Why the Yoga Korunta may not be all you’re hoping for

The Yoga Korunta is, I think it’s fair to say, the Holy Grail of Ashtanga.

Supposedly the ancient manuscript from which Krishnamacharya got all his asanas, which he then taught to Pattabhi Jois, a copy has never been found in modern times. Ashtangayoga.info gives a nice, succinct version of its history:

After great effort he [Krishnamacharya] finally found a copy in the University Library of Calcutta. Unfortunately, a little later the book was severely damaged by ants and it was not possible for Krishnamacharya to preserve it. So it may now be impossible to prove its authenticity.

We’ve tended to hear this story told with a fair amount of skepticism, leading us here at the Confluence Countdown to be among those who doubt there was one single source of asanas in the form of the Korunta. But that’s us, always the skeptics.

During our weekend workshop at Ashtanga Yoga New York, Eddie Stern spoke about the Korunta during the talk on “lines and lineages,” and he made an interesting point. It was, basically, this:

If you’re waiting for the Korunta to be found and for it to include the Ashtanga Vinyasa system as we know it, you’re likely going to be disappointed. Because old or ancient yoga texts aren’t asana how-to manuals along the lines of an instruction guide. (“Place your right foot two feet before the left. Lift your arms…”)

Think about the Yoga Sutras, for instance. Surely the first time you picked them up you were expecting something more along the lines of David Swenson’s practice manual? And the Sutras mention asana all of three times, right?

So the Korunta, evidence in the form of other old yoga texts strongly suggests, would be more like the Yoga Sutras and less like Swenson’s fundamental book. Guruji’s Yoga Mala is perhaps a model of what comes between them: asana instruction combined with commentary.

This doesn’t change the argument of those who believe the fundamentals of yoga practice — a focus on a certain type of concentration to calm and focus the mind — are exceedingly old, however. More on that in a future post.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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