This post is a continuation of Contemporary Hatha yoga styles (part 1) …
Tirmalai Krishnamacharya, who have taught Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar, is widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century. Krishnamacharya begins his yoga journey from the age of 5, where his father taught him asanas and pranayama. After his father died, he continued to pursue yoga through mystical experiences where a long-lost yogic text Yoga Rahasya was transmitted to him. He also sought to further his yoga studies by seeking master Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari, who was situated in a cave of the foot of Mount Kailash. Staying there for seven years, Krishnamacharya studied the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, learning asanas and pranayama, and studying the therapeutic aspects of yoga. Krishnamacharya was not only a yoga instructor but also a physician of Ayurvedic medicine.
Krishnamacharya yoga follows Patanjali’s description of asana as sthira and sukham: steadiness and ease. In contrast to many yoga approaches, Krishnamacharya yoga declares that without sthira and sukham, there is no asana. This means that when one gets into a pose, there should be no tension or pain felt, otherwise one is not ready for the yoga pose. The approach hence provides practice variations for seasons, daily routines, energy levels or whichever is suitable for one’s life then. The Krishnamacharya yoga systems aims to provide balanced attention to asana modifications, variation in pranayama techniques and ayurvedic analysis; the prescription of practice is hence customised according to the individual’s conditions and intention.
Kundalini yoga is brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan which involves an even distribution between breathing exercises, chanting, meditation and physical yoga poses. Hatha Yoga may seem to be viewed as a completely different approach from Kundalini. However, the focus of Kundalini such as connection between breath, physical movements and the movement of energy through chakras (energy centers) are in part associated with Hatha Yoga practices. In Kundalini, different asanas, pranayamas, mantras and mudras are used to move the energy up progressively from the base of the spine to the crown of the head (7 chakras). As the energy ascends, each individual chakra’s blockages are clear, which eventually allows healing and self-realisation to take place. Often described as an intensive form of yoga practice, Kundalini yoga involves repetitive movements or holdings for long periods, stretching the breath beyond limits as well as sitting still for meditation at extended durations.
Swami Vishnudevananda trained with Swami Sivananda (a trained medical doctor and yoga practitioner) for ten years before taking the yoga approach to the West. Vishnudevananda’s teachings followed closely of Sivananda, where one is Sivananda taught everyone should practice some techniques from each yoga path (jnana, bhakti, karma and raja yoga) in accordance with one’s temperament and taste. Vishnudevananda also included proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation as the “Five Points of Yoga” to give Sivanada Yoga its complete character. The yoga practice can be modified according to age, special conditions and ability. The practice usually starts with relaxation in Savasana before commencing on Surya Namaskara, and subsequently followed by twelve asanas before resting in Savasana at the end. Full yogic breathing, kaphalabati and anuloma viloma are the main pranayamas which are engaged during practices. Vishnudevananda has also incorporated three forms of relaxation in the teachings to release bodily tension and allow one to access to the pure consciousness within.
To be continued…. Contemporary Hatha yoga styles (part 3)
Jolene L. (Sept YTTC 2017)