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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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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These past ten years have found me increasingly re-evaluating my work as a Yoga Teacher Trainer, within an ever widening proliferation and saturation of Yoga teacher training options, amidst accompanying concerns of competitive bar-lowering in teacher training programme course lengths and entry criteria.

This on-going re-evaluation has also sat within the ever widening debates, around the dilution/merging/hijacking/branding/re-labelling of Yoga and amidst multifarious claims as to the ‘origins’ within the oft used generic of Modern Postural Yoga. These debates and origin/ownership source arguments now exist not only within the West but even within its original home in the Indian sub-continent.

Adapting the form of Yoga is one thing.
Adapting the roots of Yoga another.
Better not to confuse the two when choosing.

Aside from this, at the heart of my concerns, amidst the backdrop of the increasing compromises I experienced in trying to ‘fit’ the methodology and process I learnt in India into the Western educational large group learning paradigms, was a wish to reflect even more studiously the 121 and small group teaching mediums that were the lifelong foundations of  T Krishnamacharya‘s and TKV Desikachar‘s work in Chennai.

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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.

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

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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…….

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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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Teaching 121 lessons remained at the heart of Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s priorities

TKV Desikachar and Paul Harvey

My experience of the application (though not known as Viniyoga till some years after I began my studies in India) of Yoga as a 121 personalised practice methodology transmitted from teacher to student has been formed by a 23 year apprenticeship through intensive immersions in personal lessons, from numerous visits to Madras in South India, learning Yoga practice techniques and theory and associated Yoga and lifestyle texts study under my root teacher TKV Desikachar.

My journey to this relationship with 121 lessons as an authentic and traditional medium for adults learning Yoga as a practice tool and study reference for our personal support and development started in 1972, as for most of us with joining a group Yoga Class. In my case from an interest in meditation coupled with an inability to even sit on my heels.

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The Art of the Application of Yoga within Personal Lessons

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Who are Individual Yoga Lessons for Tuition or Therapy for?

Private lessons can be for anybody in any situation or life phase, though those with specific interests or needs 
will find the advantages of working individually more beneficial than group classes.

Furthermore certain situations may better suited to individual Yoga Lessons and require practices and advice customised and developed for home use within the privacy of a personal context.

Whether interested in learning Yoga as a: 

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What is the relationship between Yoga training as a Student or as a Teacher?

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What is the relationship between training as a Yoga Student and training as a Yoga Teacher?

Firstly –

The Yoga Studies Programme offers a comprehensive range of Personal Workshop and Course Modules for groups of around 4 students, totalling over 600 contact hours. The Modular Programme falls into the two groups, the Yoga Practice Techniques and Practice Theory Modules offer 300 contact hours study and the Associated Yoga and Lifestyle Texts Modules offer a further 300 contact hours study.

The 600 contact hours studying Yoga Practice Techniques and Theory or Associated Yoga and Lifestyle Texts can be undertaken purely as a student, without any obligation or need to simultaneously train as a Yoga teacher.

Each modular series, whether in the field of Study of Yoga Practice Techniques and Theory or Associated Yoga and Lifestyle Texts, is complete in itself and designed for Yoga students from any background or approach interested in exploring Yoga practice and textual study in small groups of around 4 students for personal development now, or if relevant in the future, professional needs.

“Training to learn how to teach Yoga is not the same as training to learn how to practice & study Yoga.”

This is unusual these days, as normally to access such a breadth and depth of Yoga training material a student would need to be a participant within a Yoga Teacher Training Course.

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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.

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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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Taking Yoga Further – Excerpt from Yoga for Every Body

Yoga for Every Body (220px)

Students often ask:
“How do I progress?
How do I know when I’ve progressed?
Does it mean staying longer in a posture?
Does it mean practising more often or for a longer time?
What are the next steps?”
and so on

These questions can be explored by looking at Yoga from three different viewpoints. They can help us appreciate what it means to change the unhelpful patterns of behaviour which cause us problems and difficulties time and time again.

The three viewpoints are:
1) Practice
2) Lifestyle
3) Attitude

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Sāṃkhya as an inquiry into the Yoga of Spirit and Matter

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What is it that weapons do not cleave?
That fire does not burn?
That waters do not wet?
That wind does not whither?
– Commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Two verse 23

The previous post offered a meditative reflection on this Śloka (verse).
Expanding further on this Śloka from notes from my 121 studies over 4 years of this Sacred Scripture with my teacher allows us to consider more deeply the context for and meaning within the Śloka.

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The viniyoga of Yoga is about Relationship……

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The viniyoga of Yoga is the application of the principles that link together to offer possibilities to enhance your relationship with yourself through your practice. This opens the possibility that a deepening of your practice comes not from adding more difficult postures, but from refining your relationship with what you already have.

Life is already full of pressures to go for the newest model, to bring more in from the outside rather than concentrating on bringing more out from the inside. So we need to take care that we do not become an avid consumer of a new posture or new technique purely for the sake of it.

Yoga is a relationship within which you commit yourself to depth of involvement rather than breadth of involvement. In that sense, Yoga is no different from how any relationship with someone or something we care for and wish to spend time with should be.

From this relationship we can eventually start to experience the fruits that arise from the time, care, effort and attention. Perhaps keeping the following words of a teacher from long ago in our mind as we adapt Yoga to suit our particular needs:

“Only through Yoga Yoga is known,
Only through Yoga Yoga changes.
One who is patient at Yoga,
enjoys the fruits over a long time.”
(View or download this post as a PDF with chant notations.)

Extract first published in 1996 in ‘The Guide to Natural Therapies’.

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