Just putting the finishing touches to the Application of Āsana Module Two manual as I prepare to teach its contents for the four day Course for a small group starting this weekend. Currently running to 90 pages it complements the 60 page Application of Āsana Module One two day workshop manual.
These 150 pages of student training manuals sit within the Āsana section of the Arts of Yoga and Chant Practice Modular Programmes. The Āsana module sits within the five linked aspects of practice which, taken as a whole aim to reflect the Yoga practice and theory teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar.
These five aspects of practice are the arts of Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma, Dhyāna, and Adhyayanam or Chanting. This approach to transmitting the teachings of Desikachar as individual threads arose from the choice to make a complete restructuring of all my training programmes, the first major overhaul in 25 years of teaching courses to students and especially training teachers within group class situations.
One aspect of Yoga Sādhana is that it is ultimately about a maturing of our relationship with all aspects of on the mat Yoga practice, rather than just that of our Āsana practice. This is especially important as these various aspects sit within a hierarchical spiral with one level being the foundation, technical reference point, verification and ladder for the next.
We only have to study and reflect on the Yoga Sūtra to appreciate this relationship dynamic. Yet it increasingly appears that for many today the word ‘advancing’ in terms of on the mat practice means tackling increasingly complex Āsana or Āsana choreographies to the neglect or even detriment of what are seen as the levels that Āsana aims to prepare us to engage in.
Krishnamacharya understood this relationship dynamic and offered many teachings, tools and practices to help link the student to and in their upward ascent of the practice spiral. It will be a misunderstanding and misrepresentation if he is remembered only as the ‘father’ of modern Āsana.
It increasingly appears that Yoga has been acculturated into the fitness mindset
rather than fitness being acculturated into the Yoga mindset.
Link to Series: 108 Yoga Practice Pointers
How do we know that a student is ready to attempt a more progressive posture such as Sarvāṅgāsana?
From following the core principle in the teachings of Vinyāsa Krama. In that the Pratikriyāsana or counter posture for a particular Āsana needs to be mastered before that particular Āsana is attempted.
For example if we want to teach Sarvāṅgāsana or shoulder stand, because it will have a specific potential for the particular student, then we teach the counterpose Bhujaṅgāsana first.
So the student first works around Bhujaṅgāsana within their personal practice and the information that arises guides the teacher as to their readiness for, in this case, Sarvāṅgāsana.
“Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, but as it applies to the student.”
– T Krishnamacharya
The information arising from observing how the student practices Bhujaṅgāsana guides the teacher as to the appropriateness of Sarvāṅgāsana. The information that feeds back may be on the level of Annamaya, Prāṇamaya, Manomaya or beyond. Obviously this implies that we are observing the students practice directly.
Once the student shows an adequate performance of Bhujaṅgāsana and it can be integrated into their existing personal practice, then we can be more secure that the student is ready to approach integrating Sarvāṅgāsana into their regular practice.
Trying to hold onto the fleeting presence of awareness can be likened to a bird choosing to land in the open palm of your hand. We desire to hold onto it because of our attraction towards continuing to enjoy the experience of its delicacy, beauty and gift of presence.
Thus when the bird of awareness alights in your palm the temptation is to close the fingers around the experience, however gently, in order to hold on to it, albeit to protect it or to continue to experience this unique moment of relationship with something that is usually elusive, or out of sight or reach.
The Biomechanics of Śīrṣāsana – Article by TV Raghu Ananthanarayanan a former teacher at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.
Downloadable as a PDF
– Originally published in KYM Darśanam February 1994
“Yoga is the pursuit of the unpursuable.”
– TKV Desikachar
‘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 Eight Theory:
Yama, Niyama and Āsana – The First Three Aṅga of Yoga
– Pages 107-115
Three further Chapters have been added in the setting up of the text as a chapter by chapter online resource.
Chapters Four to Six have been added along with a PDF Workbook for each chapter and, now that the first hexad is online, a single PDF Workbook combining Chapters One to Six.
Follow the link for a Śloka by Śloka listing or Study Notebook for each chapter:
Online Bhagavad Gītā Chapters One to Six with PDF Workbooks
“Niṣṭhā – The holding of a question throughout the days activities.”
– TKV Desikachar commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter 5 verse 17
A fundamental facet in the principles of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice, in the teachings of Krishnamacharya through Desikachar, is the ordering of Āsana according to the acronym SLIBSS.
It is the practice arrangement or Vinyāsa Krama in the following order:
- Standing Āsana
- Supine Lying Āsana
- Inverted Āsana
- Prone Backbend Āsana
- Sitting Āsana
- Seated Āsana
This is referred to in Religiousness in Yoga page 23-27.
Freedom of movement within the Annamaya
does not presume freedom of movement within the Prāṇamaya.
Link to Series: 108 Yoga Practice Pointers
Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool
Part One – Yoga as a View
Rāja Yoga – Yoga and Samādhi
Yoga as a Process
– The View, Path and Goal towards Samādhi as in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra
It is interesting these days that as a Yoga teacher the question I am more likely to be asked is ‘What kind of Yoga do you do?’ rather than ‘What is Yoga?’. It’s either that we think we already know what Yoga is or, more likely, that the view is becoming lost within the myriad of ways in which Yoga is offered.
These days there seems to be little apparent clarity around what Yoga is, or if there is a view, it is not very apparent.
This view may also be coloured by religious influences such as Hinduism, Sikhism or even bodywork paradigms such as physical culture, bodybuilding, gymnastics and even wrestling.
In the Yoga world of today in the West it seems as if many teachers are teaching without a clear ‘view’ of what Yoga is and how we might realize this view.
Look for example at how we appear not to even know or use the Yoga name for meditation. Here the most often used phrase is Āsana, Prāṇāyāma and Meditation.
Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool
Part Three – Yoga as a Tool
The viniyoga of Yoga – Yoga and Sādhana
Yoga as a Tool
– The Art of viniyoga for developing a Personalized Practice
Yoga as a tool is more likely to be the starting point for most students these days in that we often choose a style or approach to Yoga as a starting point in our Yoga experience.
There are many, many choices these days, although the common denominator now appears to based around Yoga teachers rather than Yoga teachings.
For example we have Anusāra, Aṣṭāṅga, Bikram, Dru, Gītānada, Integral, Iyengar, Jīvamukti, Kripālu, Kuṇḍalinī, Sahaja, Scaravelli, Śivananda, Satyānanda, viniyoga of Yoga, etc.
Which is fine in itself. However the question that arises is how do the various methodologies relate to the principles of practice in order to realize the view of Yoga?
My own field of expertise lies within the teachings often referred to as the viniyoga (application) of Yoga, so I can only speak with experience from this perspective.
“In terms of Yoga Practice within adult lifestylesI feel our priorities need to be based more aroundhow we practice, rather than what we practice.”
This one is for aficionados of T Krishnamacharya’s personal and ancestral Sampradāya or Vaiṣṇavite tradition of Viśiṣṭādvaita, as well as interest in research into the lives of his forebears, in this case Śrī Yāmunācārya.
‘Did Yāmunācarya visit Kashmir’, is an article by V Varadachari first published in The Journal of Oriental Research Madras in 1992.
To View or Download this article as a PDF
This possibility was also discussed by the renowned scholar and practitioner of Kashmir Shivaism, Mark Dyczkowski, in his book ‘The Doctrine of Vibration’ on Page 2 and expanded regarding Yāmunācarya and Kashmir in the footnotes on page 221.
All in all this serves to remind us of the eminent lineage and potent ancestry that fed Krishnamacharya’s lifelong relationship with the teachings of his forebears Śrī Nāthamuni and Yāmunācārya.
As well as his dedication to other important Viśiṣṭādvaita teachers within his Sampradāya, such as TKV Desikachar’s fourteenth century namesake Veṅkaṭanātha Deśika. Veṅkaṭanātha Deśika was an eminent Śrī Vaiṣnava Guru, a poet, devotee, philosopher and master-teacher.
Krishnamacharya named his son TKV Desikachar with the Tirumalai and Krishna relating to the village of origin and immediate family title and Veṅkaṭanātha Deśikachar after Veṅkaṭanātha Deśika, hence TKV Desikachar.
Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool
Part Two – Yoga as a Practice
Haṭha Yoga – Yoga and Prāṇa
Yoga as Alchemy
– The Place and Purpose of Prāṇa Agni Doṣa Nādī & Cakra
A further irony in the emerging role and identity of Yoga in the West today is with regard to the term Haṭha Yoga. The term is mainly used generically these days to identify and group ‘physically’ based Yoga practices.
As a teacher I am often asked in connection with the question what kind of Yoga do you teach, is it Haṭha Yoga?
The irony is that when we look at what Haṭha Yoga really is we find that the physical elements are relatively limited with very few Āsana discussed.
Furthermore within the few discussed, the most important are concerned with sitting, in preparation for practice elements other than Āsana.
Primarily to facilitate a quality of being able to sit still and as if move beyond the physical body.
Here, the primary concern and field of activity for Haṭha Yoga practitioners is with regard to the energetic ‘Prāṇa’ body or Prāṇamaya and its role in helping to facilitate a quality of energetic ‘clarity’ and energetic ‘stillness’, ultimately as a ladder to support the practitioners exploration of meditational states of being in terms of Rāja Yoga or the Yoga of Samādhi.
The viniyoga of Planning Principles 5 – Consider the accumulative effect of Āsana and Pratikriyāsana
Vinyāsa Krama – Intelligent sequence building within Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma
Specific Areas within Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice to consider when planning:
1. Consider the overall purpose of practice (short/long term as appropriate)
- Be clear about the goal and don’t try to reach too many goals in same practice
- Keep the practice short and simple in intention and execution
- Consider time of day and season both inside and out
- Consider the accumulative effect of Āsana and Pratikriyāsana, in any one practice, and over time if being practiced regularly
- Consider psychological, physiological and energetic aspects of practice.
- Energetically we seek to expand, open upper part of the body, above diaphragm and close, reduce lower part of the body below the diaphragm
Link to Post Series: The viniyoga of Planning Principles
Picture courtesy of KYM Archives
“Different suggestions are available in our tradition
to help the beginner arrive at the highest state of Samādhi.
For example, using the image or idol of Īśvara
in the form pleasant to the seeker or even a picture frame.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 42
“How we feel during the action is the quality of the action.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 13
Question to TKV Desikachar:
How rigorous should we be in the practice of Tapas?
“Tapas is not the rejection of everything around us.
In the Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 1,
Tapas means to be able to discipline oneself.
So if you are too fat eat less.
If you are too thin eat more.
Tapas which harms the mind should be rejected.”
– TKV Desikachar Madras December 21st 1988
There are certain Yoga postures that, depending on how they are approached and utilised, can function as either an Āsana or as a Mudrā.
This distinction in function can be generalised around whether the practitioner focuses on a static form with the focus on the development of the breath or on a dynamic form with the development of the variations of and in the posture.
Learning Support for Chanting Vanamālī Gadī
– From the Śrī Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Stotram verse 108
From my personal library of recordings from my studies with my teacher TKV Desikachar recorded by one of his senior chant students Sujaya Sridhar.
To Download or Listen
To Download the Chant Sheet with Romanised Saṃskṛta and Chant Notations
Modern Postural Yoga is most certainly one way in.
However have we become trapped within this way in
and thus can’t find the way out?
Link to Series: 108 Teaching Path Pointers