Strange to find my bananas enveloped by Yoga teachings on Vinyāsa Krama……

fruit_stall_madras

One day I was shopping at my favourite fruit stall in Adyar, Chennai in 1980.
This was in the days prior to such things as plastic bags, plastic bottles, etc.

So my fruit was put into paper bags and as the vendor handed them to me I noticed that they had been handmade from someone’s old A4 notes written in a distinctive green ink.

S’funny I thought, as the writing and sketches look familiar and sure enough
it was my own notes from my personal lessons with Desikachar.

Somehow my original notes had worked their way from being written up by me,
to the waste paper basket in my apartment, and via my cook,
to a paper bag maker, to be resold to the street vendors.

A curious juxtaposition to find my bananas
enveloped by Yoga teachings on Vinyāsa Krama.

Yesterday was the second commemoration of TKV Desikachar’s passing……

Desikachar and Paul Chanting in 1999

This is a post about not posting……

As some of you may have noticed yesterday was the second commemoration of TKV Desikachar’s passing. As a remembrance of this day last year I offered a post with him being asked questions as a student around his father. This year I was proposing to post, as a tribute, around my work with him as his student in the development and refinement of my personal practice.

However as the day emerged I realised that my attention for this time needed to turn more towards an inner reflection rather than an outward expression of my relationship with him. So I chose this day off from media or any outer contact in order to have a personal space to be more fully with my memories and experiences from our time together. 

These memories of studying with him for over twenty years, mostly in Madras sitting in his teaching room around the table, or with me on the practice mat with him observing, or sharing the mat chanting together, remind me of how private our relationship was. Looking back I feel that was a unique situation that would be very difficult to emulate in the environment within which Yoga sits these days, let alone find a teacher who only taught adults one to one and never ran or even wanted to run a teacher training course.

Of course this unique situation was not without its inner and outer demands and my memories and experiences contain both good, challenging and difficult moments. However within all of these moments the quality of our relationship as teacher and student endured and I remain eternally indebted for the transmission that became the fruit of our time being alone together.

As to my post originally planned for yesterday, it will appear over the next few days.

Śrī Gurubhyo Namaḥ

Prāṇa – Its origin, function and malfunction

PRANA

Prāṇa – Its origin, function and malfunction

The phenomena of body energies and their emanating energy field are found recorded within most Asiatic traditions. Both Chinese and Indian thought have a rich textual history of bio-energy, its function and effects of its malfunction.

In each of these traditions a system of medicine evolved aimed at enhancing and sustaining the flow of Ch’i or Prāṇa within the individual and much interest is now being shown in the West in Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine.

The previous article on the presence and actions of Prāṇa Śakti established links between the mind, breath, and Prāṇa but posed the problem of both Yoga and Āyurveda texts presuming knowledge of what Prāṇa is, how it functions within the individual, and what is the role of Yoga and Āyurveda in relation to sustaining the intensity of Prāṇa within an individual’s health, harmony and mental stability

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The presence and actions of Prāṇa Śakti……..

The presence and actions of Prāṇa Śakti

Generally the purpose of Yoga is to bring about a change within the prominence of awareness and its subsequent impact on the attitude and function of the individual.

Whether this change is explored as a yoking of two opposites, as in Prāṇa and Apāna, or an unyoking of two seemingly inseparable aspects, as in Puruṣa and Prakṛti, time and a process are involved. Also this notion of change may be initiated within an individual’s physical body, energetic processes, mental attitude and emotional responses.

However, within Indian thought there is a concept that is common to the different philosophies and to the different aspects of the individual. This concept is the presence, power and actions of Prāṇa.

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We have lost a fine teacher and a Yoga master……

kym_teachers_1979

This picture, taken 1979, with fond memories of early days with
TKV Desikachar and the KYM with co-founder AG Mohan and the faculty.

“Many years ago and not knowing my connection, a Yoga student commented around me “Don’t go to Desikachar, he has no charisma”. At the time, though saying nothing, I was reminded that this was for me an important facet around my appreciation of him, in that it was his ordinariness that I found engaging.

Furthermore, this quality was reflected throughout his life in terms of its simplicity in that it didn’t actually change over the decades that I visited and studied within lessons or spent personal time or travelled with him privately.

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As I sit within this time of passing and remembrance……

desikachar_ph

TKV Desikachar 1938-2016

As I sit within this time of passing and remembrance it occurred to me that August 2016 exactly marks the 40th anniversary from the first time I met and worked with Desikachar in August 1976.

The setting was a small group of students, especially by todays seminar norms, amidst the august settings of Cambridge University at a week organised by a student of Desikachar from that era, Ian Rawlinson.

I remember the first moments of Desikachar coming onto a small platform in the room, a shy somewhat reticent person and asking us to show to him our personal Yoga practice, already not what we were expecting at our first meeting.

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Reflecting on the relationship between Svadharma and Dharma

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

“Once I am very clear about what is to be known – Svadharma,
then I can be clear about what is universal Dharma.”

Reflecting on this quote  from TKV Desikachar posted on February 15th 2014 on the relationship between Svadharma and DharmaI feel we first need to understand our personal place within our inner world, only from there can we understand our universal place within our outer world.

This is a concept that can appear to be contrary to the more usual expectations within the Yoga world whereby we are often given a set of universal standardised principles which we are told to constantly aspire to and strive towards realising.

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Trumperies and Tactics for the Discerning Gardener……

TS_Nursery_1984_web

I agree it is not easy to work on ourselves and we might compare it to being a bit like encountering a garden that has been left to become overgrown and entangled over years of neglect.

Here the first stage is to look at how we might begin:

We might begin by clearing away the old rubbish that lays all around on the surface of our lives and hampers, distracts or confuses our view of what’s really underneath.

Of course this also means that we are able to discern between the nuances around what we perceive as useful to keep, what is rubbish to clear and especially what we see as precious is in reality useful, or is in fact actually dross we need to cling onto under the illusion (Avidyā) of it being essential for our journey.

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Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part One

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.

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Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part Three

 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.

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Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part Two

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.

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What is healthy for the Heart of Yoga?

There has been a surge of media attention in the UK on the health benefits of Yoga based on the results of a recent study published:

In the Guardian under the title ‘Yoga may provide similar health benefits to ‘cycling or brisk walking’.

In the Telegraph under the title ‘Yoga just as good as aerobics for cutting heart disease risk’.

On the BBC News page under the title ‘Yoga may guard against heart disease, study finds’.

Along with a more recent article in the Guardian under the title ‘Should Yoga be part of NHS care?”

All this is on the one hand seems great and on paper appears to be good publicity, yet it lands in an environment where we have a huge amount of information available on the potential dangers of unhelpful lifestyle on the heart and a huge amount of heart problems. It is almost as if there are parallels between the increasing weight of information and the increasing weight of the population.

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This approach is known as the Yoga of Rejuvenation and Prevention……

3.Yoga as Therapeutic Healthcare

Now Yoga, as both a restorative and preventative, is applied as therapeutic healthcare to help people with problems or poor health. Here the approach needs to be very different for each person. One person’s potential to change their situation will be affected by their problem. Another person’s problem will be affected by their potential to change their situation.

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The concern of Yoga as Meditation is the mystery of life rather than the mastery of life…….

dhyanam

2.Yoga as Meditation

Now the concern is more with the mystery of life than the mastery of life.

Here Yoga is a means for meditation with self-inquiry as the primary focus.

“Who am I?” is the question that acts as a map for an inner journey into our psyche. It is a quest to touch and be touched by the “soulful” quality of being that resides within.

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Yet ask any number of people what Yoga is and you are likely to get……


The word Yoga is by now well known outside India. In fact over the last four decades we have seen it quietly and steadily taking root within our Western culture and language. Yet ask any number of people what Yoga is and you are likely to get many different responses.

These responses are often diverse, and sometimes contradictory. However, Yoga can generally be summarised into three possibilities or approaches:-

1. Yoga as Power

Firstly Yoga can be explained as a means to attain a degree of power or control over our body and mind.

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The View of Rāja Yoga, Practice of Haṭha Yoga and Tool of viniyoga of Yoga

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.

read more

Yoga Practice and Study was seen by T Krishnamacharya as……

Yoga Practice and Study was seen by T Krishnamacharya as three interwoven threads:

– Firstly Śakti Krama or Yoga Practice as a means of Power

Yoga can be used to link the body and the mind. It is the ability to achieve something through intense physical and mental effort or Śakti Krama through either Śikṣaṇa Krama (Practice with No Compromise) or Sṛṣṭi Krama (Practice for Children).

For instance, to cultivate and maintain a state of concentration or to develop the body and the breath through refinement of various postures and breathing techniques. The consequences are power over and within the body and the mind.

As such, Yoga can be seen as an art and offers a fascinating and helpful pursuit for many people looking to develop these qualities.

“What good is the sword of wisdom (jñāna asinā)
to cut away the chains of illusion (avidyā),
if the holder is too weak to bear it.”
– T Krishnamacharya

Traditionally this aspect is only a means towards a more important goal.

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I feel the importance of taking personal responsibility for correct pronunciation of Saṃskṛta…..

आसन

I feel the importance of taking personal responsibility for correct pronunciation of Saṃskṛta should not be compromised by learning laziness and with it the sloppy pronunciation so apparent today, even amongst Yoga teachers of many years.

There is a vibrational power inherent in these powerful Yoga concepts in Saṃskṛta that can only be realised through correct pronunciation. Or at least learn how to pronounce the word Āsana as it is meant to be heard.

Synchronicity and Serial Guru Monogomy

yoga_byke

Posting the above picture on my Facebook and Twitter pages yesterday as part of a series of visual reflections on life in India from the early 1980’s reminded me of a story behind this particular shot.

It was 1983 and I was teaching one of my group classes just prior to leaving for a personal study sojourn in Madras with Desikachar.

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What is Yoga? – An interview with Paul Harvey on BBC Radio Bristol 1986.

What is Yoga?

– An interview with Paul Harvey on BBC Radio Bristol Feb 1986.

I. Yoga is often portrayed as sitting still perhaps in rather bizarre positions communicating with the depths of human relaxation and comprehension. How accurate a picture is that?

I am delighted to welcome to the Programme this afternoon Paul Harvey who among other things teaches Yoga at the Centre for Yoga Studies in Bath and at the Whiteladies Natural Health Clinic. You also, I think, have a couple of diplomas haven’t you?

PH. Yes I have though I feel that my main training has come not from diploma work but from the closer experience of studying and practising Yoga in India.

I. You’ve only recently come back from India I know and you spent what two years or so in India in the late seventies or early eighties?

PH. Yes that’s right.

I. Where did your own interest in Yoga come from then Paul?

PH. My own interest in Yoga came from a vague understanding of Indian thought and Indian philosophy in the late sixties and early seventies and from looking at the idea of meditation and at what meditation was.

One of the first things I found was that I couldn’t sit still. It was impossible to sit because of the stiffness in my back and the discomfort in my legs and it was my wife who saw an advert for a Yoga class. This was in 1972.

I. But…..A Yoga class? One imagines them all sitting with their legs behind their neck in rather odd positions as I mentioned before. Was that the picture you had in your own mind of Yoga at that time?

PH. I’m sorry to say that the first class I went to was like that. The teacher stood on his head and waved his stomach in and out. He had a rather large stomach so it was quite an extraordinary sight and when we finished the class we all went down to the pub afterwards.

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