My friend Pam Johnson of Houston, TX is offering a vinyasakrama asana immersion program covering all the 12 sequences or kramas. She first studied Vinyasakrama in 1995 or so in considerable depth and has been teaching vinyasakrama with considerable emphasis on breathing for a long time. She is an accomplished artiste. Her lovely asana pictures appear in my book "Yoga for Three Stages of Life."
Renowned Teacher and Author
Consecutive days: BEGINS Friday, March 22nd 7-9pm | Sunday, March 24 DAY OFF | ENDS Saturday, April 6th only till @11am
A Resonating Art and Science
The Slow Dance of Breath and Movement
We will meticulously comb through the art of vinyasa (yoga asana) as laid out through Krishnamacharya’s coherent narrative arc in which the geometric forms are organized around the distribution of prana into the sinuous musculature of the body and more importantly throughout the internal organs.
All 12 kramas containing varied asanas with their subsets and counter poses will be surveyed along with the method of superimposing the synchronized Ujjayi breath. We will look at the effects on the internal organs and the alignment as it is created through proper flow of the Ujjayi breath and determine how to thread the appropriate vinyasas and their applications together for personal or student needs.
With consistent curiosity and examination of the methodology and the auxiliary practices of breath-centered postures, breath retention, various seals, mudras and mantras, you will begin to penetrate the subtle layers that permeate our intellect, personality and emotions by dwelling in the space between your inhale and your exhale.
Our goal is to preserve and conserve this yoga asana tradition and to further understand the theories, evolution, and experiential concepts of pranic energy and how we can best convey this notion and its place into today’s world.
Only if we feel that something is precious will we take it seriously and do it with a positive attitude.
The breath was and is my teacher
The breath is what I am
The breath is what you are
It has infinite wisdom
And is the wisest and deepest teaching in existence.
Receptivity - Embodied Yoga Vinyasa.
Key principles of Vinyasakrama Yoga Asana
Krishnamacharya created a coherent narrative arc of 12 kramas, which are organized through precise gestures synchronized with breathing. A gradual progression in the construction, where body parts are arranged one to another in a specific, ideal, very precise relation to each other to produce optimum and favorable health effects.
If you know everything about prana you become the best. Prana circulates in the mouth, nose, heart, navel and big toes and assimilates all food. The breath will unlock blockages in the nadic pathways and facilitate the release of habitual holding patterns allowing free flow of energy throughout the body. A yogi becomes their own master when they carry all their prana within the body.
Ujjayi is the foundation of pranayama for yoga asana and most other pranayamas. A soft rubbing effect of this sound breath at the glottis, larynx and vocal cords helps to direct the breath to the central channel just in front of the spine generating an upward movement of energy at the central core.
Perimeters of pranayama breath practices are place, time and duration. Cultivating an evenness of the flow of the breath allows us to dwell in the space between the inhale and exhale cleansing and rejuvenating the subtle nerve and energy pathways, toning specific glands and refining the ability to stay focused in every fiber of our being.
Bandhas are the bridge that allows us to move from practice on a merely physical level to a practice as an inner pranic level. These powerful actions clear blocked areas and consolidate the flow of the breath along with the yogic form to further enhance sensory perceptions.
Success of asana is not measured by the asana itself, but by the degrees to which it facilitates Pranayama. Through slow appropriately sequenced vinyasas matched precisely to the ujjayi breath, one can move prana evenly through the nadis establishing a keen sense of balance in body and mind.
To grasp the sumptuousness and transformative properties of the art of vinyasa, krama yoga requires a steadfast commitment, intense and challenging personal practices, examination of philosophical texts and a strong will to trust the process as it slowly unveils the sacred principles and essential properties of self-discovery. The study of the self is imperative.
By embracing the roots and core teachings in all its diversification with consistent curiosity and examination of the methodology, the auxiliary practices will tune the senses to the internal sounds that will unravel the magnitude of our cosmic connections.
Consecutive days BEGINS Friday, March 22nd 7-9pm | Sunday, March 24 DAY OFF | ENDS Saturday, April 6th only till @11am
How I Met My Teacher
I met Ramaswami in 1994 while taking classes at The Yoga Center in Houston, TX. Then only one of two yoga studios in the city! Ramaswami taught yoga classes there. For me this teaching was like discovering, for the first time, a deep truth in my body and soul.
At that time Ramaswami lived in Chennai, India. He had retired from a career as an engineer and stockbroker and had begun to write a book about the yoga that he studied as a young boy with his teacher the legendary Sri T Krishnamacharya. They were teacher and student—one on one for 33 years.
We were fortunate that he was able to come to Houston from India to teach, often for long stretches of time. I think Ramaswami must have been in his mid 50s at that time.
He brought a rough draft of a book he was titling Yoga for the Three Stages of Life. We made copies of it and studied it with him from this spiral bound book. I still have my tattered book with notes of Sanskrit terms, breathing techniques, Indian mythologies, photos, copied drawings of yoga asana and various deities. We helped him complete the book and a much younger me posed for the photos in a few sequences that accompanied his text.
At the time it was pretty advanced information to me and I was fascinated by this new way of approaching yoga. I laugh now at my attempts then to write the Sanskrit names phonically from Ramaswami’s Indian accent.
He led us through this breath-centered group of movements that were slow and focused. He taught us breathing ratios and when and how to use bandhas. Ramaswami promised Krishnamacharya that he would teach exactly as he had been taught, insisting that we learn the information without flaw. On his teaching visits he encouraged us to stick to the integrity of the asana sequences. Needless to say, there was a great deal of repetition of postures and sequences. Gradually my body opened up like a lotus blossom through the breath with total focus making slow steady progress. I was starting to come alive in a way I had never known.
In the mornings class started at 6 a.m., then another evening asana class at 6 p.m. followed at by 8 p.m. Sanskrit, chanting and ancient texts. Often we had weekend intensives where the 8 limbs of yoga, Ayurvedic healings and meditation were taught in detail. It was magical. I had no idea how privileged this study was at the time. It was all for the price of yoga asana classes! Ramaswami was warm and friendly but also very serious and focused on his mission to teach Krishnamacharya’s Vinyasakrama yoga.
Ramaswami continued to come to Houston and teach year after year. Dave Herwitz tracked Ramaswami to Houston and it was here that their relationship began which produced such little gem books, like Yoga Beneath the Surface, and his connection to LMU teachings. Eventually I was asked to host his teachings in Houston. He stayed at my home many times so that often that I had opportunities to have one on one studies between his scheduled teachings.
Sometimes he would be invited to yoga conferences to teach. I was thrilled to demonstrate for these classes, but mostly the classes went unnoticed. It seemed as if students were a little intimidated by studying with an Indian master. It was also the heyday of Shiva Rhea, trance dance, David Life, Sharon Gannon, Rodney Yee et al. They were teaching some pretty fun and exciting yoga to music and very strength-based sweaty physical yoga asana. Ramaswami was very surprised at what he saw presented as “yoga” then.
I think it was in response to this modern western yoga and fear of what he was trying to preserve would be lost that compelled Ramaswami to write The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga. To his surprise it sold out the first printing in less than a month. He always told us that practice of yoga asana as a workout increased the Rajas and accentuated Tamas. It was very different from the slow steady vinyasakrama.
Ramaswami moved to New York to be close to his sons then began teaching more classes across the country. He taught a month long vinyasakrama teachers trainings at Loyola Marymount University in L.A., which spread to more venues nationally and internationally.
A few years had passed and Ramaswami began talking about writing a book from a medical perspective on how yoga can keep the internal organs clean and toned. It would require imaging that was not available at that time. I have the galley for this book but the last time I asked Ramaswami he said that he is finished publishing more books.
"I have known Pam Johnson for more than 37 years now. She is one of my earliest yoga students in USA. As a senior student and originally as part time teaching help at John Coon’s Yoga Center in Houston she studied with me during several visits- running for several weeks- to the Yoga Center, Pam Johnson studied with me, in considerable depth, the vinysaskrama method of yoga practice, which I had learnt from my Guru Sri T Krishnamacharya. She has been very diligent and an exceptional student studying the Sutras and other ancient texts with me as well. Some of her exquisite pictures doing very important asana vinyasa sequences appear in my book, “Yoga for the Three Stages of Life”. She has also helped me with skillful demonstration of many asana sequences in conferences and workshops and hosted me in her studio for several years. She has for a number of years now been teaching Vinyasakrama in her studio and also nationally.
"Pam is also a museum level fine artist, specializing in large-scale black and white drawings and biomorphic sculptures. For Pam these disciplines nurtured the creation of Breath the Pulse of the Universe. As an artist she has been able to combine yoga asana sequencing, breath and artistic movements into a unique and spectacular presentation Breath the Pulse of the Universe. I wish her well."
Renowned Teacher and Author
"Pam Johnson is a Master Teacher, a teacher of teachers. She stands tall amongst the rare few of humble modern yoga experts carrying authentic teachings and upholding the integrity of yoga.
"Free from any contradicting and confusing practices of commercial and branded yoga, Pam brings a refreshing acumen of yogic training. Schooled for over twenty years by one of Krishnamacharya's longest standing disciple's outside his family, Srivatsa Ramaswami and realized Himalayan Yoga adepts and Vedic scholars, I feel safe that what I receive from Pam is nothing I'll need to 'unlearn' later.
"Being a yoga teacher, and a student under a Himalayan Master myself, I am cautious and discriminating about who I study with. Pam is a gem, a humble transmitter of the Himalayan Vinyasa Krama system and an artist at articulating the energetics, physical intelligence and depth of this system in an accessible way. I've had so many 'ah-ha' moments studying with Pam. She just knows how to bring it all together without watering it down. Besides new discoveries in my own practice, I've learned so much from her to share with my students. Plus she knows all the nuances of the system and maintains it's purity without convoluting anything. I have yet to find anyone like her!"
Yoga Instructor and Massage Practitioner
In all my years of searching for senior Yoga teachers that can transmit the tradition they have been extremely hard to find. Those rare souls that have depth of knowledge, utter dedication to study, immersive practice and the gift of teaching are gems. Please check out Pam Johnson and make a trip to Houston this March, you will be transformed!
Sacred Roots Yoga and Healing
I've had the opportunity to take yoga teacher training and related studies from several amazing teachers over the years. However, I didn't feel like everything I learned was completely integrated. One teacher might be particularly good at asana, another might have greater understanding of pranayama, and another might be better at wisdom teachings or chanting.
When I started mentoring with Pam, everything came alive for me. Even seemingly simple things like ujjayi breath became nuanced, profound and interesting because of her depth and breadth of understanding.
She has stayed with a single lineage for several decades and as a result, can impart not just the how's of Vinyasa Krama, but the why's, the sequencing options and adaptations. Learning this lineage with her is a unique opportunity that I have not been able to find elsewhere at this level of detail.
Private Student of Pam Johnson
"Although I am a yoga beginner at 63, I am finding that my classes with Pam (in which we incorporate yoga breath work with the flow and grace of yoga movements) are unexpectedly spilling over into my daily activities. I am almost reflexively thinking about my breathing and body position as I balance going down steps and pivot into a low car. When I found myself in a long line at the store, I took a deep breath, aligned my posture and did slow focused breathing instead of having my usual impatience. Even in my housework, as I struggled with my heavy vacuum, I was doing what came 'natural' to me–exhaling on the pushing motion, and it was hard work. Then I remembered Pam teaching that in Yoga, generally, I should work on the inhale (push the vacuum) and do the exhale on the more relaxing part of the motion (pull the vacuum back toward me). Vacuuming became so much easier for me, just like some of the movements Pam was teaching me that were so much less difficult when I also did my breath work correctly.
"I feel that in the short time I have been learning Yoga with Pam that I am improving my balance, muscle tone, posture, strength, and flexibility. Those things are fairly easy to see and measure. (My husband even noticed!)
"But I am changing in ways much more difficult to measure as well: my mood, my sense of well being, my sense of self… I can’t say where exactly all of these improvements have come from but I know Pam would say, 'It’s in the breath.'"
Private Student of Pam Johnson