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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Returning to Ashtanga - a journal

This is  new stand alone page (at the bottom of the pages list beneath the blog title photo above 'Coming back to Ashtanga.' ) that  I've been using as a journal - started May 18 2019 



Introduction

When I mentioned in a post this week that I had started practicing Ashtanga  again a friend commented that they too had been coming back to Ashtanga off and on over the last two years.

It struck me that there are probably a lot of practitioners coming back to the practice or considering it and that it might be worth journaling 'how it goes'.

Firstly, I wasn't expecting to come back to the practice, I thought I had washed my hands on Ashtanga a year ago, see this post -"There's probably still an Ashtangi in me somewhere but...." from May 2018, plus I was enjoying other approaches to practice.

Ironically, I had been posting, on Instagram, videos of full on Ashtanga transitions and contrasting them with gentle movements transitioning form forward to back spinal flexion. The focus of course was intended to be on the gentle movements but I found myself quite nostalgic for the time when I was working on those crazy Ashtanga transitions ( none of which are of course necessary in ashtanga, a gentle step back from and step to an asana being completely sufficient). I didn't miss the actual transitions I was showing but rather the time when I was so focussed on my daily Ashtanga practice, that commitment and focus.

It didn't come out of the blue. After being so disappointed with much of the Ashtanga community in their response to the breaking story of Pattabhi Jois' abuse and, frankly, anger at what had taken place and especially how so many had looked the other way, excused and basically enabled Jois' abuse at the time, I had wanted nothing to do with the practice. Even now, after all that we know about Jois' abuse, we still end up with photo's of him turning up in our feeds on instagram and fb by those who still feel that is appropriate to do so and not concerned that it can be experienced as another violation and or a direct insult..  However,  as time passed I found myself still rooting for friends and acquaintances and indeed complete strangers, who were working at their practice. I might have been frustrated at the community but couldn't fail to respect the sincerity and quiet commitment of daily practitioners.

A month or so ago I had posted on Krishnamachary's table of asana and how it was possible to reach back before Jois to a practice that was essentially the same but unbesmirched by Jois' grubby touch. I practiced it a few times but still found myself inclined to continue practicing Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal movements, Ashtanga, even Krishnamacharya's Ashtanga felt somewhat of a backward step.

And then, one morning, Wednesday (day 2 below) it no longer seemed so much a backward step but rather that the explorations of other approaches to movement this last year may serve to better inform what has always been my practice


*

Perhaps daily updates for the first week then weekly and monthly


First week - May 2019

Day one
And so I was surprised when on Tuesday, after twenty minutes or so of Simon's Spinal Movements, I started to run through the Ashtanga sequence, just as I remembered an old demonstration YouTube, no five breaths in asana but straight from one asana to the next ( as I said, a demonstration).

Day two
And then on Wednesday, after a ten minute Spinal Warm up I practiced full Primary but with less jump backs, between groups of asana rather than between sides, so a jump back after all the marichiyasana's, another after all the Janu Sirsasana variations etc.

I blogged

"Wednesday I practiced my first full Ashtanga Primary series in, oh I don't know how long, almost a year perhaps (See - I'm sure there's still an Ashtanga practitioner buried within me somewhere but......). And this morning, I practiced half Primary/half Second. I'll probably practice the same again tomorrow and then a straight Primary alongside M. on Saturday.

It's not really worth mentioning, I shouldn't write this until after a week, a month, another year of practice. This practice only takes on significance after a significant period of work, of grinding the practice out day in day out". 


Day three
Thursday I practiced half primary/half second (up to Ustrasana - no pasasana)

Day four
Friday was the same as day three, Half primary/Half second but more jump backs, this time between asana rather than groups of asana. Fourth day is and always has been the killer for me, I always seem to feel the fourth day more than any other, my whole body ached, not in a bad way exactly but just the feeling that you had seemingly employed every muscle in your body, in some way, in the practice. I feel asleep in Savasana.
I did question whether I had perhaps over done it but I had been careful, knees slightly bent for much of the time to go easy on the hamstring, gentle twists, gentle back stretches. I decided that I felt no worse that how I would if I had half hiked/half climbed  up our mountain.

Day five
Saturday. Similar to day four, half primary/half second, jump backs between asana rather than sides. I expected to practice straight Primary beside M. on Saturdays but this week she was on her holiday. Sunday I work early so plan on taking Sundays as a rest day. Which makes this my first week, one day short of a full weeks practice. Not a bad idea, having a shorter week for the first week back. Feeling so exhausted for much of the day on the fourth day reminded me that it's still an intense practice and too be taken seriously, cautiously.

Day Six
This was going to be my rest day as I have to work early. Woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep. I felt stiff all over, aching back, hamstrings, shoulders. I tried some spinal movements but they didn't seem to help, I tried a couple of sun salutations and felt a little better, after the first creaking ones anyway. In the end I settled for a half primary easy on the hamstrings, bent knees etc.

*


Second week
Monday

- If the last couple of days I had ached all over, this morning I woke up fresh, ache free and hardly able to wait to step onto my mat. So it goes.

- On a side note my Spinal Movements, practice freed from the morning slot, feels quite exciting and exploratory, kind of how I use to 'play' in my afternoon Vinyasa Krama practice all those years ago.  

- Practice continues to go well, no aches, flexibility is coming back, two kilo curiously dropped off in just over a week and I've had to tighten my belt to stop my trousers falling down. More importantly though, to mix my metaphors. I feel more anchored, grounded...., earthed, I hadn't realised how restless I had become this last year.

Wednesday

- This week seems to have been ten years or so since Jois passed away, some, including Certified teachers ( and indeed, whole Associations) who should know better, felt it was appropriate to post photos of Jois (which ended up on  my Instagram feed), with captions mentioning what a marvellous and beautiful man he was, healing even. Is it timely? Really?  It's not about you, step aside, yield the floor and actually listen to, and hear, the victims whose voices are finally beginning to be heard.

I posted this in response


Discernment is knowing when and when not to exercise our freedom of speech. I don’t understand why you would publicly mark Jois’ passing. Why not a private acknowledgement perhaps out of respect for those who have directly experienced Jois’ abuse and are finally being heard, as well as those who have spoken up in support, despite the verbal abuse they have received from the community. It does help me to understand how senior and authorised teachers, looked the other way, excused and ultimately enabled Jois abuse.

To the response, 


"You never went to Mysore, you didn't know him, I practice with him for years"

I would suggest that clearly you didn't know him either, or perhaps you did but didn't want to 

A year ago it was this response by the community that turned me away from my practice. Interestingly, a year later, I wrote the above then got on and did my practice. I seem to have managed to distance the practice from Jois and indeed from those in the Ashtanga community who 'like' and 'heart' such photos of Jois' (unfriend me, please). That said, I didn't want to risk it, took down my post and withdrew a little more from social media.

At this point I'm more concerned with protecting the rebuilding of my Sādhana and it's grounding physical aspect/element

And yet I feel the tide is turning.

Thursday

I suspect this will be my last practice this week as I'm hiking up a mountain tomorrow. It's probably a full moon anyway (I never used to take moon days but this one comes at a good time). I'm still ache free, feeling strong, more flexible, enjoying practice and looking forward to getting on the mat each morning. Still taking it easy, jump backs between sides, not going into forward bends or twists too deeply, taking my time. I did add in Karandavasana yesterday before Sirsasana...., just to see. Landed my lotus but only just. I've had wrist problems recently, a ganglion cyst (see https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2018/11/ganglion-cyst-and-alternatives-to-sun.html) that became painful, it's pretty much gone now after using a wrist support but I still feel protective of my wrists.  I use the supports ( I even bought a second support for the other wrist)and steer clear of handstands but a forearm stand to bring back a little strength doesn't feel a bad idea and i was never completely happy with my karandavasana, always felt a little squished.




Friday (day eleven)

I'm sure Ashtanga used to be harder.
Just finished practicing Half Primary/half  Intermediate Ashtanga + Pincha and Karandavasana (down but no longer up, for now at least) next to M. (Primary). I noticed my mat wasn't that sweaty and after only two weeks coming back to the practice and carrying an extra couple.., FEW kilo.



Contrast it with this from years back, my towel drenched in sweat.


I'm feeling relaxed, refreshed and considering if I actually feel like eating something.

This is all Simon Borg-Olivier of course. Natural 'belly' breathing - the focus at the beginning of the breath (also movements) at the belly rather than at the chest and letting the breath take care of itself ( it tends to tune in naturally with the movements anyway). Plus I practice more slowly, breathe more slowly take my own sweet time getting in and out of postures with the breath, jump backs between postures rather than sides. I don't stretch or strain, more active movements. The room is cooler too than I used to have it ten years ago, although see this from a couple of years back when I first started Simon's approach 32°and 70% humidity in Osaka ( and no Air-conditioning in the flat) yet still a mostly dry mat.




I still feel like I've practiced, my whole body feels alive, present but I didn't feel much need of a savasana.

Coming back to Ashtanga...., it doesn't have to hurt.

That said, the other way used to be fun too : )

To be fair my body knows the practice, muscle memory, all those little tricks and techniques I picked up over the years that allow me to still get into binds despite the extra bit of weight I'm carrying. It was always going to be easier second time around and it's not like I haven't been doing some kind of daily practice.

M. too has a very relaxed sweat free practice, she takes her time.

Manju always said that we shouldn't push so hard, that we should enjoy our practice, have fun. It's still a long practice, takes a commitment to step on the mat each morning, still builds discipline but a hair shirt is.... optional.

Tomorrow will be a rest day (finally) or rather we are getting up early and hiking up our mountain

We're hiking up somewhere in the far left of the photo then going along the ridge ( there's a lake up there supposedly) and coming down somewhere near us ( to the right of the sun) "groan". Did I say a rest day?
Photos just taken from our balcony.



Third week

In the lake five minutes after my half Primary yesterday.

Lake Biwa

Saturday, M. and I went hiking up our mountain(s). Took a train south a couple of stations, hiked up one mountain, walked along the ridge, up and down another couple of peaks then came down our mountain, around seven hours hiking.

Top of the mountain Saturday.
A Panorama, Our lake Biwa on the left, The Kyoto mountains to the middle and right

Needless to say we were wreaked, bodies ached everywhere, serious pain in places, lower back, frount of shins, hamstrings, calves and my right shoulder too ( from the walking stick I picked up and used throughout I imagine). If I wrote that about an Ashtanga practice the critics would be out in force screaming to outlaw the practice, to regulate it, ban it!

I was reminded how, several years back there was the whole, 'Don't do any other form of exercise.' mantra in Ashtanga circles, do you remember that? Don't cycle, don't run, don't swim, don't go to the gym, "It will only interfere with your practice". Of course years, later Certified Ashtanga teachers were turning to Circus skills trainers to up their game, improve their handstands and keep ahead of the young blood coming through the ranks of Ashtanga social media. But I want to focus on before, when the Ashtanga police were out in force judging any transgression, don't you dare get on a bike or hit the pool.

It was ridiculous of course, most recognise that now I suspect but for a time seemingly everyone was very serious. I think now it's very revealing. it shows the focus on asana. Being serious about Ashtanga meant being serious about progression through the series, when all we really needed to be serious about was our commitment to a sincere practice, that groundwork of our yoga, polishing the tool. For others it might be sitting on a cushion or chair, for us it's making that commitment to a series of shapes, for an hour or more, on a rubber mat all while observing the breath.

Not meditating, not pretending to meditate, just sitting exhausted at the top of a mountain
looking out over the Kyoto mountains as far as the eye can see.
Thursday

I mentioned before that I'd had some wrist problems, a ganglion cyst on my left wrist that turned painful leading me to drop all my jump backs and even sun salutations. Thanks to my friend Jess' wrist strap recommendation ( Wristwidget or copy - see earlier post) I'm able to bring back my salutations and jump back ( although I tend to jump back between Asana rather than sides).
But what about arm balances? I leave them well alone. I stop at half Primary, after Navasana , thus avoiding Bhuja Pidasana and Kukkutasana altogether ( Note: I choose to practice the Krishnamacharya favourite, Bharadvajrasana rather than Mari D. following something Manju Jois once mentioned. - Krishnamacharya Put Mari D in his middle/intermediate group of asana). I don't miss them although I do miss the nice floaty Bakasana from the Ashtanga second series and Astavakrasana perhaps from Advanced A ( 3rd).


Manju mentioned that he tends to practice half Primary, half second and a little of third ( for fun and/or to 'keep his hand in'). I do something similar but there really isn't anything in Advanced A or B that I miss enough arm balances always seemed to play to a strength - strong back and shoulders and the back bends are excessive - also why I no longer bother with Kapotasana). I settle instead for Pinca Mayurasana and Karandavasana from the second half of Intermediate 'for fun'. No stress on my wrist, brings back a little strength and I really never was that happy with my Karandavasana, it would go down and back up but was always a little squished.
Half Primary is a quite delightful ( and sufficient) practice but Half Primary/Half Second ( I stop at Ustasana) always struck me as the best of all Ashtanga permutations.


Friday

Tristana, what Tristana?

I noticed this week that for all the lables I have at the bottom of my blog, relating to posts, I don't have a single post labled 'Tristana'. Tristana refers to 'breath, bandhas and drishti'. I always thought it sounded a little too 'neat', too much like marketing. I'm suspicious of anyone attempting to tie up my daily sadhana in a pretty bow.



Breath: I let the breath take care of itself, merely observing it, occasionally attend to it if it gets a little raggidy, usually by dwelling a little longer in a posture and letting the breath settle.

Drishti: Mostly my eyes are shut - I was pleasantly surprised when Manju suggested it on his TT as I'd been closing them for much of the time for years.

Bandhas: I move from the core, my sit bones tend to be dropped for much of the time, likewise my hips moved forward, are Uddiyana and Mula Bandhan naturally, subtly engaged, perhaps, I barely consider them ( Note: Simon Borg-Olivier mentions nine bandhas, mostly protecting joints, I do bear these in mind, or rather they've worked their way into my practice).


And what of the count? How far do we need to count in Sanskrit ( I wrote a post on learning it, one of my most popular posts  https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2014/02/one-approach-to-learning-ashtanga.html). These days I just count up to two, right at the beginning of my practice, "Ekam, Dve..... ", then forget all about it. I take as many 'extra' breaths as I feel like to get in and out of a posture. Those extra breaths aren't counted but are... 'observed'.
.
No opening or closing chants either. I thank all teachers and practitioners past and present for maintaining me in my practice. I wish all beings safe, well, peaceful, content. I offer two prayers, one in Greek one in Latin in recognition of my horizon and then I practice.

The sequence I practice is closer to the order in Krishnamacharya's table of Asana to give me a more comfortable distance from Jois.

I believe that we find our own approach to our practice, it's 'correct' if it's honest, sincere and committed and feels appropriate and meaningful that day.


*


Fourth week.....




Wednesday


Ashtanga Half Primary - Krishnamacharya's alternative listing of Asymmetric Seated Asana in Yogasanagalu ( Mysore 1941). Our Free Translation HERE

I was asked about something I mentioned earlier on my 'Return to Ashtanga' rolling post and page on my blog.

"The sequence I practice is closer to the order in Krishnamacharya's table of Asana to give me a more comfortable distance from Jois."

So how is Krishnamacharya's order of Asana different from Jois'? Firstly we should remember that Krishnamacharya's table of Asana is just that, a table rather than a fixed practice sequence or series as was the case with Jois. That said I suspect it may well have been a loose, constantly modifiable and adaptable, framework for practice..


The main difference is the asymmetric section. In Jois the sequence seems to lead towards arguably the most challenging posture in Primary, Marichiyasana D. In Krishnamacharya's table Mari D. is in the Middle ( Intermediate) group of Asana and it's as if the Asymmetric sequence leads to Janu Sirsasana or rather the key ( for Krishnamacharya) mudra 'Maha Mudra', for which the Janu Sirsasana variations are Asana versions.



My own approach to half Primary is pretty standard except that I substitute Krishnamacharya's Asymmetric subroutine for Jois' and include Maha Mudra with kumbhaka.
Reaching back before Jois and gives me some much needed distance from Jois' influence.
It also makes for a nice practice.


Thursday

My wrist has been playing up again all week, noticed it on Monday morning which was surprising as Sunday was my rest day suggesting it wasn't a result of sun salutations or jump backs. I suspect it's from holding onto the straps of my backpack as I run to the station after work.

The pain seems to be further over from before, more above my thumb and first finger, the wrist strap I've been using and mentioned before in this post doesn't seem to be effective here.

So I've been employing Simon Borg-Olivier's sun salutation variations where we don't actually touch the ground but just move the spine back and forth to the same count (see the third variations in the video below from 2.43). Ramaswami's vinyasa to and from seated positions ( second video below) thus avoiding any 'weight' on the wrist and skipping jump backs and jump throughs altogether and instead laying back between groups of table postures to include Dwipada pitham or table posture as a pratkriya (counter posture) to the forward bends.





Practicing this way highlights the Vinyasa Krama nature of Ashtanga. Ashtanga is merely a collection of asana and subroutines. The only difference between it and how Vinyasa Krama is practiced is that Ashtanga tends to be a fixed sequence of these, Vinyasa Krama embraces more modification and variation. Personally I've found there to be are enough asana in Ashtanga that extra variations and modifications are not necessarily required. You can practice Vinyasa Krama with just as many jump backs and through as Ashtanga, or you can practice less or a different kind of transition, either way, Ramaswami mentioned that the count to and from an asana is always implied if not actualised.

In Vinyasa Krama, we tend to work into a posture, repeating several times, going in perhaps a little deeper each time but you can do the same in Ashtanga of course, especially in Mysore self-practice, it's only with the introduction of the Led class that Ashtanga seems to have lost it's way somewhat.

Vinyasa Krama as taught by Ramaswami and following his teacher Krishnamacharya also emphasises pranayama and a meditative practice/activity, so Asana followed by pranayama followed by a Sit or perhaps chanting or contemplation of an 'appropriate' text of subject matter. More and more 'senior' Ashtanga teachers are it seems snubbing Sharath and including pranayama an often a Sit after the asana sequence.

I've always tended to practice my Vinyasa Krama as Ashtanga and my Ashtanga as Vinyasa Krama ( by including Kumbhakas and integrating with pranayama and a Sit) anyway, so this wrist problem is actually a welcome reminder of the roots of my practice.

Friday

With my wrist still playing up and regular Sun Salutations off the menu, I embraced Simon Borg-Oliver's Sun salutations variations (google for his video, it's the third variations I'm talking about). Then on into a pretty standard Ashtanga standing and half Primary but laying back and introducing dwipada Pitham ( table posture) in place of jump backs as a pratkriya (counter posture).


There are several variations of table pose https://youtu.be/1bxB13L2AZ8


Although the half series was pretty standard Ashtangawise (except for the Krishnamacharya version of the Asymmetric subroutine - see earlier post), practiced this way, a little slower, some kumbhaka, more modification, it felt a little more Vinyasa Krama than Ashtanga . You can practice Ashtanga this way of course  but it seems to have more of a Vinyasa Krama feel than Ashtanga.
I picture a scale, in the middle area Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama are much the same but move a little to the right and it feels more Vinyasa Krama, drift to the left and it's more Ashtanga.


Tomorrow I get to practice with M. and that'll be a month back practicing Ashtanga and perhaps a good place to end this practice journal post.

Saturday

Practicing with M. today, pretty much as Friday above except that after Simon's Spinal Sun salutation variation I came up with this variation on Suryanamaskara B, skipping Chaturanga and Urdhva Mukha svanasana ( upward facing dog) altogether. The slighter angle of the wrist in Adho Mukha Svanasana was comfortable.

Modified Surya namaskar  A

Modified Surya namaskar B



And that's a month back practicing Ashtanga and the end of this rolling 'journal'.




Ranier Maria Rilke




Appendix

Current thoughts on Ashtanga Vinyasa and Yoga.

Ramaswami, I guess paraphrasing his teacher Krishnamacharya, puts asana practice in perspective nicely. Paraphrasing the three Gunas ( a useful model but a model all the same)...

Asana to reduce Rajas (agitation), Pranayama to reduce tamas (lethargy) leaving us in a more satvic (serenity) state.

- there are of course many translations of the three gunas - Studying Sanskrit is of course an option, Indian Philosophy too... or we can just Sit more instead. Intellectual study is always it's own reward but I don't believe the study of Sanskrit or Indian Philosophy is required of us, a passing acquaintance is perhaps sufficient. I remember Ramaswmi suggesting that the Yoga sutras were pretty much intuitive. that it was the commentators who confused things, I tend to agree, we can get bogged down and distracted rather than just getting on and practicing. Yoga, as one pointed contemplation of the self (or it's absence), is humanities birthright, it doesn't belong to India, we find it everywhere. Personally, I look to my own tradition, the Greeks. However long I were to study Indian philosophy I would never understand it as well as my own horizon ,I realised this listening to Ramaswami's Yoga Sutra lectures over a fortnight, how he would weave in songs and slokas with stories from his childhood, his whole culture a vast tapestry of interconnections.

I asked Ramaswami once why we should practice early in the morning when we are perhaps at our least 'Rajistic' and most 'Satvic'. He seemed to suggest that it was just the best time to practice asana and it was more about reducing an accumulation of raja over time.

The idea then is to choose a practice that reduces our agitation, restlessness, that grounds us and basically just balances out these three mode of existence so we can start working towards equanimity, one pointedness and generally preparing ourselves for the application of that one pointedness which is where the yoga then comes in, an appropriate application of the one pointedness we have developed.

This is a householder practice. We are not expected to practice actual Yoga now, but rather after our householder duties are complete, when we are then free to retire to the (metaphorical) forest for contemplation.

Our practice now then, assuming we are not intending to become a Monk or Nun,  is to help us to live a more grounded, balanced, life, to carry out our (householder) duties with discernment and to prepare ourselves for the future, the third stage of life, to work now on our discipline, equanimity, non attachment for that time to come. This could have been written by a Greek, I prefer to look to the Stoics for my yama/niyamas

The question then is not, does Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga work to achieve yoga (of course it doesn't it's just making shapes and breathing exercises) but does it help prepare us while helping us to live a more discerning life. For some it does, for others another approach may do just as well or be more effective and appropriate. I've often thought I would have liked to run for an hour or so a day but I don't have the knees for it, or perhaps swim for an hour, back and forth. back and forth, I do have the lake for that.

But clearly I feel this approach to practice helps give me that discipline and balance/stability.








Friday, 17 May 2019

"I honestly don't recognise the characterisation of Ashtanga by it's critics".


Photo: from a short video by Alessandro Sismondi


I honestly don't recognise the characterisation of Ashtanga by it's critics.

Wednesday I practiced my first full Ashtanga Primary series in, oh I don't know how long, almost a year perhaps (See - I'm sure there's still an Ashtanga practitioner buried within me somewhere but......). And this morning, I practiced half Primary/half Second. I'll probably practice the same again tomorrow and then a straight Primary alongside M. on Saturday.

It's not really worth mentioning, I shouldn't write this until after a week, a month, another year of practice. This practice only takes on significance after a significant period of work, of grinding the practice out day in day out.

Leading up to practice I have this sense of mentally preparing myself to climb a mountain or rather of hiking a hill perhaps. I know it will take time and effort but remind myself that I will be so glad I did and that there will be joy along the way as well as effort and perhaps tedium (although if I'm honest, tedium has be rare).

I approach my resolute mat with resignation and determination or rather, will and intention.

Ekam, Dve, it begins. Half way through the count of the the first sun salutation I let the count go and breathe naturally, trusting my body to breathe appropriately, aiming to observe with detachment rather than to direct the breath.


I've done this practice for years, a decade, the asana mostly take care of themselves now, even after a year away, muscle memory. Heidegger says that we don't think about a tool so much as just pick it up and use it. As an experienced musical instrument repairer I can attest to this. Think too much and you'll over or under use the tool and end up damaging something. Asana are not unlike this, they take care of themselves.

Of course there tend to be an asana or two that we give more attention to, perhaps the most recent one we've taken on and are struggling with, or perhaps one of the stubborn resistant classics that never seem to get that much easier. Or perhaps a light bulb goes on in an asana that we've taken for granted for years and we suddenly rediscover it anew.

Occasionally we lose our way a little, try too hard, this is often where any injuries may arise, I've been lucky, a decade with no injuries to speak of.

But mostly we just do the work, grind the practice out on a bad day, flow/pass through it on a good, constantly seeking to bring our awareness back to the breath, letting the flotsam and jetsam of the mind float past, drift away on the gently lapping waves of disinterest....., on a good day

And perhaps we find ourselves in savasana and realise that the last thing we remember was going up into shoulderstand and we just lay there for a time before making the same commitment we made to stepping on the may but this time to settling into the tedium of pranayama and a Sit.

Home practice, no adjustments, no assists, nothing to prove and only occasionally overdoing it a little.

Practice should perhaps have a healthy dose of tedium, we shouldn't try to make it all too interesting too much of the time. Heidegger wrote a hundred pages on boredom (The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics p78...), we shouldn't be afraid of it.

A sense of achievement, yes, a little perhaps because we remember that we didn't feel like getting on the mat that morning but we'll feel more achievement at the end of the week. One practice means little, the discipline is grinding it out again tomorrow and the next day and the next week, month, year.

The party tricks, the fancy asana we occasionally allow ourselves to be seduced by are little compared to the discipline itself of daily practice.

The critics of course focus on injuries, on mistakes, too strong adjustments on abuse (rightly so). Failing to fully understand, they try to fit what they can't seem to comprehend or haven't experienced sufficiently into a box they can make some sense of, and more importantly manipulate and employ for their own ends. Tabloid like they focus on exceptions and collect enough of them to seemingly form a norm.

But the norm is actually quite unspectacular, nothing to see, merely the daily grinding out of ones practice, that setting up of our day, a discipline is remarkable in it's unremarkability.

And it's not just home practice of course. I have a page at the top of the blog, 'Mysore rooms around the world', ordinary practitioners grinding out their practice, extraordinarily ordinary.



Notes.

I still seem to be including Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal Movements as a ten minute warm-up before moving on to Sun salutations and Primary, as well as as a stand alone practice later, just as I used to practice Vinyasa Krama as a second practice years ago.

As I showed a couple of years back, Ashtanga is a Vinyasa Krama. It's a practice made up of  a selection of different subroutines.

My approach to Ashtanga asana tends to be strongly influenced By Simon Borg-Olivier and in particular his 84 Key asana course, to help me practice with more care and awareness.

I slightly modify the order of a few asana so as to align myself more with Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) table of asana, reaching back before Pattabhi Jois.

My eyes tend to be closed ( Manju Jois once suggest this), my breathing natural with a strong Dantian/Hara/Core focus of breath and movement.


Re. the Philosopher Martin Heidegger mentioned in the post. 
The usual track tends to be to approach him from a collection of his Basic Writings, which includes the introduction to Being and Time and the strange and wonderful 'Origin of a Work of Art'. His analysis of Boredom is found in 'The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics' starting on  p78... You can get away with jumping straight to that section of the book. Heidegger was spoken of as a mind blowing lecturer, the 'Hidden King', this doesn't tend to come across in his writing so well except perhaps in his History of a Concept of Time which I love. Don't worry about how much you can or cant understand of Heidegger, just go along for the ride and let it wash over you and seep into the cracks of your Being. I also recommend Sojourns, Heidegger's journal of his first trip to Greece. 
It's often best to approach Heidegger as might a poet rather than as a Philosopher, it can be less stressful that way.


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I've started journaling about coming back to the practice on a page at the top of the blog.  

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

'Ashtanga in crisis', what crisis?

Sharing this because there are so many useful links throughout the article and I still get mail asking me why I've written and shared posts on Pattabhi Jois' sexual abuse - see my Ashtanga : Inappropriate Adjustments/Sexual abuse page (do the work, follow the links and read the posts/articles yourselves).


"Some of you will have heard about the crisis engulfing the international Ashtanga community, concerning Pattabhi Jois (the founder and leader of Ashtanga Yoga, known as Guruji, who died in 2009), and the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI). But I know from conversations I have had that many of you are entirely unaware of it. I think it is essential that all those practising Ashtanga in the local yoga community are fully informed about this crisis and have enough information to draw some lessons from the whole sad affair"


I do question the characterisation in this article of 'Ashtanga in crisis' though. Perhaps if Jois were still alive it might be a crisis for him.

Sharath still fills his Bikramesque gyms/halls on his world tours as well as the cavernous new shala in Mysore. He supposedly did address the abuse in a private conference with students, not a sufficient response clearly but he has, I've noticed this month, removed photos of his grandfather in the recent Stanford workshop (and also in Brooklyn) as you can see from the photos going around (Giant photos of Sharath himself instead), Photos of Pattabhi Jois were also absent from the recent Bali workshop/tour I hear. Perhaps it's a start, perhaps he was pressured to do so, keep up the pressure.

Sharath is getting more and more students from Asia, is anyone translating these articles into different languages, Chinese for instance? I noticed Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern's Guruji book has been translated here into Japanese but I doubt Guy's recent condemnation of the book has been translated.


Eddie Stern, as far as I can tell,  continues to stay silent in public (UPDATE: Although I have just heard that Eddie has agreed with Guy to request the publisher withdraws their book 'Guruji' from sale) and is continuing to promote and host Sharath (Brooklyn), as do Sonima (Stanford) and Kino (Miami) in the US. Perhaps if everyone refused to promote and host Sharath on his world tours it might actually feel like a 'crisis' to him personally and leading him to address the issue publicly, a suitable statement on his website would be a beginning.

Some regular practitioners are still abusive online through social media to victims of Jois abuse as well as their advocates but I'm seeing more intelligent, reasoned, discussion in comments to posts and also hear that there is serious ongoing discussion taking place outside of social media and from actual Ashtanga practitioners since this post by Genny Wilkinson-Priest back in Dec. 2017, one of the first regular, current and ongoing, long term daily practitioners to speak up and out.


More and more reflective articles are being written from inside the Ashtanga community since Genny's article, which, lets face it, is where any meaningful change/acknowledgement will likely need to come from. Critics writing from outside of the community seem to be mostly dismissed and ignored by those within the community.


The main reason I don't see this as a crisis is because Ashtanga is ultimately about the practice of the practice.

Sue Sharath and the KPJAYI if you really feel you have to but all that will do is possibly bring down the KPJAYI, not Ashtanga. Ashtanga exists on any free PDF you print off the internet and seek to practice with sincerity and commitment, following a handful of guidelines, and ideally with some good common sense. It’s gone beyond Mysore, the KPJAYI, authorised or unauthorised teachers, it’s gone beyond Shalas. Some of the best ashtanga I suspect is found in non- KPJAYI aligned shala, gyms and frankly living rooms, hallways and corners of kitchens and far far away I suspect from social media.

Jois was nothing to me, Sharath is nothing to me, Mysore nothing to me, adjustments and assists are not relevant to me as a home practitioner, nor shalas for that matter. The well known teachers had already become irrelevant to me due to their constant self promotion, long before Jois' abuse came more to light. The only aspect outside of my own practice that does feel relevant perhaps is the nebulous awareness of other daily practitioners of the discipline, whether home or shala. There is an affection there for other practitioner's past, present and future, a kinship if you like based on the awareness of a shared practice, the work put in to establish (such) a discipline.

If I rejected Ashtanga for a time it was more from disappointment (frankly disgust) with much of the response of (a few) actual practitioners (via social media), but in the end it always comes back to the practice itself. I'll practice Ashtanga in the manner I choose if and when the practice itself, rather than anything else surrounding it feels appropriate, beneficial and relevant to me again as a discipline (and I do admit to hearing the siren call again of late).

The practice itself is the real 'Paramaguru'.

It's either helpful or it isn't.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Ashtanga was/is not about the selfies but rather developing discipline.

This was an instagram post grimmly2016, I seem to be posting more there than here of late.



Typically, the critics look in the wrong place in their search for easy ammunition, they miss the big picture. Ashtanga was never about the stupid selfies ( and few more stupid than the one above). It was always all about the practice..., wasn’t it? The practice of the practice, not what it was we were actually practicing, or indeed how we went about it. Home or shala, adjustments/assists or not. It was about turning up on the mat, building a discipline.

We’d get a little lost occasionally but mostly only on a couple of asana in a practice that we were giving special attention to. The rest of the practice, 90% of the practice, was about passing through the asana, calm, steady and focused, that moving meditation. For ninety minutes or more we do the work, not on the asana so much as on the discipline. No, It’s not the same as sitting on a cushion but both involve will, dedication, devotion. Not devotion to another but to the choice, the decision to begin work on the self.

Ashtanga was/is hard/challenging enough to make it a matter of will to step on the mat each morning. There was always joy in the practice but make it too joyful, too easy and we lose some aspect of the discipline, it takes less will. Sitting on the cushion for a long sit also takes will, sit for just ten minutes and while pleasant, it’s not perhaps an exercise of the muscle of the Will.

I never encountered Jois, Sharath is irrelevant to me personally, I rarely practiced in Shala or Studio, rarely received adjustments but, as a home practitioner, have turned up on my mat each morning for over a decade. The practice of the practice sufficient in itself to develop discipline and always there to turn back to if we feel that discipline slip out of our lives.

A softer practice suits me more now perhaps, none of the fancy asana seem as necessary, simple postures, variations, simple movements, feel more than sufficient. It’s barely recognisable as Ashtanga perhaps (see Appendix below) but I’m grateful for the self-discipline that work on those asana gave me.

I don’t feel it matters much what we practice, if discipline feels like a place to start then it needs to be something we will often prefer to skip and stay in bed, yet get up for anyway.

https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2013/04/chanting-or-playing-flute-in-asana.html

There was actually some logic behind the leg behind head photos. I’d started taking up the flute again but couldn’t find the time to practice my Long tones as well as my two hour Ashtanga practice. Why not put them together. It was a joke that I thought would make an amusing post. What I found though was the ability to play a smooth long tone was an indication of how calm and stable I was in a posture. It was a reminder of the breath as an indicator of ‘steadyness’. So I tried other postures, anything where I could have my arms free enough to hold a flute. You can find the post by searching ‘grimmly2007 playing the flute in asana’.



Look out too perhaps for ‘grimmly2007 convince me Krishnamacharya is there any benefit to putting my leg behind my head’.

https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2015/09/convince-me-krishnamacharya-are-there.html


Appendix


And below, how I tend to approach my practice now.

Mostly along the lines of the second video although the first part of standing has changed a little (the first video is from yesterday) and I've reintroduced five to ten sun salutations before moving on to the seated section.




Instagram/YouTube notes to the above - Some Spinal movements and variations from Simon Borg-Olivier and YogaSynergy that I work on/practice each morning. Bit embarrassed to post this stuff as even after two years I find it so hard to get this Spinal movement quite right ( see Simon Borg-Olivier’s videos and also Tangkao Tan videos here on Instagram and YouTube for much better examples). Sometimes, mostly in fact, with more foot position variations than here, usually leading in to some Sun Salutations, a short seated practice and some shoulder stand and Headstand vinyasas.
This is a seven minute version at natural speed to make a change from all the speeded up versions I’ve posted.
Coming from Ashtanga I’ve tended to frown at practicing with music but have recently tended to enjoy practicing along with some Bach, his Cello Suites work well with the pace I practice but here I picked up on something Nicki Silverman (solar_yogi) mentioned, ‘The Light of the Seven’ from a Game of Thrones soundtrack - it’s on YouTube ( I butchered it to make a one hour loop of just the piano section without the dramatic choral part).









Wednesday, 1 May 2019

May 2019 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--Angry Me

Note: Being a good Stoic (or at least trying to be) I assume A-C. D isn't expected and thus a pleasant surprise should it come about.

A. My plane cancelled, I lose the money for my flight, receive no compensation, and miss out on my plans altogether.

B. My plane is going to be delayed,I miss my connection and still miss out on my plans.

C. The plane is delayed, leaves eventually but goes down in flames taking me along with everyone else with it,

D. I arrive at my destination on time.

Stoic and Patanjali Yoga training are different perhaps but both aim at somewhat similar goals (up to a point, Patanjali goes further).

The above may sound pessimistic but I actually consider it optimistic, I can't do anything about the plane itself, it's outside of my control. I can however, through Stoic training, perhaps do something about my reaction to any of the above outcomes and respond to each with equanimity. 


*

May 2019 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--Angry Me

April...I had an intense 'Jihaasaa'  desire to get rid of things. I disposed of most of my furniture, many of them more than 60 years old. Then sacks and sacks of old papers. Then nearly 5000 coins that got accumulated over decades and then most of all my old books. Now the house my father gave me  is the only physical asset remaining

On May 19th I am scheduled to give a talk of the Three Gunas at Mind Body Soul Yoga in Manhattan. 

Angry Me

So I left my house on April 24th to catch my flight by Air India from Chennai to Mumbai en route to Newark. At the airport I gave the print out of my itenary . The person at the counter quietly said that my name was not there and asked for my PNR. I said I had the confirmed ticket issued by United Airlines as I started feeling a mixed feeling of panic and anger, manifestations of Tamas and Rajas. She said that my name was not there. The supervisor who was standing by did some typing and said that my ticket was cancelled as United Airlines did not send them the ticket number. They could not do anything because the flight was overbooked. Suddenly I felt extreme panic and anger and it was a bad feeling, very bad. Suddenly I remembered something that happened almost 20 years back

I had gone to JFK airport in New York to board a flight from NY to Chennai by a Middle Eastern Airline. I had phoned the airline office earlier and they confirmed my ticket. But at the counter they said that my name was not there and that I could be accommodated in their immediate next flight which was one week later. I did everything I could do, begged, shouted but they would not care. I fought with them until the aircraft left without me. I had not only missed the flight and felt drained and extremely unhappy with all the contentious engagement with the airline staff. I could have saved the additional pain by accepting the reality of the situation. Some heroes manage to get things done in these situations and most have to accept the situation .

This came to my mind in a flash and I decided not to fight and feel more unhappy. The airline would not even contact United Airlines about rescheduling as they had not issued the ticket. Even if I contacted United US office, I would not be getting into the Air India aircraft. It was hopeless. I collected all the heavy baggage ( we as a couple do not travel light ) and came home in the hot humid after noon. Then I contacted United in USA and after an hour of talking they finally rescheduled my journey on May 2, 2019. So I am still in Chennai. I do not know if I would travel on May 2, 2019. Will they offload the old man again? Maybe I can continue the story in my next newsletter. To feel a little more easy,  I posted  the following on my facebook page

Root out Anger
Root out Anger
Even if it is
Righteous indignation
It is injurious to health
Especially when one is
An eighty year old.
Just got offloaded 
From a flight from
Chennai to Newark

Anger and panic are reactions. I am propelled by desires. Desires may be of two types. Desire to get what one wants because getting that will give me happiness. Then there is the desire of getting rid of something that gives pain. These desires propel an individual to act.  These activities that emanate from the mind are called vrittis. Activities that are done to get what one wants are called pravritti and activities that are done to get rid of what one does not want are nivrittis. When the activities produce the desired results then one is happy. If not, one reacts with anger or sorrow or depression depending on whether one is in a rajasic mode or tamasic mode. In our lives many people do not get what they want or are unable to get rid of what they do not want and the reaction of anger and sorrow affects the individual again and again and it is injurious to health.

Patanjali sitting in the sidelines and watching the whole mankind feeling repeatedly anger and pain (occasional pleasure) says that the life is full of pain only. So sometime in life one has to sit back and realize that this repeated attempts  to get what one thinks will give pleasure and get rid of pain giving things makes life pretty unhappy. So Patanjali would say that the real self is not affected either by the desire or by the activities nor by the reactions like sorrow and anger. So everyone at some point  in this life or in future life should understand the true nature of the Self

The root cause of activities, then the results, then the reactions to the results are desires. But a Yogi like Patanjali who has realized the true nature of the Self gives up all desires naturally consequentially  as the mind is able to recognize the real Self and feels absolute fulfilment without any more desires to get something or get rid of something else.. Some one asked the question about how to overcome panic or fear. The easiest and the most sure way is th know the truth about the Self. There is no other way and that is the sure way.

Then I posted this on the facebook page 

At the end of a long yoga program the Yoga Master asked the participants to briefly say what they desire to do next. Here are a few answers
Yogabhyasi 1. I want to do handstand in the middle of the room for 30 minutes.
Yogabhyasi 2, I want to stand on my fingertips
Yogabhyasi 3: I desire to do headstand for 3 hours continuously
Yogabhyasi 4. I desire to be a siddha yogi, I desire to walk on water
Yogabhyasi 5: I desire to do 80 pranayamas at a stretch @ one breath per minute four times a day
Yogabhyasi 5: I desire to do uninterrupted dhyana/meditation for one hour
Yogabhyasi 6: I wish to run a rich yoga business
Yogabhyasi 7: I desire to be a famous yoga teacher
Yogabhyasi 8: I want to do Gayatri mantra japa one crore times (10 million times) in my life
Yogabhyasi 9: I desire to flatten the himalayan peak and give yoga sermons to hundreds of people
Yogabhyasi 10: I desire to do 108 breathless suryanamaskaras at a stretch
Yogabhyasi 11: I desire to master all the yoga texts and become a walking encyclopedia of Yoga
Yogabhyasi 12: I desire to become desireless (vairagi)

Ok then how does one become desireless? On one hand one has to realize according to the old texts of samkhya yoga and the upanishads that the world even as it gives a few crumbs of happiness here and there in bits and pieces, it invariably gives only pain as most people most of the time experience. With the best efforts one may achieve what one wants and get rid of what one does not want but it is a hit and miss process, usually less hits and more misses. Expecting that earth and heaven would give permanent happiness is unrealistic. As Patanjali says parinama tapa samskara dukha. pain comes due to several causes. On the other hand by a logical step by step approach these philosophies show that the Self, the real subject is not the body mind complex but the unwavering pure consciousness, the drashta of yogis, the purusha of samkhyas or the atman of the vedantins. Once the mind understands and importantly recognizes the Self by analysis,contemplation, meditation the core yoga practices, then the mind or buddhi identifies the non changing purusha as oneself and not the ever changing miserable mind body complex as the Self. Once this takes place the mind will no longer go out of the way to satisfy the mistakenly identified self. With this paradigm shift the mind remains satisfied with the never changing pure Self and there is a natural steep drop in the number and intensity of desires. In course of time all the desires become weak and do not propel the individual to act as the way they used to.
According to these darsanas, desirelessness or vairagya-- they talk about is-- a natural consequence of the understanding of the Self and not a forced suppression of desires of the mind body pseudo self.

So,desires are of two types of getting what one wants for the mind body complex and getting rid of what it does not want. These desires, for fulfilment, require action called pravritti and nivritti. These activities sometimes produce the desired results and mostly do not give the desired results. This non accomplishment leads to anger if one is rajasic and sorrow or depression if one is tamasic. These reactions, anger and depression further affect the mind and body.The darsanas say that really speaking no one needs to be unhappy as the real Self is fulfilled for ever and desires do not lead to any permanent happiness rather they produce more pain than pleasure. So the reduction of desire by a natural process is recommended by yogis. Understanding and realizing the true nature of oneself is the solution, the way to achieve desirelessness. Yoga is absolute peace of mind, yogah samadhanam. A desireless mind, a fulfilled mind, a peaceful mind is a yogic mind

Srivatsa Ramaswami


For more options, visit this group at
http://groups.google.com/group/vinyasa-krama-announce?hl=en

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Spinal Movements by Tangkao Tan. Vertebrae by Vertebrae wave action.

NOTE: this blog doesn't seem to share on fb these days but my active movements blog does, this post is also there https://activemovementyogaathome.blogspot.com/

Tangkou Tan

The movements in this post, and Simon Borg-Olivier's's Spinal movements generally, might be practiced as a stand alone practice, a second practice, a moon day or rest day practice, a practice when recovering from injury or, in a shortened form, as a ten minute warm-up before the Sury's. 
I think I've practiced them as pretty much all of the above.


In this post I want to give a shout out to a student of Simon Borg-Olivier's, Tangkou Tan. I only just stumbled upon him, mentioned in an instagram post by Lauren at suthernyogipdx.





from the YouTube notes

One vertebrae at a time?

"I still remember the first time when I heard Simon Borg-Olivier talked about mobilizing the spine, that spine has 24 movable joints.. it is the most important part of the body to mobilize… and he talked about “moving the spine one vertebrae at a time”..  and naturally I took it as an “expression” rather than literally.  However practicing and especially teaching spinal movement for the past 4 years has led me to explore the subtlety of spinal movement for the sake of not repeating and also to find ways to teaching it better…  until lately I have received comments that I was actually “moving the spine one vertebrae at a time”.   
Looking back, It was a fun and rewarding process perhaps because I never had any expectation yet there is a constant attempt to bring my awareness to places where awareness was not and could not be found.  I consider those areas as “darkness” and my awareness as “light”, therefore it was and still is an ongoing project to bring more “light” into my system.  There is a lot to say about light, the Sun, the source of light is “life giving”, it shines on everything until “there is nothing new under the sun”, and there are less bad things happening under the sun, even in the laboratory certain chemical process simply cannot proceed under the light.  There is also much to say about the connection between awareness and energy, represent by Shiva and his eternal consort Parvati.. but that is a different subject…
The first part shows my attempt to mobilize the spine, the best I can, one vertebrae at time.. notice there are two ways, the first one is pushing spine backward and upward (result in spinal flexion) while the second one is pushing the spine forward and upward (result in spinal extension).. and then the movement is reversed.
The last part shows a few rounds of Yoga Synergy spinal movements while attempting to initiate the movement from the core and move “one vertebrae at a time”.

*


See this blog post by Tangkou Tan on Lauren's blog

MOVE FROM THE CORE-REALIGN WITH NATURE AND HARMONY

On checking Tangkao's Bio I saw that he was a dancer, he'd studied, practiced and I'm assuming performed ballet, he had also studied movement in actors workshops with Jerry Grotowski ( see appendix).

I don't dance, despite going to the ballet whenever I could in London, sitting up in the slips at Covent Garden but there have been times practicing Simon's spinal movements where I've become somewhat carried away (I'm sure this goes for anyone who has practiced Simon's movements for any time alone) and thought it was....dancelike, or could be. What if a dancer practiced Simon's movements, what would that look like, well, see below.

Simon talks about a Vertebrae by Vertebrae wave action, I'm in awe of how Tangkao seems to achieve this.

I find it impossible to separate Krishnamacharya from movement, from the jumping in and out of postures, the sun salutations but also in the 1938 documentary video ( see appendix 2) where we see Krishnamacharya moving through vinyasas in inversion. We see something similar in Krishnamacharya's student Srivatsa Ramaswami who shares his teachers instruction under Vinyasa Krama, moving in and and of a posture, each time a little deeper into the posture, postures followed by a counterpostures. 

I see Simon's movements entirely constant with Krishnamacharya ( as you would expect of a student of Iyengar and Jois) especially when I return to Krishnamacharya's tadasana sequence, less flowing perhaps but all about movement.

Videos from Youtube and also on Tsunkao's website https://artanvaya.com/about/




For those of you who haven't seen my earlier posts on Simon Borg-Olivier, Simon is stripping down our practice of yoga, taking these extreme forward bends and side bends and twists that we practice and simplifying the movements, what you see above are forward bends of the spine, back bends, twists and perhaps they are sufficient. 

See my previous posts on Simon, visit Tangkou's blog, he gives an introduction to each of these videos, explaining what he feels is going on.

In my own practice I look to take these movements into my practice of asana, in inversions.








UPDATE

New videos - On one leg



from the YouTube notes

"Exploring core initiated movement is very much a process of unblocking the blockages and allowing the movements to “flow through”, a great exercise to balance tension and relaxation. 
This video shows an improvisation based on Simon Borg-Olivier’s “Spinal Synergy” practice. The movement begins with a spinal twist and then adding a lateral extension. As this core initiated movement increases its range of motion, it becomes obvious that the hips are tracing a figure 8 shape m, as well as the combined movement of the arms.  Later on, spinal flexion and extension are added unilaterally to make more figure 8".


*

Tangkao Tan's Bio  from https://artanvaya.com/


"Tangkao’s first experience with yoga was 20 some years ago while still active as a dancer. Out of curiosity, he tried a yoga class at the legendary White Cloud Studio in New York. The class was taught by Ms. Hilary Cartwright and known back then as “Yoga class for Dancers”.  Although many years would pass before he returned to yoga again, the sensitivity of the practice and attention redirected towards within left a profound impression on him.

In the late 90’s a severe back injury forced Tangkao to stop dancing and for two years he sought treatments of both Eastern and Western medicine without much improvement.  He remembers clearly how one sunny afternoon, he sat down on the floor and closed his eyes, without knowing what he was doing he began to bring his attention and breathing to the area of injury and pain. Two days later, he noticed an improvement he had not experienced from any previous treatment.   It was a revelatory moment and he verified for himself that the power of healing lies within.

In 2010 Tangkao took his first 200 hours teacher training in Shanghai, China at Yogi Yoga, a branch school of kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute of Lonavla in India.  Upon completing the course, Tangkao was invited by the director Yogi Mohan to join the faculty, thus embarking on the ongoing journey of yoga learning and teaching.


As a yoga practitioner, he was first drawn to Ashtanga vinyasa style, advocated by the late Sri Pattabi Jois in which traditional yoga postures are linked together to form a sequence of postures and movements.  This seemingly outward and intense style is exhilarating  and when paired with a fixed sequence offers a meditative quality.  To deepen his practice, Tangkao made repeated trips to Mysore, India and studied under teachers such as B.N.S Iyengar and Sri Sheshardri. However, the intensity and the repetitiveness of the sequence eventually led to injury after injury.



The fact that most yoga practitioners from the west (outside of India in general) have a very “unnatural modern body” as Simon Borg-Olivier describes, is rarely considered seriously.    “One becomes stronger through yoga practice if one survives it” has become a painful norm.   While the idiom “sukham sthiram asanam” is often spoken about, it relates mostly a seated meditative postures,  rather than asana practice in general.

At that stage in his practice, it became clear to Tangkao that his yoga practice was disconnected from the yogic scriptures for it rarely served to create the yogic state described in these texts—the state in which the body is rejuvenated  and the mind reaches a clear meditative state.  The truth is that yoga practiced at that level differs little from common physical exercises such as sports and various forms of gym workouts. 

In 2014 Tangkao met Simon Borg-Olivier, who has co-founded Yoga Synergy, a Sydney based yoga school with Bianca Machliss. Simon and Bianca are both physiotherapists and with their decades of yoga practice, learning and teaching, they made the incredible and daring connection between classical yogic scriptures and modern science and medical studies such as those by Neils Bohr and Constantin Buteyko. Through their hard work and research,  asana practice found its unique and proper place in the yogic path and the applications of yogic techniques such as mudra, bandha and pranayama also came alive, but this time under the light of modern anatomy and physiology.  After completing two Yoga Synergy on-line courses, Tangkao participated in a 200-hour teacher training with Simon and Bianca in 2015.

This experience changed Tangkao’s practice completely. Although already a yoga teacher trainer at that time, he was convinced for the first time of the value of Hath Yoga (physical yoga) practice and the importance of proper yoga teaching in order to deliver it promised benefits. It was with this new mindset that he decided to open his own studio Morning Star Yoga in Northern California in spring 2017.

At Morning Star Yoga, Tangkao worked closely with a small community in the rural, fire-threatened Northern Sierra Foothill.  Working with an older age group, his teaching has gradually condensed into two fundamental buildingblock principles taught by Simon Borg-Olivier: spinal focused active movements (see post) and relaxed natural breathing(see post).  The core initiated movements (see post) become an expression of harmony and a balance of freedom and discipline.

As a dancer and dance teacher, Tangkao is fluent in ballet technique. From experience, he is aware of the way harmony in body movement influences a person’s internal state. With this new-found understanding inspired by Simon Borg-Olivier’s remarkable teaching, Tangkao has begun to incorporate his early acting training—based on the Polish theatre legend Jerzy Grotowski who aimed to create an ideal actor’s body that is free, organic and ready to take any form(role)— into his yoga practice. The synthesis of his years of experience  in dance, acting and yoga have led to a practice that is kind and respectful to the body  while placing the mind and soul at the creative heart of healing and harmonious movement.

As the new year 2019 begins, Tangkao has renamed his yoga school “ArtAnvaya” to better represent his new vision

**

Tangkao is a E-RYT 500 yoga teacher registered with Yoga Alliance and has completed two separate 500 hours yoga teacher trainings and has received almost 2000 hours of yoga related training courses.

A former dancer and a specialist in 18th century Baroque dance, Tangkao holds BA degree on Dance Pedagogy and for many years trained in Jerzy Grotowski’s movement based acting techniques.  The variety of his  experience has creatively enriched his understanding of body movements".

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APPENDIX

I mentioned above that Tsangkao studied movement at Grotowski's actors workshop here7s a video I found giving perhaps an idea of those workshops

 Ryszard Cieslak of Grotowski's Laboratory








A more recent presentation of these exercises.







Appendix 2

Movement in Krishnamacharya's inversions.


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Appendix 3

A ten minute version  of Krishnamacharya's tadasana sequence as taught by Srivatsa Ramaswami



Appendix 4


My own attempt below at trying to work towards this 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae' wave action, it's hard, like starting to work on jump backs.






Appendix 5

Posts and links on Simon Borg-Olivier and yoga Synergy



1.



2.



3.


4.


5.


6.


7.


8.


9.

Trikonasana , past, present and future. (Includes a section on Simon's Trikonasana instruction).

10.


11.


12.


13.


14.



15.


16.


17.


18.



19.



20.








***


Simon and Bianca's website and online courses



and their quite excellent blog




About Simon



Simon own page


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




Preview of Simon's excellent book Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga





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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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