This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice as well as most of my practice videos in YouTube, other than those linked to my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book).

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

Blog Comments are turned off, there are no "members" of this blog .

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Book Review: Yoga for the three stages of Life. My 'all time favourite' book on yoga.

Despite this being my favourite book of Ramaswami's and probably the best book on yoga I've come across, I don't seem to have given the book a standalone review on the blog. Time to make amends, so coming soon a full review with all or at least many of my favourite bits....

This first post is more of an introduction to a series of posts that I'm considering for each chapter, a 'Look Inside' preview if you like, based on Ramaswami's own introduction on fb this week. I've come back to this book so many times over the last ten years, discovering something I'd missed completely each time that has frankly rocked my thinking and approach to my own practice of Ashtanga. The book reminds me of practicing to Richard Freeman's dvd's (Who's new book is called the 'Art of Vinyasa' btw)  or attending his workshops, the first few times (make that twenty) most of it goes over your head but at some point you find that it perhaps seeded anyway and the next time or the next a little more makes sense or starts to bear fruit in some aspect of your practice.

Amazon Link


Sharath Jois has, of late, has begun to refer to the Ashtanga Vinyasa he teaches as a 'Vinyasa Krama', this is also the name of the approach to asana presented by Ramaswami. This should not be surprising, Pattabhi Jois, Sharath's grandfather, studied with Krishnmacharya for twenty-five years, Ramaswami for around thrirty-three.

There was the suggestion when I first started practicing Ashtanga ten years ago that there was an early Krishnamacharya and a late Krishnamacharya, perhaps it suited students, teachers and indeed the family to perpetuate that, I hope in this blog I've gone some way to question that assumption.

On the evidence of many of the glossy self promotional videos of a few Ashtanga teachers and practitioners, of led classes perhaps, Ashtanga vinyasa can appear fast paced, flashy, dynamic, obsessed with asana and with appearance. The less glossy videos hidden away on YouTube however, show something different. If we look at videos of actual Mysore rooms, both shala and home, we see practitioners, teachers, moving through their practice at their own pace, their attention focussed on the breath, we see an honesty, a humbleness even, a dedication to developing a daily discipline through the practice of asana.

If we look to Krishnamacharya's early work, Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) and Yogasanagalu Mysore 1941), written when the young Pattabhi Jois was his student and occasional assistant we find, the slowness of the breath emphasised '...like the pouring of oil', Kumbhaka ( retaining the breath in or out) indicated for almost every asana presented and, in the 1938 Mysore documentary footage, the young BKS Iyengar (also Krishnamacharya) running through a demonstration of advanced asana that were it in colour, in a fancy location and with a euromix soundtrack would garner tens of thousands of followers on Instagram today.




But we also see Krishnamacharya himself, moving through head and shoulderstand variations that aren't to be found in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa method perhaps but are presented in the books of Srivatsa Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya's student from just after he left Mysore up until Krishnamacharya's passing thirty plus years later.



There are differences between the teaching of Pattabhi Jois and Ramaswami but these tend to be pedagogic, related more to the teaching environment the student and teacher found themselves. Pattabhi Jois was a young boy when he was Krishnamacharya's student, his peers were boys, his students when he first started teaching were college students. Ramaswami practiced with Krishnamacharya from his teens to middle age when Krishnamacharya was mostly teaching on a one to one basis, people of all ages, just as he did in the side rooms of the Mysore palace. As well as asana and pranayama Ramaswami studied yoga philosophy, endless chanting, the close study of yoga texts, he studied yoga for the three stages of life.

Srivatsa Ramaswami's Yoga for the Three stages of Life is a marvellous book. If the final third of the book focusses on a seemingly different approach to asana than that which you may practice yourself or are familiar with it is still worthy of exploration, injuries happen, whether a result of asana practice or just of life generally. Ramaswami's book presents variations of asana that can be of benefit when injuries arise, or to better help us in moving towards more challenging asana, or as options for our students new to asana practice, just as Manju Jois mentions his father, like Krishnamacharya before him, would offer variations of an asana to struggling students.

As we get older we may choose to let go of the more challenging asana and look to variations and alternatives to those asana we love, as we mature mentally in our practice, not just physically, many of those fancy 'demonstration' asana may start to seem faintly ridiculous, or at least unnecessary, even a hindrance to practice. We may indeed, finally, be in a place, situation, frame of mind to look to the other limbs and adapt our physical practice accordingly.

But, if for now, we are quite happy merely exploring asana. If building that discipline through our asana practice seems quite enough thank you very much and we find ourselves somewhat irritated/frustrated by the comments on the likes of the fb Ashtanga discussion page, that what we are doing is NOT yoga, Ramaswami's Yoga for the three stages of life comes to our defence, an asana dominated practice may well be perfectly appropriate, in the mid stage of life less asana and more pranayama may be more appropriate and at a still late stage, more philosophy and the later limbs.

Photo: Three stages of life







Below I've merely slipped in a page from each chapter to illustrate Ramaswami's comments from his fb post. In coming blogs I will look more closely at each section, perhaps chapter by chapter, sharing some of the gems I continue to discover in the text.


*


I wrote a book "Yoga for three stages of Life"--An Art, A Therapy, A Philosophy. I thought it was a comprehensive book of Yoga with some depth, all inspired by my studies with Sri Krishnamacharya. I followed the thought sequence of Patanjali in this book. 





The first chapter was on "My studies with Sri Krishnamacharya" wherein I attempted to bring the various subjects Sri Krishnamacharya taught. 




Then there is the story of Patanjali based on the work "Patanjali Carita" written by a Sanskrit scholar Ramabhadra Dikshitar from South India. 





The third chapter is "What is Yoga". It is based on the introduction my Guru gave when he started teaching the Yogasutras. 

Advanced Yoga contains discussion beyond Hatayoga. 





There is then a chapter on Mantra Yoga. 




Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga and the yamaniyamas is then. 

The next several chapters deal with asanas following Vinyasakrama-- 

the standing poses, 




Supine, 


Inversions,

prone poses, 


paschimatanasana, 



Padmasana. 




Then there are yogic breathing exercises and health benefits, 


then there is one section on Yoga for Women, 


then reference to Yoga texts,




followed by Internal yoga practices (antaranga sadhana--meditation) 



and finally Freedom or Kaivalya, 


in all 17 chapters. 

I enjoyed writing this book. 

The book also contains some stories and graphic illustrations like siva's dance. 



This is still available from Amazon. Here is the link
https://www.amazon.com/…/…/ref=pd_bbs_2/103-1755689-4479843…
I understand the publishers, Inner Traditions, have also a Spanish edition of this book


*

See also my Srivatsa Ramaswami resource page for a look at Ramaswami7s other books and more besides.




Monday, 5 June 2017

Notes from Krishnamacharya in AG Mohan's new edition of Hatha Yoga Pradipka



Friends have been getting in touch this week to ask me if I've seen or yet have a copy of AG Mohan and Dr. Ganeseha Mohan's new edition of the Hatha Yoga Pradipka with notes from Krishnamacharya.

I don't, not yet.

I had a look on Amazon but there was no Look Inside preview feature, I mentioned this on the Svastha fb page ( LINK) and one appeared this morning, perhaps I was not the only one to ask.

So I've been having a look at the generous preview on amazon this morning and it appears to be quite marvellous, I just ordered my copy.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't been that interested in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka for some time, the texts in Mallinson and Singleton's Root's of Yoga strike me as being of more interest and besides, I generally lean more towards Raja than Hatha and have become quite dismissive of the later. 

Was hatha a wrong turn ( the turn towards tantra), a distraction?

More recently still, I've turned my gaze back to the West and the contemplative traditions that form(ed) my own horizon/worldview. Why try to appropriate another tradition when I have one of my own, learn about others surely, it's always of value, but if we seek to inquire on a deep level, look perhaps to our own ground (of being). It struck me some time ago, while listening to Ramswami lecture on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, his weaving in of songs and chants, commentaries and illustrative stories from his grandmother, that I could never know the text on a similar level however much I studied it, the text wasn't organic for me, unlike say, the Greeks ( I originally went to Uni to study Classics, switching to single honours Philosophy after a Greek philosophy lecture but I of course also grew up with the Greek myths and legends as much as stories from the bible or Jesus of Nazareth and Ben Hur every Easter and Christmas rather than say the Ramayama and Mahabharata ). I remember too Kristina Karitinou reminding us of our own culture in my interview with her a while back Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

Anthony: I noticed on your alter a small bust of Socrates do you have any thoughts regarding Ashtanga as a philosophy, yoga sutras etc and Greek philosophy?

Kristina: It is of paramount importance for the practitioners to develop awareness of the cultural heritage of the place they are in. Being in Greece we bear great responsibility towards our ancestors and our roots, so having a small bust of Socrates triggers the energy that surrounds us and constantly reminds us why we actually practice. "Knowing thyself" is the epitome of knowledge, and it should always be there in our practice, in our breathing in our everyday life. "Practice and all is coming" incorporates the true meaning of knowing oneself as this is the only way given to us to actually manage and have some results. Greek and Indian civilisations appear to be connected on a spiritual level throughout the centuries, and they have both set the foundations for the development of philosophical thinking so much in the East as well as in the West respectively. Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us. Both of them have offered a means to free the mind from the conventionality of life as they give you alternatives and they both require freedom of thought so that man can reach the higher level of existence and the ultimate point of liberation and self - fulfillment. Freedom works as a prerequisite while it is the final destination of each of these two methods. Therefore the presence of both philosophies on my alter seemed like a natural thing to do.

I may hold on to my asana and pranayama practice out of fondness and habit (although I could I suppose just as well run or swim perhaps) but I'm leaning more towards Lectio Divina as a contemplative approach of late rather than the chanting of vedic mantras, to Plotinus rather than Patanjali, Marcus's meditations rather than the Yama/Niyama's and to my old friend Heidegger rather than Shankara.

Note: Lectio Divina, the contemplative approach of the early church. Read, recite or listen to an appropriate a text (traditionally the psalms and/or gospels but it could just as well be the Enneads. There should be no sense that one needs to complete a reading, when a word or phrase strikes you, sit with it, allow it live within you for a time..... for ten minutes, an hour, a month, years.

That said, Krishnamacharya still fascinates, and inspires my practice and here he is in the pages of AG Mohan and his son's wonderful new book, I look forward to revisiting the text.

Below, a selection of pages from the Amazon preview.

Link to Amazon
Amazon intro

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, authored in the 15th century is one of the most well-known texts on physical yoga. This translation offers unique perspectives and insight from Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who had perhaps the most influence in physical yoga in the modern era. Drawing upon extensive notes of private studies with Krishnamacharya, his long time student, A. G. Mohan, presents critical analysis unavailable in any other translation to date. This translation includes summaries, notes on which practices may be more or less useful or even harmful, and comparisons to the Gheranda Samhita. This book is a worthwhile read and companion to any serious yoga aspirant, especially those interested in knowing what one of the most influential yogis of the modern times had to say on the esoteric practices of hatha yoga: on pranayama, mudras, and bandhas.

About the Author
A. G. Mohan was a student of “the father of modern yoga,” Yogacarya Sri T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), for eighteen years. He is the author of several books on yoga, including Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind; Yoga Therapy; and Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings. Co-founder of Svastha Yoga & Ayurveda and YogaKnowledge.net, he is respected internationally as a teacher of rare authenticity and knowledge.

Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Svastha Yoga (May 8, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9811131333
ISBN-13: 978-9811131332
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches


Link to Amazon



AG Mohan's website




Looking Inside



Krishnamacharya's practice guidelines from the introduction




Also from the introductory notes....






Layout, a nice summary of the chapter




Presented in sanskrit, it's transliteration and translation into English, notes by Mohan and in many cases Krishnamacharya.









A nice section from Chapter III



from chapter III















Not all the verses have a note from Krishnamacharya, at times the notes are short but also in some case quite long, this section from Chapter II gives a good indication perhaps.









see too 






Yoga Yajnavalkya: Trans: AG Mohan  
( My preference over Hatha Yoga Pradipka)


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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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