Wednesday, 13 December 2017

On deleting my fb timeline and Ashtanga as comfort food

from 28th Novemeber 2017

Over the last couple of weeks I've gone about deleting my fb timeline. Fb doesn't like this it seems, they don't make it easy and you have to go back through the years deleting every photo, every post, every tag, one by one. I think it's this, this making it so difficult to do, that inspired me to keep at it.

Why make it so difficult, why do you want to keep hold of all those old posts, all that information about me, hmmmm we can guess perhaps.

I left up this note.

And so it went on, month by month, year by year, a time machine of sorts.

I came across photos of kidney stones and a little further back a photo of my drenched in sweat yoga towel, hindsight is truly 20/20. And before that another kidney stones photo and a little before that photo after photo of green smoothies and posts on my excitement at discovering them. Turns out raw spinach ( present in most of those green smoothies I was knocking back twice daily) was likely the main cause of the kidney stones, that and sweating so much that all the liquid I was drinking around practice, never got to pass through my kidneys, passing straight through my skin into my yoga towel.

It was around this time I slowed my practice right down and practiced in a cooler room - sans sweat, sans smoothie sans kidney stones.

Note: Not everyone is susceptible to kidney stones of course, or the same kind of stones, spinach and sweating may be perfectly fine for you.

Deleting post after post....., seen as a letting go of attachments, there's some yoga in it perhaps. I do feel somewhat lighter.

There were several

'Will I, wont I?

posts on visiting Mysore.

It was never likely, mostly a brief consideration once a year that perhaps I SHOULD rather than that I ever particularly wanted to. Striking was my growing indifference to India in relation to yoga. For yoga to be of any value whatsoever it stuck me that it should be universal, in which case place and time are mostly irrelevant. Yoga, as the impetus to turn within, reflect and perhaps act on that reflection, is everywhere in some form or other ( this is not the same as suggesting that anything IS yoga), not Hatha perhaps ( which I tend to dismiss - a distraction?) but the inspiration for yoga. 'We may as well chant in Latin or Greek as Sanskrit or just sing something, anything affecting' (Krishnamacharya/Ramaswami), a good swim in the lake or walk in the hills as well as jumping about on a posh rubber mat, breathing calmly, naturally as well as endless ratios and combinations of breath, as well stand and pause as Sit, tread softly as well as memorising yama/niyamas.

I may not see God in the kumbhakas taken in asana that Krishnamacharya indicated, but often there is indeed a... serenity, a sufficiency perhaps in those short kumbhakas that remind me somewhat of standing beside the lake when it's at it's calmest. Samadhi has been described as 'sufficiency', perhaps the old yogi was indeed on to something.

For you you of course it may well BE India that speaks to you, for me it's an old (really really old actually) lake.

Lake Biwa, Shiga, Japan.


A friend caught a cold recently and mentioned comfort food, a toasted cheese sandwich for her.

It's rice gruel for M. and tended to be bread and milk for me although of late I lean towards M.'s Udon. For you it might be Chicken soup....

After coming across (and deleting) all my old Ashtanga posts from fb, I became all nostalgic and practiced a pretty straight, by the book'ish ( for me), half Primary /Half Second series Ashtanga with M. one weekend.

It struck me that Ashtanga was, is, my comfort food.

That might surprise those who are still new to Primary and struggling or those who maintain the struggle into 2nd, 3rd...., 4th and so on.

But for those who never bought into the aggressive approach, let go of the struggle and just savoured the damn thing, practicing where they are (physically rather than locationally) that morning, a meditative practice rather than bootcamp...., practice can indeed be comforting.... perhaps boot camp can be too, I was pretty hardcore for a while, was it comforting? It was meditative and then it wasn't and then it was again.

What struck me most through, going back through my timeline and deleting post after post, were the comments from friends. How at one point I knew everyone in my friends list and felt I had a relationship of sorts, however long distance and electronic it may have been, with everyone who commented. And sad to see that some names no longer appeared in comments, how many I must have alienated in my trying to come to terms with the practice. How one or two I had seen as.... troublesome had earlier written the friendliest, sweetest, kindest comments that I had sadly long forgotten.

Note;: A month or so back it struck me that having 2000 'friends' was somewhat insane and I unfriended (horrid expression) much of my fb friends list, except for those I felt I actually had somewhat of a relationship with, whether as family and friends, long time readers and commenters, Cybershala friends, people I'd interacted with over years on fb or perhaps those who had come to my workshops. Mostly I think, those who had sent me a friend request but had perhaps not interacted with me in any way and I hoped wouldn't miss me or perhaps even notice. My apologies if I unfriended somebody I shouldn't have, whose name or profile picture I perhaps didn't recognise as I got faster and faster at the process on the small screen of my phone.

A friend mentioned recently how she was grateful to the blogosphere, the cybershala of Ashtanga bloggers and commenters who connected for a few years back there before blogging was overcome somewhat by fb and Instagram, just as blogging had taken over from the online Yoga and yahoo groups and pages. I too am grateful, for the friends I made (one of whom I'm meeting for lunch for the first time today) through my own blog and those I followed and somewhat remorseful to think of those I pushed away with my writing, through being an arse and at some point taking myself and what I thought I was doing (too) seriously. I should have read more Marcus (Aurelius), now there's some yama/niyamas for ya.

I recommend this quite wonderful, newish, translation

I just have time for practice before heading off to meet my old Cybershala friend. I'll wave my arms around for a bit (Simon's spinal movements) before settling into a comforting half Primary Ashtanga.

Is it the best practice?
Probably not.

Is it that old?

Was it designed?
The evidence suggests not.

Is it comforting?
After all these years, yes, it's certainly that. Practiced sincerely...., with commitment, it's of value perhaps.

And practiced kindly, mostly harmless

It may as well be a Krishnamacharya, Manju Jois and Richard Freeman inspired, Simon Borg-Olivier informed, slightly Vinyasa Krama modified, soft, slow, half Primary/half Second Series Ashtanga Yoga home, as anything else.

Note: Ashtanga is a Vinyasa Krama (even Sharath has even taken to referring to it as such of late). The 'Vinyasa krama' sequences Ramaswami presents are for training purposes, to see the relationships between similar asana, ultimately we would choose from these different sequences, subroutines and asana when choosing our practice each day. An Ashtanga series already includes a variety of asana such that we address most areas of the body to some extent but we might wish to turn to the Vinyasa Krama syllabus to modify our practice if and when it seems advisable. We may also choose to approach certain key asana as Krishnamacharya instructed in his early Mysore texts, slower breathing and some longer stays in certain asana with the appropriate kumbhaka ( See my Proficient primary page). However we practice, Krishnamacharya strongly recommended that asana be followed by breathing exercises and a meditative activity and be practiced within the context of appropriate yama/niyama.


Monday, 20 November 2017

Current practice: Dropping (much of) Standing, Seated and moving straight to inversions. Asana with pranayama, entry and exit from headstand

"For people over fifty, it is enough to practice some of the easier and more useful asanas, as well as some of the pranayamas." Pattabhi Jois -Yoga Mala

But why wait till fifty?


It fascinates me how my practice always seems to settle back into the same old Ashtanga that seeped into the marrow of my bones through all those years of daily practice. It may be a Richard Freeman inspired, Simon Borg-Olivier informed, slightly Vinyasa Krama modified, soft, slow, half Primary/half Second Series Ashtanga but Ashtanga all the same.

I love the practice below and I still start my practice with Simon's Spinal movements before moving on to five sury's ( 3 A/ 2 B). Most of standing though, seems to have elbowed it's way back in and it's pretty standard fare up to Navasana (though Bharadvajrasana in place of Marichiyasana D, as Manju suggested once), before slipping into a YogaSynergy Fundamentals/Vinyasa Krama Bow half 2nd Ashtanga.

The inversion vinyasa's below are fun and I've kept them for now but suspect I'll end up going back to longer static sarvangasana and sirsasana.

Whatever I practice before pranayama strikes me as MOSTLY unimportant ( it could be tai chi, Qi Gong or a long swim just as well as Ashtanga), I'm under no illusion that this was designed as a series or particularly that old, rather a wonderful accident of circumstance but I might as well allow the practice that stole my heart all those years ago to settle back into it's rightful place.


My current practice, still very much work in progress (when isn't it?).  

Standing strongly influenced by Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss's Yoga Synergy Spinal Sequence, 

Seated influenced by Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama, 

Inversions influenced by Krishnamacharya's early shoulderstand  and headstand vinyasa...., plus ten years of Ashtanga.

Actual speed is approx 40 minutes, I spent less time in some of the asana as well as in the static versions of shoulder stand and headstand than usual, as a rule the whole practice takes about an hour.
Actual speed version to come.

Actual speed, bit wobbly in places still

It took me a long time to come around to these movements in standing, for the longest time all I saw was arm waving. THIS series of videos from Simon Borg-Olivier, where he explains what is happening anatomically, physiologically in all the movements as well as the surya namaskara and  several asana went someway to bringing me around  but even then what I was looking for was a similar explanation for the asana I was already practicing in Ashtanga or in Vinyasa Krama (which Simon has done in his 84 key asana course). In the end it takes a leap of faith, just practicing these movements for a week or two, incorporating them into your regular practice.

some blog posts
On Simon's spinal sequence and diaphragmatic breathing

On YogaSynergy fundamentals course

On Simon's 84 key asana course

And a new Blog of mine bringing together my posts on this

In the photos of the practice below I've shown the basic standing spinal movements then the different foot positions those spinal movements are repeated in. I've only shown the one side.


The post below was originally from August 2017, reposting it for the sun salutation update

My Current practice

A shift (or evolution) from Proficient Primary (see page above) to a more 'Spinal/active movements' approach, inspired by Simon Borg-Olivier

I seem to be dropping most of Ashtanga Primary Standing and Seated postures altogether and moving straight from an opening Spinal sequence to inversions. The few classic seated postures with pranayama exercises I do include, I enter and exit, hands free, from Sirsasana.

Spinal movements

Surya namaskara
(Can't quite bring myself to drop these altogether)
Simon Borg-Olivier's Simplified/subtle (Method 3) sun salutation x 5, followed by Method 1 Supine sun salutation x3 - see video below

Paschimattanasana /Purvatanasana
Maha Mudra/Janu Shirshasana D
(optional marichiyasana)

Sarvangasana prep
Urdhva Dhanurasana

Sarvangasana - static 5 mins,
Sarvangasana vinyasas

Sirsasana - static 5-10 mins
Sirsasana entry to seated asana inc. pranayama exercises.
- gomukhasana - 30 inhalation

- baddha konasana - 30 second kumbhaka after exhalation
- Baddha padmasana 
- Padmasana Nadi shodhana - 20 second kumbhaka after inhalation

Sit - Siddhasana


I've been asked where one can find more on this approach.

See this post for an intro into Simon's approach, with videos, links etc

Simon Borg-Olivier made me fall in love with my SPINE all over again

For those not sure about the arm waving, and it took me a while to come around, I recommend Simon's 84 key asana course, see this post where I include a concordance with Ashtanga.

I hear Simon has an online Ashtanga course in the editing stage, should be excellent.

I'm just about to start Simon's 13 week online Yoga Therapy course, more on that to come.


The videos below give an idea of my current approach to practice.

Spinal movements in different foot positions including a slower version......,

The first five minutes of the video below shows Simon demonstrating some of the spinal movements.

Below- lengthening the inhalation and exhalation, so, one inhalation for both sides of the first exercise/vinyasa, one exhalation for both sides of the second twisting 'exercise/vinyasa

I might include one or more active movement variations of standing asana

After the spinal movements I might do a couple of sury's

Simon Borg-Olivier's Simplified/subtle (Method 3) sun salutation x 5, followed by Method 1 Supine sun salutation x3 - see video below

I've started skipping standing and most seated postures altogether and am going straight into some shoulderstand preparation postures, these too perhaps from Simon which strike me as important, a revelation in fact. I'm exploring introducing the principles Simon outlined below into my inversion vinyasas - posts to come on this. See Appendix for more from Simon.

Followed by some shoulderstand prep from Vinyasa Krama that Krishnamacharya/Ramaswami recommended.

After a five minute static shoulderstand, lengthening the inhalation and exhalation to twenty seconds for each, I'm tending to include the vinyasas below from Krishnamachary's old 1938 Mysore film footage, as well as perhaps a few other of his vinyasas that may come to mind.

I finish shoulderstands with the standard vinyasas from Ashtanga Finishing, leading into padma mayurasana, followed by...

Urdhva danhurasana

Sirsasana, a five minute static headstand, lengthening the inhalation and exhalation to twenty seconds for each.... followed by the asana below entered from sirsasana and including different pranayama exercises.

The videos below don't include the pranayama.

Gomukhasana - 3 breaths each side - lengthening the inhalation to thirty seconds

Bharadvajrasana - Lengthening the exhalation to thirty seconds

Baddha Konasana A - Kumbhaka: Holding the breath out for thirty seconds

Padmasana: Nadi shodhana 12 rounds - 1:4:2:1 A twenty second Kumbhaka after the inhalation

Back up to sirsasana to stretch out the legs before lowering and entering siddhasana hands free for a twenty or forty minute Sit.


Friday, 17 November 2017

'...the Yoga Korunta, which was written on palm leaves' - on preserving palm leaf manuscripts

A new clip from the recent documentary, Mysore yoga Traditions.

See my earlier review perhaps of the recent documentary
Mysore yoga Traditions
Trailer at the end of the post.

Preserving palm leaf manuscripts.

Stills below from the clip.

below, from an earlier post.

'...the Yoga Korunta, which was written on palm leaves'

'The method of Yoga taught at KPJAYI is that which has been told by the ancient Sage Vamana in his text called “Yoga Korunta.” Although many books on Yoga have been written, Vamana is the only one who has delineated a complete practical method. In the 1920’s, the Yogi and Sanskrit Scholar, T. Krishnamacharya traveled to Calcutta where he transcribed and recorded the Yoga Korunta, which was written on palm leaves and was in a bad state of decay, having been partially eaten by ants. Later, Krishnamacharya passed on these teachings to the late Pattabhi Jois, whose school continues to teach this method today'.

I've often wondered what a palm leaf manuscript looked like, well here they are

I'm as sceptical as the next guy about the Yoga Korunta and had pretty much decided it was a myth, a real myth not a well presented argument (whether you agree with it or not) dismissed as a myth.

However, though there is no mention of it in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makarnada,  I noticed this in the book credits in the first Introduction of Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu


I did not attempt a detailed review of all ancient yoga treatises since it will make this book very long and perhaps cause boredom to the readers.  Please forgive.  This writing is mainly based on the following texts:

Upanishads related to yoga
Learning’s from my Guru and self-experience

Certainly not looking to revisit the old Yoga Korunta discussion, not too bothered these days whether it did or did not exist, mainly wanted to show some pictures of palm leave manuscripts.


See my earlier review perhaps of the recent documentary
Mysore yoga Traditions

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Karana Krama and Are Qi Gong and Yoga complimentary or mutually exclusive?

"Karana Krama as part of the practice of hatha yoga has nothing to do with the aesthetics of Indian dance and the practice of martial arts, but the basic movements are borrowed from preparatory techniques of Indian dancers, Kalaripayattu and contemporary Australian teachers of hatha yoga Sandor Remete (Shadow Yoga) and Simon Borg-Olivier (Yoga Synergy), which over the years developed their practice of yoga asanas and pranayama, using elements of the martial arts of India and China, as well as the experience of the traditional Ayurvedic and modern knowledge of anatomy and physiology."
Mikhail Baranov: "Karana-Krama as a Standard of Movement in Hatha-Yoga"

From this Wildyogi article

Enjoyed watching this video from Mikhail Baranov as well as reading the article but I'm starting to wonder how complimentary Chinese Qi Gong and the postural yoga that tends to be associated with India are.

Here's Mikhail again, a particularly interesting section of the article

"How does vinyasa- and asana-krama differ, you would ask, from well-known vinyasas and less known dynamic techniques like sukshma- and stulha-vyayamas?

Main features:

  1. Promoting “active flexibility” – the main range of movements (bends forward and backward, twists,  rotations, lunges and others) are done without “arms”, for example, in a standing position we move one leg aside and put it back without support of the arms (a sequence Utthita-padangushthasana 1 – Utthita-padangushthasana 2 – Ardha-chandrasana). Backbends, bends forward in twists are also done without help of the arms, the main movements of the spine are fulfilled due to more active work of the body muscles.
  2. Warming up and redistribution of the muscular tone are fulfilled using special techniques inherent to hatha-yoga and yoga-therapy.
  3. Developing standard of the movement – gradual awareness and optimization of habitual movement stereotypes. All movements of arms and legs purposely include work of torso muscles and the spine as well.
  4. Developing skills of concentration and volumetric attention through coordination of breathing and movement.
  5. Stimulating movement of the prana and taking control over prana-vajyu (subtle vital force) – application of bandhas (special means of muscular tone redistribution) and kumbhakas (breath detention) in a context of dynamic practices.
Besides, series of karana-krama movements as well as asana sequences are characterized by using the following techniques regulating the movement of Prana-vajyu and increasing blood circulation without negative influence to the heart:
  1. Using the force of gravity (inverted positions)
  2. Regulation of heart rate (techniques activating the parasympathetic tone of the ANS)
  3. Purposeful work of respiratory muscles (ujjayi, uddiyana-bandha, tadagi-mudra)
  4. Active involvement of muscular micropumps
  5. Joint bandhas
  6. Asanas are fulfilled in a certain sequence when configuration of elongated and strained muscles creates conditions that cause the circulation of blood from high pressure zone to low pressure zone.
  7. Relocation of attention
Thus, karana-krama is an interesting, effective and useful addition to the practice of classical asanas and vinyasas".

I can see why we might want to appropriate Qi Gong to compliment our overly static asana practice but What does asana offer Qigong other than myriad Instagram accounts.

Are they not perhaps mutually exclusive? After employing Qi Gong to move the Energy/Prana/Chi around the body nicely and  clear any 'blockages' we then BIND ourselves in a posture???

Does binding make any sense in Qi Gong? I'm guessing but wouldn't that create more blockages than you'd just got rid of.

Perhaps, I'm still too ignorant and on a steep Qi Gong learning curve but the breathing too seems different, contradictory even, there's movement rather than postures and what of my beloved inversions, do they have a place other than with the Shaolin boys?

And yet it all seems to make more sense somehow and best of all it's almost impossible to make Qi Gong look cool..

....unless you're Mikhail or Simon or practicing in you eighties perhaps

Qi Gong is delightfully uninstagramable.

It started off for me as a preparatory practice, taking the place of my pre Ashtanga ten minute tadasana Vinyasa Krama, now it's becoming the main event.

How unexpected and unlooked for, the turns in the path. "Oh, OK, this way then".

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

माया māyā (Illusion) November 2017 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswam

 November 2017 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--माया māyā (Illusion)

I am planning to go to India end November and stay there for about 4 months. I am scheduled to teach two programs at Yoga Vahini in Chennai-- a 20 hr Samkhyakarika program in January 2018 and a 100 hr Advanced Vinyasakrama TT program in Vinyasakrama Yoga in February. Then a 50 hr  ten day program on Bhagavatgita at Omyoga in New Delhi in March 2018 . Then the same Bhagavatgita in Hyderabad, @ Yogavahini (March 20 to 29th 9948312492) You may get the details of the programs in my website

I am also likely to do a few other programs in 2018, . I may teach a weekend workshop in Germany in May, a week long programs in Austin TX in June, a week long program on the twin subjects of Samkhyakarika and yogasutras at Loyola Marymount University ( July 28 to August 4), Yogayagnyavalkya a weekend program in Chicago in September and possibly a week long Core vinyasakrama yoga program at Yogakanda, Santiago in Chile in October 2018 ( Once the details are confirmed I will have  them  listed in the Events page of my website.

माया māyā (Illusion)

Disciple: Guruji. I have been hearing that there are a few philosophers who say that the universes is not real but only an illusion.
Guruji: Yes they do
D: How can they say that this universe of bricks and mortar and me made of bones and muscles is an illusion?
G: Are you sure that what you see and feel is real.
D: Most certainly, it is obvious. Can there be any doubt?
G: Those philosophers are sure that the universe is merely an illusion just as you are sure that it is all real.
D: How can this be an illusion? It is real, can't they see that it is all real. Won't they feel the pain if hurt?
G: Just as we see they also see this universe, still they assert that it can only be an illusion. They are reasonable thinkers,truth seekers and sincere people: that is why they are called rishis. Since they also have the same experience as we have but still come to a different conclusion we must spare  some time to find out why they say so--try to find what they see that we do not seem to see.

D: What is the Sanskrit word for this illusion we are talking about?
G: There are a few but the most well known one is माया māyā

D; I find that this word is interpreted differently
G: True. It could be different due to the context but it could also depend upon how the word is broken down, analyzed. Usually this samasa (compound word) is split (vigraha) into mA plus yA. Let us restrict the interpretation to the present context which is about the universe. It is "yA mA sA mAya". It is easy to find the meaning of the word 'yA' and it would mean 'the one' in feminine gender.

D: Why feminine gender?
G: It is a peculiarity with Sanskrit . All nouns are masculine, feminine or neuter gender. One reason why the word yA is used is because it is associated with creation.. mother
D: Oh
GL Let us get to the part 'mA' now.

D: 'Yes I see now, 'mA' is mother in many Indian languages and maybe an abbreviation of maatru or mother.
G: Yes one interpretation of the word is mother, here the creatrix or universal mother, She is goddess, sakti one main form of worship, it is one of the six mathas. The word mAyA then would be the one who is the universal mother. MayA, prakriti are used to describle the creative power.

D:Yes we find mAyA a popular name given to girls. Gautama Buddha's mother's name is said to be mAyA. So Maya is the universal sakti or power of creation. But coming to our discussion how does Maya mean illusion?
G: There is another interpretation of the word mA. mA is measure or to measure. In the context of vedanta the created universe is that which is measured or limited or the one that is limited (mA). It should be so understood in the context of vedanta. In vedanta the source of the universe is Brahman which is consciousness unlimited (ananta). In comparison to it the created universe or prakriti is limited. In fact the purusha sukta, a  vivid vedic description of creation from the purusha or brahman, the purusha is said to extend beyond the universe by ten digits indicating that the brahman is unlimited and unbounded whereas the created prakriti is limited. There are references to this in a number of vedic and puranic narrations of creation. The created universe is one part or amsa of the Supreme. Even according to scientists the universe in unbounded but limited-it is limited to an immensely dense  singularity maybe the size of a dime in its origin. The Samkhyas also appear to suggest the prakriti is atomic in its mula or root stage.

D: So mAyA would represent the mammoth creation but finite. Or mAyA would mean the finite one in the context of the source Brahman which is infinite.
G: Now the other interpretation of 'mA'. It  is 'not' or an injunction  'do not' or don't

D: Then it also means who is not, am I right?
G: First let us take the interpretation of 'do not'.  Lord Krishna in the Gita tells Arjuna 'mA sochi (sucha) meaning do not worry. MAyA would mean something that one, the spiritual aspirant is advised not to get involved. Why so? Because it is full of duhkha or pain and sorrow or because it repeatedly enslaves one birth after birth with incessant karmas. This is the main theme of samkhya, yoga and vedanta and a few other Eastern philosophies. They all say that the the outside universe is productive of predominantly duhkha, of course sugar quoted with some pleasures which all creatures love and thus captivated and enslaved. Because it is full of duhkha and makes one do karmas both good and bad the consequences of which are repeated duhkha dominated universe in which one takes repeated birhts. So Patanjali says "This repeated misery-- birth after birth-- should be ended (heyam duhkham anagatam)". Fully agree the Samkhyas and vedantins. renunciates, yogis, sanyasins, vivekis bairagis who lead a completely detached life.

D; So you say Maya could indicate that which should be renounced?  Yes Maya binds everyone offering  some little pleasure for a disproportionate amount of pain and sorrow.
G: Then we have mA meaning 'not' or 'not really existing' whereby we get the interpretation that mAyA is illusion. So mAyA would mean that which does not (really) exist, though it may appear to exist.

D: Who are the scholars that say that the universe is but an illusion or mAyA
G; The most well known of this group are the vednatins who subscribe to the theory of advaita. Other non advaitic vedantins even as they agree that Brahman is the source of everything, that Brahman is 'sat' or real, also imply that the creation also is real, this would be sat vada and satkarya vada. It would mean that the source of the universe Brahman is the reality and then the creation also is a real activity. There are of course a few other non vedic philosophies which imply that the creation is not really real even as they do not subscribe to a real source as Brahman

D: What reasoning these mayavadins put forward to substantiate the assertion that it is all an illusion?
G: Several arguments-- many examples like the rope and snake and others. But one has to reason out step by step.

D: Can we go through the steps you consider helpful?
G: We have done this up to a point  in some of our earlier discussions. Ok let us start. First answer the question about how you are able to experience the universe around you. How does science explain this?

D: We experience the outside world through our senses, even though the senses do not directly experience the objects. They are experienced through sight, hearing, taste smell and the touch. According to science these sensations are transmitted by the sense organs like eyes ears etc., to different parts of the brain where they are processed, collated  analyzed, compared, emotions added and finally the picture is seen by the brain in the brain. They emphasize that the eyes do not see but only the brain sees.
G. But the universe also consists of you, the subject

D: Some scientists also indicate that there is the awareness of one's own body through the nervous system, the afferent nerves. The impulses sent to the brain by the network of nerves are also felt by the brain. Thus we have a composite picture of what we experience-- the outside world and the subject also as part of the universe. The total experience consists of “I seeing the universe”
G: Ok let us say the brain sees everything. But the brain space is limited but what we see is in front of us, say, like you sitting in front of me outside the brain even as   all are within the brain space. Further in the brain the information as processed is in the form of neurons floating around the brain. The whole information may have to be reconverted into some form like what we see.

D I see
G: So the brain after the complete processing in a split second will have to project the whole information exactly as we see, as we experience. And that projection even as it can be assumed to take place in the brain space has to take place in virtual space.

D; Ok like the dream experience taking place in our head during dream state.
G: Now this raises two conclusions. One is that what we see are only the projections of the mind even if we admit that the outside world is real.

D: So the brain  receives information as impulses through the senses then projects them in the virtual space. We see only the projection and not the object per say.
G: Yes without the brain recreating what is received through the senses it is not possible to explain how the objects are seen because the brain cells and neurons are not what is seen. The brain itself receives the information through the senses only as electrical impulses.

D: So according to science it amounts to saying that the brain projects the processed information in the virtual/mental space and it also sees what it projects.
G: But then we have a couple of issues with this. One is, if the brain projects what one sees it will amount to saying that since the brain projects also the subject that experiences the outside world, it would imply this.-- that the brain projects itself because the brain is part of the subject. Can the brain project itself and also see that. Then the question the brain the subject has, what is it, is it the organ brain or the projection? It also has another question to answer: can the brain project itself and also see

D: It also raises another question if the brain has got consciousness which is awareness as we experience is not changing, it is unwavering and experiences everything that we experience everything the brain itself is said to process and project.
G: Also the brain is made of matter, just organic matter created from the food matter taken from the outside world. How does the non-conscious matter produce a non changing consciousness. So we could say that that the view held by science that brain is the one that experiences and also is the one which processes and projects the information received through the senses may not be conclusive.

D So what does it mean I am confused
G: It amounts to saying that we do not see the objects of the outside world and can see only the projection a virtual image in virtual space. The view that the brain processes and projects the sensations received and also sees is not really convincing, tenable. So the  first conclusion we can make is that one can not ascertain that the outside universe really exists which is the default  belief because what we experience can only be virtual.  So many philosophers conclude that one cannot prove that the universe exists, and say it is anirvacaniya or indeterminate.

D: Can we say that it is just an illusion? It appears that it is equally difficult to prove that the universe is real.
G: We have to determine two things here. Since we see the universe of which the physical observer the subject also is a part, is just a projection which is all one can say. It is not the result of real objects that are processed and then reprojected as we have just seen. They can only be objectless projections which can be considered or called as an illusion . There is no creation but only a projection.

D: Yes since according to this line of approach, my world that includes me- your disciple -that I perceive is only a projection. And the brain is not the projector of this world I see because since the brain also is a part of the universe it can not project itself.. Further my brain is not the observer. It is funny, that the common belief that the brain experiences and acts itself is an illusion. Looks as though it is difficult to prove that the world is real. In that case from where this world of mine that I experience--even if it is an illusion-- comes and also who is the observer, because the brain can not see, it has no consciousness.
G: Even among those who view that the individual world is but an illusion, an appearance, differ in their answers to your question. According to a well known Indian philosophy very popular in South East Asia, this question is irrelevant. Once you know the whole thing is but an appearance, there is no purpose served in trying to find more answers using the brain. It is known now that it is but an illusion and that it is also full of misery. The only thing one has to do is to overcome this miserable illusion by proper meditation and remove all thoughts the absence of which will remove all pain and sorrow for ever. The search for the self, the observer, subject or whatever is irrelevant, unnecessary or even counterproductive they would advice.

D: It is tough
G: The other view that can be gleaned from the Bhagavat gita is also interesting. Krishna says inter alia, that He or God  (Maayin) created the universe by the power of his Maya. Maya now can be considered as real but limited creation as we have considered earlier or it can be considered as an illusion. In fact the Lord is called a Mayavi which expression is usually associated with a magician. This will amount to saying that the Lord created the universe but it is just an illusion not material. Again the subject is the Lord/Brahman Himself  which is pure unvarying consciousness who indwells in every body as the atman observing the illusion of each one individually. Ofcourse   one should understand the nature of the self, the Lord and the nature of Maya and attain salvation.

D: Are  there other views which indicate the universe is not as real as we commonly believe
G; There is another religion/philosophy which implies that God created the universe as succession of momentary impulses. Every moment He creates this universe anew-it is continuous creation-- and the individual creatures are caught up in this mammoth illusion. He is the beacon light to get out of this enslaving creation.

D: Thank you.
G: Think about this line of discussion and understand the texts like the Gita the upanishads and the advaita literature of sankara and others to know more about this mAyA. They all aver that our default understanding of the universe and our own selves are defective.

D: It is not difficult to understand why the mayavadins assert that it is all an illusion or mAyA, but it is yet another to 'feel' that it is so. The sages like Suka,  son of Vyasa is  believed  to have remained   completely oblivious to the surroundings and his own body in a state of sahaja samadhi. Gaudapada says to the effect that nobody is ever born  really(na kascit jayate jivaha) or anything is ever created really. All creatures are just organic robots activated by their karma/samskaras, like the dream self that runs around with a illusory body and appears to think with a non existing mind. All creatures appear  confused about the universe and about themselves life after life.
G: Yes

D: What about Advaita which is associated with Mayavada or the theory of Illusion?
G: It is of the vedantic school. In vedanta the source is Brahman which  is unwavering consciousness. This can be immediately identified as the individual consciousness in the subject. In us the body- brain complex, there is consciousness, distinct and uncarying. The vedantins observe that  this body/ mind that constantly changes is known due to the consciousness that as we have seen is independent and not part of the brain that is organic matter and is for ever changing. The consciousness  in us is ever aware of  whatever that goes on as a cittavritti during our childhood then adulthood then old age and according to Lord Krishana into the future lives. It is the same consciousness that is aware of the experiences during waking, dream and deep sleep stages and remains unaffected even in the yogic state of kaivalya or turiya. So all that is experienced is in this atomic brahman whose essence is pure consciousness unaffected by time or space. Everything that is experienced takes place within it ( so is unaffected by space) as a mayavritti or an illusion but appears without it and appears real. That is why in the initial stages one meditates within oneself to locate the atman. So the whole, ever changing experience I have is my world which is an illusion stream is taking place within me within the consciousness Brahman/Atman

D: One more question. Even to experience an illusion one needs eyes and ears, like watching a magic show
G: Not necessarily. Take the case of your dream experience. Dream is an illusion that appears to take place within you. At that time according to science, most motor activities are paralyzed, you forget yourself. Dream experience takes place  without the senses coming into play. The dream self sees illusory dream objects with illusory senses and thinks with a brain which is an illusion.  Similarly the whole life experience takes place within the Self, the non changing pure consciousness

D: So Brahman the source of my illusory world is the consciousness that should be called as  I
G: Yes . Ok be calm, study the texts, think deeply,internalize and  clear  all  doubts.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Qi Gong Yoga? Exploring Simon Borg-Olivier's teacher Zhen Hua Yang's Calligraphy Yoga

Note: I've just brought together this post and earlier posts related to my current approach to practice as well as my posts on Simon Borg-Olivier in a new blog, just as I did with Vinyasa Krama and Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga

Having become so absorbed with practicing Simon Borg-Olivier's approach to Yoga of late, it seemed a good idea to look more closely at his sources. BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Shandor Remete I'm familiar with of course but recently I've been curious about the man Simon credit's as his main teacher for the last ten years or so, Zhen Hua Yang. Practicing Simons Spinal sequence before my regular practice I'm reminded of Qi Gong, Tai Chi, my own martial Art training in Aikido and Iaido, perhaps by exploring Zhen Hua Yang's Calligraphy Yoga I will better understand Simon's teaching and my attempt to bring it into my own practice.

The master plan was/is to, at some point, apply all that I've been exploring with Simon and now with Zhen Hua Yang and see how it informs my Vinyasa Krama, to finally go through again all Ramaswami/Krishnamacharya's asana, subroutines and sequences and see how they present themselves...., but perhaps it will go the other way, my Ashtanga/Vinyasa Krama practice informing my Qi Gong yoga.

Was this what Krishnamacharya did perhaps, explore Burmese, Buddhist, Tibetan Yoga to see how they played out with hatha and raja.

I have a post in the works about how really there is no yoga tradition but rather a hodge podge of jumbled up techniques and methodologies, asana with mixed up names and representations often drawn, painted, sculpted, reported by non practitioners and written down in a great game of Chinese whispers.

In the end it probably doesn't matter, against an horizon of yama/niyama we practice our physical exercises, our breathing practice to better allow us to focus on our contemplation of self.

Below I've included some videos and a post of Simon introducing his teacher as well as a demonstration by Zhen Hua Yang on one of Simon and Bianca's YogaSynergy courses. That's followed by Zen Hua Yang's own introduction to his Calligraphy health approach.

A nice introduction to the practice is with Master Yang's 'Wake up' program, I've included videos of him demonstrating as well as a demonstration with instruction by one of his students.

I was asked about the DVDs by a reader of the blog so contacted the website, I received no reply so just went ahead and bought the complete set and downloaded them. I've been exploring them this week.

The six DVDs follow the same format. Zhen Hua Yang teaches four exercise on each of the six DVDs with one of his students demonstrating (Sasha below) ,then he will demonstrate himself, first from the frount and then from the side. At the end of the DVD Master Yang demonstrates the four together as a complete form.

My approach to the exercises has been to add some of them on/build them into Simon's Spinal sequence.

Just as Indian yoga as hundreds of asana and perhaps thousands of variations, Qi Gong has hundreds, possibly thousands of exercises. We start perhaps with a core practice, some simple exercises/asana (Morning Wake up program perhaps) which we then build upon (see the 30 minute practice videos just before the appendix at the end of the post ), or more challenging (or not) variations that we encounter and seem more appropriate to include in our practice. Ashtanga, Vinyasa Krama seem to me not unlike a Qi Gong practice. Just as a Qi Gong practice, if grounded upon the yama/niyama and followed by breathing exercises and a Sit is surely Ashtanga.

Note: I believe the argument of Qi Gong is that the practice includes breathing exercises and is basically a moving meditation with focus on the breath......., now where have I heard that before.

You can see how some of these exercises have flowed through Simon's teaching although practiced in Simon's own manor, there seems to be a lot of freedom in this approach. Some exercises I'll probably end up including in my own practice, others I'm not sure of yet.

by Simon Borg-Olivier

"Master Zhen Hua Yang has been my main yoga teacher since 2006. After practicing yoga for more than 40 years and teaching for 30 years Master Yang has helped me make a fresh beginning to my practice that has resolved many of the physical and physiological challenges that my previous practice was unable to resolve. He has helped me develop increased spinal flexibility without ever making me feel like I was doing stretching exercises, he has given me increased strength without feeling tense and helped heal the most significant bone breakage and muscle tears I have ever had in my life. Master Yang is a true Master who's energy is tangible. His demonstrations of strength and internal energy are as impressive as I have ever seen. If you have a chance I strongly recommend you don’t miss an opportunity to learn from him in person, on video or online at Master Yang’s new website.

The principles that Master Yang teaches his yoga with are at the core of the Yoga Synergy System and so if you do not have a chance to work with Master Yang personally then consider looking at one of the comprehensive and award winning Online courses at YogaSynergy called Yoga Fundamentals (a very practical course for anyone with an interest in yoga, exercise or health) and Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga (a more technical course for teachers, therapists and experienced students)."

Below the Morning wake up program with instruction by one of Master Yang's students Laila Sell, this would be a good introduction should you want to try it out.

Below,  some of the exercises you'll find on the Calligraphy yoga DVDs

The six DVDs follow the same format. Zhen Hua Yang teaches four exercise on each of the six DVDs with one of his students demonstrating (Sasha below) ,then he will demonstrate himself, first from the frount and then from the side. At the end of the DVD Master Yang demonstrates the four together as a complete form.

And finally this demonstration of Calligraphy Yoga by another student of Master Yang and Simon, Monika Lenkefi followed by another demonstration ,by the same student, of Simon and Bianca's Yogasynergy approach.


I'll give Simon Borg-Olivier the final word, he got me into all this in the first place, thank you Simon, it's an adventure.


Calligraphy Yoga DVDs

Standing tree, 
Peeking turtle, 
Dancing Dragon, 
Follow Ribbon, 

cobra dancing, 
flowing dragon, 
sweeping tail, 
Bird stretches wing, 
Dan Tian breath.    

Morning breeze, 
Monkey stretch, 
Monkey standing, 
Emu stretch, 

Crane playing water, 
Eagle standing, 
Energy transfer
Peacock dancing, 

Hugging tree, 
Eagle spreading wings, 
Oyster standing, 
Spring flower, 

Peacock opening tail, 
chicken walking, 
spiral energy, 
water dragon, 



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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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