1. We know nothing.
2. We have problems.
3. We do something about them.
4. We have some power.
5. We find this power is something other than the mind.
– TKV Desikachar
1. We know nothing.
Postural Practice Pointers 16 – A little movement in a lot of places
One principle taught to me by Desikachar,
related to our relationship with our spine from a Yoga perspective,
whether on a physical, energetic or psychic level.
It is the notion that we are looking for a little movement in a lot of places,
rather than a lot of movement in a few places.
The Sāṃkhya Kārikā of Īśvara Kṛṣṇa
The first of my thirty plus journeys to India to study Yoga with Desikachar was in 1979, to what was then known as Madras. As it was to be a two year stay and my first visit, we talked about how my studies could be shaped during this time and towards the future. In this discussion it became apparent for me that there were a number of threads to be woven together into a rope that became known as the viniyoga of Yoga.
These were broadly grouped into personal practice development, personal practice theory and textual study. Regarding the latter I asked him where do I start within this vast array of textual options. Without hesitation he said textual study must start with Sāṃkhya as it is a foundation for much of what follows in terms of other texts ranging from the Yoga Sūtra, even to root Āyurveda texts.
Although I had spent a week in Switzerland in 1978 studying Sāṃkhya and Prāṇāyāma with Desikachar and his brother, Sribhashyam, I really had little idea what it meant to study a Yoga related text within the intensity and focus a one to one situation offers. Nor did I have any real grasp of even basic Saṃskṛta. Thus my three decade odyssey into textual studies within the school of Krishnamacharya began with a word by word, verse by verse study of the Sāṃkhya Kārikā.
Now here I am nearly four decades later, within memories of handwriting many, many textual verses, offering workbooks as a support for students interested in textual studies. I have already offered Yoga Sūtra PDF Workbooks and Gītā Chapters PDF Workbooks and now offer a support for those students interested in a study in the foundational philosophy known as Sāṃkhya. Here a Romanised Saṃskṛta Āryā by Āryā personal study support workbook for the Sāṃkhya Kārikā of Īśvara Kṛṣṇa is offered via the links below.
“This past weekend, sixteen of TKV Desikachar’s long term students from around the world met and
spent time together in the South of France. We reflected on what we each personally received from
our teacher through our individual lessons in Chennai over many years.
Within this context certain questions arose that we would like to share as an offering.
– How is the Spirit of Yoga transmitted?
– What are the conditions that make this transmission possible?
– How can all of us support the continuity of this transmission?
We will continue to meet and work together to sustain
the spirit of TKV Desikachar’s teaching as we have understood it.”
– Ste Cécile les Vignes, June 24th 2018
Chase Bossart; Bernard Bouanchaud; Johanna Bouanchaud; Barbara Brian;
Malek Daouk; Paul Harvey; Hoda Khoury; Hellfried Krusche;
Gill Lloyd; François Lorin; Laurence Maman; Marina Margherita;
Frans Moors; Martyn Neal; Simone Tempelhof-Moors; Dolphi Wertenbaker
Today commemorates TKV Desikachar‘s eightieth birthday, the second to have passed since his death in August 2016. This day, coincidentally, also sees me travelling to the South of France for a 3 day gathering of most of his long term pupils from around the world.
Curiously this meeting comes to pass exactly twenty years after the last such meeting in June 1998 where some 16 students from 8 countries gathered in London with Desikachar to explore, as he put it:
“How to respect this tradition and at the same time, to live and teach in the present situation?”
This time again sees some 16 students gathering from 8 countries, though obviously the occasion of meeting without Desikachar’s physical presence will be strange. Yet I feel it will also offer an unique opportunity to salute that which links us and to reconnect with old friends and reaffirm where we find ourselves within the Yoga world today. Such as what is the future of our past within the spirit of Viniyoga?
“As Uḍḍīyāna Bandha is done on holding the breath after exhalation,
one of the most important requirements
is that we are able to do a long holding of the breath
without sacrificing the quality of the inhalation and exhalation.
If this is not possible we should forget about Bandha for the time being.”
– TKV Desikachar ‘The Concept, Preparation and Techniques of Bandha’
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Fourteen Page 197
‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America,
a transcript of recordings of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980.
Unlike the later redacted edition, re-published in 1995 as the ‘Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’, it captures the evolution of the retreat with the days lectures and Q & A dialogues as they alternated between ‘lectures on the principles and purposes of Yoga and discussions related to the practice of Yoga with special reference to the postures and the breathing techniques’.
TKV Desikachar, in his forward to the original version wrote:
“These lectures and discussions, printed words put before persons I might never meet,
are but reflections of that deeper result that grew out of a living face-to-face encounter.
Coming to learn of Yoga only through reading leaves much to be desired.
Yet, something worthwhile about Yoga might be shared through the medium of the printed word.”
A chapter by chapter Study guide is offered below with added verse and word cross-references where possible to support a a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.
Chapter Thirteen Theory: Antaraṅga Sādhana, Saṃyama and Kaivalya Pages 179-194
One hallmark within TKV Desikachar’s teaching on Āsana,
was not to confuse ‘appropriate’ alignment techniques,
with ‘proper’ alignment techniques.
The former implies a personalised starting point,
whilst the latter implies a developmental potential.
However both need to be related to 3 questions:
Where am I coming from?
Why am I practicing Āsana?
Where am I going to?
Prāṇāyāma Pointer 6 – Bhāvana for refining Nāḍī Śodhana
“Cultivating a home Yoga practice is an odyssey through a relationship. However, this odyssey not only requires patience and perseverance, but also enthusiasm and care. In this respect, as in any relationship, it is necessary to consider establishing priorities.
“Only through Yoga Yoga is known.
Only through Yoga Yoga arises.
One who is diligent with Yoga,
Enjoys Yoga for a long time.”
Vyāsa Commentary to Yoga Sūtra Chapter Three verse 6
To students interested in forming a relationship with a home practice with its attendant fruits, two initial suggestions are offered: First, think of a personal Yoga practice as if acquiring a new book. However before you try to fit this book into what is probably the already overcrowded bookshelf of life, take a decision to remove an existing book to make room for the new one.
The paradox of being in a state of distraction
is that we are actually in a state of focus.
Its just that we are focused on being turned outwards,
as in the tendency of being scattered,
as in Vyutthāna Saṃskāra,
rather than being focused on being turned inwards,
as in the tendency of being contained,
as in Nirodha Saṃskāra.
Both Saṃskāra are acquired tendencies
and thus we can cultivate a choice within our oscillations.
– Commenting on Yoga Sūtra Chapter 3 verse 9