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Friday, 25 August 2017

Current practice, Is it still Ashtanga or is Ashtanga Vinyasa more a state of mind.

Perhaps it's more that consistent, focussed, daily practice has come to characterise Ashtanga Vinyasa. Perhaps whatever I were to practice, if I just went for a swim in the lake each morning, lengthened the stages of the breath while walking along the beach and Sat on the shore it would STILL feel like Ashtanga, to me.

I was asked about my practice these days, what shape it takes.

Not as strange perhaps as it may seem....

My standing involves a lot of Simon's spinal movements, his approach to twists and standing on one leg, more 'movements' perhaps than postures/asana. I only tend to include a couple of a Sun salutations but the framework isn't so far from Ashtanga or Vinyasa Krama.

1st half of Ashtanga Second series up until ustrasana

1st half of Ashtanga Primary series but badhavajrasana rather than the Marichi's

Sarvangasana inc. Krishnamacharya's Mysore 1938 variations

Sirsasana inc. variations

baddha konasana
baddha padmasana

Siddhasana (pranayama)



Is this still Ashtanga Vinyasa?

I think the Ashtanga Vinyasa we tend to associate with Sharath and the Jois family tends to be quite a narrow, fixed form of practice but of course Sharath will adapt it when necessary as no doubt does Saraswati, Manju certainly does, his own practice he says tends to be half primary, half Second and a few postures from Advanced, not so unlike the above perhaps.

It's tempting to give way and say Ashtanga Vinyasa is the fixed form we tend to think but I hesitate to do so. Pattabhi Jois always said that he was only presenting his teacher, Krishnamacharya's teaching. But we know that Krishnamacharya's teaching certainly wasn't fixed.

We can see the tables of asana that Jois employed for his fixed series but there was clearly a more flexible approach to practice in krishnamacharya's early Mysore teaching when Jois was his student as their was in Krishnamacharya's later years.

A flexibility in the choice of the asana, in the vinyasa (in this sentence referring to the movement to and from standing), whether to include full vinyasa between postures, half vinyasa or no vinyasa at all.

A flexibility in how long we might stay in an asana or mudra.

A flexibility in the approach to the breath, whether to keep it equal, lengthen either or both the inhalation and/or exhalation, begin a movement on the inhale or the exhale, include or omit kumbhaka ( holding the breath in or out after the inhalation or exhalation).

I feel my own practice reclaims some of that flexibility, probably why I'm hesitant to call it something else, even Vinyasa Krama. Krishnamacharya's teaching was always it seems flexible...,creative, it's so easy to forget that we can practice our Ashtanga that way if it's still approached with sincerity and commitment.

Perhaps it's just that consistent, focussed daily practice that has come to characterise Ashtanga Vinyasa for me the most. Perhaps whatever I were to practice, if I just went for a swim in the lake each morning, lengthened the stages of the breath while walking along the beach and Sat on the shore it would STILL feel like Ashtanga.

Current practice in more detail


I'm taking a Simon Borg-Olivier approach to standing, I've fallen in love with his spinal movements. Uncompressed, the spine doesn't have that much mobility, these movements seem sufficient to give the spine a good 'work out' in all directions

I've taken to exploring breathing possibilities, several movements within one inhale, bit radical for an Ashtangi brought up with the count and one movement for each stage of the breath 

One minute breath (give or take).

Something I mentioned on a recent post

Generally Simon Borg-Olivier recommends, when beginning physical yoga as well as perhaps a new sequence or approach, to employ natural breathing 'to the abdomen' a babies or sleeping breath. I've been employing relaxed abdominal breathing for a couple of years now but shifting from the Ashtanga one movement one inhalation or exhalation to letting the breath take care of itself has been challenging. But once you begin to get the hang of it other possibilities arise. In the video, I'm exploring breathing through the movements, so a long slow 30 second inhalation through the first stretches, of one arm and then the other above the head, one inhalation for both sides and then again a long slow, relaxed 30 second exhalation through the twists to the left and right. This is an aspect of practice I'm quite excited about exploring right now.
Note: The video above is natural speed, it hasn't been slowed down. The one below of the spinal sequence is x3

There are some different foot positions where we can do the same movements. I do different positions on different days, slowing the breathing in this way would mean all the foot positions would take too long. I particularly like the on one leg versions though and tend to include those before moving into these one leg versions of 'triangle' postures.

I'm interested in Simon's 'Standing' alternative to trikonasana etc. Explanation below.

On one leg/trikonasana?

Followed by twists, Simon Style

Prasarita's come into Simon's standing spinal sequence following the elephant stance posture

After a couple of Sun salutations, A and B (I'm exploring a supine version see Appendix).....

From Ashtanga Intermediate series 

I've start to move from standing into the back stretches from the first half of Ashtanga second series, pretty standard stuff, (but starting with bhujangasana bringing the legs to the bottom, Vinyasa Krama style), salambhasana, makrasana, urdhava danhurasana.

I spend a little time in vajrasana exploring the spinal movements as well as a short Virasana sequence including kumbhaka while supine, this from my Vinyasa Yoga practice book

Finishing the backstretch group with ustrasana.

I might add in Lagu Vajrasana, of late kapotasana seems...... excessive.

from Primary Series

Then it's back to Standard(ish) Primary, paschimottanasana, purvotasana. I drop ardha badha paschimottanasana. My tiryam mukha flows into krouchasana followed bhujangasana which I prefer over the maraichi's

Maha mudra followed by  Simon's twisted side bend version of janu sirsasna, they used to call it janu Sirsasana D back n the day i hear.



A couple of desk postures (dwi pitam) then urdhva danurasana.

I counterpose by bringing the knees to the chest, then taking the legs over into halasana.

From halasana up into a Sarvangasana sequence

Perhaps the Ashtanga sarvangasana variations back to floor via the mayarasana's then rolling over (chkarasana) into Sirsasana and a five minute stay, slow breathing ( 30 second inhalation/30 second exhalation) then some variations...

I'm having fun going up and down into postures, from sirsasana to gomukhasana back up to sirsasna then down to baddha konasana followed by active movements into baddha padmasana.

Generally I'd only do one or two of the above movements and stay for longer, ten, twenty five breaths. Below is the same video at regular speed.

I'm also exploring Simon's nerve tensioning arm movements in the posture as well as the spinal movement, working to relax the spine as I move in and out of the posture.

Flow without Fluidity

Even though there is movement to and from the postures in Ashtanga and Vinyasa krama, such practice still feels somewhat....static, flow perhaps but without... fluidity, it's perhaps this fluidity that I'm enamoured with in Simon and Bianca's approach and suspect may be of benefit.

In going the other way, back up to headstand from padmasana (lotus) I'm using some of Simon Borg-Olivier's tips for effortless handstand here. Aiming to push the hips forward, lifting the upper back and moving the sitting bones forward to firm the abdomen and make up for the lack of navasana, the key though seems to be breathing into the abdomen as I bring my lots up my arms and then all the way up to Sirsasana. 

See Simon's how to lift up to handstand , part fifteen in his superb spinal sequence series of videos on YouTube Update: 

I'll go back up to sirsasana in padmasana, a few gentle movements then lower back down to the mat, unfold without hands then fold (again without hands) into siddhasana for pranayama followed by a Sit.


I might do all of the above or merely a few of Simon's spinal movements, a Sury, trikonasana, a couple of seatead asana, a forward fold, backbend and twist, a mudra, a shoulderstand vinyasa, a longish stay in sirsasana and lower in and out of padmasana. followed by a little pranayama and a sit.

A flexible practice!


I'm also exploring these twists as well as Surya namaskara while supine see appendix

As well as suryanamaskar

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Pushpam (Yoga) Magazine Issue 3 - Review/Look Inside - Yoga magazine from Hamish Hendry and team, Ashtanga Yoga London

New edition of Pushpam  Magazine is out, Pushpam 3, with a stunning Ganesha cover.

from the website

"Pushpam is a quarterly (or so) yoga magazine. It is published by Hamish Hendry of Astanga Yoga London. Focusing on yoga beyond asana, regular contributors include Sharath Jois, Hamish Hendry and Genny Wilkinson Priest. Interviews with some of the most experienced senior certified Astanga teachers feature in every issue".

Letter from the publisher
Pushpam means flower in Sanskrit. For those who like to be pernickety the “sh” is in retroflex with the tongue curled back.

In India, a flower is used in ceremonies as an offering to God, marking special occasions or even to mourn the dead. A flower, in the full of its life, yields nectar and often turns into fruit and seed. Yet its existence is temporary for at some point it perishes and returns to the ground from whence it came.

It is both the beginning and the end.

In our urban lives a flower popping through a concrete pavement’s crack reminds us that beauty and life are not far away. I hope this magazine will be an offering and sow many seeds".

Hamish Hendry – November 2015


Below issue 3s contents page


Pushpam's third issue centres on that unavoidable human condition of suffering. The word for suffering in Sanskrit – duḥkha – means "bad space" and many of the stories in this issue aim to give us ways to see our suffering more clearly, understand it and even ultimately let it go. As life brings both misery and happiness, this issue includes cartoons, a recipe and a book review. Contributors include Hamish Hendry, Lucia Andrade, Zoë Slatoff, Ruth Westoby and Karen O'Brien Kop.
For bulk orders, please email Hamish. Prices for bulk orders are as follows:
10 – 24     £6.50 per copy plus cost of shipping

24 – 49     £6.00 per copy plus cost of shipping
50+           £5.50 per copy plus cost of shipping

Size 167mm x 232mm x 5mm

68 Pages
3000 copies
Black / Fluorescent Ganesh stone feel cover with secret bookmark
John Kalisz postcard insert
5 golden tickets hidden amongst the first print run of 3000...


This isn't so much a review as an Amazon style LOOK INSIDE as many will be considering buying the magazine online.

As usual the magazine is beautifully produced. 

The theme this quarter is Duḥkha, commonly translated as suffering, the articles are again of varied length, some long enough to get your teeth in and chew over, others...pithy. 

After an introduction by Hamish Hendry of Ashtanga Yoga London, a long interview, the 'In Conversation -Two certified instructors' feature from the previous two issues.

  This time Hamish Hendry is talking with Lucia Andrade. I enjoyed last quarter's interview and the idea of two long time practitioners chewing the fat together is appealing but, I don't know, perhaps I'm all interviewed out but the format seems tired. Like blogs, podcasts and Instagram, Yoga interviews may well have jumped the shark. 

 Which leads me to the final article from Genny Wilkinson Priest, Pushpam's editor, on the topic of Social Media, a cause of great suffering to me personally, such that I unfollowed all my friends on fb to avoid getting any more handstands in Shinjuku in my feed.

Boonchu Tanti - Piccadilly rather than Shinjuku

Genny may be softening, in an earlier article of hers that she refers to on this subject, she was much more scathing. Here she rather sets out the terrain and is perhaps more forgiving. I've never accepted the '...all to inspire others' defence, if it's not a genuine sharing of our work in progress among friends then it's business or ego or both, how did I see it depressingly put this week, a "marketing Aesthetic".

Below a quick glance through some of the articles, some I've read, others I've only glanced at thus far.

I'm still haunted by the image of suffering as a cracked glass that is never the same again from the article 'On War' by Patrick Nolan,

I was irritated at first by the suggestion that Christian asceticism is based on the denial of the body in 'Asceticism and Yoga' by Valters Negribs and yet relieved that somebody at least remembers the Greeks, Jack Sidnel in 'Getting rid of the I' makes reference to the Greeks and ἄσκησις (áskēsis)  as well as to Foucault. Christianity is surely more Greek perhaps than not, the influence of the Cynics, the Stoics and Neo-platonists run strong within it. Christian Asceticism was...., is, I would argue, more about austerity, training of the will, than hating the body, although some of course lost their way.

At last a magazine we can engage with, articles we can chew over rather than the imperfect enjoyment of a few paragraphs masquerading as an article, hung like christmas lights with Google Adwords,and that ends just as it showed promise of becoming interesting because really, the author just couldn't be bothered and besides it's merely a tool sell advertising, classes, workshops and /or merchandise.

An interesting article from Dr. Andy Field, on Breath and Health, which I will read again as it ties in a lot with Simon Borg-Olivier's focus on long, slow, abdominal breathing.

And if all this talk of suffering is taking away from your post practice high then Chef Tom Norrington Davis is on hand with a comforting Daal Rasam recipe.

None of us are immune from suffering argue Ruthe and Zoe....

 though it may stem from nothing more than 'mislaying the keys to our Porsche'.

Such suffering this quarter!

It will take more perhaps than a comforting bowl of Tom's Daal to get us through to Pushpam 4 (contact Genny and Pushpam if you have ideas for articles) . Karen O'Brian-Kop thankfully reminds us of Patanjali's 'way out', 'Pratisprasva as an antidote to suffering', we so often seemed to forget that there is a goal to all this practice, those six series of Ashtanga are still beginners yoga.

If Patanjali's Kaivalya seems somewhat too ambitious, too far (or too many lifetimes) down the line, then Joan Foster helps us to see, that this 'beginners yoga', this daily practice, if not an antidote to suffering in itself, is perhaps something to hang on to and help us get through one day at a time, practice as a coping strategy.

Thank you to Joan especially for what must have been a particularly painful article to write.

I haven't mentioned the photographs, here are just a few


Re Sharath's proposed new 'Institute' (land already purchased in Mysore, I hear) see perhaps my old post on turning KPJAYI into a Foundation. In Stockholm last week Sharath is quoted sadly as saying, in frount of hundreds of students, "I gave my life to the institute...". He's not alone of course in the Ashtanga community, what better opportunity to turn towards a 'not for profit' foundation with a board of trustees like the KYM ( Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram).


Pushpam Magazine

Pushpam is a quarterly (or so) yoga magazine. It is published by Hamish Hendry of Astanga Yoga London. Focusing on yoga beyond asana, regular contributors include Sharath Jois, Hamish Hendry, certified Astanga teachers, academics and practitioners from around the world.

available for order online and in UK, India (KPJAYI), US and Australia 
and Europe ( or at least it was until my countrymen and women shot themselves in the foot and voted to leave the EU)

Pushpam magazine on facebook

AYL Ashtanga Yoga London

Friday, 18 August 2017

Breathing in Ashtanga: Langhana Kriya - the reduction, exhalation, principle

from Srivatsa Ramaswami's Complete Book of vinyasa yoga 
Based on the teaching of T. Krishnamacharya
(Ramaswami was a student of Krishnamacharya's for 30+ years).

"In some of these back bends, it may be easier and more desirable to use a smooth exhalation rather than an inhalation. People who are obese, old and therefore less supple, anxious and tense, or have some medical conditions, such as hypertension, would do well to adopt exhalation, or langhana kriya, during these back bends".

LANGHANA KRIYA: literally, activity ofreduction; exhalation

"Please note that all the vinyasas in this (backbending) sequence can also be done with langhana breathing if, and only if, you are tense, old, obese, or have somewhat elevated blood pressure."
Ramaswami - from The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga p143

"Though the default breathing in all the back-bending move­ments in this sequence is inhalation, because of the pressure this places on the abdomen, some find it easier to use the langhana mode of breathing (exhalation). Each method of breathing confers different benefits".
Ramaswami - from The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga p146

We get so used to the idea in Ashtanga Vinyasa that breathing can and should be only be one way,  inhale going up exhale going down, that anything else is.... unnatural.

Also that the inhalation and exhalation should be equal..

That there should be no kumbhaka (retaining the breath after the inhalation or out after the exhalation).

"In addition, for the even-numbered vinyasas, rechaka (exhalation) should be performed and, for the odd, one should do puraka (inhalation). On the whole, the method for doing rechaka and puraka is the same for all the vinyasas and asanas ahead". Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala (Mysore 1950s)

"In each section for each particular asana, we have included a description and an enumeration of its vinyasas. The vinyasas in which the head is raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person". 
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934)

A close reading of Pattabhi Jois' teacher Krishnamacharya's early texts however shows there is a lot more subtly, more variation ,dependent on several parameters.

My own recent exploration of of moving in and out of a posture through an inhalation or through an exhalation as been curious, an education, revelation. Simon Borg-Olivier, talks about breathing naturally in the beginning, not even thinking about the breath but leaving it to it's own devices, later he talks about long slow inhalations of thirty seconds or more while vinyasa may or may not be taking case, likewise with exhalation.

Or perhaps breathing into the abdomen during 'exertion' (lifting to handstand)...

"Simply breathing into my abdomen (firmed by posture), or rather breathing with my diaphragm into the abdomen causes an increase in the intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure which straight away puts strength into my arms. Here I simply breathe into the abdomen as my legs are lifting and the instant strength comes to the body. It doesn’t feel like a strain to lift the body. Whereas you can lift up to a handstand with just brute force." Simon Borg-Olivier How to lift to Handstand

See also this post from Simon

But Krishnamacharya too wrote concerning 'reverse' breathing, of, for the old, the obese, the tense. perhaps switching the standard breathing around such that we might exhale where we generally tend to inhale, and inhale where we generally tend to exhale, particularly if/when challenged by 'back bends'.

Here then, Krishnamacharya's, and his long term student Ramaswami's, treatment of Langhana kriya, 'the exhalation principle'.

from Yoga Makaranda

Langhana kriya

"In yogabhyasa, there are two types of kriyas — langhana kriya and brahmana kriya. One who is obese should practise langhana kriya. One who is thin should practise brahmana kriya and one who is neither fat nor thin should practise yogabhyasa in both.
Brahmana kriya means to take in the outside air through the nose, pull it inside, and hold it in firmly. This is called puraka kumbhaka.
Langhana kriya means to exhale the air that is inside the body out through the nose and to hold the breath firmly without allowing any air from outside into the body. This is called recaka kumbhaka.
In vaidya sastra, they describe brahmana kriya as meaning a prescribed diet and langhana kriya as meaning to fast. But in yoga sastra it does not have this meaning. Without understanding these intricacies and secrets of yoga, some people look at the books and try to do yogabhyasa (like looking for Ganesa and ending up with a monkey). They get disastrous results and bring a bad name for yoga sastra. We need not pay any attention to their words". P28-29

from Yogasanagalu

"Normally during yogasana practice, inhalation and exhalation is performed via the trachea deeply, subtly and with sound. This is common practice with everyone. “anuloma ujjayi”

from"Special Direction - 2. ASANAS

"When practicing the above listed yogasanas people with heavy bodies must do more rechaka while people with lean bodies must be doing more puraka. These are called langhana kriya and brahmanakriya, respectively".

This is an important characteristic of the eight step yoga practice. In our land of Bharata, there are three types of people: sthoola, krusha and vakra. Sthoola is obese type, krusha is lean and emaciated and vakra is crooked and curved. Crooked body is an abnormality and a disease. Obese body type have a tendency to breathe short and shallow. Although the lean can breath deeply, they get tired quickly. The crooked body type have a difficult time in stretching the limbs. Without bending and stretching, such body type do not get proper blood and oxygen circulation. This also applies to obese and lean type.
Practicing yoga with deep breathing variations known as langhanakriya and brahmanakriya can eliminate these body variations and impart strength and beauty.
Recently, we are seeing people who are extremely obese and suffering from heart diseases. We are also seeing people who are lean due to lack of proper nutrition. Some have experienced a hard life of growing up on the streets from childhood and have become crooked. Primary reason for these are overeating, eating only dry food or other unhealthy practices.
Yoganga practice with appropriate vinyasa will eliminate and normalise all three types of body variations".

"While practicing yoganga, according to samakaya or vishamakaya state correspondingly Brahmanakriyala-langhanakriya or samakriya vinyasa must be performed.
Samakriya means, equal inhalation and exhalation.

Yoga Beneath the Surface - Srivatsa Ramaswami and David Hurwitz

DAVID: In general, should we make our inhale and exhale of equal ( in length) when moving into and out of forward bends and twists, but when we stay in a forward bend or twist, make inhale short and exhale long? Can we say the reverse about backbends?

RAMASWAMI: Mostly in forward bends, it is easy to extend your exhalation, and so the abhyasi (one who practices) can take advantage of the forward-bend position to lengthen and smooth the exhalation. And in forward bend, deep or full inhalation is more difficult, again because of the position: the stomach cannot  freely expand to accommodate fuller breathing and hence we would do a shorter inhalation.
Can we say the similar things about inhalation, will the con­verse be true? Bending back is a different cup of tea. While it is natural and beneficial to do  fuller inhalation while bending back, for some backbends done while in a prone position, such as the cobra or locust pose, the inhalation could restrict the backbend due to the pressure on the expanding abdomen. So, many people, primarily the obese and/or tense, are advised to do backbends on exhalation (langhana kriya). We may therefore say that, although inhalation is the breathing of choice in backbends, there are compelling reasons for some practitioners to use exhalation for these movements.
If we really want to work on our inhalation it may be best to do it while practicing pranayama in a cozy seated pose such as vajrasana or padmasana. p64-65


DAVID: In the version of the Yoga Makaranda that I have,  Krishnamacharya, in writing about asanas, states,

  "Those who are over­ weight should follow langhana kriya (activity of reduction) and those who are underweight should follow brahmana kriya (activ­ity of expansion)...In brahmana kriya, the breath is held in  after inhalation, for some time, before exhalation. This is known as antah kumbhaka. In langhana kriya, the breath is held after exha­lation,  for some time, before allowing air in. This is known as bahya  kumbhaka."

Is this different  from the way you were taught?

RAMASWAMI: The Sanskrit word brahmana means "to grow, to expand;' whereas langhana means "to reduce, to diminish back to its cause:' So exhalation is considered langhana and inhalation is considered brahmana kriya. Actually, inhaltion is expansion of the chest, and holding the breath keeps the chest expanded, so both will be brahmana kriya, whereas langhana kriya is the oppo­site of it. p70

from The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga - Srivatsa Ramaswami

The smooth inhalation accompanying expansive movement is known as brah­ mana kriya, or expansive (breathing) action; the exhalation during contraction of the body is langhana kriya, or reducing or contracting (breathing) action. When you inhale while making an expansive movement and correspondingly exhale during contraction, this is known as anulo­ma, or "with the grain" movement/breath­ing. Anuloma exercise creates harmony between the tissues of the breathing organs and the body.
Though anuloma is the general rule, there are situations in which one might or should exhale during an expansive move­ ment. (The converse, however, is never the case because contractive movements can­ not be performed while inhaling.) This might be recommended when the practi­ tioner is tense, obese, old, or sti . Take the example of the cobra pose. From the lying­ down position, moving into cobra pose is an expansive movement should be done on inhalation. But some especially tense peo­ ple find this extremely uncomfortable because they tend to stiffen their muscles and  rtually prevent their back  om bend­ ing. A similar situation may arise with obese people because the belly tends to add pres­ sure while inhaling. So, people with these conditions may breathe out while doing expansive movements. It is for the student and/or teacher to determine what type of breathing is appropriate for a particular vinyasa. One general rule is, "When in c doubt, do the movement while exhaling:'

Desk pose Dwipadapitam

"...Please note: Moving into this pose and other variations of the desk pose should be done on inhalation. However, there arc some exceptions. In the introductory chap­ter I explained that in langhana kriya some expansive movements are done during exhalation, rather than on inhalation. Persons who are obese, older, or stiff may use langhana kriya because the exhalation will relax their muscles and create less pressure in their abdomen. It is a trade-off between expanding your chest and working on your inte al thoracic muscles and doing the exercises without much pressure. 109

Crocodile pose - Makarasana

"...In this group there are several poses involving back bending. These back-bend­ ing movements are generally to be done while inhaling, as you could see in the makarasana vinyasas just explained. In the introduction I discussed viloma breathing (viloma means "against the grain"), which should be used for back bends in certain circumstances. In some of these back bends, it may be easier and more desirable to use a smooth exhalation rather than an inhalation. People who are obese, old and therefore less supple, anxious and tense, or have some medical conditions, such as hypertension, would do well to adopt exhalation, or langhana kriya, during these
back bends. Because these are belly-down positions, persons belonging to this group will be more comfortable and will achieve better results in langhana kriya.
The procedure in langhana kriya is as
While in the lying-face-down (prone) position, take a short breath. As you exhale, slowly raise your head, neck, and torso to the greatest extent possible, without raising your elbows off the floor. This is makarasana performed in langhana kriya. Take a short inhalation i n the position, and while ex­
haling lower your trunk". 138

Frog pose - Mandukasana

"...Raising your trunk can be clone in langhana kriya also."

Cobra - Bhujangasana

"You may, if required, use langhana breathing."

Salabhasana - Locust pose sequence

"Langhana kriya may be used."

Bow -Dhanurasana

"Please note that all the vinyasas in this sequence can also be done with langhana breathing if, and only if, you are tense, old, obese, or have somewhat elevated blood pressure."

Backbending postures

"Though the default breathing in all the back-bending move­ments in this sequence is inhalation, because of the pressure this places on the abdomen, some find it easier to use the langhana mode of breathing. Each method of breathing confers different benefits.


"LANGHANA KRIYA: literally, activity of reduction; exhalation"

See also this post perhaps

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Hands free lotus / padmasana, "...ideally it should be like folding the arms" Simon Borg Olivier


"Similarly, the natural activity of ‘crossing your arms’ allows us to appreciate the difference between ‘tensing’ muscles as opposed to simply ‘activating’ muscles by ‘doing an action’. When you bend your elbow to ‘cross your arms’ it doesn’t feel like your are ‘tensing’ muscles’, but if you touch your biceps brachialis (the muscle on the front of the upper arm) when the elbow bends to cross your arms you can easily feel the biceps muscle working as you make the action of moving the arm into this position. This shows that the muscles of the elbow were ‘activated’ when you when you did this natural activity of bending the elbow but it didn’t feel like you were ‘tensing’ the biceps or any other elbow muscles.

So, a physical yoga practice in a flexible and natural body could be as effortless as ‘crossing your arms’. In fact, for a natural bodied person, for example someone who always squatted and sat cross-legged on the floor, ‘Lotus posture’ (Padmasana) is as ‘effortless as crossing your arms’. Your legs in the ‘Lotus posture’ (Padmasana) should be able to be like your hands – one coming on top of the other. It should not be something where you force or pull the legs into position as many people do in modern yoga, which tends to cause sensations of ‘stretch’ and reflex ‘tension’ (see Figure 1.1).

This principle is reflected morally in the first limb (yama) of astânga (eight-limbed) yoga. It is the very act of moving naturally into a position by ‘activating’ muscles rather than ‘tensing’ muscles that encourages the movement of energy and information through the body. This principle is reflected physiologically in the hatha yoga vidya (the science of physical yoga) and is further explained in Chapter 2 of this book". Simon Borg-Olivier Why After Ten Years of Teaching Yoga We Became Physiotherapists

Below Krishnamacharya hands free padmasana

So Simon talks of moving into padmasana hands free but he also mentions without momentum or gravity, Krishnamacharya above is using momentum

"The video below is part of one of our more advanced Yoga Synergy Sequences. Notice the use of controlled active movements that are a key feature of even the most simple Yoga Synergy sequences. I am getting into postures without using external forces such as gravity, momentum or one limb pulling another in the same way that traditional yoga has always mostly been practiced in India. Active movements activate the shortened muscles, which causes the lengthened muscles to become reciprocally relaxed. This gives flexibility without feeling strong stretching, builds strength without stress,  increases blood flow without the rate racing; and allows you to do complex postures without having to over think. Active movements are a key feature of the Yoga Synergy System that Bianca Machliss and I developed as traditional yoga for the modern body". Simon Borg-Olivier Moving Actively into Postures Can give Strength and Flexibility Without Tension or Stretching

Below I have some videos of moving into lotus from shoulderstand, headstand, handstand and also jumping through and back into lotus into kukkutasana and a hands free padmasana of my own, the last three though use momentum. 

Below I'm exploring the idea of folding into lotus, as if folding your arms. Still very much work in progress, the use of the mat especially with the second leg feels like cheating but it's an interesting experiment and it will be interesting to see if it improves any over the next couple of months. Is it indeed possible to move into lotus while seated, as if folding your arms.

Some early videos

Jumping into lotus and jumping back from lotus

Hands free lotus but relying on momentum

Not hands free but I7m interested in the idea of folding into lotus in headstand (hands free) lowering to the mat but then lifting back up again to unbind. Lowering is trickier than going up.

Amused by this early video of trying to jump into kukkutasana, get there in the end.

Working towards Karandavasana, the 14 day challenge, it took another week before I was able to go back up.

Vinyasa Krama padmasana sequences

Note: the sequences in Vinyasa krama tend to be educational, showing the relation between different variations as preparation and extension.  Generally, within a sequence there tends to be several key asana, preceeded by preparation and followed by my challenging variations. If the preparations for the asana are all that are possible in one group then you could then move on to the within the sequence and so on. Once a certain degree of familiarity is attained one then the idea is to take a number of asana and variations from different sequences to construct your daily practice, perhaps different variations on different days so as to access all areas of the body over a week or so.

Lotus preparation

If you're struggling with your lotus and installing an old fashioned squat toilet is impractical, slipping malasana somewhere into your practice might be an option and may help.


The most important thing to remember about lotus is to have your knee bent before trying to take it onto the thigh, bending the knee fully, locks and protects the knee, try and crank an unbent knee into lotus, or even trow it in under momentum can cause serious damage.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Was the Ashtanga Primary series 'designed' as Yoga Therapy?

I do find this therapeutic 'design' argument for the Ashtanga Primary series in the recent Sonima article ( link below) puzzeling. The suggestion here is that the Primary series was designed for it's therapeutic benefit...

"Jois called the Primary Series of Aṣṭāṅga yoga “roga cikitsā” meaning disease therapy and “cikitsā vibhāga” meaning therapy section.... The title cikitsā vibhāga, given to the Primary Series, indicates that it’s MAIN PURPOSE (my caps) is disease therapy, especially designed to repair, rejuvenate, and strengthen the system for the purpose of yoga. "

And yet it's clear that Pattabhi Jois merely took Krishnamacharya table of yoga groupings of easy, tricky and ruddy difficult postures (primary, Middle and proficient) and taught them as series for his Sanskrit college teaching gig, rather than as groups and taught them as such - no doubt because he needed a four year syllabus. The Primary group is barely changed from Krishnamacharya's table(see Appendix below), although the Intermediate Marichiyasana D was moved by Jois into the Primary group/series. Pattabhi Jois then took this group of 'Primary postures and called them 'yoga therapy, the second series, again only slightly more changed from the original became referred to as nerve cleansing.

Nor should we perhaps imagine that PattabhiJois 'constructed' the series/sequences of asana in any sense of collaboration with Krishnamacharya, Jois was but a boy, Krishnamacharya a terrifying (by all accounts at this time) court philosopher and yoga teacher. The most that probably happened is that the young Jois shyly passed his teacher his four series and received a curt nod of acceptance.
Krishnamacharya's groups of asana are the same as those listed for ease/difficulty of practice but at some point they received a therapeutic name. Pattabhi Jois may have looked at the asana in these groups/series and thought that combined they had such therapeutic benefits but they clearly weren't designed from the ground up with such an intention.

Pattabhi Jois was barely out of his teens when he began to teach these group of asana as series, he didn't construct them, or design them, or even reorder them that much ( the Advanced series was a different case), he merely tweaked Krishnamacharya's table a little. There is no evidence that Krishnamacharya saw his groups of asana as a series or taught them as such other than perhaps out of convenience as a regular group of beginner postures (this table may have been intended for his assistants, like the young Jois as krishnamacharya may well have been in side rooms with private students and patients teaching them Vinyasa Krama, the tables may also have been used for exam purposes) .

That said Krishnamacharya did give health benefits in his books ( Yoga Makaranda, Mysore 1934, Yogasanagalu, Mysore 1941) for each asana as well as a vinyasa count and indication of breathing, the same health benefits and count that Pattabhi Jois carried over to his book Yoga Mala.
Practice of the Ashtanga Primary series may well have many benefits but to suggest that the series was 'designed' with these benefits in mind strikes me as highly questionable.
Of course we don't know at what point Pattabhi Jois started to refer to and 'promote' Krishnamacharya's groups of asana as yoga therapy

Updates from fb: 

Half the time we blog, I think, to 'speak' out loud and see if we still agree with something we've written by the end of the day, month...year (or ten), I know I do,for that reason I'm including these comments of mine from the fb thread on the topic.

1. Krishnamacharya was clearly very interested in Yoga Therapy, benefits are listed for every asana, he was treating patients back in the Mysore days as well in his later years. All I'm questioning here is the suggestion that the Primary series was constructed or designed as yoga therapy. Nothing wrong with focussing on that aspect of course as Manju seems to be doing. Personally I've never believed half the claims made for it, certainly not for individual asana...Curing leprosy... Seriously?

2. But even here we can fall into the trap of thinking the practice was 'constructed', 'designed' rather than asana being thrown together into groups depending on how challenging they were. It may be they settled into a rough routine and this is what Jois carried forward but rather than being designed for boys, boys just happened to be the students Krishnamacharya had. Of course he also had one to one patients and students but it's not clear how involved Jois was with them if at all. Jois reports that krishnamacharya was jumping from asana to asana in that first pre Mysore palace demo so that seemed to be in place already. The vinyasa count isn't rocket science. if you choose to begin and end at samastithi and count every movement to and from the asana you end up with a vinyasa count, it made sense to link that to the stages of the breath, it's all intuitive.

It's more likely that the Ashtanga Vinyasa we have was designed not so much for boys as for the slightly older adolescents of the Sanskrit college who Jois was required to teach. But again not so much designed as slightly reformatted to fit the four year syllabus.

3. We have no evidence that he (Pattabhi Jois) was 'brilliant'. Charismatic, generous in his teaching certainly but we know the table of asana was already there, we've seen photos of his asana that suggest he wasn't THAT gifted a practitioner by today's standards, it's certainly not suggested that he was even the best in the shala. Yoga Mala is a vinyasa by vinyasa rewriting of Yoga Makaranda. He shared his teacher's practice with us, was a devoted to his students and to passing along his teachers methodology, it's enough isn't it?

But then of course we aren't after gold medal winners in asana championships (it's not Bikram) but Ashtanga yogi's. The system may well be flawed in that too often it leads us into more obsession with self and appearance, attachment , attaining a hot body, the next asana and series, immersion in more dogma. As generous as i feel Pattabhi jois was I've seen footage of him adjusting in that video of Advanced series and we do have to question him as a teacher, his adjustments in that video are terrifying and I would argue foolhardy. The early teachers are the best guide to understanding him i think, they loved him but considered him totally human.

4. I like that image too Randolph but aren't we in danger of projecting a Western pedagogical model on to an Asian one and suggesting ours is the ideal, which is disrespectful to a system that 'worked' for a thousand years or two. Even here, in Japan today, you don't tend to question your teacher. Iyengar gives us a good insight into how Krishnamacharya was with his students ( and he was family) but we can also look to Singleton and Yoga Body for more accounts and even to Mohan and Ramaswami in Krishnamacharya's 'softer' years and how they would tend to wait and hope for him to discuss a topic rather than ask. Krishnamacharya was no Mr. Miyagi.... And come to think of it Miyagi Sensei just made the Karate Kid clean his car.

Jois said that Krishnamacharya gave his approval for the four year syllabus but then he would, it was his own table of asana spread over four years. Have always wondered how K. felt about Jois getting the Sanskrit College gig, perhaps he was indifferent.

5. I figure, overall, a 'smart' practice is beneficial but like you I would practice anyway, it grounds and disciplines my life, it helps me breathe and it helps me to Sit. I don't believe most of the claims made for asana by Krishnamacharya or Jois but thank them every morning for the gift of the practice I love, however much i may have modified it. I tend to think Ashtanga, as taught in Mysore, and when passed along unreflectively and unmodified is overall, probably harmful, certainly in the long term if not in the short. I wince every time I see Sharath encourage somebody to work towards grabbing their heels, shins, thighs or at the thought of every Led class and assist.

I'm not alone in this, I understand David Williams for one, neither assists or allows headstands.

That said I happen to love headstands.

I do respect Sharath though as well as Manju and Saraswati for preserving the practice as they were taught it just as Pattabhi Jois preserved one form of Krishnamacharya's teaching however modified it may have been for the Sanskrit college course, it's one of the best insights we have into how Krishnamacharya taught at a particular time to a particular group of students.

Thankfully we have David (Williams) and all the other reflective teachers as well as our own common sense to decide how we want to approach that preserved form of the practice.

If we believe those who profess that the practice was designed and constructed with therapeutics in mind..., if we believe that Krishnamacharya, Jois, ever opened an anatomy book let alone studied the area in any depth rather than relying on the imperfect awareness of bodyworkers...., if we believe they developed a practice on the basis of a profound and knowledgeable understanding of the mechanics of the body rather than questionable Chinese whispered texts (with apologies to the Chinese) and an accident of circumstance (groups of asana to fixed sequences) then we are likely to trust it and those 'certified' to teach it rather than trust to our own common sense and, while choosing to practice our modified version of it, be prepared to say no thank you very much to an instruction or element of the official practice or to a teacher that expects us to allow them to guide (force) us deeper into a questionable posture and the dogma that surrounds it.

Thankfully there are a lot of smart teachers around to counter the dogmatics that come with passing something along faithfully.


Complete asana table from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu, Primary, Middle and Proficient asana groups

Visit The ongoing Yogasanagalu (1941) Translation Project page for the translation we have so far.

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.

'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 Asana table



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 ?

Pictorial representation of the table (made up of my old file pictures ).

Krishnamacharya's Primary group (Incomplete ; made up of pictures from his Yoga Makaranada).
Original table

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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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