The teacher decides which of the Tri Krama is the……

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“The teacher decides which of the Tri Krama (three steps) is the best for the student:
Śikṣaṇa Krama requires a perfect knowing to transmit a strict practice,
without any compromise, as it should be in Vedic chanting for example.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is aimed at protection and preservation;
it promotes continuity in any levels like health, abilities, knowledge, etc.
Cikitsā Krama looks for adaptation, healing, recovering…”
TKV Desikachar speaking with his senior Western students London 1998

The process of Cikitsā has two parts…..

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“The process of Cikitsā has two parts:
1. Rakṣaṇa Krama
I am healthy and don’t want to be sick.
By not doing anything there will be no Rakṣaṇam.
For example:
Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 16
heyaṃ duḥkham anāgatam
I’m alright now,
but I must be careful so I don’t get sick tomorrow.
This is Rakṣaṇa Krama.”
TKV Desikachar France 1983

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A sample Parivṛtti and Paścimatāna Themed Group Practice

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Attached as a PDF is a sample group class practice offered to a student as an example of theming two complementary Āsana groupings, that of Parivṛtti and Paścimatāna.

These complementary Lakṣaṇa, or characteristics, can be expanded from either:

  • An Annamaya or structural viewpoint, in terms of the work on such as the spine and the legs.
  • Or from a Prāṇamaya or energetic viewpoint in terms of the effect on Agni, Apāna and Vāta.
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Often people have little distinction between Exercise and Yoga….

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“Continuing the idea of Śikṣaṇa,
it is possible to put further categories into Sādhana.
It is important,
as often people have little distinction between exercise and Yoga.
According to texts and great masters Sādhana is not just at the body level,
but at the Indriya level, the mind level and possibly even further.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

There are two categories of practice……

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“There are two categories of practice, the Śikṣaṇa Krama way, according to the rules,
or the Cikitsā Krama way, the application or adaptation of a posture
to suit a particular person or a particular situation.
Where postures need to be adapted to suit particular bodies and their limitations.
The authority for the postures comes from the teacher,
although some rules are indicated in the texts.”
– From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

It appears that Modern Therapeutic Yoga is increasingly angled at……

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It appears that Modern Therapeutic Yoga is increasingly angled
at looking at the problems in front of the person
in terms of Yoga for What,
rather than looking at the person behind the problems
in terms of Yoga for Who.

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People come to study Yoga for many reasons……

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“People come to study Yoga for many reasons,
however it comes into two groups.
1. They come to learn or study (Śikṣaṇa).
2. They come to us for support rather than to study (Rakṣaṇa).
So the Yoga we offer to the person who is inquiring
is not the Yoga we offer to the person seeking protection.
Therefore one can give the wrong advice (Asat viniyoga) to the right person
and vice versa (Asat viniyoga).
This can do more harm than if the person had not come.
The intention must be right as must be the execution.”
TKV Desikachar Switzerland 1978

It seems that there is not much place for or interest in the use of Kumbhaka….

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The longer term measure of our Prāṇāyāma potential is determined by
our skilful efforts with all four components of the breath in Āsana.
For example can we maintain 8.8.8.8. in Parśva Uttānāsana or 12.6.18.12 in Mahā Mudrā?
These days though, it seems that there is not much place for or interest in the use of Kumbhaka
and breathing practices, if used at all, appear to be mainly Cikitsā or about recovery,
or at best Rakṣaṇa or constitutional, rather than Śikṣaṇa and developmental.

Where do Āsana lead us?……

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“Where do Āsana lead us?
1. For seated practices. (Adhyātmika – Concerning our essence)
To stay in a stable position with the spine erect for Dhyāna or preparation for Dhyāna.
2.  For health. (Cikitsā – Therapeutics)
They do something for the energy flow of the body.
3. Ability to master the body. (Śakti – Power)
Not necessarily to promote health but to show that we can master the body.
Often these are good for health, though many are only useful as challenges.”
– From my study notes with TKV Desikachar.

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Chatting with TKV Desikachar during a lesson in the early 1990’s…..

Chatting with TKV Desikachar during a lesson in the early 1990’s I commented on an observation formed from discussions with my students within a study group I had brought to Madras (Chennai) for a two week programme at the KYM during my personal study stay that year.

As a part of this particular study group visit to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram some of the students took up the option of 121 lessons with teachers at the KYM. Sharing the content of the practices with me revealed the introduction of a sequence that I had not come across before within, at that time, my nearly 20 years of studies within the work of T Krishnamacharya.

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Nāma, Rūpa, Lakṣana – The Name, Form and Characteristics of Āsana

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The Aṣṭāṅgāsana or the eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice are the formula for constructing a skilful and place, time and lifestyle appropriate Āsana practice. These eight limbs fall into eight categories, that of:

  • The definition, meaning and context of Āsana
    – Core concept – Nāma Rūpa Lakṣana – name, form and characteristics
  • How Āsana are arranged into groups and categories
    – Core concept – Vinyāsa Krama – collecting postures together
  • How counterpostures or Pratikriyāsana are integrated
    – Core concept – Pratikriyāsana– maintaining the balance
  • The value and purpose of the breath in Āsana
    – Core concept – Prāṇāpāna Dhāraṇā – where the focus is
  • How movement or stay are used in Āsana 
    Core concept – Circulation and Purification – dynamic and static
  • The adaptation of Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Variation and Modification – change and necessity
  • Intelligently planning and Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Bṛṃhaṇa and Laṅghana Kriyā – connecting postures together
  • Observation within Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Spine, Breath and Attention – learning to look

In my last post on Aṣṭāṅgāsana I talked about introducing each of these eight topics to help the reader to appreciate more about what is inherent in the depth and breadth of this approach in terms of Āsana planning having a precise and comprehensive formula.

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The Krishnamacharya methodology of melding the viniyoga of Āyurveda with that of Yoga

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One other study area that I was privileged to be able to experience alongside my many visits to study Yoga Practice Techniques and Associated texts in Chennai with my teacher TKV Desikachar, within the intimacy and vitality of private lessons, was that of Āyurveda and its application within Yoga.

“In Āyurveda, it gives certain behaviour by which we can stay well.
If a person follows the following he will freer of sickness.
Regularly, systematically he eats, rests and exercises adequately.
Both in amount and quality. Food or Ahāra,
along with Vihāra – recreation, rest, exercise, other activities.”
– TKV Desikachar 

Thus during my many visits to India, between 1979 and 2002, my work in Yoga was complemented by the study of Āyurveda constitutional diagnosis and prognosis, along with Nādī Parīkṣā or pulse diagnosis and the application skills or the viniyoga of Āyurveda, into Yoga practice and lifestyle, according to the teachings of T Krishnmacharya within Yoga Rakṣaṇa (lifestyle support) or Yoga Cikitsā (therapeutic recovery) situations.

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Yoga Cikitsā is about Respecting the Problem and Treating the Person

Yoga Cikitsā is about Respecting the Problem and Treating the Person

Yoga Cikitsā is about
Respecting the Problem and Treating the Person
Rather than
Respecting the Person and Treating the Problem

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The traditional model, Śikṣaṇa, for Yoga was to stay in a posture……

The traditional model, Śikṣaṇa, for Yoga was to stay in a posture

“The traditional model, Śikṣaṇa, for Yoga was to stay in a posture,
Krishnamacharya introduced movement in the postures.”
From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

How is Āyurveda linked to Cikitsā or the therapeutic application of Yoga?

Question to TKV Desikachar:
“How is Āyurveda linked to Cikitsā or the therapeutic application of Yoga?”

TKV Desikachar Response:
“There is a lot of difference. As far as Yoga is concerned, we are concerned with the personality of the person, the mental aspect and the higher aspirations of the student.

That is why Yoga has a lot to offer. For the body Āyurveda is the solution. A good combination would be Āyurveda and Yoga.

My father used to do that. He would teach Āsana practice, or Prāṇāyāma or meditation and he would talk about diet and he would also give some Āyurveda medicine.

He was treating not only the body but the whole person with the help of this great combination.”

– Extract from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

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Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly……

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Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly.
Anything is taught to achieve perfection in the practice of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma.
In other words teaching children and healthy people where you can take risks with no problems.
Not a valid approach for groups.
We need to use intelligence and Viveka,
not follow the idea of no pain, no gain to become painless,
or to get to a point without suffering.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

In the previous three articles in this series we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.

Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.

Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul, rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.

The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.

The third post developed this idea of making time for the practice of Prāṇāyāma by considering the need to add a fixed and consistent time slot within which to build content. We explored this question by looking at the relationship between Āsana and Prāṇāyāma and considered the relationship between the proportions of the time we devote to each.

In this and the next post we will look at some of the techniques that are considered a necessary prerequisite in our journey towards establishing a what would be seen by my teachers as a complete Prāṇāyāma practice.

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Even in the case of Śikṣaṇa Krama the ancient teachers had steps…….

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“Even in the case of Śikṣaṇa Krama the ancient teachers had steps in the teaching:

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Medicine, Mastery and Mystery within the field of Yoga.

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Paul Teaching in Zinal, Switzerland in 1999

Medicine, Mastery and Mystery

An Interview with Paul Harvey by Joseph Le Page. Joseph is the founder and director of Integrative Yoga Therapy. This interview took place while Paul was teaching at Zinal for UENFY in 1999.

JL: How do you adapt Yoga to the individual?

PH: I can approach that in two ways, the chronological and the psychological. Chronologically, the starting point is the age at which people begin Yoga studies.

There are three stages of life, or Trikrama. The first is the stage of growth and expansion (Sṛṣṭi).

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The teaching of Krishnamacharya around Āsana included an in-depth appreciation of the Lakṣaṇa……

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My extensive study of Āsana with TKV Desikachar was shaped around forming a deep appreciation of specific core principles that underpin the planning and practice of Āsana and their application to the individual student’s constitution, psychology and need.

Amongst these dozen or so core principles, the first group I studied when looking at any Āsana in depth, were the concepts of Nāma, Rūpa and Lakṣaṇa, or the name, the form and the characteristics of that particular Āsana.

Obviously the Nāma is a useful tag point for identification and the Rūpa is vital as a reference point for the Sat Viniyoga or appropriate application of the Āsana within overall considerations around direction and outcome such as the Śikṣaṇa Krama, Rakṣaṇa Krama or Cikitsā Krama application of the forms used.

However I do feel these days that our understanding in Āsana practice is dominated by the Nāma and the Rūpa with little emphasis on the Lakṣaṇa or inherent characteristics of the Āsana and how understanding this aspect can have a profound effect on the approach, application and outcome of the overall or accumulative impact of the Āsana within the student’s practice.

The teaching of Krishnamacharya around Āsana included an in-depth appreciation of the Lakṣaṇa, especially around the thirty or so primary Āsana such as Jaṭhara Parivṛtti, Bhujaṅgāsana or Januśīrṣāsana.

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Cikitsā Practice for a Beginning, though not Novice, Level Āsana student

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Cikitsā Practice for a Beginning, though not Novice, level Āsana student

Download a PDF version of this practice

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Prāṇāyāma done, along with a Mantra, has a role to play in Yoga Cikitsā.

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Prāṇāyāma done, along with a Mantra, has a role to play in Yoga Cikitsā.”
From T Krishnamacharya’s composition, the Yoga Rahasya

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

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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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A collation of articles by Srivatsa Ramaswami around the teachings of T Krishnamacharya

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A collation of articles by Srivatsa Ramaswami around the teachings of
T Krishnamacharya published in the ‘Indian Review’ circa 1979-1981.

View or Download this Series of Articles as a Single PDF Collation

List of Articles and Indications of Content:

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The person who taught me how to vary postures……

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The person who taught me how to vary postures, to bend the legs, to turn the neck, all the simple and complicated variations, as necessary, is Krishnamacharya. It is important to vary each posture according to the individuals requirements.

Further, he also introduced the use of other aids or supports, so that the person gets the benefit of a posture through other means when he is not able to do the posture itself. This can involve sitting on a chair, using a roll, using supports, etc., the use of other means to help a person achieve certain results.”

– TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’, given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.

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Pages: 123