Yoga links

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Monday, August 25, 2003
okrgr’s yoga weblog. Okrgr would be high on my list of good folks in the online yoga community, if I had one. Which I don't. At least not in any form that will ever be readable outside the privacy of my own head.

I don't know how he finds the time. He has a demanding job - he's a doctor, a gynaecologist if I recall correctly, has a family with small kids, keeps up what looks to me like a pretty impressive amount of yoga practice even though he regularly complains about how little time he has for it (I'm lucky if I fit in half an hour's practice a day with a job and a three month old baby in the house) - and finds time to write about it. Respect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Studying at Pattabhi Jois's new yoga shala in Gokulam, Mysore - Paul Dallaghan has published loads of excellent information on life in Gokulam on

Friday, March 14, 2003

Suppose someone does Vrchikasana and touches the feet to the head and another person does Vrchikasana and there is a gap of six inches. What do you think? You say, "this person has done better," because he has touched. It is not necessary; the other person might have done better. Because touching the feet to the head is not essential in Vrchikasana. Getting the action on the kidneys or the organs, getting the action on the spine, getting the access to the mind is important. As a matter of fact, a simple thing is that the following: in the fellow who has not touched his head with the feet there is humbleness, which is positive; the other fellow, who has touched, will create room for pride. So he has done Vrchikasana but has not done yoga.

… from a very interesting looking interview with Prashant Iyengar, B.K.S. Iyengar's son

Wednesday, February 05, 2003
A couple of quite interesting articles in Yoga Journal, on Krishnamacharya and Nancy Gilgoff

Friday, December 06, 2002
Eddie Stern and Robert Moses are publishing a new magazine, Nama Rupa, dedicated to yoga and other Indian philosophies. First issue is due out in the spring, but the website is already up.

NAMARUPA, Categories of Indian Thought, is a new journal that seeks to record, illustrate, honor and comment on the many systems of knowledge, practical and theoretical, that have originated in the Indian sub-continent.

(Shameless self-promotion follows) Eddie and Robert have scraped the barrel (er, oops, scoured the world) for yoga writers and photographers, as you can see from the content list for the first issue

Monday, November 18, 2002
Utterly brilliant & important ezboard post by Homer on Patanjali, yoga sutras & detachment from the world. Says a lot of what I've been thinking about reading Ian Whicher's book, only a lot more succinctly.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
I rarely read the Yahoo ashtanga yoga message board these days, and stopped maintaining my index to it a year ago, but every now and then I have a quick look, and sometimes there's still the odd gem to be found. This message by Richard Himes, on the Krishnamacharya legacy as variously embodied by BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and Desikachar, is one such.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Yoga Chicago has part two of Cara Jepsen's Mysore Diary. A very cool piece of writing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Provocative article by ashtanga student Lara Baumann about her experiences studying in Mysore, in Christophe Mouze's Yoga Online magazine. She's highly critical of other yoga students and the whole Mysore ashtanga scene. Interesting contrast with my experiences, and it sparked some pretty heated discussion on ezboard. My thoughts on it:

The fact is, there are quite a lot of people who don't find studying in Mysore with Pattabhi Jois as rewarding an experience as I did. And since finding out whether you do or not inevitably involves a serious investment of time and money, some of those who don't are bound to end up seriously disappointed and bitter. They have a right to their perception of their experiences, and they have just as much right to publish their thoughts and opinions as me or anybody else. That's the nature of freedom of speech.

I totally agree with Christophe's arguments for publishing the article - and like him, I found Lara's level-headed debunking of the "intimate adjustments" (non) issue interesting.

It is certainly true that Patthabi Jois's forthcomingness with interesting answers / mini-lectures varies greatly, depending on his energy level that day and on whether he finds the questions people ask him interesting. Some days the whole afternoon session consists of long embarrassing silences; some days he manages to deliver lengthy and fascinating lectures on various aspects of yoga practice and theory - despite the fact that English for him is a foreign language that he isn't fluent in and that he clearly finds a strain. It's quite simple - if you want to get interesting information out of him, think of questions he finds interesting, and/or make an effort to learn kannada or sanskrit so that it isn't so much of a strain for him to talk to you. Oh, and also read the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras and Yoga Mala and think about them - otherwise why on earth would you expect any teacher to take you seriously if you can't be bothered to put effort into the basic coursework?

Regarding "humiliating" latecomers - absolutely not. Latecomers get loudly told off, in a very good-humoured and obviously tongue-in-cheek way. You would have to be pretty fragile to take this as "humiliation".

I had the time of my life in Mysore. I found Guruji and Sharath's teaching absolutely excellent; and I found the other yoga students generally one of the friendliest and most supportive groups of people I've ever spent time with - particularly the early-morning, longer term and more advanced students, once I'd been around long enough to get to know them. But it's also certainly true that a lot of the long-timers - myself included after I sort of was one, plus a lot of other people I talked to - take the view that there's so much turnover that it just isn't worth making a big effort to get to know everybody who just shows up for a couple of weeks. If you happen to strike up a conversation in a cafe, or have mutual friends, fine - but there's no special obligation to go out of your way to socialise with everybody you don't know and who's just going to be gone again in a week or two anyway. I don't see that as "steely-eyed" or exclusive or snobby - just part of the reality of living in an ephemeral "community".

"Everybody hates India for the first month, and then loves it forever" (George MacDonald Fraser)

Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Had some email conversation today with Helen Richards, who has been reading my Mysore Diary. She had some interesting perspectives on the new shala. I spent some time towards the end of my stay in Mysore talking about how glad I was to have made it there in time to experience the atmosphere and the 60 years of accumulated prana in the old shala, and lamenting how it won't be the same next year in the new place. Helen says:

The way I see it, you/I could have the chance to be one of the first to practice in the new shala and in 20, 30, 40 years time/when Sharath is as old as Guruji is now, our energies will still be resounding around that space. And we can say to all those youngsters, we were there from the beginning...... :-)

I also mentioned that Guruji says he plans to have separate primary, intermediate and advanced classes, and I'll miss the inspiration and energy boost that comes from practicing in with the advanced super-ashtangis. I didn't look at it the other way round ...

I wonder if the intermediate/advanced students will miss having the primary students around them???

Well, I can think of at least two or three advanced practitioners who probably won't miss having me and my mate Luke roll underneath them (in garbha pindasana) or fall on top of them (from pincha mayurasana) while they're trying to do third or fourth series.

(Helen works in product research for Fuji. How about a spot of corporate sponsorship for AL Photography's next Indian excursion, Helen? A state-of-the-art digicam or two? A few (dozen) rolls of film, even? This website is powered by Fuji Film.)

Friday, May 17, 2002
Chicago journalist Cara Jepsen was in Mysore at the same time I was, and has written about her adventures in Kovalam and Mysore for Yoga Chicago magazine. She mentions me in the Mysore piece, therefore by definition it's good and everybody should read it!

Thursday, May 02, 2002
Some great old pictures of Pattabhi Jois teaching, and other goings-on, in Encinitas in the '70s & '80s, on Tim Miller's website (under "photo album" at the bottom of the page)

Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Website of David Coulter, the author of the very well-reviewed new book on The Anatomy of Hatha Yoga

Monday, April 29, 2002
Guruji's 2002 tour schedule

Friday, April 26, 2002
Hmm. Strange. Today I found Ian Whicher's The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana : A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga in my shopping basket on, with no recollection of ever having put it there, or even having heard of the book. This review of it by Georg Feuerstein makes it sound interesting, though, so perhaps I might buy it after all.

Monday, October 08, 2001
Fixed my persistent mis-spelling of "Patthabi" Jois on all my web pages today, the same day somebody mentioned it to me. Hideous public embarrassment may not be the kindest way of pointing something like this out to somebody, but it gets results. I'm surprised nobody has noticed/mentioned this before - most of the offending pages had been up, and getting a thousand hits a month, for a year.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001
Thomas Egenes' Introduction to Sanskrit seems to be the best textbook. But it's on special order at Amazon so I probably wouldn't be able to get it before I go to India. Oh well, see if I can pick something up cheaply while I'm there.

Monday, September 10, 2001
Here's an interesting but unfinished translation and commentary, which will be even more interesting if it's ever finished.

The Yoga Sutras in German.
And a comparative commentary on various English versions of Chapter One. This is useful - I was contemplating doing something similar myself.
And a quite interesting review of a book by a vipassana advocate about about Buddhist influences on (and supposedly superiority to) Patanjali's yoga philosophy. The section on pranayama - spontaneity versus hatha yoga-style forced control/retention - is reminiscent of what Godfrey Devereux has to say on the subject which is probably influenced by his zen meditation practice. See also a controversial 1990 article by S.N. Goenka that has recently appeared on the Net, Yoga--as seen in the light of Vipassana, arguing that yoga has become debased by being used as a physical therapy rather than a path to spiritual liberation, that there is a risk of thesame thing happening to vipassana. Also argues that Patanjali yoga as expounded in the Sutras is basically identical to vipassana, and fundamentally different from the physical practices described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita.

Patanjali has defined asana just by one phrase i.e. the posture in which one can sit for a long time, steadily and with ease. Only this very statement of Patanjali about asana has been elaborated up to 84 types of tiresome postures and all of them are now preached in his name. Poor Patanjali has been reduced to the status of circus trainer and he, who preaches to become aware of the inhalation and exhalation of natural breath, the intermittent stage between the two its elongation and its contraction, has been wrongly associated with the attempted and rigorous breathing exercise of pranayama. Breathing exercise too is not bad. It has got its own advantages but the same should not be ascribed to the name of Patanjali. Likewise different yogic postures too have got very good healthy impact over our body, but the same should also not be said as prescribed by Patanjali in his famous treatise. A sage who bestowed our country with a highly spiritual knowledge of yoga should in no way be allowed to be depicted as a kindergarten P.T. teacher who teaches asana or pranayama.

… and so on at great length. I need to read the whole thing and think about it

Wednesday, September 05, 2001
Hatha Yoga Pradipika - a translation recommended by Guy Donahaye

Monday, September 03, 2001
Some really good pictures of Pattabhi Jois' workshop in Finland. Classic art/reportage - interesting documentary of a newsorthy event *and* a tremendous sense of line & composition. I'm very impressed. I specially love the strong diagonals in 2 & 4

Links to lots of online translations and commentaries on the Yoga Sutras. (No. 1 hit on "patanjali yoga sutras" on Google)

Thursday, August 30, 2001
Very useful-looking guide to online resources for learning sanskrit

Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Must check out the Eric Hobsbawm reference quoted here, saying that there *is* a historical "reality" that can be established - which is somewhat contrary to my own views when I used to be a historian, and to my disillusionment with reading recently about the Aryan/Rig Veda "debates". But does agree with my gut belief that certain things happened and others didn't - the problem is that I don't see how that belief could be provable. And no longer regard it as all that important anyway.

further surfing on the theme of translation / derivation / meaning of "nirvana" led me to this yahoo message board posting quoting the Bhagavad Gita:

As a lamp placed in a windless spot does not flicker, in the same manner, a yogi of subdued mind, practises union with the Self. In that state, when the mind is completely subdued by the practice of yoga and has attained serenity, seeing self by the self, he is satisfied in the self alone. In that state, transcending the senses, he feels that infinite bliss which is perceived by the purified understanding'

cf Sri Aurobindo's English version of the Gita:

Motionless like the light of a lamp in a windless place is the controlled consciousness (free from its restless action, shut in from its outward motion) of the Yogin who practises union with the Self.

A piece by a guy called Stepehn Fortney about Buddhism. Not-so-interesting comments about Buddhism and American politics, but he makes this interesting point:

… "nirvana" in sanskrit is "windlessness " (cf English "vane", French/Latin "vent") - i.e. the mind is not blown about by every passing breeze. Or, to put it another way, "yogascittavrittinirodah" (or however you spell it)

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Persevering in the repetition even when it seems unbearably frustrating and you feel inadequate, when you want more than anything to just quit and walk away, is what forces the magic to rise. When you practice faithfully everyday, you begin to discern the mental limitations, you place on yourself. Over time, through repetition, your willingness to take chances, to surrender to doing things you didn't believe you were capable of, increase. That is when the breakthroughs happen - the small, fiery sparks that give us an inkling of what we are ultimately reaching for. As Simone Weil wrote, "Even if your efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul."

Quite. One of the better bits from a fairly interesting article in Yoga International about last year's New York workshop.

Posted this on ezboard a while ago in response to a question about age & modifications:

I was 35 when I started 5 years ago, and was fit but pretty stiff because a background of various sports and resulting injuries. Had an ambition early on to be able to padmasana (lotus) by the time I turned 40, and made it with a couple of months to spare.

Lino Miele - one of the top teachers in Europe - started at about 40 with no previous sports or yoga background and is now, in his early 50s, learning 4th series. Gwendoline Hunt, one of my favourite teachers, is in her early 70s, has been doing ashtanga for about ten years and is learning 3rd series; but she had a lot of background in dance and other forms of yoga. I have a friend who is in his 60s and has been practicing longer than I have - he's pretty stiff but practices regularly and has a great time anyway.

Opinions vary on the modifications thing. David Swenson's approach seems to be that its ok to do a lot of first or second series with modifications and you will still get benefit from it. He is something of a maverick in this view - mainstream opinion among senior teachers is that it's better to learn to do each asana something like properly before you try to move on. ("Something like properly" is of course open to interpretation).

I'm firmly in the traditionalist camp these days. I learned in the first place in a more Swensonesque style, and looking back now, I think it encouraged me to kid myself about what I could do, and ultimately did me no favours. Lately I've been focusing a lot more on slowing down and really working on the things I find hard, and I feel like I'm getting a lot more out of my practice.

Unless you happen to be already pretty flexible when you start, the traditional approach, going slowly and waiting until you can really do things, is very uncongenial to the typical western impatient, achievement-oriented mindset. It is, nevertheless, the right way to go. Learning to overcome the goal-oriented attitude and accept a realistic appraisal of where you are is central to yoga.

Other people will of course have different opinions on this, and I'm well aware that David Swenson knows a whole lot more about yoga than I do. But I'm speaking from having reflected on my own experience, not from some mindless "Pattabhi Jois is right because he's Pattabhi Jois" dogma.

New book by a student of Krishnamacharya, Srivatsa Ramaswami. Pointed out on yahoo by Terry Slade.

A talk on Krishnamacharya's teaching by Desikachar, 1987

Monday, August 27, 2001
Another good review of Drews, Bronze Age

Review of Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze Age

Godfrey Devereux' translation and commentary on Patanjali