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Did Krishnamacharya teach Ashtanga Primary
Series? Matthew Sweeney and the Origin of
Ashtanga, Yoga Korunta and Vinyasa
Anyone new to the practice who finds their way to this post let me say at
the outset that this is very much amateur speculation, we're all in the
dark here as to the origin of the practice and should probably be
spending more time on the mat, cushion and buried in the Upanishads
and Gita.
Yoga Makaranda
Below is my comment posted on the spin off post to Matthew Sweeney's
Evolution of Ashtanga article at Love Yoga Anatomy, 'Ashtanga Yoga 70
years or 2000'?
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
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period Krishnamachrya and the assumption that it was Krishnamacharya
who had changed his teaching, I think many hold this view.
Since working with the translation of Yogasanagalu however my thinking
has changed somewhat.
We've been working on a translation of Krishnamacharya's 1941 book
Yogasanagalu on my blog (one more chapter to go). In that book
Krishnamacharya presents a table of asana divided into three groups,
Primary, Middle and Higher or proficient) asana. I just checked with
Satya, a native Kanada speaker, who has been working on the
translation and he confirms that the translation is indeed 'groups' rather
than 'sequences'.
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My current thinking is that Krishnamacharya NEVER taught Primary
SERIES. What he did seem to teach I think is a Primary GROUP of
postures. He calls them groups in Yogasanagalu. Now they are very very
close to Patabhi Jois Primary sequences but I think that's the big
difference. K's teaching was flexible, PJ's more fixed. Eddie Stern says
that Pattabhi Jois complained that K. taught a 'Mountain of asana' and
when he went to teach himself at the Sanskrit college he went to K. with
a rearrangement of the postures (I'm assuming a rearrangement of the
groups we find in Yogasangalau no doubt closer to what he typed out for
Nancy Gilgoff (original 1974 syllabus also on my blog).
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If we go back as far as Yoga Makaranda ( 1934 ) we're still finding
groups, variations of asana (even hatha and raja versions)...K was in a
sense always teaching Vinyasa Krama. I think in the beginning Vinyasa
Krama and Ashtanga were quite close but as Ashtanga became
seemingly ever more simplified and fixed they began to seem further
apart. Thus it's not perhaps Krishnamacharya who changed so much but
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the teaching of his approach that changed, Pattabhi Jois effectively
changed what he seems to have been taught by Krishnamacharya.
Yoga Makaranda
It should be noted that Krishnamacharya supposedly tended to teach for
one hour in Mysore. Given his approach in Yoga Makaranda suggesting
slow breathing and long stays one questions how many asana one could
get through in an hour, certainly not a full sequence, flexible groups of
asana following a general intuitive frameworks seems to be more likely.
The problem with a fixed sequence is that you have to get through the
sequence, so the stays get shorter, ten then eight then five breaths, the
breaths get shorter too and you do away with the kumbhakas, found on
the most basic asana in Yoga Makaranda, discarded altogether (except
perhaps yoga mudra and baddha padmasana). And of course you do
away with many of the variations, it becomes simplified. Also of course
there's no time for the other limbs.
As for the Yoga Korunta, if there ever was such a book in written form
(Desikachar suggests it was more related to yoga philosophy than asana
practice) then surely have been closer to Yoga Makaranda than Yoga
Mala or at least the current approach to teaching Ashtanga. My guess is
that it was all about the breath, K's interpretation of asana in yoga Sutras
as being focused on the breath and then that coming through practice,
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linking breath and movement, exploring the breath in postures all those
things Krishnamacharya kept throughout his life. If he dropped the actual
vinyasa count (although kept the vinyasa between subroutines) then no
doubt that was because it was just useful for the boys of Mysore by
showing up the breath focus clearly and keeping discipline. If the vinyasa
count was indeed in Yoga Korunta then perhaps it was more a detail of
practice than an essential element.
One more thing on Yoga Makaranda and Mark Singleton's work.
Krishnamacharya is in a sense responding to Mark back in 1934
"But we cannot say that people outside India are practising yogabhyasa
and not just some form of physical exercise. I dont know about their
practice earlier, but their practice nowadays may resemble or be based
on yogabhayasa as noted by people who go abroad".p16
Yoga Makaranda
But I'm with Matthew on this, whether there was or wasn't a Yoga
Korunta or whether it does or doesn't support the practice we have now,
what's important surely is whether our practice works for us individually.
The problem is perhaps when Krishnamacharya and/or the Yoga
Korunta are used to keep us in an illusion of an authentic, authoritative
ground to the practice that frowns upon us following the self practice our
intuition leads us to.
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Sorry that was longer than I intended but there have been so many good
points and questions raised by Tim, Matthew and others here and on the
original post.
End of comment.
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.
"I began to worry that we Westerners have misunderstood and
exaggerated the entire physical process. How will I ever trace the path
back to savasana?
When I was still a child, my mother returned to me in dreams. She was
always horrid in my dream world, dressed in dark capes or carrying small
knives, and always with an angry glint in her eyes and a shaking fist. In
my dreams I'd beg her to return to the world of the dead.
Finally I received the first response to my inquiry. Godfrey Devereux, in a
thoughtful message, reminded me of what makes yoga so rich:
"Most of the transmission of yoga, like that of all esoteric practices, was
oral and personal. The criterion of historical validation is therefore hardly
applicable. Besides, many materials are kept hidden from non-Brahmins
in special vaults. The Yoga Korunta, which contains over 250 postures, is
over 5,000 years old; a copy made by Krishnamacharya is, according to
B.K.S Iyengar, in an exclusive vault in Mysore, India-access restricted. It
is for them a historical treasure, which they fear would be commercially
exploited by mercenary Westerners. I agree. I am willing to accept the
authenticity of the transmission from Krishnamacharya via Iyengar and
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Pattabhi Jois, on the basis of my experience of their potency and more."
Mystery. Perhaps that's the answer. Faith in what has traveled from mouth
to mouth. Belief in what can't be written down. Trust in what cannot be
completely known. Mystery. Savasana. Death". Tara Bray.
The Yoga Korunta, which contains over 250 postures, is over 5,000
years old; a copy made by Krishnamacharya is, according to B.K.S
Iyengar, in an exclusive vault in Mysore, India-access restricted. It is for
them a historical treasure, which they fear would be commercially
exploited by mercenary Westerners.
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.
"Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana
Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T.
Krishnamacharya in the early 1900's by his Guru Rama Mohan
Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the
duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927.
The following are aspects that Pattabhi Jois emphasizes as the main
components of Ashtanga Yoga.
Vinyasa: Vinyasa means breathing and movement system. For each
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movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namskar there
are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms
over your head, and putting your hands together; the second is exhaling
while bending forward, placing your hands next to your feet, etc. In this
way all asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas.
The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. Breathing and moving
together while performing asanas makes the blood hot, or as Pattabhi
Jois says, boils the blood. Thick blood is dirty and causes disease in the
body. The heat created from yoga cleans the blood and makes it thin, so
that it may circulate freely. The combination of the asanas with
movement and breath make the blood circulate freely around all the
joints, taking away body pains. When there is a lack of circulation, pain
occurs. The heated blood also moves through all the internal organs
removing impurities and disease, which are brought out of the body by
the sweat that occurs during practice.
Sweat is an important by product of vinyasa, because it is only through
sweat that disease leaves the body and purification occurs. In the same
way that gold is melted in a pot to remove its impurities, by the virtue of
the dirt rising to the surface as the gold boils, and the dirt then being
removed, yoga boils the blood and brings all our toxins to the surface,
which are removed through sweat. If the method of vinyasa is followed,
the body becomes healthy and strong, and pure like gold.
After the body is purified, it is possible to purify the nervous system, and
then the sense organs. These first steps are very difficult and require
many years of practice. The sense organs are always looking outside,
and the body is always giving into laziness. However, through
determination and diligent practice, these can be controlled. After this is
accomplished, mind control comes automatically. Vinyasa creates the
foundation for this to occur".
"Vinyasa means careful linking of breath and movement. The Surya
Namaskar and each of the successive asanas are comprised of a
particular number of vinyasas. Vinyasa creates heat in the body, which
warms the blood. The warmed blood passes through the muscles,
nerves, internal organs and glands, removes toxins from them, and
carries them out through the sweat. This is how the process of
purification begins. It is important that the student does not rush ahead
doing too many asanas, and allows the body to be gradually purified. If
one rushes ahead quickly, it is possible for sickness to occur, rather than
purification. It is important that the teacher checks to ensure that the
position of the body and the movement of breath are correct in each
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asana before moving the student forward so that one may reap the
proper benefit of Ashtanga Yoga.
Because of the difficult nature of remembering and mastering the various
vinyasas, on Fridays and Sundays, group guided classes are taught, in
which all the vinyasas are counted out loud and all students follow along
together accordingly.
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 1920s, 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.
Vamana Rishi taught Vina Vinyasa Yogena asanadih na karayet do
not do yoga without Vinyasa. Vamana is telling one by one, and vinyasa,
no problem.
http://kpjayi.org (currrent)
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 Sutras. 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 we find it too, a more detailed treatment on senior Ashtanga teacher
Guy Donahaye excellent Ashtanga Yoga Sangha website http://
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The Origins of the Ashtanga Yoga System
"Western scholars generally think that the yoga sutras were composed
somewhere around the birth of Christ.
They also argue that the practice of asanas is a recent invention
because no mention of these various asanas is found in any writings
prior to medieval times.
However it has to be remembered that asanas are taught individually
(one on one from teacher to student).
The fact that asanas do not appear in literature, does not mean they
were not practiced. It is likely that these practices were the experiments
of isolated yogis and it seems understandable that little written record
would have been of interest to these renuncients.
However, there was at least one record of these practices, called the
Yoga Korunta, which was attributed to the rishi Vamana that almost
made it into the 20th century in written form. This text is a commentary
on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali along with an expanded explanation of
how to perform the asanas with vinyasa, bandhas and pranayamas.
Luckily we have access to a lineage of teachers who have been exposed
to these teachings, even though, it seems, the text has not survived.
In 1919 Krishnamacharya began his studies of the Yoga Korunta with his
Guru in Tibet,
a period of study which lasted seven years. During this time he was able
to master over one thousand asanas and had learned the Yoga Korunta
in the Nepalese Gukha language.
At some point years later Krishnamacharya discovered a written copy of
the text in a Calcutta library. He started to transcribe the text from the
nepalese Gurkha language. Unfortunately the verses were written on
palm leaves and had been damaged by ants so the text was not
It has been suggested by some that Krishnamacharya created the six
Ashtanga sequences and fabricated the story of the Yoga Korunta to add
mystical authority to his system.
But why would a man of Krishnamacharya's spiritual evolution, for whom
to lie would be a sin, intentionally misrepresent the truth?
No one can say how old the text is, or how old the teachings are which
must have preceded the creation of the record. Those who say these are
creations of Krishnamacharya must be mistaken, certainly he was a
genius and made some adaptations, as can be seen in his later
The text is attributed to Risi Vamana. Vamana was an avatara of Vishnu
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and the first incarnation of the Treta Yuga (the 2nd Yuga) which places
him at the same time in history as the battle of Kuruksetra (in the Gita/
Ashtanga Yoga Sangha - The Origins of the Ashtanga Yoga System
And this nice story/legend concerning the rishi Vamana from Karen
"Yoga Korunta
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.
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But then there's this from AG Mohan today, surely K. would have
mentioned Yoga Korunta
"QUESTION: Why didKrishnamacharyacall his book Yoga Makaranda?
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 owers 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 fromwww.svastha.net/resources.
-A. G. Mohan
Photo: Cover of "Yoga Makaranda" 1938 Tamil Edition"
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But lets move on. Some of the stories suggest that Yoga Korunta
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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
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.
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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
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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.
2.4 Important Observations
From ancient times, while doing veda adhyayanam, the svaras (the
notes udatta (elevated), anudatta (grave) and svarita (middle/
articulated)) in the aksharas (syllables) of the vedas are observed and
mastered without fail; in music, the rules of sruti (division of octave),
layam (metre or time), thrtam and anuthrtam are followed; in
pathyatmaha (verses of 4 lines each) poems the rules for chandas, yati,
and parasam have been established and are carefully followed; in
mantra upasana, the anganyasa, karanyasa, sariranyasa, kalaanyasa,
matrukanyasa, ji- vanyasa, tattvanyasa are experienced and understood.
Similarly in yogasana, pranayama and the mudras, the vinyasas handed
down from ancient times should be followed.
But nowadays, in many places, these great practitioners of yogabhyasa
ignore vinyasa krama and just move and bend and shake their arms and
legs and claim that they are practising asana abhyasa. This is being
done not only in yogabhyasa but also in veda adhyayanam and in
mantra upasanas where the rules are being ignored and people
shamefully practise this as though it were part of their worldly affairs. If
this behaviour continues for some time, even the vedas will be ruined.
Everybody knows that anything that is done without following the
prescribed rules will not give any benefits. When we know that this is
true, is there any need to reiterate this for the great traditions of
yogabhyasa, veda adhyayanam and mantra upasana which provide the
best benefits? Some people, who are involved in sahavasa dosha and
interested only in worldly benefits, say that they do not see any point in
following sanatana dharma or karma yoga. There are reasons for their
saying this. I would like to briefly mention one or two points addressing
1. They are not following the rules such as vinyasa.
2. Their guru is not teaching them using the secrets and techniques that
in his experience.
3. The guru has not instructed them properly about the place and time of
practice, the appropriate diet and drink and activities for the practitioner.
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As a result of many people teaching yogabhyasa in this fashion, many
leave the path of yoga saying that they do not see the benefits in
yogabhyasa and fall into the traps of various diseases. They do not
exercise the body properly and spend money unnecessarily. Instead of
following the system properly, they lose their way and waste time on
unnecessary pursuits and have started saying that these times are not
appropriate for sanatana dharma and karma. Some others, in order to
hide the mistakes and bad actions that they have committed, keep
saying that doing yogabhyasa makes one go mad and intentionally
deceive great people in this manner. In spite of this terrible situation,
some young men and women collect some yoga texts from here and
there and eagerly begin to practise in either a correct or incorrect way.
For these people, god will reveal the secrets of yoga without fail. The
modern age belongs to the youth. Let the god of yoga bless them to
have good health, long life and body strength.
Following the path that my guru has recommended for me, I am writing
down the secrets of yoga.
Yogasana and pranayama are of two types: samantraka and amantraka.
Only those who have the right to study the vedas have the authority to
practise the yoga that is samantraka. All people have the right to practise
the amantraka type. For each asana, there are 3 to 48 vinyasas. None
has fewer than 3 vinyasas.
When practising asana, the breath that is inhaled into the body and the
breath that is exhaled out must be kept equal. Moreover, practise the
asana with their vinyasas by breathing only through the nose.
Just as music without sruti and laya will not give any pleasure, similarly
asana practice done without vinyasa krama will not give good health.
When that is so, what more is there to say about long life and strength in
this context?
In yogabhyasa, there are two types of kriyas langhana kriya and brah-
mana kriya. One who is obese should practise langhana kriya. One who
is thin should practise brahmana kriya and one who is neither fat nor thin
should practise yogabhyasa in both.
Brahmana kriya means to take in the outside air through the nose, pull it
inside, and hold it in firmly. This is called puraka kumbhaka.
Langhana kriya means to exhale the air that is inside the body out
the nose and to hold the breath firmly without allowing any air from
outside into the body. This is called recaka kumbhaka.
In vaidya sastra, they describe brahmana kriya as meaning a prescribed
diet and langhana kriya as meaning to fast. But in yoga sastra it does not
have this meaning. Without understanding these intricacies and secrets
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of yoga, some people look at the books and try to do yogabhyasa (like
looking for Ganesa and ending up with a monkey). They get disastrous
results and bring a bad name for yoga sastra. We need not pay any
attention to their words.
If one practises yogabhyasa in the presence of a guru for a few years,
following vinyasa and associated kriyas, the different aspects and
qualities of yoga will be revealed. Instead, for those who practise an
asana for only one day, and then ridicule it the next day asking what has
been gained by this, the correct answer can be given by a farmer. If a
person sows some seeds and then complains the next day that no
seedlings have grown, no farmer will tolerate such a ridiculous
In each section for each particular asana, we have included a description
and an enumeration of its vinyasas. The vinyasas in which the head is
raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the
head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising
the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is
called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person
and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person.
Those who ignore these rules and only do yogabhyasa according to their
wishes, by following picture books, will be unhappy as a result because
they will obtain absolutely no benefits from this. These people then
ridicule yogavidya and their sanatana dharma, and start doing physical
exercises that are contrary to our countrys ahara guna (diet), jala guna
(water) and vayu guna (climate) and waste a lot of money on this. Who
is at fault?
Yoga Makaranda 34-36
Examples of Vinyasa from Asana/vinyasa descriptions in Yoga
5 Caturanga Dandasana (Figure 4.15, 4.16)
For this, there are 4 vinyasas. Vinyasas 1, 2, and 3 are as for
uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa alone is different. Press both palms down
firmly while doing the 4th vinyasa from the 3rd vinyasa of uttanasana. Do
only recaka and firmly hold the breath out without doing puraka. Keeping
the weight balanced equally on both legs, jump backwards (keeping both
legs parallel to each other) and holding the body straight like a rod, lie
down facing downwards. At this time, only the palms and toes touch the
ground. No other parts of the body touch the ground. That is, there must
be 4 angulas of space between the body and the ground. In this position,
if you keep a stick or rod on top of the body, the rod must touch the body
completely. We need to keep our body this straight. But make sure to
check gaps formed by the muscles and mounds of flesh to determine if
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all the adjustments are correct. p73
6 Urdhvamukhasvanasana (Figure 4.17)
This has 4 vinyasas. Vinyasas 1, 2, and 3 are exactly as for uttanasana.
The 4th vinyasa is to be done following the same method as for
caturanga dandasana. But in caturanga dandasana, there are 4 angulas
of space between the body and the floor everywhere. In this asana, the
palms and toes are as in caturanga dandasana. However even while
keeping the lower part of the body from the toes to the thighs just as in
caturanga dandasana, raise the upper part of the body. Make sure that
the navel rests between the hands and do puraka kumbhaka. Try to push
the chest as far forward as possible, lift the face up and keep gazing at
the tip of the nose. Make the effort to practise until it becomes possible
to remain in this posture for fifteen minutes.
Benefit: There will be no slouching in the body. The apana vayu in the
lower abdomen is cleaned and the digestive power is strengthened. The
4th vinyasa itself is the asana sthiti. Afterward, return to samasthiti.
Study the picture given here carefully. p73
25 Marichasana (Figure 4.66, 4.67, 4.68, 4.69)
This has 22 vinyasas. This needs to be done on both the left and the
right sides. Study the sannaha sthiti (the preparatory state) of
marichasana in the picture. This sthiti is the 7th vinyasa.
The right-side marichasana paristhiti is shown in the second picture.
Maricha Maharishi was known for bringing this asana to public
knowledge and hence it is named for him.
Stay in the 7th vinyasa for some time doing puraka kumbhaka. After this,
do recaka and come to the 8th vinyasa. Stay in this position for as long
as possible. In case your head starts reeling (you get dizzy), come back
to the 7th vinyasa, do puraka kumbhaka, close the eyes and remain here
for some time. The dizziness will stop.
The 9th vinyasa is like the 7th vinyasa. The 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th
vinyasas are like the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th vinyasas of
The 14th vinyasa is marichasana sannaha sthiti on the left side. This is
demonstrated in the 3rd picture. The 15th vinyasa is the left-side
marichasana paristhiti. This is demonstrated in the 4th picture. In the
14th vinyasa do puraka kumbhaka and in the 15th vinyasa do only
recaka. The 16th vinyasa is like the 14th. The 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th,
21st, and 22nd vinyasas are like the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and
22nd vinyasas of janusirsasana. p123
Vinyasa asana description in Yoga makaranda part 2
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It is said that Marichi, one of the sons of Brahma discovered this asanas
in the treatment of
one of his wives. This asana has a number of sections. These are
described below. The asanas are of special benefit in the cases of
diseases peculiar to women. These asanas are described in Yoga
Ragasya and Nadha Bindu Upanishad. These asanas should be done
with advantage on an empty stomach. In any case there should be an
interval of at least 4 hours after the last meal.
Section A
1. Sit erect, with both legs stretched in front, bend one leg, say the left,
at the knee and place the foot firmly on the ground near the buttocks.
The foreleg should be kept upright to the ground. (See the illustrations)
2. Take the left arm round the left knee and toward the back. Take the
right arm behind the back and catch hold of the left wrist with the right
hand. A point to be carefully noted, is that the left thigh should be closely
pressing the body. The spine should be kept as straight as possible. The
right leg should be kept stretched with the toes pointed and the calf and
the thighs should be touching the ground.
3. While exhaling, bend the trunk at the hips, and touch the right knee by
the top of the head. The knee should not be raised when the body is
4. While inhaling, lift trunk.
5. Repeat on the other side.
6. The trunk may be lowered and lifted a few times, as may be possible
without undue
Benefits: This reduces the fat round the waist. In the case of ladies it
acts as a corrective in regulating their periods, and the flow. p33
Vinyasa in yogasanagalu
Vinayasas many people are curious about its secret. Some others
want to know its basis. I agree.
7 l -
By making the breath smooth (and long), and by concentration or
focussing the mind on the breath, the perfection of the posture is
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Both type of people (practitioners), be happy (enjoy).
Vachaspathi Mitra in that commentary
l l [ l 7 l*-
*- l l 7 (
l Saamsiddhiko hi prayatnah shariradharako na
yogangasyopadeshtavyasanasya kaaranam. Tasmat
upadeshtavyasanasyayamashadhakah virodhi cha swabhavikah
prayatnah. Tasya cha yadruchhikasanahetutayaa
l - l - l 7 l 7
l - l l l 7 l l [ (
tasmat upadishtaniyamaasanam abhyasyataa
svaabhaavikaprayatnashaithilyaatmaa prayatna asteyah naanyatha
upadishtam asnam sidhyateeti svaabhavikaprayatnashaithilyam
-1 7 l l 9
l l Anante vya-naganayake
sthiratarapanasahasravidhrutavishwambaramandale samapannam
chittam asanam nirvartayateeti
II- 47. By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with
reference to Ananta
[A posture] results. With these words the sentence is completed. When
efforts cease the posture is completed,so that there is no agitation of the
body. Or the mind-stuff comes into a balanced-state with reference to
Ananta and produces the posture. (Vyasa)
Having stated what the postures are, he tells what are the means of
attaining them. 47.By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-
balance with reference to Ananta. A natural effort sustaining the body is
not the cause of this kind of posture which is to be taught as an aid to
yoga. For if its cause were such, the preaching of it would be
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purposeless in that it could be naturally perfected. Therefore this natural
effort does not accomplish this kind of posture which is to be taught and
is contrary [to it]. For in so far as this [natural posture] is the cause of an
arbitrarily chosen posture it is the destroyer of the specific kind of
posture. Consequently a man, practising the specific posture as taught,
should resort to an effort which consists in the relaxation of the natural
effort. Otherwise the posture taught cannot be accomplished. Or . . . with
Ananta,^ the Chief of Serpents, who upholds the globe of the earth upon
his thousand very steadfast hoods, [with him] the mind-stuff comes into a
balanced state and produces the posture". (Vachaspati Micra)
*see notes on translation below
Therefore, how many breathings for which asana? When is inhalation?
When is exhalation? In what way? When body is stretched forward,
inhalation or exhalation? What about when you raise your head? To
know this mystery and practice in order is called Vinayasa. These along
with the significance of each asana will be discussed in 1 to 32
Ramaswami wild yogi interview
What was your first impression of him (Krishnamacharya)?
First impression was that he appeared to be a bit stern. But once he
started to teach - the first thing he said was "Inhale, raise your arms.
Breath with hissing sound, rubbing sensation in the throat." - I had never
seen a yoga teacher doing it with breathing. I used to have a few
teachers, seen a few books. I was young - just 15 at the time. Like all
Indians, I had some exposure to yoga. First thing that struck me was the
use of breath, the way he was teaching vinyasas. He was very clear with
his instructions. And then also types and number of vinyasas he was
able to teach - that was also very impressive. Even with the first few
classes I can see that yoga was much different than how we were
practicing in India at that time.
Can you describe the Vinyasa Krama, the method you are teaching? It's
Vinyasa Krama is a method, by which you do asanas, with a number of
movements leading to asanas, movements in the asanas, counterposes
to the asanas. And then all the asanas are done with a proper breathing.
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There is an appropriate breathing for each of these movements. And
then the mind is focused on the breath. These are the main differences
between Vinyasa Krama and other methods. The term Vinyasa means
Art. Vinyasa Krama is practicing yoga as an Art.
How particular was Krishnamacharya in Vinyasa sequences? Did he
required to stick to a particular sequence, or did he encouraged
Yes, he would teach you the way I go about teaching this class. Once
you learned these vinyasas, then in your own practice you will pick and
choose on a daily basis. That is your responsibility. But, on the other
hand, if you come to me for a treatment, then I will pick and choose the
vinyasas and give it to you. But if you are doing it for yourself, and you
had learned these vinyasas, then you have to design your program on a
daily basis. You don't need a teacher to come and tell you. I've done this,
tomorrow I think I should do something for my neck and shoulders, or
sometimes I feel heavy in my legs, so I probably spend more time doing
vinyasas in my shoulderstand, or headstand. I vary my procedures from
day to day.
In your opinion, why Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga follows strict sequences, no
variations allowed? Pattabhi Jois was stating that he was teaching
strictly according with Krishnamacharya tradition.
Right. I can only speculate. One is that Krishnamacharya taught only
those vinyasas at that particular time. They belong to much earlier
group, 1940s maybe. And another thing, it is all depends on how long
they studied. I studied with Krishnamacharya for a long, long period of
time. I specifically asked him for more vinyasas, when I started teaching.
I realized that that I was not able to teach much more, so I went and
asked him, are there more vinyasas? I said, I am not able to teach my
students, is there something more? Yes, then he started, did you teach
this vinyasa, this other vinyasa. Like that, he kept on teaching more and
more... I used to practice, and then go and teach.
Vinyasa means art. In Vinyasa Krama the body, breath and mind are
integrated to attain a unified state of harmony and attention. Vinyasa
also means variation. Vinyasa Krama uses numerous variations of each
posture to fully explore the possibilities of the body and attain the
classical goals of Yoga, steadiness and comfort.
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Krama means order or method. In Vinyasa Krama, postures are
organised in a logical sequence. Each variation is linked to the next with
transitional movements, the whole practice synchronised with deep ujjayi
breathing. Each posture can be gradually accessed through the easier
vinyasas and then slowly mastered by moving through all the variations.
In this way the body is taken to health and freedom in a gentle process,
without force or strain. In the process the breath and mind also undergo
a transformation. The parameters of Yoga indicated in the Yoga Sutras
are faithfully respected to maintain an effective, authentic practice.
The term Vinyasa Krama, otherwise known as moving by numbers, is
the tradition of practicing asana in a flowing sequence connected
harmoniously by the breath. Krama means a step or in stages. It also
means to learn the postures one by one, observing the correct order.
Vinyasa Krama was also a phrase used by Professor T.
Krishnamacharya to convey two different, though complementary
approaches. The first he called Vinyasa Chikitsa, a therapeutic method
of movement providing the steps needed to accomplish an Asana - as
dictated by your individual constitution. The second he called Vinyasa
Shakti, a method by which he counted numbers to a group so they could
follow the movement patterns precisely and consistently. The first
method is about tailoring the practice to suit the individual. The second is
about fitting the individual to the practice. Both have possible drawbacks
and advantages.
Vinyasa (Sanskrit: l ; IAST:vinysa; vi-nyaah-sa[needs IPA]) is a
Sanskrit term often employed in relation to certain styles of yoga. The
term vinyasa may be broken down into its Sanskritic roots to assist in
decoding its meaning. Nyasa denotes "to place" and vi denotes "in a
special way." Like many Sanskrit words, vinyasa is a term that has many
Lori Gaspar (2003) [1] states:
There are four basic definitions of vinyasa: 1) the linking of body
movement with breath; 2) a specific sequence of breath-synchronized
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movements used to transition between sustained postures; 3) setting an
intention for one's personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps
toward reaching that goal; and 4) a type of yoga class.
Maehle (2007: p.294) defines vinyasa as:
Sequential movement that interlinks postures to form a continuous flow.
It creates a movement meditation that reveals all forms as being
impermanent and for this reason are not held on to.[2]
d It denotes a flowing, dynamic form of yoga, connected to breath or
pranayama in which yoga and mudra transitions are embodied as
linkages within and between asana.
Vinyasa is also employed as a noun to describe the sequence of poses
that are performed between Adho Mukha Svanasanas or Downward
Facing Dogs as part of a Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation sequence.
Though this is more correctly termed half-vinyasa as full-vinyasa returns
to complete standing asana or positions.
Srivasta Ramaswami, author of The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga
and a direct disciple of the legendary Yoga teacher Krishnamacharya,
brings forth the essence of Vinyasa in asana practice in the following
"My guru believed that the correct vinyasa method is essential in order to
receive the full benefits from yoga practice. The following quote, which I
translated from Yoga Makaranda, perfectly captures this
sentiment."From time immemorial the Vedic syllables...are chanted with
the correct (high, low, and level) notes. Likewise, sruti (pitch) and
laya(rhythm) govern Indian classical music. Classical Sanskrit poetry
follows strict rules of chandas (meter), yati(caesura), and prasa
(assemblage). Further, in mantra worship, nyasas (usually the
assignment of different parts of the body to various deities, with mantras
and gestures) - such as Kala nyasa, Matruka nyasa, Tatwa nyasa - are
integral parts. Likewise yogasana (yogic poses), pranayama (yogic
breathing exercises), and mudras (seals, locks, gestures) have been
practiced with vinyasas from time immemorial. However, these days, in
many places, many great souls who teach yoga do so without the
vinyasas. They merely stretch or contract the limbs and proclaim that
they are practicing yoga...""
Ramaswami further goes on to add, "Just as music without proper pitch
(sruti) and rhythm (laya) will not give happiness, yogasana practice
without the observance of vinyasas will not give health. That being the
case what can I say about the long life, strength and other benefits?"[3]