This short video shows a few quick clips of the dedicated students who spent long continuous days immersed in the teachings of Vinyasakrama yoga asana, pranayma, wisdom teachings, and practices of the powers of stillness.
You will see these students working externally on their breath, focus, balance, strength and flexibility. These qualities are invaluable. It helped them to release tension and blocked forms of energy that lodge in the body. They learned to locate a higher form of energy by finding ease with-in the postures through the masterfully sequenced Vinyasakrama yogasana.
What you cannot see is the actual erasing of their internal conflicts, their exercising of subtle shifts, sensations, and feelings that allowed them to cultivate the ability to listen inwardly building instinctive and harmonious ways of living in their universe. Looking behind the curtain!
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
This short video was taken on day 4 of the Module 1, Vinyasakrama immersion, 2019. Pam Johnson teaching.
The focus of this mornings practice was the 4th krama, the one-legged standing or balancing postures.
In the afternoon class, the wisdom teaching was from the book, Zen in the Art of Archery; by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948.
Herrigel describes Zen in archery as follows:
The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill.
I learned to lose myself so effortlessly in the act of breathing that I sometimes had the feeling that I myself was not breathing but - strange as this may sound - being breathed.
Now and then, and in the course of time more and more frequently, I managed to draw the bow and keep it drawn until the moment of release while remaining completely relaxed in my body, and without being able to say - just how it happened.
The qualitative difference between these few successful shots and the innumerable failures was so convincing that I was ready to admit that now at last I understood what was meant by drawing the bow “spiritually”.
The yogi must be taught to detach not only from the posture, but from herself, to not become ensnared in fearful thinking, to pass through the ego stage leaving it behind her for good, even at the risk of irretrievable failure.
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.