We were discussing your article Mathew as well as yours and Tim's comments here on my blog and in response to this particular thread regarding the origin of the sequence, the question came up as to why Krishnamacharya 'stopped' teaching Primary. I often wondered this myself having started my practice with Ashtanga but then later studying the Vinyasa Krama that Krishnamacharya taught Ramaswami ( I currently practice both). There always seemed to be an early and late period Krishnamachrya and the assumption that it was Krishnamacharya who had changed his teaching, I think many hold this view.
End of comment.
Thank you to Anon for this link to an interview with Guy Donahaye in the comments section to this post. Anon manages to squeeze most of the interview into the cooment but here's a link to the original layout at Guy's excellent site Ashtanga Yoga Shala NYC
here's the link to the interview.
from the interview
GUY: Could you describe what it was like seeing your father practicing?
MJ: Well for us it was fun to see my father doing yoga, putting himself in all these postures. You know it was really amazing. He used to pick a posture sometimes and he would like to stay in that posture for a long time. And that’s how he used to practice. And that’s how he started telling us to do that. There’s no need to do millions of postures, just try to master one at a time then you can go to the next one. I really enjoyed watching my father doing yoga. Sometimes we all used do it together too: me and my sister and my father.
GUY: What is your impression about where the asanas come from, did Krishnamacharya make it up? Did Brahmachari teach it to Krishnamacharya?
MJ: You mean the asanas?
GUY: The specific asana sequence.
MJ: Well, actually it’s all taken from the books, actually you know. If you take the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, it teaches a few postures, talks about it. Then Yoga Korunta it teaches, and Siva Samhita, all these books, you see they have it. So what they did was pick all the postures and then they sat down and kind of researching, you know. Ok so to put it in a sequence to do yoga, these are the postures, you know, we have to start with, you know. That’s how they created the whole thing.
GUY: When you say “they” you mean?
MJ: Krishnamacharya in his Yoga Makaranda, he wrote the book. It’s all the same, like my father teaches and then ah, that’s the same thing. Then when B.K.S. Iyengar took it he just picked here and there, here and there. It’s more like a therapy, you know. It’s like everybody has their own ideas of what to do. Um, so strict Ashtanga Yoga is how my father teaches: vinyasas, breathing and then, you know, so that’s the real Ashtanga Yoga.
GUY: But this was created, you think by Krishnamacharya, he put it together? He put the sequences together?
MJ: I think so, yes, yes.
This is another approach to the above question I was working on last week, it covers much of the same ground, I don't expect anyone to read it necessarily, think of it as notes. I just want to post it and be done with it, move on as it were.. Rather than read it closely you may want to skim through some of the quotes.
The focus on this , Part II, is the Yoga Korunta itself as ground for the Ashtanga practice, and particularly the question of 'Vinyasa'
In addition I heard this week that supposedly there's a copy of Krishnamacharya's supposed transcription of Yoga Korunta in a vault in Mysore, make of that what you will.
The supposed quote from Vamana Rishi's Yoga Korunta is doing the rounds again
"Vina Vinyasa Yogena asanadih na karayet"
'Oh Yogi, do not practice asana without vinyasa'. Vamana Rishi Yoga Korunta (?)
Does Sharath quote it in his book, seems like he might
"Sharath's book is terrific because both seasoned practitioners and newbies alike can "get benefit". It's clear and to the point! Also speaks about how doing asana without vinyasa is a complete waste of time".
I wouldn't be surprised if he does as it's mentioned there on both the old AYRI (Ashtanga yoga Research institute ) and current KPJAYI. Here are two long quotes that employ Vamana Rishi to ground and authenticate the method.
The following are aspects that Pattabhi Jois emphasizes as the main components of Ashtanga Yoga.
And it's influential of course, I found the quote below on a Ashtanga shala website.
"It is claimed however that the set sequence of elaborate standing, inverted and athletic asanas comprising Ashtanga Yoga is exactly what is referred to by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra’s. The evidence for this historical anomaly comes to us from a very old and extremely rare document entitled the Yoga Korunta. The Korunta is attributed to an ancient sage called Vamana Rishi. The Korunta was said to have contained the exact listing and sequences of all six series of Ashtanga Yoga plus the inclusion of bandha, pranayama, drishti and vinyasa. Vamana Rishi is also remembered for the revolutionary statement ‘Oh Yogi, do not practice asana without vinyasa.’ In other words, yogic postures are intended to be connected by a systematic and succinct series of movements known as vinyasa. In historical context this was a radical statement and potentially alters our current definition and understanding of yoga in ancient history".
And this nice story/legend concerning the rishi Vamana from Karen Breneman
The “Yoga Korunta” is attributed to the sage Vamana Rishi. It is said that he was born when Ashtanga yoga was almost forgotten, and a wise man was needed to bring it back to mankind. Vamana Rishi incarnated himself specifically for this task. Since he was already in the womb, he himself had no idea of Ashtanga Yoga. Thus he meditated on Vishnu, so that he could help him. So it happened that Vishnu taught the Ashtanga Yoga system to him in the womb. After nine months had passed, Vamana had not yet been through the entire curriculum. According to legend, he refused to be born until he had finished his studies of Ashtanga yoga".
Ok, so Krishnamacharya supposedly studied the Yoga Korunta with his teacher in the mountains. Desikachar writes that krishnamacharya began his studies by being made to memorise the whole text for the first year of his studies.
And then we have the story above that he found a copy in Calcuta and transcribed much of it.
If that's the case, we have to ask, why do we only have one line? Krishnamacharya was constantly quoting his Yoga Rhyassa as well as countless other teaxts, he supposedly had a phenomenal memory and yet we only have the ONE line from the yoga Korunta, One line.
'Oh Yogi, do not practice asana without vinyasa'.
What to make of this, and why does Krishnamacharya not mention Yoga Korunta in the bibliography for Yoga Makaranda (1934) Perhaps it was an oversight.
But then there's this from AG Mohan today, surely K. would have mentioned Yoga Korunta
RESPONSE: Krishnamacharya explained the reason behind the title in one of my classes with him. In fact, the title of the book is “Yoga Makaranda [the Honey of Yoga] or Yoga Saram [the Essence of Yoga].” Makaranda has two meanings: bee and honey. Saram means essence.
In the introduction to “Yoga Makaranda,” Krishanamcharya lists twenty-seven yoga texts, apart from his own personal study and experience, as references.
Just as the bee collects the nectar from various flowers to produce honey, Krishnamacharya has compiled the essence of yoga from various texts in his book, and hence the title “The Honey of Yoga or the Essence of Yoga.”
Part one of this book was originally published in 1934. I have made available the English translation of the unpublished manuscript of the second part of the book. It can be downloaded from www.svastha.net/resources.
- A. G. Mohan
Photo: Cover of "Yoga Makaranda" — 1938 Tamil Edition"
AG Mohan just updated his fb status this morning with this regarding Yoga Korunta
"From time to time, Krishnamacharya quoted from texts that were not available in print. They must have existed as manuscripts in libraries many decades ago, or he had memorized them entirely, learning by verbal repetition from one of his teachers. For instance, he mentioned the Yoga Kuranta on occasion during my studies. The Yoga Kuranta was apparently authored by the yogi named Korantaka, who is mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1.6)."
~ A. G. Mohan, "Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings" (p. 45)
But lets move on. Some of the stories suggest that Yoga Korunta described the Vinyasa count that we find in Ashtnga, the linking of breath to movement. We do find this in Krishnamacharya's yoga Makaranda. Is this then from the Yoga Korunta transcription? If so wouldn't we might expect Krishnamacharya to stick with the count throughout his life and yet after the Mysore years we don't seem to see it again. The breath is still linked to the movement, the long slow breathing, the kumbhaka's. Only certain elements of Krishnamacharya's presentation of vinyasa have made it into current Ashtanga, however. Surely if we were grounding a system on this teaching, and supposedly Vamana rishi's, we would keep everything intact. Problematic?
We don't find the current six sequences of asana in Krishnamacharya's early writing although we do find three groups in Yogasanagalu (1941), Primary, Intermediate and Proficient. primary and Intermediate are very close to the Primary and Intermediate series of current Ashtanga.
According to Eddie Stern Pattabhi jois said that Krishnamacharya taught a 'Mountain of asana' and went to him with a new ordering of asana when he began teaching at the Sanskrit college.
"Also - what Guruji told Sharath and I one day was that Krishnamacharya taught him (and the other boys) a mountain of asanas, he kept adding and adding, and eventually, after Guruji went to teach at the College, he divided them up, and went to Krishnamacharya to seek his approval for the divisions, and Krishnam. agreed that they were good int that order". Eddie Stern
'Mountain of asana'
I've been thinking a lot about this recently, 'Mountain of asana', makes me wonder if pattabhi Jois really 'got it'. If you look at the presentation of the asana in Yoga Makaranda we find each asana carefully described, breath by breath, vinyasa by vinyasa, count by count. We also find related variations of asana together much as we might find in Ramaswami's vinyasa krama although on a more limited scale due to the scope of the book. Krishnamacharyaeven goes so far as to draw distinctions between the hatha and raja yoga variations of some of the asana. he tells us too to look carefully at the picture of the asanas as examples.
This doesn't strike me as a random pile of postures, a mountain of asana. It's organised. In yogasanagalu we find Krishnamacharya has divided many of the key asana into groups, notice I said groups not sequences. We have a Primary group and Intermediate group and the rest of the postures coming under a Proficient group.
These do correspond quite closely to the Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga, less so with the Proficient and Advanced series.
I don't get the feeling that Krishnamacharya ever intended the asana to be practiced in a fixed sequence, he always seemed to have stressed flexibility, fitting the asana, the practice to the individual needs. And yet it stands to reason that there would always be a certain basic rough structure to the classes he most likely taught at the Mysore palace, probably corresponding somewhat to the layout we find in Yogasanagalu but with variations day to day, an extra asana here, variations of this one there, that kind of thing.
That's my guess.
Pattabhi Jois it seems, without Krishnamacharya depth of knowledge and experience on his first teaching gig, wanted something more structured, something he could take into his classes. No doubt he started with Krishnamachrya's groupings and then tweaked them, thinking all the time about a more fixed order he could teach/present in his classes.
We know from Manju Jois that his father would at times offer variations, prep postures for example for somebody struggling with a posture but in general he seems to have stuck with a relatively fixed sequence.
And that/those sequences have become more fixed as time as gone on.
So he seems to have simplified Krishnamacharya's teaching. A fixed sequence, a fixed count, a fixed number of breaths in each posture, a fixed length of breath(?), Fixed drishti. The kumbhaka's Krishnamacharya presents for different stages of different asana have been cut out altogether.
But if Pattabhi Jois was simplifying Krishnamacharya's teaching was he not also then simplifying Vamana Rishi's Yoga korunta as supposedly transmitted through Krishnamacharya, the very same text Ashtanga continues to use to ground and authenticate the practice.
What was the most important element of the teaching, the vinyasa count, which Krishnamacharya later dropped or the treatment of the breath.
We need to look more closely perhaps at this word Vinyasa.. When Vamana Rishi supposedly writes
Oh Yogi, do not practice asana without vinyasa'
What does he mean by Vinyasa, what did Krishnamacharya and his teacher think he meant by Vinyasa.
Lets look again at Vinyasa as described and introduced in Krishnamacharya first book, Yoga Makaranda.