Ashtanga Vinyasa with BNS Iyengar – The lost Asana

I went to Mysore, India in 2010 to study with BNS Iyengar. I wanted to study with him because he was my teacher’s teacher (Sri V. Sheshadri), a direct student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois, and a local legend. He is also one of the few Indian teachers still teaching both the western and  Indian community. Plus, a few friends called him crusty and I found that appealing since so many Western teachers are like cheerleaders on ativan.

I was looking for roots and I was looking to learn. BNS teaches a little differently now than I had heard he taught previously. He taught Primary Series in a blazing 55 minutes as a led practice rather than the traditional silent practice I was familiar with. It was sometime brutal and primitive. The way I suspect it was taught 50 or 60 years ago, like I had heard  Sheshadri speak of in 2006.

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I liked that BNS’s  Primary Series was a little different. It was unexpected. When people think of Ashtanga they think of it in one way, never to be altered. I know a lot of people will scream that it IS only one way. I always found this attitude as surprising as I found the conservative and conformist attitude in the punk rock community disturbing. But remember that when Pattabhi Jois was asked by a student,  “you used to teach it this way and now you teach it different, which way is right?” he  said, “the way I teach it now is correct.”

Some differences I noticed with BNS:

On page 1 (above) you will see that the Namaskara A + B are shorter in repetitions than I had practiced with Sheshadri (I will post the Sheshadri cheat sheet from 06′ in the future) or Manju Pattahbi Jois.

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The differences I found on page 2  start with Janu Sirsasana B. It is replaced with what I have heard people call “Open Janu Sirsasana” or Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana nine were you stack the shoulders and open to the side like in Utthita Parsvakonasana. Most interesting was the first pose of column 5 listed as Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana were you lie down put you right arm behind your head – or as BNS would say “surround the head” – and grab your right big toe on the bent leg that is across your chest. I hadn’t see this pose ever before in the 8 years I had been practicing yoga. When I Googled Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana I got 18,000 results for the first pose you see on line 4 of page 2 (above)… not the pose I was looking for. When I couldn’t find it easily, I got very interested in this pose. After asking a couple of people who had studied with BNS longer than me and still getting no info, I found this pose listed as the last part of a three-part pose called Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” (BKS Iyengar is no relation to BNS, but both were students of Krishnamacharya). When I Googled Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in quotes to limit the search to only this pose, I got only ONE result. It is on a page that lists a bunch of asanas (poses) and little else. When I Googled it as Supta Padangusthasana 13, I got 7 results, one of which was Polish and another in  Chinese. According to “Light on Yoga,” Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen is of great benefit for people with sciatica and stiffness in hip joints.

I LOVE that BNS is teaching this pose that the rest of the world has nearly forgotten. This is why I went to study with him To get to the unfiltered, non-westernized, un-corporatized yoga.

I learned a lot in my time with BNS, some good, some bad, just like life.  Like the dark and the light, I see with clarity through my practice ever-shifting  glimpses of samadhi समाधि and the terror of the veil of Maya माया being lifted.   BNS showed me a man who could be gentle and fierce in one movement and one breath.

“Do good, be good. Be good, do good.” ~ BNS Iyengar

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