Saturday, 20 May 2017

Krishnamacharya's one minute Uttihita Padangustasa

I'm currently exploring a longer Recaka kumbhaka (holding the breath out after the exhalation) in Krishnamacharya's one minute Uttihita Padangustasa, the description in Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) is fascinating.

We have Krishnamacharya mention alignment,

"...While standing this way, make sure that the head, neck, back, hips, arms and legs are aligned properly..."

the gaze,

"...and gaze at the tip of the nose".

clear instruction for the breath,

"..Inhalation and exhalation of the breath must be slow and of equal duration". (for the first photo)

and kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) instruction, here the kumbhaka is after the exhalation in the second photograph.

"...Recaka kumbhaka must be done in this sthiti. That is, expel the breath completely from the body, maintain this position and then without allowing any breath into the body, bend the upper body. Now carefully pull in the stomach as much as one’s strength allows and hold it in. Stay in this sthiti for at least one minute..."

Krishnamacharya also mentions his interest in blood circulation,

"...Because of this asana, our body’s important areas — the arms, legs, knees, hips, bones of the back, the buttocks, stomach, neck — these will be cleaned. Not only this, it will facilitate proper clean blood circulation in the nerves."

an interesting reference to Nadi as nerve bundles,

"Those who practise this can, even on the first day, recognize the changes in the location and movements of the nadi (that is, what are the regions where our nerve bundles are not in the correct state or proper position)."

he even mentions props...

"Those who cannot do the asana properly on the first day may stand using the support of the wall, place the raised leg on top of a table and then follow the instructions described above. But if done this way, the benefits are much fewer. After practising this way following the krama for 5 or 6 days, learn to do this asana without any aids."

and includes a practice 'tip',

"...Initially, when you first practise this without any support, you might fall down. In that case, after slowly exhaling the breath out, firmly hold the breath. This will prevent a fall. "

Note too that while  Krishnamacharya takes the big toe in the first sthiti he holds either side of the foot in the second sthiti, (less strain on the hamstring and sciatic nerve than pulling back on the toe).


This posture can be challenging, slow breathing to the abdomen, firmed by the posture' can help as well as perhaps employing some of the other relaxation techniques Simon Borg-Olivier mentions in his new Introduction to breath control (pranayama) course (see THIS post) I.E. The Twelve Bridges Between the Conscious and the Unconscious Mind to Assist in Relaxation and Breath- control. Staying relaxed in the posture helpsin making the kumbhaka following the exhalation more comfortable.

Below, from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (available on my free downloads page).

Utthitahasta Padangushtasana

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. The feet must be kept together. Now, raise one leg up slowly and maintain this position with the extended leg kept straight out in front at the height of the navel. The knee should not bend and the leg must be kept straight for the entire time that it is being raised. After the leg has been raised about 3/4 of the way without any assistance, take the first three fingers of the corresponding hand (the same as whichever leg was raised) and tightly clasp the big toe of the raised foot. Remain in this position for some time. Keep the other hand on the hip. Inhalation and exhalation of the breath must be slow and of equal duration. One says the sthiti is correct if there is the same measure of distance between the standing leg and the raised leg. In this there are many other forms.

After staying in this sthiti for some time, take either the face or the nose towards the knee of the raised leg and place it there. Recaka kumbhaka must be done in this sthiti. That is, expel the breath completely from the body, maintain this position and then without allowing any breath into the body, bend the upper body. Now carefully pull in the stomach as much as one’s strength allows and hold it in. Stay in this sthiti for at least one minute. At this time, the knee must be kept straight without bending. Remember this when you practise. In the beginning, it might not be possible to do this properly. But if one keeps practising following the given rules for 10 to 15 days, it will become possible to do it properly.
Because of this asana, our body’s important areas — the arms, legs, knees, hips, bones of the back, the buttocks, stomach, neck — these will be cleaned. Not only this, it will facilitate proper clean blood circulation in the nerves.

Those who practise this can, even on the first day, recognize the changes in the location and movements of the nadi (that is, what are the regions where our nerve bundles are not in the correct state or proper position).

Those who cannot do the asana properly on the first day may stand using the support of the wall, place the raised leg on top of a table and then follow the instructions described above. But if done this way, the benefits are much fewer. After practising this way following the krama for 5 or 6 days, learn to do this asana without any aids. Initially, when you first practise this without any support, you might fall down. In that case, after slowly exhaling the breath out, firmly hold the breath. This will prevent a fall. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Ashtanga and weight loss, it's not the practice but the discipline. Also Simon Borg-Oliver on Yoga and Diet

I almost regret making up this poster with the before and after photos.
This post isn't about appearance but health (the photo on the left happens to be M's favourite), about more discipline in our eating, what do I care whatIi look like, I live in the countryside and practice alone rather than in a shala.

When I first started practicing yoga I was 94 kilo, I'd been living in Japan for six years, drinking too much beer and living on convenience food, the weight came on gradually and because I had some fancy suits at the time I never really noticed I'd put on as much weight as I had, thought I was looking pretty sharp actually and hadn't really considered how unhealthy my lifestyle had become. I started practicing yoga with a book from a library, it just happened to be Ashtanga and for that first year I panted and sweated through practice each morning on a bath towel in my underwear. I would sweat around two kilo's a practice, there was the suggestion at the time that the Ashtanga practice room needed to be hot (it doesn't). Because I was bending and twisting so much each morning I really didn't want to eat that heavy a meal in the evening. I dropped down to 78 kilo in those first two years and put it down to my dynamic, sweaty, Ashtanga practice although I had also switched to a vegetarian diet a couple of years into my practice..

It was partly the practice of course that accounts for that dramatic weight loss but no doubt just as much to do with eating less. Practicing twice a day I just got into the habit of eating less between practices, smaller portions, plus Ashtanga is great for building discipline and saying no to a beer or a tub of ice cream.

Still, in my mind, at the time, it was that dynamic, sweaty Ashtanga practice that I credited with losing

I should add that I didn't start yoga, Ashtanga, to lose weight, I'd been burgled, had seven vintage saxophones stollen, I was annoyed about it and wanted to do something about the anger. I decided to get back into Sitting and the yoga was because I'd read that it could make the sitting more comfortable.

Jump forward a few years.

Two and a half years ago I got ready to move back to Japan. Ashtangi's we love our routines, we love stability, our mat in the same place, practicing at the same time each morning, are we all a little OCD? The disruption caused by that move to Japan threw my discipline out somewhat, those yama/niyama's slipped and the outward manifestation of that was a gradual increase in weight. Also, I had been practicing more slowly, less dynamically and because I associated sweating through practice with the kidney stones I'd had in the past I avoided sweating during practice as much as possible.

When I noticed my weight was up to 84 kilo at the end of last year I realised I needed to do something about it.

My practiced had slowed down in the last few years. Following Krishnamacharya's early Mysore instruction, as found in Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) and Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941), I was breathing "...slow like the pouring of oil", staying in postures for longer, ten breaths, ten minutes even. To accommodate this slower practice I let go of more and more asana. By the end of last year I was mostly only practicing the first half of Primary and even then with many of the asana dropped, this approach, a 'mudra like' approach to practice is outlined on my Proficient Primary page.

Because I associated the dramatic weight lost of the past to my hot, sweaty, dynamic Ashtanaga practice, the temptation was to switch from my slower more modest practice back to a fast paced full series practice once more, I mean it had worked in the past.

The temptation was great.

Thankfully I was stubborn enough and determined NOT to change my practice, not to speed it up, not to practice more asana, not to practice in a warmer/hotter room but decided instead to 'merely' change my eating habits.

It sounds obvious doesn't it. Of course it's not the practice, it was never the practice, all the practice did really was to provide the discipline to eat more circumspectly. And yet I suspect I'm not alone, I'm sure there are many who associate their physical condition with the practice itself, with how they practice rather than the relationship between how they eat and the practice they have.

I stopped drinking alcohol. From drinking only a little watered down wine in the past I'd started drinking wine that wasn't watered down, from one to two glasses with meals, three glasses even, beer through the summer, a whiskey in the evening, or two, through the long holiday season of Christmas and new year.

I cut out bread, we had discovered we had a great bakers here in our village by the lake.

Quit drinking milk

No more pasta but instead 100% Soba

I cut out rice altogether at first and then allowed a little brown rice once or twice a week.

I stopped eating chocolate, biscuits/cookies, cake any kind of snack other than nuts.

I stopped eating most sugary fruit too.

These days I mostly I tend to eat salad, vegetables, Soba ( including crepes made from Soba flour), strawberries, Sashimi..... nuts.

I went from 84 kilo in November to 73 kilo this morning my practice just slow as slow, just as modest. It was nice however to see the wrist binds come comfortably back if and when I included Marichiiyasana D, Pasasana.

Note: BMI for my height within the recommended range of 18.5 to 24.9

Simon Borg-Olivier talks a lot about diet. He talks and writes about the connection between how we breathe and what we eat. Simply put, If we breathe less we tend to be happy with salad, breathe more and we crave something heavier and perhaps more of it. I'll include his fb post on diet yesterday in the appendix.

See perhaps this earlier post on breathing less

I make M. lemon drizzle cake, I buy her chocolate occasionally but have no interest in them myself, I'm quite content with a handful of nuts as a snack, you get used to it very quickly. Simon stresses that he eats what ever he wants, as much as he wants but that all he fancies is, fruit and vegetable, I feel pretty much the same.

It's not our practice, Ashtanga was never about losing weight.

We CAN practice our Ashtanga as if we are in a Cross-fit gym, or a Bikram studio or we can practice calmly, steadily, in a moderately, comfortably, warm room, our breathing slow and steady, our asana modest.

What Ashtanga, what any regular practice gives us, or can give us, is discipline, or a least it can act as a support for our practice of the yama/niyamas (of our or any other culture) that we choose to follow.

If we choose to switch from a faster paced practice to a slower more modest practice we 'merely' have to adjust our fuel and how much we consume  accordingly. I say merely but it can be tough, the practice though can support us in this through the discipline it gives us, the yama/niyama, the asana, they support each other, go hand in hand.

from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934)

"3.3 Dietary Restrictions for the Yogabhyasi
Food must be eaten in measured quantities. It must be very pure. The food should not be overly hot, it should not have cooled down too much (very cold food should be avoided). Savouring the taste, fill the stomach with such food until it is half full. After this, leave a quarter of the stomach for water and leave the rest empty to allow for movement of air. For example, one who normally has the capacity to eat 1/4 measure of food, should eat 1/8 measure of food and leave the rest of the stomach as mentioned above.

For whom there is neither excess nor less
of sleep, food and activity
For him alone it is possible

to attain the state of yoga"


Appendix 1

One of my favourite memories Of Simon from when we hung out together at the Rainbow festival a few years back was his huge bowl of salad.

Simon is back at the rainbow festival this year in fact.

Simon Borg-Olivier with Anita Reilly.
19 hrs
My Diet: I eat what ever I like whenever I like, However much I want. But because of how i regulate my posture, movement and breathing my main food and all i really like is fruit, salad and vegetables.
In my 3 hour Sydney Nutrition Seminar on Saturday 27th May 2017 I will explain in simple terms:
*** How what you eat directly affects the way you breathe
*** That learning how to comfortably breathe less than normal (pranayama) eventually allows you to comfortably eat less than normal
*** That the only diet that has been scientifically proven to increase lifespan is the ‘calorie reduction’ or ‘eat less’ diet
*** That eating less can mean eating less volume of food or less concentration of food
*** Eating less is only viable if it is completely without negative physical or emotional side effects, and how to achieve this with simple yogic techniques
*** How balancing your diet with your breathing can improve circulation, increase mobility, increase energy, help calm your nerves, reduce asthma, reduce arthritis, improve your concentration and help you think more clearly
*** The dangers of eating many common foods and the benefits of eating many relatively unknown foods along with some forgotten methods of food preparation
*** That by making your diet more alkaline (e.g. by eating more fruit and vegetables) you can improve your breathing (i.e. comfortably learn how breathe less, like an experienced athlete) and exercise, relax and meditate more easily
I am about to give my annual seminar in Sydney - "Eat Less To Live Longer: Yogic Diet & Nutrition" - Saturday 27 May, 2017.

*** Here are some of my nutrition tips:
*** First drink enough healthy liquids to satiate your appetite before resorting to solid food to satiate your appetite.
*** Wait till you are hungry before you eat your breakfast, even if your breakfast is at 6 pm at night.
*** Make your diet includes enough fibre to ensure at least one good daily bowel movement.
*** Include ‘superfoods’ in your diet such as organic wheatgrass, algae, goji berries, and acai berries
*** Include some seaweed in your diet for its high iodine levels that can counter radiation.
*** Breathe mostly into your abdomen and move your spine in everyday life and when you exercise, in order to enhance the digestion and absorption of food.
*** Eat less calories in order to live longer.
*** Breathe less in order to be happy to eat less.
*** Keep foods simple and limit yourself to only one or two steps to make a meal.
*** Make a fresh raw sauce of blended avocado, tomato, herbs and rock salt to pour over steamed vegetables.
*** Soak then sprout nuts, seeds, pulses and grains in order to enhance their digestibility and actually increase the nutrients available from them.
*** Include some healthy fermented foods in your such as sauerkraut, kim chi, kefir and tempeh.
*** Avoid all processed foods or at least avoid foods you know are not good for you.
*** Eat some fresh ripe (and ideal local and organic) fruit every day as it is filled with health giving vitamins, minerals and enzymes, as well as good fibre for your bowels to keep moving.
*** Bring salad out of the fridge some time before eating it and in winter even let your salad sit in warm to hot water for a few minutes in order to bring the food to your body temperature so that it can be more easily digested and does not make you cold.
*** Drink a fresh vegetable juice every day as it is loaded with health giving nutrients and it is very hydrating.
*** Make your own fresh nut milk (almonds are great) to use for coffee, tea or cereal by soaking nuts overnight in water then, rinse them, add some fresh water, blend with a hand blender and strain out the milk.
*** Use stevia as a sweeter over any processed sweeteners such as sugar, and never use aspartame.
*** Make green smoothies with fresh assorted green leafy vegetables to easily energise you and make you feel younger.
What you will learn in my seminar:
This 3 hour seminar literally turns upside down many common myths and misconceptions about nutrition, diet and exercise.
I will explain the yogic art of how to be content to eat less than normal, and how to reduce your craving for all the heavy and 'naughty' foods, while enhancing health and longevity.
I highly recommend this seminar for all yoga teachers and practitioners, and anyone interested in living a longer and healthier life.
You can book for the seminar here.
Or, you can buy our online video for this lecture here.
This special seminar is actually a public part of my ten day course on the applied anatomy and physiology of yoga that you can read about more at
Thanks to Anita Reilly for this photo of me making salad in my house.

Appendix 2

The post below is an old post in response to a New York Times article about the possible dangers of yoga or rather postural practice ( not a bad topic but clumsily promoted). The post mentions that my body was pretty wreaked before I started yoga and that I lost 20 kg, got fit and generally much healthier. I had put a lot of that weight lost down to the practice and recently, on moving back to japan when i put

Hey NYT, My Body Was Wrecked Before Yoga! ~ Anthony Grim Hall

on Feb 5, 2012
Hey NYT, my body was pretty much wrecked BEFORE I took up yoga—life can do that!
On the first day of my first real job, all keen to arrive early, I twisted my knee getting dressed. By the time I arrived at work, my knee was the size of a football and needed to be drained. Two years later, in Aikido class, I did the same thing. It seems I had weak knees and was now susceptible to little non-cancerous tumors growing on them that needed cutting out every once in a while. It may have been hereditary—I remember my grandfather, a keen cricketer in his youth, clinically obese and hardly able to walk for the last thirty years of his life on account of his knees.

In my twenties, I dropped out, and with a one way ticket across the English Channel and a Pound in my pocket, I set off for France. My friend and I hitched and walked half way round the world, picking up laboring jobs wherever we could—I built walls and roofs, houses, laid roads, and dug ditches. While working as a pizza chef carrying ten trays of dough, my back went, and what with the knees going too with more regularity, after five years, that was the end of my traveling and laboring.
I worked myself through University as a cook, developing a taste for neat whiskey that I’d only played at while traveling, and making a mess of my liver in the process. After throwing away a promising academic career—I think I had anger issues—I left for Japan to become an English teacher.
There cannot be that many who end up unhealthier by the time they leave than when they arrived in Japan—I managed to pull that off. I worked as a teacher trainer trying to knock the dogma out of the ex-school teachers who got off the plane only to replace it with my company’s own. I worked too many hours teaching and designing courses, suffered from stress and fatigue, and got fat on fast food and beer.
So my knees were shot, as was my back, and probably my liver. I was overweight and suffered from stress. I felt bloated after every meal, developed kidney stones and had to have my gall bladder removed—my body was wrecked, just living your life can do that!
The curious thing was that I had not really noticed that I had got so out of shape, so unhealthy; and find it quite shocking looking back at the old photos now…how could I not know? There were signs—the kidney stones, the gall bladder operation—when they took my gall bladder out, they were supposedly shocked by the amount of cholesterol (this was in Japan).
I was wearing smart designer suits back then, I thought I looked pretty sharp.
That is the scary thing. I am guessing the majority of overweight and unhealthy middle-aged men think they are pretty much OK—could do with losing a few pounds perhaps, but on the whole they think they are fine and do not realize how much they have let their health slip, or how much work it will take to turn it around, or that it will get a little harder each year—they need to start now, today, not wait for the next New Year’s Resolution.
I got into yoga almost by accident, but it became a passion.
I came back to the UK to become a woodwind instrument repairer, having taken to playing the saxophone in Japan.
 My flat was burgled in February 2007, and seven vintage saxophones stolen—including one I had made a special trip to New York to buy. I was angry about the whole affair, and was annoyed with myself for being so angry about it. I decided to get back into meditation—I had practiced a little Zen years ago. I came across the ZenCast podcasts with Gil Fronsdal,  and began to practice Vipassana meditation. Reading around the practice I found that a lot of meditators were also doing yoga; so I picked up a book from the library, which turned out to be Total Astanga: The Step-by-Step Guide to Power Yoga at Home for Everybody, by Tara Fraser. It had looked the most well laid out and the least embarrassing to take up to the Library counter. Outside London, middle-aged guys did not tend to take up Yoga—they would go to a gym and lift weights perhaps but not Yoga.
I practiced with that book for about a month, practicing in the mornings before work on a bath towel in my underwear while my pet chinchilla looked on. If I remember correctly, I got as far as the Standing sequence, which would take me about half an hour to forty minutes, stopping every now and again to turn the page or check the book. I used blocks, or rather books as blocks, for Utthita Trikonasana as I couldn’t reach my hands to the ground. I was 44, weighed 94 kilograms and had not done any exercise for about four years. I had a bit of a belly and was feeling generally unhealthy.
I remember really enjoying getting up in the mornings to practice alone in the dark. I loved Suryanamaskara A , Suryanamaskara B exhausted me. I was frustrated that I could not straighten my legs in forward bends, had to hold on to the wall in Utthita hastasana, etc. Virabhadrasana A and B were agony, as was Utkatasana, I couldn’t imagine being able to do Ardha baddha padmottanasana. I would ache all over for most of the day but it was a good ache and practice became the highlight of my day. Sometimes it felt like the day was over as soon as I finished my practice and I could not wait for the following morning to come around.
As is the case so often with yoga, I changed other areas  of my life to fit in with the practice, ate less so I would not feel heavy and bloated the following morning. I pretty much cut out drinking—I might have a little wine topped up with sparkling water, the occasional martini or a little pot of sake on the weekends. I wanted to be able to wake up early and feel fresh. After a year, I even became vegetarian. I was not particularly trying to be fit or healthy, I just wanted to practice yoga more comfortably. There is no six-pack in the second picture, no bulging biceps either, but I think I look healthier.
I feel more fit, and despite all the advanced pretzel postures I explore these days, I have had no problems with my knees. I am no longer feeling bloated after every meal and recently, while writing my yoga book on the mac, formatting hundreds of photos and links, I noticed I had not screamed or sworn at the computer for not doing what I had asked it to, not once. That was something I used to do a lot back when I was designing training courses. I am calmer. I am in good health.
Hey NYT, my body was wrecked BEFORE I started yoga, now ….not so much!
I see guys on the street my age, perhaps younger than me—I am not talking about the clinically obese, but regular guys who I used to probably believe as being no less healthy than the next guy. I am sure they think they should cut back on the drinking a little, eat a little better, or walk the dog more often; but that is probably not going to do it.
There needs to be a government campaign—one of those awareness-raising ads—that says, “Hang on a minute, you do not just need to lose the odd couple of pounds, you need to rethink how you are living your life”, and it is important because people are dying from this.
For me it was yoga, for them it might be something else—but it needs to be something and it needs to be encouraged and supported.
That is the article I’d like to have seen from the New York Times magazine.
Anthony Grim Hall started practicing Ashtanga in March 2007. He had been burgled, felt angry about it and angry that he was feeling angry. He picked up a couple of meditation books from the library and later some on yoga to deal with the anger. He was overweight (94 kilograms), unfit and certainly not flexible. In the first four years, he only went to two Ashtanga Mysore self practice classes. He learnt from books and videos, and from comments on his blog. He is now 78 kilograms, and feels more fit, stronger and pretty flexible. In 2008, he started a blog—Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga at Home—beginning this blog dealt with his obsession with achieving the “Jump back” (and later drop backs, kapotasana, karandavasana, advanced series, etc). In June 2009, he came across Srivatsa Ramaswami (one of Krishnamacharya’s longest-serving students) and his ‘The Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga’—he spent the next year working out how best to combine it with his Ashtanga practice. He attended Ramaswami’s 200 hour Vinyasa Krama teacher training course in July/August 2010 and practiced an Ashtanga influenced Vinyasa Krama. He has just published a Vinyasa Yoga at Home Practice Book through Kindle that lays out Ramaswami’s sequences and subroutines along with practice notes including hint, tips and suggestions for each subroutine.
This article was prepared by Assistant Yoga Editor, Soumyajeet Chattaraj.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Krishnamacharya and Drishti

In Krishnamacharya's teaching drishti is of course mentioned in relation to the asana and indeed the breath, Krishnamacharya tends to focus on two gazing points, between the eyebrows (broomadhya drishti) and the tip of the nose (nasagra dristri).

Likewise Pattabhi Jois in Yoga mala

"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 the1st 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." p87

Later Pattabhi Jois included other external drishti points/gazing places, what is it nine now?

Manju often suggests closing the eyes.

The eyes do not need to be open for broomadhya drishti and nasagra dristri, the eyes can be close but still directed at the same point. There are other drishti that krishnamacharya would employ as outlined by his som

Krishnamacharya would employ other 'drishti' internal points of focus as outlined in his son T. K. Sribhashyam's book, Emergence of Yoga,
See this earlier post.

Krishnamacharya and drishti ( the gaze)

Figure 4.53: Baddha Padmasana - Gaze on midbrow

Figure 4.52: Baddha Padmasana - Gaze on tip of nose

All quotes below from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore1934)
Note: many of the same asana and instructions were also used in Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941)

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.

3.8 Section on the investigation of the twenty Mudras
After the nadis are cleaned by practising the shatkriyas, it is essential that every- body, respecting their body’s constitution, practise at least some of the twenty mudras for the following reasons: in order to keep the ten types of vayu moving in their appropriate respective nadis and performing their assigned activities with- out obstruction (as described in the earlier section); in order to prevent diseases from forming in the body; for the susumna nadi to be taken to and maintained in the brahmarandhram; and for the always wavering gaze to stop moving and become focussed in one place. It is for this reason that the mudras are described here.

Maha Mudra: With the left foot pressed tightly against the rectum, extend the right leg out in front. Make sure that the heel is touching the floor and the toes are pointing upwards. Hold the big toe of the right foot with the fingers of the right hand. Keep the chin firmly pressed against the chest and keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Similarly, following the instructions mentioned above, repeat the mudra with the right foot pressed firmly against the rectum and the left leg extended forward.

Khecari Mudra: After first learning the yoga marmas with the help of a satguru who is still practising this, cut 1/12 of one angula measure (width of one hair) of the thin seed of skin at the bottom of the tongue with a sharp knife. Apply a well-powdered paste of sainthava lavanam salt (rock salt) on the area of the cut. Rub cow’s butter on both sides of the tongue, and holding the tip of the tongue with a small iron tong, pull the tongue out carefully, little by little. Repeat this (the pulling) every day. Once a week, as mentioned above, cut the seed of flesh at the base of the tongue very carefully. Practise this for three years. The tongue will lengthen and will easily be able to touch the middle of the eyebrows. After it lengthens this much, fold it inside the mouth, keep it in the cavity which is alongside the base of the inner tongue and fix the gaze on the mid-brow.

15. Sambhavi Mudra: Due to the strength of the traataka abhyasa men- tioned in the shatkriyas, after the eyes have teared profusely, fix the gaze on the mid-brow.

If one practises these twenty mudras according to one’s strength and capabil- ity, then diseases associated with svasam (respiration), kasam (coughing), spleen, meham (bladder) — such 84,000 diseases can be prevented. One develops extraor- dinary physical strength and will not fall victim to an untimely death. Moreover, the prana vayu will join the susumna nadi and one develops one-pointedness of the gaze and of the mind. Therefore, these mudras have to be achieved before practising pranayama.

On Asana

1 Uttanasana
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 (Dandasana from instruction for) 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.

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 di erent 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.

Chakorasana…. 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. You must do sampurna puraka kumbhaka. The head must be properly raised throughout.
All the other vinyasas are like skandasana.

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. Both legs must be held straight and must not lean or bend to any side.

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. This must not be forgotten.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Integrating Simon Borg-Olivier's pranayama course with Krishnamacharya's Early Mysore asana instruction.

Following the path that my guru has recommended for me, I am writing down the secrets of yoga.
"When practicing asanas, we need to maintain deep inhalation and exhalation to normalise the uneven respiration through nasal passages.

In yoga positions where eyes, head and foreheadn are raised, inhalation must be performed slowly through the nostrils until the lungs are filled. Then the chest is pushed forward and puffed up, abdomen tightly tucked in, focusing the eyes on the tip of the nose, and straighten the back bones tightly as much as possible. This type of inhalation which fills the lungs signifies Puraka.

In yoga positions where eyes, head, forehead, chest and the hip are lowered,we have to slowly exhale the filled air. Tucking in tightly the upper abdomen,the eyes must be closed. This type of exhalation is called Rechaka.

Holding the breath is called Kumbhaka". 


What if the 'secret of yoga' is the breath...., and we're rushing it?

This is very much a work in progress, provisional findings if you will.

Note: One might prefer to explore these techniques/this approach in only the finishing sequence of a regular, 'by the book' Ashtanga vinyasa practice where longer stays are indicated and slower breathing more commonly practiced.

Simon's Introduction to breath control (pranayama) course
This is very much a work in progress, provisional findings if you will.


One element of Ramaswami's Teacher training at LMU back in 2010 was a close, line by line, reading and discussion of Krishnamacharya's texts (Krishnamacharya had been Ramaswami's teacher for thirty plus years). We would go around the room, taking turns reading one paragraph or page after another which Ramaswami would more often than not discuss with us. In the practice room after our regular Vinyasa Krama  class we would explore the asana instruction in Krishnamacharyas Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934). 

Note: At the time there was no English translation of Yogasanagalu, I had only just received from India, while on the course, photos of each page of the text written in the Kanada language. Satya Murthey has just completed the translation of Yogasanagalu and it's freely available on the Free Download page.

After returning from that month with Ramaswami I continued to explore Yoga Makaranda while we worked on the translation of Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) and sought to bring my Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga practices more and more in line with Krishnamacharya's early instruction.

Pattabhi Jois was Krishnamacharya's student in Mysore during the period Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu were written. We can see Pattabhi Jois' debt to Krishnamacharya's teaching in the Yogasanagalu table of asana (groups) on which Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa presentation was clearly based. We can see the debt too in the vinyasa presented in Yoga Makaranda, starting and finishing each asana at Samastithi (later Pattabhi Jois switched from full Vinyasa to Half Vinyasa). 

But what happened to the long slow breathing '.... like the pouring of oil', the kumbhaka (holding the breath in or out) instruction found in almost every asana instruction in Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu?

Pattabhi Jois talked of long slow breathing as an ideal in interviews, he even talked about it in a demonstration in Switzerland in the 90s, extolling the benefits of fifteen, twenty, second inhalations and equal exhalations before then leading his demonstrators ( including Lino Miele who included full vinyasa in his book) at a break neck speed through their practice, inhalation and exhalation of two or three seconds at most, a stay in an asana of one to two minutes.

It should be remembered that Pattabhi Jois was an assistant of Krishnamacharya's in the classes for the young boys of the Mysore Palace, these classes lasted only an hour. Krishnamacharya would perhaps lead the boys quickly through their asana due to the time constraint and perhaps their limited attention span. Pattabhi Jois was little more than a boy himself when he first began to teach a slightly modified version of Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu table in his own classes at the Sanskrit college and this speeded up version of Krishnamachrya's Yoga Makaranda has proved highly popular with western practitioners, perhaps partly due to our own push button society attention span. Manju Jois however mentions that while growing up he would see his father practicing long stays in asana and Pattabhi Jois mentioned in an interview how Krishnamacharya would keep him in kapotasana for a long period while standing on him to deliver a lecture, perhaps the long stays formed part of Pattabhi Jois' personal instruction or smaller group lessons with his teacher and it is not too late to reclaim or a least investigate this aspect of the lineage.

When seeking to return to Krishnamacharya's original Mysore 'Ashatanga' instruction in Yoga Makaranda and yogasanagalu to inform our own practice we are struck by the long stays mentioned, the long slow breathing indicated and the employment of kumbhaka (holding the breath in or out).

Longer stays in asana

Pattabhi Jois saw a slower practice as an ideal but realised the problem with time given that the householder tends to work for a living and raise a family. Pattabhi Jois' response was to practice faster and mostly drop kumbhaka altogether.

An alternative response, Ramaswami's and the one I employ, is to practice less asana.

See my Proficient Primary page where I practice half a series giving particular attention to ten key asana.

If we are going to stay longer in an asana then we need to make sure that we are practicing our asana safely, not just for this mornings practice but we want to be sure that practicing our approach to an asana doesn't cause damage in the long term. 

See my post on Simon Borg-Olivier's new 84 Key asana course. Simon is a physiotherapist and looks at practicing asana more safely for the long as well as short term.

Simon's webpage

Slower breathing

It's one thing to slow the breathing in a static posture, while practicing pranayama for example, something else altogether while practicing vinyasa. It's a key element of Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama presentation of his teacher's approach. The movements are long and slow in Vinyasa krama but even here I found it challenging to go beyond a ten second inhalation or exhalation, Pattabhi Jois talked in interviews of twenty second inhalations, even longer perhaps.

In this I have found Simon Borg-Olivier's new course 'A Introduction to Breath Control (Pranayama)' highly beneficial.

Video Above from 2013- See blog post 
Oscar and I practicing alone in his studio on my recent Krishnamacharya workshop. Oscar is on the left practicing Vinyasa krama as taught to Ramaswami in the 1950's-80's. I'm on the right practicing very slowly with kumbhaka's (breath retention) following the asana in striations found for the primary group of asana in Krishnamacharya's 1934-38 'Mysore book' yoga makaranda, written while Krishnamacharya was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois. Video is of part of the seated section of our practice.
Speeded up x4 version here

Simon's father was a free diver, he's been attending to his breath since before he could walk. he has a Bachelor of Science in human biology, a research based Master of Science in molecular biology and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy and has been teaching yoga for thirty plus years, he is perhaps the only person I trust fully with regards to pranayama. There may be teachers who have taught traditional methods of pranayama for upwards of fifty years but Simon I know understands what is happening to the body on a molecular level. If I had the choice of studying pranayama with Simon or Krishnamacharya himself I would choose Simon, besides, Simon is a lot less scarier than Krishnamacharya.

Krishnamacharya talks of building up to a thirty second inhalation and thirty second exhalation for Sama vritti pranayama, this I found challenging. I built up to twenty seconds for each but settled at that, it felt sufficient for my needs.

One of the exercises on Simon's Pranayama course looks at Inhalation emphasis and has a led video where the inhalation is a long slow thirty seconds, followed by a short kumbhaka of a few seconds and  an exhalation and perhaps ten seconds, a forty-five second breath in a six breath cycle.

Simon's approach will be familiar to free divers as it's based on relaxation of the body and breathing into different areas of the body or at least shifting the attention such that the inhalation appears to begin at the perineum, move to the lower abdomen, the lower back, mid abdomen, mid back and so on up the body, the instruction punctuated with reminders to relax different 'key' areas of the body.

The first thirty second inhalation became quite comfortable, the fifth less so but with practice it's become easier and using Simon's approach, away from the course I've been able to inhale, with some comfort, for ninety seconds. This is more than my needs, thirty or forty seconds feels quite sufficient,  but as an experiment, a test if you like of the approach I found it remarkable.

Kumbhaka (holding the breath in or out)

Likewise for the exercises in inhalation retention, the exhalation emphasis and exhalation retention emphasis, all employ either the inhaling/exhaling to different areas of the body and/or key areas of the body relaxation techniques.

T. Krishnamacharya

I've never been that interested in Hatha Yoga pranayama techniques, I learned pranayama from Ramnaswami who learned it from Krishnamacharya, mostly Ramaswami would focus on nadi shodhana with a five second inhalation, twenty second inhalation retention with mantra, a ten second exhalation and short five second exhalation retention practiced for anywhere up to eighty rounds, it's an ancient practice, more raja yoga than hatha yoga perhaps.

I've explored some of the different methods, practiced for a time the Ashtanga pranayama sequence that Manju taught us but have always tended to go back to the straight forward, relatively simple nadi Shodhana that Ramaswami taught me.

That said I couldn't resist an experiment. 

I tried holding my breath, managed a two minute inhalation retention then tried again employing Simon's relaxation of key areas of the body approach and managed three minutes. With training/practice, if I could see a point to it or was tempted to explore free diving ( or fin swimming, hmmmm) I could no doubt increase it to five minutes.

For my needs, exploring longer slow breathing in asana and introducing comfortable kumbhaka into the practice of certain asana, a thirty to forty second inhalation or exhalation, or kumbhaka is sufficient. The only benefit of practicing longer than that, away from asana, is that it might allow me to be more comfortable in shorter retention during a more challenging asana. More challenging asana however no longer interest me, more proficiency in key primary asana and perhaps some simple variations does.

Below, in Appendix 1, then is one of the ways I've explored introducing Simon's approach into my regular practice, the proficient primary that has it's own page at the top of the blog.

I should note here that Simon only recommends natural breathing in asana in the beginning, once proficiency is gained in asana and also in introductory breathing control then on might consider introducing alternative approaches to the breath in asana for example his fascinating circular approach to the breath.

Generally I tend to practice a half Ashtanga Primary series with particular attention given to around tne key asana, staying in these asana longer, exploring kumbhaka where appropriate.

On the course however, Simon has a led breathing practice where he will practice six breaths each of...

Inhalation emphasis
Inhalation retention emphasis
Exhalation emphasis
Exhalation retention emphasis

What I've done below is switch the order of my proficient primary asana somewhat, such that I can play the led video presentation three times and explore the different emphasis in appropriate asana with only occasionally pausing the presentation/video.

Since writing out the practice in Appendix 1 below I've stopped using the recording and gone back to the order of my regular Proficient Primary while employing Simon's techniques on my own.  I'm able to enjoy longer, slower, more comfortable inhalations and exhalations in appropriate asana as well as more comfortable kumbhaka's, again, in appropriate asana.

Note: Krishnamachary tends not to include kumbhaka in twists but will indicate long slow inhalations and exhalation often of equal duration. If the body is folded then Krishnamacharya will tend to indicate a retention after the exhalation, if the body is up then the retention would tend to be after the inhalation. 

Different emphasis could be applied to different asana. I tend to try to keep a balance likewise, following Simon, I see no benefit in endless forward bends and hamstring stretches so I might perhaps leave out the fold forward in an asana and emphasise the inhalation retention instead in Tiryan-Mukha Eka-Pada Paschimottanasana for example (although I've followed the order of the recording in the Appendix below.

In a future post I'll outline my practice as it's settles indicating with quotes Krishnamacharya's recommended emphasis of the breath.

In Appendix 2, I give Simon's course outline. 

I should mention here that the course is made up of led videos of exercises in

Relaxation/natural breathing
Inhalation emphasis
Inhalation retention emphasis
Exhalation emphasis
Exhalation retention emphasis

It is an introductory course, however these exercises actually form part of Simon's own regular 'intermediate' pranayama practice (see Simon's blog post below) and the inhalation retention emphasis could easily be followed in nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing).


"While practicing yoga with reverence, one can offer their essence to God during exhalation and during inhalation, imagine/suppose that God is entering your heart.  During kumbhaka, we can practice dharana and dhyana.  Such practices will improve mental concentration and strengthen silence/stillness.  Eliminates agitation and restlessness".  
T. Krishnamacharya - Yogasanagalu (1941)

Above- see this blog post for a transcript of the above interview I conducted with Simon a couple of years back.

Apart from the fact that this was Krishnamacharya's earliest written presentation of his approach to asana and how he was himself possibly practicing at the time he was teaching the young Pattabhi Jois as well as somewhat how he may have learned form his teacher there are good physiological justifications. The fabled health benefits of practicing asana may well be a result of increased and directed Co2 (prana anybody?).

from Simon's blog post..

Although there are many benefits to learning how to use all the muscles of breathing, and to learn to breathe in many ways, in the more advanced stages of yoga it is the art of breathing less than normal (hypoventilation) that gives the most physiological benefits.

The less you breathe in and out the more you will build up carbon dioxide inside your body. Contrary to popular belief, carbonic dioxide and the carbonic acid it becomes in your blood, has many benefits inside the body.

Carbon dioxide and carbonic acid build up inside you

from breathing less than normal (mild hypoventilation):

*** brings more blood to your brain and heart (vasodilation)
*** allows more air to enter your lungs (bronchdilitation)
*** calms your nervous system
*** reduces your need and craving for heavy, processed and acid food


Below is Simon's introduction to this approach that forms part of one of his excellent blog post/articles 

Breathing (Part 2): Passive Seated Pranayama: Generate Internal Energy by Doing Less than Nothing

SEATED BREATH-CONTROL EXERCISES (PRANAYAMA): Simple practice for most people:

I recommend that most people sit in a chair for these relatively simple and accessible breath-control exercises. It is only wise to put your legs cross legged, or in lotus posture (padmasana) if it is as easy to put your legs into the lotus posture as it is for you to cross your arms by placing each hand on the opposite shoulder. You must be able to sit comfortably enough
to focus on becoming lengthened in all directions while remaining as relaxed as possible.
The four simplest breathing exercises (apart from relaxed natural breathing) are as follows:
  1. Inhalation emphasis breathing: make a really long slow inhale and then a short natural breath out.
  2. Inhalation retention emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in, and then hold your breath in as long as you comfortably can, and then a short natural breath out.
  3. Exhalation emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in, and then breathe out as slowly as possible for as long as it is comfortably possible.
  4. Exhalation retention emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in over 3-5 seconds, then a short full breath out about the same length, and then hold your breath out as long as you comfortably can.
Ideally these four main types of pranayama (numbered 2 – 6 below) are done from between 4 – 6 breaths each, with each breath ideally lasting between 30 – 60 seconds each.
A good amount of time for your first attempt is 45 seconds per breath. If you can only do one breath cycle for up to 45 seconds and for every other breath you need to ‘sneak in’ a few extra gentle breaths then 45 second cycles are a good start.

If that is too hard for even one breath then reduce that amount to 30 seconds.

If your full breath cycles are less than 30 seconds per breath, it is is possible that none of the real physiological benefits of breathing (such as increased blood flow and increased delivery of oxygen to the cells) will occur. This is because of the Bohr effect, which essentially states that oxyhaemoglobin (the oxygen carrying red pigment in red blood cells) will not release its oxygen unless there are sufficient levels of carbon dioxide.
A book by the adept scholar of yoga NC Paul, written in about 1850, even goes so far as to suggest that it is carbon dioxide that is the essence of prana (the internal energy, that is referred to as chi in china). For that reason, I recommend that you work towards gradually increasing the length of each breath cycle and ideally beginning the practice with up to 45 seconds per breath cycle as described in more detail below.
  1. KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 2 – 5 minutes silent meditation (invisible, inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body)
  2. PURAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths long inhalation (up to 40 seconds inhale: up to 5 seconds exhale)
  3. ANTARA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths inhalation retention (up to 5 seconds inhale: up to 35 seconds inhale retention: up to 5 seconds exhale)
  4. RECAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths long exhalation (up to 5 seconds inhale: up to 40 seconds exhale)

  5. BHAYA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 – 6 breaths exhalation retention (up to 5 seconds inhale: up to 5 seconds exhale: up to
    35 seconds exhale retention)

  6. KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 5 – 30 minutes silent meditation (invisible inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body, which eventually leads to the feeling of contentment and loving-kindness)
  7. SAVASANA: 5 – 10 minutes supine relaxation
I really recommend these breath-control exercises to everyone to increase health and longevity and a lust for life. You can obtain an online and downloadable version of these simple breath-control exercises, including even more simple and accessible versions than are described above, in our online shop. and also explained in this video just below.
These simple breath-control exercises (and many of the more complex exercises listed below) are taught daily in our live Teacher Training Courses and form an integral part of the training. Please visit for the latest schedule of training courses. 

Intermediate Level Practice:

Here is one of my usual daily seated pranayama practice (I will explain easy options at the end). For me, this practice feels like I am getting free energy from the universe and it makes me feel energised and totally calm on a physiological level, while on an anatomical level it eases any joint pain and seems to increase strength and flexibility.
For this pranayama I practice with 40 one-minute cycles (about 40 breaths), which makes a seated practice that last for about 40 minutes

1. KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 4 minutes meditation (invisible inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body)

2. PURAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) long inhalation (55 seconds inhale: 5 seconds exhale)

3. ANTARA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) inhalation retention (5 seconds inhale: 50 seconds inhale retention: 5 seconds exhale)

4. RECAKA UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) long exhalation (5 seconds inhale: 55 seconds exhale)

5. BHAYA KUMBHAKA PRANAYAMA: 4 minutes (4 breaths) exhalation retention (5 seconds inhale: 5 seconds exhale: 50 seconds exhale retention)

6a. SAMA VRTTI UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths long inhalation and long exhalation (30 seconds inhale: 30 seconds exhale)

6b. VISAMA VRTTI UJJAJI PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths)1:4:2:1 breathing (7.5 seconds inhale: 30 seconds inhale retention: 15 seconds exhale: 7.5 seconds exhale retention)

7a. NADI SODHANA PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths) alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana pranayama) (30 seconds inhale left nostril: 30 seconds exhale right nostril: 30 seconds inhale right nostril: 30 seconds exhale left nostril)

7b. SURYA BHEDHANA PRANAYAMA: 2 minutes (2 breaths) visualised alternate nostril breathing (citta surya bhedana pranayama)

8. SHAKTI CALANI PRANAYAMA: 8 minutes (2 cycles of 4 minutes each cycle) of fast then slow breathing (30 seconds (10 breaths) of ‘rolling up’ breathing: 30 seconds of ‘rolling down’ breathing: 60 seconds exhale
retention with bandhas: 30 seconds inhalation: 60 seconds inhalation retention with bandhas: 30 seconds exhalation) [the ‘Rolling up’ and ‘rolling down’ breathing is described in my previous post].

9. KEVALA KUMBHAKA: 4 – 40 minutes meditation (invisible inaudible breathing resulting from focusing on lengthening and relaxing your body) (alway good to finish as you began and then compare the feeling)

10. SAVASANA: 5 – 10 minutes supine relaxation

* Easier versions include sitting in any comfortable posture (even on a chair) and doing less length for each cycle of pranayama.

* If you are new to this you may choose to only do the first 4 types of pranayama with maybe only 1-3 cycles. Depending on your capacity you can do 45 seconds for each cycle or maybe even only 30 seconds for each cycle.

* The timings do not have to be precise, e.g for the inhalation pranayama (2) you can just inhale as long as you can then exhale some time before the end of your timed cycle for as long as you need to.

* The last pranayama (8) is the most advanced and so I recommend that you skip it completely if you are prone to dizziness or nausea, or if you have any medical condition (unless supervised by an experienced health practitioner), or if you can’t do at least 45 second cycles.

* In any of these cycles you can also make it easier when ever you need to by taking a few natural breaths.

* This type of pranayama is done very passively (except for the last one (8), in which you can make it more active if you wish using bandhas kriyas and movement).
* Never force this pranayama. You are on the right track if you end up feeling hot, clear in mind and completely calm after. You are probably forcing and or over-breathing if you stay cold, or get dizzy or nauseous.

* The main idea of this type of pranayama is to build up carbon dioxide, which will enhance the Bohr Effect. This will allow the uptake of oxygen into your body cells and allow to make 20 times as much energy from the food you eat and the air you breathe.

* If 60 second cycles are easy for you (or if you are experiencing dizziness or nausea) then try 70-90 second cycles instead but make sure you can do at least 6 breaths of a particular cycle length before increasing it.

* Once this is learnt to a satisfactory level you can begin to use the breath for more physical means as discussed below and in previous articles linked at bottom of this article.

To get a deeper understanding of these intermediate level types of pranayama and especially the more advanced types of pranayama described below please see our article entitled ‘Secrets of Advanced Breath- control (Pranayama) with Internal locks (Bandha), Energy-control Gestures (Mudra) and Internal Cleansing (Kriya)‘. 

See also



Proficient Primary integrated with Simon Borg-Olivier's Pranayama exercises

NOTE: this is a 'proficient' approach to practice, for beginners Simon always recommends natural breathing when practicing asana until some proficiency has been gained in the practice of asana as well as perhaps some exploration of pranayama away from the mat.


A first look at integrating Simon Borg-Olivier's approach to breath control, employing his led instruction while practicing Krishnamacharya's asana instruction.

Built around 10 key asana  and mudra ( a Rishi Series?) with optional variations and preparations 
see below for an approach to each asana and mudra

Surya namaskara
1. Trikonasana -  Inhalation emphasis
2. Dandasana - Inhalation retention emphasis 
Pascimattanasana/ Asvini Mudra  - Exhalation emphasis
Tiryan-Mukha Eka-Pada Paschimottanasana - Exhalation retention emphasis


Krouchasana - Inhalation emphasis

4. Bharadvajrasana - Inhalation retention emphasis 

3. Maha Mudra  - Exhalation emphasis 

9. Baddha Konasana - Exhalation retention emphasis

6. Sarvangasana -  Inhalation emphasis 

7. Bhujamgi mudra - Inhalation retention emphasis  
8. Sirsasana  - Exhalation emphasis 

5. (Padma Mayurasana or) Vajrasana - Exhalation retention emphasis



10. padmasana - Sama vritti 30 second inhalation/30 second exhalation

Siddhasana - Nadi Shodhana - inhalation retention emphasis

Pdf of the above


Details of Simon Borg-Olivier's Intro to breath control (pranayama) course

Introduction to Breath-Control (Pranayama)

Improved Energy, Health and Longevity

In these videos I give you an introduction to ‘breath-control’, which in yoga is known asprânâyâma. This is a very accessible set of practices that can be done by anyone and have very effective results for health, longevity and well-being.

I want to give you 4 simple breathing exercises that can truly energize you. . This is one of the special ways that you can actually get more energy by doing less than you normally do.

Natural breathing is the usually the best breath for most people to practice during most exercise. In that way you can concentrate on doing your exercise without having to worry about breathing. If, however, you are doing something very simple and relaxing such as lying down or sitting, then you can take the time to do specific breathing exercises.

Essentially, there are two types of breathing exercises. One type of breathing exercise, which is commonly taught in many physical training activities including many modern yoga classes, can benefit your physical body by improving the strength and flexibility of your muscles of breathing.

Another type of breathing exercise that I wish to share with you here is breathing for increasing energy. This type of breathing is designed to increase the amount of oxygen entering your cells. In these four breathing exercises the trick is to breathe as little as you comfortably can in order to build up carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has the important role in your body of being able to signal the red blood cells to give the oxgen they carry to your body cells. If there is not enough carbon dioxide in your body then red blood cells tend to retain their oxygen and not release it into your cells. This is called the Bohr-effect. When you get oxygen into your cells you have the possibility of making 18 times as much energy for every glucose molecule of ‘fuel’ you ‘burn’.

The four simplest breathing exercises (apart from relaxed natural breathing) are as follows:

1. Inhalation emphasis breathing: make a really long slow inhale and then a short natural breath out.

2. Inhalation retention emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in, and then hold your breath in as long as you comfortably can, and then a short natural breath out.

3. Exhalation emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in, and then breathe out as slowly as possible for as long as it is comfortably possible.

4. Exhalation retention emphasis breathing: Make a gentle full breath in over 3-5 seconds, then a short full breath out about the same length, and then hold your breath out as long as you comfortably can.

You should stay as relaxed as possible in all these exercises and never force them. Whenever you need to breathe, simply take a few natural relaxed breaths.

In each of these four exercises your ideal goal is to try to make each breath you take last as long as possible. Many people find they can do one breath for as long as 45 seconds. Some people will find that even one breath in 30 seconds is hard. Once you can breathe one full breath (in any of the 4 exercises I have described) lasting from about 30 seconds to one minute in length while relaxed, then the energetic benefits of breathing will manifest. You will then find an increase in body heat, internal energy, mental clarity, reduced hunger as well as a profound sense of inner peace and relaxation. If you are a smoker, then these exercises can help you to easily quit smoking as they have the same calming effect as cigarettes. So by doing these exercises you will not have the urge to smoke, yet you will feel calm, focused, warm and energised. 

It is great for your health if you can sit quietly from as little as 5 minutes to 30 minutes or more each day and do some simple breathing exercises. You can do all four of these exercises in one practice if you like, but for most people it is best to learn only one exercise at a time. All four exercises can be very effective at giving you energy but some people will find they prefer doing only one or two. To get the best effects it is important to do at least 6 breaths in each practice and it is also important to breathe less air than you normally would. If you start to get dizzy then it is a sign you may be breathing too much air too quickly. In this case simply go back to natural breathing. This practice is very beneficial and can be done as i describe above but if you would like some more instructions then I strongly recommend you join my 16 session online course. This includes a 45 minute lecture that simply and clearly explains 

what you are trying to  
how to do it and 
the benefits. 
The course also includes 15 short video practice classes of between 15 to 27 minutes each that you can practice with. I have also include some explanatory text as well as some further resources you can draw from. This practice is designed to give you the energetic benefits of breathing exercises by building up carbon dioxide. Increasing carbon dioxide in your body with these exercises will: Bring more blood to your brain and heart (vasodilation) 

Allow more oxygen to enter your body via your lungs (bronchodilation) 
Increase oxygen uptake into your cells, which can increase your energy levels to 18 times as much 
Calm your nervous system and reduce stress Increase digestion of food by stimulating hydrochloric acid levels 
Reduce your appetite for heavy, processed and acidic food. 
These exercises are a simple effective way to increase your health and longevity, that I have successfully taught to thousands of people around the world over the last 30 years. You can join here:

Course cost $89.00



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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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