Thursday, 21 February 2019

Krishnamacharya and Burmese Insight meditation practice, breath and focal points.

Update 2019

Spoiler Alert: This is all highly speculative.

I'm reminded, updating this post, that Insight meditation practice was were I started, I actually went to the library to pick up some books on yoga ( they just happened to be Ashtanga) to help me in my sitting. Perhaps it is no surprise then that I took so naturally to Krishnamacharya's 'breathing practice. 

This post may be a little confusing as I've added a lot of sections to the original post rather than rewrite the whole thing. Here's a summary of the argument/suggestion that I wrote for instagram.

Summary.

1. Krishanamacharya went to Burma to study Burmese Yoga.

 "He (Krishnamacharya) mastered Hindu yoga in the Himalayas and Buddhist yoga in Burma, then part of India". T.K. Shribhashyam - Life Sketch of my father in 'Moksa-Marga. An Itinerary in Indian philosophy' 2011.

2. Burma was part of India at the time ( until 1937), so this was entirely possible.

3. Burmese Yoga = Insight Meditation.

Insight Meditation had ‘taken off’ in Burma at the time thanks to the teaching of Ledi Sayadaw - Burmese monk (1846–1923) and his students.

4. “Ledi Sayadaw argued that one did not need to enter into such states (samadhi/Jhanas) in order to gain the mental stability for insight practice. It was excellent if they could (and Ledi Sayadaw claimed that he himself had done so), but really all one required was a minimal level of concentration that would enable the meditator to continually return, moment after moment, to the object of contemplation.

The message spread far and wide: forget the jungle or the cave. Meditation is possible in the city.”

5. Sayadaw taught a paying attention to the breath, counting the breath.

6. Krishnamachray introduced breath attention into his teaching of asana, every movement was counted thus every stage of every breath was counted and paid attention to.

7. Krishnamacharya's breath centered approach is intended to lead to a mental stability similar to the Burmese Insight tradition that might be employed ( for Krishnamacharya) in support of the path of Patanjali yoga or (for me) in support of my practice of Stoicism.

8. The post continues with the original post on Krishanamacharya, Burmese Yoga and focal points.

Did Krishanamacharya’s experience of Burmese yoga influence his attention to the breath ( perhaps more than he realised)? 

It’s a tantalising thought.

*

"He (Krishnamacharya) mastered Hindu yoga in the Himalayas and Buddhist yoga in Burma, then part of India". T.K. Shribhashyam - Life  Sketch of my father in Moksa- Marga 2011

I'd completely forgotten about writing this post. The original posts focus is mostly on 'focal points 'and Krishnamacharya's possible early experience of Buddhist meditation. In this update I'm more interested in the possible influence of Burmese meditation on the breath focus in Krishnamacharya's presentation of asana. In Krishnamacharya's table of asana, in his early Mysore text, Yogasanagalu, we find that every movement has a count but each movement also relates to a stage of the breath, thus, looked at from another way, every breath is counted, every stage of every breath is counted. A

Recently I've been bringing a somewhat more formal mindfulness of breath into my asana practice and the thought popped into my head that for a time I had wondered what influence Krishnamacharya's interest in Burma, visit to Burma and/or experience of Burmese Yoga may have had on his practice. 

Of course I was thinking about asana and was searching google for something that might suggest a Burmese asana practice. But what if it was the attention to the breath in Sitting that made such an impact on Krishnamacharya and what he then introduced into his asana practice. That the breath focus didn't come from some questionable text or from Tibet but from Burma. It's a tantalising thought.

Were a 'Yoga Korunta' text to be found that clearly included a breath focus along the lines we are familiar with in Krishnamacharya's writing, it wouldn't necessarily negate the Burma influence argument. Of all the texts Krishnamacharya encountered in the libraries around India on his travels such a Yoga Korunta might have stood out for him precisely because it resonated with his interest in the breath, from his practice of Burmese yoga (meditation) and thus found it's way into his teaching. 

In the period the young, impressionable  Krishnamacharya  may have visited Burma to study Burmese yoga (meditation) or at least encountered Burmese monks and learned from them, 'insight meditation' was....'in the air. Already enjoying a pranayama practice, it is perhaps no surprise that Krishnamacharya may have been drawn to a practice that focussed on the breath and may he not also, consciously or not, appropriated a counting technique, particularly for developing focus in his young students. 

Ledi Sayadaw - Burmese monk (1846–1923)

"Prior to this time, the common belief was that anyone who wanted to practice insight meditation had first to enter into the deep states of concentration (samadhi) called the jhanas. But attaining these sublime modes of concentration required long periods spent removed from the world in intensive meditation, deep in the proverbial jungle or mountain cave. Now, however, Ledi Sayadaw argued that one did not need to enter into such states in order to gain the mental stability for insight practice. It was excellent if they could (and Ledi Sayadaw claimed that he himself had done so), but really all one required was a minimal level of concentration that would enable the meditator to continually return, moment after moment, to the object of contemplation.

The message spread far and wide: forget the jungle or the cave. Meditation is possible in the city. 
This state of mind was thus called “momentary concentration” (khanika-samadhi), and it formed the basis of “pure” or “dry” insight meditation (suddha-vipassana or sukkha-vipassana), which did not include deep concentration. While this approach to practice was discussed in authoritative texts, never before had anyone promoted it on a widespread basis: Ledi Sayadaw was the first to put it at the centre of his teachings. The message spread far and wide: forget the jungle or the cave. Meditation is possible in the city". 
History of Vipassana https://tricycle.org/magazine/meditation-en-masse/


Appendix

Was this the Burmese yoga krishnamacharya may have studied?


Counting in Burmese yoga
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
IX. The Method of the Commentary 

In the Commentary (Aṭṭhakathā) there are three main stages of effort, namely: 
1. Counting (gaṇanā): attention is placed on the out-breaths and inbreaths by counting them. 
2. Connection (anubandhanā): attention is placed directly on the outbreaths and in-breaths and is made stronger and firmer, but the counting is discontinued. 
3. Fixing (ṭhapanā): the effort is intensified until the higher stages of attainment are achieved. 

There are two places where the out-breath and in-breath may be grasped: the tip of the nose and the upper lip. For some people the striking of the breath is clearer at the tip of the nose; for others, it is clearer on the upper lip. Attention must be placed on the spot where the perception is clearest, which may be called the “spot of touch.” At the outset, effort must be made to keep the attention on the “spot of touch” by counting the number of times the out-breath and in-breath strike that spot. In the next stage, effort must be made to keep the attention on the out-breath and in-breath continuously, without the aid of counting. Finally, effort is applied to make the attention stronger and firmer. 

Counting 
There are two methods of counting—slow and fast—according as the attention is weak or strong. In the beginning, the mind is untranquil and disturbed and the attention weak, and thus one is not mindful of every breath that occurs. Some breaths escape detection. Only those breaths that are clearly perceived with mindfulness are counted, while those that are not clearly perceived are left out of the reckoning. Counting thus progresses slowly. It is the slow stage. 

Counting is done in six turns (vāra). In the first, counting proceeds from one to five; then, in the second, from one to six; in the third, from one to seven; in the fourth, from one to eight; in the fifth, from one to nine; and in the sixth, from one to ten. After the sixth turn, one must begin again from the first. Sometimes these six turns are counted as one. 

First place the attention on the “spot of touch,” and when an out-breath or in-breath is clearly perceived, count “one.” Continue counting “two,” “three,” “four,” etc., when the ensuing out-breaths and in-breaths are clearly perceived. If any of them are not clearly perceived, stop the progressive counting by continuing to count “one,” “one,” “one,” etc., until the next clear perception of out-breath and in-breath, when the counting advances to “two.” When the count reaches “five” in the first turn, start again from one. Proceed in this way until the sixth turn is completed. Since only those breaths that are clearly perceived are counted, it is called the slow count. 

When the counting has been done repeatedly many times, the number of breaths that are clearly perceived will increase. The spacing between each progressive count will decrease. When every breath is clearly perceived the counting will progress uninterruptedly and become fast. One must proceed until no breath is missed out from the counting. 

It is not necessary to do the counting orally; a mental count is sufficient. Some people prefer to count orally. Others count one bead at the end of each sixth turn, and they resolve to count a certain number of rounds of beads a day. The essential thing is to make the perception clear and the attention strong and firm. 

Connection 
When the stage is reached where every out-breath and in-breath is clearly perceived with the aid of counting, when no out-breath or inbreath escapes attention, the counting must be discontinued, and the connection (anubandhanā) method adopted. Here, the connection method means putting forth effort to keep the attention on the “spot of touch,” and to perceive every out-breath and in-breath without counting them. It means repeating the effort made in the counting stage in order to make perception clearer and attention stronger and firmer, but without the aid of counting. 

How long is this effort by the connection method to be pursued? Until there appears the paṭibhāga-nimitta, the “counterpart sign” (i.e., a mental image that appears when an advanced degree of concentration is reached). 
When attention becomes fixed on the out-breaths and in-breaths (i.e., when a certain degree of concentration is achieved), manifestations appear such as masses of fluffy wool, gusts of wind, clusters of stars, gems, pearls, or strings of pearls, etc., in various shapes, groups, and colours. These are called counterpart signs. The effort in the connection method must be continued until such time as the counterpart sign appears clearly on every occasion that effort is made. 

Fixing 

During the stages of counting and connection, attention must still be kept on the “point of touch.” From the time the counterpart sign appears, effort must be made according to the third stage, the method of fixing (ṭhapanā). Counterpart signs are manifestations and resemble new mental objects. Not being natural phenomena, they easily disappear, and once they disappear, it is difficult to invoke them into sight again. Hence, when a counterpart sign appears, it is necessary to put forth special effort with added energy in fixing the attention on it to prevent it from disappearing; one must strive to make it become clearer day by day. The putting forth of this special additional effort is known as the method of fixing. 

When the stage of fixing is reached, the seven unsuitable things (asappāya; see just below) must be shunned, while the seven suitable things (sappāya) must be cultivated. The ten kinds of proficiency in meditative absorption (dasa appanā-kosalla), too, must be accomplished. 

The seven unsuitable things are: unsuitable (1) place, (2) village where almsfood is obtained, (3) talk, (4) friends and associates, (5) food, (6) climate, and (7) bodily postures; these things are called “unsuitable” because they cause deterioration of one’s meditation. The seven suitable things are the exact opposites: the place, village, talk, friends, food, climate, and postures which cause one’s meditation to improve. 

The ten kinds of proficiency in meditative absorption are: (1) cleanliness of body and utensils, (2) harmonising the five spiritual faculties (indriya), (3) proficiency in the object of attention, (4) controlling the exuberant mind, (5) uplifting the depressed mind, (6) making the dry mind pleasant, (7) composure towards the balanced mind, (8) avoiding persons who do not possess concentration, (9) associating with persons who possess concentration, and (10) having a mind that is always bent towards meditative absorption. Equipping and fulfilling oneself with these aforementioned qualities, one must make specially energetic efforts for days and months to fix one’s attention on the counterpart sign so that it becomes firm. This effort of fixing the attention (ṭhapanā) must be put forth until the fourth jhāna is attained. 

The Signs 

I shall now show differentially the signs that appear during the three stages of effort, and the types of concentration achieved during these stages. 

The image of the out-breath and in-breath that appears in the stage of counting is called the preparatory sign (parikamma-nimitta). In the stage of connection, it is called the acquired sign (uggaha-nimitta). The manifestation that appears in the stage of attention is called the counterpart sign (paṭibhāga-nimitta). 

The meditative concentration achieved during the appearance of the preparatory sign and acquired sign is “preparatory concentration” (parikamma-bhāvanā-samādhi). The meditative concentration developed with the attention fixed on the counterpart sign during the stage of fixing but before the attainment of full absorption (appanā) is called “access concentration” (upacāra-bhāvanā-samādhi). The four jhānas are called “concentration by absorption” (appanā-bhāvanā-samādhi). 

In the counting and connection stages, the out-breath and in-breath— the objects of meditation—gradually become allayed and calm down. Ultimately they are apt to become so subtle that they seem to have disappeared altogether. When this occurs, one must continue to fix the attention on the “point of touch” and must attempt to grasp the outbreath and in-breath at that point. When the out-breath and in-breath are perceived again clearly, it will not be long before the counterpart sign appears, which signals that the access to jhāna (upacāra-jhāna) has been attained. Here, upacāra-jhāna means the access concentration of sensesphere meditation (kāmāvacara-bhāvanā upacāra-samādhi) which has overcome the five hindrances (pañcanīvaraṇa). 

The calming down of the out-breath and in-breath to the point of disappearance, mentioned in the method given in the Commentary, occurs automatically and need not be specifically attempted. I have myself seen yogis in whom out-breath and in-breath have calmed down to the point of disappearance. In the sutta however, where it is said, “Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati, passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati,” the meaning is that when the stage of connection is reached, the process of calming down the outbreath and in-breath must be specifically attempted. 

When the out-breath and in-breath apparently disappear, people who are not proficient in the work of meditation are apt to think that the outbreath and in-breath have really disappeared or stopped. Then they are apt to discard the work of meditation. Let all be heedful of this fact.

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Carried over from April 2015 my main blog Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama Yoga at Home

"Those who practice yoganga, with the power of vinyasa and pranayama, have the ability to significantly decrease this number (of breaths). While practicing yoga with reverence, one can offer their essence to God during exhalation and during inhalation, imagine/suppose that God is entering your heart.  During kumbhaka, we can practice dharana and dhyana.  Such practices will improve mental concentration and strengthen silence/stillness.  Eliminates agitation and restlessness". 
Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu (1941)



Now I'm no doubt reading too much into this and making connections where perhaps they aren't any or where none are necessary (these focal points are after all traditional points of mental focus in yoga) Still,  it's been playing on my mind, something about the technique of linking focal points to the breath and bringing them into asana practice. Either way it makes for a good post and a chance to look at this material again.


For a number of years I've been fascinated by the Idea that Krishnamacharya either went to Burma to study 'Burmese Yoga' or , what now seems more likely studied Buddhism, and Buddhist meditation in the Burmese tradition in particular. I was quite excited then to see this account (below) of Krishnamacharya and his son TK Sribhashyam  visiting the Mahabodhi/Bodhigaya temple, in the recent interview over at Harmony Yoga. Krishnamacharya sits down with some of the elderly monks who are supposedly old friends of his from when they studied Buddhism together. Krishnamacharya then went on to teach his son the differences between pranayama in Hinduism and Buddhism. Wouldn't you have like to be a mosquito on the temple wall for that conversation. What differences in particular did Krishnamacharya explain to his son, Samatha perhaps, mindfulness of breathing? Did any of these practices find their way into Krishnamacharya's own practice and teaching. ?

http://www.longdriveholiday.com/bodhgaya/
Now, I was just reading again Ajaan Lee's book, Keeping the Breath in Mind (free download available HERE - Thank you S.) and looking at this use of focal points (or bases of the mind) in the Meditation practice he presents based on the breath.


from Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo Keeping the Breath in Mind
Lessons in Samdhi
by
"5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind—the resting
spots of the breath—and center your awareness on whichever one seems most
comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it)".

Doesn't that remind you of Krishnamacharya's use of focal points to bring Dharana into his asana practice as outlined by his son TK Sribhashyam in Emergence of Yoga.

BUT Ajaan Lee is of course Thai not Burmese (There is a Thai tradition of focal point/bases for the mind breath meditation- see Dhammakya at the end of post). However, I checked Ajaan Lee's autobiography and it turns out he spent time in Burma and, get this, also India and at Maha bodhi in particular. Was the focal point/bases of the mind approach to Samatha in vogue at mahabodhi at the time Krishnamacharya may have studied there if indeed that was where he encountered Burmese and perhaps Thai Buddhism. Was there a cross fertilisation between this encounter with Samatha and Krishnamacharya's reading of Yoga Yajnavalkya ( see No. 4 below).

http://www.longdriveholiday.com/bodhgaya/

Krishnamacharya was always all about the breath, in Yoga Makaranda he only seems to employ two focal points, the tip of the nose and between the eyebrows, he was however well aware of the employment of the vital points in one of his favourite texts YogaYajnavalkya (includes a pranayama technique where the breath -and prana- moved from vital point to vital point). Krishnamacharya would of course have been fascinated had he encountered a meditative tradition based on the breath that focussed on traditional focal points (those from the heart up are considered to be spiritual focal points rather than those for the emotions or those for the body.

  1. First up then the Question and answer from the interview with Sribashyam on Buddhism and Burma.
  2. Next a page outlining the focal points in Emergence of Yoga along with an outline of Krishnamacharya's own practice
  3. A couple of sections from Ajaan Lees book outlining the Meditation technique  with a link to a free download for the full method.
  4. Finally the relevant passages on moving prana from vital point to vital point in pratyahara and pranayama practice found in Yoga Yajnavalkya.

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1. Krishnamacharya and Burmese Buddhist meditation
Interview with TK Sribashyam ( Krishnamacharya's 3rd son from this post http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2015/05/an-interview-with-krishnamacharyas-3rd.html

"11) You mentioned in the Life Sketch of your Father that he mastered Buddhist Yoga in Burma. Would you be able to tell us more about this and what influence this had on your father’s teaching?"

"My father’s teaching of Indian Philosophy (Yoga Sutra, Vedanta, and even Hatha Yoga) had very often comparisons to the Buddhists thoughts – either to make us understand the flaws that existed in the Buddhist logic and analysis or to bring to light some similar views, especially in the psychology of Buddhism, so that we develop conviction in the Buddha’s teaching.
Apart from this, he used to receive Buddhist monks who would have long discussions with him on this philosophy. As often it was a private discussion, we did not dare to attend these lessons.
In the late sixties, when I went with my father on a pilgrimage to Allahabad, Varanasi and Gaya, he took me to Bodh Gaya for two consecutive days. It is here that he gave some important points of Buddha’s teaching, as also their method of Dhyāna, particularly their very significant mantra: Buddham Sharanam Gachami, Dhammam (Dharmam) Sharanam Gachami, Samgham Sharnam Gachami. I remember some elderly monks saluting him and expressing their happiness at meeting him. They sat in a corner in the Buddha’s temple and had more than an hour’s discussion. The meeting was completed by a silent meditation. Later, my father told me that they were his colleagues when he studied Buddhism. He taught me the technique and practice of Pranayama applied by the Buddhists and subtle differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. However, he was not criticising Buddhism in his lectures. My father had great respect for Buddha’s teaching.
We should not forget that Buddha is considered as one of the incarnations of Vishnu.
A successful Vedic ritual or even a meditation requires a healthy body and mind so that we can stay during the rituals and in a meditation for a longer period without getting disturbances from the senses and the mind".
full interview HERE


*



2. Concentration on the the sixteen vital points

from Emergence of Yoga by Krishnamacharya's 3rd son SRI T K SRIBHASHYAM

Also example from the Book of Krishnamacharya's own practice to show how concentration of vital points might be employed.


http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2014/10/drishti-ashtanga-and-meditation-how.html


*Note in the second sheet ( EG. Baddha Konasana ) how the concentration  moves from point to point, mula to sirsa, on the inhalation although the exhalation always remains on a single point

*


3. Keeping the Breath in Mind
Lessons in Samdhi
byAjaan Lee Dhammadharo


Method 1
"Sit in a half-lotus position, right leg on top of the left leg, your hands placed
palm-up on your lap, right hand on top of the left. Keep your body straight, and
your mind on the task before you. Raise your hands in respect, palm-to-palm in
front of the heart, and think of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and
Sangha: Buddho me n›tho—The Buddha is my mainstay. Dhammo me n›tho —The
Dhamma is my mainstay. Saºgho me n›tho —The Sangha is my mainstay. Then
repeat in your mind, buddho, buddho; dhammo, dhammo; saºgho, saºgho. Return
your hands to your lap, and repeat one word, buddho, three times in your mind.
Then think of the in-and-out breath, counting the breaths in pairs. First think
bud- with the in-breath, dho with the out, ten times. Then begin again, thinking
buddho with the in-breath, buddho with the out, seven times. Then begin again: As
the breath goes in and out once, think buddho once, five times. Then begin again:
As the breath goes in and out once, think buddho three times. Do this for three inand-out
breaths.
Now you can stop counting the breaths, and simply think bud- with the inbreath
and dho with the out. Let the breath be relaxed and natural. Keep your
mind perfectly still, focused on the breath as it comes in and out of the nostrils.
When the breath goes out, don’t send the mind out after it. When the breath
comes in, don’t let the mind follow it in. Let your awareness be broad and open.
Don’t force the mind too much. Relax. Pretend that you’re breathing out in the
wide-open air. Keep the mind still, like a post at the edge of the sea. When the
water rises, the post doesn’t rise with it; when the water ebbs, the post doesn’t
sink.
 When you’ve reached this level of stillness, you can stop thinking buddho.
Simply be aware of the feeling of the breath.
 Then slowly bring your attention inward, focusing it on the various aspects of
the breath—the important aspects that can give rise to intuitive powers of
various kinds: clairvoyance, clairaudience, the ability to know the minds of
others, the ability to remember previous lives, the ability to know where
different people and animals are reborn after death, and knowledge of the
various elements or potentials that are connected with, and can be of use to, the
body. These elements come from the bases of the breath. The First Base: Center
the mind on the tip of the nose, and then slowly move it to the middle of the
forehead, The Second Base. Keep your awareness broad. Let the mind rest for a
moment at the forehead, and then bring it back to the nose. Keep moving it back
and forth between the nose and the forehead—like a person climbing up and
down a mountain—seven times. Then let it settle at the forehead. Don’t let it go
back to the nose.
 From here, let it move to The Third Base, the middle of the top of the head,
and let it settle there for a moment. Keep your awareness broad. Inhale the
breath at that spot, let it spread throughout the head for a moment, and then
return the mind to the middle of the forehead. Move the mind back and forth
between the forehead and the top of the head seven times, finally letting it rest
on the top of the head.
 Then bring it into The Fourth Base, the middle of the brain. Let it be still for a
moment, and then bring it back out to the top of the head. Keep moving it back
and forth between these two spots, finally letting it settle in the middle of the
brain. Keep your awareness broad. Let the refined breath in the brain spread to
the lower parts of the body...."


from Method 2...

"As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, let this comfortable
breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body. To begin with, inhale
the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let it flow all the way down the
spine".

"Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both
shoulders, past your elbows and wrists, to the tips of your fingers and out into
the air".


"5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind—the resting
spots of the breath—and center your awareness on whichever one seems most
comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).

If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don’t focus on
any spot above the base of the throat. And don’t try to force the breath or put
yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the mind be at ease with
the breath—but not to the point where it slips away".

*

4. the Sixteen vital points in pratyahara 
from Yoga Yajnavalkya (AG Mohan edition)

However, we know too that Krishnamacharya stressed  the importance of the Yoga Yajnavakya and this text treats the vital points in the chapter on pratyaha, drawing the prana from one point to another. Perhaps then we don't need to look to Burmese Buddhist meditation to find the seeds of Krishnamacharya's employment of the vital points, to bring an element of Dharana to his asana and mudra practice.
from Yoga Yajnavalkya AG Mohan Translation


"The senses, by nature being drawn towards [their sensory] objects, their restraint by [conscious] effort is said to be pratyahara.
Whatever you see, look upon al of it as [being] in the self, and as the self. This is also called pratyahara by great souls who have realized [the essence of] yoga.
For all beings, the mental practice of the daily duties that are prescribed (by the Vedas), devoid of external actions, is also said to be pratyahara.
The following pratyahara is the greatest yogic practice and is praised and followed by yogis always. Having drawn the prana from one point to another, holding it in the eighteen vital points (marmasthanas) is spoken of as pratyahara. The Asvini Kumaras who are the best among the physicians of the celestials (devas) have spoken thus of the vital points in the body,
for the attainment of liberation through yoga".
p75

"I shall explain all of them in an orderly manner. Listen, disciplined [Gargi]!
The big toes, the ankles, in the mid-shanks, the root of the calves, the knees, middle of the thighs, the root of the anus, the center of the body (dehamadhya), generative organ, the nave], the heart, and neck pit, Gargi Then, the root of!he palate, the root ofthe nose, circular orb of!he eyes, the center of the eyebrows, the forehead, and crown of the head. [Gargi,] best among sages!
These are the vital points".
p76

"One must focus and retain the prana, using the mind, in these vital points. In one who does pratyahara, drawing the prana from one point to another, all diseases perish. Far him yoga attains fruition".
p77

This is perhaps the most interesting of all, employing the Vital Points in pranayama.
It should be noted that the seven vital points from the heart to the top of the head are considered those most important for spiritual practice, the others being for the emotions and the 'body', this approach then might be taken with just the seven 'spiritual' vital points depending upon ones intention.

"Some skilled yogis speak of[another] pratyahara. Listen, beautiful [Gargi], I will tell you [about] it. During the practice of pranayama, the prana must be held by the mind from the big toe to the crown of the head, like a totally filled pot. Drawing [the prana] from the crown of the head, one must focus it in the forehead. Again, drawing the prana from the forehead, one must focus it between the eyebrows. Drawing [the prana] from the center of the eyebrows one must focus it in center of the eyes. Drawing the prana from the eyes, one must focus it in the root of the nose. From the root of the nose, one must focus the prana in the root of the tangue. Drawing [the pranaa] from the roof of the tongue, one must focus it in the base of the throat (neck-pit). Drawing the prana from the neck-pit, one must focus it in center of the heart, from the center of heart in the center of the nave!, again from the center of the navel in the generative organ and then from the generative organ in the abode of fire (dehamadhya), from the dehamadhya (center of the body), Gargi, in the root of the anus and from the root of the anus in the [mid-] thighs , then from the mid-thigh in the center o fthe knees. Then, [from the knee] one must focus the prana in the root of the calf, from there in the middle of the shank, and drawing [the prana] from the middle of the shank in the ankle. From the ankle, Gargl, one must focus
it (the prava) in the big toes of the feet".
p78-79






Appendix


(Phra Mongkhonthepmuni (Sodh Candasaro; 10 October 1884 – 3 February 1959), the late abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, was the founder of the Thai Dhammakaya meditation school in 1914.

Samatha
As with many forms of Buddhist meditation Dhammakaya meditation has both samatha and vipassana stages. The goal of Dhammakaya meditation at the samatha level is to overcome the Five hindrances.When the mind becomes peaceful and stable as the result of successful practice for tranquillity, the mind will overcome the Five Hindrances and reach a state of one-pointedness (ekaggata) also known in Dhammakaya Meditation as the 'standstill of the mind' (i.e. to a state where it is free of thought). The indication of reaching this stage is that a bright clear sphere will arise spontaneously at the centre of the body. The mind should then be directed continuously at the centre of this sphere helping to transport the mind towards the ekalyânamagga path inside. attainment at the level of vipassana arises. 

There are several ways of focussing the attention at the centre of the body, namely:

following down through the seven bases of the mind, namely: the nostril, the corner of the eye, the centre of the head, the roof of the mouth, the centre of the throat, the middle of the stomach at the level of the navel and two finger breadths above the previous point.
visualising a mental image at the centre of the body: characteristically, a crystal ball [alokasaññâ] or a crystal clear Buddha image [buddhânussati] and repetition of the mantra ‘Samma-Araham’ (which means ‘the Buddha who has properly attained to arahantship’).
placing the attention at the centre of the body without visualising



7 bases of the mind






Dhammakaya meditation was re-discovered by Phramongkolthepmuni on the full-moon night of September 1914 at Wat Bangkuvieng, Nonthaburi.[1] This monk had practised several other forms of meditation popular in Thailand at the time with teachers such as Phrasangavaranuwongse (Phra Acharn Eam) of Wat Rajasiddharam, Bangkok; Phra Kru Nyanavirat (Phra Acharn Po) of Wat Pho, Bangkok; Phra Acharn Singh of Wat Lakorn Thamm, Thonburi; Phramonkolthipmuni (Phra Acharn Muy) of Wat Chakrawat, Bangkok and Phra Acharn Pleum of Wat Kao Yai, Amphoe Tha Maka, Kanchanaburi.[2] He claimed that the Dhammakaya approach he discovered had nothing to do with the teachings he had received from these other masters - but he did have previous knowledge of the Sammā-Arahaṃ mantra before discovering the technique. The technique of directing attention towards the centre of the body is already described in an obscure 18th century Sinhalese meditation manual that was translated into English as Manual of a Mystic. It was probably introduced into Sri Lanka by Thai monks during the Buddhist revival in the mid-eighteenth century, and taught to forest dwelling monks of the Asgiriya Vihara fraternity in the Kandyan Kingdom, who wrote it down.[3] After rediscovering the technique, Phramonkolthepmuni first taught it to others at Wat Bangpla, Amphoe Bang Len, Nakhon Pathom in 1915.[4] From 1916 onwards, when he was given his first abbothood, Dhammakaya Meditation became associated with his home temple of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen. It is said that Phramongkolthepmuni was the rediscoverer of Dhammakaya meditation, because members of the Dhammakaya Movement believe that the Buddha became enlightened by attaining Dhammakaya, and that knowledge of this (equated with Saddhamma in the Dhammakaya Movement) was lost 500 years after the Buddha entered Parinirvana.


*

T. krishnamacharya applying Tri-bandha from Paul Harvey Centre for Yoga Studies



Also

an earlier post on Pratyahara and marma points

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Krishnamacharya's Mysore Yoga students 1941 Yoga demonstration photos

Reposting this from this Feb. last year as Dr. TRS Sharma will be giving a lecture today (one of three) on the Mysore yoga retreat https://www.mysoreyogatraditions.com/mysore-retreat

If you are currently in Mysore I believe it might be possible to attend.
See

TRS SHARMA

In 1941 Life magazine featured a demonstration of Yoga in Mysore by Krishnamacharya's students. photos by Wallace Kirkland.


*
This is Real Yoga

from Life Magazine 22nd February 1941




Speaking of Pictures
...This is Real Yoga

"These pictures present a catalogue of 20 of the countless contorted postures by which the soul of an Indian yogi seeks to escape from the mortal imprisonment of it's human body. They show yoga not in the side-show of a bearded street fakir, but as practiced in it's pure form  by lithe young devotees of an ancient and honourable religion. This is the second set of pictures to be published from the hundreds taken by LIFE Photographer Wallace Kirkland on a sixth-month expedition into the strange museum of human achievement and eccentricity that is India ( The first set was Photographer Kirkland's call on the Viceroy of India Life January 27.)

   Yoga via Aryan family connections, is the present word for the English word "Yoga" and means just that. Yoga seeks to yoke the soul of the individual to the all-pervading soul of the universe. This beatitude is achieved only after death by one who during life has thoroughly extinguished the esential will to live. It may be tasted before death in the ecstatic trance which a practiced yogi can achieve by a lifetime of physical and mental discipline. Unlike other Hindu cults, yoga postulates no mere ascetic subjugation of the body to the yearning of the soul. It's catalogue of contortions is best understood as exercises which seek to make the body healthy, serene and free from disease and disorder that distract the soul with carnal concerns.

    The yogi shown here were photographed at the school in Mysore which received liberal support of the Sri Krishnaraja Narasimharaja Wodeyar Bahuder Maharaja of Mysore and india's greatest prince. Demonstrated are advanced postures, such as few yogi today take the time to master. They are assumed in calm, deliberate fashion, held for long intervals. Each pose is thought to bestow it's own special benefit, but the general result is a physique as well toned as any US athlete's. They give also the most extraordinary control over both the voluntary and involuntary musculature. A typical example is the control of the diaphragm, by which a yogi can reduce respiration from about 1,100 an hour to 70 and, with the help of mental discipline, attain blissful trance union with the soul of the universe." Life Magazine (22nd February 1941).

*Notice the reference to the long stays in asana and the slowing of the breath, here in 1941 just as indicated in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Karandavasana text of 1934. Long slow breathing, kumbhaka, long stays were not a shift in Krishnamacharya's later teaching, they were there from the very beginning, back when Pattabhi Jois was a boy and Krishnamacharya's student.


Original cover

1941 was also the year Krishnamacharya published his 'original' Ashtanga vinyasa book Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) which includes the table of asana divided into three groups, Primary, Middle and Proficient.

Page 1 of the Table of asana - see HERE for the full table


The translation of the book is now complete and is available from my Free Downloads page.

See also the full text on the Yogasangalu translation project page



Photos from the Life Magazine article

Set 1







Set 2







Set 3
T R S Sharma

Note: TRS Sharma is interviewed in the upcoming documentary 
'The Mysore Yoga Tradition', see at 1:48 in the movie's trailer 
at the end of post.








Set 4





Set 5













Set 7






*

below, from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934)

The Yoga shala



....and Mysore today

Mysore Yoga Traditions Official Trailer from Dallos Paz on Vimeo.

"Mysore Yoga Traditions is an inquiry into the cultural background of yoga in Mysore, how it has evolved, and the philosophy upon which this global practice rests. The film will be an intimate glimpse into the yoga of Mysore as the elders, scholars, philosophers, yogis and spiritual leaders of the community express their views on what yoga is, its original intention, and how they feel about the way it is being taught and practiced around the world. Much has been said about yoga in Mysore by western scholars. Now it is time for the people who are the keepers of this vibrant yoga tradition to speak about how they see their own legacy." http://www.mysoreyogatraditions.com/

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Krishnamacharya's Pre-Jois Mysore 'Ashtanga' Primary Group Practice. UPDATED with Middle and proficient groups

Update

See perhaps this related article... Did KP Jois Invent Ashtanga Yoga? By Gregor Maehle -June 29 2019

*

Just as I no longer wish to have a photo of Pattabhi Jois in my practice room I find that I no longer wish to practice my Ashtanga as Pattabhi Jois presented it. And yet Jois' presentation of Ashtanga is the practice I started with, how I  practiced for a decade.

Below is a photo representation of Krishnamacharya's Primary group asana, based on the asana table in his second book Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941).


Krishnamacharya doesn't seem to have been in favour of a fixed sequence, however there does seem to be an internal logic to how the asana were actually listed, unlike the middle group which strikes me as supplemental and the proficient group which strikes me as asana thrown down as and when Krishnamacharya was reminded of them, .

I've been practicing Krishnamacharya's Primary group as a fixed series, it works, it's a joy to practice and doesn't come with Jois' baggage.

Best of all we don't need to argue for taking a flexible approach, Krishnamacharya always seems to have taken a flexible approach. In his texts we find option after option, chin, face or head down in forward folds, kumbhaka options. We can choose to practice full vinyasa, half vinyasa or a mixture of the two. pranayama and a meditative practice are strongly recommended, yama/niyama, a code of behaviour, is a prerequisite rather than something that we may or may not get around to later.

In my own practice of the 'sequence' below (basically made up of Primary group asana and Vinyasa krama subroutines) I tend to warm up with some of Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal movements. I tend to follow Krishnamacharya's instruction for the asana but also tend to use Simon Borg-Olivier as a guide to how I approach the asana I practice (see his 84 Key asana video course). In the inversions I tend to bring in a couple of the vinyasas we see Krishnamacharya perform in his 1938 demo footage, just for fun.

These days I also tend to take Simon's approach to pranayama, my yama/niyama and meditative practice tends to be guided by the Stoics.

This is not a new sequence, it's not MY sequence or methodology, there is no 'authority' here but rather, merely, a going back to Krishnamacharya's own Mysore texts.

The photos below mostly come from around 2009, they are merely a guide, a visual representation of Krishnamacharya's table of asana that I made up years ago for the Yogasanagalu translation project. I tend to practice many of these asana slightly differently these days. Practice them yourself, if at all, in the manner that feels most appropriate to you, introduce variations perhaps that lead you gently towards an asana seen here or skip the asana altogether,  again I refer you to Simon Borg-Olivier's excellent online courses that help us, I believe, to practice more safely.

Alternatively, swim, go for a walk, breathe calmly, stare at a lake or at the stars or a painting that moves you, take a moment or better still a series of moments then do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.





followed by

SAVASANA



Note: in the final page above, Finishing, I've added in Sirsasana (headstand) from Krishnamacharya's 'middle' group table. Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) is a pratkriya (counterpose) to sirsasana for Krishnamachraya. 


See this post for the actual table of asana from Yogasanagalu.


*


APPENDIX 1.


Middle Group

Krishnamacharya ‘s Middle group asana in the order he listed them in his Yogasanagula (Mysore 1941) Table of asana. Plus Standing and Finishing. See my post from a couple of days ago for the Primary group. Krishnamachraya doesn’t seem to have favoured fixed sequences. However, while I think it’s possible and even perhaps logical to practice Krishnamachray’s Standing Primary and Finishing list of asana as listed a sequence, and I now do (to disassociate myself from Jois entirely by reaching back before Jois), I’m not so sure that goes for the Middle group. I no longer bother practicing most of these so somebody else might like to give it a try and report back. It’s probably better to practice half the Primary group and then slip some of these asana and subroutines in to our regular practice.




*


APPENDIX 2.

Proficient group








NOTE: We can see from the 1938 demonstration by Iyengar that krishnamacharya was teaching many more proficient/advanced asana than are included on the list.






*


APPENDIX 3

Yogasanagalu Asana table








----------------------------------------------

Notes

Kumbhaka
Antah kumbhaka (purakha kumbhaka) = retention of the breath after inhalation
Bahya kumbhaka (recaka kumbhaka= retention of the breath after exhalation
Ubhya kumbhaka = retention of the breath after both inhalation and exhalation

*In the Primary group above kumbhaka is indicated explicitly in only three postures, baddha padmasana, uttanasana and sethubandasana. In the earlier Yoga Makaranda (1934) however, kumbhaka is indicated other primary postures. This may be that while learning the Primary asana we may forgo kumbhaka in most of the primary postures until gaining familiarity and a degree of proficiency with those asana when we would then begin to work in the kumbhaka. this may be made clearer as the translation continues.

Kumbhaka (mentioned explicitly) in the Yoga Makaranda Primary asana
Tadasana (here implies samasthiti )- purakha kumbhaka
Uttanasana -purakha kumbhaka (we can perhaps presume that all the uttanasana variations would also include antha kumbhaka EG. padahastasana, parsvauttanasa
na, prasaritapadauttanasana.
Ardha baddha padma uttanasana - recaka kumbhaka
Urdhavamukhssvanasana - puraka kumbhaka
Adhomukhssvandasana - recaka kumbhaka
Paschimottanasana - purkha kumbhaka (recaka kumbhaka implied ?)
janusirsasana - purka kumbhaka & Rechaka kumbhaka
Upavistakonasana "recaka kumbhaka is the central principle for this posture"
badhakonasana - recaka kumbhaka
Suptapaddangusthasana- recaka kumbhaka
utthitahastapadangusthasana - recaka kumbhaka
Bhujapidasana - recaka kumbhaka
marichiyasana - recaka kumbhaka ?




*

APPENDIX 4

Krishnamacharya Mysore Inversions


As well as the 1941 table of asana and the additional proficient/advanced asana we can see BKS Iyenga demonstrating in the 1938 documentary footage of Krishnamacharya, his family and students, we can also see these Inversion variations in the 1938 documentary footage. These are very similar to those Krishnamacharya taught to his later student, of thirty years Srivatsa Ramaswami, and show, I believe, a consistency in Krishnamacharya's teaching. Krishnamacharya may well have been teaching a dynamic practice to the boys of the palace but he also appears to have been teaching endless variations as well as a slower, mudra like, practice (as can be seen from the kumbhaka focus in Yoga Makaranda Mysore 1934) perhaps to his private students in the side rooms of the palace.









Krishnamachray had a variation of Supta Padangushtasana where he would put his arm behind his head while still holding the big toe thus placing the foot on the chest. In Yoga Makaranda ( Mysore 1941) he includes both as two separate asana while in the 1938 Mysore film footage he practiced them together and enters from Niralamba Sarvangasana ( unsupported shoulderstand). I tend to practice the latter, returning to niralamba sarvangasana between sides. 

“Suptapada Parsvangushtasana

This has 23 vinyasas. Up to the 8th vinyasa, this follows the method for supta padangushthasana. In the 9th vinyasa, without breaking any of the rules described earlier, pull the raised right leg down towards the ground on the same side (right side) and slowly lay it down on the ground while still clasping the right big toe. In this sthiti the head is facing upward and the other extended leg is kept straight and remains pressed against the floor. Stay in this 9th vinyasa for at least ten minutes and then do the 10th vinyasa. In the 10th vinyasa, bring the foot that is being held against the ground back to the position in the 8th vinyasa and remain here. Without letting go of the foot, move it such that the leg (or calf) sits on the chest beneath the neck and such that the elbow of the arm holding the foot is behind the neck. Remain here. In this sthiti, the head must be raised slightly. That is, there should be 6 angulas of space between the ground and the head. Inside the matham, this is called sammukha parivrtasana. Repeat this on the other side. To first practise this with the right leg and then with the left leg is characteristic of a superior yogi. The 11th vinyasa is like the 8th and the 12th is like the 7th. Do the 13th vinyasa like the 8th and then do the 14th and 15th vinyasas like the 9th and 10th. The 16th is like the 8th and the 17th must be done like the 7th. The six remaining vinyasas of this posture must be practised like the last 6 vinyasas of pascimottanasana. After this, return to samasthiti.” Krishnamacharya-Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934).



NOTE:

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