Monday, 11 January 2016

Krishnamacharya and backbending 1934 to 1970s

Following on from my backbending post yesterday

This post looks at backbending asana presented throughout Krishnamacharya's life including the handful of backbending asana in Yoga Makaranda (1934), those in the 1938 film footage of Krishnamacharya, his children and his student BKS Iyengar, the backbending asana presented in Krishnamacharya's second Mysore book Yogasanagalu (1941) and also those krishnamacharya taught to his later student Srivatsa Ramaswami. 

If you do a google search for Krishnamacharya backbending photos not much comes up, in fact the only photo we have of Krishnamacharya in a backbend or 'spinal elongation' from the Mysore years (back when he was teaching the young pattabhi Jois is Urdhvamukhasvanasana 

from Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934).

This has 4 vinyasas. Vinyasas 1, 2, and 3 are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is to be done following the same method as for caturanga dandasana. But in caturanga dandasana, there are 4 angulas of space between the body and the floor everywhere. In this asana, the palms and toes are as in caturanga dandasana. However even while keeping the lower part of the body from the toes to the thighs just as in caturanga dandasana, raise the upper part of the body. Make sure that the navel rests between the hands and do puraka kumbhaka. Try to push the chest as far forward as possible, lift the face up and keep gazing at the tip of the nose. Make the effort to practise until it becomes possible to remain in this posture for fifteen minutes.
Benefit: There will be no slouching in the body. The apana vayu in the lower abdomen is cleaned and the digestive power is strengthened. The 4th vinyasa itself is the asana sthiti. Afterward, return to samasthiti. Study the picture given here carefully.

However at the frount of Yoga Makranda (1934) we do see these photos of the Mysore school, that's krishnamacharya standing on the boy in Kapotasana

Pattabhi Jois claimed in later life that he was the boy in kapotasana in this photo, it seems unlikely but Pattabhi Jois does tell the story of having to stay in kapotasana for twenty minutes while krishnamacharya gave a lecture.

If we look inside Yoga Makranada we find one of Krishnamacharya's students in when he presents as a reverse variation of Uttanasana. 

The only backbend that Krishnamacharya provides instructions for is Gandabherundasana, demonstrated by one of his students. It's interesting that krishnamacharya includes instruction for Kumbhaka (breath retention) options for both Gandabherundasana and Urdhvamukhasvanasana above, kumbhaka in backbends.

from Yoga Makaranda

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.

Benefit: Goiter, inflammation of the glands of the neck and diseases due to mahodaram will be destroyed. The visuddhi and brahmaguha cakras will function correctly and this will take the mind to the state of savikalpa samadhi. Pregnant women should not do this. 

1938  film footage

In the 1938 documentary footage we find Krishnamacharya in a few mild backbends but Krishnamacharya's students as well as his children give us an indication of the range of backbend asana that krishnamacharya was teaching in the 1930s


Iyengar in the 1938 footage

 Krishnamcharya's daughters in kapotasana 1938 footage

Backbends listed in the Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941)

In Krishnamacharya's second book Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) ,we find nineteen of the same asana photos and instructions liften from Yoga Makaranda but we also have Krishnamacharya's table of asana. 

The full table of asana is available on this post 

 Yogasanagalu is translated at the top of the blog but here are my own photos of the backbends in the Primary, Middle and Advanced groups 

Backbend in the Yogasanagalu table Primary group

Backbends in the Yogasanagalu table Middle group

Backbends in the Yogasanagalu proficient group

Krishnamacharya added some photos to the fourth edition of Yogasanagalu, he wwas i believe 84 at the time.

Backbends in the 4th edition of Yogasanagalu ( Krishnamacharya is 84 here).

Backbends in Krishnamacharya's later teaching

Below we have Krishnamacharya teaching a 'backbend' tadasana variation

Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya student of 30 years from the 50s until Krishnamacharyas passing taught us this tadasana variation on his teacher training course. We find several backbending, stretching, spinal elongation asana in Ramaswami's presentation of Krishnamacharya's teaching. Backbend variations are found in most of the sequences but Ramaswami's Bow and Meditative sequences provide us with subroutines of asana not unlike those we find in Ashtanga 2nd series.

Bow sequence

( called meditative because the sequence is built around vajrasana).

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