Thursday, 17 December 2015

The story behind Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga poster

Downloadable pdf version - higher resolution 

First thing to say about it is that this is NOT the order the asana are found in Krishnamacharya's 1934 book Yoga Makaranda.... but not far off.

See my free downloads page for links to Yoga Makarnda parts I and II

Krishnamacharya starts of with descriptions of the asana that are involved in the transitions in and out of postures, the same postures that make up the Surynamaska. However Krishnamacharya, as far as we can tell,  does not seem to have taught the Sun salutation as a separate entity other than the version with mantras (see this post). In the mantra version of the sun salutation each stage of the salutation is held with kumbhaka while a mantra praising the health giving benefits of the sun are mentally chanted, it also includes a full prostration. Indra Devi mentions that Krishnamacharya taught her the mantra version in the 30's.

Sun salutations where in 'vogue' in India at the time, Shrimant Balasahib Rajah of Aundh  published 'The Ten Point Way to Health in 1928 (1938 English translation)

See these earlier posts
Balasahib's 'original' 1928 Suya Namaskar , sun salutation
More on the 'original' Sun salutation of 1928

The Ten Point Way to Health by Shrimant Balasahib Rajah of Aundh
Sun salutations seem to have been considered an almost stand alone exercise regime, Krishnamacharya appears to have been uncomfortable with that and perhaps this is the reason he only seems to have taught the mantra version. On the first page of yoga Makaranda he writes...

"One cannot have such a trivial attitude as expecting immediate benefits in auspicious matters like yogabhyasa, worship, sandhya vandanam (salutation to the sun) or chanting of mantras as though one were a labourer who does one hour of work and expects immediate payment. They should not lament that they have not received even one paisa for all the time spent on this. When this pattern of thinking begins, we enter a phase of deterioration day by day".  
T. Krishnamacharya. Yoga makaranda p1

There are some extra variations of postures included in Yoga Makaranda, I've trimmed those out for this project and some of the other variations we are familiar with from Ashtanga Primary are not mentioned in Yoga Makaranda Part I but are included in Part II, especially the some of the inishing postures.

Krishnamacharya treats many of the Primary asana we're familiar with from Ashtanga but then moves on to some of the more advanced postures, marichyasana appears there as does trikonasana. But then Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya's student at this time,  as late as the 1980's seems to have introduced the reverse twists in the triangle postures only once a student had become more proficient. Once they had completed Primary series for example the postures would then be inserted in their regular position. Krishnamacharya may have had something similar in mind with his ordering or the asana descriptions in his book.

It's important to stress that Krishnamacharya did not seem to advocate a fixed sequence, this poster then makes sense only as a guideline, a framework...... signposts perhaps. Or more significantly for me, as a way for Ashtangis to approach Krishnamacharya's early text and see what he has to offer us as options in our approach to our own asana practice. We can continue to seek new postures, new series or perhaps explore more fully those we have, explore the breathing options, the longer stays... not necessarily in all postures in each practice but perhaps choosing a different asana each practice to explore more fully.

There seems to be an intuitive structure to Ashtanga practice doesn't there? Or is that just my own familiarity with the series speaking, standing, triangle, standing on one leg, seated, supine, inversions, seated meditative postures. And asana with in theses 'types' of postures seem to generally progress logically one from the other, perhaps a couple here or there could be switched around but generally I get the feeling that this is probably the framework that Krishnamacharya would have used.

Why do I say that? Because there are certain postures that Krishnamacharya stressed should be practiced everyday, tadasana, trikonasana, paschimottanasana, maha mudra/janu sirsasana, badha konasana, sarvangasana, sisrsasana, badhapadmasana, plus there were postures that were considered preparation and counter postures that Krishnamacharya stressed, put them together and we begin to see the Ashtanga Primary series.

We see it even more explicitly in Krishnamacharya's 1941 book Yogasanagalu, in a table where the postures are listed in primary, middle and proficient groups, the order of the list for primary is uncannily close to the Ashtanga primary series we have now. The list of middle postures is close to our current 2nd series but the proficient  group just seems to be a random list of asana.

Download full table here

Pattabhi Jois' genius seems to have been to more formally nail down Primary and 2nd series and then order the rest of the more challenging postures into Advanced A and B then later 3rd, 4th. 5th and 6th.

There are arguments of course for and against the idea of a fixed sequence but truth be told Ashtanga isn't perhaps as fixed as is generally thought, it's always been open to adaption, whether due to injuries, proficiency, strengths and weaknesses, bringing in extra postures to help with personally challenging asana, switching to half primary half second or just up to navasana if short on time or even just the surynamaskaras. And then there are those days when we want to focus on a particular area of our body and so really milk those postures for all they offer us and merely pass through some of the other postures. Do we ever treat every posture in an Ashtanga series equally? Maybe, when Sharath  might be watching, one of the best arguments for Mysore perhaps.

Vinyasa Krama too, arguable the most adaptive of approaches to practice, has a frameworks, certain key asana we're encouraged to include everyday, asana that follow a logical progression, a general ordering of sequences. In Vinyasa Krama we might change our practice everyday but so too in Ashtanga where we might practice Primary one day second series the next, alternating the series throughout the week. Manju Jois didn't seem keen on only practicing Primary only on Fridays once we had progressed to second or third series.

This is just a beginning, as well as exploring the breath in asana, bringing pranayama into the asana practice as it were Krishnamacharya also appears to be exploring pratyahara and meditation through his use of Chakra focus. It's less explicit Something I hope to explore here in the future.

There does seem to have been a focus on asana for health and well being in Krishnamacharya's later teaching but here in these early days he seems to have seen asana practice as a carrier for all the Ashtanga limbs. Krishnamacharya's asana practice was never only about health and fitness it was, in my reading, always a spiritual practice and this is something we still find in his later teaching.


I made up the poster for the first session of my upcoming workshop allowing me to look at the options Krishnamacharya offered while keeping the familiar Ashtanga framework, make it easier for those attending ( don't worry I won't make anyone hold anything for ten minutes). I also made an instruction booklet, trimming down the instructions for asana from Yoga Makaranda, stripping those dense paragraphs into a clear layout of instruction. The booklet is finished but I need to play around with the format a little more before uploading it to google docs but here's a taste of it below.

Is it a good idea to make such a booklet available? I've struggled with this. I'd much rather everyone read and studied the full Yoga Makaranda but perhaps for those who find it forbidding this may be a way in to the full text.

Paschimottanasana is a key description because so many of the other seated asana direct you to follow the paschimottanasana instructions.

The book is in epub ibooks mode

Only Supta padangusthasana appears in the poster but Krishnamacharya included in Yoga Makaranda
Supta Parsvangushtasana

The book includes posters for most of the seated postures with their vinyasa
Link to the Triangmukha post

NB: Asana Instructions taken from 

Yoga Makaranda
Yoga Saram (The Essence of Yoga)
First Part
Sri T. Krishnamacharya
Mysore Samasthan Acharya
(Written in Kannada)
Tamil Translation by Sri C.M.V. Krishnamacharya (with the assistance of Sri S. Ranganathadesikacharya)
Kannada Edition 1934 Madurai C.M.V. Press Tamil Edition 1938”


My book based on this material.

Available here

Book available from

Re the young girl in Kurmasana in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda and in my Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga poster

This post started as a fb comment

"There seems to be a young girl in the poster"

from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934)

In response to a comment/question. Re the girl in Kurmasana in my Krishnamacharya's Original Ashtanga poster

Downloadable pdf version - higher resolution

In Krishnamacharya's first book,Yoga Makaranda, along with his own demonstrations of Primary postures, he includes some pictures of mostly more advanced postures demonstrated by his students or family (the girl in Kurmasana is I believe one of his daughters, I'm assuming the eldest, Srimathi Pundarikavalli). 

Krishnamacharya seems to have taught groups of postures (Primary, Middle, Advanced) rather than fixed series but I wanted to bring together those Primary postures he gave instructions for to give an idea of how Krishnamacharya might have taught the postures that make up the first Ashtanga series. In truth my aim was to use this poster as a hook to encourage other practitioners to take a closer look at Pattabhi Jois' teacher's instruction/guidelines/options, the longer breathing, longer stays, the kumbhaka he indicates in most postures and how he takes a more flexible approach to asana practice In general. 

Yoga Makaranda was written in 1934 when Pattabhi Jois was still Krishnamacharya's student. Here's the link to my original post telling the story of the poster.

"The first thing to say about it is that this is NOT the order the asana are found in Krishnamacharya's 1934 book Yoga Makaranda.... but not far off".


"Sri T. Krishnamacharya had six children, three sons and three daughters. His wife, Srimathi Namagiriammal as well as his children were taught by him" Sri Shribashyam

"He (Krishnamacharya)  was married (in 1925 to BKS Iyengar’s sister Namagririammal) and had six children, sons TK Srinivasan, TKV Desikachar, TK Sribhashyam and daughters Srimathi Pundarikavalli, Srimathi T Alamelu Sheshadri and Srimathi Shubha Mohan Kumar. 

Krishnamacharya invited his wife and daughters to join him in demonstrating asana for the 1938 Mysore film footage.

NB: It 's been suggested that Krishnamacharya refused to teach woman until Indra Devi used her influence with the Maharaja of Mysore in 1938 to persuade him to teach her. Given that Krishnamacharya was quite happy to teach his wife and daughters asana to a proficient level, it seems more likely that Krsihnamacharya was unsure of Indra Devi's seriousness regarding Yoga. 

"The woman, who became known as Indra Devi (she was born Zhenia Labunskaia, in pre-Soviet Latvia), was a friend of the Mysore royal family. After seeing one of Krishnamacharya’s demonstrations, she asked for instruction. At first, Krishnamacharya refused to teach her. He told her that his school accepted neither foreigners nor women. But Devi persisted, persuading the Maharaja to prevail on his Brahmin. Reluctantly, Krishnamacharya started her lessons, subjecting her to strict dietary guidelines and a difficult schedule aimed at breaking her resolve. She met every challenge Krishnamacharya imposed, eventually becoming his good friend as well as an exemplary pupil.

After a year-long apprenticeship, Krishnamacharya instructed Devi to become a yoga teacher. He asked her to bring a notebook, then spent several days dictating lessons on yoga instruction, diet, and pranayama. Drawing from this teaching, Devi eventually wrote the first best-selling book on hatha yoga, Forever Young, Forever Healthy". FERNANDO PAGÉS RUIZ  Yoga Journal


(Krishnamacharya's instruction for Kurmasana from Yoga Makaranda)

This has 16 vinyasas. The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th vinyasas demonstrate the sampurna sthiti of the asana. Only the 7th vinyasa is shown in the picture.
Benefit: The apana vayu is cleaned; nocturnal discharges are stopped. This is also a very good method for curing piles.

If women with irregular menstruation practise this asana with all the vinyasas for a few months, this affliction of the uterus and of menstrual disturbance will dissolve and they will have regular menstruation.

Important Rule: The practitioners of kurmasana must not practise it within 3 hours of eating. It must not be done on a full stomach.
poster from my book Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga yoga

Friday, 9 January 2015

DRISHTI : Krishnamacharya didn't seem to turn his head in certain asana that we might expect E.G Suptaparsva paddanguthasana, Trikonasana, utthita parsvakonasana

On my previous post I noticed that Krishnamacharya does't turn his head in Suptaparsva paddangusthasana. I knew this was the case in Trikonasana and Utthita parsvakonasana but hadn't noticed it here in this posture. Krihnamacharya being Krishnamacharya we do find postures and variations of these very postures ( for example where both legs are taken up and over to the side) where he does turn his head but in the presentation of these basic, key asana the head remains fixed. 

As my fiend Chiara points out this may because this asana is a parsva rather than a parivrtti so no torsion there - and no continuation of the torsion with the neck.  In those later vinyasa where the whole body is twisted Krishnamacharya does tend to turn the head somewhat, in twisted marichiyasana variations also but not as far as we might expect, he doesn't seem to try and look as far over the shoulder as possible.

Krishnamacharya tended to employ bhrumadhya as his main 'drishti

However in postures where the head was down he needed to employ a different drishti and would look to the tip of his nose. These are the two drishti he employed in Yoga Makaranda (1934).

Also Krishnamacharya is employing kumbhaka (breath retention) and introducing a degree of jalandhara banddha to control the breath, keeping it long and slow and smooth like the pouring of oil, he seems to avoid twisting the neck.

Pattabhi Jois also stress bhrumadhya and nasagri (tip of the nose)

"This is the method for the first Surya Namaskara, which is often practiced while chanting mantras. For this, meditation is very important, as are the drishti, or gazing places, which include: nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] for samasthiti; broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows] for the 1st vinyasa; nasagra dristri for the 2nd vinyasa; the gaze between the eyebrows for the 3rd vinyasa—in other words, for the odd-numbered vinyasas, the gaze should be focused between the eyebrows and, for the even-numbered ones, the gaze should be on the tip of the nose. In addition, for the even- numbered vinyasas, rechaka should be performed and, for the odd, one should do puraka. On the whole, the method for doing rechaka and puraka is the same for all the vinyasas and asanas ahead". Sury namaskar A Yoga Mala

But will also introduce other gazing points, here in Sury namaskar B, fingertips

"Then, taking the breath in slowly through the nose, raise the arms straight up over the head, bring the hands together, lean the head back a little, and look at the fingertips; this is the 1st vinyasa."

Originally I understand Jois employed five drishti, later this increased to nine

Manu jois mentions that it is also possible to practice with the eyes closed in which case bhrumadhya and nasagri are sufficient  unless one wishes to employ other focal points for the purpose of Dhyana/Dharana.

My impression is that the gaze for Krishnamacharya is very much a dhyana/dharana (concentration/meditation)practice and always has been, in Pattabhi Jois' later Ashtanga Drishti seems to be more about avoiding distractions and thus allowing the meditative aspect of the practice as a whole rather than the individual asana to emerge, a subtle difference perhaps.

Supta parsva padadangusthasana
"In this sthiti the head is facing upward and the other extended leg is kept straight and remains pressed against the floor". Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda (1934)

He seems to have been quite consistent in this. here he is in the 1938 film footage from Mysore

And again in the 1970s for the 3rd edition of Yogasanagalu

I just checked Pattabhi Jois' Yoga mala and there's no mention of turning the head either

"Perform the first ten vinyasas of Part 1. Then, doing rechaka, bring the right leg out to the right and lower it to the floor and do rechaka and puraka as much as possible; this is the 11th vinyasa. Then, doing puraka , raise the right leg, and return to the 8th vinyasa of Part 1;" Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala

"Then, keeping the legs spread no less than 3 mozhams apart, take either arm and lift it straight up, lower the other arm while keeping it straight and bring the hand down and place it on top of the foot. Study this carefully in the picture".

"This asana can be done lying down. But the back of the head, back, buttocks, the heels — all of these areas must be firmly pressed against the floor". Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda (1934)

Here though Pattabhi Jois has I gaze at the fingertips in Yoga Mala

"Then, turn the right foot to the right and exhaling, reach down and take hold of the big toe of the right foot with the right hand, lift up the other arm, fix the gaze on its fingertips, " Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala

By the 1970s photoshoot for the 3rd edition of Yogasanagalu Krishnamacharya seems to be clearly looking up at his fingertips

Utthita Parsvakonasana

"Keep the shoulders such that the ear is pressed on the upper part of the bent body and the head. Stay in this position for some time". Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda (1934)

And again, Jois has us shift the direct to the fingertips

" the right hand by the side of the right foot, stretch the left arm straight out over the ear, and gaze at the fingertips;" Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala

And in the 1970's Yogasangalu photo shoot Krishnamacharya is turning his head somewhat but not lifting the chin to look towards the fingertips


Curiously, in Ramaswami's presentation of his studies with Krishnamacharya, Vinyasa Krama,  little reference is made of the gaze, the eyes tending to be closed or looking down at the feet,

Krishnamacharya's 3rd Son TK Sribashyam however gives a great deal of emphasis to drishti as concentration points

Concentration: the sixteen vital points
see my earlier post 

Which contains examples of General Practice employing concentration on vital points as well as pranayama in asana.

And example from the Book of Krishnamacharya's own practice to show how concentration of vital points might be employed.

Some earlier posts on Drishti

Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Updateed: DRISHTI: Overview of Drishtis indicated for the Surynamaskaras by the different authors resp. Instructors ALSO Krishnamacharya's Gaze.

Saturday, 9 August 2014
Asana, Drishti and Dhyana - Dharana

Monday, 27 October 2014
DRISHTI: Ashtanga and Meditation. How should one meditate in 33 bullet points.

Krishnamacharya's 10 minutes in Suptapada Parsvangushtasana (Suptapada Padangushtasana B)

Suptapada Parsvangushtasana  otherwise know as Suptapada Padangushtasana B. 
Parsva - to the side

It struck me this morning that I owed an apology to my friends at StoneMonkey. November last year I presented a follow up workshop to the one earlier in the year, this time focusing on the second half of Krishnamacharya's Primary series/group.

But I missed something!
from My Krishnamacharya original Ashtanga book - link to Lulu

Krishnamacharya recommends we stay 10 minutes in Suptapada Parsvangushtasana!

Perhaps I blanked it out, subconsciously didn't want to see it but there it was last night as I was flicking through....

"Stay in this 9th vinyasa for at least ten minutes and then do the 10th vinyasa".

So my apologies Stonemonkey for not giving you the opportunity to practice it.

Did I hear somebody mutter 'thank heavens'? 

It's actually quite something and with a VERY interesting by-product as a bonus.

 I practised it five minutes each side this morning ( will try the full ten tomorrow, update to come), so half as long as Krishnamacharya suggests but substantially longer than most of us probably usually practice it. I slowed the breathing right down, just as in the Utkatasana exercise I introduce on the workshop, added kumbhaka's, focal points, the works. After two minutes it was uncomfortable but from then on I could feel my body relaxing deeper into the posture,  look how flat Krishnamacharya is in it, both legs.


It struck me that I could do with a pratkriya a counter posture after such an extended stay, Krishnamacharya recommends padmasana (lotus) as a pratkriya after baddha konasana so that seemed appropriate.
I have a dodgy left knee from old operations as a kid, the knee doesn't tend to want to sit flat in padmasana so I usually practice padmasana left foot first. However, this time, after five minutes a side in Suptapada padangushtasana I had the prettiest, most grounded lotus and while binding right foot first.

SO, if your working on your padmasana an extended stay here might be just the thing, although I recommend working up to it, say add on a minute a week.

Below is the presentation in my Krishnamacharya's Original Ashtanga book available available from Amazon and Lulu ( if you'd like a copy then pick it up from Lulu  as they allow me to offer a 50% discount). There's also an extended free pdf version from my FREE DOWNLOADS page.

After that I've added the old Black and White video of Krishnamacharya from 1938 where he enters the subroutine from sarvangasana (shoulder stand). After that there's an Appendix with Krishnamacharya full instructions including benefits from Yoga Makaranda as well as a link to a free download of the text. PLUS Instructions for the subroutine from Krishnamacharya's later 'Salutations to the teacher the eternal one'/Yoga Makaranda part II


I've been bothered about the position of the head in picture above, Krishnamacharya's head isn't turned to the side as I was taught in Jois Ashtanga. I thought perhaps it was turned a little but I've just checked the text and he writes

"In this sthiti the head is facing upward and the other extended leg is kept straight and remains pressed against the floor". 

This fits actually because in trikonasana he doesn't turn the head either, I tended to assume it's because in tikonasana as in this posture he is staying for an extended period, ten minutes.

available from Amazon and from Lulu  


Krishnamacharya's fancy Suptapadangushtasana from sarvangasana (shoulder stand) starts at 3:40


Instructions as found in original Yoga Makaranda
available from my GoogleDocs page HERE

14  Supta Padangushtasana (Figure 4.38, 4.39, 4.40, 4.41)
The first krama for this has 21 vinyasas. Through the 6th vinyasa, it is exactly as for pascimottanasana. In the 7th vinyasa, lie down facing upwards instead of extending the legs and sitting as in pascimottanasana. While lying down, the entire body must be pressed against the ground. The toes must point upwards and the back of the heels must be stuck to the ground. This is also called savasana by other schools. This is the 7th vinyasa for supta padangushthasana. In the 8th vinyasa, slowly raise the right leg straight up. Hold the big toe of the right foot with the fingers of the right hand, do recaka kumbhaka and remain in this position for as long as possible. This sthiti is called dakshina supta padangushtasana. While remaining in this sthiti, at no time should the elbows or knees of the extended arms and legs be bent. At this time the left hand should be placed on top of the thigh of the outstretched left leg. In the 9th vinyasa, slowly pull the right leg little by little into the front of the right chest. While doing this, gradually raise the head little by little until the face is placed against the right knee. Remain in this position for some time. The 10th vinyasa is like the 8th. The 11th vinyasa is like the 7th. The 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th vinyasas follow the method for the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th but with the left leg and arm. From the 16th until the 21st vinyasas, follow the rules for the 11th until the 16th vinyasas of pascimottanasana and after this return to samasthiti. The 12th vinyasa is called vama supta padangushthasana. From the 8th till the 15th vinyasas, no part of the body must be crooked. While one leg is raised, the other leg must definitely not be bent or curved, must not roll around or undergo any such torsion.

Benefit: It will keep the body measurements proportional and equal and will give tremendous strength to the nerves. It gives good strength to the hips. It is not appropriate for women during pregnancy. 

15 Suptapada Parsvangushtasana 
This has 23 vinyasas. Up to the 8th vinyasa, this follows the method for supta padangushthasana. In the 9th vinyasa, without breaking any of the rules described earlier, pull the raised right leg down towards the ground on the same side (right side) and slowly lay it down on the ground while still clasping the right big toe. In this sthiti the head is facing upward and the other extended leg is kept straight and remains pressed against the floor. Stay in this 9th vinyasa for at least ten minutes and then do the 10th vinyasa. In the 10th vinyasa, bring the foot that is being held against the ground back to the position in the 8th vinyasa and remain here. Without letting go of the foot, move it such that the leg (or calf) sits on the chest beneath the neck and such that the elbow of the arm holding the foot is behind the neck. Remain here. In this sthiti, the head must be raised slightly. That is, there should be 6 angulas of space between the ground and the head. Inside the matham, this is called sammukha parivrtasana. Repeat this on the other side. To first practise this with the right leg and then with the left leg is characteristic of a superior yogi. The 11th vinyasa is like the 8th and the 12th is like the 7th. Do the 13th vinyasa like the 8th and then do the 14th and 15th vinyasas like the 9th and 10th. The 16th is like the 8th and the 17th must be done like the 7th. The six remaining vinyasas of this posture must be practised like the last 6 vinyasas of pascimottanasana. After this, return to samasthiti.

Benefit: Not only does it clean the parsva nadi, it does not allow the parsva vayu to exist in the body. It destroys diseases like acute tuberculosis. Women should not do this while pregnant.

Appendix II

Instructions from Salutations to the teacher, the eternal one/ Yoga Makaranda part II

Those who find difficuty in doing EKAPADA SARVANGASANA-side, may get the same benefits by doing SUPTAPADAANGUSHTASANA.

Stage I Preliminary Technique:

1. Lie flat on the back with legs together, stretched, and hands stretched and close to the body, and palms open and touching the ground.

2. While inhaling spread both legs and hands as wide as possible on either side of the body to an equal degree. Both legs and arms will continue touching the ground and be kept stretched.
  1. While exhaling bring back the legs and arms to the position as in the first step.
  2. Repeat.
Stage II

1. Lie flat on the back with the legs stretched arms stretched and by the side of the body as in the first step of Stage I.
2. While exhaling raise one of the legs to an upright position by bending at the hips. The knees should not be bent, and the leg should continue to be kept stretched. The other leg should continue to lie on the ground stretched. While the leg is raised to the upright position the arm on the same side is raised and the toe of the foot caught hold by the thumb and forefinger of the hand.
3. While exhaling turn the leg to touch the ground so that the leg now forms a right angle with the body on the ground. The thumb and the forefinger of the hand will continue to hold the toe. If it is the right leg, it is brought to the right side of the body.
4. While inhaling raise the leg with the toe still held by the thumb and forefinger to the position in step 2.

5. While inhaling release the toe and lower the leg, and come back to position in step 1.
6. Repeat with the other leg.
Note: It will be seen that steps 2 and 3 are done while exhaling, and steps 4 and 5 are done while inhaling. It does not mean that steps 2 and 3 are a continuous process done while exhaling. After steps 2, a few deep breaths may be taken. So also is the case after step 4. Movements are made while inhaling or exhaling, inhaling generally when the abdomen is not compressed by the movement. When a position, intermediate or final, has been reached deep breathings or the prescribed form of Pranayama is done. This observation generally applies to all asanas.

Stage III.

1. Lie flat on the back, both legs stretched knees together, arms stretched and by the side of the body, the palms open and touching the ground.
2. Bring the stretched left arm by a sweeping movement about the shoulder on the ground till it makes a right angle at the shoulder level with the body and the palm touching 
the ground.
3. While exhaling, lift the leg without bending the knee to an upright position so that the leg now forms a right angle with the body.
  1. Take one or two deep breaths if necessary.
  2. Catch hold of the toe of the left leg with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand.
  3. While exhaling, bring the left leg with the toe still held by the thumb and forefinger
of the right hand to lie flat on the ground on the right side of the body, so that the two arms are now in a line at shoulder level at right angles to the body.
The head should be turned to the left, so that the left ear may touch the ground.
The knees should not bend and the leg should be kept stretched. The right leg should continue stretched and lie on the ground, with the toes pointing upward and the head touching the ground.

  1. Inhalations and exhalations may be done in this position.
  2. While exhaling, raise the left leg, with the toe still held by the right hand, to the
position in step 5. Turn the head back to the correct position.

9. Release the toe, while inhaling, bring down the left leg to the original position as in step 1.
  1. Bring the left arm to lie by the side of the body as in step 1.
  2. Repeat with the other leg.
Note: In the case of males, proper suspension bandages or something equivalent should be used so that the organs are kept firmly in position.
In the case of females, the upper part of the body should have a close fitting jacket. Especially in this asana, as considerable pressure is applied to the abdomen it is absolutely necessary to see that the bowels and bladder are clear before doing this asana.

Stage IV

1. Lie flat on the ground, on the back, both legs stretched, knees together, arms stretched and by the side of the body, the palms open and touching the ground.
2. While exhaling, bring both legs to an upright position by bending at the hips, keeping the knees together, and the legs stretched, the toes pointed.

3. Turn head to the left, so that the left ear touches the ground. Bring the left arm stretched, with s sweeping motion on the ground, to a position at right angles to the body.
  1. Take one or two deep breaths.
  2. While exhaling, bring both the legs together to lie on the ground, on the right side of
the body. The knees should not be bent, but the legs kept stretched. The toes should now be at the level of the shoulders, so that when both the toes are caught hold by the thumb and forefinger of the out-stretched right arm, the right arm and the left arm may be in a straight line at the shoulder level and at right angles to the body. As far as possible, try to keep the left side of the back near the ground as possible.
6. Do not less than six rounds pranayama. The pranayama should be done with both Anthar and Bahya Kumbhakam of two to five seconds duration each, the period of Anthar Kumbhakam being kept equal to the period of Bahya Kumbhakam.
7. While inhaling, bring the legs to the upright position, after releasing the toes. Bring the head to the normal position.

8. Repeat on the left side. The legs are straight away brought from the upright position to lie on the left side of the body without taking the legs to the position in step 1.
9. Do the same number of rounds of pranayama as on the right side, the periods of Anthar and bahya kumbhakam being the same as on the right side.

  1. While inhaling bring the legs to the upright position after releasing the toes.
  2. Bring the head to the normal position, the arms to the normal position by the side of
the body, and take one or two deep breaths.
12. While inhaling lower the legs to lie flat on the ground as in step one.

In some treatises on Yoga Stages II and III of Supthapadaangushta asana are called JATHARA PARIVRITTI though the asana affects other regions of the body besides the abdominal region.

Appendix III
A Vinyasa Krama approach

And while we're at it, here's the Vinyasa Krama approach, two pages from my Vinyasa Yoga practice book that place the posture in a broader subroutine and sequence. 

Srivatsa Ramaswami spent over thirty years studying with Krishnamacharya take a look at his Complete book of Vinyasa yoga and also Yoga for the Three Stages of Life.

Monday, 5 January 2015

INVERSIONS: Krishnamacharya's Head and Shoulderstand variation 1934 (Mysore) - 1980s (Chennai).

It is often noted that Krishnamacharya appeared to change his teaching drastically after leaving Mysore in 1950s. One suggestion is that this was in response to no longer being on a salary from the Mysore palace. The suggestion being that in Mysore he was free to teach exactly what he wanted to teach whereas after leaving Mysore he had to take into account his paying customers and perhaps soften his approach or focus more on therapeutic benefits.

However when we look at Sarvangasana and Sirsasana (shoulderstand and headstand) in Krishnamacharya's teaching we see little change perhaps between the early Mysore and post Mysore years.

NOTE: Most of the information we have regarding Krishnamacharya's teaching in Mysore is to the young boys of the Mysore palace where perhaps a highly structured and disciplined approach may have been required. Krishnamacharya's family mention that he would however have assistants (for example the teenage Pattabhi Jois, who would often take the main class through their practice, perhaps while Krishnamacharya himself taught individual students/patients in a side room). The Maharaja of Mysore himself was of course a student and patient of Krishnamacharya as was Indra Devi. 


Yoga Makaranda Part I  (1934)

Below, the pictures found at the front of Yoga Makaranda showing a photo shoot at Krishnamacharya's Yoga shala in the Mysore palace.

In Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934) written while in Mysore and teaching the young Pattabhi Jois as well as BKS Iyengar, we find Shoulder stand and Headstand variations that we are perhaps familiar with from modern Ashtanga. The headstands below are found at the end of the current 2nd/Intermediate Ashtanga series, four of the seven variations.

Here's an old video of mine of the seven headstands (sometimes lovingly called the seven deadlies)

However at the back of Yoga Makaranda we also find this, niralumba sarvangasana, unsupported shoulderstand and this doesn't appear in any of the modern Ashtanga series.

The headstand variation below seems to have come from the same photo shoot as that conducted for Yoga Makaranda although the picture didn't appear in the text.

Yoga Makaranda ends with the photos of head and shoulder stands above but not the instructions for how to perform them, these are promised in a planned 'part II'. Why would Krishnamacharya leave these handful of head and shoulder stands out of the text unless perhaps there were many more variations that he was planning on sharing, too many perhaps to be included in the 'first Part'.


1938 Fim footage (Mysore)

In 1938, only four years after Yoga Makaranda, we have the documentary footage filmed in Mysore. The full movie runs to around 45 minutes and includes demonstrations by Krishnamacharya and his family including BKS Iyengar, Krishnamacharya's student and son-in-law. the section below featuring Krishnamacharya mostly concentrates on inversions.

Sarvangasana variations demonstrated by Krishnamacharya
Krishnamcharya sarvangasana variations 1938

Krishnamcharya sarvangasana variations 1938

Krishnamcharya sarvangasana variations 1938
Sirsasana variations demonstrated by Krishnamacharya
Krishnamcharya sirsasana variations 1938
Sirsasana variation demonstrated by Krishnamacharya's wife.

More Sarvangasana variations demonstrated by krishnamacharya's wife. 1938
Sirsasana variation demonstrated by BKS Iyengar
Sirsasana mandala variations demonstrated by Krishnamacharya's student and Son-in-law, BKS Iyengar. 1938


Salutations to the teacher, the eternal one/ Yoga Makaranda Part II (date unconfirmed possibly 1950's)

This text includes a section on Shoulderstands and headstands and is considered by AG Mohan to constitute Part II of Yoga Makaranda

Here are a couple of sample pages, the full 41 page text can be downloaded from my Googledocs page.

Notes from Yoga Makaranda part II

"In designing the SIRSHASANA and SARVANGASANA the rishis have automatically removed the above difficulties by adopting the topsy-turvy posture by which gravity will now aid in the free flow of blood to the organs of perception and also aid in restoring the organs in the lower part of the body to their normal places. 

These two asanas are both preventive and curative. In the case of those, however, who are unduly fatty, it is imperative that the body should first acquire some suppleness in the movement of the limbs by practicing mudras and pranayamas, before attempting these asanas.

Sayanacharya in his commentary on Patanjali’s YOGASUTRAS has given a lot of practical details to be observed in the practice of asanas. The main objective of SIRSHASANA and SARVANGASANA are not merely to arrange for a copious supply of blood to the head and upper part of the body but also to slow down the respiratory rate. 

When SIRSHASANA has been sufficiently mastered, the breathing rate which normally is about 15-18 a minute, automatically comes down to four a minute. The aim should be to reduce it to, two per minute. Thus at this rate, 24 rounds of breathing in SIRSHASANA will take 12 minutes.

It is laid down that SIRSHASANA should be done only in the mornings. This should always be followed by SARVANGASANA. The proper procedure is to do SIRSHASANA with 24 deep inhalations and exhalations. Take two minutes rest. Then do SARVANGASANA with 24 rounds of deep breathing. Take two minutes rest. Follow with some sitting asana. 

In SIRSHASANA the organs in the head and the brain get a copious supply of blood, the internal organs in the body get displaced upwards. The two minutes rest normalizes. In SARVANGASANA the blood supply to the head is restricted by resting the body on the neck and making the chin lock. The thyroid and the upper part of the internal organs of the body get displaced upwards. The two minutes rest normalizes. When a sitting asana is now done the internal organs regain their proper positions. This is the reason behind doing the asanas in this particular order.
Sayanacharya has mentioned six specific asanas for daily practice. He however prescribes that along with these some other asanas (this may vary each day) should be done.

In SIRSHASANA, normally no kumbhakam need be done (in the beginning), though about two seconds ANTHAR and BAHYA kumbhakam automatically result when we change over from deep inhalation to deep exhalation and vice versa. During the automatic pause, kumbhakam takes place. When after practice has advanced and kumbhakam is deliberately practised, ANTHAR kumbhakam can be done up to 5 seconds during each round and BAHYA kumbhakam up to 10 seconds.

In SARVANGASANA, there should be no deliberate practice of ANTHAR kumbhakam, 10
but BAHYA kumbhakam can be practiced up to 5 seconds in each round.
These deep breathings along with the asana help in slowing down the breathing rate with a consequent elongation of life. Sayanacharya prescribes that the number of deep breaths one should practice per day should not be less than 320. This number could be spread out during the day-some may be done along with asana in the morning and evening, some along with pranayama, morning, noon, evening and at midnight, or whenever some spare time is

There are instructions for a few of the sarvangasana subroutines in Yoga Makaranda part II

from Yoga Makaranda 1934, Mysore

This asana tones up all the centres, nerves, organs, joints etc. and hence is called SARVANGASANA. The asana is of two kinds with support and without support, the former is dealt with below.

1. Lie flat on the back, with legs stretched, knees close together and toes pointed. Raise the head and align the toes, knees and hand and return the head to the floor placing the chin on the chest. The arms lie stretched close by the side of the body with the palms touching the floor, fingers closed.
2. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply with a rubbing sensation in the throat, through both nostrils three or four times.
3. Slowly exhale and raise both legs together. Bring the body to an upright position, the neck resting on the ground. Bend the elbows and bring the palms up to support the back on either side of the backbone, the palms being placed as near the shoulder blades as possible. The elbows should not spread out but be placed as close as possible, the distance between them will be about 12 inches.


Yoga Makaranda, 1934, Mysore


1. Take three steps of Salamba Sarvangasana, so that the body is now resting on the back of the neck.
2.Reach the halasana position variation 2. 
3.While inhaling, raise both the legs together, legs being kept together and stretched, to an upright position, the arms still continuing to lie stretched behind the head.
4. Do deep breathing and try and balance the body so that the weight is supported by the shoulders. Try and lift the arms so that the palms rest on the thighs.
5. Take deep breaths.

Note: Start with 3 deep breaths. This number may slowly be increased by one round each week. Every care should be taken that there is no strain. The number of deep breaths can be increased to a maximum of 64.
6. Retrace the steps; the arms being taken to the position behind the head, the legs lowered to the Halasana positon, then raised to the upright position and get to the Sarvangasana with support position. The body is brought to the lying down position flat on the back, by a rolling movement as in the case of Salamba sarvangasana.
Note: This asana should not be attempted before mastering the Salamba Sarvangasana, halasana, ekapada Sarvangasana.
Benefits: Of the various types of Sarvangasana this gives the maximum benefits. The thyroid gets special benefits. The waist line is reduced. The liver is toned. This asana cures gastric troubles and piles. It also prevents these diseases.


After Sarvangasana, Halasana has to be mastered before taking up the practice of Niralamba Sarvangasana. Hence Halasana is being dealt with at this stage. The final posture resembles the plough and hence the name.


1. After coming to the Sarvangasana position, with the back upright, legs stretched and chin locked, Halasana is done as an extension.

2. The palms which support the back are brought down to touch the ground, so that the arms lie stretched with the palms down i.e., touching the ground, the fingers together and stretched. The distance between the palms should be about 12 to 18 inches.

3. While slowly exhaling, bring both the legs together slowly so that the toes touch the ground as far as possible. The back of the toes should touch the ground and not the tip of the fingers. This is done by bending at the hips, the back being as upright as possible and maintaining the chinlock. The legs have to be kept together straight and stretched, the knee together, the toes pointed and together, the thigh and calf muscles stretched.

There are a number of variations and these are given below. These are progressively more difficult.

1. In this variation the fingers of the outstretched arms are interlocked with the palms turned outwards and the thumbs touching the ground.

2. In the next variation the outstretched arms are brought behind the head, with a circular sweeping motion, the arms touching the ground till they are in a line with the shoulders. The palms are now upturned and the sweeping motion continued till the palms are near the toes.

3. After reaching the position in 2 above, the elbows are bent and the forearms are brought together to rest at the back of the top of the head. The right palm to catch the left elbow and the left palm catching the right elbow.

4. The next variation is where the forearms instead of being taken to the top of the head, are taken above the knees at the back of the legs. Thus the forearms are locked over the legs above the knee joint. The knees should not be bent.

Note: The positions described above give the final positions to be reached. But this may not be possible at the beginning of the practice. No attempt should be made to reach these positions by force. The bending should be made to the extent conveniently possible. With the deep inhalations and exhalations, the abdominal muscles get toned up and the body becomes more and more supple as practice advances. It is important to watch that at no stage is the body strained which will be indicated by the breathing getting laboured. By aiming to lower the toes by not more than 2-4 inches a week there should be no strain and the final position will be attained as practice advances.

4. Slowly and deeply, inhale and exhale, through both nostrils with rubbing sensation in the throat. The number of these deep breaths should in no case exceed six times.

5. While slowly inhaling the legs are raised together and brought to the upright position.

6. The body is brought to the lying down position flat on the back, by a rolling movement as in the case of Salamba Sarvangasana.

7. Rest for at least a minute.



1. Take the first three steps of Salamba Sarvangasana. The body is now resting on the nect, the legs are lifted in an upright position and the back is supported by the palms.
2. Lower the stretched legs by bending at the hips, and by giving a slight twist at the hips, so that the toes which should be pointed, touches the ground at a point 21⁄2 feet to the right of the right ear. This movement is done while exhaling. The legs should be together and kept stretched throughout. The right palm should firmly support the body at the back, so that when the legs are lowered to the right of the body, the trunk of the body may not also bend to the right side, the trunk should remain upright, and facing to the front.

Note: This asana should be done with the movement in step 2, always, first towards the right of the body.
3. Take three deep breaths. There should be no holding of breath. 
4. Swing the stretched legs with the hips as centre, so that the toes describe an arc of a 
circle on the ground, at the back of the head, till the toes reach a position, 21⁄2 feet to the left of the left ear.
5. While inhaling, lift the legs to the upright central position. 
6. Take two deep breaths. 
7. Now repeat the previous movements, by lowering the legs to the left of the body. 
This is steps 2 to 6 exclusive, except that “left” should be used wherever the word “right” has been used, and the word “right” where the word “left” has been used.
8. Do the normal Halasana, Central with the toes just behind the head. 
9. Take three deep breaths. 
10. While inhaling raise the legs to the right position. 
11. Take two deep breaths. 
12. Exhale, bend the knees, so that they approach the throat, remove the support of the 
palms, lower the hips so that the back rests on the ground, and then stretch the legs so that the whole forms a rolling movement.

13. Take rest.

Note: This asana can also be done as practice advances, without supporting the back with the palms. In this variation the arms are kept stretched as in step 1.


1. Tones up the liver and spleen. Prevents the disorder of these organs and effects a cure if these organs are disordered.
2. Reduces excessive urination.


Though this is a variation of Parsva Halasana-A it is introduced only here, as there will be greater facility in doing this asana if the asana previously described viz., Suptha Konasana is practised first.

The first two steps are the same as in the case of Parsva Halasana.

3. Move only the left leg in an arc, the toe always touching the ground, till the leg takes a position as far to the left of the body as is conveniently possible. The leg is moved while exhaling, and inhaling is done while the leg is at rest. The movement of the leg may be done by stages at first. As practice advances, the leg may be moved in a single movement.
4. Take six deep breaths. 
5. Bring the left leg back to the right, till the two legs are together. 
6. While inhaling, lift both the legs together, till they are upright and in the central 

7. Repeat on the right side.

8-10. These steps are the same as in steps 
11, 12 and 13 of Parsva Halasana.

Note: The palms of the hands support the hips throughout the asana.


1. After reaching the position indicated as the second variation of Halasana, hold the toes with thumb and forefinger of the respective hands.
2. While inhaling raise any one of the legs to the upright position as in Sarvangasana. The palm of the hand on the same side as the leg raised is also lifted so that when the leg is upright, the palm of the land rests on the thigh.
3. Do Pranayama. 
4. While exhaling lower the leg and move back the hand to the same position as at the 
5. Now repeat with the other leg.

Note: In the beginning the position described may not be possible. Some support to the back may be necessary at the beginning. The asana may therefore be done by starting with the first position in Sarvangasana when both legs are upright and the back supported by the palms and while exhaling slowly bring down one leg at a time, so that the leg reaches behind the head as in Halasana. The palms of the hands will still continue supporting the back. The necessary rounds of Pranayama are done in this position. Now repeat with the other leg. Bring the body to lie flat on the back with the usual rolling motion as described in Sarvangasana.
The pranayama in stage (3) will be done both holding in of breath after inhalation and holding out of breath after exhalation. The period of holding in of breath will be 4 seconds and the period of holding out of breath will be 2 seconds. The number of rounds of pranayama for each leg will be 3 rounds at the beginning which will be gradually raised as practice advances to six rounds.


This asana has to be practised as a preliminary measure before taking up the practice of the next asana to be described - 

1. Start with Sarvangasana, with the legs upright, stretched, knees together, the back supported by the palms.
2. Exhale and spread the legs still keeping them stretched, so that both legs spread equally on either side.
3. Inhale and bring the legs together. 
4. Rest. 
The number of turns should be only 2 rounds in the first week, and three rounds from the second week and four rounds after a month. 

After this asana has been mastered, 



1. Start with the Sarvangasana position where both the legs are upright, stretched, knees together, and the back supported by the palms.
2. While exhaling, bring one of the legs to the side. The left leg to the left side, and the right leg to the right side. The leg is kept stretched and leg lowered till the toe touches the ground and the leg is at right angles to the body. It will be necessary slightly to twist the leg for the toe to touch the ground. All this while the other leg should continue to be kept upright.
3. While inhaling the leg is brought back to the upright position. 
4. Some deep inhalations and exhalations are made in this position to give some rest. 
5. Repeat with the other leg. Each leg should be alternately exercised, and each leg 
moved the same alternatively exercised, and each leg moved the same number of times.

6. When both legs have come together after the necessary number of rounds, reach the lying flat on the back position with a rolling movement as in the case of Sarvangasana.

7. Rest.
Note: In the beginning it will not be possible to bring the leg down enough for the toes to reach the ground. No attempt should be made to force down the leg to reach this position. On the other hand effort should be made so that the leg does not sink down to a position so far down as to strain the muscles. It is important to see that the other leg is kept upright and stretched. As practice advances the final position will be reached.


This is the name given to this asana according to Raja Yoga. According to Hatha Yoga the same asana has been classed under Supthapada Angusta Asana.

This is closely related to Sarvangasana. It has a number of variations and some of them are given below.
1. Start with the first three steps of Salamba Sarvangasana. 
2. Get into the position of Halasana variation 2.
3. Now bring the palms of the hand to support the hips. Note the position of the palms and the fingers in this asana carefully. The palms are at the hip level and the fingers are pointing to the front. The position of the palms and fingers therefore differ from these of Sarvangasana. The position is such that the body can effectively be supported when finally it takes a horizontal position. the elbows in this asana will be closer than in Sarvangasana. 
4. While inhaling, lift both the legs together, so that the legs get to the vertical position and the movement continued till the heels touch the ground the body forming an arch, and is supported by the heels, elbows, shoulders and the back of the head.
Note: For beginners lifting the legs keeping them stretched may be difficult. For them to make the movement easier, the legs may be bent at the knees, the heels brought near the buttocks, and the bent legs now lifted so that the thighs occupy a vertical position. The movement is further continued by bending the body further at the hips, so that the body forms an arch. The legs are also somewhat straightened, so that the soles of the feet rest on the ground. Each leg is then straightened, till both of them are stretched, toes pointed and knees together. As practice advances, the position can be reached without bending the knees.
6. Lift the head and the shoulders, so that the body is supported only by the heels, and the two elbows.

Note: For beginners lifting both the head and the shoulders may not be possible. They should therefore try to lift only the head at first, so that the shoulders may act as supports. As practice advances, after the head has been lifted, and the body balanced, the shoulders should also be lifted 
and the final position reached.

7. In this final position not more than three deep breathings should be done. There should be no retention of breath.
8. Rest for some time.


Yogasanagalu 1941 (3rd edition 1972)

In the asana table in Krishnamacharya's second book Yogasanagalu (1941) Krishnamacharya seems to be referring to those headstands introduced pictorial in Yoga Makaranda part I.

However for the third edition Krsihnamacharya seems to have had new pictures made up especially for the new edition.

 "In order to publish the 3rd edition of the book “Yogasanagalu” and to help men, women, youth, old and patients practice appropriately, I used a new set of photos and expanded and altered many the topics regarding the practice". from the preface ( Yogasanagalu translation here)

Head and shoulder stand variations are treated extensively, many we have seen demonstrated in the 1938 film footage suggesting a consistency of practice and pedagogy.

Krishnamacharya demonstrating Sarvangasana variations, Yogasanagalu 4th edition (1984)

Krishnamacharya demonstrating Sarvangasana variations, Yogasanagalu 4th edition (1984)

Krishnamacharya demonstrating Sirsasana variations, Yogasanagalu 4th edition (1984)

Krishnamacharya taught the above variations and more besides to his long term student Srivatsa Ramaswami who collected them together in his books Yoga for the three stages of Life and  The complete book of Vinyasa Yoga following Krishnamacharya's own suggestion for the arrangement of the asana into groups. On Ramaswami's TT course at LMU in 2010 I showed him the pictures in the photocopy of Yogasangalu that I had just been sent and he mentioned that he remembered the photo's being taken as he was personally given a set at the time.


Vinyasa Krama Shoulderstand and Headstand sequences as presented by Srivatsa Ramaswami, student of Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, from 1950s-80s

Practice sheets from my Vinyasa Yoga Practice book.
Available on Amazon, in print and on kindle

See also my other blog

Below is a speeded up practice closely based on Ramaswami's presentation of inversions.

Krishnamacharya recommended to Ramaswami that he practice inversions following these general guidelines.

1. Preparatory supine asana
2. Legs relaxed for 3-5 minutes in Sarvangasana
3. Pratkriya ( perhaps salabhasana, danhurasana)
4. Sirsasana practiced as mudra, viparita Karani ( ie no variations)
5. 2nd Sarvangasana , this time with variations
6. Pratkriya (counterposture(s) 
7. 2nd Sirsana, with variations.
8. Seated asana

See my earlier blogpost replicating a section from my practice book on preparing for shoulder stand

Practice sheets from my Vinyasa Yoga  Practice book

Practice sheets from my Vinyasa Yoga  Practice book

Practice sheets from my Vinyasa Yoga  Practice book

Practice sheets from my Vinyasa Yoga  Practice book

Sharath, director of KPJAYI and Pattabhi Jois' grandson has mentioned in several recent 'conferences'  that longer headstands may be beneficial ('...although not in the shala, too busy'). An evening, rest day or moon day may be an opportunity to explore Krishnamacharya's variations in inversions especially upon consideration that they can be traced back to all the other elements of the current Ashtanga system. 

Benefits of Shoulderstand and headstand are outlined in Ramaswami's newsletter 


The next two pictures seem to be earlier than those shot for the 3rd edition of Yogasanagalu, 1960's perhaps


from Questions to Krishnamacharya from his students in 
Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan.

20. How long should one stay in Sirsasana and Sarvangasana?

The time spent in each asana should be the same. The number of breaths taken in Sirsasana should be equal to the the number of breaths taken in sarvangasana. The length of each breath should also be equal. The postures are like the eyes of yoga. They strengthen the senses and the respiratory organs. A person with a heart problem should approach the practice of these asana-s with the utmost care. Only when a student is capable of doing sarvangasana should the teacher think of teaching him Sirsasana. people with asthma will have problems in practicing these postures. In the beginning these people should stay for two or three breaths only