Conclusion: Pattabhi Jois created the Ashtanga sequence

Following up his notice on Monday that the great Guruji book is now out in paperback, Guy Donahaye also has posted another behind-the-scenes look at how and why the book was put together.

For Ashtangis, I think it includes several key conclusions on Donahaye’s part. The first:

I think, through the interviews and my own conversations with Guruji,  a picture emerges that the Yoga Korunta contained  asanas and vinyasas grouped according to their therapeutic benefits but that the actual sequences we practice were created by Guruji under Krishnamacharya’s supervision based on Chikitsa, Shodhona and so on.

It seems that Guruji did much of the work in organizing the sequences as well as in modifying the vinyasas. If you look at Yoga Makaranda – Krishnamacharya’s book of 1934 – you can see how he sequences the asanas and structures the vinyasas quite differently. Shammie said he invented, or discovered the surya namaskar – I believe this is true – at least in the form that he taught.

And then this:

Guruji felt very strongly that yoga is a spiritual practice. It is perhaps ironic that someone who believed this so deeply, is sometimes seen as propagating a purely physical practice. Too many of my fellow practitioners in the early ’90s tended to think this way, and maybe this is something which motivated me to initiate this project. For Guruji, the purpose of yoga was to make one fit for realization – that was his main interest – I think this is emphasized in the book.

The latter of these conclusions is not especially “mind-blowing” for us at the Confluence Countdown; Tim Miller presents Ashtanga in this way. And I think much of the discussion at the first Confluence, itself, emphasized the spiritual side of the practice as Guruji taught it.

The first conclusion about the Yoga Korunta is a bit fresher. The story — as I understand it — is that this was a bug-eaten book found in a library and that it quickly “disintegrated.” In other words, the “evidence” for the ancient sequence conveniently disappeared — because there likely was no such book. I think most of the Ashtanga circles I run in don’t put a lot of stock in there being one root text. (Maybe I’m wrong.) Donahaye seems to fall somewhere in the middle: There was a text, but it didn’t include Ashtanga as we now know it. It makes the Yoga Korunta sound a bit more like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a variation of it, of sorts.

That’s more believable, to me. Although I have to admit I want to make the leap to there being several source texts for the asana postures (including, perhaps, some not ancient ones that featured more of the European gymnastics that seems to have worked its way in) that, for ease’s sake, all just got grouped together into one, now-non existent, book. That just seems like the logical way it would have gone down, the easy way, the Occam’s Razor way.

I’ll also admit to not caring a lot about this. If it’s ancient or not, the key question is whether it works.

Update (about 30 minutes after posting): Guy Donahaye has pointed me to this passage from this link for a bit more on the Korunta, here called the Gurandam. This is Krishnamacharya speaking:

“Rama Mohana made me memorize the whole of the Yoga Gurandam in the Gurkha language. The various stages of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra are dealt with in that book ina very precise but extensive commentary. That is necessary because Sutras are by definition very concise. In the Yoga Gurandam, the various kinds of Yoga poses and movements are described with great clarity. Only after studying this book can one understand the inner meaning and science of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.”

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Conclusion: Pattabhi Jois created the Ashtanga sequence”

  1. Interesting enough in William Broad’s The Science of Yoga he mentions going to a library in Calcutta to do some research and finding many bug-eaten books. His research had nothing to do with Ashtanga but I took note of that statement in the book because it seemed to corroborate the now mythical story we have heard in the Ashtanga world about the Yoga Korunta.

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