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On Ashtanga Practice






VINYASA COUNT

Thursday, 6 March 2014




John Scott recommends that we learn the Ashtanga Vinyasa count, not just Teachers but all of us, for him the count is a mantra, it focuses the mind.

"The Vinyasa Count, how did the Vinyasa Count come to mainstream Ashtanga?"

"So what happened...  In the early days of practice at the Lakshmipuram Shala (the original Mysore Self-Practice), we didn't know what Guruji was saying or meaning when he directed to us "Catvari!". We thought "Catvari" meant 'jump back', because Guruji would say "catvari - jump back". So we took that translation as 'jump back'. We took 'Panca' as upward facing dog. We took 'Sat' as downward facing dog, 'sapta' as jump through - We thought 'Sapta' meant jump through! 

It took us to Wake UP! To begin listening! To realise Guruji was actually counting in Sanskrit -4,5,6,7.
So it took a little student research to start the enquiry into Vinyasa. What did vinyasa actually mean.

Guruji called vinyasa "Counted Method" .

When my good friend Lino Miele was in France and witnessed Guruji counting the whole class through as One, he saw it all come together, and he took this counting on as a research project to document the Vinyasa.  Lucy and I became involved with Lino's project and became very much part of Lino's book. From that point onwards I made it my focus to learn Guruji's Vinyasa Count.

In Guruji's own book 'Yoga Mala' referring to the practice as a mala, a garland of postures, he refers to every posture having a 'State' and every state or 'Asana' has a specific number of counted vinyasa to enter and exit all choreographed to the Breath.
"The Vinyasa are all like beads, Choreographed breath/body movements, all to be counted and meditated on and it is the students requirement to learn this Counted method as a mantra for their own personal practice"
John Scott, Winter, 2013 Stillpointyoga London

So it doesn't matter whether we ever intend to present a Led Ashtanga Vinyasa class in Sanskrit it can be rewarding in and of itself. If nothing else there is no surer way to stop our faffing about than trying to stay on count.

A note about staying on count. The vinyasa count does not mean we have to rush in and out of a posture, wrenching our leg quickly into half padmasana for Marichiyasana D, so as to to keep up with the rest of the class. The count doesn't actually count each and every breath, there are 'official' extra inhalations and/or exhalations built in, found/taken throughout the practice, this means that we can ourselves  choose take extra breaths to get in and out of a posture, paying attention to our breath as we do so, keeping it long and full as long as we pick up the vinyasa count at the right place, at the right vinyasa.

Example. In Marichiyasana B we jump through on SUPTA inhale and are then supposed to bind in the posture before exhaling ASTAU into the state of the asana, staying for five breaths. There is no reason that I can think of why we can't step through, take two or three extra breaths as we bind into the posture and then, when we are ready, exhale into the state of the asana mentally chanting Astau. It may mean we are behind everyone else in a led room, they may be on their third or fourth breath count, that's OK we take just the one breath in the posture and then come out with everyone else. At home we can take our time to bind and take the full five breaths, or perhaps just three if we like to keep them long.

UPDATE more clarification at the bottom of this post

So here's an approach to learning the count.

One Approach to learning the Ashtanga Vinyasa Count.

The count here is based on John Scott and Lino Mile's books, Lino lists the count nice and clearly but John Scott seems to go into more detail about each vinyasa as well as the extra inhalations and exhalations in a more detail while still  keeping it concise and clear. Full vinyasa is a wonderful practice, I don't find it any more exhausting than half Vinyasa and if time is a concern just do half primary one day the second half the next. Practicing full vinyasa helps make sense of half vinyasa. I have a post to come that goes into more details of how we go from one to the other. this should of course not be considered authoritative there is no final authority on this other than the systems own internal logic, the relationship between that and our own practice. There may well be some discrepancies between this and the version taught by other senior teachers, whether it be  Manju, Sharath or the certified,  authorised (whatever list) and unauthorised teachers. These discrepancies/differences  should be a source of interest rather than conflict. Feel free to point out any discrepancies between this and Sharath in comments, I am myself exploring variations in the count between Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois, Manju Jois Lino Miele/John Scott and Sharath for my upcoming Easter retreat.

1. First learn to count up to thirty in Sanskrit ( see the table below), actually, up to twenty-two will do you for most of the vinyasa. In fact, start with 1-9, that will allow you to work through Surynamaskara A.

1   = ekam
2   = dve
3   = trīṇi
4   = catvāri
5   = pañca
6   = ṣaṭ
7   = sapta
8   = aṣṭau
9   = nava

2. Practice some Sury's, mentally chanting the count (skip the five breaths in down dog so you don't forget where you are).

Then, for a week of practice, mentally count yourself through all of your Sury's A and B.

Notice how we tend to go up on the inhale and down on the exhale, this is obvious perhaps but it will help locate us in our count, it's like GPS Also we generally tend to inhale on odd numbers and exhale on even, more GPS

ekam  - Inhaling, arms go UP
dve  - Exhaling we fold over DOWN
trīṇi -  Inhaling we flatten the back effectively coming UP
catvāri  - Exhaling we jump back to Chatauranga ( kind of DOWN )
pañca  - Inhaling we come through and UP
ṣaṭ   -  Exhaling, backside comes up and we effectively fold in to look at the navel (DOWN)
sapta  - We jump our feet to our hands and Inhaling flatten the back as in DVE so UP
aṣṭau  - Exhaling we fold over so DOWN
nava  - Inhaling the arms come back UP

This is the end of the vinyasa, we drop our arms back down to Samastith, it's not counted.

3. Learn the number of vinyasas for each posture as well as the state of the asana ( see the table below) often these are the same.

EG. Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana to Marichiyasana C all have 22 * vinyasa, each with the actual state of the asana being 8 and 15 (representing both sides of the asana).

4. We know the Sanskrit count now, we just need to know on which count we have to be for the actually state of the asana.

We know how to count our way through our vinyasa ( from our Surynamaskara practice) and we know the state of the asana we want to be in, any discrepancy means there has to be an extra breath or part of a breath thrown in somewhere.

EG. In the Prasarita's we want to be in the state of the asana for TRINI, Jumping the legs apart is EKAM (inhale) but if we fold straight over then we would be in the state of the asana on DVE not TRINI, that means there has to be an extra vinyasa in there. DVE (exhale) would be folding over and putting our hands on the floor. We can't fold in on the exhalation so there must be another extra inhalation, there is and it's not counted, we look up, flatten the back and then TRINI (exhale) our head towards the mat and take our five long full breaths.

HALF VINYASA: Below is the full vinyasa count, half vinyasa is a short-cut version of the practice but the full count is still implied. If we choose to do a half vinyasa practice we might not come all the way back to standing samastithi after the some/all of the seated postures, only going back as far as Adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog). Despite this we would still begin the next count on SUPTA as we step or jump through for the next seated posture just as if we had gone all the way back to standing and back.... we're kind of pretending. Learning the number for the state of the asana helps us to understand where the short cuts of contemporary half vinyasa Ashtanga are.

5. Work in groups, so just learn the vinyasa and state for the standing sequence for a week, then the next week add on postures up to navasana, the following week work up to the end of primary and finally add on finishing.

6. Explore a couple of tricky vinyasa outside of your regular practice, just running through the count, perhaps in the evening,  so you don't disrupt your practice too much.

A book will help. John Scotts Ashtanga Yoga book is probably the best for outlining the vinyasas and explaining what happens as clearly concisely as possible, but Sharath's book works well too, it'll help you work it out at least. Both have a clear quick to check presentation for those practices when you still working it out and need to check. Pattabhi Jois' own Yoga Mala will make it even clearer away from the mat.

This is also an excellent Vinyasa Count resource ( among other things) by Dr. Ronald Steiner and team http://www.ashtangayoga.info/practice/

7. Practice along to some led CD's and DVD's. these help but really you have to work it out yourself. John Scott's New app is good for this. Sharath's CD is excellent, just the postures and the count, no explanation, Maju's DVD is of a led where every body repeats manju's count, excellent.


Counting In Sanskrit

1   = ekam
2   = dve
3   = trīṇi
4   = catvāri
5   = pañca
6   = ṣaṭ
7   = sapta
8   = aṣṭau
9   = nava
10  = daśa 
11  = ekādaśa 
12  = dvādaśa 
13  = trayodaśa
14  = caturdaśa 
15  = pañcadaśa 
16  = ṣoḍaśa 
17  = saptadaśa 
18  = aṣṭadaśa 
19  = ekonavimśatiḥ 
20  = vimśatiḥ 
21  = ekāvimśatiḥ
22  = dvāvimśatiḥ 
23  = trayovimśatiḥ 
24  = caturvimśatiḥ 
25  = pañcavimśatiḥ 
26  = ṣoḍavimśatiḥ; 
27  = saptavimśatiḥ 
28  = aṣṭovimśatiḥ

Sanskrit Numbers from here ashtangayoga.info 

Ashtanga Vinyasa Count Primary Series

CODE
First  number followed by * is the number of vinyasas
The numbers after the star are the states of the asana

So  Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C   22 *  8 , 15  signifies that all three versions of 
Jānuśīrṣāsanahave have 22 vinyasa each and that the states of the asana for each versions are 8 and 15 ( IE. Both sides)

I've grouped asana that have the same vinyasa/state code to aid in memorising.


STANDING SEQUENCE

Sūryanamaskāra A = 9 vinyasa  B = 17 vinyasa 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pādāngusthāsana 3 * 2

Pāda Hastāsana    3 * 2
--------------------------------------------------------
Uthitta Trikoṇāsana A and B         5 * 2 , 4

Uthitta Pārśvakonāsana A and B   5 * 2 , 4                
--------------------------------------------------------

Prasārita Pādottānāsana A to D      5 * 3           
--------------------------------------------------------

Pārśvottānāsana     5 * 2 , 4 


Utthita Hasta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana    14 * 2 , 4 , 7 & 9, 11 , 14 

Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana     9 * 2 + 7       

Utkatāsana 13 * 7

Vīrabhdrāsana  16 * 7 , 8 , 9 , 10



PRIMARY SERIES

Paścimattānāsana  16 * 9  

Purvottānāsana 15 * 8   
-----------------------------------------------
Ardha Baddha Padma Paścimattānāsana  22 *  8 , 15

Tiryañgmukha Ekapāda Paścimattānāsana  22 * 8 , 15 

Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C   22 *  8 , 15 

Marīcāsana A and B        22 *  8 , 15
---------------------------------------------------

Marīcāsana C and D  18 * 7 , 12  

Nāvāsana  13 * 7 

Bhujapīḍāsana 15 * 7 ,  8 

Kūrmāsana 16 * 7 

Supta Kūrmāsana  16 * 8 

Garbha Piṇḍāsana  15 * 8 

Kukkutasana   15 * 9 

Baddha Konāsana     15 * 8 

Upaviṣṭha Konāsana      15 * 8 , 9 

Supta Konāsana        16 * 8   

Supta Pādāñguṣṭhāsana     28 * 9 , 11 , 17 , 19 

Ubhyaya Pādāñguṣṭhāsana    15 * 9  

ūrdhva Mukha Paścimattānāsana         16  * 10  

Setu Bandhāsana     15 * 9    


FINISHING SEQUENCE

ūrdhva Dhanurāsana      15 * 9  
-------------------------------------------
Salaṁbā Sarvāṅgāsana      13 * 8 

Halāsana         13 * 8   

Karṇapīḍāsana          13 * 8 
-------------------------------------------
ūrdhva Padmāsana              13 * 9 

Piṇḍāsana                 13 * 9
--------------------------------------------
Matsyāsana          14 * 8  
----------------------------------------
Uttāna Pādāsana       13 * 8 

śīrṣāsana          13 * 8 

Baddha Padmāsana        13 * 8   
----------------------------------------
Yoga mudra          14 * 9  

Padmasana             13 * 8    

Uth Pluthi            14 * 8 


A note on Drishti

Pattabhi Jois doesn't talk about drishti much in yoga mala, nor does Krishnamacharya, mostly nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] or  broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows] is implied. however Pattabhi jois does have this to say in relation to the 7th vinyasa of Surynamaskara B that holds for his whole system. Manju Jois says nasagra drishti is a kind of default drishti but that we are also free to close out eyes.

"SECOND SURYA NAMASKARA, 7TH VINYASA
This is the method for the first Surya Namaskara, which is often practiced while chanting mantras. For this, meditation is very important, as are the drishti, or gazing places, which include: nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] for samasthiti; broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows] for the 1st vinyasa; nasagra dristri for the 2nd vinyasa; the gaze between the eyebrows for the 3rd vinyasa— in other words, for the odd-numbered vinyasas, the gaze should be focused between the eyebrows and, for the even- numbered ones, the gaze should be on the tip of the nose. In addition, for the even-numbered vinyasas, rechaka should be performed and, for the odd, one should do puraka. On the whole, the method for doing rechaka and puraka is the same for all the vinyasas and asanas ahead. A sadhaka [spiritual aspirant] should learn it with patience". 
Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala 1999 p46

A note on breathing.

The breath is long and full and slow, "...like the pouring of oil".  We seek to feel the breath at the back of the throat, the slightest of constrictions to make the soft hissing sound or the sound of waves. Some refer to it as ujjayi breathing others argue ( Sharath in particular) that it's not ujjayi because ujjayi implies kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) and thus is a pranayama. It's argued that there is no kumbhaka in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga vinyasa therefore it should only be referred to as 'breathing with sound'. Krishnamacharya however, Pattabhi Jois' teacher/guru, employed the appropriate kumbhaka in most asana and it could be argued that there is always the hint of a kumbhaka between the inhalation and exhalation and the exhalation, the slight pause between the stages of the breath, like throwing a tennis ball in the air there's a moment where it seems to hover before dropping back into your hand. Either way the breathing is long and slow and full.

During the count in the state of the asana there is free breathing, Krishnamacharya wrote about inhaling and exhaling ( long full and slow) as much as possible. In most seated postures the teacher leading the count will tend to count to five ( it used to be ten supposedly and then eight, now it's five). You can take five short breaths in this time depending on the speed of the count or, as I like to do, three long, slow, full breaths.

Remembering the names of the asana

Writing a blog helps

So does knowing what the different parts of the name means

Sanskrit Asana

Sūryanamaskāra 
sūrya = sun
namaskāra = salutation

Pādāngusthāsana 
pādāngusth = big toe
āsana = posture

Pāda Hastāsana 
pāda = foot
hasta = hand

Uthitta Trikoṇāsana
uthitta = extended
tri = three
koṇa = angle

Uthitta Pārśvakonāsana 
uthitta = extended
pārśva = to the side
kona = angle

Prasārita Pādottānāsana
prasārita = spread out
pāda = foot
uttānā = intense stretch

Pārśvottānāsana
pārśva = to the side

Utthita Hasta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana
utthita = extended
hasta = hand
pādāṅguṣṭha = big toe

Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana
ardha = half
baddha = bound
padma = lotus

Utkatāsana - Vīrabhdrāsana
utkata = fierce / powerful
vīra = hero

Paścimattānāsana
paścima = west

Purvottānāsana
purva = east / front

Ardha Baddha Padma Paścimattānāsana
ardha = half
baddha = bound
padma = lotus
paścima = west
uttāna = intense

Tiryañgmukha Ekapāda Paścimattānāsana 
tiriañg = transverse
mukha = face
ekapāda = one foot/leg
paścima = west
uttāna = intense

Jānuśīrṣāsana
jānu = knee
śīrṣa = head

Marīcāsana 
marīchy = sage Marichy
son of Brahma

Nāvāsana
nāva = boat

Bhujapīḍāsana
bhuja = arm / shoulder
pīḍa = pressure

Kūrmāsana, 
kūrma = tortoise
Supta = sleeping 

Garbha Piṇḍāsana
garbha = womb
piṇḍa = fetus

Kukkutasana
kukka + cock

Baddha Konāsana
baddha = bound
kona = angle

Upaviṣṭha Konāsana
upaviṣṭha = seated
kona = angle

Supta Konāsana
supta = sleeping
kona = angle

Supta Pādāñguṣṭhāsana
supta = sleeping
pādāñguṣṭha = big toe


Ubhyaya Pādāñguṣṭhāsana
ubhyaya = sleeping
pādāñguṣṭha = big toe

ūrdhva Mukha Paścimattānāsana
ūrdhva = upward
mukha = face
paścima = west
uttāna = intense

Setu Bandhāsana
setu = bridge
bandha = lock / seal / completion

ūrdhva Dhanurāsana
ūrdhva = upward
dhanurasana = bow

Salaṁbā Sarvāṅgāsana 
salaṁbā = supported
sarvāṅga = all limbs

Halāsana
hala = plough

Karṇapīḍāsana
karṇa = ear
pīḍa = pressure

ūrdhva Padmāsana
ūrdhva = upward
padma = lotus

Piṇḍāsana
piṇḍa = womb

Matsyāsana
matsy = fish

Uttāna Pādāsana
uttāna = intense
pādā = feet

śīrṣāsana
śīrṣa = head

Baddha Padmāsana
baddha = bound
padma = lotus

Uth Pluthi 14 vinyasa
pluthi = jump / lift



I've added a pdf of this post to google docs, pages 6-10 are the count
http://tinyurl.com/l9cjxye


NOTE: As far as we can tell Krishnamacharya developed the vinyasa count, it may have been a way to manage a large class of young boys or it may be something he inherited from his own teacher or perhaps a lost text, we'll probably never know. He did appear to drop the count in his later years however Ramaswami told me that although Krishnamacharya would link together postures if he was teaching one posture on it's own then it would begin and end from standing or perhaps a seated samastithi, perhaps the count was always implied in his teaching.

Does focusing on the count distract from the breath, not necessarily, after a while the count disappears into the background, it is perhaps the horizon of the breath.

***********


UPDATE
This from comments

Can you explain further: "So Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C 22 * 8 , 15 signifies that all three versions of Jānuśīrṣāsana have have 22 vinyasa each and that the states of the asana for each versions are 8 and 15 ( IE. Both sides)?"
Does this mean Jānuśīrṣāsana A has 11 vinyasa for right and 11 for left side, Jānuśīrṣāsana B has 11 vinayas for right and 11 for left and Jānuśīrṣāsana C has 11 for right and 11 for left side, with the sides done alternately? Does "8" mean right side and "15" mean left side?

Anthony Grim Hall28 February 2014 19:00
Hi Anon, I'm actually writing a post on How Full Vinyasa becomes half Vinyasa, looking at every posture in detail, showing were all the extra inhalations and exhalations come in to make the system 'fit' the count. I'm doing it because I'm not there in Japan with my wife to answer her questions about the count when they come up. This is should be stressed is my own explanation as I seek to make sense of the development of the vinyasa count historically, trying to expelling how it's been made to work, with it's extra uncounted inhalations and exhalations snuck in here and there.
No it doesn't mean each side has 11 vinyasa, doesn't work that way. If you were to separate the sides up and come back to standing after each side then they would both have 13 vinyasas. Confusing. Here's what I've written for janu Sirsasana, all three are the same even though C is more difficult to set up, it's all done on one inhalation whether A, B or C.

Anthony Grim Hall
Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C   22 *  8 , 15

CODE 22* = 22 vinyasa
8 = state of the asana on the first side
15= the state of the asana on the second side.

The count and the process is the same for all three Janu sirsasanas.

As with Ardha baddha pachimottanasana and Triyangmukha ekapada paschimottanasana the first six postures of the surynamaskara are implied ( as if we really had worked our way down from standing samastithi). We are in Downward facing dog exhaling (from the previous posture) which now becomes SAT we then jump through inhaling on SUPTA and immediately, still on the inhalation, bring the right foot into our groin, heel to perineum, and take hold of the toe of the other foot and look up, that’s all done on SUPTA. We exhale ASTAU (8) down into the state of the asana, traditionally head to knee (it’s in the name) but these days chin to knee or head to knee and then slide on to the chin. After our five breaths we sit up inhaling NAVA then take an extra uncounted exhalation allowing us to lift up on the next inhalation DASA while crossing our legs. We Jump back EKADASA and exhale into Chatuaranga. Up dog inhaling DVADASA, down dog exhaling TRAYODASA and then we are ready to Jump through again for the other side inhaling CATURDASA setting up to lower into the state of the asana, again all on on PANCHADASA (15). Now we repeat the exit, sitting up inhaling  SODASA, the extra uncounted exhalation again so we can lift up inhaling and crossing our legs SAPTADASA and jump back exhaling into caturanga on ASTAUDASA. UP DOG inhaling EKONAVIMSATAHI (19) Down dog exhaling VIMSATAHI
BUT VIMSATAHI now switches back to become SAT ready for the next posture.

If we were doing full vinyasa after VIMSATAHI we would jump the feet to the hands inhaling while looking up and flattening the back EKAVIMSATAHI then fold over exhaling DVAVIMSATAHI (22) which completes the 22 vinyasa, we just stand back up into samastithi (uncounted).

As with all these postures we notice extra uncounted inhalations and exhalations as we make the vinyasa ‘fit’ into the sequence of breath and movement, remember we want to inhale up, exhale down.

Janu Sirsasana is quite straight forward but Janu C can be tricky, I have a dodgy knee and like to take a couple of breaths while setting in preparation for the state of the asana. That’s OK, jump through on SUPTA and take a couple of calm, steady, unrushed inhalations and exhalations while setting up all but  the while saying to yourself SUPTA SUPTA SUPTA. When you ready to lower, take a final inhalation saying SUPTA to yourself one more time and then lower ASTAU into the state of the postures.

Coming out is the same come up inhaling NAVA and then take as many inhalations and exhalations as you need to allow your knee to come comfortably out of the posture, all the while saying NAVA NAVA NAVA mentally to yourself. When your ready take your exhalation, then back on count, lift up inhaling DASA crossing the legs and jumping back.



Your Jump back might not be fully developed, that’s OK go through the motions preparing to step back while inhaling on DASA then step back while exhaling EKADASA.

*****



It struck me that I may have confused you a little with my post regarding Learning the Ashtanga Vinyasa Count and how it can be beneficial perhaps to learn on which number the state(s) of an asana land(s). Sadly I'm not there with you to help make sense of it. If you were getting up and 5am and heading over to Spirit Mysore Osaka of course you could ask Veronique, but like me you're a home Ashtangi, we get to work this out for ourselves.


Normally when you're confused on your mat next to mine I will notice you trying to work it out, first this way and then that, stopping and standing.... puzzled, hoping I might notice perhaps and come over to clear things up. If I'm feeling playful I might wait to come over, lovingly (cruelly) enjoying the theatre of your puzzlement out of the corner of my eye as you try and make sense of it for yourself or, even harder, to have me notice.

Sometimes you will actually stop me, hands together respectfully and with "Teacher",  'How does this work...how do I get from here to here...'. Either that or I will (think I) hear you mutter "Stupid Stupid" under your breath.

But now you're far away, oh so far away, mats separated by thousands of miles and practice by twelve hours or more, and also no wifi yet in nice our new house.

This then is for you, and any other home Ashtanga, an attempt to explain how we get from the full vinyasa to the half vinyasa count of Contemporary Ashtanga,  how it actually works, where all the extra (uncounted) breaths come in.

The best thing to do of course is to consult Pattabhi Jois's Yoga MalaSharath's book (Eddie Sterne says there is a new updated version coming out), Petri Räisänen's recent 'up to date' book.... online there is the peerless ashtangayoga.info from Ronald Steiner and team ( without which home ashtanga would barely be possible), or,my favourite Ashtanga book for the Vinyasa count,  John Scott's Ashtanga Yoga, all excellent in different way but while presenting the count and including the extra breaths, somehow they don't seem to stress those extra uncounted breaths, it's as if they are somewhat embarrassed by them ( I project of course)... if the system is perfect, semi divine, why would these extra inhalations and exhalation be necessary.

I've just booked myself on to John Scott's workshop, the more I explore the count the more questions I have.

I love the extra inhalations and extra exhalations, they make us realise that the vinyasa count can be paused as required, a couple of extra breaths included ( perhaps to help us bind in a postures) before picking up the count where we left off.

As it happens nothing  tempts me to suspect that perhaps there was (is still somewhere) the Yoga Korunta ( the text on which Ashtanga Vinyasa is said to be based) than the imperfections of the Ashtanga system. What if there was such a text and Krishnamacharya saw it ( or it was recited to him) and it included a number of postures divided up into different groupings with a vinyasa count for each of those asana as well as  numbers corresponding to the state of the asana in the vinyasa. Perhaps Krishnamacharya tried to recreate it, and as he would rediscover in his practice and teaching new (lost/forgotten) postures perhaps he would try to fit those too into some semblance of this vinyasa structure. Surely if you invented the system it would work, every breath would have a vinyasa count, there would be no need for an extra inhalation here and extra exhalation there. It's a nice theory, and that of course is all this blog contains, theories, it's certainly not history.

This then will be in three parts, first the Standing sequence in which we gain the basic principles, followed by another post on the Primary series and then a third on the Finishing sequence, which is actually pretty easy count wise. If I make any errors (and I'm sure to, they creep in) or it differes from current editions of (your favourite ) texts or how one (senior) teacher teaches, it then friends will surely let us know about it in comments, this is, as with the practice, a work in progress.

Before anything else you need to learn the Sanskrit count. Learn the first nine, to NAVA, that will get you through Surynamaskara A. Next add on up to 17, SAPTADASA for Surynamaskara B. Continuing up to 22, DVAVINSATAHI will account for most of the postures in Primary series. Add on the last few as you need them.

Counting In Sanskrit

1   = ekam
2   = dve
3   = trīṇi
4   = catvāri
5   = pañca
6   = ṣaṭ
7   = sapta
8   = aṣṭau
9   = nava

10  = daśa
11  = ekādaśa
12  = dvādaśa
13  = trayodaśa
14  = caturdaśa
15  = pañcadaśa
16  = ṣoḍaśa
17  = saptadaśa

18  = aṣṭadaśa
19  = ekonavimśatiḥ
20  = vimśatiḥ
21  = ekāvimśatiḥ
22  = dvāvimśatiḥ

23  = trayovimśatiḥ
24  = caturvimśatiḥ
25  = pañcavimśatiḥ
26  = ṣoḍavimśatiḥ;
27  = saptavimśatiḥ
28  = aṣṭovimśatiḥ

Sanskrit Numbers from here ashtangayoga.info 

Count while you walking along, matching the numbers to each step, or while working on making our house nice, or perhaps with each change of water as you wash the rice. Nice clean shiny rice for surynamaskara B and it's seventeen vinyasa.

Next, actually count yourself through your  Surynamaska A during your practice,  nine vinyasa

notice how we tend to come UP on the inhalation, DOWN on the exhalation.

ekam  - Inhaling, arms go UP
dve  - Exhaling we fold over DOWN
trīṇi -  Inhaling we flatten the back effectively coming UP
catvāri  - Exhaling we jump back to Chatauranga ( kind of DOWN )
pañca  - Inhaling we come through and UP
ṣaṭ   -  Exhaling, backside comes up and we effectively fold in to look at the navel (DOWN)
sapta  - We jump our feet to our hands and Inhaling flatten the back as in DVE so UP
aṣṭau  - Exhaling we fold over as in TRINI so DOWN
nava  - Inhaling the arms come back UP

Notice too how the count stops after we raise our hands on NAVA, we just lower our hands to our side back to samastithi, it's not counted.

Once Sury A is comfortable, try it with Surynamaskara B, seventeen vinyasa.

10  = daśa
11  = ekādaśa
12  = dvādaśa
13  = trayodaśa
14  = caturdaśa
15  = pañcadaśa
16  = ṣoḍaśa
17  = saptadaśa

Standing sequence: How the Vinyasa Count actually works.

CODE
First  number followed by * is the number of vinyasas
The numbers after the star are the states of the asana

So  Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C   22 *  8 , 15  signifies that all three versions of
Jānuśīrṣāsanahave have 22 vinyasa each and that the states of the asana for each version are 8 and 15 ( IE. Both sides) I've included janu sirsasana at the bottom of this post as an example of how the seated postures work but in the second posture I'll be looking at all of them.

I've grouped asana that have the same vinyasa/state code to aid in memorising them.

In general I think we tend to think of a vinyasa as movement connected to the stage of a breath, inhale up EKAM, exhale down DVE, head up inhaling TRINI, jump back exhaling CATVARI….. And yet we find in the Ashtanga vinyasa system a number of extra uncounted inhalations and exhalations, It's almost better to think of a vinyasa as a moment or movements connected to one or more stages of the breath, all with a single count. Thus in the second vinyasa of Prasārita Pādottānāsana A, DVE, we exhale while folding towards the floor but then take an extra inhalation lifting the head and flattening the back so the vinyasa DVE would constitute an exhalation (counted) and inhalation (uncounted) as wells a downward and upward movement.

I say almost but we still want to associate the count with a particular stage of the breath. Supposedly the boys of the Mysore palace ( Krishnamacharya's students) used to go by whether a number was odd or even, odd numbers tended to signify inhalations and coming up, even numbers suggested exhalations and going down.   Unfortunately the count as we have it now doesn't exactly work that way and it can lead to more confusion.

STANDING SEQUENCE

Sūryanamaskāra A = 9 vinyasa  B = 17 vinyasa

The sury’s can be key to grasping the whole counted vinyasa practice as well as understanding how it shifts from full to half vinyasa, here’s Surynamaskara A.

1. ekam  - Inhaling, arms go up (ODD NUMBER we move UP)
2. dve  - Exhaling we fold over ( EVEN we move DOWN)
3. trīṇi -  Inhaling we flatten the back and look up (ODD = UP)
4. catvāri  - Exhaling we jump back to Chatauranga (EVEN we go BACK)
5. pañca  - Inhaling we come through and up (ODD= UP)
6. ṣaṭ   -  Exhaling, backside comes up and we effectively fold in to look at the navel ( EVEN = DOWN)
7. sapta  - We jump our feet to our hands and Inhaling flatten the back as in DVE (ODD=UP)
8. aṣṭau  - Exhaling we fold over (EVEN=DOWN)
9. nava  - Inhaling the arms come back (ODD=UP)
Samastithi Hands come back down to our sides (uncounted)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Confusion right from the start

Pādāngusthāsana 3 * 2

Pāda Hastāsana    3 * 2

These two postures are confusing as the count seems to begin at the third vinyasa of Surynamaskara A (inhaling up, flattening the back) it seems like it should be TRINI rather than Ekam. What actually happens is that from samastithi we exhale while folding over and taking hold of our toes, THEN the count begins on Ekam as we inhale and look up, flattening the back.

Perhaps it’s considered a variation of uttanasana (the intense forward bend). If we were already in Uttanasana then we might look up on the inhalation flattening the back EKAM before folding back down into the state of the new asana as on DVE, as happens in fact in the second of these two postures pada hastasana. In full vinyasa, after our five breaths, we would inhale all the way up TRINI.

In Contemporary Ashtanga however we only look up, flattening the back on TRINI we would now take an extra uncounted exhalation and change our hand position for pada hastasana then inhale while looking back up and flattening the back again EKAM. We fold back down into the state of the asana DVE. After our five count we Inhale looking up flattening the back once more TRINI. That is the end of the vinyasa, to come back to samastithi we take an uncounted extra exhalation then just inhale back up to samastithi.

This has been a good example of the extra inhalations and exhalation we take to make the vinyasa count 'fit' the practice as well as the adaptions we make for half vinyasa and moving straight into a following posture rather than coming back up to samasthiti each time.
--------------------------------------------------------

Uthitta Trikoṇāsana A and B         5 * 2 , 4

We jump the legs apart while inhaling EKAM and fold straight down into the posture exhaling DVE, still on DVE we look and settle deeper into the posture during our five breaths. We come straight up inhaling TRINI and then straight back down into the other side exhaling CHATVARI. After the two states of the asana (IE.both sides) we come back to the same position inhaling PANCHA. In full vinyasa we would then jump back to samastihi (uncounted) However, in contemporary Ashtanga we go immediately into the state of the next asana, the reverse version, entering (windmilling up and over and down into the state of the asana) on DVE

Uthitta Pārśvakonāsana A and B   5 * 2 , 4 

Notice that in this group we move straight into the asana and look up on the same count DVE  (right side) and CHATVARI (left side) however we can adjust, settle deeper into the posture on our five breaths in the asana.

After inhaling up from Catvari we take our leg and arm spread position PANCHA the final vinyasa of the asana and then jump back to samastithi (uncounted)
       
--------------------------------------------------------

Prasārita Pādottānāsana A and D      5 * 3    

The logistics of the four variation of vinyasa for this asana can be tricky, it takes several extra uncounted inhalations and exhalations to allow us to enter and exit on the correct count. To be frank this whole sequence is a bit of a mess, nothing quite fits and I'm sure ( in fact I know) several teachers present it differently.

A: After jumping the legs and arms apart while inhaling EKAM we fold and put our hands on the floor DVE, however the state of the asana is at TRINI therefore we need to take an extra uncounted inhalation looking up and flattening the back, before exhaling TRINI our head to the floor. After our five breaths we inhale up CATVARI but only half way, looking up and flattening the back, we take an extra uncounted exhalation and then inhale back up to standing PANCHA. Again, in full vinyasa we would jump back to samastithi, Manju still seems to teach it that way but generally in contemporary Ashtanga we continue straight on into the next variation.

B: We stretch out the arms inhaling EKAM, just as if we had jumped into the vinyasa from samastithi. DVE exhaling we bring our hands to our waist but now we need to take an extra uncounted inhalation before exhaling and lowering TRINI into the state of the asana. This time after our five breaths we inhale ALL the way up CATVARI and then exhale. This is the end of the vinyasa in contemporary Ashtanga but the count is still supposed to be five, we seem to have lost PANCHA altogether.

C: This one makes the most sense, we inhale the arms out EKAM, exhale them behind our back DVE, take an extra uncounted inhalation then lower into the state of the asana TRINI. We come up inhaling on CATVARI and exhale but again we seem to have lost PANCHA, the fifth vinyasa.

D: This one too is a little confusing. After the last variation C. we already have our hands on our waist, we could take an extra inhalation taking the arms out to the side and then exhale our hands to our side EKAM then take an extra inhalations before exhaling DVE and taking our toes. We need another extra inhalation lifting the head before exhaling TRINI into the state of the asana. Inhaling CATVARI we just lift the head and take yet another extra uncounted exhalation before inhaling back up PANCHA and then finally jumping back to samastithi, phew.

Logistically problematic.

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

Pārśvottānāsana     5 * 2 , 4

Straight forward thankfully after the parasaritas. It's worth mentioning however that the arms get folded behind the back on EKAM while turning to the side before lowering DVE into the state of the asana.

Interesting to note here that Krishnamacharya would have us take several breaths at EkAM including kumbhaka after the inhalations, he does the same after coming back up out of the state of the asana. I noticed that John Scott in his introduction to his workshop states that '...no one asana or sequence is better or worse than any other'. Krishnamacharya too helps me to realise that ever vinyasa, every stage of the count is a posture in and of itself, often Krishnamachrya will have us pause and take breaths (as well as Kumbhakas) at different points within the sequence of an individual asana

Utthita Hasta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana    14 * 2 , 4 , 7 , 9, 11 , 14

Again, the count works fine here.

Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana     9 * 2 + 7    

While inhaling EKAM the leg comes up and we bind all on the same count. This can be challenging. However, and this holds for all the challenging postures, we can pause the count at EKAM taking as many extra breaths as we need to fully bind (or take up an option) and prepare to lower. When we are ready we need to complete an inhalation as that is what we paused our count on and then lower into the state of the asana on the next count IE. exhaling DVE. When we take extra breaths in this way we don't need to hurry them, keep them, just as long and slow and full as any other breath in our posture, in our vinyasa, use the breath to help us bind.Just as every asana is equal and every sequence so too is every stage of the vinyasa count as well as those of the extra inhalations and exhalations, in short every breath should carry equal weight whether it's the breath we take while in the state of the asana or while leading up to and out of it.

If that means in a led class that we only end up with one breath in the posture before everyone comes out of their asana so be it, we've maintained the integrity of our breath. In our own practice we can take those extra breaths AND the full count within the asana, that's the beauty of Mysore. If this means our practice is long then we have the option to jump to finishing after marichiyasana D and then pick it up at navasana the following day. better to sacrifice half a series than a single breath, this is a breathing practice.

Back to Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana. We fold straight down into the posture on the exhalation DVE however, coming back up again we inhale just the head up TRINI, take an extra exhalation then inhale all the way up CHATVARI. Exhale while unbinding PANCHA. On the other side we inhale SHAT and bind and then fold all the way down exhaling into the state of the asana SUPTA. Coming back up is the same as on the first side we inhale up half way ASTAU, take the extra exhalation then inhale all the way up NAVA and unbind into samstithi.

Utkatāsana 13 * 7

SAPTA is a key part of the count ( this will become clear in the seated postures) and of the whole half-vinyasa/Contemporary Ashtanga approach, here we jump forward on SAPTA and take the arms up Inhaling. On the final exhalation of the five breaths, keeping the knees bent we bring our hands to the floor and lift the body up while inhaling ASTAU and then jump back. We transition through up and down dog but then, instead of jumping our feet to our hands at DVADASA as in the full vinyasa we switch back to SUPTA and inhaling step forward into Virabhadrasana. To me it feels a little like a record skipping, it happens through much of the seated postures, rather than complete the full vinyasa the count ‘skips’ back to SUPTA to come through directly into the next posture.

Vīrabhdrāsana  16 * 7 , 8 , 9 , 10
As with utkatasana there is the curios lift at the end  of Virabhadrasana B, we need to bring the hands to the floor on the last exhalation of the five breaths then inhale while lifting the whole body up EKADESA and then jump back to chaturanga. As above with utkatasana after down dog the count  Skips back to SUPTA  as we jump through to Dandasana.

This is key to understanding the relationship between full and half vinyasa, the count stays the same, the first six vinyasas of  Suryanamaskara are implied, we just don’t actually do them. The count for each posture begins at SUPTA as we step or jump through just as if we had transitioned back to standing and then all the way back again.

Another post to come on the actual Primary series. It's enough to work on the count in standing for a while and then just get on with our regular practice as usual. Once we get used to the count in standing then we can start adding on mentally, or why not, verbally counted primary postures.

*

Beloved, I hope that helps explain things a little or at least perhaps suggest that things can be partially explained but I suspect I've just confused things even more. Ultimately it really doesn't matter, inhale up, exhale down, inhale up prepare, exhale deepen (the posture), as a general rule of thumb that's enough to get you through a practice.

See you in two and a half months xxx

***


Appendix

This from comments to the Learning the Ashtanga Vinyasa Count post

Anonymous 28 February 2014 12:49

Can you explain further: "So Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C 22 * 8 , 15 signifies that all three versions of Jānuśīrṣāsana have have 22 vinyasa each and that the states of the asana for each versions are 8 and 15 ( IE. Both sides)?"
Does this mean Jānuśīrṣāsana A has 11 vinyasa for right and 11 for left side, Jānuśīrṣāsana B has 11 vinayas for right and 11 for left and Jānuśīrṣāsana C has 11 for right and 11 for left side, with the sides done alternately? Does "8" mean right side and "15" mean left side?

Anthony Grim Hall 28 February 2014 19:00

Hi Anon, I'm actually writing a post on How Full Vinyasa becomes half Vinyasa, looking at every posture in detail, showing were all the extra inhalations and exhalations come in to make the system 'fit' the count. I'm doing it because I'm not there in Japan with my wife to answer her questions about the count when they come up. This is should be stressed is my own explanation as I seek to make sense of the development of the vinyasa count historically, trying to expelling how it's been made to work, with it's extra uncounted inhalations and exhalations snuck in here and there.
No it doesn't mean each side has 11 vinyasa, doesn't work that way. If you were to separate the sides up and come back to standing after each side then they would both have 13 vinyasas. Confusing. Here's what I've written for janu Sirsasana, all three are the same even though C is more difficult to set up, it's all done on one inhalation whether A, B or C.

A preview of how the count works in seated postures using janu Sirsasana as an example.

Jānuśīrṣāsana A - C   22 *  8 , 15

CODE 22* = 22 vinyasa
8 = state of the asana on the first side
15= the state of the asana on the second side.

The count and the process is the same for all three Janu sirsasanas.

As with Ardha baddha pachimottanasana and Triyangmukha ekapada paschimottanasana the first six postures of the surynamaskara are implied ( as if we really had worked our way down from standing samastithi). We are in Downward facing dog exhaling (from the previous posture) which now becomes SAT we then jump through inhaling on SUPTA and immediately, still on the inhalation, bring the right foot into our groin, heel to perineum, and take hold of the toe of the other foot and look up, that’s all done on SUPTA. We exhale ASTAU (8) down into the state of the asana, traditionally head to knee (it’s in the name) but these days chin to knee or head to knee and then slide on to the chin. After our five breaths we sit up inhaling NAVA then take an extra uncounted exhalation allowing us to lift up on the next inhalation DASA while crossing our legs. We Jump back EKADASA and exhale into Chatuaranga. Up dog inhaling DVADASA, down dog exhaling TRAYODASA and then we are ready to Jump through again for the other side inhaling CATURDASA setting up to lower into the state of the asana, again all on on PANCHADASA (15). Now we repeat the exit, sitting up inhaling  SODASA, the extra uncounted exhalation again so we can lift up inhaling and crossing our legs SAPTADASA and jump back exhaling into caturanga on ASTAUDASA. UP DOG inhaling EKONAVIMSATAHI (19) Down dog exhaling VIMSATAHI
BUT VIMSATAHI now switches back to become SAT ready for the next posture.

If we were doing full vinyasa after VIMSATAHI we would jump the feet to the hands inhaling while looking up and flattening the back EKAVIMSATAHI then fold over exhaling DVAVIMSATAHI (22) which completes the 22 vinyasa, we just stand back up into samastithi (uncounted).

As with all these postures we notice extra uncounted inhalations and exhalations as we make the vinyasa ‘fit’ into the sequence of breath and movement, remember we want to inhale up, exhale down.

Janu Sirsasana is quite straight forward but Janu C can be tricky, I have a dodgy knee and like to take a couple of breaths while setting in preparation for the state of the asana. That’s OK, jump through on SUPTA and take a couple of calm, steady, unrushed inhalations and exhalations while setting up all but  the while saying to yourself SUPTA SUPTA SUPTA. When you ready to lower, take a final inhalation saying SUPTA to yourself one more time and then lower ASTAU into the state of the postures.

Coming out is the same come up inhaling NAVA and then take as many inhalations and exhalations as you need to allow your knee to come comfortably out of the posture, all the while saying NAVA NAVA NAVA mentally to yourself. When you're ready take your exhalation, then back on count, lift up inhaling DASA crossing the legs and jumping back.

Your Jump back might not be fully developed, that’s OK go through the motions preparing to step back while inhaling on DASA then step back while exhaling EKADASA.

*****



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

3. DRISHTI: Overview of Drishtis indicated for the Surynamaskaras by the different authors resp. Instructors ALSO Krishnamacharya's Gaze.

"Tristhana: This means the three places of attention or action: posture, breathing system and looking place. These three are very important for yoga practice, and cover three levels of purification: the body, nervous system and mind. They are always performed in conjunction with each other". KPJAYI


There's an excellent post on "Drishti, Why does Drishti Work' from Bobbie over at Confluence Countdown, check out the comments section too.

Bobbie did mention that Pattabhi Jois doesn't have anything to say about Drishti and that it came about in the later research. It's true that here isn't much in Yoga Mala  (see below I've listed all usage) but that doesn't mean he wasn't necessarily directing the gaze in his teaching, I should ask Manju next time and perhaps you can ask Nancy and David if you take a workshop with them. There is an important passage on drishti in Yoga Mala under surynamaskara. This is from my earlier post on learning the Vinyasa Count.

A note on Drishti

Pattabhi Jois doesn't talk about drishti much in yoga mala, nor does Krishnamacharya, mostly nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] or  broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows] is implied. however Pattabhi jois does have this to say in relation to the 7th vinyasa of Surynamaskara B that holds for his whole system. Manju Jois says nasagra drishti is a kind of default drishti but that we are also free to close out eyes.

"SECOND SURYA NAMASKARA, 7TH VINYASA
This is the method for the first Surya Namaskara, which is often practiced while chanting mantras. For this, meditation is very important, as are the drishti, or gazing places, which include: nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] for samasthiti; broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows] for the 1st vinyasa; nasagra dristri for the 2nd vinyasa; the gaze between the eyebrows for the 3rd vinyasa— in other words, for the odd-numbered vinyasas, the gaze should be focused between the eyebrows and, for the even- numbered ones, the gaze should be on the tip of the nose. In addition, for the even-numbered vinyasas, rechaka should be performed and, for the odd, one should do puraka. On the whole, the method for doing rechaka and puraka is the same for all the vinyasas and asanas ahead. A sadhaka [spiritual aspirant] should learn it with patience". 
Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala 1999 p46

A few more quotes from Pattabhi Jois on Drishti, gaze and looking after the krishnamacharya yoga Makaranda section below.

Krishnamacharya too of course mentioned drishti in his descriptions of asana in Yoga Makaranda, mostly nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] for samasthiti; broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows]. Manju Jois refers to nasagra and broomadhya drishti as default drishti, he also offers the suggestion/recommendation/option of just closing the eyes, encouraging you to "try it".

Thank you to Matthias Schmidt  for getting in touch last night with a couple of corrections to my recent Vinyasa Count Sheets post. he pointed out a couple of errors ( that I've now put right). I'd referred to Marichiyasana D in one example when I was clearly writing about B. In the Prasarita's I'd written prasaritta padothanasana A and D when it should have been A to D, and in Uthita hasta Padangusthasana I'd missed out the 9th state of the asana. Thank you again Mathias for pointing those out.

I mentioned to Mathias that the reason I had produced the vinyasa Sheets yesterday was that I was working on a comparison between Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois and Sharath's presentation of the vinyasa count.

Matthias came right back with " Oh I explored something like that with Drishti" and then sent it too me, here it is. We seem to share a particular kind of madness, Matthias has excellent Excel skills to go with his. Matthias actually collected the data and produced excel sheets for the full primary series a few years back but looking at it again now he saw that several of the instructors mentioned had changed their descriptions. He reviewed and edited the Surynamaskara section and said it was 'safe' to share this at least.

"What you may want to do, and what's totally fine with me, is to use the first sun salutation already as an example for the different approach to drishti. And - as I said in a previous mail - I don't really think that it matters. As long as one is consistent in ones own practice. Of course there is a difference in Surya A if you use the thumbs or the the third eye in dve or nasagrai, urdhva or broomadhya on pancha (actually, one of my teachers claims that Richard Freeman strongly advises against the use of broomadhya in pancha, because it makes one too mental) - but at the end of the day, I guess that it's the consistency of the approach that leads to the mditative experience.
Looking very briefly at your link, I also found it interesting that Krishnamacharya indicated the third eye as the "standard" drishti, whereas for Patthabi Jois it seems to be nasagrai. The different appraoches already start on that level". Matthias

Overview of Drishtis indicated for the Surynamaskaras by the different authors resp. Instructors
Terminology



"I just got around to also check Petri's book on the general chapter on drishti, and I scanned the two pages for you, as your book is currently travelling. On the second page, interestingly, he mentions a drishti that he does not show on the first page - and that no one else (to my memory) mentions, the "down on the floor" drishti." Matthias




See my review of Petri's excellent and useful book here

UPDATED. BOOK REVIEW: Petri Räisänen's 'Definitive Primary Series Practice Manual'

I've just remembered that Petri shows the count for both full and half vinyasa in his book.

And while we're at it here's Krishnamacharya on Drishti/Gaze from yoga makaranda Parts I and II


DRISHTI

Krishnamacharya on Drishti
from Krishnamacharya’s Yoga Makaranda 

When I explain the rules of yogasana, if the position of the head has not been specified, then keep the head in jalandara bandha. Similarly, if it does not specify where to place the gaze, then the gaze should be directed towards the midbrow. If the position of the hands has not been specified, then the hands should be kept as in siddhasana. Whenever there is a krama where some part of the body has to be held with the hand, and the placement of the hand has not been described, hold the relevant part of the body with the first three fingers of the hand (including the thumb). Make sure to remember this.
When practising the asanas, it is important to do both the right and left sides. First practise the right side and then the left side. If you don’t do this, the strength of yoga will not reach all parts of the body”. p26

YOga makaranda parts I and II can be downloaded from my Free Download page
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/free-downloads.html

Some times googledocs can be a little choosy about the browsers it works with, if you have trouble downloading try a different browser, all documents are available for download whatever it tells you.

Krishnamacharya on Drishti, the gaze
I've included asana descriptions only up to the point in which Krishnamacharya mentions the gaze ( in Yoga Makaranda parts I and II, gaze is mentioned (or translated rather than gaze).

I've highlighted in Bold where drishti is mentioned. As we can see it's nearly always at the tip of the nose or between the eyebrows.

1 Uttanasana (Figure 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7)
Following the rules for tadasana (yogasana samasthiti krama) (Figure 4.1, 4.2), stand erect. Afterwards, while exhaling the breath out slowly, bend the upper part of the body (that is, the part above the hip) little by little and place the palms down by the legs. The knees must not be even slightly bent. Raise the head upwards and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose…..

8 Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana (Figure 4.19 — 4.28)
This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.
The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose…

17 Utthitahasta Padangushtasana (Figure 4.49, 4.50, 4.51)
First, push the chest forward and stand erect with equal balance. While standing this way, make sure that the head, neck, back, hips, arms and legs are aligned properly and gaze at the tip of the nose.

18 Baddhapadmasana (Figure 4.52, 4.53, 4.54, 4.55)
Place the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on top of the right thigh. Take the hands behind the back and tightly clasp the big toe of the right foot with the first three fingers of the right hand and tightly clasp the big toe of the left foot with the first three fingers of the left hand.
Press the chin firmly against the chest. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Sit down, keeping the rest of the body straight. This has the name baddhapad- masana. This asana must be repeated on the other side (that is, first place the left foot on top of the right thigh and then the right foot on top of the left thigh) in order to exercise both sides of the body.
This has 16 vinyasas. The 8th and 9th vinyasas are the asana sthiti. The other vinyasas are like pascimottanasana. Study the pictures (Figures 4.52, 4.53) and learn how to keep the gaze. In this asana, one must do puraka kumbhaka. Only in yoga mudra sthiti should one do recaka. This sthiti consists of two forms — so study the pictures (Figures 4.54, 4.55) carefully.

26 Niralamba Sarvangasana (Figure 4.70)
This has 14 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is the asana sthiti. The form depicted in the picture is the 8th vinyasa. This is niralamba sarvangasana paristhiti. In order to get to this sthiti, slowly raise the arms and legs either together or one-by- one in the 7th vinyasa . Do only recaka at this time. Never do puraka kumbhaka.
At this time the chin should be pressed against the chest. The gaze should be fixed on the midbrow

27 Ekapada Sirsasana (Figure 4.71, 4.72)
This has two forms: dakshina ekapada sirsasana and vama ekapada sirsasana. Both these forms together have 18 vinyasas. The first picture depicts dakshina ekapada sirsasana and the second picture vama ekapada sirsasana. The 7th and 12th vinyasas are the asana sthitis of these dierent forms. For this asana, you need to do sama svasauchvasam (same ratio breathing). In the 7th vinyasa, the left leg, and in the 12th vinyasa the right leg, should be extended and kept straight from the thigh to the heel. No part should be bent.
Keep the hands as shown in the picture. In this sthiti one needs to do equal ra- tio breathing. When the hands are joined together in ekapada sirsasana paristhiti, one must do puraka kumbhaka. One must never do recaka.
While doing the 7th and the 12th vinyasas, the head must be raised and the gaze must be fixed at the midbrow.

32 Bhairavasana (Figure 4.78)
This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th and the 14th vinyasas are the right and left side asana sthitis.
From the 1st until the 7th vinyasa, follow the method for ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th vinyasa, instead of keeping the hands at the muladhara cakra (as in ekapada sirsasana), hug both arms together tightly as seen in the picture and lie down looking upwards. While remaining here, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the neck upwards and gaze at the midbrow.

33 Cakorasana (Figure 4.79)
This has 20 vinyasas. This is from the Kapila Matham.
After observing that this follows the form of flight of the cakora bird, this came to be called cakorasana. In the Dhyana Bindu Upanishad, Parameshwara advises Parvati that “There are as many asanas as there are living beings in the world”. We readers must always remember this. The 8th and 14th vinyasas are this asana’s sthitis. The 7th and the 13th vinyasas are like the 7th and the 13th vinyasas of ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th and the 14th vinyasas, press the palms of the hand firmly into the ground, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the body 6 angulas o the ground and hold it there. Carefully study the picture where this is demonstrated. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. The other vinyasas are like those of bhairavasana.

34 Skandasana (Figure 4.80, 4.81)
This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th and the 14th vinaysas show the asana sthiti. The other vinaysas are exactly as for cakorasana. In pascimottanasana, we hold the big toes with the fingers of the hands as we place the face down on the knees. In this asana, instead of doing that, extend the arms out further forward, clasp the hands together in the manner of prayer, slowly bend the body forward and place the face down in front of the kneecap. You must do recaka in this sthiti. The gaze must be fixed on the midbrow.

35 Durvasasana (Figure 4.82)
This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is right-side durvasasana and the 14th vinyasa is left-side durvasasana. In the 7th and the 13th vinyasas stay in ekapada sirsasana sthiti. From there, in the 8th and the 14th vinyasas, get up and stand. Study the picture carefully. While remaining in this asana sthiti, the leg that is being supported on the ground must not be even slightly bent and must be held straight. Keep the gaze fixed at the middle of the nose.

37 Trivikramasana (Figure 4.85)
This has 7 vinyasas. From the 1st to the 5th vinyasas and then the 7th vinyasa, practise following those for utthita hasta padangushtasana. Practise the 2nd and 7th vinyasas as shown in the picture (study it carefully) and remain in these positions. The 2nd vinyasa is the right-side trivikramasana sthiti. The 6th vinyasa as shown is the left-side trivikramasana sthiti. The picture shown here only demonstrates the left-side trivikramasana. It is important that equal recaka and puraka kumbhaka must be carefully observed while practising this asana. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow.

38 Gandabherundasana (Figure 4.86, 4.87)
This has 10 vinyasas. The 6th and 7th vinyasas show the asana sthiti. The first picture shows the 6th vinyasa and the second picture shows the 7th. In the
4th vinyasa, come to caturanga dandasana sthiti and in the 5th vinyasa proceed to viparita salabasana sthiti. In the 6th vinyasa, spread the arms out wide, keeping them straight like a stick (like a wire) as shown in the picture. Take the soles of both feet and place them next to the ears such that the heels touch the arms and keep them there.
Next, do the 7th vinyasa as shown in the second picture. This is called supta ganda bherundasana. In this asana sthiti and in the preliminary positions, do equal recaka puraka kumbhaka. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow.

from Yoga Makaranda ‘Part II’

26. PINCA MAYURASANA
Technique:
1. Kneel on the ground. Now place the forearms on the ground in front parallel to each other and about 12 inches apart. The elbows should be about 12 inches in front of the knees. The palms with fingers stretched and close together should be touching the ground. 2. Raise the head. Lift the knees slightly from the ground. Inhale deeply, hold the breath, jump and take the legs above, so that the body is balanced on the forearms. Spread the legs. The legs are bent backward so that the leg is in the form of a bow.
3. Cross the legs as in Padmasana. Take one or two deep breaths. There should be no retention of breath. The eyes should gaze at the midpoint of the eye brows.

31. ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA - Section A.
Technique:
Sit erect, with both legs stretched in front.
Bend one leg, say the right, at the knees, and place the foot of the right leg on the left
thigh, so that the heel of the right foot is as near the naval as possible. The tendency of the stretched leg to twist to the left should be resisted. The foot of the left leg should be perpendicular to the ground. The knees should not be more than 12 inches apart.
3. Exhale slowly, and twist the trunk to the left, keeping the spine erect. Take the left hand behind the back so that the fingers of the left hand may catch hold of the right leg at the shin, just above the ankle.
Twist the head to the left so that the chin is above the left shoulder.
The right hand is stretched and the outside of the left foot is caught hold of by the
palm of the right hand. The fingers of the right hand should touch the sole of the left foot. In this position the shoulder blades and right arms will be in a straight line.
6. The eyes should gaze at the tip of the nose in the case of married people. In the case of those who are unmarried the gaze may be to the midpoint of the eyebrows.

35. BADDHA PADMASANA
This asana is the counter pose to the ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA - Section A, and should be done immediately after that asana.
Technique:
1. Sit upright, with both legs stretched in front. Bend one of the legs, say the right, at the knee and place the foot on the left thigh as high as possible. The heel should be as near the navel as possible. Now bend the left leg at the knee and place the left foot on the right thigh as high as possible, and the heel as near the navel as possible. The knees should be as close as possible and touch the ground.
2. Take the left arm around the back and catch hold of the toes of the left foot by the right hand. Next, take the right hand behind the back and catch hold of the toes of the right foot by the fingers of the right hand.
Note: Which hand is taken round first is important. In the position described above, it will be observed that the LEFT leg is crossed over the right leg, and it is the LEFT arm that is taken round the round back first, to catch hold of the toes. When the asana is repeated on the other side, the right leg will be over the left leg and right arm will be taken round the back first.
3. Chin lock, chest forward. In the case of those who are married, the gaze should be to the tip of the nose, and in the case of the others the gaze should be to the midpoint of the eyebrows.

8. YONI MUDRA or SAMBAVI MUDRA or SHANMUKHI MUDRA
This mudra is so called, as in it, the JNANA INDRIYAS are sealed up. These are the external organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and speech, the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Technique:
1. Sit in any one of the sitting postures - PADMASANA, SVASTIKASANA, VAJRASANA etc. Spine erect, shoulders in line.
2. Place the thumbs to close the openings of the ears, the first and second fingers on the closed eyelids, the first finger above the eyeball and the second finger below the eyeball, the pressure should be light, the ring fingers at the side of the nostrils but without closing them, and the little fingers at the outer corners of the closed lips. The upper arms should be horizontal and in line with the shoulders. Chest should be raised and the stomach drawn in. Note: In the beginning of the practice, it is enough if the thumbs close the ear holds; at the next stage of the practice, the small flaps over the ear holds, Tragees (?), should be pressed over the ear holds by the thumbs; and at the stage of advanced practice, the lobes of the ear should be folded over the flaps and both pressed over the ear holds by the thumbs, so as effectively to exclude all external noise.
The mudra should preferably be done in a dark room. The room should be pleasant and cool and sweet smelling. A few incense sticks may be kept burning. One should sit facing in such a manner that at the end of the Mudra, when the eyes are slowly opened, cool breeze lays on the eyes.
Pranayama siddhi is to be attained before starting on the practice of this mudra.
The order in which the fingers are placed on the various organs is given below. First ears holes are closed, then the first and second fingers placed gently on the closed eyelids, then the ring fingers on the sides of the nostrils, and lastly the little fingers at the corners of the mouth. The eyes should internally gaze at a point midway between the eyebrows, and imagine and concentrate on a spot of light there.
5. Take long deep breaths, with hissing sound in the throat.
Note: During the first week practice for a minute, the second week for two minutes and slowly raise the duration to a maximum of five minutes. More than this period of 5 minutes can be practiced only by recluses, it is not for those in ordinary life.
There is also a variation of this mudra where the fingers are not used for closing the organs to exclude external stimuli, but this is for advanced students.
It gives additional benefit if the eyes are washed before the exercise with a slightly warm lotion made of water in which a very small crystal of refined camphor is dissolved.
4. The fingers are removed in the reverse order. First the little fingers then the ring fingers then the first and second fingers and last the thumbs. The eyes are very slowly opened, the internal gaze brought down to gaze at the tip of the nose, and the gaze slowly raised to the middle distance and then to the level as the eyes are fully opened. As mentioned in the second note under step 2, it should be arranged for cool breeze to play on the open eyes at this time. It is important that there should be no abrupt opening of the eyes, as this is extremely harmful.

DHYANA or MEDITATION
This forms the seventh step in ASHTANGA YOGA. It has advisedly been placed thus, as a proper practice. Progress and benefit in this step is ensured only by systematically following the previous steps: YAMA, NIYAMA, ASANA, PRANAYAMA, etc.
It is futile to attempt the practice of DHYANA without first strengthening the JNANA- INDRIYAS or higher organs of perception which are to be used in this practice. In its turn the strengthening of the higher organs of perception requires a healthy body capable of proper circulation of rich blood and pure air in these organs and of healthy nerves. This can be achieved only by the regular and systematic practice of asana, PRANAYAMA, wholesome and bland food (SATVIC FOOD) taken in moderation, proper frame of mind (NIYAMA), proper practices in physical cleanliness (YAMA), and preservation of vitality (BRAHMACARYA).
When once a fair proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, the aspirant to dhyana has to regulate the time to be spent on each and choose the particular asanas and pranayama which will have the most effect in strengthening the higher organs and centres of perception and thus aid him in attaining dhyana.
The best asanas to choose for this purpose are SIRSHASANA and SARVANGASANA. These are to be done with proper regulated breathing and with bandhas. The eyes should be kept closed and the eye balls rolled as if they are gazing at the space between the eyebrows. It is enough if 16 to 24 rounds of each are done at each sitting.

As DHYANA is practiced in one of the following sitting postures, these asanas should also be practiced, to strengthen the muscles that come into play in keeping these postures steady. The eyes are kept closed and the eyeballs turned internally to gaze at the space between the eyebrows. If the eyes are kept open, the gaze is directed to the tip of the nose. It is enough if 12 rounds of each asana is done.

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Ramaswami on Drishti in krishnamacharya's later teaching

How is Drishti used in Vinyasa Krama?

Drishti is mentioned in many of Pattabhi Jois works, but for all those years I've been studied with Krishnamacharya, he never mentioned about Drishti. He never mentioned about it. Only thing he will say, whenever you do Trataka you gaze at the lamp, and then internalize it. That's about all. But whether you must look at the toe, and all that I find,  that kind of thing he never mentioned. Keep your head down, and your eyes closed. Most of the time our eyes are closed, we are following the breath. Most of the asanas you keep the eyes closed and work with the breath. Concentrate on breath, except in standing poses. When you are doing Paschimottanasana, you better have your eyes closed, so that you will be able to focus on the breath and the bandhas. Everything is happening inside, you don't need to keep your eyes open. Wild Yogi Magazine interview

Pattabhi Jois on Drishti in Yoga Mala

These quotes use either drishti, gaze or look

Drishti quotes

The method for doing the Surya Namaskara has been described in various ways by various people. We cannot categorically state which is correct, but when we reflect on the science of yoga, we see that the tradition of the Surya Namaskara follows, in the main, the method of vinyasa, or breathing and movement system, the movements of rechaka, or exhalation, puraka, or inhalation, and meditation. According to the yoga shastra, this tradition includes: vinyasa; rechaka and puraka; dhyana [meditation]; drishti [sight, or gazing place]; and the bandhas [muscle contractions, or locks]. And this alone is the method which should be followed when learning the Surya Namaskara, as yogis declare from experience. Indeed, the Sun Salutations done without following the rules mentioned above are little more than exercise, and not true Surya Namaskara.

SECOND SURYA NAMASKARA, 7TH VINYASA
This is the method for the first Surya Namaskara, which is often practiced while chanting mantras. For this, meditation is very important, as are the drishti, or gazing places, which include: nasagra drishti [the gaze on the tip of the nose] for samasthiti; broomadhya drishti [the gaze between the eyebrows] for the 1st vinyasa; nasagra dristri for the 2nd vinyasa; the gaze between the eyebrows for the 3rd vinyasa—in other words, for the odd-numbered vinyasas, the gaze should be focused between the eyebrows and, for the even-numbered ones, the gaze should be on the tip of the nose. In addition, for the even- numbered vinyasas, rechaka should be performed and, for the odd, one should do puraka. On the whole, the method for doing rechaka and puraka is the same for all the vinyasas and asanas ahead. A sadhaka [spiritual aspirant] should learn it with patience.

Those who practice the Surya Namaskara in accordance with scriptural rules must never forget to be
mindful of the drishti, bandhas, dhyana, rechaka, and puraka, as discussed earlier.

Gaze quotes

3. UTTHITA TRIKONASANA
Then, turn the left foot to the left, and doing rechaka, reach down and take hold of the big toe, gaze at the tip of the raised hand, and do puraka and rechaka as much as possible; this is the 4th vinyasa.

4. UTTHITA PARSHVAKONASANA
Then, doing rechaka , turn the right foot out, bend the knee completely, place the right hand by the side of the right foot, stretch the left arm straight out over the ear, and gaze at the fingertips; this is the 2nd vinyasa, which is the state of the asana and during which puraka and rechaka should be done as much as possible.

41. PADMASANA
BENEFITS OF BADDHA PADMASANA & PADMASANA
When in the 9th vinyasa of Baddha Padmasana, or Yoga Mudra, one should meditate upon one’s chosen deity (ishta devata), while directing the gaze between the eyebrows and doing rechaka and puraka as much as possible.

42. UTH PLUTHI
The arms, spine, and neck should be kept completely straight, the chin tilted down a little, and the gaze should be directed on the tip of the nose. Then, jump back into the 4th vinyasa of the first Surya Namaskara

See also drishti/gaze quote above for Second surya namaskar.

Looking Quotes

METHOD FOR DOING THE FIRST SURYA NAMASKARA
Then, taking the breath in slowly through the nose, raise the arms straight up over the head, bring the hands together, lean the head back a little, and look at the fingertips; this is the 1st vinyasa.

7. UTTHITA HASTA PADANGUSHTASANA
Next, doing rechaka, bring the right leg out to the right, hold the arm, leg, waist, and chest straight, and look to the left, breathing fully and deeply as much as possible; this the 4th vinyasa.

26. UPAVISHTA KONASANA
Next, doing puraka, lift only the head, do rechaka, and without losing hold of the sides of the feet, come up to sit straight on the buttocks while doing puraka, hold the raised legs wide apart and straight, as in the 8th vinyasa, keep the chest, arms, and waist straight, look up, and do rechaka and puraka as much as possible; this is the 9th vinyasa.

***

Also these quotes on drishti from Guy Donahaye's Ashtanga yoga Sangha website with transcriptions of public talks by Pattabhi Jois.

Question: When you are practicing, your eyes must focus one place (drishti), ears?

Guruji: Only for nose breathing, sometimes asanas taking time, breathing is coming ears, that is very dangerous, that is no good. Only for nose, complete close your mouth. Nose breathing, that is health. With throat and nose including you take breathing, without throat including, breathing is not cleaning your blood.

Question: And mind? When you are looking one place? Your mind is going this place?

Guruji: No, no, no, why is going there?

Question: I don't know. What about controlling all the senses?

Guruji: Three portions are there, that is called trishtanam. Trishtanam means: one posture, one drishti, looking place, one breathing system. Without these three, mind control is very difficult. That's why you take breathing system, posture and drishti, that is three important. Posture is coming, breathing is correct, posture is correct is coming. Breathing is not correct, posture is not correct.
Inhalation time exhalation is doing, exhalation time inhalation is doing - posture is not correct. Good posture you want, correct breathing you take. After, you look drishti, you take drishti. Nine drishti is there, no three drishti, you take every asana. After, mind gradually is controlling possible.

*
If you want yoga, real yoga, you take practice. Don’t take another placeyour mind. Don’t be stupid. Take practice, practice, practice,practice. Suspicion is came, you ask any one question, I am telling -no problem. But now you take practice - is very first important. But youtake method, and this everyday I am telling, take method: breathingsystem (viyasa), postures, looking (drishti), all including - you take practice, God (will) givegood health and mind. No problem. Thank you very much.

*
That is why I am telling method. Youfollow that method. Breathing and breathing system (vinyasa) is veryimportant. Posture, breathing system and looking place (drishti). All is veryimportant. That is why, these you follow. These is given by God, Goodhealth and prosperity. Thank you very much.
*

Question: While doing tolasana at the end of practice, which is the correct drishti?
Answer: Both sides: Pull up. Pull upping time you take Nasagra dristi. One also here also, both dristi, no problem. Nasagrai dristi and broomadhya dristi.

*


Manju Jois on Drishti

"First asana then bring in drishti, then bandhas, then philosophy".


Sharath on Drishti (conference notes reports)

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With correct drishti and proper attention we should not be bothered by that wayward limb, loud breath, or the accidental or intentional bump.

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Question. Should students put as much effort into the drishti (gaze point) as into say posture?
Answer – yes, these three things are very important. This develops your focus and concentration. So when you go to the next step – pranayama and dhyana (meditation) – these things will help you, they will help you to concentrate. This is dhyana what you are doing, it becomes like that.

*
When we are practising our focus should be on our asana through our drishti and breathing.

*
Yoga is to control the mind, to make it calm. But how you do yoga depends on you. Your practice should give you that brightness, that energy within you. You should feel that ‘union’ and that feeling should become stronger day by day – and as it does your mind becomes calmer, you become more focused in practice (i.e. you’ll be looking at your drishti and not at the hot guy/girl behind you, your mind will be focused on your breath and not on where you’ll go for breakfast)

*

from interviews by Guy Donahaye's Ashtanga yoga Sangha website

GUY: What is unique about Ashtanga Yoga?sharath

SHARATH:  First I would like to say that Ashtanga yoga is totally unique. I’ve seen many other systems of yoga, which are not even close to Ashtanga Yoga: they don’t give any prominence to breathing or gazing (drishti) or all those things. In Ashtanga the main thing is not only posture but you have to do the breathing correctly, that is ujjaya breathing and vinyasa krama - that vinyasa krama I’ve not seen in any other form yoga.

This is a very powerful practice, which came from Krishnamacharya and it is unique in its effect on the body. So what I personally feel is that this type of yoga is more powerful than the other types of yoga I have seen. Mostly they do sitting in one posture and just relaxing in the posture, there’s hardly

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And from left field....

from Iaido
"The Iaido is the way to pursue formation of character by practcing
the law of Ken (sword)".

Metsuke
Metsuke is the term used to describe “gaze”. The direction of the gaze is always towards the opponent, and it can be a wide gaze or narrow gaze, but never a fixated gaze.

In iaido, we talk about Enzan no Metsuke, which means “far mountain viewing”. The term originates with the idea that you must view the opponent as a whole, the same way you would look at a faraway mountain to take in its entire beauty at once.

Another famous phrase about metsuke is the Kan Ken no Metsuke. “Kan no me” is the seeing of the nature of things, and “ken no me” is the seeing of the surface phenomenon. It is said that when viewing an opponent, it is important not only to recognize the posture and body appearance, but to recognize with a keen eye his mental state and thoughts through his posture and body language.

*

8. Metsuke (Positioning of the eyes)
Metsuke is the positioning of the eyes when one faces one's opponent.
It is also the way one should observe one's opponent. Since a long time ago, it has been said there are two methods two methods of, Ka-Ken-no-Metsuke. As the eyes are the window, window of the mind, and the eyes' movement reflects the mind working; it is important to see the movement of the opponent's entire body by focusing on one's eyes. That is so called En-zan- no-Metsuke, which means watching one's opponent as if one is looking at the distant mountains.
from the Doctrine of Iaido


Eyes open Eyes closed?
from Zen training methods and Philosophy Katuki Sekida


THE EYES AND VISUAL ATTENTION The eyes have a very impor­tant role in practicing zazen and realizing samadhi, and I now wish to make some observations on them. I do this with some reluctance, since what I propose differs from the traditional precepts about the use of the eyes. Zen teachers almost always advocate keeping the eyes open or half-open in zazen. We are indeed usually advised strongly against zazen with the eyes closed. The reason usually given for this is that practice with closed eyes leads to sleepiness and wandering thoughts. This is admittedly good advice for beginners. Personally, however, I always close my eyes when practicing zazen. In my experi­ ence, when the eyes are open the mind naturally looks outward. If I want to direct my attention inward, I have to make a deliberate effort to exclude the visual sensations received through the eyes. Closed eyes spare me the difficulty and facilitate inward attention.

Outwardly directed attention is connected with positive samadhi, inward attention with absolute samadhi. It is true that thought can be inhibited even with the eyes open, but one cannot prevent the eyes from reflecting external objects, and sensation inevitably occurs. This fact makes it somewhat difficult for us to enter completely into absolute samadhi. Perhaps those who keep their eyes open are practic­ ing positive samadhi. Unfortunately, most Zen students do not know the difference between positive and absolute samadhi. It is true that even the practice of positive samadhi can bring about kensho, and students who experience this may be well satisfied with their practice. However, my belief is that such a practice will lead to only a partial grasp of Zen. There are numerous cases of people who attain so-called kensho but who by and by disappear from the Zen circle, to be heard of no more. Perhaps they did not penetrate deeply enough into Zen.
We can distinguish two kinds of attention, abstract and sensory, the former operating independently of the sense organs, the latter employing them. Sensory attention is, of course, of various kinds: visual, auditory, bodily, and so on. In zazen practice, sensory atten­ tion is more effective than abstract attention. The latter tends to become exhausted rather quickly. If you simply work abstractly on Mu, you will rather quickly be overcome by wandering thoughts, but if you use your visual attention to look into yourself-and more pre­ cisely, to look into the tanden-you will reach a state of awareness of your existence itself. And you will also find that you are steadily getting into absolute samadhi. Profound silence envelops you. It is as if you were going down into the depths of the sea, ultimately to settleon the bottom of it.

When I close my eyes and direct my visual attention inward, at first I can see only darkness, but presently the inner scene becomes clearly lit, and the mind's eye is steadily looking into the innermost part of myself. This inward direction of the visual attention always tends to be accompanied by bated breath, and also by bodily atten­ tion. These three elements, visual attention, bated breath, and bodily attention, eventually fuse into a single act of concentration that con­ stitutes a powerful driving force toward absolute samadhi. We can call this driving force "will power" or "spiritual power."
Auditory attention naturally tends to be outwardly directed. When you listen to the ticking of a clock, your mind is directed toward the sound, and this leads to positive samadhi. Visual attention, too, is normally directed outward. Only when you close the eyes can you direct attention completely inward.
If, as an experiment, you concentrate attention on the palms of your hands as they lie in your lap, you will feel a delicate tremor there (possibly caused by the bloodstream), and you will be directly con-nected with the existence of the palms. You are exercising bodily attention. Whenever visual attention is directed upon any part of the body, bodily attention necessarily makes its appearance there. It is as if a spotlight were thrown there in search of some important object. The clear feeling of the palms now occupies your whole attention.

In other words, you are concentrating your mind on the palms. In practice, visual attention, bodily attention, and the mind are here one and the same thing.
Or again, direct your visual attention to your arms and try to watch them in imagination. You will find that your breathing slows down, your body becomes quieter than it was before, and a condition of gentle, constant tension develops in the skin. Almost at once, you will probably feel a delicate, thrill-like sensation occurring first around the back of the upper arms and hands, then spreading quietly in all directions. At the same time another thrill-like, delicate vi­ bration will start to appear first around the ears, then will spread to the cheeks, forehead, throat, and shoulders. The sensation of thrilling is accompanied by a clear feeling of delight that calms the body and mind. The condition of the internal organs, the blood circulation,
and other psychophysical matters are all reflected in the skin. The thrill will presently subside, and then there comes a peace and silence, dominating the body and mind. Off-sensation sets in before you are aware of it. There is a definite affinity between the thrill-like sensa­ tion and off-sensation, and the latter follows the former.

As a beginner you may not immediately experience all this, but the fact of knowing that such a phenomenon occurs will help you to acquire the ability to bring it about rather readily. The thrill-like sen­ sation will be less frequently experienced by more practiced students and will generally be skipped altogether when you are mature. There are also some people who do not experience the thrilling at all, per­ haps for constitutional reasons. They have no need to worry about this, as the thrill is not a necessary condition of entering samadhi. Many musicians, poets, and painters, however, seem to be familiar with the sensation of thrilling. Hakuin Zenji describes another method of inducing off-sensation, which is somewhat analogous to that which we have just described in that it involves concentrated visual and bodily attention. He instructs you to imagine that a soft cake of incense is placed on the top of your head. The cake melts and gradually soaks down into the forehead, cheeks, and throat, and then on into the chest, stomach, belly, and legs. Off-sensation will soon follow.
When you have attained proficiency in the practice of these tricks, a trace will be left in your body and mind, so that even when you do not resort to them off-sensation will rather easily occur in your zazen practice.

If you direct visual attention not to the palms or the arms but to your interior-to be precise, to the tanden-you will find yourself looking steadily into your own existence. When you are mature in this practice, you can enter absolute samadhi in the space of one breath.
Experienced Zen students who are successful in their practice must be using this inwardly directed visual attention, but they seem never to have reflected upon the fact, much less analyzed it clearly enough to be able to tell others about it. There is a great difference between doing a thing knowingly and unknowingly. Lacking a clear understand­ ing of what they are doing, it is likely that they will sometimes find there is something not quite right with their practice, without being able to identify the fault. Some Zen students probably resort simply to abstract attention to Mu and then find that they are subject to stray thoughts, since this sort of attention readily becomes fatigued.

Once again, direct your visual attention to the tanden. The sensa­ tion of the tanden will suddenly become apparent and fill your mind. You will find you are steadily and strongly holding and watching your­ self. Now let the tension of the respiratory muscles relax, and with­ draw the visual attention; you will be merely abstractly thinking of the tanden and you will find that your concentration is drastically weakened.


*****


Thursday, 16 January 2014



I've become more aware recently of how many yoga practitioners and potential yoga practitioners are put off by the thought of practicing Ashtanga, quite frankly many run a mile.

Often they have an  image of Ashtanga as fast paced, dynamic, frenetic, obsessive, impossible postures that are fixed in stone and must be practiced perfectly before you can progress (to the next posture), it's thought of as hot, sweaty and perhaps even a little... culty.

Often of course this is also an image of the practice that brings some to Ashtanga, but I digress.

Ashtanga can be approached like that perhaps, and hey if your young 9or even not so young) and are wanting a fast paced fitness practice then this approach may be just the thing for you, actually, in the beginning, it suited me for a while to practice Ashtanga this way myself.

But it is perhaps a mischaracterization of Ashtanga or at least the intention behind Ashtanga

Ashtanga can be practiced fast paced, we often see it demonstrated that way, but that perhaps is because it IS a demonstration, less time on the video tape or only half an hour to give an idea of as many postures as possible and perhaps also there is an aspect of trying to impress you, or at least show you what the body is capable of.

But it's what the body is capable of... through yoga asana practice, through, dedication, devotion, concentration, a focus on the breath....

Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois' teacher stressed time and time again that the heart rate shouldn't increase ( if it does, take a mini savasana) and that the breath rate should slow,  asana should be steady and comfortable.

In daily practice, Ashtanga tends to be practiced more slowly than is presented in demonstrations See my page on Mysore rooms around the world,.

Krishnamacharya indicates in his 1934 book Yoga Makaranda that it should be practiced even more slowly, the breaths are long, slow, full, 'like the pouring of oil', there are longer stays in many postures.

In recent Ashtanga the sequences are more fixed than Krishnamacharya seemed to have originally presented them but even here, in certain shalas, practice rooms around the world we find teachers giving modifications to postures, going with the intention and gesture of a posture and moving you forward with the advice to keep working on the posture your struggling with. Vinyasa Krama is perhaps the art of this approach.

I tend to breath quite slowly, my own practice is based on the original instruction Krishnamacharya gave for his 'Ashtanga' practice in Yoga Makaranda so I tend to only have time for half a 'series' before moving on to my finishing postures and some pranayama, perfectly acceptable.

Many are actually practising Ashtanga and don't realise it, in a gym or studio perhaps and going under a different name we can still find Krishnamacharya's influence. In fact many of the classes presented in some studios around the world have more in keeping with Krishnamacharya's original presentation than we find in some hard core exclusively 'Ashtanga' shala's.

The movements are linked to the breath, they follow the breath and the breath is intended to be slow, no fast paced practice here.... unless you feel like it, but then that's your approach, your practice and doesn't necessarily reflect the intention of the practice, it is though an option available.

There are crazy challenging postures but most of them are in the Advanced series intended for demonstration, not necessarily for daily practice unless that's an area you particularly wish to explore.

Some more challenging postures have found their way into the first series, personally I'd recommend dropping them and reintroducing them later. Marichiyasana D for example. Krishnamacharya put that posture in the Intermediate postures but it ended up finding it's way into Primary series, there are some good reasons for doing so, there are a lot of postures that prepare you for it but just as Pattabhi Jois would introduce the reverse triangle postures, the deep twists, back into the opening standing postures only once you had completed the series I'd recommend doing the same with Marchi D or any other particularly challenging posture.

Hot and sweaty? The room actually shouldn't actually be that hot, it should be comfortable, we want our body nicely warmed up and there will be some sweat but it shouldn't be excessive. I tend to turn the heat down in my practice room half way through my practice, no doubt many teachers do the same as a room fills up.

Ashtanga means eight limbs, it's become associated with asana practice but Krishnamacharya stressed the other limbs, the other aspects of yoga practice. Pranayama for example, the breathing practice. Krishnamacharya wasn't encouraging extream pranayama practices, holding the breath for excessive periods of time, we're not training to be free divers here, some of the pranayama practices don't include any retentions of breath, it's a gradual process, as with the asana, a building up of facility.

Krishnamacharya would also stress the meditative aspect of yoga.... Asana practice and pranayama clean the room ( the body ), what's the point if we don't then live in it, i.e. engage in some form of meditative practice. There are many kinds of meditative practice the familiar concentration practices in a meditative posture but it might also suggest chanting or the study of relevant and interesting texts, there are different options depending on our tastes and inclinations, and these of course may change as we continue with our practice,

Ashtanga is a yoga practice, it's seeking to prepare you for these mediative practices, to be able to concentrate, focus more effectively, there's no point having a frantic asana practice and then collapsing afterwards, we are aiming to be more satvic, more calm, peaceful, steady.

But of course, for now, a wilder practice might be what your looking for, perhaps your young with an excess of energy you wish to burn, Krishnamacharya did teach asana to the young boys of the mysore practice, perhaps he brought that aspect out somewhat,  perhaps your approaching Ashtanga as a fitness practice, it's possible to do so, Yoga for the three stages of life, but that isn't the only aspect of the practice we should be aware of or indeed necessarily the original intention or the full scope of the possibilities of practice that Krishnamacharya left to us.

*

This of course is only one Ashtangi's view of Ashtasnga, there are as many as there are those who practice it.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Wondering if perhaps Ashtanga isn't the best practice for you anymore?


I woke up to a link to David Garrigues Winter 2011 Newsletter this morning. I was directed to the letter at the end of the Newsletter. My Highlighting. Thanks S. for the heads up.

Ask David A Question
Lastly, I would like to share a question I received through the Asana Kitchen and my response.
Hello,
I have a question. I have been practicing for at least 5 years, Ashtanga, visited Mysore twice, and now in second series, Pincha Mayurasana. Both times that I had been to India, I got quite sick with anemia. I am very Vata, and I believe the practice just exhausts me. Sharath believes always I can do more, but I know inside it's just my 'wind' pushing me through but my mind is battling. Exhausted. It's a hard place to be. I love Ashtanga, and it saddens me to think maybe it really isn't the best practice for me anymore? Even now when I do the second series, I spend most of my day feeling anger, blocked, and ironically out of my centre. My creative and easy going nature is hard to reach. I understand the idea of facing and working through such emotions. I do my best. But it's been quite a constant for the past year or more. These feelings don't change much.
Have you had any stories or experiences similar come your way?
I hope not to bore you with my mundane question.
Here is my response.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi,
Thank you for writing. Your question is very important and far from mundane. If I could work with you, see you practice get to know you a bit, it would be much easier to give you a helpful answer. Trying other styles is certainly an option, and you have to ask your self if that is really what you want to do. If you do want to do that, then there you have it. It might be important to check out what else is out there before you really decide that Ashtanga is best for you. But maybe you honestly do want to do Ashtanga and for whatever reason you are running into a major road block that is seeming to last too long. And you'd like to work through it, but it's really challenging you. In that case I would consider that it might be more how you are thinking about and approaching your practice that is at the root of what is tiring and frustrating you. Remember that really the practice is there to serve you--and you have more freedom than you might be allowing your self to change it up and tweak things so that it continues to feed and nourish you. You can mix things up and do more primary or part of primary and part of intermediate. You can lighten things up when you feel the need by practicing shorter or skipping some asana's on some days, or spending more time with finishing postures. Your practice needs to be soulful and to come from a place of genuine inner agreement--where you agree with what you are doing and how you are doing it each day. Are you practicing alone or with a teacher? If alone then it can be challenging not to get frustrated because of not having instruction or community, but also it is easier to mix things up too and do what feels right to you. If you have a daily teacher than you'll have to work with them so that you are aligned with what is happening in the class. If you were in my class I'd look at what you are doing and how you are doing it, and then make suggestions for doing some different things along the lines what I mentioned above. It can be tricky to mix things and still continue to respect the guidelines of the lineage.
But it is essential to do especially when the alternative is to discontinue your practice. It helps me to remember that true ashtanga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is a living, creative lineage. And therefore the application of the method ought not to be rigid nor dogmatically fixed. One size doesn't fit all, we are all unique and specific and thus have differing requirements that necessitate different sorts of interpretations of the practice. And this goes in cycles; sometimes we are able to flow along precisely in step with the vinyasa protocol and at other times we have to practice in slower or more theraputic modes or in other ways that are possibly not quite what ashtanga allegedly is supposed to be or look like. For me the thread that always keeps it all connected is my lasting, genuine love and devotion to ashtanga. In order for the lineage to evolve, grow and thrive each one of us must ever create the lineage anew through our 'research', our personal relationship to the struggles and triumphs of our daily practices.
Ashtanga is such a treasure, such a powerful practice, I'd hate to see you leave it when you've come so far (almost through the intermediate!). Maybe you can soften, listen within for more inner cues on how you need to practice just now. And one more thing is I'd really look at your breathing too, if your breathing is not balanced, either too much force or not enough power, then your energy will get disrupted. This is true especially with the passage of time and can become a road block to developing your intermediate practice.
Hope some of this helps and drop me line let me know how you are doing.
All the Best
Om Namah Shivaya!
Hari Om,
David

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
As it happens I wrote a post on Primary last night but the Mac froze and I lost it, dodgy wifi connection. It was about practising just Primary, that same sequence day in day out and how appealing that was to me right now. Not 2nd or Advanced, no additional postures (other than drop backs) but just that same series everyday and not writing about it or any of it anymore (says me writing about it), just the practice.

Cave yogi.

You could do it with any set sequence of course, you could do it with 2nd series but I've never felt the effect to be the same, the postures never seem to flow into each other as they do in Primary, 2nd seems more like a series of courses.

Perhaps sometimes you need to run ahead a bit before you realise what was right in front of you, Primary is the Advanced series.

Of course I'd still keep my Vinyasa Krama practice but that's become a couple of short subroutines before settling into Pranayama and meditation, I hardly think of it as a separate asana practice anymore.

Not suggesting here that this is the right way to approach the practice, it's just one of many of course.

'...each one of us must ever create the lineage anew through our 'research', our personal relationship to the struggles and triumphs of our daily practices'.

LATER
Nor am I talking about not seeking to progress or explore new postures . I really do believe that you should add new postures whenever you feel ready, start 2nd when you feel ready....even if your not sure your ready. Once you've practiced for a number of months (I'd say at least six), have most of Primary under your belt and are practicing pretty much most days you have a better understanding of your body than anyone else. An asana teacher, books, the community, discuss it with them but in the end it's up to you, it's your practice, always your practice.

Exploring new postures, taking on new challenges is another way to practice and besides it might turn out the 2nd or 3rd is your series, the one you'll want to practice everyday just as I've gone back to Primary and started to think that this is the series I want to practice every day.

And there are many ways to practice Primary, there is no right way though perhaps a few wrong ones. Full vinyasa might be for you, if I had more time it probably would be for me, I have a soft spot for it.

It might be Primary up to Kapo (am considering it) or half primary/half 2nd.

Your primary might be how it was taught in the 70's, 80's, 90's or how it's taught currently in Mysore. For me it's with the chin down in most postures rather than bothering that much with drishti. I also like to jump in and out of postures but that's me, it's how I've become familiar with the practice, it's my Primary.

****

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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