Breath of the Gods

UnknownBreath of the Gods is a documentary by a German film maker (now available on Netflix) who sets out to discover the origins of modern yoga postures by exploring the life of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, teacher to the big three in modern hatha yoga; Pattabhi Jois of the Ashtanga Vinyasa line, TKV Desikachar, a son of Krishnamacharya and linked to  Viniyoga, and B.K. S. Iyengar, brother-in-law of Krishnamacharya. It is quite amazing to see the three totally different and amazingly popular approaches to teaching the postures that grew out of Krishnamacharya’s yoga school.

Pattabhi is down to his last few months and diesUnknown-1 during the filming, but we do see him reminiscing, discussing yoga, and instructing a group class to get a feel for his presence. Unfortunately, Desikachar, whose style is probably the closest to that of Krishnamacharya in his later years does not appear at all, possibly because of illness; but the youngest of Krishnamacharya’s sons, T.K. Shribhashym, and two of his daughters, Alamelu and Shubha are wonderful at helping articulate their father’s teaching methods and how they evolved. Shribhashym has a big role in the film and helps us realize his father’s impressive dedication to reviving hatha yoga in India, in spite of the total lack of respect accredited to ‘yogi’s.

There are several archival segments of Krishnamacharya, Iyengar, Alamelu and Shubha, images-1some familiar to those who have seen the 1938 practice that has been around a while, and some new. There are also some ‘reconstructions’, modern enactments of actors pretending to be Krishnamacharya and his students, but these actors are ‘eye opening’ in the ease in which breath of the godsthey perform some very advanced yoga poses. Try this padangustha dhanurasana on for size! Or this natarajasana!


Iyengar is, of course, a scene stealer and gets lots of face time. He talks about his relationship with Krishnamacharya, (no new ground here), and how he learned to teach himself the poses. images-3 You also see him practicing amidst the chaos of the Pune studio, and the some of the best parts are when we watch him teach. Follow as he instructs his granddaughter in a twist to differentiate between the object (the outer aspect) and the subject (inner aspect) of the pose. In urdhva dhanurasana, watch him help her find the height in the pose from the DFL (deep front line) by using the ankles. From the other end, extend through the armpits, do not force the wrists. In teaching the director sirsasana, he show how to ground the wrists and lift through the twin pillars of the side bodies activated by the leg action. It was almost painful to watch, knowing he is no longer here.

If you have more than a passing interest in the modern yoga scene, this is definitely worth a look.

B.K.S. Iyengar, 1918 – 2014

Iyengar laughing“PUNE: Yoga guru BKS Iyengar passed away at a private hospital in Pune on Wednesday.

The 96-year-old yoga exponent was admitted to the intensive care unit of a private hospital here for poor heart function and difficulty in breathing.

“Iyengar died at 3.15 am on Wednesday,” said a treating doctor.

Iyengar was ill for three weeks prior to hospitalization but refused to get himself admitted and was treated at home by his family physician. He was even put on intravenous fluid at home.

His family members could finally persuade him to get admitted after his condition worsened. He was admitted to the hospital on August 12. But by then, his condition had deteriorated a lot. He was put on non-invasive ventilator for a day but he refused to undergo aggressive treatment and hence, he was put off artificial respiration.

Iyengar’s heart muscles had become very weak following which there was less amount of blood being pump by the heart.”

This was from The Times of India web site. His passing is a great loss for all students of yoga. Iyengar’s dedication to practicing with depth, clarity and passion inspired millions. My formative years in yoga were totally shaped by his guiding hand and insightful advice. He supported me when I was enthusiastic but clueless, and we had a cosmic/heart connection that transcended time and space and is ever present in my own personal practice. May he come back to this world quickly as we still have a long way to go in this planetary transformation he so deeply embodied.

2014 YLT: 7th Weekend Summary

Opening Meditation: Sitting in Silence: Accessing the Source

Primary Theme of Weekend: Fluids, Fascia and the Living MatrixUnknown-1
We explore, through movement, visualization, breath and postures, our billions of years old liquid intelligence. We are blessed to live on a ‘water planet’. This miraculous substance, infinitely mysterious and yet immediately accessible to perception, is the foundation for life, aka movement. What happens when it begins to awaken???

images-2We begin the second half of the course with a quick review of first half of the course:

Continue to clarify, differentiate the two perspectives available to the human mind, and integrate as Non-Dual Understanding:
1: Resting in Silence/Purusha/Now/Pure Awareness;
2: Monitoring and modulating flow of energy/information/Prakriti, as it manifests through: the three bodies, gross, subtle and causal, and the ongoing unfolding of Karma, at all levels of the cosmos.

Gross body awakening:
1: Find the deep front line, as articulated in Tom Myers’ “Anatomy Trains” model.
2: Continue to practice the three primary movements of the pelvis turning over the femurs, and the spinal column: mammalian flexion/extension, lateral flexion/extension or ‘fish body’, and rotation or spiraling; through the practice of the standing poses and dog pose sequence.
3: Refine upper limbs: wall tadasana, dog sequence into inversions: Learn to protect and stabilize the vulnerable regions of the shoulders.
4: Beginning back bend sequence and variations: sphynx, cobra/up-dog/, bent leg spynx and cobra, ustrasana, dhanurasana, salabhasana
5. Setu bandha on blocks to refine cranio-sacral action and open liver/kidneys/spleen
6. Breathing: Viloma to differentiate ribs and diaphragm: ribs-opening-inhalations; sustain and diaphragm stretching-lifting, abdominal toning exhalations: sustain
7: Anything else that inspires you…

Subtle body awakening:
1. Work with imagination to support perception when awakening new areas
2. Develop sustained and flexible attention: wheel of awareness, attention moving in and out of portals of perception, resting in stillness/awareness of awareness in between.
3. Get to know the voices/parts that are aspects of your ahamkara/self sense. Let “Higher Self” integrate, organize, mediate, etc.

Causal body awakening: Practice imagining/feeling the toroidal field of the heart.

Review of voices: Any new ones emerging? Any old ones re-emerging, re-organizing?

New Material: Working from heart energies: Visualiizing heart center and navel center as origin points for spheres of energy and organizing intelligence, and then moving/supporting the body from these sources. We will starting from the beginning, as a cell, as an embryo, as an infant discovering inner movements.

Finding Fluidity: Rolling and Pouring: Unknown-3
Saturday: Explore ‘rolling and pouring’ from “How Life Moves” by Kevin Frank and Caryn McHose, pg 29,
then play with the spiral transitions to standing and walking.


(Sunday: Same as above, only add ‘hu breath’ from Emilie Conrad, to amplify fluids and proprioceptive sensitivity.)

Bringing this liquid awareness into asana practice:

Any and all standing poses, plus: from ardha chandrasana, to one leg dog, to one leg uttanasana, to hand stand and sirsasana, coming up from extended leg, to one leg setu bandha and urdva dhanurasana, finding inner extension and lift through flow rather than outer muscular contraction. Add any poses or sequences from above to your investigation.

Unknown-2First Video: Saturday PM
The Four Fundamental Layers of Fascia by Frank Willard
(from the 1st International Fascia Research Conference, 2007)
1. Superficial or pannicular (tube, just under skin, surrounding all other tubes)
2. Axial, including epaxial and hypaxial ( from notocord – surrounding muscles of front and back body, extending into limbs. Does not extend over skull as superficial does, but stops at base. Menningial extends inside skull
3. Visceral (from mouth to anus along midline and extending out around each organ)
4. Menningial: From inside of skull down spinal canal to root of spinal column

Take home points:
1. These fascial layers are continuous throughout the body and not divided into separate images-3parts, as the anatomy books imply. Find them as fields of perception/proprioception.
2. Key areas of the body where the layers overlap include sacrum and cranium
3. Visceral fascia connects with Deep Front Line and is crucial in our asana explorations



Second Video: Sunday PM
Strolling Under the Skin”: also (Part 2) French hand surgeon uses ‘in vivo’ micro camera to capture the water-collagen matrix in its amazingly complex dance of balancing stability and mobility through tendons, organs and all tissue structures, demonstrating ‘tensegrity’.

Take home points:
This ‘microscopic and molecular level view allow us to see, and thus begin to visualize, the images-1inner world of fluids and collagen fibers that make up the lattice/3-D spider web we call the ‘living matrix’. Keep finding/feeling, exploring from this level, 24-7-365.

Topic for next session:  Embryology