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Monday, 21 November 2016

Simon Borg-Olivier interview, the Bohr effect and why it can be beneficial to breathe less plus the healing benefit of kumbhaka

In two recent fb posts Simon Borg-Olivier quoted a couple of sections of our interview from a couple of years back. I find It's hard to read anything more than a few lines on fb so thought I would re post here.

I will include the full video below but see this post for the full transcription

"Here is part of the (edited) interview my friend Anthony Grim Hall did with me when he asked me the following questions about breathing and pranayama in posture in movement (1.43 in the video posted in full at the end of the post).

In this interview I talk a lot about the benefits of breathing less than normal (hypoventilation) as opposed to what many people do in exercise and modern yoga which is to breathe more than normal (hyperventilation):"

ANTHONY: Does it make sense to you that Kumbhaka (holding the breath) can have a healing effect?

SIMON: Yes definitely, there are many benefits that can be attributed to various types of breath retention or Kumbhaka. There are several different ways you can do a kumbhaka and each of them will have a different effect. You can hold the breath in, you can hold the breath out, and you could hold the breath partly in, you could also get a similar effect to kumbhaka just by not breathing very much at all. You could also get a similar physiological effect from kumbhaka by breathing very very very slowly, for example by continually inhaling for 2 minutes. Breathing very very slowly would look to someone else like you are not breathing at all. It is important to note that deep breathing and all breathing in fact is moderated by how much air comes in and out of you every minute. This is called your minute ventilation. All of these factors have physical and physiological effects.

Depending on how much air you breathe per minute and which muscles you keep active or relaxed the benefits can be positive or negative. perhaps surprisingly for most people the most positive effects are seen when we breathe as little as possible, which is the essence of pranayama.

ANTHONY: When you say breathing very slowly do you mean long slow inhalations or do you mean just breathing regularly but very softly?

SIMON: You can do either. If I had to do a graphical analysis, say you put time in the horizontal axis, and amount of breath on the vertical axis.

For example, If I do what many people consider deep full breathing while sitting quietly at rest I could take a deep full breath in (inhalation) for 3 seconds and deep full breath out (exhalation) for 3 seconds and that is ten full breaths per minute. On a graph this will look like the graph goes up and down a lot, most people will get a a bit dizzy because this will bring less blood to the brain and the will seem to be many ‘fluctuations’ in the breath. But if you read most hatha yoga texts they say you need to still the fluctuations in the breath to get yoga.

So, if I do a kumbhaka after each part of the breath - inhale, hold the breath in, exhale, hold the breath out - the holding the breath will look like a straight line on the graph and there is then no ‘fluctuations’ in the breath. I can hold my breath in for about 6 minutes, which is average in world terms and the world record is about 10 minutes i recall.

But I could simulate that straight line, where there are minimal fluctuations in the breath, by just doing a very little breath in little breath out. On my graph, from a distance, a little breath in and a little breath out would look like a straight line. Physiologically, it has the same effect as kumbhaka.
In Sanskrit, in Yoga terms, that’s really what is Kevala Kumbhaka is. It’s what happens when you’re meditating. You feel like you’re not breathing at all, but actually if you study if you study a meditating person with a machine you find they feel like they are not breathing at sometimes but they are actually making very small breaths in and out that mostly are invisible and inaudible breath.

ANTHONY: Why does kumbhaka and meditation have a similar physiological effect as a very large inhalation and/or a very large exhalation?

SIMON: Holding the breath in or out for a long time and meditation have similar physiological effects because they both will build up carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the main effectors in the physiological effects of kumbhaka. You can also get high levels of carbon dioxide, not just from holding the breath in or holding the breath out, but also by not breathing very much. So when we meditate we don’t breath very much, it’s a very little in breath, a very little out breath. So because the air is not exchanging much, you’ll actually start building up carbon dioxide. Therefore, on a physiological (energetic) level, one of the best ways of getting the positive effects of carbon dioxide build up is by doing meditation. You often hear of people who have cured themselves of cancer, by doing meditation. On a physiological level one can speculate that the increases in health from someone, say who has had cancer, may be because of the increases in carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is necessary to be present for oxygen to be deposited into cells via the Bohr effect.

ANTHONY: Can you explain the Bohr effect in simple terms’ and how it implies that when you exercise for many reasons it is essentially best to breathe as little as possible.

SIMON: The Bohr effect very simply would say that if you have oxygen which is carried on Haemoglobin, the red pigment in blood, and it’s travelling through your blood, it might come to say, your big toe, and would say "I’ve got oxygen, does anyone here in the big toe want oxygen?" And all the cells in the big toe will say, "yes I want oxygen", and before it releases its oxygen to the big toe’s cells, the Haemoglobin will say … “show me your carbon dioxide”. And if the big toe cells have no carbon dioxide then the Haemoglobin (in fact it is oxy-haemoglobin) will not release it’s oxygen. It will just travel off somewhere else. You need the local presence of carbon dioxide for oxyhaemoglobin to be able to release it’s oxygen and make it accessible to cells. This is the Bohr effect.

So, when there are high levels of carbon dioxide there’s a lot more deposition of oxygen into cells, and if there are low levels of carbon dioxide, you might get increased blood flow, but you might not get entry of oxygen into cells. When oxygen enters cells, you get much better healing, and also, you get much more energy. So for example a cell can run off glucose, glucose is a simple sugar, and glucose is used as the fuel to be ‘burnt' (or metabolised) for that particular cell, will get two molecules of ATP, the energy source of the cell, for every one glucose ‘ urnt'. But, if you burn glucose in the presence of oxygen you get 38 molecules of ATP, so it’s 19 times more energy can be generated in the presence of oxygen. Funnily enough cancer cells don’t function with this oxygen method, they don’t work on the aerobic pathway, they only have anaerobic metabolism happening (burning sugar without oxygen). So it’s not to say that the presence of oxygen will kill cancer cells, or the absence of oxygen causes cancer, but rather healthy cells, will not do very well, and cancer cells will do very well, in low levels of oxygen. Whereas with high levels of oxygen, healthy cells do very well, and cancer cells don’t necessarily do very much better than normal. So cancer, sometimes, is said to be helped if you can get more oxygen into your cells, and one of the ways of doing that is by putting it in a high CO2 environment, and one of the ways of generating high carbon dioxide is using either kumbhaka or minimal breathing which is Sanskrit terms is Kevalya kumbhaka, which is the type of breathing that happens when you sit in meditation. On a graphical level that’s a little breath in a little breath out little breath in little breath out, which looks like a straight line. Same as if you inhaled, held the breath in, looks like a straight line. But to simulate a straight line also, you could do a very slow breath in. If I inhale fast, the line goes up dramatically, but if I inhale slower, the line goes up slower still. If I inhale and I take one minute to inhale, the line goes up so slowly, that from a distance it looks like a parallel line and so very slow inhales, of say one minute for an inhalation would simulate kumbhaka on a physiological level.


Some posts here from Simon's excellent blog on breathing less

Full video
The full transcription is on the earlier post here

NOTE:  "I have apologise that on the video at 7:30 - 7:45 I made a mistake in what I said - I actually meant to say "The only way to ensure oxygen gets to the cells is by increasing CO2" and by not by decreasing CO2 as in unintentionally spoke - thank you Mick Lawton for pointing this out.

And here's a more recent interview with love yoga Anatomy, two anatomy geeks chatting

And the corresponding page

See also perhaps, some of my earlier post on Simon's work.

The breath: Simon Borg-Olivier made me fall in love with asana all over again.

Interview with Simon Borg-Olivier: Breath, Kumbhaka, Bandhas in Ashtanga and vinyasa Yoga. Yoga Rainbow Festival 2014

Just enrolled on Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss' Essentials of Teacher Training Yoga Fundamentals Online course

The nine bandhas (yes Nine) in the APPLIED ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY OF YOGA of Simon Borg-oliver and Bianca machliss

Simon and Bianca's website and online courses

and their quite excellent blog

About Simon

Simon own page

This page includes links to online courses including two new ones, one of pranayama and another on 84 Postures for Strength, Flexibility, Fitness and Longevity. there is also talk of a new book and online course on Ashtanga.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Question: Was the Ashtanga Vinyasa count developed merely to test the boys of the Mysore palace?

Above Krishnamacharya's Yoga school for the boys of the Mysore palace, set up in 1933 by Krishnamacharya's patron the Maharaja of Mysore (photo from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda pub. Mysore 1934).

Schools tend to have a syllabus, exams (diploma's)...., don't they?

"In 1935 having cleared the Primary, Elementary and Advanced diploma course in yoga he (BKS Iyengar)  stood first in 98% marks".  (Leap of Faith 12:33).  See my previous post

How do you test yoga for a diploma?

Pattabhi Jois' daughter Saraswati mentions that the examination Krishnamacharya gave her in 1975 was based on the names of the asana as well as the vinyasa's to and from them. Krishnamacharya supposedly asked her to do Navasana say, and then asked her the number of vinyasas and which vinyasa she was in at the time etc. Here's the video in which Sarawaswati mentions this, there are two mentions in the first fifteen minutes. (see THIS post).

Was this perhaps Krishnamacharya's approach to testing the boys of the Mysore Palace including BKS Iyengar in 1935.  For the Primary, Intermediate and Advanced  diploma might students not be asked to present asana from the Primary, Intermediate and Advanced groups and tested on the corresponding vinyasa count.

If this was  indeed the case then Krishnamacharya would have needed a syllabus, especially as )according to Iyengar) it appears Krishnamacharya spent very little time actually teaching the boys of the palace himself.

Krishnamacharya was it seems often in a side room teaching other patients and dignitaries on a one to one basis. Krishnamachary's assistants, like the young Pattabhi Jois, would have led the boys through their paces in preparation for their exams and demonstrations. These assistants would surely have required some kind of syllabus on which to base the hour long classes and prepare the boys for their exams.

QUESTION: Did Krishnamacharya develop the 'Table of asana' included in the 1941 edition of his book Yogasanagalu, as a syllabus on which to prepare and test the boys of the palace? 

The table is grouped into primary, middle and proficient asana corresponding to the  levels of the diploma(s) Iyengar referred to.

The table included the vinyasa count for each asana as well as indicating the state of each asana,, also the appropriate kumbhaka as well as a related benefit of the asana.

See the appendix below for the full table of asana as well as Pattabhi Jois' four year diploma syllabus.

Krishnamacharya also makes a point in his earlier book, Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934), published the year following the opening of the school, of indicating the vinyasa count and stressing the state of the asana.

Upon leaving Mysore and the school environment, Krishnamacharya seemed to give less, if any, stress to the vinyasa count although he suggested to Ramaswami that the Vinyasa Krama was implied.

If we formally begin and end an asana at samastithi and every key movement is linked to a stage of the breath then the vinyasa count is indeed implied as is the state of the asana. It's only perhaps in a pedagogic/examined environment that the vinyasa count and state of asana needs to be explicitly stated.

Now teaching on a one to one basis, Krishnamacharya had no more use perhaps for the regimented count on which he was earlier to base group classes.

Krishnamacharya's assistant Pattabhi Jois seems to have been in a similar situation as his teacher Krishnamacharya had been earlier, upon being asked to present a four year course at the Sanskrit college for the older boys. He needed a syllabus and a manner of testing, this too seems to have been based on the vinyasa count.

When Pattabhi Jois started to teach western students he gave a four year syllabus to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams that seems likely to have been the syllabus on which his earlier four year Sanskrit college course was based. The syllabus included the vinyasa count but not the count for the actual state of the asana.

The Vinyasa count seems to have been in the background of Pattabhi Jois' teaching of the western students (he would supposedly chant the count to himself while assisting students into the postures), the count was there on the syllabus but perhaps not stressed or made explicit until he was required to introduce led classes on his tours to the US. Lino Miele and John Scott focussed on the count in the early 1990s and in their respective books

Pattabhi  Jois' own book Yoga Mala, clearly based on Krishnamacharya own Yoga Makaranda, focusses on the vinyasa count  but was originally written in 1959 and not translated until the 1990s

By focussing on the count and making it explicit, the count became perhaps (seen at least as) the central feature of the practice ( the breath is implied by the count ) and following it correctly able to be used as criteria for the growth in authorisation to teach.

Although Krishnamacharya no longer stressed the count in his own teaching, he did employ as criteria when asked to test Pattabhi Jois' daughter Saraswati in 1975.

This is not to say that time focussed on the count isn't beneficial, it' can be beneficial because focus on the count is of course focus on the breath, the count is a tool that can assist us in this, just as the breath too is a tool.


For a time, I wondered if the seemingly incomplete Table of Asana presented in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu might suggest a connection to a past text (Yoga Korunta?) or teaching by Krishnamacharya's teacher Ramamohan Brahmacharya. And yet, if this was the case, wouldn't Krishnamacharya have continued to stress the vinyasa count throughout his life. His lack of focus on the vinyasa count after leaving the particular pedagogic situation he found himself in Mysore may indicate that the Vinyasa count was purely introduced to teach large groups of restless boys and further, to test them.

In his later teaching, freed from focussing on a counted framework (series/sequence, however fixed) of asana that all the students could follow, Krishnamacharya could focus on selecting appropriate asana, subroutines and bespoke sequences as well as on the the breath itself (including perhaps kumbhaka). This is a characteristic of his teaching of Ramaswami, AG Mohan and indeed Krishnamacharya's  own son's TKV Desikachar and Sri Sribhashyam. It may well have characterised the private teaching Krishnamacharya conducted in a side room of the palace while Patabbhi Jois led the boys of the place through their places...., it may well have characterised Krishnamacharya's own studies with his teacher Ramamohan Brahmacharya.

It may well be that we have over emphasised the count and sequence(s) in modern Ashtanga, Pattabhi Jois defaulting to the tried and tested option when faced with growing numbers of students, as does Sharath in the large room in Mysore and when faced with the large numbers on his 'world tours'. In the Mysore rooms themselves doesn't the count and even the series perhaps naturally move somewhat in to the background, the focus returning to where it belongs, the student rather than a dogmatic methodology.

Pattabhi Jois' son Manju, generally teaching in smaller, more intimate, environments speaks of returning to traditional yoga. While Manju does still include led classes, his workshops and training tend to be more characterised perhaps by adapting the practice to the needs of the student, Manju stresses an integrated practice just as his father did when teaching him and as Krishnamacharya tended to do in his later teaching as well as perhaps the side rooms of the palace, the asana followed by pranayama and chanting the emphasis being on health, well-being and indeed joy rather than attainment and achievement.


NOTE: I still consider my practice to be the Ashtanga I first began practicing ten years ago. I've been through a love affair with the vinyasa count, with full vinyasa, advanced series, with approaching my practice fast as well as more slowly, with short stays as well as long. 

The Ashtanga sequence is made up of a number of Subroutines and as such I see no significant difference between it and the Vinyasa Krama I also studied under Ramaswami, other than perhaps with how fixed the approach. 

These days I prefer to practice less asana more slowly, just as Patabbhi Jois suggested as an option in Yoga Mala.

See also

Consistency in Krishnamacharya's teaching

Appendix 1. 

Krishnamacharya's asana table ( yogasanagalu 1941)

See this post for more details

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

Yogasanagalu Asana table

NOTE: With the translation of Krishnamacharya's second book Yogasanagalu ( Mysore 1941 - 3rd edition with additional chapter 1972) now complete, I'm just putting the finishing touches on a free to download edition of the full text that will be available for personal study on the Free Download page at the top of the blog.


Appendix 2

The 'Original' Ashtanga yoga Syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in 1974 Mysore

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

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

Available as pfd download from googledocs

See my earlier blog post on Nancy's article


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Movie: BKS Iyengar, Leap of Faith (2008) - Did Krishnamacharya teach a three year diploma course based on the Yogasanagalu table of asana?

BKS Iyengar 1938 - See Appendix 3. for the 1938 film footage

Now this is curious. I was just watching the documentary Leap of Faith, on BKS Iyengar (see below) and twelve minutes in in I came across this....

"In 1935 having cleared the Primary, Elementary and Advanced diploma course in yoga he (BKS Iyengar)  stood first in 98% marks (12:33)".

This suggests perhaps that at Krishnamacharya's Mysore yoga school in the 1930s, when Pattabhi Jois was a student, there seem to have been exams, a Primary, Elementary and Advanced course/diploma.

Mark Singleton's refers to this in Guru's of modern yoga (my bold).

"Iyengar has claimed that personal instruction in yogāsana with Krishnamacharya
was limited to three intense days, but Iyengar also practiced regularly
in the yogaśalā with the other students (Iyengar undated: 1–2). By October
1935 Iyengar reported that he was judged to have given the best performance
of all of Krishnamacharya’s students in all three grades of “elementary, intermediate,
and advanced courses” of yogāsana (Iyengar undated: 3). "
Guru's of Modern Yoga p155 LINK

Does this correspond to the Primary, Middle and Proficient asana groups in Krishnamacharya book Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941)? See Appendix 1. below.

Krishnamacharya's 1941 Asana table -full translation in Appendix 1. below

I've often wondered where the table of asana originally came from. Did Krishnamacharya come up with the table himself  for the 1941 text, did it form the framework for the asana practice at the school, going back to 1933 when Krishnamacharya was asked to teach at the Jagamohan palace, did it form a syllabus for the school and the basis for the exams?

"In 1931, Krishnamacharya was invited to teach at the Sanskrit College in Mysore. The Maharaja, who felt that yoga had helped cure his many ailments, asked Krishnamacharya to open a yoga school under his patronage[6][32] and was subsequently given the wing of a nearby palace, the Jaganmohan Palace, to start the Yogashala, an independent yoga institution,[29] which opened on August 11, 1933". Singleton.

Or did the table perhaps go back even further, in many ways the table seems incomplete, did it derive perhaps from notes taken from an old text 'partly eaten by ants' ?

In the late 30s (1937?) Pattabhi Jois was himself asked by the Maharaja to teach at the Sanskrit college, supposedly a four year Diploma.  Pattabhi Jois states that he took the four year syllabus to Krishnamacharya to ask for his approval, which he received. Was the four year diploma in yoga that Pattabhi jois was to teach closely based on a three year diploma course in asana that Krishnamacharya was teaching, the two tables of asana do seem closely related.

And was the four year diploma course Pattabji Jois presented to Krishnamacharya for his approval in essence the same as the four year diploma syllabus Pattabhi Jois gave to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams in 1973.

Pattabhi Jois' four year Ashtanga syllabus

given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams in 1937
full syllabus in Appendix 2 below.

Pattabhi jois has suggested that Krishnamacharya had a more flexible approach to asana, introducing a 'mountain of asana', asana outside of the syllabus perhaps that Krishnamacharya himself discovered in his ongoing research or developed himself as variations to other asana or to help students towards achieving a challenging asana.

We know that Krishnamacharya also taught privately, occasionally in a side room of the yogashala while Pattabhi  Jois, his assistant, led the regular students through their class (the syllabus?).

There seems to have been two approaches to asana that Krishnamacharya was presenting in Mysore.

The first, a yoga syllabus approach to asana, designed specifically to prepare the boys of the palace to take exams in asana as well as to present public demonstrations. The class an hour long, a guiding framework/syllabus, the asana perhaps taken at a faster pace (the class was said to be an hour long) that Pattabhi Jois carried forward as the 'Ashtanga' vinyasa we know today.

Secondly, a slower, arguably more flexible 'traditional' bespoke approach dependent on the requirements of the students, long slow breathing, kumbhaka (breath control), some longer stays, the asana integrated with pranayama and a meditative activity, (chanting, japa, more formal seated concentration practice) that we find outlined in Krishnamacharya first book Yoga Makaranda (1934) and that he continued teaching (and developing ) himself after leaving Mysore in the 1950s and that his student. Srivatsa Ramaswami from the 1950s until Krishnamacharya' passing in 1989 continues to pass along as Vinyasa Krama .

Appendix 1. 

Krishnamacharya's asana table ( yogasanagalu 1941)

See this post for more details

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

Yogasanagalu Asana table

NOTE: With the translation of Krishnamacharya's second book Yogasanagalu ( Mysore 1941 - 3rd edition with additional chapter 1972) now complete, I'm just putting the finishing touches on a free to download edition of the full text that will be available for personal study on the Free Download page at the top of the blog.



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

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

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


Appendix 2

The 'Original' Ashtanga yoga Syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in 1974 Mysore

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

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

Available as pfd download from googledocs

See my earlier blog post on Nancy's article

also here

and here


Appendix 3.

Full 1938 Documentary footage
T. Krishnamacharya, his family and BKS Iyengar

Friday, 11 November 2016

"Nowadays......." T. Krishnamacharya

"So much of the traditional knowledge we had, even what I have seen in my early days, is now gone, lost."

T. Krishnamacharya

All quotes including the context of the quotes given below the photographs are from AG Mohan's excellent biography of Krishnamacharya (LINK TO AMAZON)

Krishnamacharya sometimes expressed sadness over the decline of ancient practices and authentic dedication to the deeper practices of yoga. "So much of the traditional knowledge we had, even what I have seen in my early days, is now gone, lost."


"Nowadays, the practice of yoga stops with just asanas."

In one class, when he was discussing the Yoga Sutras, Krishna­macharya noted that punaranveshana (literally, "re-search," or "to search once more") was needed now. He felt that the ancient practices that had declined over time needed to be explored once more and their value brought out.

"Subjects are of two categories,'' he said. "One category can be learned merely through words, by listening and understanding-these are theoretical subjects, like the rules and analysis of grammar. The other category needs to be practiced, like music, cooking, martial arts, and yoga as well. Nowadays, the practice of yoga stops with just asanas. Very few even attempt dharana and dhyana [deeper meditation] with seriousness. There is a need to search once more and reestablish the practice and value of yoga in modern times." p115-116


"Nowadays, all of you are dressed like foreigners, speaking this and that in English, touching everybody and everything unnecessar­ily." 

I remember that when I started studying the Bhagavad Cita with Krishnamacharya in 1976, I attended the  first class wearing trousers because I had come directly from work. As was the norm, Krishnamacharya was wearing the traditional dress, the dhoti, in a particular traditional way. (A dhoti is a rectangular piece of cloth that is wrapped around the lower body and knotted at the waist.) He chided me, say­ing, "If one is to study the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita, one should bathe, wear the mark on the forehead, and begin with  devo­tion. Nowadays, all of you are dressed like foreigners, speaking this and that in English, touching everybody and everything unnecessar­ily." He paused, and sighed. "Nowadays, I have stopped telling stu­dents all this. Okay. Let us begin."p51


"Nowadays you use something - an appliance - to blow air to clean­ phoos phoos. Like that, pranayama pushes out the impurities in the body and mind."

On New Year's Day 1976 I was attending a class on pranayama with Krishnamacharya. He was explaining this commentary on the Yoga Sutras by the famous sage Vyasa: "There is no greater austerity than pranayama to remove impurities." Around that time, vacuum cleaners were being introduced in India. Krishnamacharya had seen a vacuum cleaner but was unfamiliar with its English name. He said, "Nowadays you use something-an appliance-to blow air to clean­ phoos phoos. Like that, pranayama pushes out the impurities in the body and mind." Several Buddhist meditation techniques are linked with breathing, and there is hardly a Vedic ritual that does not include pranayama. Ancient texts link pranayama not only to the mind but also to chakras, kundalini, kríyas, mantras, bandhas, dharana, therapy, doshas, asana, pratyahara, rituals, nadanusandhana, and mudras. p58


Yoga should be useful either far bhoga [material enjoyment] or far apavarga [freedom]. Nadanusandhana Pranayama, Kriyas, Yoga Therapy [listening to the "heart-sound" as described in the fourth chapter] is not useful for either nowadays. 

The later classical yoga texts, namely the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, describe some tantric sex practices (sometimes called "left-handed tantric practices").

One day in the course of teaching the third chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Krishnamacharya stopped. "It is sufcient to learn only viparitakarani [mudraJ from me," he said. "The rest [of the third chapter] is improper. My guru has advised me thus: 'Since you have an in-depth knowledge of Sanskrit, you can read and understand this, but do not teach it to your students."'
Krishnamacharya continued, "The rest of the third chapter will be useful neither to you nor to others. I will teach you viparitakarani, which is a subject related to headstand and shoulderstand. It will take about an hour. Whatever is said in the fourth chapter of this book is in the kaivalyapada [the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras], which you have already learned. Yoga should be useful either far bhoga [material enjoyment] or far apavarga [freedom]. Nadanusandhana Pranayama, Kriyas, Yoga Therapy [listening to the "heart-sound" as described in the fourth chapter] is not useful for either nowadays. In the past it was done in solitude, often in a cave. it is not necessary now. Take my advice." p66−67


"Nowadays, people often explain kriya yoga itself incorrectly. "

"Today, I am going to speak about kriya yoga [the cardinal prac­tice explained in the Yoga Sutras 2.1]. Para-vairagya [complete non­ attachment] is possible only for one person in many millions. For all others, kriya yoga is the means. Nowadays, people often explain kriya yoga itself incorrectly. Some teachers now say that everything is in the mind, and you don't need to practice at all." He was refer­ ring to some swamis who lectured about philosophy but were short on practice. p80


"Nowadays people speak of "love, love." What is it?"

"Nowadays people speak of "!ove, !ove." What is it? True love is devotion to the Divine. Such devotion is when we have such longing and care for the Divine as we have for our own body".

Krishnamacharya (in a lecture) p104


"What is this thing you say nowadays -in-shoo-rance?"

"What is this thing you say nowadays -in-shoo-rance?" Krishna­macharya asked me one day. "How can anybody give you real in­ shoorance? Only the Divine is really everyone's inshoorance." p125


"What is this 'boring' you all say? Nowadays even children say everything is 'boring' ! Nothing is 'boring.' 

He would say, "What is this 'boring' you all say? Nowadays even children say everything is 'boring' ! Nothing is 'boring.' None of you have control over your senses and so your mind becomes restless. Now some activity seems pleasing to the senses, and a little while later, another activity seems more pleasing. Because your mind is not able to stay steady and the senses pull the mind to different things, you want to keep on changing what you are doing. If you have sense control, there is never any question of 'boring."'

"Most important among the senses are food and sex. The whims of the tongue and the sexual organ must  be controlled if you are to steady the mind." This advice from the Bhagavata was a preferred quote of Krishnamacharya's. p131


"Nowadays, people are not interested in these sub­jects. You are showing interest and learning these. To me this is very useful to keep my mind continuously on the Divine. That is why I am than ng you."

My classes with Krishnamacharya continued undisturbed after a brief interruption due to his accident. In one of these classes, he was teaching me some important works by the famed Vaishnavite saint Vedanta Desika. He had explained devotion and surrender to the Divine. At the end of the class, as I was getting ready to leave, Krish­namacharya said, 'Thanks ! "

Surprised, I asked, "Why are you thanking me? I am your student; you are my guru. I should thank you for your teachings."

He replied, "Nowadays, people are not interested in these sub­jects. You are showing interest and learning these. To me this is very useful to keep my mind continuously on the Divine. That is why I am thankng you."p138


"Nowadays, people lead undisciplined lives and write down their activities in a diary. "

Krishnamacharya's personal diaries were not a chronicle of events in his life. He never wrote down life events, as others might in a diary. He once told me, "Nowadays, people lead undisciplined lives and write down their activities in a diary. If one is disciplined, there will be nothing to note down." p147


All quotes above from AG Mohan's excellent biography of Krishnamacharya (LINK TO AMAZON)


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Videos: Krishnamacharya's shoulderstand and headstand Vinyasas, Mysore 1938, Chennai 1972 and Madrid 2016

My good friend Óscar Montero has put together some excellent videos of Srivatsa Ramaswami's recent Intensive in Madrid. Ramaswami', here teaching the very same Vinyasa's that his teacher of thirty plus years, Krishnamacharya, practiced and taught in Mysore in the 1930 and 40ss as well as in Chennai from the 1950s and up until the 1980s.

See Óscar blog for his presentation of these videos here

In the 1920s and 30s, while Krishnamacharya's student and assistant, Pattabhi Jois, would lead the boys of the Mysore Palace through the asana sequences familiar to many today as Ashtanga Vinyasa, Krishnamacharya himself would perhaps be in a side room teaching less familiar variations of these asana to students and patients on a one to one basis.

In the 1938 Mysore film footage, (full video in the Appendix to this post) while Krishnamacharya's student, BKS Iyengar, demonstrated jumping from one advanced asana to the next in the style of Ashtanga, Krishnamacharya himself demonstrated headstand and shoulderstand variations.

Krishnamacharya contiued to teach these asana variations throughout his life, including photos of himself, aged 84, demonstrating the vinyasas for the the 3rd edition (1972) of his text Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941 ), displaying a clear consistency in his teaching throughout his life.

Note: The first full English translation of Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) is now available from the free downloads page

Krishnamacharya's student of over thirty years, Srivatsa Ramaswami, continues to faithfully share his teachers asana variations in his Vinyasa Krama workshops and intensives, here, in Madrid this year (2016), sharing many of the shoulderstand variations we see in the 1938 Mysore film footage

Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand ) variations.

See also this post

Sisasana (headstand) variations

see also this earlier post

Overview of Ramaswami intensive in Madrid 2016
including early Krishnamacharya video footage and later photos

Overview of Ramaswami intensive in Madrid 2016
including early Krishnamacharya video footage and later photos

More videos from Srivatsa Ramaswami's 100 hour intensive in Madrid on Oscar's youtube channel

Óscar Montero 
I have a great affection for Óscar, his studio, students and family in Leon, Spain.

Several years ago Óscar got in touch with me, asking to come and practice some Vinyasa Krama with me. In those sessions we would practice together for four hours at a time without a break, exploring and discussing the sequences and subroutines Ramaswami presented in his Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga and Teacher training that I had attended in LA in 2010. 

Later Óscar invited me to Leon, Spain to present my first Krishnamacharya and Vinyasa Krama workshop, he his, students and beautiful family were the the most wonderful generous and kind hosts.

Óscar has since attended several of Ramaswami's workshops including Ramaswami's mammoth Baghavad Gita workshop in Wells. Óscar was key in encouraging Ramaswami to come to Madrid for the first time this year. The course was organized by DharaYoga

Unfortunately I was unable to attend, yet with all the messages of delight from so many friends and attendees along  with the videos Oscar produced, daily I felt almost as if I was.

Thank you Óscar for all the herd work putting these wonderful videos together that I think make the argument for consistency in Krishnamacharya's teaching beautifully.

Óscar's website


some earlier related posts

Sirsasana Video Library

Krishnamacharya's trickly Eka pada Sirsasana variations from Yoga makaranda Part II

Krishnamacharya's Mysore headstand variations

David Garrigues new book and Video course on headstands

Lotus to headstand


Krishnamacharya's alternatives to headstands



the full 1938 Krishnamacharya, his family and BKS Iyengar film footage.

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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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