Trumperies and Tactics for the Discerning Gardener……

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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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One example of this depth is Krishnamacharya’s lesser known work in the teaching of Mantra……

Even these days, the influence of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around Yoga are primarily known through his exacting teaching of Āsana. This has also been mainly experienced in the West with the developmental work of his early students, such as through the choreographical artistry in the work of Pattabhi Jois or through the geometrical precision in the work of BKS Iyengar.

However this area of Āsana teaching, though itself multifaceted and hugely influential, if disproportionately predominant within Yoga today, only reveals one aspect of the many dimensions of practice expressed within his teaching. This teaching evolved and refined over 70 years, from his return from his long stay around the borders of Nepal and Tibet in 1919, to his death in 1989.

A more all-inclusive insight into the many aspects of these other facets can be ascertained through exploring the multifarious approaches and priorities emphasised within the teaching work of other of Krishnamacharya’s students, such as TKV Desikachar, or S Ramaswami, or AG Mohan.

From exploring the teaching priorities of all these first generation students of Krishnamacharya, a more all-embracing perspective can arise encompassing both the breadth and depth of his mastery of both the teachings of Yoga and their context, place and application within the Indian perspectives on such as soteriology, philosophy and theology.

One example of this depth is Krishnamacharya’s lesser known work in the teaching of Mantra

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The Sāṃkhya Kārikā of Īśvara Kṛṣṇa – Personal Study Workbooks

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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.

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I find myself reflecting on the notion of ‘authentic lineage’……

I find myself reflecting on the notion of ‘authentic lineage’, often taught within the statement of Paramparā or ‘from one to another’ as in a succession from teacher to student et al. Both from questions asked of me and questions I have around what I see, generally within the world of ‘Modern’ Yoga and more specifically emerging around the claims on facets in the evolution of TKV Desikachar’s teaching over four decades.

Currently I see various representational phrases being used in modern organisational setups around pupils or students of TKV Desikachar such as ‘Influenced by the Teaching of…..’ or ‘The Living Tradition of…..’ or ‘The Lineage of……’ as if a provenance of authority alluding to authenticity, studentship and tradition.

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Prāṇa – Its origin, function and malfunction

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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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Yoga Sūtra Chapters One to Four Study Workbook

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali Chapters One to Four

Samādhi Sādhana Vibhūti Kaivalya Pādaḥ

A Romanised Saṃskṛta verse by verse word by word personal study support workbook for all four chapters of the Yoga Sūtra. Further workbooks are available for each individual chapter as well as this combined version.

For those wishing to use this workbook as a personal study guide then exploring the online Yoga Sūtra verse by verse translation with its added individual word by word translation and cross verse reference index links may be helpful. These translations are also accumulating online verse by verse commentaries from T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar.

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Yoga Sūtra Chapter Four Study Workbook

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali Chapter Four Kaivalya Pādaḥ

A Romanised Saṃskṛta verse by verse word by word personal study support workbook for chapter four of the Yoga Sūtra. Further workbooks will be available for the remaining chapter as well as a combined version.

For those wishing to use this workbook as a self study guide exploring the online chapter four verse by verse translation with its added individual word by word translation and cross verse reference index links may be helpful. These translations are also accumulating online verse by verse commentaries from T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar.

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Yoga Sūtra Chapter Three Study Workbook

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali Chapter Three Vibhūti Pādaḥ

A Romanised Saṃskṛta verse by verse word by word personal study support workbook for chapter three of the Yoga Sūtra. Further workbooks will be available for the remaining chapter as well as a combined version.

For those wishing to use this workbook as a self study guide exploring the online chapter three verse by verse translation with its added individual word by word translation and cross verse reference index links may be helpful. These translations are also accumulating online verse by verse commentaries from T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar.

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Sāṃkhya Kārikā joins online searchable Yoga Texts Database.

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The Sāṃkhya Kārikā is now going online and linking to the Yoga Sūtra and the Bhagavad Gītā

Sāṃkhya is said to be a relative of Yoga. In fact they are often linked together when presenting models around the six major schools of inquiry within the Indian tradition.

“Sāṃkhya has been fundamental in its influence on the philosophical
foundations underpinning such as Yoga, Buddhism and Āyurveda.”

The first text that I was privileged to be able to study word by word, Śloka by Śloka along with the commentaries of Krishnamacharya and then Desikachar, within the intimacy and vitality of private lessons, was the Sāṃkhya Kārikā of Īśvara Kṛṣṇa.

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Bhagavad Gītā and Gītārtha Saṃgraha join online searchable Yoga Texts Database

The Bhagavad Gītā is now going online and linking to the Yoga Sūtra

Another important text allied to my inquiry into and around Yoga that I was privileged to be able to study word by word, Śloka by Śloka along with the commentaries of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, within the intimacy and vitality of private lessons over 4 years of visits to Chennai, was the Bhagavad Gītā.

The first stage of the Bhagavad Gītā online resource project is complete with the entire text transcribed into a document with ‘proper’ Saṃskṛta notations. Now the second stage is under way with the setting up of the text as a live online and searchable chapter by chapter, word by word online resource in the same way as with the online Yoga Sūtra project with commentaries around each verse from study with my teacher on and around this particular text.

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Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two Study Workbook

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali Chapter Two Sādhana Pādaḥ

A Romanised Saṃskṛta verse by verse word by word personal study support workbook for chapter two of the Yoga Sūtra. Further workbooks will be available for the remaining chapters as well as a combined version.

For those wishing to use this workbook as a self study guide exploring the online chapter two verse by verse translation with its added individual word by word translation and cross verse reference index links may be helpful. These translations are also accumulating online verse by verse commentaries from T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar.

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Yoga Sūtra Chapter One Study Workbook

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali Chapter One Samādhi Pādaḥ

A Romanised Saṃskṛta verse by verse word by word personal study support workbook for chapter one of the Yoga Sūtra. Further workbooks will be available for the remaining chapters as well as a combined version.

For those wishing to use this workbook as a self study guide exploring the online chapter one verse by verse translation with its added individual word by word translation and cross verse reference index links may be helpful. These translations are also accumulating online verse by verse commentaries from T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar.

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The Krishnamacharya methodology of melding the Application of Āyurveda with that of Yoga

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One other study area that I was privileged to be able to experience alongside my many visits to study Yoga Practice Techniques and Associated texts in Chennai with my teacher TKV Desikachar, within the intimacy and vitality of private lessons, was that of Āyurveda and its application within Yoga.

“In Āyurveda, it gives certain behaviour by which we can stay well.
If a person follows the following he will freer of sickness.
Regularly, systematically he eats, rests and exercises adequately.
Both in amount and quality. Food or Ahāra,
along with Vihāra – recreation, rest, exercise, other activities.”
– TKV Desikachar 

Thus during my many visits to India, between 1979 and 2002, my work in Yoga was complemented by the study of Āyurveda constitutional diagnosis and prognosis, along with Nādī Parīkṣā or pulse diagnosis and the application skills of Āyurveda, into Yoga practice and lifestyle, according to the teachings of T Krishnmacharya within Yoga Rakṣaṇa (lifestyle support) or Yoga Cikitsā (therapeutic recovery) situations.

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Yoga as Exercise, Exercise as Yoga……

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The image that heads this article is one such example of a document that I accumulated from my early studies in Western anatomy, physiology and kinesiology in the 1980’s. It was from a Final Theory Examination for a Teacher Training Course within  the Woman’s League of Health and Beauty. Founded in the 1930’s it now operates under the title of the Fitness League.

Curiously, in researching the current incarnation of this organisation I looked at a promotional video of their ‘style’ on their website and have to comment I would find it quite difficult to distinguish from some of the current offerings around for Yoga Classes.

If you teach using background music, incorporate moving or dance style sequences, or use postures such as two foot support, or cobra, or half locust or seated forward bend, amidst a fitness based approach, then the differences between Yoga Āsana and Exercise Postures become increasingly blurred.

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Who needs just Yoga as just Yoga anymore?

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“Has the original and ancient Yoga gene now become merely a non-genetic Yoga meme
and thus is only capable of being imitated rather than propagated?”

Noted amidst a flurry of competing exercise/mind and body workout adverts in my local village newsletter:

  • Booty Barre fuses legendary fitness techniques from Pilates, Dance, Callisthenics and Yoga creating balance, posture and body awareness.
  • Pilates Fusion Flow is a mix of Yoga, Pilates and Dance Movements which will strengthen the body and calm the mind.

So on top of Yoga being reduced down to postural exercise with added stress reduction and/or autogenic relaxation techniques, we now encounter a further dissipation of even that element in terms of it being a name or technique that can be bolted on or blended in to other exercise entertainment offerings.

Plus they are all competing for the one stop shop marketplace cakeshare in terms of offering a fitness building and stress reducing marriage.

Who needs just Yoga as just Yoga anymore?

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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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Medicine, Mastery and Mystery within the field of Yoga.

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Paul Teaching in Zinal, Switzerland in 1999

Medicine, Mastery and Mystery

An Interview with Paul Harvey by Joseph Le Page. Joseph is the founder and director of Integrative Yoga Therapy. This interview took place while Paul was teaching at Zinal for UENFY in 1999.

JL: How do you adapt Yoga to the individual?

PH: I can approach that in two ways, the chronological and the psychological. Chronologically, the starting point is the age at which people begin Yoga studies.

There are three stages of life, or Trikrama. The first is the stage of growth and expansion (Sṛṣṭi).

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Eight steps in the process of learning the teachings……

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Desikachar taught me that there were eight steps in the process of learning the teachings.

  • Upadeśa – To come near to the teachings and remain
  • Śravaṇa – To listen to the teachings with an open ear
  • Grahaṇa – To seize hold of or grasp onto the teachings
  • Dhāraṇā – To concentrate on memorising the teachings
  • Manana – To carefully reflect on the teachings
  • Anuṣṭhāna – To live with and put the teachings into practice
  • Anubhāvana – To have some experiences from following the teachings
  • Pracāra – To share and apply the teachings with others

Namely the process of coming near to, listening to, grasping, memorizing, reflecting, applying, experiencing and sharing the teachings.

Chapters Four to Six added to Bhagavad Gītā study resources

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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

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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The Westernisation of Yoga Āsana with its emphasis on structural focus……


The Westernisation/Modernisation of Yoga Āsana with its increasing emphasis on structural postural focus according to the latest postural trends or particular flavour of the teachers style are prominent within the modern diversity which sees Yoga taught as only a Postural Practice and extending into many varied fields of exercise ranging from Aqua Yoga to Zen Yoga.

However there are questions that increasingly need to be asked within these approaches, especially where the boundaries around what is now generically grouped Yoga Āsana, blur into more generalised concepts of Yoga as hot exercise, cool exercise, medicalised exercise, meditative exercise, etc.

Otherwise in this simplification or reductionism of Yoga into Āsana, into modern postural exercise, or the current increasing mis-identification of postural exercise with Yoga, or even more tragic, with Yoga itself; the deeper purposeful principles within the relationship of the physical body, within the energetic body, within the psychic body, disappear in the search for perfect posture, perfect performance, perfect structural integrity, safe postural practice, etc.

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There is an increasing tendency in terms of Modern Therapeutic Yoga application strategies……

There is an increasing tendency in terms of Modern Therapeutic Yoga application strategies, especially when marketing Yoga therapy through group class situations, to create brand banding to identify ‘sufferers’.

Personally I feel it is not appropriate when considering Yoga practices for others to ‘lump’ people together as say back pain sufferers, or migraine sufferers, or insomnia sufferers, etc.

It is tempting, or even convenient, to propose a technique and then state that this technique will help this particular situation or problem.

However, my teacher taught me that Yoga is to be tailored to the needs and aspirations of each person rather than fitting the person to some ready made group standard technique.

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It is interesting that in this current boom of Yoga Vogueing there are two distinct camps emerging……


It is interesting that in this current boom of Yoga Vogueing there are two distinct camps emerging.

That of Yoga within the field of extreme fitness and at the other end of the spectrum that of Yoga within the field of therapy or Yoga Tx.

The former is evident through the agenda and primary foci within the modern phenomena of Yoga Studios and Yoga Teachers competing to fill their many Warrior Athlete style Āsana classes with Exotic Sport names such as Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, Hot Power Yoga, Boot Camp Yoga, Extreme Yoga, Fitness Yoga, Fitness Fusion Yoga, Crossfit Yoga, Pilates Yoga, Booty Ballet Yoga, Yoga Burn, Yoga Bums and Tums, et al.

These multifarious Exotic Sport Yoga options are often promoted by studios offering ‘as many as you can eat in a month’ style discounts and modern Yoga mat style cut ’em thin so you can pack ’em in facilities. Though these marketing strategies can also mean thats its increasingly difficult to develop a continuity of student profiling or a systematic developmental pedagogy, but what the heck its all Yoga.

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