Sunday, 31 May 2015

Where are they now? (mostly) Recent Videos/interviews with students from 1993 Sri K. Pattabhi Jois led Yoga Works Ashtanga demonstrations

Right to left: Maty Ezraty, Eddie Stern, Chuck Miller, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, Karen Haberman

Coming across the excellent interview with Maty Ezraty yesterday I was reminded of other recent videos from the other participants in the 1993 Led Primary and Intermediate demonstration videos.


Students:

Maty Ezraty - http://www.matyezraty.com/

Eddie Stern - http://www.ayny.org


Richard Freeman - http://yogaworkshop.com/

Karen Haberman 


You can check out many of these teachers every year in San Diego at http://ashtangayogaconfluence.com 

This video can be purchased at http://www.kpjashtanga.com












As far as I can tell Karen Haberman is no longer teaching ( unless YOU know otherwise). A google search brings up so many students and teachers who mention that Karen was their first ashtanga teacher.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Ashtanga wrist issues and therapy: Gymnasts Wrist or Washer Woman's syndrome overcome with Trigger Therapy

http://www.hybridperspective.com/2013/10/24/wrist-pain-in-gymnastics-understanding-contributing-factors-and-tips-to-increase-mobility/


This post on wrist pain is broken up into 


1. Symptoms

Pain in the wrist originally assumed to be caused by 'weight bearing' - jumping back and/or floating up in my Ashtanga practice

2. Cause, Avoidance and therapy

Poor technique, hand placement/set up etc.
Articles by David Keil
also
Wild Yogi magazine

3. More therapy ( that cured the problem)

Massaging Trigger Points
inc. Susan Bysh's Trigger point protocol for avoiding pain in arm balanced etc.

4. Alternative cause

Washer woman syndrome doesn't sound as cool as Gymnasts wrist

NB: the videos in this post are just for illustration and can all be skipped

*

Symptoms
My fb status update earlier in the week

I seem to have 'gymnasts wrist', or something like it, first time for me... anyone know how long it lasts and what worked for them for a speedy recovery. Probably came from switching back suddenly to full Primary in the shala after a year of half taken more slowly ie. twice as many jump backs. Not too big a deal I think and no problem adapting them out for a while but a little tiresome. - perhaps a blog post on this in the next few days

The Video below is probably a fair representation of how I practice Sun salutations in  the shala, there's some light on the hands to show my general practice/technique too. Further down in the post is the Krishnamacharya long stay approach I've been taking at home, one sury takes 12 minutes or so, less jumping but still a lot of weight bearing. This is the first time though that I've had this kind of wrist problem. 




Cause, Avoidance and therapy

First, an old Padmasana Jump through/jump back video.





My friends Illya and Mick sent some links to articles that look at possible causes and some therapy.

Thank you to Illya for this

Yoga therapy for the wrists
WILDYOGI.INFO
http://wildyogi.info/en/issue/yoga-therapy-wrists





Mick Lawton
Working With Wrist Pain in Yoga?
David Keil
YOGANATOMY.COM
http://www.yoganatomy.com/2014/03/wrist-pain-in-yoga/



In the article David looks closely at

Three Common Postures

Chaturanga

Upward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog

Particularly interesting to me is Chatauranga as in the Krishnamacharya approach I'm spending a minute in it.

David has a nice section in the article on hand placement and that has come up several times in the advice below. I notice that my hands are spread nicely so the weight is evenly spread and I tend to employ the pushing the ground away approach that Natasha mentions however  do seem to have this bad habit of having my middle two fingers together, bit like a three toed sloth (three toed sloths understand about slow practice).





Some good general advice from my friend Gilad 

Ilya's and David's info is very useful.

Sometimes we forget that

1. We are not getting any younger everyday .

2. The hands are intended mainly for micro and intricate movements, and not for weight-bearing jobs.MAINLY.

Just compare the hands and the feet, and note the weight-bearing sector, and also the idea that we are walking on feet, not hands.

Most likely, you are right - switched too abruptly into full Vinyasa after a long time of not doing that. And, the whole idea of Ashtanga practice being a"hand standing" practice is greatly exaggerated. PAIN IS ILLEGAL!

After all, it does produce suffering. 

Modify what causes pain, it's a good time for practicing Abhyasa and Vairagya .

Use a little soft squashy ball that fits in your palm, Palm open backwards on the table, and close your fist over the ball with moderated strength OBSERVING the palm.
Find out the right amount of repetitions.


And this from Stephan

I've recently been dealing with this as well, and I do believe it is linked in my case to "floating."

Like you, I employ long slow breaths, movements, and long holds.

I used a combination of Simon Borg-Olivier's mani bandha movements, some wrist warm up techniques, including something similar to what Paul Belizere describe (below), except I don't use newspaper, I just expand my hands and then make fists at a relatively quick but not too quick pace.

Finally, I practice the last ulpluthi on my fists.

I also massage extensor carpi radials trigger point (see below). 

Finally, I am one who takes seriously the gymnastics aspects of the practice and have begun more traditional gymnastics conditioning work to strengthen the wrists and avoid placing my shoulders too far forward over the wrist.

Additionally, I've also taken lots of time to integrate Simon Borg-Olivier's approach to using weight via leaning of the hips and armpits (as described in his 17 part video which you posted) to facilitate a more effortless press, pick up, and float.

In all it took about one month until I could press up again without pain, but some days it is still tender (so I take it easy on those days).


More Hints tips on Techniques and general practice came in...


from Chiara 

...try not to put all your weight on the wrist but to distribute it over the all hand. Sometimes if you look at how you press the hans on the floor you see that the base of the thumb and first (?) fingers are not used very much as support.


from Stuart 

Use more serrates anterior when jumping/floating and keep it out the wrist


and my teacher Kristina Karitinou 

Please keep the fingers open and apart.the thump must be away from the fingers and push the point between finger and thump strongly on the floor!


and also Natasa 
...always push the ground away (power comes from scapula) and change regulary the placment of the hand - use the fingers. Kristina tip is also very fine...Hope you feel fine soon.


Peg recommended David's ultimate cure outlined in  full in the article above

Ice bucket. hold in for 1-2 minutes at a time. more if you can stand but I'm a big baby and never make it !!


How I generally approach Suryanamaskara at home

Krishnamacharya may not have actually taught Suryanamaskara (except perhaps a version with mantras). He did outline longer stays in each of the asana that make up the sun salutation. The stays he suggested tend to be ten minutes or so, I usually practice ten breaths in each, around a minute at each stage.

The video below is of the Krishnamacharya type approach to Sun Salutations I tend to take at home with the longer stays - Yeah, it's actual speed, 12 minutes for one Suryanamaskara, akin to watching paint dry. i got all floaty for the video but don't tend to bother especially for just the one. In the shala this week I was having so much fun practicing the sury's again that I through in some general floatyness.





More Therapy and a bit of magic

I'd been looking forward to trying out David's ice bucked techniques but my dear friend Susan had me cured in ten minutes with trigger point therapy...


Trigger Point therapy


from Susan Bysh

Try massaging extensor carpi radialis trigger point, in the meaty part of the top of the forearm, near the elbow....
If that is tender then bingo.

And it worked, just like that! A few minutes messaging the trigger point and the pain was gone, I'd come back to it every now and again and especially in the morning before practice and all was pretty much well again. i didn't want to over do it so settled for just a couple of light sury's and and the first half of Ashtanga 2nd ( less jump back anyway), just stepping back and forth, had a nice practice.

https://www.realbodywork.com/learn/hand/wristE.htm


I asked Susan about the book I remembered her recommending a while back

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self -Treatment Guide for Pain Relief: Your Self-Treatment for Pain Relief Paperback – 2 Aug 2004
by Clair Davies
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trigger-Point.../dp/1572243759

Check out Maya's review at Mayaland



And here's some more from Susan about what's going on with trigger points.

I think the wrist ones are some of the more obvious and convincing ones…. it seems like magic at first, but then you become very aware of the connections between the two areas and it all begins to seem obvious…. yes this muscle moves that part of the hand, and if it seizes up in a moment of stress or becomes traumatised, I will feel the effect in the hand, of course'….
And then we have learned something about the body at a deep intuitive level. The beauty of it also is that one can test the other side - hmmm no hand pain and no tender spot in the muscle on that side, pretty convincing. Or, if the muscle is a little tender on the other side too, then we can take preventative action!!

So extensor carpi radialis for pain on the top of the thumb side of the wrist… and the other common pain area is the underside of the pinky side, and for that we massage flexor carpi ulnaris, both up by the elbow and also down nearer the hand where it gets kind of ropey/tendinous. With this protocol I have had no wrist trouble in a couple of years despite all the arm balances and handstands, I just massage FCU on both sides a little each day. 

Susan Bysh is an Authorised Level 2 Ashtanga teacher and an old friend, some may remember her excellent and much missed blog.
She teaches in London at Yoga place 
http://www.yogaplace.co.uk/early-morning-mysore-teachers/

Picture hasn't been changed on the website yet so how about this 'wristy' one.

Susan Bysh - Mysore : Photo by Alessandro Sigismondi of Digital Drishti

*

More tips/suggestions came in that I would have liked to have tred but by then the problem was under control.... and Paul, what's a newspaper ( can I get the same effect from opening and closing my macbook)?


from Paul 
...take a large sheet of a newspaper in your hand by a corner and make a tight ball of it using just your fingers and the movement of your wrist, do that everyday with one or two sheets. It will strengthen all your digits' tendons, the muscle which activate the fingers in the forearm, thoroughly warm up and energise your hands and rid you of any pain (even carpal syndrome).


from Samantha 
I had a similar problem for years, after trying everything physiotherapists etc and nothing working I was advised by a friend and clever person to up my magnesium. I did and as well as calcium and vitamin d (plus a bit of natto for k2) after two months not a trace of a problem. The lump on my wrist has gone and even when I do things that would previously have caused pain for days nothing. Now it may just be coincidence and correlation is not causation but I'm fairly sure that's what helped my joint heal itself.


*

However, it turns out it may not have been jumping back and forth, floating up at all. Which would make sense as I've never had a problem before and can assume my technique and general practice improved over the years with all the videos I've looked at and shared here.

Alternative cause


Washer woman syndrome doesn't sound as cool as Gymnasts wrist


fb update: I was checking my hand placement, general technique this morning and it all seemed pretty sound but then I realised the problem may just have likely have come from wringing out (tightly) my freshly rinsed yoga towel. It's only now I'm visiting a hotter shala again each day that I've needed to rinse them out right away. . the plot thickens.


I remember my grandmother having one of these.... now I know why.

Feel free to 'jump in' with a comment below  if you have anything to add. Even though the problem seems to be sorted out there's lots of good advice and suggestions here that somebody else might find useful. Feel free to look at any of the videos below and tear into my general technique and practice...

Afterthoughts 

In general, my own practice tends to be stripped back more and more as time goes on. Gone are most of the fancy flourishes I used to go in for, my jump through tends to be a little Sharath like hop and I'll often skip them altogether and slip into Vinyasa krama mode in certain sections of my Ashtanga practice. Practicing with longer slower breathing plus kumbhaka I tend to settle for the first half of Primary or the first half of Intermediate. Can't remember the last time I bothered with arm balances.

That said, all the fun, the flourishes, the general floatyness and party tricks helped me to build my discipline, helped at those times when the enthusiasm was flagging. They certainly have their place apart from selling workshops and promoting webpages. According to the Yoga for the Three Stages of life theory, in the first and second stages it's perfectly acceptable to focus more on our asana practice, our strength, health and fitness, to work on building discipline, exploring tapas, building resolve in yama and niyama and introducing pranayama and meditative practices. However, it's in the third stage of life that those later limbs will come more to the fore when we are  free from the burdens of the householder and can retreat to the metaphorical if not actual forest.


And besides, although I've posted this video from Jessica Walden several times before it still fills me with awe, the breath here...., the composure, it's almost enough to tempt me back to arm balances....





UPDATE

Nice reminder in comments of how in Martial arts the wrists and other joints are often warmed up by being rotated this way and that. I remember this from my old Ashtanga days, it's also a warm up practice in Shadow yoga.

Sharath has argued stated that no warm up is necessary, that the suryanamaskara are enough but then he weighs about as much as a stick insect and has been practicing since he was a boy. Coming to practice later in life and carrying some extra weight, warming up the joints and cutting back on the vinyasas in the beginning may well be advisable.

Here's the Shadow Yoga Warmup with Emma Balnaves
Shadow yoga was developed by Shandor Remete who studied Yoga with Krishnamacharya as well as having a background in Martial art and Dance.


Pashasana and Jumping out of Bhjupindasana, supta kurmasana and Tittibhasana: Mathew Sweeney Mini workshop series for Love Yoga Anatomy




Ridgie didge mini tutorials from Mathew Sweeney for Love Yoga Anatomy. Love the tone of these, just couple of mates talking them through on a patio minus a couple of tinnies.

The first two are from Matthew's YouTube channel, the second two of the same series of mini workshops is from the Love Yoga Anatomy Channel, they have a Mini workshop series by several teacher there that I hadn't noticed before (click on the 'watch on youtube' option in the bottom left of each video.

If you happen to make a pigs bum of trying these out and get some wrist strain check out my next post on avoiding and overcoming said strain.



Sunday, 24 May 2015

More on Ashtanga Vinyasa Lineage, Tradition and Parampara (Update Paramaguru ?)

LINK

This morning I posted on the new magazine version of the Ashtanga Parampara interviews that I have been featuring here on the blog over the last couple of months.


LINK

In this post I want to pick over some of the ideas presented in the Ashtanga Pranampara Mission statement and intro. I do this because while I love Lu and these interviews and am interested in the stories of the excellent teachers involved, it concerns me that it may present a one sided view of what defines Ashtanga Vinyasa.

This is very much a personal, alternative view (it is a blog after all) of a mostly home Ashtanga vinyasa practitioner and of only eight years.

Home practice: Advanced series is unnecessary,
Primary or even half Primary are more than sufficient.

"Authorized and certified teachers have demonstrated strength and sacrifice towards this practice, leaving behind family, friends, and professional obligations to practice in Mysore, India, over the course of years. This guru-shishya tradition, also known as lineage or parampara, defines the Ashtanga practice, and is one of its most potent aspects.” Ashtanga Parampara

Looking at the first sentence

"Authorized and certified teachers have demonstrated strength and sacrifice towards this practice, leaving behind family, friends, and professional obligations to practice in Mysore, India, over the course of years."

This does indeed demonstrate commitment and sacrifice as well as perhaps a  passion for the practice. However in no sense, I would argue, is this required of the Ashtanga vinyasa lineage, all the sacrifice and commitment that is required is to (get on the mat and) practice as much as one is able in ones life presently as well as, more importantly, to try to bring the yama and niyamas, in whichever form they manifest themselves in our culture, into our day as much and as fully as possible. Somebody who practices daily year after year without making a single trip to Mysore or indeed to a shala, who never writes a blog post or posts a selfie on social media may be just as committed (perhaps more so) as any of the excellent teachers who grace Ashtanga Parampara.

"This guru-shishya tradition, also known as lineage or parampara, defines the Ashtanga practice, and is one of its most potent aspects.”

I would argue that while there is an ancient tradition of guru-shishya in which one would be guided in depth in all areas (limbs) of yoga practice (traditionally living with one's guru for seven years) and also clearly a modern tradition ( 'Tradition' is an interesting word in that it can suggest ancient and recent) of either visiting Mysore or wherever Manju may happen to be teaching or any other senior, long term practitioner for advice and guidance this certainly does not define the practice.

Practice defines the practice.

NOTE: This should in no way be interpreted as a criticism of Lu, the Interview platform nor anyone else who may hold the above view. I suspect that Ashtanga Parampara defining Ashtanga may well be Sharat's view, not surprising perhaps given his relationship with his grandfather. It may also be the view of many of the senior, long term practitioners who had a relationship with Pattabhi Jois. This post merely intended to present an alternative view, that a relationship with the practice may well be enough.


LINK

This lineage is a linking of movements to the breath, of embedding the asana in a vinyasa that includes it's pratkriya (counter), each breath counted (or implied). Krishnamacharya's flexible table of primary, middle and proficient groups of asana become fixed (but perhaps not too strictly) in a sequence of postures in his student Pattabhi Jois  (in response to a particular pedagogic situation IE. the request for a four year colleage syllabus) who also increased the number of drishti from two to nine. The focussing of attention was always a part of the lineage it seems as was the exploration of bandhas.

That lineage is available to us in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (1934), Yogasanagalu (1941) and in Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala (1950s), we see it in convenient table/chart form in Yogasanagalu and in the 1973 ( and may go back to the 1940s) syllabus that Pattabhi Jois gave to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams. There may have been some variations over the years, a slight reordering and shift of attention from full vinyasa to half vinyasa but the lineage essentially remains the same (although I would argue that the ball was dropped somewhat in leaving out kumbhaka, present in Krishnamacharya).

However we learn or have learned this practice, whether directly from Pattabhi Jois or from one of the teachers he himself taught or they taught in turn and so on down, whether from Yoga Mala directly or one of the books or videos produced by one of the students of Pattabhi Jois ( who suggested to Richard Freeman that he make a video), whether at home or in a shala. If we continue to practice pretty much in line with Yoga Mala ( and it offers several flexible options for practice) in a shala with or without a teacher, in a studio space or at home then I would argue we are very much following the lineage.

The practice is the lineage, not where or from who but practicing sincerely and ( here I very much agree with my friend  Lu) with commitment and some degree of sacrifice.

LINK to FULL 1973 Ashtanga syllabus

I've tended to see Authorisation as an unnecessary evil ( and I wonder how many of the interviewees in the Guruji book Lu refers too as an inspiration for his project are on the current authorised list). What we do have is Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala and that strikes me as about authoritative guide to this practice as we need, all the authorisation that we need. A chart/table based on that book showing the order of asana and vinyasa (along with it's caveats), the drishti, where to look for the bandhas is all that we require, that and it's practice, years of practice.

Note: When learning alone at home from materials presented by a teacher of this lineage it is also important to listen carefully to the teacher within, common sense, wisdom, the inner guru call it what you will. Know when to push ahead bravely and challenge perception of self as well as when to err on the side of caution and be patient for the strength and flexibility to arise in due course. The tendency, the temptation, is to rush ahead but there really is no hurry and there is nothing more frustrating than a foolishly brought on strained hamstring ( or worse) that makes practice uncomfortable for weeks on end. Ahmisa, non harming, begins with ourselves.


If we do want a teacher, help in this practice, than what we need to know perhaps is how long they have practiced with sincerity the methodology they propose to share.

Don't get me wrong there are great teachers out there, great guides to practice whether authorised or not, recognised or not.

The Yoga Tradition is vast but I remember Ramaswami (who was a student of Krishnamacharya for 33 years) saying that Patanjali's yoga Sutras and Vyasas commentary (which may have been written by the same hand) speak directly to us and it's only the commentaries that confuses us, likewise with the Gita, the Upanishads. Ramaswami also teaches that meditation can include the reading of appropriate texts. Our practice of bringing the yama and niyamas into our lives, our asana and pranyama, our pratyahara prepare us for our meditative activity. Our practice then is perhaps all the preparation we need for encountering and engaging these texts of similarly appropriate material of our own tradition and culture.

Teachers, Gurus, shastras (spiritual texts) are guides only, shortcuts, as I suggested in the previous post, the Yoga tradition  is based on a simple insight that reaches back before lineages and traditions and across cultures,we don't need to read any ancient text or visit a teacher to rediscover that first insight for ourselves.


Simplify your life

sit

focus the attention.

*


David Garrigues is excellent on lineage, tradition and parampara in the new Ashtanga Dispatch podcast, I highly recommend it.

http://pegmulqueen.com/2015/05/20/david-garrigues-2/
UPDATE
June 2016
PARAMAGURUA?

I was asked why Sharath is suddenly being referred to as Paramaguru (highest guru/guru of the parampara?) in the advertising for the current US Tour ( my reply become too long for an fb comment thus the post). At first I thought it might just be marketing on behalf of Sonima, the organisers of the tour, that was a depressing thought. However on digging it turned out that no other than Eddie Stern referred to Sharath as Paramaguru on his Brooklyn Yoga Club site earlier this year. A little more digging and I found last months Namarupa with a special on it's 2015 'Yantra' (Himalayan retreat/tour). It turns out that although this was the first time Sharath visited Uttarkashi and only stayed a few days the elder Sannyasis and Sadhus decided or were asked (was there a donation involved or was bringing 150 tourists to the flood damaged area enough) see http://tinyurl.com/jrwuola) to give him an honorary title, Paramaguru.


Read a full account in the new edition of Namarupa. Below are a few quotes from the relevant section. My favourite bit is Saraswati saying "With all credit going to Pattabhi Jois", a bit like the friend or slave who would stand in the chariot holding a laurel wreath above the head of a Roman general receiving a Triumph for a great victory whispering "Respice post te. Hominem te memento", remember thou art mortal (Look after you [to the time after your death] and remember you're [only] a man), this was to protect from hubris.

http://namarupa.org/

"The Guru tradition is one of the oldest foundations of the Hindu tradition. The Upanishads and Epics are filled with instructions, dialogues, and teachings of the great Gurus, Sages and Rishis. These teachings have been passed down to us over thousands of years. Holy places such as Banaras, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Uttarkashi, and beyond, have been the dwelling places of these revered teachers where in yoga's long past they performed tapas. To be able to perform sadhana in the same places where they did is considered to be a blessing. It is widely known that a Guru never calls himself a Guru—it is a title bestowed by his or her disciples. The Guru has no desire for fame, or for being revered; a Guru only has the desire to perform service to humanity, to teach the knowledge that is related to liberation, to be devoted to the removal of suffering, and nothing else. But sometimes the disciples of such a teacher wish to call him or her by a special name, and not simply by their given name. It is for this reason that we (?) sought out the counsel of the elder Sannyasis and Sadhus of Uttarkashi, who also agreed that it was time for Sharathji and Saraswathiji to be formally bestowed with titles, and who, after conferring among themselves, decided upon an honorific title for each of them...

"After learning for a very long period of time—because it takes good time to learn from the teacher properly —then we are supposed to practice on our own, mananam. For mananam, the disciple who really wants to practice on his own now comes from Kasi to Haridwar and Rishikesh and stays there. He does a lot of contemplation on whatever he's been learning. He starts studying by himself and he becomes master over the teaching. Once he becomes master, he travels to Himalayas, to Uttarkashi. He stays here; he rests in his knowledge, nidhidhyasana. This is the place of nidhidhyasana. Whatever he has learnt in Banaras (Kashi), and contemplated in Rishikesh and Haridwar, when he comes here, he lives it, he becomes a yogi. Until then, he's a student. If you come here and stay amongst the sadhus, then you take upadhi of a real yogi...

"[To Sharath] Now we consider you as one of us. That you now can become a leader, and lead us. Because you have properly understood whatever has been taught by parampara. We are very happy to have Sharath here, who has taken part in the parampara itself. From today onwards, we call this upadhi, Amma, as Guru Ma. And Sharathji as Paramaguru R. Sharath Jois...

Now, from today onwards, there’s a bigger responsibility of leading the world onwards on the path of yoga...

RSJ: Thank you. 

Saraswathi Jois: With all credit going to Pattabhi Jois.

RSJ: [to students]: You have wealth, you have book knowledge. You have everything. If you don't put your mind towards adhyatama, your heart towards spirituality, towards jnana, it's no use having this life, having everything. Guru is very important. Guru is the one who teaches, who will take us towards that jnana which is the true knowledge. He removes all the obstacles in us and he removes all the pollution in us. He gives us the true knowledge, jnana. It has touched my heart deeply, all the love and affection everyone has given. Thank you so much. See you again. 


*

Earlier in the article devoted to Sharath's conference speeches he has this to say about the practice, parampara and the guru

"This practice that we are doing is an age-old practice; it has come from parampara, from the guru -shishya parampara—from Guru to his shishyas, Guru to his students. When a student becomes a master, then he becomes a Guru and passes his knowledge on to his students. Like this, the yoga knowledge has been passed on for generations. As we know it in this form of Ashtanga Yoga, it has come from maybe 300 years ago—I don’t know for how many generations this knowledge has been passed on".


And below Sharath talking about the idea of Guru with Sonia Jones of Sonima, the organisers of Sharath's current US tour.




The question of parampara came up at his years Ashtanga yoga Confluence, here's a recap from Tim Miller's blog.

This past Sunday during the final panel discussion of the 2016 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, a question was asked about the concept of Parampara and how it is interpreted in the Ashtanga tradition. David Swenson reminded all of us that Guruji’s own eldest son, Manju, was present in the room, and if anyone could be considered the true lineage holder it would be him. Everyone in the room stood up and gave Manju an ovation. It was a very moving moment. I looked over at Dena and saw her eyes welling up with tears just like mine. Manju was very gracious and said that as far as he was concerned, all of us sharing the stage with him and countless other teachers throughout the world are all part of the Parampara.

Update
New video uploaded today on Sharath's Youtube channel, sharath jois rangaswamy, titled Paramaguru, Sharath Jois Yoga Class in New York.



Commentary - you may wish to skip this bit.

Sharath's relationship with his grandfather clearly had a powerful and influential effect on him, leading him to stress the concept of parampara in his teaching. Personally the concept doesn't interest me in the slightest, not in reference to Sharath (who I do happen to respect as a practitioner and teacher, as I do anyone who has practiced as long or longer than he has) or teachers I've spent a little time with like Manju (who jokingly calls out "Never fear guru's here" when he enters the shala at the beginning of a workshop) or Ramaswami or even Krishnamacharya for that matter . I find the concept of the guru and parampara, as presented, along with that of 'a lineage' or 'tradition' unnecessary and perhaps the most off-putting aspect of recent Ashtanga. In this Krishnamacharya 'tradition' ( I prefer 'approach' or 'method' to tradition) it's enough perhaps to practice daily and for a long time some appropriate asana, a little pranayama but to focus more on working with Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (or another appropriate meditative practice) and not worry too much about what you call it, who taught it or where it came from (very much aware of the irony here given the nature of this mostly retired blog).

I'm too cynical of origin narratives perhaps, and coming from the UK, of honorary titles, such titles appear to elevate the holder and of course all those who claim association, in this case Sharath's students and those Authorised and/or Certified by the 'paramaguru'. Surely, playing the game and not calling yourself a guru yet accepting an honorary title like Paramaguru (The Guru of a parampara or specific tradition ) and allowing it to be used extensively in promotion suggests a worrying contradiction. Apart from anything, although he would probably throw something at me if I addressed him as guru, it's surely insulting to Pattabhi's Jois' still living and actively teaching son Manju who has been passing along this approach to practice for over fifty years).

Perhaps it's best we just agree to disagree on this.

Ashtanga Parampara, Tradition and Lineage

Nice to see that Lu Duong and team have turned the excellent Ashtanga Parampara interviews into a magazine/book.

"Last winter, Laura Shaw Feit, offered to create/design the Ashtanga Parampara interviews into a free downloadable booklet. The final product is beyond what I imagined". Lu Duong

As Lu indicates in the title,  mission statement and opening greeting, these interviews are about a sharing, passing on of teaching, they are about the relationship between the interviewee and their teacher but also about the interviewee and their own students, about community, sangha.

And yet it also struck me that the cover and all of the pictures within except for those accompanying Anna Muzzin's interview are of solitary practice. The cover shows us a mat in an attic, those within are icon images of isolation, vast rooms, cliffs, the ocean, a doorway, home practice comes to us all sooner or later it seems. I'm reminded of an excellent picture of David Garrigues practicing in a cluttered  narrow hallway (see end of post for a link to DG's new podcast on Ashtanga Dispatch).

The magazine/book, Volume One,  contains seven of the fifteen interviews currently on the Ashtanga Parampara website



Here then is the cover, the mission statement, opening greeting and contents.


LINK






Lu's interviews are with Authorised teachers in the Ashtanga vinyasa tradition


I've tended to see Authorisation as an unnecessary evil, we have Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala and that strikes me as about authoritative guide to this practice as we need. A chart/table based on that book showing the order of asana and vinyasa (along with it's caveats), the drishti, where to look for the bandhas is all that we require that and it's practice, years of practice.

If we do want a teacher, help in this practice, than what we need to know perhaps is how long they have practiced with sincerity the methodology they propose to share.

There are great teachers out there, great guides to practice whether authorised or not, recognised or not.

Epstein's Jacob and the angel,
...what we wrestle against and what supports us
the obstacles and their gifts 

Lineage is learning the practice, the methodology, however you may appropriate it and then passing it along in turn.

Tradition is something else altogether perhaps, the Hatha tradition and the Yoga tradition with which it's mingled, there are excellent scholars some who also practice, Krishnamacharya was such a man, Pattabhi Jois also perhaps... if we're lucky we may find a guide who is able to assist us in our investigation, reading, and practice of the tradition as well as of the lineage otherwise we may need to find a lineage teacher and a tradition teacher separately.

The tradition however is based on a simple insight that reaches back before lineages and traditions and across cultures. And we don't need to read any ancient text or visit any teacher to rediscover that first insight for ourselves.

Simplify your life

sit

focus the attention.

There appears to have been a lot of sitting before before the Vedas and the Upanishads, centuries of sitting before Patanjali collected his aphorisms and centuries more before the Hatha texts began to appear. 

Krishnamacharya wrote Yoga Makaranda in 1934. Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala is from the 1950s. Norman Allan, David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff encountered Pattabhi Jois in Mysore the 1970s.



David Garrigues is excellent on lineage, tradition and parampara in the new Ashtanga Dispatch podcast, I highly recommend it.

http://pegmulqueen.com/2015/05/20/david-garrigues-2/

See also perhaps my follow up post

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

"The word yoga itself is said to have seventeen meanings": Theos Bernard



The word yoga itself is said to have seventeen meanings:
from Heaven Lies Within Us by Theos Bernard.

  • Union, or methods of union.
  • Any outside thing uniting any other outside thing.
  • To mix one thing with another, as sugar with water.
  • To unite cause with effect, as sparks with fire.
  • The method of properly decorating, keeping things in their proper places.
  • Some symbolised word which reveals an internal meaning, as a cable code, proverb, or aphorism; these are also called Yoga.
  • To hide one thing and to try to show another, signifying a thing without telling about it, as a hint, or as a magician would do.
  • Different significances of words, which vary according to different minds.
  • Physical exercise.
  • Proper composition of language to convey description.
  • Any sort of skill or dexterity.
  • Methods to protect what one possesses, materially, mentally and spiritually.
  • To find means for acquiring things by deep contemplation, as the solution of a problem in mathematics or in engineering, or the unveiling of a plot as in a problem story.
  • Conversion of one substance into another, such as the creation of something new out of a known substance, as in chemistry.
  • To unite two souls for any purpose.
  • To produce a current of thought for any specific attainment, to take any specific object or concept and make the mind follow it to the exclusion of all else.
  • To suspend all metal activity, to concentrate the heart upon one particular thing.
A reader , Donny, got in touch a while back saying he was starting up a website/blog and could he use some of the material from here. I was happy to oblige,and besides I have this blog down as creative commons licence anyway. Donny got in touch again this week to say it was up and running, it contains some excellent material I hadn't come across before.

The site is called  Kaohsiung Yoga after the city of the same name in Taiwan where Donny has his studio.

I particularly like the four part post on Theos Bernard, who went to India and Tibet in the 30s and 40s in search of Yoga. His phd thesis was turned into a book and is still my favourite treatment of the Hatha yoga Pradipka in that it's Theos' experience of being taught HYP as a manual, no doubt it's original intention.

My own edition stumbled upon in a UK charity shop a few years back.


Donny's four part Theos Bernard post is based on another work of Theos Bernard, pretty much an autobiography called Heaven lies within. Donny quotes extensively from the book in his posts.




More quotes from the book HERE


A nice overview of Theos Bernard's life, not Wikipedia for a change.
http://c250.columbia.edu/c250_celebrates/remarkable_columbians/theos_bernard_scholar.html

The above article is by Paul G. Hackett who wrote this biography of Theos Bernard which I still haven't gotten around to buying, although I did spend all afternoon reading part of it in a bookshop in Santa Monica while on Ramaswami's TT coulrse at LMU.



"There is a broader meaning to Yoga than is commonly supposed. Indeed, it will be found that most persons are practicing Yoga in one form or another at all times; strictly speaking, Yoga is nothing more nor less than the rules of life. Such rules, however, are practiced without system, without real direction, and it is the function of Yoga to provide this system, so that life may be conducted in the light of method instead of in the shadow of confusion. People who go to worship regularly in the churches are practicing Bhakti yoga, those who derive spiritual nourishment from music are practicing Mantra Yoga, those who seek joy and solace in mental activities are following the path of Jnana Yoga, and those who train the body for their happiness are in a mild way practicing Hatha Yoga." Theos Bernard - Heaven lies within us.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Flying cars and Is Ashtanga a spiritual practice? Also Opening a shala/studio in Osaka

Reply to a comment on my previous post
Home practice.... but in a Shala. 5:30am. Wake Up. Practice..... Next Morning - Repeat.


You don't have a flying car? Oh I forgot everywhere else is five years or so behind Japan. No, I did not know they were making a Blade Runner sequel, not sure how I feel about that either.

Friend was over from the UK yesterday, I was showing them Osaka, this very conversation came up while walking past all the stand up counter noodle bars, my friend was feeling very Harrison Fordian.

Tenoji , Osaka at night (was here with friends yesterday.
I still don't know what 'spiritual' means (these new fangled words, how does one keep up), what I do know is that so many meditation practices say to begin with the breath, spend the first couple of years just watching the breath. Mediator's start with twenty minutes, forty an hour at a time. In Ashtanga we spend 90-120 minutes (or longer), ideally just watching the breath. I don't know many mediator's, lay Zen or otherwise who spend that long in one sitting (although often broken up with walking meditation). So the question is how much distraction do we allow by getting wrapped up in the asana or whatnot.

I personally found slower practice helped, can watch each inhalation and exhalation from beginning to end, coming back to that constantly makes a profound difference to my practice. More recently I've worked on shifting that focus from the breath to the focal points that Krishnamacharya mentions and that his son Sribashyam draws attention to, this too is a profound practice. Does it bring me close, to God, Universal consciousness? I still have no idea what they mean but it does give a very real experience of what is so often an intellectual idea of 'not being', all the nonsense that passes through the head,... 'in the world' but not necessarily 'of the world'.... bit of a bugger that for a Heideggerian.

Does all this make it a spiritual practice? I have no idea but I think breath focus and not losing track of that being what the practice is really about is either an end in itself or, if a spiritual path is what somebody is looking for, then a pretty impressive beginning.

And then there is the Yoga three stages for life idea, all this can be seen as preparation for that time when kids and household commitments have passed and we can retire to the metaphorical ( or actual) forest and really begin our practice.

Ultimately however athletic, gymnastic, asana obsessed somebodies practice may or may not be doesn't really matter ( so to all those who saying  'X' isn't yoga, please, get over yourselves), it's the long game that matters and most of us are just passing through the second stage of life anyway, time enough for that third stage. Leave somebody else's practice to them to worry about it and attend to our own, Yoga has survived one way or other for thousands of years we probably don't need to 'protect' it as much as we think. Just lay out your stall and somebody can stop or walk on by and perhaps come back later.... or not.


LINK to earlier post


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Just seen that fb have offered up a picture (or rather a screenshot) of something I posted on this day a year ago, still agree with it and consider it the practice.


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Opening a Yoga shala/studio in Osaka, Japan

Possibility has come up ( friend got in touch who is moving into the same building) of opening a shala/studio in Osaka, just down the road in fact. Quite excited but also terrified by the idea.

Mentioning and showing pictures will probably jinx the deal but if it doesn't happen anyway then posting these might give me the push to seek out another location.

The idea I have in my head is calling it something like


Slow Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama Yoga - Osaka.

My own classes would be Slow Ashtanga as based on Krishnamacharya's early books as well as classes on Vinyasa Krama but in the morning Mysore program anyone could come and practice however the hell they wanted, Regular Ashtanga, Slow Ashtanga, Vinyasa Krama, Power yoga with bells on, Home practice but in a shala.

May know this afternoon if it's going to happen but if not.....




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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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