Question Krishnamacharya – “Can you explain the concept of vinyāsa and pratikriyāsana?”


Question to T Krishnamacharya:
“Can you explain the concept of vinyāsa and pratikriyāsana?”

“The question asked relates to Yoga and not to vidyābhyasa. There is no āsana without vinyāsa. Yoga is an experience, āsana is the third of the eight limbs of Yoga and it is also important to pay attention to first two limbs, namely yama and niyama.

One who wishes to enquire into and understand vinyāsa should first know what is āsana. According to Patañjali Yoga Sūtra, āsana is defined as “sthira sukham āsanam”.

sthira – Namely firm and without disease and sukha – pleasant and comfortable. To be in sukha state, all parts of the body should be in perfect harmony. This is true for all, whether one is a man, woman, deaf, mute, blind or even for animals. Any action that disturbs this state of harmony should be followed by a pratikriyā to restore the harmony. One cannot but accept this principle.

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The Art of viniyoga of Āsana – Empower your Body Customising Āsana

Just putting the finishing touches to the viniyoga of Āsana Module Two manual as I prepare to teach its contents for the four day Course for a small group starting this weekend. Currently running to 90 pages it complements the 60 page viniyoga of Āsana Module One two day workshop manual.

These 150 pages of student training manuals sit within the Āsana section of the Arts of Yoga and Chant Practice Modular Programmes. The Āsana module sits within the five linked aspects of practice which, taken as a whole aim to reflect the Yoga practice and theory teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar.

These five aspects of practice are the arts of Āsana, MudrāPrāṇāyāmaDhyāna, and Adhyayanam or Chanting. This approach to transmitting the teachings of Desikachar as individual threads arose from the choice to make a complete restructuring of all my training programmes, the first major overhaul in 25 years of teaching courses to students and especially training teachers within group class situations.

It has taken five years from conception to completion and follows a conscious choice to go back to the fundamental learning methodologies following an accumulating dissatisfaction and frustration with my existing models of group student teaching Introductory and Foundation Courses and especially teacher focused training Practitioner and Postgraduate Programmes.

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Practice as a Process and Practice as Content…..


Where do we start when approaching the determination to open up to practice options beyond the group class mentality with its double edged sword of support and dependancy?

We can start by exploring what it means to cultivate a personal regular home practice in terms of looking at it as from the viewpoint of being a process as well as having content.

Here it might be helpful to examine what are the differences between these two concepts so vital in the work of Desikachar around planning Yoga practices for individual students.

So what is Yoga practice as a process? Practice as a process is everything that surrounds the establishing of a home practice.

This can be the time of the day, energy levels at the time of practice, what the student would be stepping away from in order to engage in practice, differences in gender and impact on body rhythms, what follows the practice in terms of activity or life demands, to name but a few aspects of process.

Practice as content is what we put into the practice in terms of choices around Yoga tools such as how we utilise and develop both short term and longer term, Yoga postures, breathing, chanting, rituals, meditation, etc.

Follow-on posts will examine these different aspects of Yoga as a process with examples of how we engage the important and unique differences between students personal lives, rather than the more standardised time and place processes within external group class setups.

The maturation of the fruits of Prāṇāyāma takes many years……


One aspect of Yoga Sādhana is that it is ultimately about a maturing of our relationship with all aspects of on the mat Yoga practice, rather than just that of our Āsana practice. This is especially important as these various aspects sit within a hierarchical spiral with one level being the foundation, technical reference point, verification and ladder for the next.

We only have to study and reflect on the Yoga Sūtra to appreciate this relationship dynamic. Yet it increasingly appears that for many today the word ‘advancing’ in terms of on the mat practice means tackling increasingly complex Āsana or Āsana choreographies to the neglect or even detriment of what are seen as the levels that Āsana aims to prepare us to engage in.

Krishnamacharya understood this relationship dynamic and offered many teachings, tools and practices to help link the student to and in their upward ascent of the practice spiral. It will be a misunderstanding and misrepresentation if he is remembered only as the ‘father’ of modern Āsana.

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The counter posture needs to be mastered before a particular Āsana is attempted


How do we know that a student is ready to attempt a more progressive posture such as Sarvāṅgāsana?

From following the core principle in the teachings of Vinyāsa Krama. In that the Pratikriyāsana or counter posture for a particular Āsana needs to be mastered before that particular Āsana is attempted.

For example if we want to teach Sarvāṅgāsana or shoulder stand, because it will have a specific potential for the particular student, then we teach the counterpose Bhujaṅgāsana first.

So the student first works around Bhujaṅgāsana within their personal practice and the information that arises guides the teacher as to their readiness for, in this case, Sarvāṅgāsana.

“Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, but as it applies to the student.”
– T Krishnamacharya

The information arising from observing how the student practices Bhujaṅgāsana guides the teacher as to the appropriateness of Sarvāṅgāsana. The information that feeds back may be on the level of Annamaya, Prāṇamaya, Manomaya or beyond. Obviously this implies that we are observing the students practice directly.

Once the student shows an adequate performance of Bhujaṅgāsana and it can be integrated into their existing personal practice, then we can be more secure that the student is ready to approach integrating Sarvāṅgāsana into their regular practice.

Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter Eight Theory

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America,
a transcript of recordings of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980.

Unlike the later redacted edition, re-published in 1995 as the ‘Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’, it captures the evolution of the retreat with the days lectures and Q & A dialogues as they alternated between ‘lectures on the principles and purposes of Yoga and discussions related to the practice of Yoga with special reference to the postures and the breathing techniques’.

TKV Desikachar, in his forward to the original version wrote:

“These lectures and discussions, printed words put before persons I might never meet,
are but reflections of that deeper result that grew out of a living face-to-face encounter.
Coming to learn of Yoga only through reading leaves much to be desired.
Yet, something worthwhile about Yoga might be shared through the medium of the printed word.”

A chapter by chapter Study guide is offered below with added verse and word cross-references where possible to support a a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.

Chapter Eight Theory:
Yama, Niyama and Āsana – The First Three Aṅga of Yoga
– Pages 107-115

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The heart of the breath is our home.


The heart of the breath is our home.

A fundamental facet in the principles of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice……


A fundamental facet in the principles of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice, in the teachings of Krishnamacharya through Desikachar, is the ordering of Āsana according to the acronym SLIBSS.

It is the practice arrangement or Vinyāsa Krama in the following order:

  • Standing Āsana
  • Supine Lying Āsana
  • Inverted Āsana
  • Prone Backbend Āsana
  • Sitting Āsana
  • Seated Āsana

This is referred to in Religiousness in Yoga page 23-27.

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Freedom of movement within the Annamaya does not presume……

Freedom of movement within the Annamaya
does not presume freedom of movement within the Prāṇamaya.

Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part One

Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool

Part One – Yoga as a View

Rāja Yoga – Yoga and Samādhi


Yoga as a Process

– The View, Path and Goal towards Samādhi as in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra

It is interesting these days that as a Yoga teacher the question I am more likely to be asked is ‘What kind of Yoga do you do?’ rather than ‘What is Yoga?’. It’s either that we think we already know what Yoga is or, more likely, that the view is becoming lost within the myriad of ways in which Yoga is offered.

These days there seems to be little apparent clarity around what Yoga is, or if there is a view, it is not very apparent.

This view may also be coloured by religious influences such as Hinduism, Sikhism or even bodywork paradigms such as physical culture, bodybuilding, gymnastics and even wrestling.

In the Yoga world of today in the West it seems as if many teachers are teaching without a clear ‘view’ of what Yoga is and how we might realize this view.

Look for example at how we appear not to even know or use the Yoga name for meditation. Here the most often used phrase is Āsana, Prāṇāyāma and Meditation.

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Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part Three

 Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool

Part Three – Yoga as a Tool

The viniyoga of Yoga – Yoga and Sādhana


Yoga as a Tool

– The Art of viniyoga for developing a Personalized Practice

Yoga as a tool is more likely to be the starting point for most students these days in that we often choose a style or approach to Yoga as a starting point in our Yoga experience.

There are many, many choices these days, although the common denominator now appears to based around Yoga teachers rather than Yoga teachings.

For example we have Anusāra, Aṣṭāṅga, Bikram, Dru, Gītānada, Integral, Iyengar, Jīvamukti, Kripālu, Kuṇḍalinī, Sahaja, Scaravelli, Śivananda, Satyānanda, viniyoga of Yoga, etc.

Which is fine in itself. However the question that arises is how do the various methodologies relate to the principles of practice in order to realize the view of Yoga?

My own field of expertise lies within the teachings often referred to as the viniyoga (application) of Yoga, so I can only speak with experience from this perspective.

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I feel our priorities need to be more around how we practice rather……


Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part Two

Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool

Part Two – Yoga as a Practice

Haṭha Yoga – Yoga and Prāṇa

Yoga as Alchemy

– The Place and Purpose of Prāṇa Agni Doṣa Nādī & Cakra

A further irony in the emerging role and identity of Yoga in the West today is with regard to the term Haṭha Yoga. The term is mainly used generically these days to identify and group ‘physically’ based Yoga practices.

As a teacher I am often asked in connection with the question what kind of Yoga do you teach, is it Haṭha Yoga?

The irony is that when we look at what Haṭha Yoga really is we find that the physical elements are relatively limited with very few Āsana discussed.

Furthermore within the few discussed, the most important are concerned with sitting, in preparation for practice elements other than Āsana.

Primarily to facilitate a quality of being able to sit still and as if move beyond the physical body.

Here, the primary concern and field of activity for Haṭha Yoga practitioners is with regard to the energetic ‘Prāṇa’ body or Prāṇamaya and its role in helping to facilitate a quality of energetic ‘clarity’ and energetic ‘stillness’, ultimately as a ladder to support the practitioners exploration of meditational states of being in terms of Rāja Yoga or the Yoga of Samādhi.

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In terms of Haṭha Yoga the role of freedom in movement is not an end in itself…….

bhujangasana 5pascimatanasana

Freedom of or in movement is a useful pursuit and obviously an asset in the world of homo-sedens that abounds these days.

However movement according to the principles inherent in Hatha Yoga has another role other than freedom of movement as an end in itself.

Thus in terms of Haṭha Yoga the role of freedom in movement is a useful tool but not the goal that seems to dominate Āsana classes within Modern Postural Yoga.

Of course freedom in movement is obviously a support in allowing us to apply the principles of Hatha Āsana practice, but not the end in itself it seems to have become.

For example it can help with facilitating an exploration of the energetic processes that define, guide and differentiate Hatha Yoga from movement forms such as exercise, fitness, dance, etc.

Yet it seems to be that on the way to the goals of Haṭha Yoga and its relationship to Rāja Yoga, we are being sidetracked by the goals within the myriad of movement forms that proliferate or even pose (‘xcuse pun) as Āsana practice today.

Different suggestions are available in our tradition to help the beginner……

Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

“Different suggestions are available in our tradition
to help the beginner arrive at the highest state of Samādhi.
For example, using the image or idol of Īśvara
in the form pleasant to the seeker or even a picture frame.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 42

Saravāṅgāsana as a Mudrā – Part One

There are certain Yoga postures that, depending on how they are approached and utilised, can function as either an Āsana or as a Mudrā.

This distinction in function can be generalised around whether the practitioner focuses on a static form with the focus on the development of the breath or on a dynamic form with the development of the variations of and in the posture.

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Online Personalised Live Learning Programme

121 Lessons

The aim is to reflect the fundamentals of Śrī Krishnamacharya’s teaching, namely, transmission occurs through the direct experience of the teacher with the students personal practice and study Sādhana.

Online Individualised Learning within a Personal Dialogue

Over the past decade, with the advent of online video technologies, I have found myself increasingly involved in virtual teaching situations with Yoga students and Yoga teachers. Here I have offered 121 video meetings to facilitate a personalised approach and in-depth transmission between teacher and student.

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Any attempt to meditate is going to fail if you are sitting on a pile of junk……


“Any attempt to meditate is going to fail if you are sitting on a pile of junk.”
– TKV Desikachar commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter 6 verse 34

Sometimes Yoga is called Darśana Vijñāna……


“Sometimes Yoga is called Darśana Vijñāna. Vijñāna means ‘to know things in detail, which involves also the techniques, the process of knowing, etc’.
It mean that not only we see things, we also know how to apply”
– TKV Desikachar 1981

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The quality of the Pūraka or Recaka determines the quality of the Kumbhaka.


“The quality of the Pūraka (inhale) or Recaka (exhale)
determines the quality of the Kumbhaka (suspension).”
– TKV Desikachar 1987

Bhāvana for the Breath in Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma


Bhāvana for the Breath in Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma

Mahā Mudrā is the bridge between Āsana and Prāṇāyāma.


Mahā Mudrā is the bridge between Āsana and Prāṇāyāma.

Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga……


The viniyoga of Planning Principles Series Post 4

General Aims and Intended Outcomes around Practice Planning:

  • Be clear about the difference between aim(s) and intended outcome(s)
  • Distinguish between short-term and long-term aim(s) and intended outcome(s)
  • Appreciate how you can factor short term outcomes within long term aims
  • Avoid having too many aims or intended outcomes within one practice – keep it focused
  • Consider the five areas that practice can interact with – body, spine, breath, mind and emotions
  • Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga

Make the practice shorter than the time available……


The viniyoga of Planning Principles Series Post 3

Some General Guidelines:

  • Be clear about your purpose
  • Hold the reflection that practice is a means not an end
  • Remember ‘can’ is not the same as ‘should’
  • Ask yourself what is most effective
  • Plan for others as it applies to them, not as it applies to you
  • Consider its relationship to both short term and long term goals
  • Aim to cultivate a state of Sattva by reducing Tamas and stabilising Rajas
  • Keep it simple and consider how to spend more time in fewer Āsana
  • Make the practice shorter than the time available
  • Stick to the conventions of technique unless there is a reason to change them

In terms of practice planning the spirit of viniyoga is achieved……


The viniyoga of Planning Principles Series Post 2

In terms of practice planning the spirit of viniyoga is achieved by two broad means:

1. The selection of practice material that is appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the student.

2. The intelligent use of Vinyāsa Krama.