What is VK?
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?
Friday, December 9, 2011
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.
Life Sketch of Our Father Sri T. Krishnamacharya
Benediction by B.K.S.Iyengar
List of Illustrations
Lord Rama's Disappointment
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)
Importance of Means and Practical Examples
Sevenfold Practice, Sadhana Saptaka
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)
Straightforwardness or Sincerity (Arjava)
Compassion to Living Beings, Deep Sympathy (Daya)
Harmlessness, Non-violence (Ahimsa)
Gift of Duly Earned Belongings (Dana)
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)
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
Foods to be Avoided
Eating Regulations (Bhojana Niyama)
Indications for Daily Life
A Note of Caution
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Way to Liberation
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.
Benediction by Sri B.K.S. Iyengar
List of Tables and Figures
1. Hinduism -- A Brief Perspective
What is Love for Man?
What is Love that can Never be Measured?
The Impermanency of Human Love
Two Ultimate Aims in Man
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
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
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
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
Friday, January 7, 2011
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Read about her trip at www.mysore.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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.
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.
· Editorial : The birth of Yogakshemam Newsletter -T.K.Sribhashyam
· Yogakshemam - its signification - T.K.Sribhashyam
· Sri T. Krishnamacharya, from Muchchukunte to Thirumala - T.K.Sribhashyam
· About Guruji - Sri B.K.S.Iyengar
· My father’s medicine - T. Alamelu
· My childhood memories – T.K.V.Desikachar
· The daily life of my father-in-law Sri T. Krishnamacharya - Claire Sribhashyam
· My father’s tricks – Srishubha
· A memorable event with my grand parents – Navarâtri festival – Sribhagyam
· Sri T. Krishnamacharya’s daily evening drink.
Editorial: : The birth of Yogakshemam Newsletter
Born in 1982, the Yogakshemam School is represented in many European countries. You who are the students of Yogakshemam, you have many things in common in spite of the diversity, the particularity and the individuality in each of you. Even though you have little chances of meeting together and get to know each other, you cultivate, develop and transmit the same values, thus becoming a united family.
Even if you had learnt many common subjects, yet each group, each seminary and each session offers its own particularity. In no means, they have affected the spirit of unity that you maintain, but sharing your knowledge will only reinforce your unity. Form this is born the idea of a newsletter.
Yogakshemam is very happy to inform you that Yogakshemam Newsletter is published in France, Germany, Italy and in Greece in their respective languages. Yogakshemam Newsletter wishes to be a means of communication between India, your students and your friends. To maintain the spirit of unity, the layout as well as the contents would be as accurate as possible to the French edition.
As a mark of respect, the first number is entirely dedicated to Sri T. Krishnamacharya. We have collected the childhood memories of his family members. There will be some more in the next numbers. We hope that you would lend continuous support to Yogakshemam Newsletter as you have lent to the teaching of Yogakshemam and that you will also give it a very long life.
Yogakshemam – its signification
- Sri T. K. Sribhashyam
It is in 1982 that I had had the idea of opening a Yoga Teachers’ Training school with a stress on Indian philosophy and real devotion which were very dear to my father. All over one evening, I thought over a name that would reflect the objectives of this new school. The next morning, I was woken up by a poem of the Bhagavad Githa in my mind:
yé janâs paryupâsathé
téshâm nityâbhi yuktânama
When I informed my father that this poem woke me up, he chose the name Yogakshemam for the school and had the grace to bless it for an expanding and eternal life. That is how, is born in Europe, Yogakshemam.
The word yogakshemam is derived form two words: yoga and kshemam. The word yoga has many meanings: (1) to unite, (2) to mix, (3) to create a relation, (4) meditation, (5) means, trick, (6) success, (7) to dress, enthronement, (8) unexpected earnings, new wealth, (9) will, (10) medicine, (11) physical force, (12) material riches, (13) planetary conjunctions’ influence on humans, (14) planetary interrelation in a native astrological chart, (15) the interactive action between the day of the week, the solar transit and an individual birth star, (16) stopping of the modification of the mental activities, (17) specific force of a combination of words in a sentence, (18) pride, (19) union with God. The word Kshema also has many meanings: (1) protection of what is obtained, (2) pleasure, felicity, sound health, (3) auspicious, well-being, (4) protection, (5) Liberation. It is also the name of one of the sons of Yama, the God of death.
The word yogakshemam signifies attainment of new riches and its protection. It also means having God’s vision and from that obtain the liberation.
This notion of attainment, of protection and of maintaining the felicity applies not only to what this world offers us but also to those of the liberated souls if not the Kingdom of Heaven. We find this notion from the beginning of Veda. But it is more direct in the Thaithiriya Upanishad and in the Bhagavad Githa. In the former, a reference is made to the supreme happiness coming from the knowledge brahman while in the Bhagavad Githa, Lord Krishna declares: Those persons, who think of nothing else and worship Me through meditation – the accession to and the maintenance of the welfare of such ever devout person, I look after.
Sri T. Krishnamacharya, from Muchchukunte to Thirumala
- Sri T. K. Sribhashyam
Muchchukunte is a small village in Andhra Pradesh of South India. This village in Chitradurga district is closer to Karnataka State. The word Muchchukunte comes from two Telugu words: muchchu meaning hidden, and kunta a lake. Muchchukunta is a village with a hidden lake.
Muchchukunte is the native place of Sri Krishnamacharya family. It is around this village that the family had very fertile land and comfortable houses earned by hard labour and from offerings from the kings of neighbouring states to Sri Krishnamacharya’s parents and grand parents. All the forefathers of Sri Krishnamacharya were great devotees of Lord Srinivasa of Thirumala and were so much dedicated to Him that they also became the ‘people of Thirumala’.
The initial T in my father’s name and in the name of all his children, stands for Thirumala, one of the holiest places of India situated in Andhra Pradesh, closer to Tamil Nadu, about 120 kilometres from Chennai. The word Thirumala comes from thiru or Sri and mala or Small Mountain. Thirumala or the holy mountain is the sacred place dedicated to Lord Srinivasa also called Venkateshwara, Lord of Venkata. Venkata is another name of Thirumala. Surprisingly, Thirumala is a Tamil language word and not Telugu which is the language of Andhra Pradesha. Telugu was the most beloved spoken language of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, next only to Sanskrit! Sri T. Krishnamacharya had not even a house of his own in Thirumala. He used to stay in Maths or religious monasteries or hire a room in a hotel. It was his custom to visit Thirumala once a year like millions of Hindus.
While our great master is called in the world of yoga as T. Krishnamacharya, he is known, recognised and respected in all the religious institutions and traditional Sanskrit universities as Muchukunte Krishnamacharya.
Being the eldest son of a large big and united family, he was the natural heir to the family properties. He loved to face intellectual and philosophical challenges all over India. To avoid being entangled by the obligations of family wealth and to be entirely free to answer to challenges, he left Muchchukunte offering all the wealth to his brothers, sisters and cousins to take shelter at Lord Srinivasa’s feet. In Hindu devotion, asking protection at the Feet of Lord is the most important devotional act. Lord Srinivasa is the Lord of Thirumala.
As Muchchukunte Krishnamacharya, as he is even now recognised, he was an intellectual giant where as Thirumala Krishnamacharya he was a spiritual master. In both the realms, he was unbeatable, yet both as Mucchukunte and as Thirumala Krishnamacharya, he lived a very simple living, so simple that no one, not even Indians, ever thought that they met such a great person. No where had he a house of his own.
He believed with an undaunted conviction that when one is at the Feet of God, peace, harmony and contentment would be his permanent home.
Was he the ‘hidden lake’ of Muchukunte?
- Sri B.K.S.Iyengar
My brother in law, Sri T. Krishnamacharya after initiating me in yoga, became my guru. Hence, my respect and reverence to him make me dumb to express on him.
He was a man with unsurpassable intelligence with a super sharp memory, an orator of his time, who could quote texts whether existed or non-existed instantaneously to establish his logic of Darshana. Many learned scholars had no iota of his quotes not knowing from where they come from. Yet, he was a very poor writer as an author. I have seen him making up his mind to put in black and white, but he never completed any of his undertakings. If his writings are preserved, one may see a few pages here and there on various subjects. The only printed book I have is his first part of Yogamakaranda in Kannada a few articles in booklet form.
I have seen him as a Pandita, heard him as a musician on a Veena (a musical instrument), a gardener, a wood cutter, chanter of Veda, a best cook, an astrologer and I don’t know to say what he did not know.
Often I have seen him as an intellectual wizard and noticed both the qualities of saint as well as bruteshness. His way of living was very simple.
He was happy to be always in a loins cloth, and often I have seen him going out with loin cloth (what we call langot) to buy things he wanted and have seen my sister (his wife) scolding him, which he never cared to listen.
One fine morning he was so harsh on me. He woke me up to water the plants. I got up, opened the tap for the tank to get filled. I was sitting on the parapet of the tank. He come out, saw me sitting and asked me to get out of the house and he went inside. I took his word literally knowing his nature, as he went in, I went out. It was dark. Having no friends nor relatives close by in Mysore; I made up to drown myself in the river at Sri Rangapattana. It was about 20 kilometres from Mysore. I strolled in the Palace garden and when the sun became bright, I walked towards the river Kaveri, desperate to end my life.
My brother-in-law might have become nervous in not seeing me at all. So he took a car from King’s uncle and searched for me. He must have anticipated that I may be on my way to Sri Rangapattana and found me half way, picked me up and took me back home.
The only question he asked me was “why are you out here”. I told him that I wanted to commit suicide and end my life to be free from slavery. He never spoke on the way.
If I had committed suicide, to day the yoga I learnt and practised would have gone into the thin air.
Soon he asked me to accept the job of a yoga teacher in Pune and am here since then.
My father’s medicine
- Srimathi T. Alamelu Sheshadri
It was an evening in 1939. I was probably 9 or 10 years of age. After school hours and play time, father’s first three children (my eldest sister Srimathi Pundarikavalli, my younger brother Sri T. Srinivasan and I) were to listen to the Vedic recitation chanted by some of father’s students. That was the method of training small children in those days to make learning easy and attractive. Father was there to rectify the mistakes.
When the class was going on, a stranger came running all on a sudden, with a little boy on his shoulders. The boy’s face was pale blue and was gasping for breath. I thought, the boy would die then and there.
He placed the young boy on my father’s lap, prostrated to my father praying him to save his son. Father took his pulse. He told me to get some warm pepper rasam from my mother. I came with rasam in a glass and give it to father, who still holding the boy’s pulse. The image of the boy on my father’s lap, taking his pulse and uttering prayers gave me the idea that he was transferring his own life force (prâna shakthi) to the boy. He fed the boy small quantities of the rasam. I couldn’t believe my eyes: The boy started breathing and his blue face disappeared. A few minutes later, he got up from my father’s lap and managed to stand and started walking slowly. We were all stunned. The stranger was speechless. With tears in his eyes he bowed down before my father. My father advised him to pray God with faith and reverence for the welfare of his son and continued his Vedic recitation class.
Some of my father’s method of curing the needy still remains a mystery in my mind.
Pepper rasam: A soup made out of little pepper powder, cumin seeds powder, a small quantity of jaggery, salt to taste and curry leaves. This mixture is boiled in diluted tamarind water for about five minutes.
My childhood memories
- Sri T.K.V. Desikachar
My first recollection of an even involving my father and myself is that once my father asked me to go to the Yogashala in Mysore. I was playing with friends. I said ‘no’. He came to catch me. We had eight coconut trees in our house and I climbed in one of them. He waited and left. Later when I cam down he caught me and tied me in baddha Padma Asana using a thin rope. I was in this posture before he untied me, after an hour.
One evening he took all of us to a movie called ‘Chandralekha’. I remember this because it was full of circus event. It is hard to believe that my father took us to cinema.
One more memory. One day my father and myself were walking on the street. A few Brahmins were coming in the opposite direction. The moment they saw my father they ran away. I asked my father why they ran away. He said that they were scared of him because he corrected their chanting in one of the religious ceremonies that took place recently. Later I came to know that they were Ghanapâtis.
Once we were playing in the street. We were targeting to hit with a stone a person coming in the opposite direction, carrying a bundle of grass on the head, thinking that the person must be some villager. As he approached us, we found he was my father carrying green grass for his cow. We fled from the scene.
The daily life of my father-in-law, Sri T. Krishnamacharya
- Claire Sribhashyam
When I started to visit my in-laws, my father-in-law was already very aged and yet lived to his own rhythms. He would wake up at 4 in the morning and would go to bed around 7 in the evening.
One of my best souvenirs was to be woken up every morning around four by the sound of the prayer bell announcing the beginning of his prayers. This daily morning ceremony that lasted an hour and a half was indeed a great feast for me. At times, I would wake up earlier and wait for the prayer bell to ring.
My mother-in-law would wake up a little later to open the door for the milk maid who brought us milk every morning shouting, below our windows, “pâl”, “pâl” (“pâl” in Tamil language means milk). Then she would prepare coffee for all of us and one by one we would all get up.
At the end of his long prayers, he would prepare his breakfast: wheat semolina roasted and cooked in water with some spices, coriander leaves and grated coconuts. He would share his preparation with children before sitting on the veranda to eat. He would spend some time reading the day’s newspapers while waiting for his students. At times, he would retire to his room to read or to give lessons. Once in a while, he would come to see me and talk or play with my daughter Sumitra or give me some advice on how to bring up young children.
In the afternoon, he would stay in the veranda to eat a fruit, often an orange or some grapes. He would never eat anything without first giving to children, young or elderly.
In the late afternoon, around 6 p.m., he would sit on the swing in the garden and watch the street life. Then, he would retire to bed after having drunk a glass of milk prepared with sugar, saffron and some cardamom. Everyone was attentive in not making too much of noise so as not to disturb him. And, next day at 4 in the morning, it was he who would give the departure sign for the new day by his prayer bell.
Ever since, I visit my in-laws, he had always had the same punctual rhythm. If, I did not hear the prayer bell at 4 in the morning, I was overcome by a slight anxiety! I would come out of the bed to see what he was doing. Felling that I was worried, he would say, with a smile, that he was late that morning.
My father’s trick
- Srimathi Shubha Mohan Kumar.
I consider this opportunity as blessings showered upon me to write about my parents. I happen to be the last child (6th) of my parents Prof. T. Krishnamacharya & Mrs. Namagririammal. I also happen to have born after almost 11yrs of my elder brother Sribhashyam. So you can well imagine how I was pampered and treated by all of them in our family. So in those early days of my childhood I was almost a VVIP. So was my background with extremely loving parents and very affectionate siblings around me all through. There are lots of memories to cherish while I was living with them. I would like to share the memories of my early days with my loving father. In those days 1959-60 I was in 2nd or 3rd year in school. I was into my fathers classroom on and off. It was all playful then. In those days he would go to triplicane to give yoga lessons to a family. He kept calling me to accompany him. Initially I used to refuse, so he ended up buying a very nice read satin kurtha and pajama so that it would attract me. Yes! For the sake of the new red dress I started going with him. Like any child I did stop after sometime so he would promise me that he would gift me something if I accompanied him. He used to take me in a cycle rickshaw one mode of transport in those days. The rikshaw ride was a long one about 30-40 min, so both my father and rikshawman would usually have a conversation about Indian politics which I was least interested. My mind would actually be wondering as to what new I would get, so that I could show-off. The class would go on for an hour or so. He would ask me to show a couple of postures. Some how the hour would pass, now was my time, appa used to take me to the fancy store and keep up his promise. He would reward me with a bead necklace, rubber/plastic bangles etc., as a child I loved it mainly because so very colourful and attractive. Each time I was reluctant to go because I was busy playing with my friends in the neighbourhood. So to pull me out from play and drag me he would always tempt me by saying “ u can have the gift of your choice”. He never made a stiff face, no matter what gift I chose. This became a routine which I cherished because of the time I used to spend with my father, the long ride around the town and not to forget my incentives at the end of the day.
I did not realise during those early days of my life as to why my father was taking me along. Now looking back on the memories my I realise that my father wanted to spend sometime with the kid of the family. He was a father who loved to give what his child asked whether it was important or not for him as long as it made his beloved kid happy. He was a simple plain and a friendly father. So, as a father, was this great personality Prof. T.Krishnamacharya - yogâchârya.
A memorable event with my grand-parents - Navarâtri festival
- Srimathi Sribhagyam Srinivasan (grand daughter of Sri T. Krishnamacharya)
Any festival for a child carries vivid images of splendour and grandeur of fun and frolic. As a small girl, the festival of Navarâtri also called, the autumn festival of nine nights was the most endearing one. It was full of gaiety ad piety, all the more so, because, I would celebrate it with my grand-parents in Madras.
Navarâtri is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Sri Râma hero of the epic Râmâyana, over Râvana, the terrible demon king. In other words it is a victory of good over evil.
During this festival, the house was decorated. The major attraction for me was the exhibition of dolls of all types, with the king and queen given the pride of place arranged on well decorated steps. Small springs, gardens were added here and there to give an aesthetic look. A sacred silver pot, called Kalasha with a coconut surrounded by mango leaves is kept on the top representing the Goddess of Victory.
I can never forget the whole-hearted involvement of my uncle Sribhashyam. He would often chip in with new ideas to make it more artistic.
The delicious lunches prepared by grand-mother for everyone including grand-father’s students were simply superb! Her offerings to the Goddess was very special for me as I used to be with her during her prayers.
For my grand-father these nine days were days of severe austerity, special prayers, reading the epic Râmâyana for six to eight hours with explanation of each chapter to his students. The fact that he could do so much at his age, without forgoing his daily routine shows his perseverance, dedication and will-power!
The culmination of this nine day long festival of Navarâtri was done on the tenth day., by celebration the coronation of Lord Sri Râma. With grandfather leading the prayers, the whole atmosphere would be electrified as if by a divine presence.
I enjoyed such precious moments with my grand-parents.
Sri T. Krishnamacharya’s daily evening drink
25 cl of milk
2 green cardamoms
2 spoonful of almond powder
2 filaments of saffron
Sugar according to taste
Cooking time : 10 minutes
Dip the saffron in some lukewarm water for 20 minutes.
Crush cardamoms into fine powder. Put it in the saffron water and mix well.
Boil the milk and add the saffron water with cardamom in the milk. Continue boiling the milk in a low heat for 5 minutes mixing it once in a while.
Put out the fire and let the milk cool. Drink lukewarm.
You can add sugar according to taste along with the saffron water.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Month Long Course
Loyola Marymount University,
By Charlotte Holtzermann
Studying with Srivatsa Ramaswami is transforming. He’s the real deal - clear, lucid, inspiring. He conveys the meaning inherent in pursuing the whole eight limbs of yoga. He shares his deep understanding with humility, strength and great, good nature." So wrote teacher and 30 year yoga student, Sherie Sheer, about her month long study with Srivatsa Ramaswami. Students felt connected to a lineage of a full spectrum of yoga: asana, chanting, philosophy, pranayama, service, study and meditation.
Ramaswami studied under the tutelage of Krishnamacarya (1888-1989, considered one of the great yoga teachers of the 20th century) for 33 years and was Krishnamacarya’s longest standing student outside his own family. From the age of 15, Ramaswami arose at 4 A.M., bathed and went with his father to Krishnamacarya’s house at 5 A.M. to practice yoga before going to school and later to work as an engineer in his father’s business. Ramaswami studied with Krishnamacarya for 15 years before he began teaching yoga in a school of dance. It made me ponder how brief my own study of yoga was before I began to lead classes.
Our classes met in University Hall, a large classroom and office building perched on the south bluffs of Los Angeles. For four weeks, a group of 30 yoga teachers and students from Canada, the Midwest, Texas and the West Coast met every morning from 9 A.M. to noon to practice Vinyasa Krama with this great and gentle man from Madras.
Our teacher greeted us individually as we arrived before class. He began each session with chanting, explaining the meanings of the prayers as blessings for the teacher, the students and the teachings. We entered the sounds of Sanskrit.
Om Saha Navavatu May we be protected.
Saha Nau Bhunaktu May we enjoy the
Saha Viryam Karavavahai May we study with energy.
Tejasvi Navadhitamastu May we become filled with the luster of knowledge.
Ma Vidvisavahai May there be no disharmony between us.
Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih Peace, Peace, Peace
Every morning, we began our practice with a standing sequence designed to open the chest cavity, shoulder girdle and arms. Ramaswami asked two members of the class to lead the sequence at the front of the room. By the end of the month, everyone had taken a turn. We stood in silence for a few moments in samasthiti (a state of balance). With heads bowed in jalandhara bhanda (chin lock), we raised our arms overhead to open our core body in twists, side, back and deep forward bends. We listened to the quiet voice of Ramaswami, breathe and speak through a microphone. "Inhale raise your arms overhead. Exhale —now lower your arms."
It felt like we got on deck and set sail. A wind arose in the room as our breathing joined in the steady—whispered air of ujjayi (throat breathing). We sailed in prana sanchara—movement of the breath. The floor creaked as our feet spread into balance, facing a courtyard view of red gladioli, a water fountain and wavering feathers of pampas grass, luminous in the sunlight.
The first week we encountered about 150 vinyasas (variations) stemming from tadasana (the hill pose) and asymmetrical seated postures. Our teacher described the essence of yoga as lying in the bandhas, muscular locks which massage the internal organs. He emphasized that the bandhas distinguish yoga from other forms of exercise.
We practiced jalalandhara bandha by bringing our chin down towards our raised chest. This allowed my spine to lengthen, the back of my neck to feel open. We gathered our pelvic floor in mala bandha (rectal lock). We drew our abdomen up and back in uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) in the pause after our outgoing breath. Using these bandhas in poses gave me internal anchors.
Ramaswami asked us everyday in a cordial way, "Would you like to try this pose?" After each sequence, he invited us to "now please lie down and rest." This made me look at my language to students in my classes. How often I command, "Now let’s do this pose."
Ramaswami believes the practice of yoga in America can be enriched, by offering the whole tradition. The key idea, he said, is enriching asana and he presented numerous lessons for doing that.
During his month long residency, Ramaswami offered Vinyasa Krama on weekday mornings, a Saturday morning class in Samkhya Karika, the metaphysical principles that underpin yoga, and on Saturday afternoon, Chikitsa Krama, a workshop on the applications of yoga as a therapeutic tool.
Vinyasa Krama yoga is a logically planned sequence of movements and poses with appropriate breathing, a method of linking breath to movement which Krishnamacarya used to teach asanas. Each movement is performed on a deliberate in or out breath. Ramaswami said Krishnamacharya insisted on synchronizing breath with movement.
Vinyasa Krama means the art form of doing Yoga. Vi means variations possible, ni means permanently and aasa means to place correctly. We practiced flowing sequences originating from a standing tadasana position. We learned root poses and an array of variations along with the counter poses for each.
Each week, Ramaswami introduced about 200 poses to the Vinyasa Krama class. With pages from his forthcoming book projected on the studio wall, students could observe a core pose and its progression of variations in sequence, as well as a large image showing the details of each pose.
We climbed into difficult poses and watched adept classmates demonstrate advanced postures. Notebooks, laptops and cameras were allowed. Two students monitored video cameras on tripods at the back of the studio.
During the third week, we practiced sequences of trikonasana, triangle standing Poses, vajrasana, seated postures, and a series of viparita asanas — inversions. Ramaswami recommended letting the legs hang limp in the air for the first few moments of the inversion, a subtle point of practice and how releasing it is to let the blood descend through the veins before reaching up with the feet. He impressed on the class the importance of practicing sarvangasana, shoulderstand, everyday for at least five minutes.
Having taught yoga for twenty years in hospitals in India and more recently at the UCLA School of Medicine, Ramaswami conveyed the importance of not using yoga as an alternative therapy for acute conditions. "Yoga is for relatively healthy people," he cautioned.
In every class, our teacher responded to numerous questions. Suheila Mouammar, mother of three sons, asked him to speak about food and eating. Standing in stocking feet with shoes removed, his hands gesturing to and from his heart, Ramaswami advised chewing a few leaves of basil first thing in the morning, grinding them together with neem leaf, turmeric and fenugreek.
He recommended eating only to half one’s fullness: three handfuls of food at a meal, and having a light supper in the evening. His summary was jovial. "You know, we say a yogi eats one meal a day, a bhogi eats two meals a day, a rogi eats three meals a day." This teaching stays with me, putting three handfuls of food on my plate.
We closed our daily practice sitting in shanmukhi mudra (closing of all six sense organs) for five minutes. With crossed legs and elbows at shoulder level, we pressed the pads of our fingers into points near our ears, eyebrows, nose and mouth. Sealing off the outer world, hearing the furnace sound of breath in our inner ear, stillness enveloped us. I felt full and balanced after each class and realized a new promise to always include time for pranayama and quiet sitting at the end of asana.
At lunch every day, a small group shared a meal brought to campus by a nearby Indian restaurant. Amidst the burgers and fries going down in the cafeteria, we ate raita, pappadom, sag palak, dal, allogabi, pullao and salad, gently cooked vegetables and legumes in spicy sauce with yogurt, rice and bread. I tried to imitate our teacher’s small portions. We shared some leftovers giving the rest to a student who took them to homeless people at the beach.
Members of the Vinyasa Krama class were affected by the month-long plunge into a daily three-hour practice of chanting, asana, breathing and meditation. Jessica Harper, a recent LMU graduate in dance said: "He offers completeness. After this month, I feel more balanced in my soul. This practice brings me closer to the kind of life I want to lead. It’s teaching me how to be a human being, humble, letting go."
Michael Manoogian, an LMU professor of civil engineering and environmental science said, "This month of study altered my approach to yoga practice. It reinforces my awareness of the depth of yoga.”
I was struck by Ramaswami’s steady energy at age 65, teaching for three hours every weekday morning, working with individual students in private sessions in the afternoon and offering lecture and discussion for a further five hours on Saturdays.
Ramaswami showed us how to be more balanced as we live in an ancient tree of knowledge. I notice my spirit is steadier. There is more breath moving through my back. Daily life feels more like service and my energy is lighter after a month of morning practice with my kula, a group of yogi’s riding the waves of breath filled vinyasa.
Ramaswami will return to LMU in November 2005 to continue teaching in the Yoga Philosophy Program. Visit http://extension.edu/yoga for information about courses and events.
Charlotte Holtzermann teaches the Alexander Technique and Beginning Hatha Yoga at Loyola Marymount University. She writes on health and well being in Los Angeles.
Wish you a very happy and prosperous New year, a New Decade.
December was India month. LMU had arranged a ten day retreat in New
Delhi the modern capital of India and Rishikesh the holy city along
the Ganga, About ten participants from the USA and six from India
attended the program. We had almost six hours instruction everyday,
three hours of asanas and pranayama and about three hours of Yoga
Sutras and Yoga for Health. I thought the programs went well. What was
remarkable was that despite some real difficulties and challenges,
everyone stayed to the end. I am beholden to all participants for
their interest, support and patience. Thank you Dr Chris Chapple and
Alana Bray of LMU for affording the opportunity.
I spent a couple of days in Hyderabad thanks to the invitation of
Saraswati Vasudevan of Yoga Vahini and Salil Ganeriwal of Shwaas,
both of whom have long experience in the Krishnamaharya tradition.
Saraswathy Vasudevan who has more than 17 years teaching experience in
the Krishnamacharya tradition was the director of a 500 hr Yoga
Therapy certification program. 14 very enthusiastic and knowledgeable
yoga teachers completed the program and I had the pleasant opportunity
to distribute the certificates and speak briefly. The teachers
included Amala Akkaneni, one of my first students. She studied yoga
with me for a few years as a student of Kalakshetra in the mid 1970s.
It was nice to meet her too. Salil gave me an opportunity to speak
about Yoga for Healing (Health) at his beautiful studio Shwaas.
Maybe I have written on this topic earlier.
Normally in Sutras, the same term/idea should not be repeated. But in
the yogasutras of Patanjali the term Iswarapranidhana is used three
times. It is acceptable if the term is used with different
connotations in different places/contexts.
According to my Guru, the yogasutra even as it deals with subject of
(Raja)Yoga, caters to the needs of three different groups or levels of
yoga aspirants. The first one the highest or the uttama adhikaris are
the intended group of aspirants in the first chapter called the
samadhi pada. Here Patanjali used the term Iswarapranidhana as an
independent means of achieving the goal of Kaivalya or spiritual
freedom the set goal of yoga. It is the complete quietening of the
mind or chitta vritii nirodha. According to Patanjali it is possible
to achieve this yogic goal by intense devotion to Iswara (pranidhana=
bhakti visesha) as indicated by the term Iswarapranidhana in this
context. By the proper Japa of pranava which would indicate the mystic
syllable or mantra “OM” the highest aspirant (adhikari) who already
has the ability to go into a stage of samadhi (hence dealt with in
Samadhi Pada) will be able to achieve this extraordinary result. An
intense faith and devotion to the eternal unfettered spirit,
Iswara,whose essence is pure consciousness and still endowed with
omniscience would do the trick and nothing else is needed. If however
this devotional fervor is lacking even if the samadhi capacity is
there, the more step by step process of going through stages of
mastering Prakriti (24 aspects ) may be resorted to following the
path of Niriswara Samkhyas who have difficulty in subscribing to a
nimitta karana or an efficient cause for creation..
In the second chapter, Sadhana Pada, Patanjali takes the case of those
who without the yogic skill of Samadhi, but still wish to start to go
along the path of Yoga, the first step in a 1000 mile long yoga
journey. To them, the absolute beginners, he would include
Iswarapranidhana as one of the steps in Kriya yoga . Here
Iswarapranidhana has a different application. It is not the use of
Pranava Japa as the Samadhi Yogi would do but Iswarapujana or worship
of Iswara as per many yogis. Simple to complicated rituals are
available for the interested to remain focused on Iswara for a period
of time every day. This in practical terms is much easier to resort to
following the well established procedures of puja (worship rituals) of
the Lord. This is possible for anyone with faith in God, but lack the
samadhi capability. One may not be able to achieve Samadhi with this
but it will slowly prepare the mind to go along the path of yogic
samadhi. Concurrently it will also reduce the mental pain caused by
several kleshas like avidya etc.
One may ask if Iswarapranidhana or Iswarapujana as it is said in Kriya
yoga can by itself lead to samadhi bhavana or is it part of a whole
practice called Kriya yoga. Another corollary question would be what
if one has difficulty believing in God, could one still take advantage
of kriyayoga? There are references to practices of kriya yoga used
without the Iswarapranidhana component. The great epic Ramayana
describes a sage as one established in austerity and scriptural
studies. The Ramayana opens with the two traits of Kriaya yoga viz.,
tapas and swadhyaya. (tapas swadhyaya nirataam). So we may see that
there are occasions where the first two traits are mentioned
independent of Iswarapranidhana. Of course it would be best to use all
the three parts of kriya yoga.
When a start up yogi belonging to the iswarapranidhana stream
practices iswara pujana assiduously, the mental klesas come down and
she/he will be well on the path of conditioning the mind for samadhi.
Then we have the next yoga stage called ashtanga yoga a more elaborate
and complete yoga sadhana or yoga practice. Herein also is
Iswarapranidhana mentioned and the result of this practice as part of
niyama would be Samadhi itself, which also is the goal of the entire
ashtanga yoga as samadhi is the last anga. Commentators give a
different interpretation of Iswarapranidhana here in ashtanga yoga
than what is found in first chapter and in kriya yoga.. They would
say that it would refer to doing one's prescribed duties diligently as
God's work and surrendering oneself to the Lord and also the fruits of
all actions. This intermediate stage yogi or madhyama adhikari the
one not having the skill of going into samadhi but is totally
committed to yoga as a life long pursuit. For her/him Patanjali
suggests the classical ashtanga yoga. Here as per my Guru and several
commentators it would mean total surrender to the Lord or Saranagati
or prapatti. One may say that the prescribed duties would also imply
practicing the stipulated duties in ashtanga yoga and doing them as
God's work with a complete sense of surrender to the Lord. This “karma
Yoga” in which the results of the practices do not cloud the yogi's
mind is “karma phala tyaga”. This devotional path will lead to Samadhi
the necessary skill to take the last lap in the yoga journey.
My teacher being a devout Bhakti Yogi stressed the importance of the
Iswarapranidhana stream in the Yoga Sutras. The Yogis who have an
intense devotional fervor could do well to follow the devotional path.
For most yogis a judicious combination of samkhya yoga and bhakti yoga
would be helpful as is the direction of the sutras. But it is also
necessary to point out that Iswarapranidhana even though it is
mentioned just three times in the whole text forms an independent and
complete system of Yoga in the Yoga sutras. For the start up Yogi it
prepares the mind for samadhi and also simultaneously reduces the
mental klesas. At the intermediate level it leads to dawn of Samadhi a
necessary tool for both Siddhis and Kaivalya and a reduction in
impurities of the mind, the Rajas and Tamas.. At the highest level
Isawarapranidhana leads to understanding the true nature of oneself
(pratyak cetana)and also the removal of all spiritual obstacles
Many other acharyas also have taken the efforts to stress the
importance of both the streams. Adi Sankara the advocate of Advaita
or nondualism, wrote great works not only on the intellectually
challenging subjects as advaita like the Brahma Sutra Bhashya,
Vivekachudaani etc., but also wrote such wonderful devotional works as
Bhaja Govindam, Soundarya Lahari and several others. Sri Sankara apart
from being the most revered exponent of Advaita also came to be known
as one who established the six methods of orthodox worship of the
divine in India (shan-mata-sthapana-acahrya), The six methods are
worship of Ganesa (Ganapatya), Kumara (Kaumara), of Mother Sakti
(Saakta), of Siva (Saiva), of Vishnu (Vaishnava) and of the Sun
(Saura). He wrote numerous works of poetry on all these deities.
Patanjali, Adi Sankara, my own Guru Sri Krishnamacharya and several
orthodox teachers of yesteryear were at considerable ease with both
the paths of wisdom and of devotion.
Again, I wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
It is two years since I started sending these Newsletters and thank
you all for the kind support.
The earlier newsletters and articles may be accessed by going to my
website www.vinyasakrama.com and then clicking on the Newsletter tab.
For reply or comments please send to email@example.com
With best wishes