“How is it that the yoga system you teach is different from other schools of the same lineage?”
Srivatsa Ramaswami gets this question often from his students.
Sometimes the question is less diplomatic. Is this Yoga? Why is Vinyasakrama so much slower than Ashtanga yoga?
Ramaswami has been asked this question in every class he taught. In his June 2014 newsletter, he once again explains. In Ramaswami’s own words, he answers the question,
“How is it that the program I teach is somewhat different from the teachings of many well known teachers of the Krishnamacharya lineage?”
This is the story of the Vinyaskrama system I teach. It is a very comprehensive sikshana krama (teaching or learning method) of yogasanas and vinyasas I learnt from Sri Krishnamacharya.
I started studying Yoga with Sri Krishnamacahraya when I was about 15 years old (Sri T. Krishnamacharya was about 66 years old). I studied several asanas, vinyasas, pranayama and after several years he stared teaching vedic chanting and the study of the texts like Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads.
One day after about 20 years I had been his student, he said that I could teach Yoga if I wished.
I had absolutely no such plan, but after a few days, I was asked by Sri Desikachar if I would be interested in teaching at Kalakshetra an institution considered to be of national importance by the Government of India. I met the director, the well known dancer and administrator Smt Rukmini Devi. From then on I taught yoga to the students of Kalakshetra for about 20 years.
When I started teaching I was asked to teach yoga for the first two years of the under graduate program. I was very enthusiastic and taught them whatever I had learnt from my Guru. Since they were young, very agile and talented, many of them could do asanas beautifully. You could feel that Yoga is really an art when you see them do asanas slowly gracefully with the breath.
After I found that I had very little new to teach after about 6 months, I approached my Guru and told him about my predicament. I told him that I had to teach the same students another one and a half years and I was stuck. He smiled and asked me if I had taught a few specific vinyasas. I said that I did not, because he had not taught those asanas and vinyasas.
He taught me a few new asanas and vinyasas, which I practiced at home and taught in Kalakshetra. Then he taught more vinyasas and asked me in what sequence and with which asana I should teach. He also instructed me in what order I could teach. Slowly I saw a beautiful system emerge. The number of vinyasas I had learnt from my Guru was over 700 in about 150 asanas and grouped into ten major sequences. When I finally completed the two year teaching I had a wonderful system of Vinyasakrama as taught to me by my Guru Sri Krishnamacharya.
Excerpts taken from June 2014 Newsletter by Srivatsa Ramaswami
ABOUT SRiVATSA RAMASWAMI
Srivatsa Ramaswami has written several books and many, many articles about yoga. Currently he conducts a 200-Hour Teacher Training Program every summer at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.