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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

On 10 years of practice - Cultivate! Plus Compassion, to others (Gandhi'Salt March) and ourselves - Yoga and Osteoporosis

Coming up to ten years of practice....

To put that in perspective, Richard Freeman has been practising fifty years, Manju Jois, sixty..

 I've been asking myself what I think..., actually believe, this practice is all about....

Cultivate Compassion
for all, all.

Cultivate Contentment
that what I have is sufficient

Cultivate Discipline
tapas (asana)
practicing daily a little more than I wish to

Cultivate Serenity
emotional stability (pranayama)

Cultivate Non-attachment
withdrawal of the senses

Cultivate Fixation
attend, concentration

Cultivate Absorption
abide with

Cultivate Liberation

applied absorption

Posted mainly to see how my thinking may change over the next ten years... and the next

Appendix 1

On Compassion - towards other

Photo: Gandhi - Salt march 1930

"Nonviolence means an ocean of compassion. It means shedding from us every trace of ill will for others. It does not mean abjectness or timidity, or fleeing in fear. It means, on the contrary, firmness of mind and courage, a resolute spirit".
Mahatma Gandhi

"The scene at Dharasana during the raid was astonishing and baffling to the Western mind accustomed to see violence met by violence, to expect a blow to be returned and a fight result. During the morning I saw and heard hundreds of blows inflicted by the police, but saw not a single blow returned by the volunteers. So far as I could observe the volunteers implicitly obeyed Gandhi’s creed of non-violence. In no case did I see a volunteer even raise an arm to deflect the blows from lathis. There were no outcries from the beaten Swarajists, only groans after they had submitted to their beating."- Eyewitness report of the salt march

Full report below.

Gandhi’s Salt March Campaign: Contemporary Dispatches (1/2)
Webb MILLER (Special UP Correspondent for India), The New York World-Telegram, Dharasana Camp, Surat District, Bombay Presidency, May 22, 1930.

"Amazing scenes were witnessed yesterday when more than 2,500 Gandhi ‘volunteers’ advanced against the salt pans here in defiance of police regulations. The official government version of the raid, issued today, stated that ‘from Congress sources it is estimated 170 sustained injuries, but only three or four were seriously hurt.’

About noon yesterday I visited the temporary hospital in the Congress camp and counted more than 200 injured lying in rows on the ground. I verified by personal observation that they were suffering injuries. Today even the British owned newspapers give the total number at 320 …

The scene at Dharasana during the raid was astonishing and baffling to the Western mind accustomed to see violence met by violence, to expect a blow to be returned and a fight result. During the morning I saw and heard hundreds of blows inflicted by the police, but saw not a single blow returned by the volunteers. So far as I could observe the volunteers implicitly obeyed Gandhi’s creed of non-violence. In no case did I see a volunteer even raise an arm to deflect the blows from lathis. There were no outcries from the beaten Swarajists, only groans after they had submitted to their beating.
Obviously it was the purpose of the volunteers to force the police to beat them. The police were placed in a difficult position by the refusal to disperse and the action of volunteers in continually pressing closer to the salt pans.

Many times I saw the police vainly threaten the advancing volunteers with upraised lathis. Upon their determined refusal to recede the lathis would fall upon the unresisting body, the volunteer would fall back bleeding or bruised and be carried away on a stretcher. Waiting volunteers, on the outskirts of the pans, often rushed and congratulated the beaten volunteer as he was carried off the field. It was apparent that most of the injured gloried in their injuries. One leader was he
ard to say, ‘These men have done a great work for India today. They are martyrs to the cause.’
Much of the time the stolid native Surat police seemed reluctant to strike. It was noticeable that when the officers were occupied on other parts of the line the police slackened, only to resume threatening and beating when the officers appeared again. I saw many instances of the volunteers pleading with the police to join them.

At other times the police became angered, whereupon the beating would be done earnestly. During several of these incidents I saw the native police deliberately kick lying or sitting volunteers who refused to disperse. And I saw several instances where the police viciously jabbed sitting volunteers in the abdomen with the butt end of their lathi….

Once I saw a native policeman in anger strike a half-submerged volunteer who had already been struck down into a ditch and was clinging to the edge of the bank. This incident caused great excitement among the volunteers who witnessed it.

My reaction to the scenes was of revulsion akin to the emotion one feels when seeing a dumb animal beaten: partly anger, partly humiliation. It was to the description of these reactions that the Bombay censorship authorities objected among other things.

In fairness to the authorities it must be emphasized that the Congress volunteers were breaking laws or attempting to break them, and that they repeatedly refused to disperse and attempted to pull down the entanglements with ropes, and that the volunteers seemed to glory in their injuries.

In eighteen years of reporting in twenty-two countries, during which I have witnessed innumerable civil disturbances, riots, street fights and rebellions, I have never witnessed such harrowing scenes as at Dharasana. The Western mind can grasp violence returned by violence, can understand a fight, but is, I found, perplexed and baffled by the sight of men advancing coldly and deliberately and submitting to beating without attempting defense. Sometimes the scenes were so painful that I had to turn away momentarily.

One surprising feature was the discipline of the volunteers. It seemed they were thoroughly imbued with Gandhi’s nonviolence creed, and the leaders constantly stood in front of the ranks imploring them to remember that Gandhi’s soul was with them."

Appendix 2 

On compassion for ourselves

With so many in our area in their 70s, 80, even 90s (strong Shiga men and women, still farming at 93) I've been playing with the idea of sharing a little gentle Vinyasa Krama. But where to start and not do more harm than good. 'Relax into a Yoga for Seniors' by Carson and Krucoff has been interesting but has made me realise that it's from our fifties we need perhaps to consider modifying our practice, not at 70 or 80. With the dramatic increase in Osteoporosis post-menopause those deep twists, folds and bends loved (or tolerated) so much in Ashtanga may well be a time bomb and given that we generally don't know we have Osteoporosis until it's diagnosed following a fracture, the headstand and all those variations in Vinyasa Krama may also be risky, let alone handstands. This article from YJ outlines some of the issues but if you're into your fifties, as I am, and considering Marichiyasana D this morning (right there in 'Primary' series), rather than jumping on the mat all Gung-ho, it might be worth taking a look at the statistics for Osteoporosis, the 'silent disease'.

"USA: Osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older. (241). USA: The 44 million people with either osteoporosis or low bone mass represent 55 percent of the people aged 50 and older in the United States (241)". 
International Osteoporosis Foundation

Amazon Link

below - on Yoga and Osteoporosis
from Relax into yoga for seniors


"Halfway through an eight-day teacher training, I began to feel it: a dull throbbing in my right hip. For hours, I’d been sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of 40 students, discussing how to make yoga safe and effective for older adults. In such a supportive environment, you’d think I’d have switched to a different position—or maybe even sat in a chair. Yet I stubbornly continued to return to Easy Pose, which I began to think of as Painful Pose, until getting up became so agonizing that I had to walk in circles to straighten out my hip. Welcome to my late 50s.

Aging comes subtly. The risks and changes sometimes have a harbinger, like the pain in my hip, and sometimes they don’t. Signs such as graying hair, the softening underbelly of a chin, and joint stiffness are easy to see and feel. Yet other changes are completely hidden. Just after my 50th birthday, my physician suggested a bone-density scan since I had many risk factors for osteoporosis—including being a thin, postmenopausal woman with a family history of the disease. Osteoporosis is a disorder that thins and weakens bones, making them more porous. The resulting danger is a possible break, which is when many people discover they have this “silent” disease.

In my case, the bone-density scan revealed that I have osteopenia, or low bone density, a precursor to osteoporosis that puts me at an increased risk of fracture. And I’m far from alone. It’s expected that by 2020, half of all American men and women over age 50 will have, or will be at risk of developing, osteoporosis of the hip; even more will be at risk of developing it elsewhere.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation cautions people with osteoporosis in the spine to avoid certain kinds of movement that could lead to vertebral compression fractures, a hallmark of the disorder that can result in shrinking and a stooped posture—the so-called dowager’s hump. But only about a third of vertebral fractures are diagnosed, often because the pain may be mild or mistakenly thought to come from something else. Risky movements include bending forward from the waist, twisting the spine to a point of strain, and doing toe touches and sit-ups.

This information left me reeling. Could the yoga practice I love actually be damaging my skeleton? Should I stop doing forward bends and deep twists? Did I need to give up yoga entirely? It turns out that, like many other signs of aging—both plainly felt and out of sight—osteopenia requires me to have patience, honesty, and, perhaps most important, humility as I adapt my yoga practice to avoid injury and maintain the bone mass I still have.

Boning Up
Although many people think of the skeleton as solid and lifeless, it’s very much alive, constantly breaking down and renewing itself in a two-step process called bone remodeling. The rate at which bone remodeling happens is affected by how much calcium is stored in the bones and introduced in the diet, as well as by three catalysts (vitamin D, hormones, and exercise) that determine how effectively the body uses calcium to build new bone and prevent bone loss through resorption. Osteoporosis results from an imbalance in remodeling—where too much old bone is broken down and removed, or too little new bone is formed, or both.

About 90 percent of an adult’s bone mineral content (calcium) is deposited by the end of adolescence, with peak bone mass achieved by age 20, says Kathy M. Shipp, an adjunct associate professor of physical therapy at Duke University School of Medicine who was a contributing author of the surgeon general’s 2004 report on bone health. Osteoporosis prevention begins in childhood with good health habits (such as proper nutrition and exercise), she notes. After about age 40, bone’s withdrawal period starts, and less bone is replaced during remodeling. For women, a drop in estrogen at the time of menopause leads to a more rapid and significant loss of bone mass. For men, a drop in testosterone—often beginning around age 70—can cause it. So will certain medications (notably steroids), medical conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis and eating disorders), smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption".

Friday, 27 January 2017

Review: Roots of Yoga James Mallinson and Mark Singleton

What a wonderful job James Mallinson and  Mark Singleton have done with their collection of PrimaryYoga sources for Penguin, Roots of Yoga.

It's highly readable and dip in'able. 

The kindle version is available now and it's ideal for this kind of a text. Each chapter has an introduction introducing elements of the topic within a chapter with hyperlinks that allow you to jump straight to selections as well as to the notes. Kindle allows you to jump back to where you were after reading the note or selected text. 

The publishers have also included page numbers on the kindle edition for reference.

I spent the better part of my morning reading through the introductions to each of the chapters dipping into selections along the way.  

Here's an example from the introduction to first chapter 'Yoga'

and  following the hyperlink 1.1.5 to the selection from Patanjali

Tap on the screen and it will bring up the page number as well as kindle location. Tap on the arrow that appears on the left and it will take you back to where you were in the introduction.

It's addictive.

It used to be such a pain going back and forth to notes and selections, kindle ( or in my case the kindle app for ipad) makes it easy.

I feared the text and selections would focus mostly on tantra/hatha but given the title it delves sufficiently into the roots of those practices by looking at the pre tantra/hatha texts from the 6th century, Patanjali,  his commentators and back even further to the Mahabharata, Upanishads, and even to early references in the vedas.

Best of all it's in Penguin so no doubt I'll pick up the paperback when it's released in April.

I'm sure to be quoting selections here all year ( as well as perhaps adding to this poast) but for now here's the contents page. 

If you go to you can get a look at the introduction or download the sample which includes a nice timeline of texts.


'Roots of Yoga' on you Mac or PC

You can also download Kindle for your PC or Mac and open the book there, this allows you to bring up your notes (and or highlights) side by side with the text

below I've followed the hyperlink above to the criticisms of hatha yoga in the Amanaskar.

The Amanaska, I see from the timeline was a 12th century text. The list of primary sources at the back of the book show me that this was translated by Jason Birch in 2013 as part of his Dphil.

 Type Amanaska into Kindle's search and it will bring up all other quotes from the text.

These features work on your regular kindle or Kindle app for ipad of course but they seem to come into their own on the larger screen.



Modern Yoga Research 

Dr James Mallinson  

Dr Mark Singleton

The Hatha Yoga Project


This is the blog of Jason Birch and Jacqueline Hargreaves. It contains articles on their historical research on yoga as well as their thoughts on contemporary yoga practice.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Why take Savasana/rest at all?

New blog header photo (seem to remember M. took this, she got up to find fast asleep in Savasana) in response to the suggestion that in Mysore currently, in response to increased numbers ("crowd control"), Savasana/taking rest has been cut to as little as "...90 seconds" and that this may be a trend spreading out to the shalas (Update: Just double checked with a source currently in Mysore and yep, a couple of minutes, although one is encouraged to go home and 'take rest') .

Even allowing for exaggeration we might consider the length quality and purpose of savasana or 'taking rest' after our asana practice. Why take it at all?

"While the aim of your yoga practice should be to remain as relaxed as possible during the practice, for most people at the end of each yoga practice it is important to take at least 5 – 15 minutes of relaxed sitting or supine relaxation (Savasana) with observation of the breath to further relax the body and brain. This relaxation is most successful if people have succeeded in getting out of their brain and into their body with physical practice of asana (static postures) and vinyasa (dynamic exercises) beforehand". p.265

I guess it depends if Savasana ( or "taking rest") is considered 'part of the practice' or not, Krishnamacharya suggested fifteen minutes (after asana and pranayama) 

"...After completing their yoga practice consisting of asana and pranayama, the yoga practitioner must rest for fifteen minutes keeping the body on the floor before coming outside. If you come outdoors soon after completing yogabhyasa, the breeze will enter the body through the minute pores on the skin and cause many kinds of disease. Therefore, one should stay inside until the sweat subsides, rub the body nicely and sit contentedly and rest for a short period. 
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) p34

...but then he also talks of three hours in mayurasana. I'm sure Pattabhi Jois insisted on an extended savasana but I can't find a quote. Twenty minutes in a busy shala does strike me as a tad inconsiderate, but then 90 seconds and kicked out the door suggests 'losing the plot' somewhat. It's also possibly dangerous, likely unhealthy. If we can't allow somebody to rest for five minutes after an over zealous asana practice in a hot room where you've sweat a kilo or more then perhaps you need a bigger room or to invite less through the door. We know this is a problem in Mysore, most shala's I understand aren't 'blessed' with that problem. And by the way, why is having a 'large' mysore program considered a good thing, surely smaller is better.... but I digress.

Simon Borg-Olivier is my go to for all things anatomical and physiological regarding practice, here he is on savasana from his book, Introduction to the Applied Anatomy & Physiology of Hatha Yoga, written with Bianca Machliss.

"The supine yoga relaxation (savasana) for 5-15 minutes at the end of each yoga practice is important for many people. Recent studies [Bera et al., 1998] have revealed that the effects of physical stress were reversed in significantly shorter time in savasana, compared to the resting posture in a chair and a supine posture. In savasana the muscles can be fully relaxed if they have been stimulated by either stretch or activation during the practice. However, if the nervous system was over-stimulated during the practice then relaxation will still be difficult. The brain can relax if it has been engaged throughout the practice in the process of either focusing on a particular type of breathing, or feeling the sensations of intelligently organised stretching and activation. If the brain was not engaged in the functioning of the body in the yoga exercises then it will be less able to relax and more likely to become either restless or sleepy".  p66 Introduction to the Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Hatha Yoga, Simon Borg-olivier and Bianca Machliss.

Personally I feel there should be time for pranayama, a sit and/or some chanting along with a decent savasana after one's asana exercise ( as in Rethymno for instance) but then if those elements are your thing then there is home practice and you can pass on going to a shala altogether.

Note: Pattabhi Jois' son Manju, in the intensives and workshops I've taken with him, will have you skip the final utpluthi/tolasana and have you lie down and take rest for ten minutes or so while he plays some chanting, then he will run through ten to fifteen minutes each of pranayama and chanting vedic mantras (peace chants). In his book, under Shavasana, he quotes the Hatha Yoga Pradipka

"Lying face up on the ground like a corpse in a clean position. Shavasanam removes fatigue and calms the chitum (mind). HYP 1:32

But then Manju doesn't have three hundred plus for practice each morning.

Of course one could practice more slowly, breath from the abdomen rather than the chest, practice less asana, sweat less, take a mini savasana if my heart rate builds up, turn the heat down or perhaps skip a couple of the later asana before finishing, if you want the extended savasana ( I tend to only practice half a series to allow me to practice more slowly and include pranayama and a sit).

I would argue that with a more subtle practice a five minute savasana should be sufficient. Pattabhi Jois appears to agree...

"Finally jump through the arms, lie down, and rest for five minutes. This concludes the practice".
Pattabhi Jois - Yoga Mala

If practice is taken more dynamically, more aggressively,  including short breathing to the chest then a longer savasana,  may be more appropriate.

"New practitioners of Patabbhi Jois’ astanga vinyasa yoga tend to hyperventilate during the entire physical part of their practice with deep relatively fast breathing. Although this type of hyperventilation confers several benefits – trunk strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and mental focus – it can elicit many adverse reactions including emotional instability, excessive hunger and others listed above. These can usually be countered by a subsequent period of supine relaxation (savasana) of ten to thirty minutes in which natural hypoventilation (minimal breathing) is performed".  p.364 Introduction to the Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Hatha Yoga, Simon Borg-olivier and Bianca Machliss.

I wonder how long before Sirsasana gets a time limit. 


And this from from Richard Freeman and Mary Talyor's new book 'The art of Vinyasa -Awakening the body and mind through Ashtanga yoga" which links Taḍagī Mudra and Śavasana together nicely, one dissolving inot the other

"Depending on the intensity of the particular practice and non practice circumstances, it may be necessary to hold Śavsana for anywhere from ten to twenty minutes until everything has settled and has been integrated properly".

"Śavāsana - Corpse Pose
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois used to say that Śavasana is the most di cult pose. Many students thought he was kidding, but once you’ve been practicing for a while, this sentiment rings true.  The essence of the pose is to embody complete balance in all directions but also to  find equanimity between the state of being completely alert and that of being absolutely relaxed. In more advanced Śavasana, one does not fall asleep, but a calm and removed, yet alert, open feeling pervades the body and mind. In Śavasana, all of the residue within the body, mind, and nervous system has time to be assimilated. Depending on the intensity of the particular practice and non practice circumstances, it may be necessary to hold Śavsana for anywhere from ten to twenty minutes until everything has settled and has been integrated properly.

1. Lie on the back as if in Samasthitiḥ. Lightly stiffen the arms and legs. Roll the shoulders back and down to the  floor. Draw the lower tips of the shoulder blades up into the body as the kidney area falls back and widens. Lightly press the back of the head into the  floor with the chin a hair’s breadth lower than the eyebrows.

2. Gaze, with the eyes closed, down the line of the nose. Feel the seed of a smile to “empty” the palate, as the breathing pulls the Mūlabandha like a steady flame.

3.  This is the formal Taḍagī Mudra pose and should be practiced before dissolving into full Śavasana. Carefully arrange the body so it is symmetrical. Remain for one to five minutes in this position, breathing smoothly. Allow the breath to  fine-tune the subtle alignment of the body.

4. Now relax. Let the breath go. Leave everything alone and as it is in the present moment.  The mouth releases.  The hands and feet release.  The eyes soften.  The heart  floats up, bright and empty.  The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet soften. Let the ears relax into listening.  The tongue is silent, letting everything be, just as it is".


Below my previous April 2013 post on Savasana

I was talking with a friend about this ages ago and promised a post, better late than never (this post is a bit of a work in progress, feel free to add any notes in comments and I'll bring them into the main post perhaps).

This post starts with Savasana (or not) as mentioned in Sharath's book then looks at savasana as mentioned in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda, the formal and take rest variety. Then I look at how there used to be a formal variety of svasana for a short while that some senior teachers continue with, this was practiced before inversions. I look at how formal savasana is similar to tatkamudra and bring in an old post. At the end of the post I bring in a newsletter article from Ramaswami where he writes about controling the breath and taking mini savasanas throughout the practice. there's also an update about the Yoga Korunta supposedly being in a vault in Mysore : )

Maria posted a couple of pictures from the inside of Sharath's new book, see here

One of them was on Savasana and whether we do or don't do formal savasana in Ashtanga or just 'take rest'.

Here's Sharath's take on the matter from the book.

" It is important to take rest after the practice. many mistakenly call this Savasana but this is incorrect. No asana is being done here; one is only resting from the asana practice" Astanga Yoga Anusthana

and part of the discussion over at Maria's

Laura on April 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm said:
savasana is an actual asana and an advanced one where you stop your breath, hence ‘corpse pose’. What we do is ‘take rest’, or as the wondrous Swenson Bros liked to call it “The Sponge”

grimmly on April 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm said:
Here's Krishnamacharya in 1934, same time as he was teaching pattabhi Jois of course

K. doesn’t actually mention “stopping the breath’ here but he tends to include Kumbhaka’s ( breath retention) throughout Yoga Makaranda’s asana descriptions/instructions, he does seem to be talking of the more formal variety.

“14 Supta Padangushtasana (Figure 4.38, 4.39, 4.40, 4.41)
The first krama for this has 21 vinyasas. Through the 6th vinyasa, it is exactly as for pascimottanasana. In the 7th vinyasa, lie down facing upwards instead of extending the legs and sitting as in pascimottanasana. While lying down, the entire body must be pressed against the ground. The toes must point upwards and the back of the heels must be stuck to the ground. This is also called savasana by other schools. This is the 7th vinyasa for supta padangushthasana. In the 8th vinyasa, slowly raise the right leg straight up. Hold the big toe of the right foot with the fingers of the right hand, do recaka kumbhaka and remain in this position for as long as possible”.
p86 from Krishnamacharya’s 1934 Yoga Makaranda

By this it would seem that in any supine posture where you lay down flat before moving into the actual asana proper there’s an opportunity for Savasana.

“While lying down, the entire body must be pressed against the ground. The toes must point upwards and the back of the heels must be stuck to the ground.”.
Seem to remember that Nancy and Richard were saying they missed savasana before or after Inversions, will check my notes.
Just checked Nancy’s 1974 syllabus and Savasana turns up as the last asana mentioned in Advanced B
Krishnamacharya’s ‘heart stopping’ asana anyone?

K. doesn't seem to mention savasana elsewhere but in Vinyasa Krama, Ramaswami would have us take a savasana whenever our heart rate would go up or our breathing less controlled. This would be more of a 'take rest' version than a formal savasana.
NB: See Ramaswami's Newsletter article on the breath at the end of this post for the argument behind mini savasanas.

We do have this 'take rest variety' idea in Yoga Makaranda, section 31 on page 36

"...After completing their yoga practice consisting of asana and pranayama, the yoga practitioner must rest for fifteen minutes keeping the body on the floor before coming outside. If you come outdoors soon after completing yogabhyasa, the breeze will enter the body through the minute pores on the skin and cause many kinds of disease. Therefore, one should stay inside until the sweat subsides, rub the body nicely and sit contentedly and rest for a short period.p34

I should add that for the longest time in my Ashtanga practice I never took much of a savasana (taking rest variety), a minute at most perhaps, received a lot of stick for that here in the past. You were all right i was wrong. I now love my ten minute savasana at the end of practice and tend to listen to Ramaswami chanting just as he used to while we were resting on his TT course. I put the chant as a backing to this slideshow from the course. The chant I'm referring to starts a few minutes in.


Came across this article by Tara Bray on her search for Savasana

Starts off with an quote from Iyengar I think on Savasana

Savasana. Which translates into "corpse pose." Dead still. This is the final posture. Practice your yoga, then lie flat on the floor and die to what you've done, feet falling open, hands turned palms up. B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of the Iyengar system of yoga, says to place a black cloth folded four times over across the eyes. I say the body should grow long and still. The body should become weightless. The bones should sink to the ground as the torn heart opens so the sky dwellers may look down and see this world as it is, bloody and rhythmic. The breath should move without effort. The skin should open its tiny, hidden mouths and let the air stream through in small, silent gasps. Southern women were made for savasana.

Savasana is a position we know well, stretched out and lying on our backs as if sleeping, but it is said to be one of the most difficult of the poses. B.K.S. Iyengar says that "a perfect savasana needs perfect discipline. It is not only very uncomfortable to the brain, but it makes the body feel like a piece of dry dead wood."

BKS Iyengar - Savasana

there's another section in Tara's article that made me sit up a bit

"I began to worry that we Westerners have misunderstood and exaggerated the entire physical process. How will I ever trace the path back to savasana?
When I was still a child, my mother returned to me in dreams. She was always horrid in my dream world, dressed in dark capes or carrying small knives, and always with an angry glint in her eyes and a shaking fist. In my dreams I'd beg her to return to the world of the dead.
Finally I received the first response to my inquiry. Godfrey Devereux, in a thoughtful message, reminded me of what makes yoga so rich:
"Most of the transmission of yoga, like that of all esoteric practices, was oral and personal. The criterion of historical validation is therefore hardly applicable. Besides, many materials are kept hidden from non-Brahmins in special vaults. The Yoga Korunta, which contains over 250 postures, is over 5,000 years old; a copy made by Krishnamacharya is, according to B.K.S Iyengar, in an exclusive vault in Mysore, India-access restricted. It is for them a historical treasure, which they fear would be commercially exploited by mercenary Westerners. I agree. I am willing to accept the authenticity of the transmission from Krishnamacharya via Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, on the basis of my experience of their potency and more."
Mystery. Perhaps that's the answer. Faith in what has traveled from mouth to mouth. Belief in what can't be written down. Trust in what cannot be completely known. Mystery. Savasana. Death". Tara Bray.

The Yoga Korunta, which contains over 250 postures, is over 5,000 years old; a copy made by Krishnamacharya is, according to B.K.S Iyengar, in an exclusive vault in Mysore, India-access restricted. It is for them a historical treasure, which they fear would be commercially exploited by mercenary Westerners.

In a vault in Mysore? Really?

UPDATE 2 (from comments)

"Another foreshadowing of modern yoga evinced by the texts of the hathayogic corpus
was in the way in which āsana became the rubric under which all physical practice of soteriological value came to be included. Thus the well-known śavāsana or “corpse pose”,
for example, was originally a samketa or “secret [meditational] technique” of layayoga, not an āsana; similarly the hathayogic viparītakaranī mudrā became sarvāngāsana; and the ancient
“bat-penance” in which the ascetic suspends himself upside-down became, in the 18th-century Jogpradīpakā, the tap-kar āsan." (site 2-3th)
/A Response to Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body by James
Mallinson //

and becouse Ramamohan Brahmachari was a Ramananda Swami ( - at 4.33. by Desikachar. So...I think, maybe the main/new direction for the searching for the origin of the "Krishnamacharya tradition" is the tradition of the Ramanandi Sect. One of the main expert in this topic is James Mallinson (

A good site for the contemporary yogaresearch is:

Best wishes
Gabor Takacsy


I was having an online conversation about this a while back, a formal Savasana like posture coming before inversions. the conversation moved back and forth between savasana and tatkamudra

"Darby in his video said finishing sequence started with Stiff Corpse Pose.. then shoulderstand etc etc".
"Darby says that had forgotten. Richard includes stiff corpse pose too and I seem to remember Nancy saying she missed it...I must check her workshop on the confluence video, might do a post on stiff corpse pose".
"Just a quick note . Nancy Gilgoff says that stiff corps wasn't there in the beginning, appeared for a short time but then was taken out again at 32 minutes into this video "

"this posture was never in there in the beginning, it appeared for a short time and then was taken out again. I think it's really nice so i left it in. So it's five breaths, it's not rest time, it's a very stiff body. Feet together, tilt your pelvis back, there's a ollowness coming in the belly, chin down. 1....2....3...4...5....readjust yourself...and roll up into sarvangasana (shoulder stand). ....if you did that last posture with a lot of strength in it, you kinda float up". Nancy Gilgoff

UPDATE: In Petri Raisanen's recently translated book Ashtanga Yoga the definitive Primary series Practice manual, in which he mentions he verified the details of the practice over a two month period of daily meetings with Pattabhi Jois and Sharath, he writes that before sarvangasana (shoulderstand) we lay down and take 1-5 deep exhalations before going up into shoulder stand. These five breaths he writes, are not part of the vinyasa count.

"Thanks for Nancy's video, just watched it.. I will watch the whole video at some stage, looks like she gave some interesting tips
just browsing through Gregor's book, he mentioned Tadaga Mudra?"

"Tadaga Mudra is only one of two madras (seals) in yoga chakitsa (the primary series of ashtanga vinyasa yoga). Yoga mudra is the other. Here was my response to her inquiry:

Tadaga Mudra is the seal that is done before salamba sarvanghasana (supported shoulder stand.) Tadaga means tank, lake, or pond- Gregor Maehle describes it as “the stillness of a pond after the activity of backbends that is emulated here. The mudra resembles samasthitihi lying on one’s back. Keep all of your main muscle groups engaged and your eyes open. Hold tadaga mudra for ten breaths or until your breath has returned to its normal resting ratio. The breath during the finishing asanas needs to be calm.” There is a strong engagement of uddhyana bundha. You take the calm of the breath, energy of the seal, and uddhyana bundha up into shoulder stand and through the finishing poses……. As far as I know, it has always been part of finishing. All of the Ashtanga instructors that I have practiced with have included it in the practice, and I always teach it in the ashtanga vinyasa tradition". from


oh, and this is what he( Gregor) wrote in his book

'Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana is an extremely important posture in the sequence, as it is the only real preparation for backbending in the primary series. It should be deeply experienced every time it occurs in the series to awaken the spinen for backbending. Take your time, with long, conscious inhalations rather than a short breath, moving quickly into and out of this posture'..

I read it, makes sense, and it kinda stuck in my brain..
and every time I do Parvottanasana, i had to smile, cuz I thought of what Richard Freeman said.. 'look affectionately at your second toe'.

And here's my old post on tatkamudra from MONDAY, 13 JUNE 2011

Tatakamudra ( pond gesture ) here for bandha focus and deepening forward bend.

I came upon this idea by accident. Tatakamudra, charmingly translated as pond gesture, comes up in the Supine sequence in Ramaswami / Krishnamacharya's Vinyasa Krama.

The other week, while practicing Primary series I was trying to settle into paschimottanasanabut 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.

It's that cavity below the ribcage that's formed which supposedly resembles a pond, or lake according to M. on account of my weird ribcage. Ramaswami counts tatakamudra as one of the best postures for introducing the bandhas, along with ardho mukkha Svanasana, downward facing dog.

In Yoga beneath the surface, David Hurwitz asks Ramaswami,

'David: What is the purpose of bandhas in asana? Is it just to practice and perfect them for pranayama? or do they have a function in asana practice?
Ramaswami : Among other things, bandhas (locks), especially mula bandha (rectal lock), help to pull up the pelvic floor and also to pukk the pelvis off the hip joint. Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) helps stretch the lumbar spine and Jalandhara bandha ( chin lock) helps to stretch the whole spine, especially the thoracic spine.
     Of course there are several other advantages, but purely looking from the point of view of asanas, the bandhas help to perfect the posture'.
p71 Yoga beneath the surface ( Bandhas in Asana section )

Tatakamudra engages all three bandhas, but it is perhaps the engagement of uddiyana,  you can really go to town on it in this posture, and the stretching the lumbar spine that explains why I found it so good for releaving the stiffness I felt in my back and allowing a deeper and more comfortable paschimottanasana, (forward bend).

I now tend to slip into tatakamudra for a few breaths after backbending and before paschimottanasana as standard.

Here are Ramaswami's instructions forTatakmudra 

'Stay in the lying-down position for one or two breaths. Exhale completely. Anchor your heels, tailbone, arms and back; press down through your palms and draw in the rectum; pull the lower abdomen in and toward your back. Hold the locks for five to ten seconds. Your chin should be kept locked as well. When you draw the rectal and abdominal muscles inward and backward, the marks of the ribs and the pelvis bordering the abdominal cavity will be apparent. because this resembles a pond, it is called pond gesture, or tatakamudra
   These are actually the three locks in the lying-down posture. They are a very good way to start the practice of the bandhas. Inhale, and relax the locks. Repeat this exercise three to six times.'

Use of Voluntary Breath Control in Asanas - October 2012 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami

The very first instruction I received from my Guru in Asana practice
was “Inhale”. Sri Krishnamacharya had started coming to our house in
the mornings to teach my brother. A few days into it, I came to the
room to join my brother and father. All were standing in Tadasana
Samasthiti, and Sri Krishnamacharya with his default head down
position had given the first instruction. “Inhale slowly with a
hissing sound and a rubbing sensation in the throat and raise your
arms.“ he said (in Tamil and a bit of English) and raised his arms
slowly breathing in. The inhalation started when he started the
movement of the arms and the inhalation went all along the movement
continuously until he completed the upward movement, interlocked his
fingers, turned them outward and gave a good stretch to the body. We
followed suit. After a moment stay he instructed “Exhale”. He said
“Exhale and slowly lower the arms.”. He started the exhalation with a
hissing sound and synchronized the slow downward movement of the arms
with the breath. Follow the breath closely he added after a couple of
movements and thus completed the basic instructions regarding
breathing in asana vinyasas. He taught like that for the nearly 3
decades I studied with him and, as far as I know, he did  not teach in
any other way to others.
I was overawed by the smoothness,flow and fullness of his breathing.
His chest would expand like a balloon, an expansion I had never seen.
His face tucked against the breast bone would look like getting
smaller against  the background  of his expansive  chest movement
Likewise his exhalation would be complete, the stomach muscles going
deep into the abdominal cavity and the diaphragm into the thoracic
cavity. That was the first time I had ever seen a yogi doing movements
completely synchronizing with the breath and with  such unimpeded
fullness of the breath. I was reminded of an episode I used to read
when I was young. My mother had given me a tiny volume in Tamil of
Balaramayana (Ramayana for kids). In it there was reference to the
episode in which Anjaneya would prepare himself to leap over the
Indian Ocean to reach the shores of Lanka in search of Sita, Rama's
wife. To make that giant leap for the sake of Lord Rama, he would go
up a hill and breathe in deeply, expand his chest like an ocean and
control the breath in his chest. I used to imagine Anjaneya standing
on top of a hill with a huge hairy chest ballooning and that image
came to my mind looking at this extraordinary Yogi. (By the way, here
is short video of Anjaneyasana following the vinyasakrama performed by
Marina Boni, a participant of the 200 hr Teacher training Program at
LMU this Summer of 2012 videographed by another participant Josh

Whenever I mention about breathing in asanas and vinyasas, I feel that
generally people do not pay much attention to the breathing aspect.
There are a few who would say with tongue in cheek, “we always breathe
when we do asanas, don't we all do that?”. There are others who would
say that their breath is slow and not hurried. Some practice asanas
breathing heavily or bordering on 'breathless' and a few long standing
practitioners appear to develop the “second wind”.  Of course a number
of people who practice asanas vigorously leave the breath to take  its
own course. A few years back I was teaching a  weekend workshop , and
was teaching vinyasakrama. I was giving the participants intermittent
rest pauses as I found many were not able to control the breath or
were not paying attention to the breath perhaps as they were not used
to this. But one of them, sweating and breathing rather heavily,
objected to taking frequent rests saying that she had already warmed
up and does not want the system to cool down. She would rather be on
her feet doing a few suryanamaskaras  than rest while others were
savasana getting their breath back . But the point I want to make here
is that the breath in asana practice I learnt from my Guru involved
complete control of the breath throughout the practice.., The breath
always was following the movement, there being a perfect synch between
movement and the breath. Breath under involuntary control or autonomic
control between the sympathetic and parasympathetic  is known as
'swaabhaavika prayatna” or natural breathing. In this the body, or
more particularly the chitt's normal vritti (samaanya or
saamaanyakarana vritti) adjusts the breath rate depending on the needs
of the body. According to some commentaries on Taittiriya Upanishad
explaining the Prana maya kosa, it is said that the main forces prana
and apana , believed to be associated with puraka and racaka, are
controlled by udana.  But in vinyasakrama as taught by Sri
Krishnamacharya the breath is brought under voluntary control and kept
under this control throughout the asana practice. One may say  that
the Yogi maintains a good  control over udaana. So for about half an
hour to one hour of asana practice and then during Pranayama the
breath remains completely under yogabhyasi's control. The more the
breath is brought under voluntary control, the Yogi it is said, can
bring the chitta under more voluntary control. Of all the involuntary
functions, breathing lends itself to dual control. The Yogis take this
route to slowly bring the mind and the heart too under control. When
cortical higher brain control is achieved over one basic function
(here the breathing), it is possible to achieve control over other
basic functions like the heart .Thus a Yogi who uses voluntarily
controlled breathing in asana practice, and follows it up with a good
pranayama practice, has a much better preparation for meditation than
someone who practices asanas with involuntary breathing and no

There are other important advantages of use of breath in asanas
performed with variety of vinyasas. In vinyasakrama one can do about
5/6 vinyasa movements per minute and in a 30 minute stint one can do
about 150 movements. Doing each vinyasa twice one can probably do
about 70 to 75 vinyasas, much less if one has to take frequent breaks
to recover the breath. There are many experienced practitioners who
can do vinyasa practice for about half hour without having the need to
take rest breaks in savasana due to shortness of breath resulting in
the inability to maintain an acceptable slow rate of breath of about
minimum 5 secs each for inhalation and exhalation. By carefully
choosing appropriate vinyasas for one's practice, it would be possible
to reach almost every 'nook and cranny' (nook and corner) of the body.
The slow movement and stretch/contraction help to squeeze out used
blood into the venous system enhancing the muscle pump effect of the
various muscles and tissues. Simultaneously the deep breathing used
helps to accentuate the respiratory pump effect and suck in more
venous blood to the heart. Thus even as one practices asanas, both the
vinyasas and synchronized breathing help to improve the rakta sanchara
considerably reducing thereby the strain on the heart and
supplementing its work.
And Sri Krishnamacharya used breath very judiciously, altering the
kriya between brahman and langhana kriyas and interspersed with
occasional kumbhakas after rechaka (exhalation) or puraka
(inhalation). Generally forward bends, twists, side bends, back
rounding, knee bends etc. will be done on exhalation or langhana kriya
as it facilitates contracting the abdomen and doing these movements
more easily. Back bends, expansive movements like raising/stretching
the arms or the lower extremities, raising the head and looking up
will be done on synchronized slow inhalation or brahmana kriya.
Brahmana kriya on back bends and extensions also helps to  increase
the inter-vertebral space slightly of the thoracic spine and is very
beneficial to the spinal cord which contains an enormous nerve bundle.
But there are exceptions according to my Guru. People with elevated
blood pressure or those who are obese, tense, or generally older would
be encouraged to do these movements using langhana kriya. Several
years back, in the early 80s, I wrote a series of articles in an
Indian magazine called Indian Review. In one article. I think on
salabasana, I mentioned that the back bend in that asana should be
done on exhalation as I used to prefer that. When the article was read
to my guru, he asked me to change it to brahmana kriya as that was the
correct breathing for that movement and what I was doing was a
permissible exception. He was very clear about the use of controlled
breath in asana practice. He also modified the breathing to suit
individual requirements when people came to him for therapeutic help.
Breathing in asana movements was an important tool he employed while
treating patients.

Patanjali in his Yogasutra does not claim that his Yoga Sutra work was
his brainchild but was based on tradition and as per the Vedas
(anusasana). Likewise Sri T Krishnamacharya would mention that the
unique use of mindful breathing he advocated in asana practice was not
his innovation but was based on traditional and authoritative texts
like Vriddha satapata, Yoga Sutras. Further texts that support this
approach would be Navya Nyaya and also Vachaspati Misra's tatva
vaicaradi, Yogasutra commentary. I have written about it earlier but
repetitions are helpful.
In the yogasutra, the phrase of two words, prayatna saithilya (YS II )
means a lot. Prayatna is a word used to indicate effort, but the old
texts like (navya) nyaya explain effort as beings of three types,
pravritti, nivritti and jivana prayatna. Pravritti and nivritti are
activities that one does to get, respectively, what one wants or to
get rid of what one does not want or wants to avoid . Patanjali uses
the term chitta vritti and he groups them fivefold. But cittavritti
can also be classified as above. But in addition to the chitta vrittis
mentioned above (fivefold or twofold), the chitta incessantly is
engaged in another vritti which the samkhyas call as samanya vritti or
samanya karana vritti, which is the lifelong effort of maintaining
life. Hence the pranic activity is called samanya vritii and in nyaya
they call it  jivana prayatna or effort of life. So in the above
sutras, the word prayatna does not refer to pravritti or nivritti, nor
the normal bodily movement one does in asana practice, but samanya
vritti or jivana prayatna or simply put 'breathing'. Vachaspati Misra
in his commentary on Yoga Sutra, tatva vaicaradi corroborates this
interpretation of prayatna as pranic activity. He says ”samsiddhika hi
prayatnah sarira dharakah”. Here he says that samsiddhika or the
innate prayatna or effort (of the yoga practitioner) is sarira
dharakah or that of sustaining the body. What innate effort sustains
the body?  It is the breath. The root of the word dharaka, 'dhru' is
used to refer to the prana's function in an important major upanishad
called Prasnopanishad. In it there is an interesting episode. Once all
the organs of the body, eyes, ears etc. started arguing which among
them was the greatest. The disagreement reached a crescendo when the
innocuous and incessantly working prana stepped in to say that it, the
prana, dividing itself into five different forces, holds up and
sustains the body and it was the greatest. It uses the term
'dharayishyami (I sustain)' the same root (dhru to sustain or support)
used by Vachaspatimishra in the YS commentary, sarira-dharaka. The
sense organs thought it was incredulous and said so to Prana. Then
prana to prove a point collected its forces and started leaving the
body. Suddenly all the senses started losing their bearings and
realized how dependent they were on the main prana. They all fell at
the feet of Prana and beseeched it not to leave the body. Hence
according to my Guru the term prayatna mentioned in the sutra is not
the ordinary physical effort associated with the movements of the
limbs when one does asanas but the breath itself.

Having explained that prayatna in this context refers to Jivana
prayatna or that of the sariradharaka or prana/breath, Vachaspati
Misra proceeds to explain another important element of Patanjali's
teaching viz., saithilya, which means to make it smooth. Here the
instruction is that the breathing should be smooth which can only be
achieved by controlling the breath. There are two types of breathing
as we have two centers that can control breathing. One is under the
autonomic nervous system with only very limited voluntary override, in
which the sympathetic is involved  the inhalation and the
parasympathetic in the exhalation through the respective breathing
centers. But breathing can also be brought under the cerebral cortex
when we willfully take over the control of the breathing process . So
here we take control of breathing as we do the various movements or
vinyasas. The main message is that the breathing if involuntary will
adjust to the metabolic requirements-- slow while resting, hurried
under physical stress like weight lifting or doing Yoga as if like a
workout. But in asana practice as per this sutra it would be under
voluntary control, doing the movements with the breath under control
and voluntarily.

Vachapati Misra explains this beautifully. He says that the natural/
involuntary (swa-bhavika) prayatna or breathing will not be helpful in
attaining the posture, actually it would be a hindrance.
“upadeshta vyaasanasya ayam asaadhakah, virodhi cha swaabhavika
Hence one should voluntarily control it and make it smoother
(saithilya) which is what Sri Krishnamacharya did. Here is the quote
from Vacaspati Misra
“tasmaat, upadhishta niyama asanam abhyasataya svaabhaavika prayatna
saithilyaatma asteyah, naanyata upadishta aasanam sidhyati iti|
swaabhaavika prayatna saithilyasya aasana siddhi hetuh|”  Therefore
when the intended  asana is attempted, the breath should be made
smooth/controlled, and in no other way the intended asana can be
perfected. Thus the cause of asana siddhi is indeed making the
natural  breath smooth (by controlling it).

To reinforce this concept, Patanjali adds that the mind should be
focused on the breath indicating that the breathing should be mindful
or in the voluntary mode and not allow the auto mode. Here he uses the
word ananta to indicate the breath. The word ananta can be split as
most people do as an+anta. The prefix 'an' meaning 'not' rhymes with
the English un used as 'not' in English. Anta means end or limit so
ananta would mean endless or limitless and hence ananta is usually
translated as infinity and many commentators recommend focusing the
mind on infinity. However the word ananta, here more appropriately
should be broken as a word derived from the root 'ana' to breathe
(ana, svase) like prana (pra+and, vyana vi+ana etc). The word ending
'ta' would indicate containing so ananta is containing or controlling
the breath. “prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam” is the sutra
about how to use the breath in asana practice. The instruction loud
and clear is that one should bring the breath under voluntary control
while doing asanas and not allow it to be under autonomic control. And
Patanjali is the incarnation of Nagaraja or the cobra king also known
as ananta. And cobras are said to live on breath, of course a
mythological belief. So some say one could have the image of ananta or
Patanjali in mind while practicing asanasa-- a  symbolic way of saying
'focus on the breath'

Whenever one says that one practices Hatayoga, I have an urge to ask
if one does any yoga breath work like pranayama, because hata yoga is
pranayama as per Brahmananda, the Hatayoga pradeepika commentator. So
if one would have controlled breathing in asana practice as discussed
above and also does pranayama, it would mean that the yogabhyasi would
be in total control of her/his breathing during the entire period of
hatayoga practice, and after all hatayoga is activity under complete
control of the breath as can be seen from the yogasutras and the
definition of Hatayoga of Brahmananda. I . When the breath would get
out of control sometimes  Sri Krishnamacharya would ask the student to
lie down in savasana and regain the breath before continuing with the
asana practice. Some need more rest pauses and some less and some
hardly any. It was how Sri Krishnamacharya taught me Yogasanas for
decades--, to have complete control over the breath while practicing
asanas and apply the breath thoughtfully and well to different
individuals and different conditions and in different  movements/

A long-winded article on 'breath' in asanas.!
Thank you
Srivatsa Ramaswami!forum/vinyasa-krama-announce

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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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