What is VK?

What are the essentials of Vinyasa Krama that we teach?
1) Do asanas with a number of vinyasas, or variations, in succession. It is the art form of yoga practice. Vinyasa means art, and it involves aesthetic variation within the specified parameters.
2) The basic parameters used in Vinyasa Krama are steadiness of the posture, a calm mind, synchronizing the breath with slow movement of the limbs, and while in the postures, having the mind closely following the breath.

Why practice Vinyasa Krama yoga?

To quote Sri Ramaswami: "Vinyasa Krama Yoga is an ancient practice of physical and spiritual development. It is a systematic method to study, practice, teach and adapt yoga. This Vinyasa Krama (movement and sequence methodology) approach to yogasana (yoga posture) practice is unique in all of yoga. By integrating the functions of mind, body and breath in the same time frame, a practitioner will experience the real joy of yoga practice. Each of the important postures (asanas) is practiced with many elaborate vinyasas (variations and movements). Each variation is linked to the next one by a succession of specific transitional movements, synchronized with the breath. the mind closely follows the slow, smooth, deliberate ujjayi yogic breathing; and the yoking of mind and body takes place with the breath acting as the harness."

What is Kaivalya?

Kaivalya = Absolute freedom from the bondage of matter. The ultimate goal of the Yogi.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Blissful Experience, Bhakti" *NEW BOOK* from Sri Krishnamacharya's son and daughter!

Blissful Experience, Bhakti
Quintessence in Indian Philosophy
Author Name : T.K. Sribhashyam,
Co-Author Name : Alamelu Sheshadri,
Binding : Paperback
10 Digit ISBN : 8124606145
13 Digit ISBN : 9788124606148
Edition : 1st edition
Year : 2012
Pages : xxiv, 336 p.
Bibliographic Details : 10 b/w photographs; Glossary; Bibliography; Index
Size : 23 cm
Weight (approx.) : 550 gm
Price : $ 24
About The Book

Bhakti-yoga is seen as the direct path to perfection that leads to the very heart of religious consciousness. Ramanuja's concept of bhakti (devotion) emphasised the practice of self-surrender through which a person realises his personality, strengths and weaknesses, and hidden powers. Bhakti, for him, acts as a link between mortals and the Ultimate Reality.

This book examines the views of Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja on bhakti and prapatti (self-surrender). It studies in-depth the meaning of God, the soul and the Supreme Soul, and the world; the concept of bhakti; the different stages of bhakti referring to numerous sources that include the Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads and the Puranas. It focuses on Ramanuja's teaching of bhakti, examining his philosophy in general and his sevenfold practice, Sadhana Saptaka to generate bhakti that expounds the qualities and significance of discrimination for viveka, freedom from sensual attachment or anger for securing vimoka, repeated reflection of God, performance of religious duty for inner mental strength, development of ethical virtues, freedom from despair and freedom from excessive joy. It understands the relevance of symbols in devotion and examines nature and use of symbols in Buddhism and Hinduism. The scholarly study discusses the importance and cultivation of peaceful emotions, and need for prayer and dietary regulations in devotion.
Book Contents

Life Sketch of Our Father Sri T. Krishnamacharya
Benediction by B.K.S.Iyengar
List of Illustrations
1. Introduction

Lord Rama's Disappointment
The Soul
God and the World
Concept of Soul and Supreme Soul, Atma and Paramatma
God and the Soul
The Aim of DevotionWhat Does Man Achieve in Devotion?
The Supremacy of Devotion

2. Concept of Bhakti
3. Stages of Bhakti

Different Stages of Bhakti
Four Stages of Approach

Salokya -- Samipya -- Sarupya -- Sayujya

Stages of Bhakti in Narayaniyam

4. Ramanuja's Teaching of Bhakti

Ramanuja's Views in a Nutshell
Ramanuja's Teaching Through His Life and Works
Two Types of Human Pursuit
Surrender to God
The Theology of Ramanuja
Universality of God
Fruits of Self-surrender

5. The Sevenfold Discipline of Ramanuja (Sadhana Saptaka)

Ramanuja's Philosophy
Importance of Means and Practical Examples
Sevenfold Practice, Sadhana Saptaka
Discrimination (Viveka)
Means to Purify the Mind, the Intellect, the Ego and the Cit
Freedom from Desires (Vimoka)Constant and Uninterrupted Spiritual Practice (Abhyasa)
Good Action (Kriya)
Virtuous Qualities and Conduct (Kalyana Guna)
Truthfulness (Satya)
Straightforwardness or Sincerity (Arjava)
Compassion to Living Beings, Deep Sympathy (Daya)
Harmlessness, Non-violence (Ahimsa)
Gift of Duly Earned Belongings (Dana)
Satvika Dana
Rajasika Dana
Tamasika Dana
Non-covetousness (Anabhidaya)
Cheerfulness (Anavasada)
Non-exultation (Anuddharsha)

6. Value of Uttering God's NameImportance of God's Name
Relation Between Name and Form or Image
The Inherent Power of the Name (Nama-shakti)
The Means

7. Symbolism in Devotion, Pratika Upasana

Importance of Symbols
The Relevance of Symbols in Devotion
Symbols in Buddhism
Symbols in Hinduism

Pranava (OM) -- Shri Cakra -- Tantra -- Mandala -- Svastika -- Shiva-Linga -- Shalagrama or Shaligrama

Symbolic form of Worship (Pratika)
Worship Through Meditation

8. Peaceful Emotion Shanta Rasa

Birth of Human Emotions
Peaceful Emotion (Shanta Rasa)
Shanta Rasa and Bhakti

9. Image in Devotion

Need for Images in Devotion
How Images Develop Bhakti
Greatness of Images in Spiritual Evolution

10. Adoration of God (Prayer)

Adoration of God

Sound is in Fact the Breath of Brahman -- Pranava and Pranava Japa -- Rama Nama Japa
Mahatma Gandhi's view on Rama Nama

11. Dietary Regulations in Devotion: Ahara Niyama

Praise of Food (Annastuti)
Efficacy of a Proper Diet
Mind is Made of Food
The Quality of Mind Depends upon the Quality of Food
The Twofold Classification of Creatures
The Concept of Anna in the Upanishads
Chandogya Upanishad on Food
Prasada, the Divine Food

The Six Tastes of Food in Ayurveda

Sweet (Madhura) -- Sour (Amla) -- Salty (Lavana) -- Bitter (Katuka) -- Pungent or Spicy (Tikta) -- Astringent (Kashaya)

The Concept of Ojas
The Concept of Personality in Hindu Philosophy
Factors that Influence Man's Personality
Birth and Development of Different Emotions
Vegetarianism and Non-vegetarianism in Hinduism
Scriptural Awareness of Animals
The Three Types of Food According to Bhagavad-Gita
Food Regulations in Yoga
Disciplines in Food Habits
Ramanuja on Food Regulations
Vedanta Deshika on Food Regulations
Forbidden Foods
Foods to be Avoided
Eating Regulations (Bhojana Niyama)
Indications for Daily Life
A Note of Caution


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Way to Liberation" *NEW BOOK* from Sri Krishnamacharya's son and daughter!

Way to Liberation
Moksha Marga
Author Name : T.K. Sribhashyam,
Co-Author Name : Alamelu Sheshadri,
Binding : Paperback
10 Digit ISBN : 8124605998
13 Digit ISBN : 9788124605998
Edition : 1st edition
Year : 2011
Pages : xxii, 300p.
Bibliographic Details : Glossary; Bibliography; Index
Size : 23 cm
Price : $ 20

About The Book

The way to liberation or moksha needs perfect knowledge, perfect action and perfect surrender to the Lord. The bhakta becomes a bhagavata as he not only knows and sees but also lives as a servant of God. Moksha is the final approach to the purity and perfection of the human soul. This volume attempts an in-depth study of the concept of liberation or moksha and the way to attain it.

The book begins with the meaning of love, devotion, religion, the body-soul relation and the three yogas, an understanding of which is essential to understand the concept of moksha. In this context, it delves into the meaning of the Brahman, the Absolute, as conveyed in the Vedas and other religious works like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita, the concept of the universal spiritual entity of Sarveshvara, concepts of sin and virtue, and even the principles of monotheism and polytheism in Hinduism. Quoting from the scriptures and other relevant texts, it emphasises on the notion of devotion and its benefits to examine the means to self-realisation and liberation and includes a study of the concept of contemplation and meditation, including meditation techniques and practices, which is central to the attainment of moksha.

With interesting illustrations, the volume will be useful to religious scholars and students and seekers on the path of spiritual fulfilment.
Book Contents

Benediction by Sri B.K.S. Iyengar
List of Tables and Figures
1. Hinduism -- A Brief Perspective
2. Introduction

What is Love for Man?
What is Love that can Never be Measured?
The Impermanency of Human Love
Two Ultimate Aims in Man
Body-Soul Relation
Attachment to and Detachment from the Body
What is Devotion?
What is Religion?
The Cultivation of Devotion Without Religion
The Three Yogas

3. Concept of Liberation (Moksha)

Views on Soul and Liberation
Means to Liberation
Karma and Liberation
Liberation as the Aim of Devotion
Devotion and Libertion
Liberation: Yoga and Samkhya View

4. Brahman, the Absolute

Brahman in the Vedas
Brahman in the Upanishads
Brahman in Bhagavad-Gita
Brahman, the Unmanifest

5. The Universal Spiritual Entity, Sarveshvara

Concept of the Universal Spiritual Entity
Attributes of the Universal Spiritual Entity, God

One Without a Second -- Formless -- Incarnation -- Omniscient -- Omnipotent -- Non-intrusive -- Just and benevolent -- Monotheism and Polytheism -- Narayana -- Vishnu -- Krishna -- Sudarshana -- Shiva -- Shri as Goddess -- Concept of Hiranyagarbha (the Golden Egg) -- Jesus as God, Guru and Saints -- Conception of a religion-free God

6. Concept of Sin and Virtue

Concept of Karma
Concept of Sin
The Universal Spiritual Entity is not the Judge of Our Sin
Role of Sin and Vice

7. Peaceful Emotion, Shanta Rasa

Birth of Human Emotions
Peaceful Emotion, Shanta Rasa
Shanta Rasa and Bhakti

8. Benefits of Devotion

Devotion Reduces the Consequences of the Activities of Other Emotions
Realisation Reduces the Consequences of Klesha and Karma

Avidya -- Asmita -- Raga -- Dvesha -- Abhinivesha

9. Devotion as a Means to Self-realisation, Atma-Gyana

Brahman and Our Consciousness

10. Meditation Techniques in Hinduism

Upasana, Vidya
32 Vidyas of the Upanishads
Meditation in the Puranas
Meditation in Vaishnavism
Meditation in Shaivism
Meditation in Tantra, Tantradhyana

11. Practical Exercises in Contemplation and Meditation

Five steps to meditation

Preparatory Practices -- Contemplation -- Meditation -- Dedication -- Practice

Preparatory Practices

Confidence in a Spiritual Teacher -- Precious Human Life -- Death Consciousness -- The Risk of a Downgraded Life -- Karma and Its Effects -- Developing Renunciation -- Developing Equanimity -- Recognising the Kindness of all Beings -- Cherishing Others Equally -- Compassion


Peaceful Mind -- Vision of the Self -- Renunciation of the I-ness -- Refuting the Permanence of the Body

Vision of the Ultimate
Dedication of Meditation

About the authors:
Mr. T.K. Sribhashyam obtained his Master's degree in accountancy as well as in Hindu philosophy. He also received intensive lessons on yoga philosophy, and Indian psychology. Ayurveda, the Indian medical science, was another subject of study under his father, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. Since 1971, he has been transmitting his father's teachings in Europe, in French as well as in English. In 1999, the Mysore Sanskrit College conferred on him the title of Acharya for his faithful and devoted teachings of Hindu philosophy. He is the Head of all Yogakshemam schools in Europe. His book Emergence du Yoga (in French) has been recently published from France and its English translation is under preparation. Two of his books in English viz. Blissful Experience-Bhakti -- Quintessence of Indian Philosophy and From Devotion to Total Surrender-Shanagati Yoga -- In the Light of Indian Philosophy are appearing from India in 2012. He has published many articles in different yoga journals in Europe. He is an honorary life member of the International Yoga Federation and the World Yoga Council.

Mrs. Alamelu Sheshadri, second daughter of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, is graduated from Mysore University. Sri T. Krishnamacharya initiated her to Yajurveda, tought her all major Upanishads, Brahmasutras and the Bhagavad-Gita in the traditional way. He also trained her in yoga, both practically and philosophically. From 1985 until 1989 she continued studying many philosophical subjects, especially Vishishtadvaita.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 2011 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami—Thus Spake Sri T Krishnamacharya

February 2011 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami—Thus Spake Sri T

For most people January is a very busy month. They work hard to put in
place a schedule to implement their New Year Resolutions. Admissions
to Yogic schools, Music schools, gymns show increased activity before
stabilizing at more realistic levels in later months. For me this
January was very sedate. I was forced to cool my heels, awaiting an
elusive appearance in a local court in Chennai, India. But I used this
enforced idleness to rummage through my old small book almirah here in
Chennai, which contains a few notebooks of the notes I had taken
during my studies with Sri Krishnamacharya. Some of them were as old
as the 1960 and as late as 1980s. I also was able to lay my hands on
old copies of the Tamizh version of Yoga Makaranda, the Kannada book
titled Yogasanagalu and two tiny albums of my Guru doing asanas, I
think in his 80s which he had given to me. It was refreshing visiting
those notes again. Some of them were in the form of dictated articles
by him. Some are not very linear but still informative. I thought I
could translate one of them—it deals with tow topics. It is as
follows, which was dictated to me during December 1967.

Thus spake Sri T Krishnamacharya

Several acharyas from the South of India have written about Ashtanga
Yoga under difficult circumstances. However, many of the highly
practical works of these acharyas were destroyed by people not
belonging to the orthodox vedic disposition.

Adi Sankara wrote three texts on Yoga. He wrote a text called “Yoga
Bashya Vivarana” as a commentary to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. When
he was busy writing these outstanding works and teaching/preaching, he
faced many obstacles, like being set fire to his hands, by his
detractors. But just 30 years old, he created a divine work called,
“karavalamba stotra”, a prayer to Lord Lakshmi Narasimha and got his
hands restored and thereafter wrote some works on sushumna nadi. Then
when he was barely 32, he decided that he need not live in this world
any longer and became a complete recluse (vairagya). He also taught
the right path (sanmarga) to 500 of his students.Then due to his
enormous yogic powers, he effortlessly left his mortal body and
attained his true swarupa or form/status. Before that he called five
of his important students and taught his work, called “dasa avatara
stotra (work on ten avataras of the Lord) , on Paravasudeva. Then he
told them that only the worship of the Lord will help them get
released from samsara bandha (bondage of repeated births).

It is found that many successive great heads of Sankara Mutts
established by Sankara have not shown much earnestness in the matter
of Ashtanga yoga. But, due to the grace of God, the Advaita Ashram
that was dear to Adisankara and also quite wellknown viz., the
Sringeri Mutt had Sri Narasimha Bharati as the head. His leadership at
the Mutt was helpful in the propagation of Yoga. His disciple and
successor, the well known Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati was my dear
friend. We practiced Yoga together in Bangalore Sankara Mutt for some

Now let me explain the works and observances of (Vaishnava) Yogis
like Parankucha Muni, Nathamuni and Vyamana Muni.

Parankusamuni, Satakopa, Nammalwar are the different names of the same
Yogi. The work that he did on Yoga was “Yoga Tatwa”. His propagation
of Yoga under the patronage of the Chola king was important. “By this
Yoga, the cool grace of Lord Sriman Narayana will become a protective
shield to your dynasty” said the sage. “ However if you violate the
dharma (apachara), the same power of yoga will prove to be a killer
sword for your dynasty” warned the sage. It is known that subsequently
the Chola dynasty lost a lot of its luster due to certain adharmic
activities of the ruling class.

There are twelve topics covered in “YogaTatwa”. Why did the
compassionate Lord create the world that tends towards sin
(papa).Having created it, why did the Lord create groups that force
people to follow the path of adharma? He is the Lord of everyone, but
why does He create opportunities for some to follow the path of
adhrma? Is it proper? As the text discusses these immensely weighty
issues and also solutions to them, it is called “Yoga Tatwa”. It is
our duty to explain and propagate these great secrets for the benefit
of the world. Sri Satakopa Muni for the benefit of the great souls
along the Tamraparani river wrote the first chapter himself.

The famous three munis wrote nine works. Once, Sri Nathamuni while
resting in a state of Samadhi had the vision of Parankusa Muni in his
dream. In that state he learnt many secrets of Yoga from Parankusa.
The essence of that teaching was the famous Nathamuni'sYoga Rahasya.
In this text, not only the routine Yoga principles are discussed but
also methods treatment of diseases or Yoga chikitsakramas.

The third of the trio was Yamunacharya. He wrote several works, but
four were famous. viz.,
Agamapramanam, Iswarasiddhi, Sampathsiddhi and Yoga chulakam. They
give instructions for easy practice of Yoga. The source books for the
works of these great sages were the Bhagavat Gita, the eleventh skanda
(section) of the Srimad Bhagavata. Uddava-Sri Krishna Dialogues,
several Upanishads, Yoga Yagnyavalkya Samhita, Sri Rahasya, Yogasana
Mahodadhi and many others. For Sri Nathamuni his parents and
grandparents the most important and dear Yoga text appears to be Yoga
Yagnyavalkya Samhita and also the Gita and the 11th section of the
Bhagavata. Discussing about the wonders of God's will, he talks about
issues like should lay people be taught to practice yoga and similar
issues in considerable detail. Many yogis of the present time, with
high ahanta(ego), I should say without any fear, have not had the good
fortune of reading Sri Nathamuni's yoga works and other supporting

Now let me give a comprehensive treatment of practice krama of yoga

There are several essential factors that should be kept in view by
both the yogabhyasi and the teacher. The student, as instructed by the
teacher should check the quality of recaka and puraka (exhalation and
inhalation). Are there any obstructions in the airways? It is mainly
because asanas unaided or synchronized with breathing is of no use.
For instance, the teacher and the student should check the number of
matras (measure of time) the breath takes while inhaling, exhaling. If
there is considerable difference in these durations, the teacher
should first ask the abhyasi to practice controlled rechaka-puraka
even prior to the practice of asanas.

Then one should start practicing asanas as per instructions. There are
many asanas--sitting, standing, supine, prone, lying on the sides—
there are thus many starting positions. Further there are upside down
positions, like Sarvangasana. If the students has good well
proportioned body the teacher can teach the inversions, Sarvangasana
and Sirsasana even in the beginning of study. And such a person
should also possess very long and smooth inhalations and exhalations.
Further he should learn to maintain the inhalations and exhalations of
even duration. If one does 8 to 10 recaka-purakas in sirsasana, then
one should practice sarvangasana for the same number of recaka-puraka
and of the same duration. Sarvangasana and sirsasana are like the two
eyes of yogabhyasa. These help to maintain “bodily
freedom” (sariraswatantriyam)The various vinyasas of these poses also
have similar effects. Only by these two poses the acuity of the senses
and capacity of the lungs increase. Even as Sarvangasana is an
essential pose for persons with heart ailment, it should be done with
the help and involvement of the teacher/trainer. While teaching
Sarvangasana to such persons, the teacher should stand behind the
trainee and at the end of each exhalation should gently nudge the
trainee's back a little forward and hold for a second. After about a
month's such practice, the trainer should check the strength of
recaka, the general health or growth of the body the duration of
recaka-puraka and then if they are good should help the trainee stay
for about a minute or so. Thereafter the abhyasi should be given rest.
If one has some ailment the posture should be repeated two or three
times. For instance to an asthmatic doing even half a dozen breaths in
Sarvangasana will be difficult. So the trainee should make the abhyasi
practice atleast 12 breaths over a number of tries. Trying to do many
breaths in one go could create some chest pain and discomfort. So,
with a relaxed approach in four or six tries one should do the
required number of breaths. One should return to the lying down
position slowly. The same will apply to obese people while learning
sarvangasana, they should be taught the asanas with a lot of care. In
this manner the teacher and taught should learn to remain in an asana
for several minutes without any doubts about the pose. With
sarvangasana and sirsasana other asanas like paschimatanasana,
purvatanasana, chatushpada peetam; Parvatasana, vajrasana,
Bhujangasana etc can also br practiced.

When one starts to learn Yoga, in the beginning the duration of
practice can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes. One can gradually
increase the duration. The teacher should check the breath every day
and then increase the duration of practice. Whatever be the posture,
if one could stay for a long time without the limbs going to sleep (or
numb) or any pain or discomfort then such a practitioner is known as
jitasana (the conqueror/master of an asana.) While staying in an asana
one should not unnecessarily shake the body, bend or contort or move
and if one can stay for hours then such a yogi is a jitasana. We learn
from the works and sayings of yogis that in the olden days the rishis,
every day would remain in any one asana for three hours and do
pranayama and meditation. Then if the yogi is able to remain doing
long inhalation, exhalation and kumbhaka without feeling any kind of
fatigue and for a long period of time such a person would be called
“Jitaprana” or Jitaswasa, or one who has conquered the breath.

Remaining in a posture and gazing at one's favorite (ishta) icon and
experiencing a feeling of bliss is called “trataka”. It is of two
types, anta and bahi. To gaze at an outside object like an icon is
external trataka. Closing one's eyes and 'imaging' the object
internally and continually focusing attention in between the eyebrows
is the antah(r)trataka or internal gazing. One can practice this
between one to ten minutes.

In the yogasana practice it is good to include a Mudra as well
everyday. Mahamudra and Shanmukhi mudra may be done. Further one
should do a kriya called plavana (jumping/stretching). For instance,
remaining in the same place after a particular asana practice, one may
place the palms on the floor, lift the body and then stretch the legs
one by one . Then in recaka one should bend the leg and in puraka
return to the floor If one stays in an asana for a long time, the
muscles could slightly cramp and the plavana would help restore the
muscles attain normal tone. The yogabhyasi should practice asana,
pranayama, mudra and kriya together even from the beginning. Only then
all the benefits mentioned for the varied asanas will accrue. Likewise
if one by Pranayama becomes known as Jitaswasa, and then by meditation
is able to conquer the mind such a yogi is known as jitamanaska. All
the three are necessary. One should practice the same duration for
both asana and pranayama and then twice the duration for dhyana or
meditation. In the olden days the sages did yoga on three occasions
everyday, at dawn, noon and dusk. The time and regulation in Kumbhaka
are essential. With regulated time,one should practice all aspects of
yoga, like asana, kriyas, pranayama and mudra. One should do a few
asanas that one enjoys doing for about 15 mts and then do the
pratikriyas or counter poses. For instancee one may do 15 mts of
sirsasana followed by 15 mts of sarvangasana,. Or perhaps 15 mts of
viparita dandasana followed by 15 mts of uttana mayurasana.

Asanas like sirasasana done while the body trembles or unsteady will
not be beneficial. Done correctly, it helps to maintain prana in
sushuna. Without proper practice one will not get faith in Yoga, nor
will one get the benefits mentioned in the sastras. One should know
the kriyas (like plavana) and there is a relationship bertween asanas
and plavana(jumping/stretching) kriya. As mentioned earlier, one
should bring under control the body by asana, with recaka kumbhaka the
prana and by meditation or dhyana the mind. For dhyana it may be
useful to choose a charming icon


Anthony Hall has been writing periodically about Vinyasa Krama in
depth in his popular blogs
. He has several video clips of asana practice including picture
posters of all the Vinyasa Krama sequences. Thank you very much Tony
for your kind efforts and contribution—labour of love or love of
labour (karma Yoga). I am also thankful to Wyatt Denny, Barry
Wadsworth and Christopher Rahlwes, among others for their
contributions in writing/pictures/videos about Vinyasakrama.

Salil Ganeriwal from Hyderabad sent me a video of the talk on Yoga
for Health I gave at his nice studio. I also have a couple of videos
taken at Esalen—a talk on yoga and a lecture on Yogasutras. I do not
know if it is possible to load an hour long video (for free of course)
in any accessible site.

There are now about 1000 members in this group and most have attended
some program or the other conducted by me—a lecture, a weekend
workshop, a weeklong training program, a 200 hour five week long
teacher training program or private lessons.. I would like to renew my
request to all to do a short video of some subroutine they like, say,
Marichyasana, Vrukshasana dingnamaskara,virabhadrasana, (done slowly
and with the correct smooth long breathing) or any other, load it on a
friendly website and let me know and I can share the information in
the next newsletter. Think about it please, or better still do it

I hope you may find this teaching of Sri Krishnamacharya useful.
Please send your comments and suggestions to i...@vinyasakrama.com.
You may refer to the earlier newsletters and articles by visiting my
and opening the newsletter tab.

With best wishes
Srivatsa Ramaswami


Friday, January 7, 2011

Srivatsa Ramaswami: The Ancient Teachings of Yoga

Srivatsa Ramaswami: The Ancient Teachings of Yoga

By Cara Jepsen

”What is the ultimate goal of yoga?” Srivatsa Ramaswami asked on the first night of his recent sold-out workshop at the N.U. Yoga Center. “Is it merely to maintain physical health or make the body beautiful?”

As we shook our heads no, he said he that in addition to vinyasa and asana the weekend workshop would focus on “the aspects of yoga not commonly discussed” and fell under the heading of svadyaya, or what he described as self-development. Then he launched into a discussion about the importance of chanting, or mantra. “It involves the two senses we use most often--the eyes and the ears,” he said. With one of his longtime students he demonstrated how mantras were traditionally memorized--the teacher said the mantra once, and the student repeated it back twice. Sometimes it took as many as 100 times for it to click, he said.

It was a rare chance to hear directly--and in impeccable English--from someone who had studied closely with Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest yogis of the last century (and who in turn learned at the feet of Rama Mohan Bramachari). Srivatsa began studying with Krishnamacharya when he was a teenager, meeting with him daily from 1955 until 1988--a year before his teacher’s death. (That is several years more than Pattabhi Jois and over 30 years longer than B.K.S. Iyengar studied with the master.... Not that it’s a competition. But it does make one wonder why Srivatsa, who was Krishnamacharya’s longest-standing student, wasn’t part of the recent Krishnamacharya Yoga Festival in San Francisco).

After he learned asana, Krishnamacharya taught him the Vedic chants, the Yoga Sutras and many of the Upanishads. Srivatsa taught for 20 years at the Kalaksetra Institute in Chennai, India, and is the author of Yoga for the Three Stages of Life. He’s recorded the Vedic chants his teacher taught him and is working on a book of over 700 vinyasas (sequences), also picked up from Krishnamacharya. This was his third trip to Chicago, and after his stint at N.U. he led a three-day sutra study workshop in Evanston.

Srivatsa used my favorite teaching technique; first he explained or demonstrated something to us, and then he had us try it. The theme of the workshop seemed to be that doing asana alone has a limited effect, and that meditation, pranayama and mantra are just as important.

He explained that in order to chant it’s important to be seated properly (something the body learns by doing asana). He gave us a handout containing the Sanskrit alphabet and some mantras, which we were soon chanting--though not very well (you should have heard us try to say “SHAN-ti” properly). But first he explained how to pronounce “ohm.” (It begins with “ah.” The “oooo”--not oh--sound comes straight from the throat, and the “mmm” is held very briefly at the end.)

Asana alone is not sufficient, he reiterated. No yoga practice can be complete without pranayama, which should be done before meditation. The three, along with mantra, work in concert.

At one point he was asked at what age children could begin yoga practice. “They can learn asana and stretches when they are five to seven,” he said. “From the time they can say, ‘I am hungry.’”

Then he had us tune out the world by placing our fingers over our ears, eyes and nose. In position we were to notice how many times the mind wandered as we breathed in and out through our mouths. I found myself comparing the experience to the taxing pranayama exercise at the beginning of the Bikram series and noticed how dry the air seemed when it came in through the mouth. I found closing off the senses to be claustrophobic and challenging. But when it was over I left the workshop feeling very good indeed.

We began Day Two with a mantra and then worked on vinyasa, which he translated as a sequence of asanas, or, literally, “to place things properly.” Vinyasa also integrates body, breath and mind. He explained there are about a dozen major vinyasa sequences and several hundred poses (of which about 150 are commonly practiced). “Vinyasa allows us to move into a posture more easily and to stay longer,” he said. He reminded us that the sutras say one should be stable and comfortable in asana.

He told us to use a five-second inhale and a five-second exhale to move in and out of poses “so that every movement is at least 10 seconds long.” Once that becomes comfortable, it should be lengthened to 12 seconds. “In Hindu philosophy, life is determined by the number of breaths you take. If you slow the breath down, you live longer,” Srivatsa informed us.

We did a sequence of standing vinyasas for the upper body that involved our arms and shoulders and became more complex with each movement. A couple of the movements were similar to those in ashtanga’s sun salutations, but the effect was heightened because each one took five seconds. Srivatsa also had some longtime students from out of town demonstrate a delightful “bird sequence” of postures that involved hopping gracefully forward and backward into utkatasana (chair pose). We were invited to try it as well (this slow learner took a pass).

Another sequence began with a seated forward bend and included navasana (boat pose) and urdhva mukha pascimottanasana (a balancing version of the forward bend). He told us to focus on stretching our bodies during the exhale and then added some variations on upavista konasana (wide leg forward bend). It was interesting to note the similarities and differences between his and Pattabhi Jois’ teachings and think about the different things they had learned from Krishnamacharya--who taught each student based on their particular ability and temperament.

We followed the asana session with kapalabhati (an exercise for the purification of the nasal passages and lungs) and some breath retention exercises in which the exhale slowly became longer and longer. “Only one person exhaled ten breaths. Do you know who that was?” he asked afterwards.

“It was me,” he answered, with an impish grin on his face.

After a break he re-reiterated his theme: “Asanas are good to look at but the benefits of the other aspects of yoga are more important.” It’s not beneficial “if at the end of class people sweat and run away.” It’s better to wind down with mantra and pranayama after asana. “Be aware of what you’re doing and be in control throughout class,” he advised.

A sequence designed to prepare the body for shoulderstand had us on our backs doing backbends and forward bends (in the form of leg and arm raises). More pranayama and a final mantra followed it. “Do you panic when you exhale for ten breaths?” he asked us. “I used to.” He suggested starting with a five-second exhale and lengthening it slowly, one second a time. “Or exhale with sound. Then you’re not focused on the breath.” We tried it, making a buzzing, beelike sound. “Also try not to inhale immediately,” he advised. Then he left us with a final thought.

“Asana practice should ultimately lead to the ability to be seated for a long time, so you can do pranayama and meditation, and so the body is not a source of distraction. Meditation cannot be done without proper preparation.”

A month later I was still trying to incorporate the five-second inhale and exhale into my own practice and teaching (this seems to have resonated with at least one student). The practice seems to make my usually short fuse quite a bit longer. I’m also thinking a lot about pranayama and mantra. Not doing it as much as I should. But definitely thinking about it.

Srivatsa Ramaswami will return to N.U. Yoga Center later this year. Check www.yogamind.com or call 773.327.3650 for details.

Cara Jepsen is a writer and teaches yoga at the N.U. Yoga Center and YogaNow. She also teaches privately and in the workplace. She’ll be in India this winter and reachable via carajepsen@yahoo.com. Read about her trip at www.mysore.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yoga and Traditional Shamanic Elements Go Hand In Hand

Ayahuasca as a Spiritual Path

   In the old times before we knew Ayahuasca, certain Sages dedicated their lives to the study of the Self. They attained connection with the ultimate reality. They understood nature, and the essence of everything. Then, at this point, traditional medicine was brought to humanity. These Sages understood the energy of every plant, the medicine of everything. This formed the basis of traditional shamanism, not just in the Amazon but, everywhere in the world. In Quechua these Sages are known as SumaRuna, or great people. 
Working with Ayahuasca, you can choose different paths, good or bad. Those shamans who choose the bad path look for power. Shamans who choose the good path look for spiritual evolution and the ultimate reality. 
In the remote areas of the jungle, certain kinds of Shamans or Sages use the Ayahuasca as a spiritual path. There are different levels of shamanism; shamans grow differently. When a shaman attains certain levels of high spirituality, he may choose to live in isolation, away from all people. These shamans understand the true nature of reality; at certain stages they do not even drink Ayahuasca anymore. 
In these times now we have lost such a great spirituality. We are so involved in our daily life, our egos, what we do, what we want, like, do not like, and all this causes suffering. We don’t feel connected with the Earth; most people, in fact, don’t have any connection with the Earth anymore. 
The farther we are from the Earth, the farther we are from our true nature. 
Staying connected to the Earth does not mean working the land or digging in it. Feeling your hands and feet dirty with the Earth is good, but the inner connection is the key. 
Ayahuasca helps us to remember our true nature, our origins. Ayahuasca allows us to see the reality, raw, without any conditioning. One of the most important lessons of the Ayahuasca is about dissolving our small self into the higher self. We call that surrender. 
All of us, we are going to die. We may have 20, 40, 60 years on this Earth. Maybe 80. The Ayahuasca teaches us how to die. 
Finding God in this life is not the least or the most important thing – it is what we have come here to do. When Ayahuasca becomes our path to the Divine, God’s grace flows through the plant to the deepest part of us. Divine Grace manifests in our lives in many ways, accelerating the process of evolution. That is Divine Grace, bringing our most profound tendencies out to the consciousness, tendencies sleeping so deep in ourselves we do not recognize them. This is part of this process of evolution. 
The act of thinking about God is in itself the Grace of God. 
Your experience does not end when the Ceremony is finished. The journey of Ayahuasca as a spiritual path begins AFTER the Ceremony, where you realize your most profound tendencies, bringing more consciousness into them, becoming more complete as a person. There is a deeper connection with reality. It is the experience of many people to feel a deeper bliss or joy after Ceremony as they begin to connect with higher realities – or God.   
Ayahuasca gives physical, emotional, and psychological healing, but Ayahuasca can take us deeper. True healing comes from the source. We need greater contact with the self, with the truth, with God. If we focus on the path to spiritual evolution, Ayahuasca can bring us to God.