Monday, 7 May 2012

How to practice Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga Yoga

krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda

One of the challenges we have with practicing Krishnamacharya's Ashtanga is time, here's why

1. Full Vinyasas : Krishnamacharya seems to be advocating full vinyasa between postures, half vinyasa between sides and possible variations of the key posture

2. Breathing : Long slow inhalations and exhalations, from 10- 15 seconds

3. Long stays in postures. 10 breaths seems to be standard more in certain postures

4. Kumbhaka (breath retention) In several postures kumbhaka is included , many of the forward bends for instance

5. Variations. Krishnamacharya doesn't seem to be advocating a fixed series, variations to certain postures might be added, perhaps preparatory postures but also extensions.

If we take Janusirsasana as an example

60 second lead in  and out (say, 5 seconds for each stage of the vinyasa )
10 breaths in the posture at 10 seconds each per inhalation and exhalation,  about six and a half minutes
Ashtanga already has three variations of this postures, so around twenty minutes
Doubt forget the half vinyasas between sides and between variations twenty seconds each so another minute and a half.

So in an ideal practice, around twenty-three minutes just for janusirsasana

If we compare the Primary group of postures in Krishnamacharya's list in Yogasanagalu with the Ashtanga primary we notice there aren't as many postures, this is just a framework of course but still, less postures seems to be the way to go.

Pattabhi Jois comes to the same conclusion, for those of us strapped for time. He outlines the problem in the first quote below and in the second quote offers a possible solution. He suggests that if your busy with work and don't have time for a full practice you might practice up to navasana only and then move to finishing, he even suggests doing your headstand at work. On the next day you begin with Navasana after your Sury's ( he suggests only doing half the amount of those).

And of course if your a beginner you will often stop your practice at marichiyasana C and move on to finishing or in 2nd series you might stop at Kapo or Karandavasana.

Practicing half a series then isn't that new or that radical and doesn't have to be just because your a beginner or have a busy lifestyle.

So should we decide to explore Krishnamacharya's approach we could take the Primary and 2nd series we're familiar with and divide them in half and practice the longer slower breathing, longer stays and breath retention allowing for deeper bandha engagement.

1st Day
Primary to navasana + pranayama

2nd Day
Primary to end of series + pranayama

3rd Day 
2nd series Bakasana + pranayama

4th Day
Bhaadvajrasana to end of series + pranayama

5th Day
Full regular Primary

6th Day
Full regular 2nd series.

It's difficult not to think of an advanced practice just in terms of the shapes of advanced postures and yet we might also think of an advanced or proficient practice as being reflected in the approach we take to the asana rather than the asana itself.

It appears Krishnamacharya's proficient group of postures wasn't intended to be practiced as one of more series but more likely as extensions to the asana found in the Primary and Middle group. One might reflect on whether turning them into fixed series in the 70's and 80's was, in retrospect, beneficial. I'd be interested to hear arguments for and against fixed advanced series.

My own argument for, is that by practising Advanced series we practice the most challenging postures everyday and this leads to increased proficiency rather than attempting an advanced posture once in a while which might lead to strain.

However my argument against the above is that in Vinyasa Krama I've practiced advanced postures as  extensions of similar asana of the same family. In Asymmetric series for example one moves from janu sirsasana and half lotus postures (primary), arcana dhanurasana A and B (advanced B)and on into eka pada sirsasana (2nd series) and then into skandasana and durvasana (Advanced A). I often add omkrasana, parsva dandasana kapilasana, buddhasana and marichyasana H (Advanced B) which while not in Ramaswami's book seem to be appropriate further extensions and because of the preparation any strain is avoided.

And yet do any of the postures above really appear more advanced than Krishnamacharya's janusirsasana at the top of the page. Janusirsasana appears simple, we find it in the current Ashtanga Primary series and Krishnamacharya's Primary group yet it's basically a forward bending version of mahamudra. It's a highly stable, grounded posture that cries out for breath and bandha work. We can stay here a long long time, engage mula, uddiyana and jalandhara bandha fully, it allows for variations, the deep forward bend of janusirsasana and yet also twist to both sides by changing the hold on the foot. It's all in the approach we take to it, five breaths only in such a pose seems a bit of a waste

Here are the quotes mentioned above.

Question: When is it good to do full vinyasa? That is come back to Samasthiti after each asana. Is it correct?

Answer: Yes correct. Take one asana, finish it. After full vinyasa you do, standing position you come. Again next. Your strength how is you use (depending on your strength you should do half or full vinyasa). Without strength chat (sixth vinyasa) stop (If you are not strong stop at the sixth vinyasa eg do half vinyasa). Increasing your strength, you full vinyasa you take. Now there is no time (too many students).

That is why I am telling. One asana, for example paschimottanasana (has) 16 vinyasas, Purvottanasana - 15, Ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana, tiriang mukeka pada paschimottanasana, janu sirsasana A, B, C, marichyasana A, B, all 22 vinyasas. Full vinyasa .

You doing full vinyasa all - that is the best. Secondary you with sixth vinyasa all the asanas is coming. That you changing, this time (when) your strength is more, you changing that time. Sixth, seventh (vinyasa) paschimottanasana you do. After 8 – 9 then jump again. “sat” (six) position you go. I every day I teaching now. Same method you do. Both is no problem

Method is good no problem. Work is there. He is going work. (for a working man half vinyasa method is good) Your yoga practice, you take one hour. One hour or two hours your expanding your time. That time all the asanas taken one day full vinyasa you do at least five hours also you want you can understand (if you take full vinyasa, you need 5 hours to complete practice). One primary asanas doing, 5 hours also you want. That is why. You (are a) working (man). You not spending all the time on the yoga practice.

You can understand. Full time you take, full vinyasa you doing. Only for (completing) primary asanas takes 5 hours. 5 hours primary postures (with) full vinyasa. 50 asanas is there completely primary postures. That 50 asanas you doing taken 5 hours, with full vinyasa. You working. Another place is working. Yes you take money, you eating food, all you want. That only for your spending (free) time only for yoga, very rare (little time), very difficult also yourself. That is why you short cut you take. That is one or two hours. Two hours spent your yoga practice. That is good. That is also is good. Yes OK. That I tell you.

Sri K Pattabhi Jois Public Talks on Ashtanga Yoga - France 1991

Question: If one has only half an hour for practice, what should he do?

Answer: Now, no time. Many work is there. That time, no time. But you including half an hour time (if you have half an hour) you spend this way: You take practice.Anyone (always) start (with) Suryanamaskar half posture (half of the postures) you do, no problem. Halfposture means: primary half to Marichyasana D. (next day) Navasana you do aftertake Suryanamaskar (after you have finished surya namaskar you go on straight to navasana and the rest of the postures). Sirsasana and you do your work. No problem (do head stand at work?). 
Sri K Pattabhi Jois Public Talks on Ashtanga Yoga - France 1991


How to practice Krishnamacharya's early, 'original' Ashtanga Part 1

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Yogasanagalu's (1941) 'Original' Ashtanga Primary Group/Series in Yoga Makaranda (1934)

It was more difficult than expected for me to see the origins of modern Ashtanga in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934), many of the postures were there but in no familiar order and then of course there was the breath retention, the occasional longer stay in a posture, the deep engagement of bandhas.

The table in Yogasanagalu however may well be the key to opening it up.

Turning the table in Yogasanagalu into a picture sequence for practice allowed us to see how close the Primary group was to the Ashtanga Primary series we have now. Perhaps though it was the little differences that made the Yoga Makaranda startle me this morning, there it was the primary sequence, like one of those holographic pictures where you have to make your eyes go half cross eyed to see the image.

Here are the pictures of Krishnamacharya demonstrating asana in Yoga Makaranda ( the second half of the pictures, mostly of a young lad performing Advanced postures from the proficient group we'll put to one side for now).

Krishnamacharya in Yoga Makaranda (1934)
As Rolf Harris ( who I bump into all the time in my local supermarket )used to say, "can you see what it is yet?"

How about if I trim out some of vinyasa krama variations,  shift the paschimattanasana to the curious position in the middle of standing, move the Marichiyasana's up a bit as well as the standing konasana postures ( didn't Nancy say recently that they used to be taught at the end of Primary to beginners and then shifted back to their rightful place as the beginner became more proficient?).

What we end up with is....

Primary group/series in yoga makaranda (1934)

Which is pretty much....

Bit of a stretch, am I forcing it a little? perhaps, but either way it's good to know that almost all of the postures in the Yogasangalu Primary group and the approach to practicing them are described in the Yoga Makranda, as well as many of the several of the middle and proficient group. 

Something to be going on with while we look forward to more from the Yogasanagalu.

And a question. 

If the Primary group (series?) and more importantly the approach to the asana's and practice in general that we find in Yogasanagalu in 1941 can be seen in a core group of postures and approach in Yoga Makaranda (1934) (although we hear that in practice Krishnamacharya would adapt and improvise, creating new options to assist his students) perhaps this core practice hadn't changed that much in the seven years previous either which is when Krishnamacharya arrived in Mysore. Is this what he brought with him from that cave in the Himalayas, an approach to practice and a framework to hang it on?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Uddiyana kriya and asana in Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga

Adhomukhasvanasana : ''After pulling the abdomen in and pushing it out, exhale the breath out. Holding the breath out firmly, pull in the abdomen. ' Yoga Makarandap69
This post from my new Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga Project blog exploring, through practice, Krishnamacharya's 'original' Ashtanga as found in Yagasangalu and Yoga Makaranda.

Kino has raised the topic of Uddiyana bandha/kriya. Thanks to Yogagodess for posting on this in relation to Richard Freeman's Pranayama course see her post here

Seeing as a deep, full uddiyana  bandha comes up often as an option in Krishnamacharya's 'original' Ashtanga, I thought it would be good to highlight the practice. Later I'll add more quotes from Yoga Makaranda and any we might find in Yogasanagalu as more translation comes in.

Important to note that in Yoga Makaranda, Krishnamacharya refers to Nauli Kriya where,

'...the nerves of lower abdomen are pulled up into the stomach and then rapidly turned around this way and that'. Yoga Makaranda p42

Drawing the lower abdomen up into the stomach without the churning Krishnamacharya tends to refer to as a deeper extension of uddiyana mudra

'Uddyanabandha Mudra: Draw in the navel in such a way as to press the bones of the back (spine) with the abdomen firmly pulled in'. Yoga Makaranda p46

Thank to Kino for highlighting the important distinction and raising the topic.

In recent Modern Ashtanga of course there's no longer retention after the exhalation and so no possibility to engage uddiyana kriya or the full uddiyana bandha, however in Krishanamacharya's 'original' Ashtanga there was the option of including breath retention in certain asana and this is often recommended to achieve the full benefit of the posture. Including the option of breath retention in certain asana and mudras then, allows the option of engaging uddiyana bandha more deeply and even the kriya.

Check out Lino performing Nauli in Kukkutasana :49 seconds in...

And a quote from his Ashtanga Yoga book written under the guidance of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Kuukutasana. When practicing this asana mulabndha and Uddiyanabandha should be released. The rctum (gaud a Nala) must be relaxed and the practice of Nauli performed. Nauli is the movement of the rectus abdomens muscles, firstly in a circular clockwise and then anti clockwise direction, while the lung are empty.' p62 Ashtanga Yoga. Lino Miele 1996 (2005 edition)

And from Pattabhi Jois himself in Yoga Mala
'(Kukkutasana) ...lift up the padmasana, and stand on the strength of the palms; this is the 8th vinyasa. Then in this position, revolve the stomach (nauli), lift the back and chest fully, and do rechka and puraka.' p93 Yoga Mala

Here's Sharath in badha konasana in Yoga Mala full Uddiyana bandha?

Lets look at the text.

'Benefits. While in the states of this asana, one should do rechaka and tighten the anus fully. By pulling the stomach in completely, holding the lower abdomen and anus tightly, and practicing rechaka and puraka terrible afflictions... will be destroyed' Yoga Mala p94

Here's Krishnamacharya on Janu sirsasana.

 ‘While doing janusirsasana pull in the stomach to the extent possible. The benefits obtained will be greater. While drawing the stomach inward exhale and then hold the breath. ...though it is very difficult to do this draw the stomach inside starting with the navel, keeping the focus on the nadi’s near the rectal and genitle ares carefully pulling them upwards…
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda

Uddiyana kriya  or the full uddiyana bandha isn't something those just coming to the practice would most likely be concerned with (there's enough to worry about it) but once settled into a regular practice a more sophisticated approach to asana is something to be considered such that these techniques and approaches to practice are't lost altogether.

As Kino often says in her video's in relation to certain options "While not traditional (in the sense of the recent tradition) it may be something you might like to explore".

So we might consider uddiyana in three ways

1. Uddiyana lite
As Kino describes it in the video, a natural continuation of moola bandha, a slight lifting and drawing back of the lower abdomen to which we will give attention and focus and may intensify a little depending on the posture

2. Uddiyana max
Full Uddiyana, the stomach drawn all the way back and up, the ribcage expanded to allow this to happen. Available in certain postures and mudras and in pranayama. Uddiyan max is only engaged during the retention of the exhale.

3. Uddiyana Kriya (for ex nauli)
A kriya, cleansing process ,in which full uddiyana is engaged on the retention following exhalation and the stomach churned. Se the Lino example in the video above.

To close, part of a nice comment from Satya whose translating the Yogasanagalu

'It is even more striking when you read it in Kannada. It is almost like this was a hand written copy, a first draft, if you will. Some of the words he could be taking straight from the chastening he had given to his students at the shala to get serious. You can almost feel his concern that if these guys don’t take this seriously, this art could be lost again'.

Uttanasana in the Yoga Makaranda

The first posture in the table of Primary group in Yogasanagalu is Uttanasana. Here's some of what what Krishnamacharya has to say about it in Yoga makaranda from a few years before.

1. Uttanasana Notes from Yoga Makaranda

'Stand erect. Afterwards, while exhaling the breath, slowly bend the upper part of the body (that is the part above the hips) little by little and place the palms down by the legs.

The knees must not be even slightly bent.

Raise the head upwards and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose. While doing this draw in clean air through the nostril, hold the breath firmly and maintain this position.

This is called sahitha kumbhaka.

After remaining here for some time, exhale the breath (that was being held) out very slowly through the nostril, lower the head and place it on the knees.

Do not inhale at this stage.

Draw the breath in while raising the head and exhale the breath out while lowering the head - this must be practiced according to one's strength and capability.

This sthiti is called uttanasana

After remaining in this stithi for some time return to asana stithi.

There are eight forms of uttanasana

This is the first form.

There are 3 Vinyasa for this'.
from Krishnamacharya and Ranganathadesikachar translation of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda

Later I'll add notes for Uttanasana from Yogasanagalu to compare, assuming it's discussed in the later text.

New blog mission statement.

In 2010 I attended Srivatsa Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama Teacher Training course at LMU. Ramaswami had been a student of Krishnamacharya for over thirty years. One of the major elements of the course was a close study of Krishnamachrya's Yoga Makaranda and Yogarahasya which we explored in the classroom, reading each text aloud line by line with discussion and in the practice room exploring the asana in practice. this blog is an attempt to continue that process by including Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu in the discourse.

I've just practiced Krishnamacharyas Primary group/series, from the table in his 1941 book Yogasanagalu, for the first time (see the page in the tab at the top of the blog for preliminary practice sheets). This appears to be an original form of the Ashtanga Primary series taught by Pattabhi Jois.

Currently Satya Murthy is working on a translation on the Yogasanagalu that is appearing on my other blog Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama at Home as each page is passed on to me ( see the Page on the tab at the top of this blog).

This blog then is an attempt to recreate and practice, as far as possible, the 'original Ashtanga series developed by Krishnamacharya through his works, in particular Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu as well as the 1938 Black and White film footage that can be found in the Youtube video bar at the side of this blog.

In Krishnamachary's approach all asanas are not the same. Some asana allow for longer stays and this may be required to achieve the full benefits of the posture. Other postures allow for deeply engaged bandhas and still others retention on the exhalation or even inhalation. In one posture we might seek to increase the length of the inhalation in another the exhalation. Krishnamacharya states clearly that for the full benefit of certain asana it's vinyasa/variations should be included. This appears is in keeping with Krishnamacharya's philosophy of teaching the appropriate practice to a particular student in a particular situation and environment.

In attempting to practice Krishnamacharya's Primary just now, the sophistication of this approach became even more apparent as did the need to study closely each asana as described in the texts.

The rough plan is to include the recent posts on the translation of the Yogasanagalu as well as each new page that comns in. Side by side with that I hope to look at each asana in the syllabus along with the pictures and descriptions in both Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu.