a whole.

- Notice how many teachers maintain a connection with their own teachers.

- Notice how Ashtangi's where possible eventually develop a daily practice

- Notice how Ashtang's bring focus, discipline and service into their lives through their practice

- Notice how at some point most practitioners always seem come back to the breath, for all the advanced asana they may explore, being present with the breath is the beginning, middle and end of their asana practice.

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Emergence of Yoga - A seminar with Sri TK Sribhashyam, T. Krishnamacharya's third son. (GUEST POST)

My friend Chiara recently attended Sri TK Sribhashyam's workshop at Harmony Yoga organised by Steve Brandon, (I'm now living in Japan and unfortunately was unable to attend), Chiara kindly agreed to share the guest post below.

My own practice has been strongly influenced by Krishnamacharya's third son Sri TK Sribhashyam's teaching (more on this as well links to my earlier posts in the notes at the end of Chiara's guest post.) 

Krishnamacharya's third son Sri TK Sribashyam's replicated part of the 'acroyoga' scene from the 1934 Krishnamacharya documentary footage in the movie Breath of gods (see end of blog)

The Emergence of Yoga - A seminar with Sri TK Sribhashyam 
by Chiara (blog - Post in Italian HERE).

Last July I attended a seminar with Sri TK Sribhashyam, one of the sons of Sri T Krishnamacharya. The topic of the seminar was an in depth coverage of his book on Yoga, which has already been published in several languages.

The Emergence of Yoga is an excellent and detailed book, offering a perspective more related to the Vedic tradition, excellent explanation sheets of asana and pranayama, as well as a large number of practice examples, including some of Sri T Krishnamacharya's personal practices.

Link to Amazon
available in several languages

In the book, almost against the flow, Patanjali and his Yoga Sutras are practically non referenced. Reference is made instead mostly to the Vedas and the teachings of Yajnavalkya, whose treatise was regarded as a very important text for Krishnamacharya.

I am very interested in studying with direct students of Sri T Krishnamacharya, because as his teachings *appear* to be reported in a different manner by each of his different students, this man is for me still a mystery.

In fact, as I practice and study, I realize that at the basis of the different interpretations there is a great consistency; the importance of letting conscious breathing guide the practice, be it designed for supple kids or shriveled adults; the respect for different human possibilities at the basis of the method; the practice designed in a way that it becomes a ritual leading towards deep meditative states.

But as teachings always tend to be coloured by the experience and personality of the students, whatever they say or want to admit, each student will re-enact them in a different way.

So the opportunity, created with typical dedication by Steve Brandon at Harmony Yoga, to sit by another important student of Krishnamacharya and practice under his leadership, was too great for me to ignore. Therefore I decided to exceed my budget for the year and enroll in the seminar of Sri TK Sribhashyam. I booked flights and accommodation and I waited expectantly the moment, re-reading the book and preparing some questions.

I was also expectant because I knew that I was going to face a different experience than what more 'secular' workshops tend to offer. A thorough reading of The Emergence of Yoga and my attempts to follow the rest of Sribhashyam's books on the Bhakti path, had me confront my instinctive rejection of all that contains the word 'God' and 'Devotion'. But Sri TK Sribhashyam's approach is firmly in the Vedic tradition, as was Sri T Krishnamacharya's even though we often do not think of this.
So I knew that somehow my participation in this seminar would be a challenge, a test of aspects that - if scaring me so much - have to be extremely important for me, I think.

I admit that I find it hard to swallow the concept of iśvarapranidhāna unless intended as deep commitment in the activities undertaken, going beyond one's personal interests. To this I adhere completely. It is the next step which I feel uncertain of .. But we'll come back to the iśvara problem.

That Sri K Sribhashyam is a traditional teacher was soon realized, when he asked to receive the questions we wanted to ask in advance to the seminar, reserving judgment on whether or not to give an answer. That he is a serious and committed teacher was also soon made clear, as we received a document before the seminar, containing many answers to our questions and the commitment to expand some of the explanations during the seminar.

The seminar was organized with theoretical sessions, practices and slots for expanded answers to the previously submitted questions and new questions about the practices carried out in the day. Some of his longtime students were also attending the seminar and the most gentle Brigitte Khan demonstrated the practical sessions under the guidance of Sribhashyam. Many of the participants were teachers, or students from other schools.

Sribhashyam promptly asked us to listen, set our previous knowledge on one side, let what we were learning settle, feel complete freedom to evaluate the usefulness of continuing to practice what we had learned or not, but only after the experience of the workshop would be over.
This silenced many questions related to comparisons with previous experience, possibly it silenced many questions altogether, and reminded me of what Ramaswami once said, with regard to the reading of texts: first read what the author has to say, emptying your mind from pre-existing thoughts, then re-read in the light of your thinking.
Difficult, already a meditation exercise in itself.

The practical sessions were based on the ones in the book; Sribhashyam did not make corrections to our practice, except for some fundamental aspects: that the standing posture was correct, that our backs were well straight in sitting positions and that our Sitali was practiced correctly. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I passed the 'test' of Sitali.

Sribhashyam asked us explicitly to: receive instruction, do not think about why we were being corrected, do not make comparisons with what we had learned before, do not let our mind be affected by the corrections. See above!

The practices begin and end with a pranayama and present a very important aspect, resting on the floor after each āsana or prānāyāma. Sribhashyam was quite clear that this lying down was not to be Savasana, but an attentive posture with legs together - although kept relaxed - arms alongside the body, what we know as urdhva mukha samasthiti, maintaining and observing the state of mind acquired. Until today I had rested after āsanas series, or in the case of tiring vinyāsas. A quiet moment before the next part of the practice session has always been important but I never used to observe it lying down, after each single exercise.
The initial feeling is of interruption, especially through a standing sequence, but the usefulness of this approach appears soon enough. We will see later that this 'stop' is crucial in the design and scope of practice. This lying on the floor makes it easier to observe mental state changes occurring during the practice, to evaluate the effect of āsana after having practiced it and not just during its performance.

Despite the fact that all practices (obviously?!) used vinyāsa to enter and exit from āsana, and that some āsanas were only performed dynamically; despite the fact that the number of breaths in the āsana were often no more than three, the overall experience was of a very steady, stable, still, practice. I must say that I have been feeling the need to 'be still' for a while now and as often happens, Sribhashyam arrived at the right time.

I also found very interesting, from a practical aspect, that the number of repetitions or breaths in the prone āsanas did not exceed the number of three. In fact, these are intense postures with a strong effect, they 'warm up' more than others and may disrupt the total effect of the practice.
Sribhashyam briefly introduced the Ayurvedic concept of shitha, ushna and shithoshna, which reminded me of langhana and brhamana concepts learned previously (here comes the mind, seeking footholds and comparisons with what you have learned before and do not allow the New to freely enter!!).
A good practice will bring about a perfect balance between shitha (soothing, refreshing) and ushna (stimulants, heating) actions in order not to create imbalances.
In the design of a practice according to the teachings of Sribhashyam, the number of āsanas, and in particular of certain specific āsanas, is dictated by the number of breaths performed in prānāyāma. Claude Maréchal also always reports the total number of breaths at the side of the practice sheet, summing up the number of breaths of each individual exercises, to help judge the overall balance of the practice session.

We worked a lot on dhārana, which we can translate as concentration, and the approach offered by Sribhashyam was based on moving the gaze (with closed eyes) along selected vital points along the body. These points are very similar to those described in the Yoga Yajnavalkya but with some differences, the choice perhaps linked to Krishnamacharya sensitivity in his personal exploration of the practice?

With your eyes closed, the gaze moves during the inhale, from the toes along the body, lingering on vital points along the legs, torso, throat, on the way up to the nose, forehead and top of the head. This is not an anatomical visualisation, nor does it run inside the body, but follows an imaginary line that connects the big toe to the tip of nose, as a projection of the point from the body to the line. It is not imagination but a real physical gaze operated with closed eyes.
During exhalation the eye movement stops, keeping the focus on some points of the torso or the head, Mula, Hrdaya, Nāsāgra, Bhrumadhya depending on the practice.
According to Krishnamacharya the points located between Mula and Śīrśa have greater spiritual value. The lowest points, such as the toes, are related to sensory experience, so we scan them, but we do not dwell there, since the practice compels us 'beyond'.

Compared to the Yoga Yajnavalkya, Krishnamacharya / Sribhasyam's practice involves a larger number of higher vital points. We try to disengage from the physical sensations of the body, which are connected to lower vital points in the body.
So when in paschimottanasana we desperately try to bring the nose on our lap at all costs, curving the back, we do nothing but obey the call of sensorial experience. But as these positions are called uttana, we must stretch, straighten, Mula to Sirsa, the back should be straight and extended.

Or, the gaze can stop at the infinite point of the horizon, Tāraka. And this focus is the prelude to the meditative state. Tāraka is the point at which we invoke the Divine.

Here I had a moment of discomfort, at the vigorous assertion that Dhyāna can only be possible when we let our mind fill with the Divine. In Dhārana we fill our mind with an object of attention, leaving a small space where Dhyāna can then grow, as the entire space is filled by the Divine.

What if we do not have a Divine? Well, if I got it right, according to Sribhashyam, Dhyana is not really possible at least in a practice linked to the Vedic tradition. Sribhashyam suggested the evocation of the Sun Disk, since the Sun represents for most of us the possibility of Life, for those who do not have a faith to follow.

But as a friend of mine remarked, millions of Buddhists in the last couple of thousand years could disagree... surely a meditative state which is not linked to the evocation of the Divine must be possible!?

Ultimately I found out that it is a word that scares me. Because if I substitute the word Divine with Reality, I feel much more at ease. Silly? To think that a word can define our mental state. And yet that is exactly what Patanjali means I think, when he says that objects shape our mind shape. And words are objects after all.

So in this seminar I had further evidence of how strong an impact can cultural influences have on the mind, sometimes all is needed is a little swap of cards on the table to change the game and let the mind open.

Sribhashyam spoke at length of the Movement / Non-movement concept, the pause in the breath, the pause between words in a speech, the pause before the choice between two foods.
He spoke of our attachment to movement and sensory perceptions, which reassure us of our existence. Of our fear to stop, to get into that suspension where reality with a capital R waits, which is not the reality of the daily grind, the constant search of sensations and emotions.
Only when we abandon feelings and emotions we can enter the Non-movement of the non-breathing and of meditation.

Because in the practice of Yoga, we should not seek physical sensations, but go further. The perception of the body, as interesting and rewarding it can be, is just another form of motion. Even when the body is still, if we focus on sensations, we are in full mental swing.

For this reason, the work on breath so important. Learning to voluntarily extend the breath, to equalize inhalation and exhalation, we also change our unconscious breath and prepare ourselves, so to speak, for the spontaneous suspension to occur. Because Reality with a capital R is not in Jacques Mayol's free-diving apnea, but in the spontaneous suspension of breath.

An effective practice must therefore take us to non/movement, as we find it in meditation or in the spontaneous pauses of breath. We move from the physical to the emotional, from the emotional to the spiritual. We use āsanas to reduce those unneeded movements of the body, so it is not important how many āsanas we perform but the total number of breaths we spend in them, which is in turn dictated by the total number of breaths in prānāyāma.
We use mudras to master emotions. For this reason are sarvangāsana and sirsāsana theoretically unavoidable (though the book offers alternatives).
We use prānāyāma to master physical impulses, beginning to prepare ourselves for the spiritual practice. For this reason prānāyāma is essential and Nadi Shodana sits above all prānāyāmas.  It can be a meditation in itself, especially if we apply the lightest possible breath, almost without touching the nostrils, without feeling the air flow.
And it is for the same reason that a practice beginning with prānāyāma put us in the right direction from the start; Krishnamacharya always started his practices with prānāyāma.

A practice built in this way becomes a ritual, a way to create a spiritual discipline. I have already written about the importance of ritual, of how we find it, subtle but strong, in the teachings of TKV Desikachar.
A ritual is - especially for Indians, whom Krishnamacharya primarily addressed, Sribhashyam said  - an order that can not be ignored nor altered.
Once a practice, a ritual, is assigned, changing it means operating a choice and letting our emotional side come into play, just the opposite of what we want in a practice that must lead to stillness.

It was a very important seminar for me, these notes are just a fraction of the insights I am still ruminating upon, maybe they also describe the most obvious part, certainly the easiest to transcribe; I could write pages and pages but I think you'd get bored, a stage comes where reading notes written by someone else, without having experienced, is pointless. Perhaps what I wrote above is trivial, I do not know.

Let's say that I found, in the words and practices offered by Sri TK Sribhashyam, what I think is the original Krishnamacharya, I believe what Sri TK Sribhashyam says is true, this was the way his father practiced, not necessarily what he taught others. Thinking also about Yoga Makaranda, what I heard and experienced resonates authentic and personal.

The almost absent references to Patanjali initially surprised me, considering the importance of the Yoga Sutras in the teachings of Krishnamacharya's other students. Perhaps this text did not initially hold for Krishnamacharya the relevance it acquired later, when student less tied to Veda increased in number.

It was a very important experience, which put me in front of some issues that I need to confront on this path, an experience which gave me some useful tools for teaching, but above all for my personal research.

I'm glad to have been invited.

The school's website:


Thank you again to Chiara for sharing a taste of her experience this worksop with us.


My previous post on T.K. Sribashyam, Breath of Gods (video) 
and the Emergance of Yoga (book).

The influence of Sri TK Sribhashayam on my own practice

I practice a reasonably standard although very slow breathing Ashtanga Suryanamaskara and Standing sequence as a 'warm up' (with some longer stays following Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda and Iyengar's research) and for general fitness ( Krishnamacharya may have practiced less asana in his own practice but he was still practicing a full range of asana along with his students). 

Below: Krishnamacharya practicing along with his students

French article by Krishnamacharya's student Yvonne Millerand translated on this post

Once I get to Paschimattasana  however, Sribhashyam's influence becomes more apparent perhaps. A mudra like approach to the few asana I include in my practice (which still tend to follow a rough Krishnamacharya/Jois Ashtanga framework), employment of focal points, exhalations twice as long as inhalation, kumbhaka's. 

My pranayama before and after asana/mudra follows the outline Sribhashyam presents in THIS article on Pranayama (see also the pranayama practice in the insights into my father's practice in Emergence of Yoga). 

If I have less time to practice I will tend to practice a couple of sauryanamaskara, skip the standing sequence and move directly to asana/mudra rather than sacrifice my pranayama for asana. I may however cut pranayama cycles from six to three,  making it up perhaps in a second evening practice.

From Emergence of Yoga. I tend to include the Ujjayi Anuloma before my asana/mudra practice as well as afterwards and rather than including the Vishnu Gayatri mantra in the final Nadi Sodhana I practice it with Bhya kumbhaka.

If I depart from Sribhashyam's book/guidelines then it's in the longer stays I carry over from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu. 

I see Sribhashyam's teaching as very much consistent with Ramaswami's presentation of Vinyasa Krama. Ramaswami presents long sequences of related asana as a pedagogic tool in his books and workshop, the question has always been how to then move from those long sequences into daily practice, Sri TK Sribhashyam's 'Emergence of Yoga' can give a helpful framework in this, the key asana Ramaswami mentions tend to be included in most of the practices outlined albeit with shorter stays and perhaps less variations.


Below Krishnamacharya and one of his daughters presenting a little 'acroyoga' in a scene from the 1934 film footage

Monday, 5 September 2016

Krishnamacharya's bhardvajrasana - Also, a new blog title and layout

Seeing as I don't post as often as I used to, I thought I might use the blog header photo as a place to occasionally present Krishnamacharya's asana/mudra instruction alongside either a photo of myself or ideally Krishnamacharya in the posture. I'm not sure how often I'll get around to changing the photo/instruction but perhaps I'll see about setting up a page at the top of the blog to include the previous photos/instruction/notes.

Starting off then with my current favourite asana (still) Bharadvajrasana. I've included my earlier post on the posture below but have added a note.

Note: in Yogasanagalu (1941) Krishnamacharya mentions bharadvajrasana in the Middle group of asana and that it formally has 18 vinyasa with #8 and #10 as the states of the asana ( so no jump back in between sides) Bhaya kumbhaka is also indicated.

Though in Krishnamacharya's later teaching he didn't seem to stress the vinyasa count/number he suggested to Ramaswami that it was still implied. one might still begin and end each asana from samastithi. In modern Ashtanga Vinyasa half vinyasa is practiced, in Ramaswami's presentation of his teacher's instruction one asana or mudra variation might flow into another, a transition to Samastithi coming either between subroutines or perhaps following a whole sequence.

I've also changed the blog title to Krishnamacharya's 'original' Ashtanga Home.

'Original' in inverted commas because Ashtanga of course goes back to Patanjali and his eight limbs and even then wasn't 'original', Patanjali seemingly bring together a collection of earlier teaching. 

It's clear from the table in Yogasanagalu (1941) that the Ashtanga presented by Pattabhi Jois was a continuation of much of his Krishnamacharya's, Mysore teaching, though somewhat simplified. The Primary and Intermediate series that Pattabhi Jois presented in his four year course at the Sanskrit college (along with the Proficient group divided by Jois into two more series) follow almost exactly the table in Yogasanagalu. Some of the changes are interesting however. Marichiyasana D placed in primary series by Pattabhi jois is in Krishnamacharya's middle list (and clearly it's an intermediate if not advanced posture) but there is an argument for placing it after marichiyasana A, B and C, in fact Krishnamacharya seems to have worked in a similar way. Less tied to a 'fixed' series Krishnamacharya may well have given students more advanced variations in areas where they were perhaps more flexible while they continued to work in areas they weren't on more primary asana. 

Stressing 'original' in reference to Krishnamacharya's Ashtanga allows us to look closer at what has perhaps been mislaid in Pattabhi Jois' presentation of Ashtanga. The more flexible groups rather than fixed series, the Kumbhaka option indicated for most of the postures Krishnamacharya presents, the longer stays in for example Bharadvajrasana, but in so many other asana Krishnamacharya taught. 

It's possible to practice (and indeed 'teach') the Primary list of Asana Krishnamacharya presented in Yogasanagalu just as Ashtanga is currently taught, whether as in a led class or in a Mysore setting. It may well be that this formed the hour beginner class that Pattabhi Jois would lead in the 1920s on Krishnamacharya's behalf while his teacher was in a side room perhaps teaching one to one in a manner which perhaps reflect's more closely the Vinyasa Krama presented by Ramaswami ' - see the inversion variations Krishnamacharya demonstrates in the 1938 documentary video which follow closely Ramaswami's presentation of inversions.

While we may practice Krishnamacharya's Primary group as a series we should perhaps always be aware of the options Krishnamacharya made available to us in his early writing, the kumbhaka as our breath in an asana steadies, the variations of asana, whether as preparation or progression, the longer stays, the employment of bandhas, exploring postures as mudra and also the focal points that makes dharana perhaps available to some extent for most if not all asana  See also my Proficient Primary page

Note: I was asked this week if I am currently teaching Krishnamacharya's yoga, the answer is no, I don't feel it's necessary or that I am particularly qualified. Krishnamacharya communicates his own teaching better than I or anyone else ever could in his texts, explore them in your own practice. 

If possible (although it is NOT necessary), at some point, go to Boulder or Encinitas, Hawaii, Rethymno...,to Mysore for inspiration.... to Manju Jois ideally or another very experienced, perhaps more local teacher of asana/pranayama (I'd argue ten years of self practice minimum). But also read closely Krishnamacharya's Yoga makaranda I and II and Yogasanagalu (available on my free download page). Be reminded that each Ashtanga teacher is presenting their own understanding of Ashtanga and no doubt clinging to it (just as I am to Krishnamacharya's early texts), go back always to Krishnamacharya himself, his is the earliest source we have of this approach to asana, it was complete, fully formed, integrated with the other limbs a simplification really wasn't necessary. Take workshops with those who focus on Anatomy and Physiology to help practice safely rather than those offering fancy, advanced asana, quick fixes. Take regular Iyengar classes perhaps to explore the possibilities of asana. Take Ramaswami's courses and workshops or buy his book for variations both preparations and progression and an alternative approach to practice consistent with Krishnamacharya's early and later teaching. If you can't go to a teacher Practice alone, with a good book, a good dvd, replace a teachers experience with your own body awareness along with common sense, listen to your body. Practice daily or practice two days on one day off or  later, three days with one day off. Dip into some of the texts in the yoga reading list at the top of the blog but don't worry too much about them, every word written is already coded inside us..., sit, breathe, watch/listen.
Have fun, enjoy practice, make it a routine, a discipline and when it deepens, practice with sincere commitment... for a long time and see what comes.

Below, my earlier post on Bharadvajrasana....

Krishnamacharya's Bharadvajrasana named after the sage (Rishi) Bharadvāja 12- 48 breaths

I'm becoming obsessed with exploring this asana, Krishnamacharya talks of staying from 12 to 48 breaths and introducing both types of kumbhaka (so holding the breath in after inhalation and out after exhalation). At first, the position of the arm reaching around to hold the foot seems to stop the blood, it takes some settling into the posture for the blood to flow. The nature of the posture, the twist and double bind both in front and behind challenges the breath, the kumbhaka, it's fascinating, feels quite profound. I intended to stay for 24 breaths but lost count and it's probably closer to twenty. The video runs for about five minutes so 48 breaths would take around ten for each side, twenty minutes one asana, stunning, it's an asana that thinks it's a mudra.

First time practicing on tatami.... Springy.

from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda Part II (formally Salutations to the teacher, the eternal one)

Note: in Yogasanagalu (1941) Krishnamacharya mentions bharadvajrasana in the Middle group of asana and that it formally has 18 vinyasa with #8 and #10 as the states of the asana ( so no jump back in between sides) Bhaya kumbhaka is also indicated. 

1. Sit on a piece of soft folded cloth, with one leg stretched straight in front, and the other leg folded back at the knee, so that the foot is close and by the side of the buttocks, the sole of the foot upturned, toes stretched and the back of the foot touching the cloth. The knees should be as close as possible. The foot of the leg, stretched in front, should be upright, to the ground and not inclined sideways. The body should be erect and the spinal column stretched-chin lock.

2. Bend the stretched leg (say the right) at the knees and bring the right heel very near the umbilicus. The right knee should touch the ground. Both the knees should be as near to each other as possible.

3. The right hand is taken round the back to catch hold of the toes of the right leg. The palm to touch the back of the foot.

4. The palm of the left hand is placed on the cloth below the right thigh. The hand should be stretched and not bent at the elbow. The left wrist should touch the outside of the thigh.

5. Twist trunk to face front. Turn the head, so that the chin is over the left shoulder.

6. Take deep inhalations and exhalations with holding in of breath and holding out of
breath. Both types of kumbhakam are necessary. The total rounds of deep breaths may be slowly increased as practice advances, from 12 to 48.

7. Repeat with the other leg.

Note: This is contra indicated to those who have had abdominal operation.

Below from this post

Bharadwaja (Sanskritभरद्वाजIAST Bharadvāja, also spelled Bhardwaj) was one of the greatest Hindu sages (Maharshis) descendant of rishi Angirasa, whose accomplishments are detailed in the Puranas. He is one of the Saptarshis (Seven Great Sages Rishi) in the present Manvantara; with others being AtriVashishthaVishvamitraGautamaJamadagniKashyapa.[1]

picture from here

"Sage Bharadwaja is another renowned vedic rishi. He is considered to 
be a great vedic scholar and teacher. An episode found in the Kaataka 
portion of the Taittiriya sakha of Yajur Veda would be of interest. 
Bharadwaja was so much concentrating in studying the vedas that even 
as the life was coming to an end  he was still continuing with his 
studies. Indra, the Lord appeared before him and reminded him that it 
was almost the end of his life. He told Bharadwaj, “Bharadwaja!! If I 
give you another human life what would you like to do?” Back came the 
reply, “I will study the Vedas further”. Upon that, the Lord asked him 
to look at the three huge mountains the Lord created and took out from 
each one of them a handful of earth and placed them before Bharadwaja 
and said, “These mountains represent the three vedas and the three 
handfuls of dirt in front of you represent the vedas you have studied 
so far. You see the vedas are innumerable and infinite (ananta vai 
vedaH) and any number of births would not be sufficient to exhaust all 
the vedas. You try to understand the essence of the vedas, the source 
of all the Universe, the Brahman.” And Bharadwaja became a great 
spiritual teacher of the vedas. Again many families carry the 
Bharadwaja name".
from Srivatsa Ramaswami's Dec 2012 Newsletter

Curious how Krishnamacharya has us looking over the other shoulder, why? Both Iyengar and Jois would have us look over the back shoulder focusing on the twist. My guess it's to do with the breath, 12-48 breaths with both types of kumbhaka, Krishnamacharya doesn't tend to indicate kumbhaka in twisting postures. Having us keep the head over the front allows us to  explore the breath, the  kumbhaka, Krishnamacharya often seems to want to turn all asana into mudras.

from Light on Yoga

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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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