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Saturday, 22 September 2018

Yoga and Ageing ( with particular reference to Ashtanga).

Many who write about Ashtanga and ageing, often critics of Ashtanga generally, fail to understand that while many do take a somewhat aggressive, energetic, approach to their Ashtanga practice it is also possible to practice Ashtanga in a relaxed, generally safe, non striving way. 

Yoga and Ageing ( with particular reference to Ashtanga). A personal perspective.

Yoga and ageing is in the air at the moment it seems, in reference to Ashtanga in particular.

I imagine it may be assumed, by some, that my own moving away from Ashtanga has been partly to do with growing older, I'm not sure that's the case.

I was, what, forty-three when I started practicing yoga and I started with Ashtanga. In the beginning it was very much a struggle. I was overweight, I wasn't flexible in the slightest but with daily practice and a switch to a vegetarian diet I quickly began to lose weight, becoming stronger and more flexible. I was practicing full primary within a year, Intermediate after two, and within three I had practiced all of 3rd and 4th series, although the later series corresponded with my move away from straight Ashtanga and if I'm honest were still pretty shabby.

I used to have a full on, dynamic, approach to practice, my practice room was hot (as was and occasionally still is fashionable - why for heaven sake). I would throw in Kino half handstand jump through's between every posture, mostly jumping straight in and out of a posture.

I remember that at one point I was losing 2 kilo in sweat each practice. I turned down the heat after getting Kidney stones. I was eating a lot of raw spinach at the time in green smoothies and though drinking a lot of water before practice it was sweated straight out rather than passing through the kidneys.

I was obsessed with asana and it was that which drew my attention to Ramaswami's 'Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga', it had A LOT of asana in it. Turns out though that although there was a lot of asana, some variations I hadn't come across in Ashtanga, the approach to practice was much slower.

So I started to practice Vinyasa Krama alongside my Ashtanga practice, Ashtanga in the morning, Vinyasa Krama in the evening. Later I sold a Saxophone and attended Ramaswami's five week Vinyasa Krama Teacher training in LA. For the first week or two I would get up at four am and do my Ashtanga in a stairwell, grab a coffee then go and practice three hours of Vinyasa Krama with Ramaswami. By the third week we had gotten on to  the Vinyasa Krama Triangle and On one leg sequences, these were pretty tough so I stopped practicing my stairwell Ashtanga.

Two things in particular, relevant to this post, struck me while practicing with Ramaswami. One was that there was no restriction on which asana you could or couldn't practice, no 'next' asana or 'next' series to strive after, if you could practice asana you practiced it, if not there were other asana that worked towards it, this pretty much undermined the asana chase and I seem to remember my course essay was on overcoming asana madness.  The second revelation was the calm relaxed approach to practice and how ultimately our asana practice led up to pranayama and meditation practice.

When I came back from Ramaswami's course I sought a more relaxed Vinyasa Krama approach my Ashtanga practice.

I was reminded of years before when I practiced Aikido. I'm not that big a guy but I have strong shoulders and a strong back and I would employ that strength somewhat while practicing my Aikido. I remember we had two new students join our Aikido club, one was twice the size of me, the other half my size. The size difference between the two was pretty dramatic and of course the larger of the two would easily throw the other around the Dojo. Over time however, the smaller guy, forced to focus on technique, began to gain the upper hand, the larger guy who had always relied on his size and strength barely progressed (As it happened, I heard the smaller guy ended up taking over the dojo when our Sensei left). I took note from this and worked more on my technique and I remember one session where I had to face three opponents, one with a wooden knife, the second with a wooden baton and the third unarmed. The idea was to throw each opponent with an appropriate technique dependent on how armed they were, after being thrown they would roll out of the throw get up and attack again and again and again. In the past, using my size and strength, I would soon become tired but this particular session the technique clicked into place and I barely expended any effort at all, it felt as if I could go on throwing attackers, on all day. I was in the zone.

I mention the above because I began to notice, that after practicing Vinyasa Krama my Ashtanga became more relaxed, more.... energy efficient. I remember switching from Kino's half handstand Jump through to Sharath's energy efficient little hop. I had been practicing long enough that I already had the technique down,  I would ease myself into postures, a rushed led practice seemed ever more ridiculous, it still does, a miss step however much of a money tree for Sharath.

And then I ended up focussing on Krishnamachrya's early Mysore texts, Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu, again a slower more meditative practice where pranayama was very much a part of every asana, kumbhaka throughout the practice, conserving energy, staying calm with a slow steady heat rate anda composed breath became ever more important.

Many who write about Ashtanga and ageing, often critics of Ashtanga generally, fail to understand that while many do take a somewhat aggressive, energetic, and often downright dangerous approach to their Ashtanga practice (ahhh the enthusiasm of youth), it is also possible to practice Ashtanga in a relaxed, safe non striving way. On the few occasions when I have practiced Ashtanga at home, a full primary or Intermediate in the last year or so, I have noticed that I barely sweat, my breath and heart rate remain steady (except for karandavasana, too out of practice to keep a steady heart rate there). And this is borne out of course by seeing some of the more proficient practitioners practice. Despite practice challenging asana and series, their breath remains steady, as does their heart rate. A proficient Ashtanga practice is a steady practice.

That said, Ashtanga CAN be a dangerous practice, we can dive right in, practice without any common sense, push ourselves too hard, trust and rely on a teacher with more dogma than common sense, allow ourselves to be adjusted by somebody who shouldn't be adjusting and certianly not as forcefully, we can race to keep up in a Led class or try to keep up with our peers, we can fail to listen to our own bodies, our own inner 'guru' if you like. However, practiced calmly, humbly, modestly, with less striving, listening to our body, preparing ourselves appropriately for each posture and how we approach it that day, how we approach our whole practice, perhaps with an experienced non dogmatic and supportive teacher..., then I tend to believe that Ashtanga is not significantly more dangerous than any other physical practice. You can twist, even break an ankle, a leg even, just walking your dog in the park.

Leaning towards a slower practice and less concerned with advanced asana, I began to practice less and less asana, pretty much settling on the ten asana I mention in my 'Proficient primary series of posts, it seemed sufficient. I still considered it Ashtanga and Ashtanga a Vinyasa Krama. I practiced less not because I was ageing but because I found spending more time in fewer asana more interesting, more rewarding, how flexible do I need to be, how strong? Was that a more mature outlook? Perhaps but I was still forty-three when I started Ashtanga, it wasn't as if I was in my twenties. Still, after getting to the leg behind head postures in Second series I do remember being stunned that my forty year old body could actually do such things.

Part of the asana chase I embarked on at the time, was I think partly because I had no idea how much longer advanced postures would be available to me, I wanted to complete Advanced A, Advanced B even while I perhaps still could. No doubt too, some (but by no means all) older practitioners are seeking to hold onto or reclaim their youth. Others however enjoy a relatively calm and simple practice and are irritated or perhaps bemused by the suggestion that they should strive for more asana, the next series, perfectly happy as they are ( and perhaps intuitively correct) in their satisfaction with the practice they have. Still others are perhaps somewhere in the middle.

At some point, I became more and more interested in Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal active movements, himself coming out of the Krishnamachrya traditions, of Iyengar and Jois and Shandor Remete, I would practice the movements as a warm-up to standing postures at first but then, gradually, in place of Ashtanga Standing. I noticed that I dropped down to eight seated asana and this week I noticed that I had dropped down to three, my whole ninety minute practice becoming Simon's standing Spinal movements and my own inverted version of the same.

The above video is from a little while ago, more and more I'm questioning binds altogether, trying to keep my movements ever more simple.

I moved away from Ashtanga, disassociated myself with Ashtanga, not because I was ageing, not because I felt it was an inappropriate practice for my age, I think it's perfectly possible to maintain a calm, steady, appropriate Ashtanga Vinyasa practice whatever your age, but rather because I believed Pattabhi Jois' behaviour, his abuse of his students, was inappropriate and damn right criminal. And almost, worse, the ongoing silence in the present community ( and yes, I do understand that many are still struggling with this). The Silence from Sharath on this when so vocal on other more banal matters, the silence from teachers I had looked up to, the enablers and apologists, the defenders, and those who attack and insult those who suffered Jois' abuse, often employing Trumpian arguments. I moved away from Ashtanga not because I was getting older, nor because of the abuse in the past but the silence of the present and because frankly, I found an approach to practice I currently find more  rewarding.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Score one for the Spinal Movements - gentle practice for back pain.

The great Buddha of Kamakura

I've just had ten days off work and being Typhoon season decided to stay home and enjoy practice for most of the time with just a short trip east to Kamakura and Tokyo before heading back to work.

We decided to take the Night bus to get an early start on Kamakura, before the crowds arrived. Good plan but I woke up Saturday morning barely able to move. The bus journey, hiking through the hills, sleeping on a dodgy bed, twisting awkwardly in the night...., not sure what was to blame but I was worried I would be spending all day in bed. A hot bath and Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal movements got me moving again.

I tend to practice Simon's Spinal movement sequence as a warm up, occasionally as an alternative, to regular Standing postures but Saturday morning it was about the only movement I could manage. Ten minutes of that and I could manage a downward dog, another ten and I was back out the door with my backpack for another day wandering around the big city.

Back home via the Shinkansen, back is still a little tender, it's probably going to be nothing but Simon's spinal sequence all week.

Simon often posts short demonstrations, free on-live classes etc. on his fb page ( as well as on youtube but a full version can be found here I bought this and it was excellent for getting a hang of the basic movements from which you can improvise.

Thank you again Simon, for getting me moving and saving the weekend.

YouTube notes to the video
In this 12 minute video Simon Borg-Olivier MScBAppSci(Physiotherapy)APAM,c-IAYT visually leads you through a safe, accessible and effective health-giving sequence of posture, movement and breathing. It is is also very effective therapy for your anatomy, physiology and your mind. As a therapist Simon has used  parts of these movements on many occasions to give total relief to many musculoskeletal problems and medical conditions.

The main effects of this type of practice are mediated by accessing the unconscious mind in order to reprogram any unwanted programming in your Body-Energy-Mind System. The main ways of accessing your unconscious are through four main access points as follows:
*** Regulating the three main spinal reflexes 
*** Gaining control of the 12 bridges between conscious and unconscious
*** Using techniques that regulate and control blood flow 
*** Balancing the inputs to left and right brain hemispheres so that it becomes possible to rewrite unwanted subconscious programming. 

This video was filmed as part of the recent course filmed in Sydney at the course entitled “Therapeutic Applications of Posture, Movement and Breathing”. We also have an online version of this course.
You can see details about  our live and online courses at


Just the first five minutes or so of the movements below repeated rather than moving on to the variations

Note: Everyone's back pain is different, this worked for me but may not the best option for you, discussing it with your doctor is always advisable.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

(After) Ashtanga: beyond dogma - 2. Seated and Asymmetric postures.

A series of posts perhaps, an opportunity to raise and question some dogma, here's the first.

(After) Ashtanga: beyond dogma - 1. Seated and Asymmetric postures.

-How strong do I want to be, how flexible do I want to be-

Over the last year or so, I seem to have settled into a flexible approach to this short krama as the main seated/asymmetric portion of my practice. I'm not suggesting anyone else should practice this way, Ramaswami (following Krishnamacharya) would suggest that you follow the requirements of your body that morning as you choose the asana to practice.

I remember once practicing full Primary, Second and Third series in a single session (quite absurd, there's a blog post somewhere), these days this tends to be my main static asana practice and feels sufficient. I might include most of the Ashtanga standing sequence or spend more time on Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal movements (treat it as an alternative rather than as a warm up). I tend to include the first few backbends from Second series once or twice a week and go in and out of gomukhasana, baddha konasana and padmasana from sirsasana.

What feels key after Ashtanga and beyond dogma is not so much what we practice or how but that we do practice, with sincerity, building and maintaining discipline.... or is that another dogma to be challenged.

Below is speeded up version and below that a video in real time .


I work gently into Paschimottasana, the knees bent slightly at first. I have my hands over my feet and it's the pointing of my feet that takes me down into the folded version. I will often include a short kumbhaka after the inhalation and/or a kumbhaka after the exhalation when folded. Krishnamacharya includes Kumbhaka in most of his asana instruction in his early Mysore book, Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934).

I tend to move away from Krishnamacharya in my breathing, at times I ver ymuch follow Krishnamacharya's instruction, as with the kumbhaka above but I will also tend to switch to natural breathing and these days i always tend to breathe with an abdominal rather than chest focus.

I don't bother to jump back between sides (Mantra: How strong do I need to be, how flexible do I need to be) or between postures but practice it somewhat more in the approach of Ramaswami (and thus his teacher Krishnamacharya), practicing all the postures on one side and then on the other. Ramaswami mentioned once that even though we might not jump back or return to standing there is, in a sense, always an implied count. Of course, one might take a more Ashtanga like approach, practice first one side and then the other, jumping back between sides or perhaps just between postures. Just as we might include a jump back and through between each asana we might also return to standing each time.

This short sequence is not unlike the first part of the Ashtanga Primary series, ardha badha padmasana is skipped ( we already have a standing version with more freedom for the hip), Kouchasana from second series though is slipped in, as is bharadvajrasana but here a simpler version from Simon Borg-Olivier that I've come to like with less stress on the knee.

An Ashtangi might not see any resemblance to Ashtanga at all in this....., unless of course I were to publish my practice in a book as my own.

I will often include Maha Mudra with kumbhaka before folding down into Janu Sirsasana A. I practice Janu sirsasana D (which used to be part of Ashtanga Primary back in the day supposedly) rather than C, again, to give less stress to the knees.

These are the only two versions of Marichyasana I tend to practice these day, omitting the half lotus versions, again, to go easier on the knees. I will often finish this sequence with navasana include the first few backbends from second series or prepare for a sarvangasana (shoulder stand) krama.

See perhaps.... Vinyasa krama series and sequences 

(After ) Ashtanga: Beyond Dogma #1 - Authority

I wrote my first blog post in a couple of months this week but decided it was too negative. If I'm going to start posting again and it's a big IF at the moment, I want to try and be somewhat more positive.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post where I stated that I no longer identified as an Ashtangi (a clumsy expression I admit). I wanted nothing more to do with Yoga and explored Qigong for a time, I learned Taichi too but gradually slipped back into an approach to practice that had been evolving over the last few years (see Proficient Primary).

A series of posts then perhaps, an opportunity to raise and question some dogma, here's the first.

(After ) Ashtanga: Beyond Dogma #1 - Authority 

It strikes me that the Ashtanga world has gone through somewhat of a paradigm shift of late.

For many, the old authorities have been loosened. Pattabhi Jois has lost credibility through his abusive behaviour and this raises questions as to the authority of those who, in turn, have emphasised a close relationship to him. Some were enablers, talking down those who did wish to speak up, others remain apologists, many just looked the other way, most were no doubt just confused. More and more are speaking up, too many others remain silent. Some argue that it was another time or another place, perhaps they haven't seen the article (Remski) where Saraswati, upon being told that his (Jois') behaviour was not acceptable in the US, reportedly said, 'It's unacceptable anywhere'. Some argue, shockingly, that his behaviour wasn't as bad as Bikram's. Others continue to profess to be confused as to why anybody would not speak up, not go back, are they equally confused as to why so many stay in abusive marriages, even today when divorce is so much easier, to those who argue thus I would suggest there is a lack of imagination, understanding and empathy.

It has been shown (here on this blog) how the Ashtanga series (the first two series at least) were a slight reordering of Pattabhi Jois' teacher's (T. Krishnamacharya) table of asana ( see Lists). This isn't a practice that Jois invented, he never claimed to, but rather that he was just teaching what his teacher taught him, clearly there was much that the mature Krishnamacharya didn't share with the boy Jois.

We can see too the practice that Jois presented as Ashtanga was a simplification of his teachers teaching, what was shared with the boys of the palace rather than in the side rooms where Krishnamacharya would teach his private students, hints of which might be found, freely available to all, in Krishnamacharya's early Mysore texts ( Yoga Makaranda - Mysore 1934, Yogasanagalu - Mysore 1941 - Free Downloads).

We can see too, in the 1938 documentary video of Krishnamacharya demonstrating asana, that he is presenting Sarvangasana and Sirsasna  kramas ( shoulderstand and headstand sequences) close to those he would teach to Ramaswami soon after leaving Mysore. Krishnamacharya was I believe constantly exploring both his own practice and his teaching to others, just as perhaps we should.

With authority loosened, parampara shown to be a justification of authority (financial?), we find ourselves perhaps somewhat free from dogma, the traditionalists may be shocked to realise perhaps that often, the more flexible ashtanga vinyasa taught in gyms may actually be closer to how Pattabhi Jois' teacher would teach (note I'm not talking about goat or beer yoga here but the sincere, student focused rather than dogma focussed, vinyasa teachers.

Jois presented one, simplified, version of his teacher's teaching, as well as one approach to teaching it. Even Sharath, it seems, while holding firmly to the dogma of the first seems to have taken a somewhat less hands on, aggressive, approach to the second. Many of the most respected, long term Ashtanga practitioners/teachers have taken innovative approaches in their own teaching.

Krishnamacharya argued that we don't all need to learn ALL the asana (how could we, six series merely scratches the surface of all the possible variations) but that some should (learn as many as they can). Likewise, we don't all need to learn a relatively fixed, dogmatic approach to Ashtanga vinyasa, although perhaps some should, so that practice of the boys of the Mysore palace isn't lost completely.  And I for one benefited from that highly structured approach in the beginning in developing a disciplined daily practice, it suited my temperament. Equally we should also reject the idea of there being one traditional, authentic approach, and explore our practice freely (and safely), just as Krishnamacharya seems to have done, this strikes me as more authentic, more traditional.

You might argue that there needs to be authority, that we need to be taught how to practice these asana. You're probably right. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have been the case that Jois had much of an idea HOW to teach asana... safely or to whom (see the advanced series in a garage video on youtube), perhaps the same went for Krishnamacharya, did either of them ever open an anatomy/physiology book, has Sharath? Or was it all mostly intuitive, trial and lots of error, damaged for life error. And of course Pattabhi Jois' students, his authorised teachers followed his lead in how they taught the Ashtanga series, cranking students into postures, promoting extreme backbends, twists and hip openers. An 'authorised' teacher may well be one of the most dangerous teachers to go to. 

Thankfully, more recently, many teachers have taken the initiative themselves and turned to the anatomy books, to workshops with teachers with a focus on safe practice, and Sharath too (who adjusts less and less), in special courses for his authorised teachers, seems to suggest safer adjustments as well as those to avoid. He is also said to be open to students discussing their practice with him and why they may not wish to practice certain asana.  So there are safe authorised teachers to go to but there are also some frankly terrifying authorised teachers out there, I speak from personal experience. There are claims that Jois injured some, perhaps many, of his students to lesser and greater degree, we will never know how many. It's often tended to be the Ashtanga mavericks and/or those teaching outside the KPJAYI or authorisation system who have challenged dogma in favour of safer practice, a safer Ashtanga. Sharath may excommunicate those Ashtanga teachers who offer teacher training but at least these training tend to include a safe practice, anatomical awareness, element, John Scott's TT with David Keil comes to mind.

More than anything we should challenge the idea of yoga as equating with asana, the asana for Jois' teacher Krishnamacharya was ALWAYS integrated with pranayama and with the meditative limbs and on the ground of a code of behaviour (E.G. Yama/Niyama).

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

after ashtanga

I wasn't sure I would post again but I read a comment from somebody this week who made me think that, now more than ever is when we should be posting, as many of us who do not choose to look the other way try and navigate our way through these times. Jois shared a simplified version of his teacher Krishnamacharya's teaching, like the boys in the palace for which it was designed (Yeah, it kinda was), it's given us some discipline, the broad brushstrokes of a practice. Now it's time perhaps to step out from behind the veil of dogma and enter the side rooms where Krishnamacharya would perhaps teach the more subtle, mature, aspects of practice as found in his early Mysore texts and that perhaps intuitively we suspected were available to us from our own practice.

If I continue to post here, rather than continue to dwell on the negative (that much), I hope to look forward to exploring practice 'after Ashtanga'.

Below is a slightly developed comment I posted on an fb thread this week.


Two things came up this week. A friend returned to a shala I once practiced in for three months. My first thought was how nice it would be to practice there again but then, as I clicked through the photos, I saw the picture of Pattabhi Jois on the alter that I remembered from when I had practiced there and realised that, however much affection (love actually) I may have for the teacher or the room, I really had no desire to practice in a space that keeps Jois' photo in pride of place when in full knowledge of the recent accounts of his abuse by victims courageous enough to submit themselves to the online abuse they receive in turn from many of their peers.

The photo was admittedly small and if not on the alter then perhaps relatively discreet, surely it would be easy to just ignore the photo and practice. I'm aware of the teachers affection for Jois and from where it stems, I understand that it's hard, still I personally wouldn't choose to practice there while it remained.

If that small photo on the alter is relatively discreet then what to make of Jois Yoga. As far as I'm aware the walls are still chock full of giant photos of Jois, how does anyone bring themselves to practice there, how does the teacher teach, the owner justify it, what a daily slap in the face of #metoo and of anyone who has ever spoken up or come forward, inside or outside the yoga communities
Jois Yoga - photo from an image search on google (chosen because everyones face is hidden in baddha padmasana).

Later in the week I saw a photo of hundreds of Yoga students (600 I now hear), practicing in what looked like a gymnasium or conference hall (aircraft hanger?). At first I thought it was an old Bikram photo but it was actually Sharath in Madrid and I felt quite dismayed. I remember when we used to be proud of the fact that we taught and practiced in small rooms, that our practice seemed to be the polar opposite of Bikram. But this photo, along with the absurd Paramaguru tourism title that Sharath continues to allow to be used in promotion and now there on his website, speaks to me of a blossoming Bikramesque ego.

But perhaps it has nothing really to do with Sharath, he's clearly just embracing the money tree now. For those attending, perhaps it's more of an Ashtanga festival. We all love (in my case loved) Friday Primary and the thought that whatever the level/series, every Ashtangi around the world was practicing Primary series that morning.

Sharath in Madrid 2018 - photo from a google image search, shared publicly on Facebook and Instagram

What remains a comfort to me however, is occasionally visiting the fb Ashtanga Home Practitioner page and seeing how, mostly, everyone there just seems concerned with their practice, in exploring and developing their practice, (mostly) sharing rather than showing off to inspire and support each other, just as in the old blogosphere. Jois, Sharat, seem of little concern to most, they take their inspiration however and from whatever teacher or online source they find most beneficial but mostly it seems to come through their own practice.

I know too there are Ashtanga shalas and teachers less concerned with dogma and personalities or self promotion and more concerned with the practitioner who shares their room and how they can most support them.

The practice is about the practice, Jois didn't invent it, only simplified and somewhat codified what is there available for us all in Krishnamacharya's early writing, the details of the practice, the little differences (Royaalll with cheese) are less important than that we do practice... something, as regularly as possible, with commitment and sincerity. From that discipline, that foundation  and it is only a foundation, we can build a practice that has some relevance in our lives and perhaps those around us.

Surely there will always be a community of somewhat (however loosely) like minded practitioners.

I may no longer identify as an 'Ashtangi'  (Note: I've changed the blog title to (after) Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama Yoga at home') but recognise that my practice is still pretty much half Primary, more Krishnamacharya than Jois perhaps, more influenced by Simon Borg-Olivier these days than Swenson and Freeman but more similar than different.

This week is my holiday, rather than run off to Okinawa I decided that, like many Ashtanga practitioners I suspect, all I really wanted to do for the week, was have a longer, more savoured, practice each morning, practice my Pranayama twice a day, Sit as much as possible, reread the 4th pada of YS and review some of the online courses I have.


Note: I've no interest in promoting these posts through fb anymore or anywhere else, but do feel free to subscribe (old school).

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Klesa - Srivatsa Ramaswami - September 2018 Newsletter

Kama and Manyu

.Yoga students are familar with the klesas or distubances known as raga and dvesha or intense desire and anger/hatred.These two are preceded by asmita which is ignorance of true nature of the Self. Patanjali recommends kriya yoga which includes 'svadhyaya' . Many yogis give a broad interpretation to svadhyaya including self study. The word svadhyaya traditionally would refer to study of the scriptures, vedas. In fact there is a vedic mantra which directly deals with this klesa. "Kamah akarsheeth manyuhu akarsheeth namo namah". It would mean that all the deeds are done by kama or desire and manyu or anger, and it is followed by saying namo namah or that I pray to the devas that control these two emotions to spare me. The mantra is chanted by many people three times a day once at dawn again at noon and then at dusk as part of the daily sandhya ritual. The mantra is chanted 108 times on the day of sravana, usually the full moon day in the Aug Sep period every year. Actually the mantra used is a portion of the full mantra. The next line is kamah karta naham karta, manyuh karta, naham karta meaning it is desire that does this activity and it is manyuh or anger that does this wrong activity but not me the real self that is incapable of any action but is only a witness. This mantra helps to weaken the three klesas, asmita then raga and dvesha. Many people chant this mantra 108 times or even 1008 times evry year on the full moon day in the month of Avani or July/August period. 

कामोऽकार्षीन्कामः करोति नाहंकरोमि कामः कर्ता नाहं कर्ता कामः कारयिता नाहंकारयिता येष ते कामकामायस्स्वाहा

kāmo'kārṣīnkāmaḥ karoti nāhaṁkaromi kāmaḥ kartā nāhaṁ kartā kāmaḥ kārayitā nāhaṁkārayitā yeṣa te kāmakāmāyassvāhā

मन्युकार्षीन्मन्युः करोति नाहंकरोमि मन्युः कर्ता नाहं कर्ता मन्युः कारयिता नाहंकारयिता येष ते मन्यो मन्यवे स्वाहा।
manyuakārṣīnmanyuḥ karoti nāhaṁkaromi manyuḥ kartā nāhaṁ kartā manyuḥ kārayitā nāhaṁkārayitā yeṣa te manyo manyave svāhā|

Here is a free translation of the above two mantras put together. ( A video clip with the chanting of the mantra can be found in my facebook page)

danda namaskara.jpg
I bow to the devas of Desire and Anger ( to spare me). All activities are done by desire and anger--anger and desire have done all. Anger and Desire do all, not I (the real Self which is pure consciousness and the witness). Anger and Desire are the agents that do act not I do any activity(the Self, the witness). Anger and Desire are the ones that cause the individual to act and not I (the Self ). To these Desire and Anger I offer my prayers ( to spare the individual).

These mantras clearly go with the vedic, yogic and upanishadic philosophies that the real Self is pure consciousness and is only a witness but the prakritic body mind complex with the ego is the one that acts influenced by Desire and Anger.

Some people worry that this may prompt a few people not to take the  responsibility for their actions and say that anger and desire are responsible. But it should be emphasised that this mantra is to be used as a regular reminder that the real Purusha or the Self is the one with which one should identify oneself and is the witness, and not to prakritic body mind complex which is the one that acts. This is the teaching of samkhya, yoga and the upanishads. So if one after studying these philosophies and is convinced about the dichotomy of the real Self and the prakritic individual, then this mantra becomes a constant reminder of the true nature of one Self--all in the midst of worldly activities

Mantras are uplifting words or terms that protect the one who uses it or chants it. So if one is convinced about the teaching of a darsana or philosophy these come in handy to keep the individual on the right track. For instance if one is convinced that the real Self which is only a witness and not the agent having desire and anger which is the nature of the prakritic individual, then the subject may require to constantly remember that truth. Unfortunately due to old samskaras or habits of considering the body mind complex as the self and the overwhelming presence of the prakriti around and within, one is likely to fall back into the old habits. Take the case of an individual who is convinced that the Self or "I" and Brahman the ultimate reality  are one and the same after studying the upanishads. Then one may need a constant reminder and the mantra "Aham Brahmasmi" (I and Brahman) comes in handy. Repeated use of the mantra :Aham Brahmasmi: helps the sadhaka to be on track. Likewise the mantra under consideration becomes a powerful reminder that the real Self is pure consciousness and only the witness while the prakritic individual is the one that acts actuated by Kama or desire and Manyu anger. This could be a powerful  'mnemonic' tool for one who has a conviction about the vedic philosophy

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In August I completed a twin text program at Loyola Marymount University, teaching Samkhya Karika of Iswarakrishna in the forenoon and Patanjali's Yoga Sutra in the afternoon. The program was for a total of 40 hrs 20 hrs each of the texts
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 In September I will be teaching 3 day weekend program (15hrs) of Yoga Yagnyavalkya at Chicago Yoga Center, in Chicage,IL . It will be between Sep 14 and 16, 2018.
 On September  23, I will be giving a 90 minutes talk on "What is Yoga", it is based on the introductory talk my Guru gave sometime early 1960s when he started teaching me the Yoga Sutras. It is at  MindBodySoul Yoga  which is based in Washington Heights, New York City

For the remainder of the year, I am scheduled to teach the following programs  
1.   Ananta Yoga Studio Wicklow  in Wicklow, Ireland between Oct 5th to Oct 9th. Here is the link for more details

2.  In Luxembourg Oct 12 to 14, 2018

3. In Santiago Chile, Center de Yoga  Oct 29th to Nov 3rd

In 2019 I will be teaching the 100 hr Vinyasakrama  Teacher Training Program at 3 different Locations. At Yoga Vahini Chennai, India (Feb 11 to 27, 2019) One Yoga  in Victoria, Canada (June 24 to July 9, 2019) and Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles (July 27th to August 11, 2019

I am also scheduled to teach a 20 hr program on Upanishad Vidyas between January 2 to 6,  2019 at Yoga Vahini, Chennai

Srivatsa Ramaswami

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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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