Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Namarupa : Richard Schechner's notebook on his studies with Krishanamacharya

Thank you to Claudia (and Krishna ) for the heads up on this article from Namarupa.

Here's the teaser/intro that Namarupa provide.

RICHARD SCHECHNER'S NOTEBOOK 42
by Daniel Dale
Photographs by Eddie Stern


It was in the spring of 2009. I had just finished teaching a yoga class at a health club in Manhattan, when a man who had been waiting by the door entered and began to do his own practice. I immediately took note of his uncommon form. He was moving and breathing just as I had seen demonstrated by Srivatsa Ramaswami and A.G. Mohan, two notable students of Krishnamacharya’s. I begged the man’s pardon for interrupting, but asked if he wouldn’t mind my asking where he had learned to practice in such a way.
“I learned in Madras, back in the 70s,” he said. “May I ask, from whom?” I inquired, to which he replied, “You probably haven’t heard of him.” I believe I then said, “Try me.” I was soon glad I had persisted; much to my delight, he said he had studied with “a man named Krishnamacharya.” ... continued online...

And I did. I know of this magazine from an article Ramaswami wrote on his own studies with Krishnamacharya. I highly recommend it, only a couple of pounds/dollars to download an edition with the option of ordering the paper copy if you so wish.

The article on Richard's notebooks blew me away. He studied with Krishnamacharya in the 70's, only for a few months, but at the same time as my own teacher Ramaswami, perhaps they crossed on the stairs going up to Krishnamacharya's room.

So the description of Krishnamacharya, his style of teaching, what he was teaching, was familiar to me from all the stories Ramaswami had told of his 30 odd years with him. And yet here, in Richard's article, is Krishnamacharya teaching in English, and it's as if his teaching has been preserved in wax.


'Richard said K’s teaching methodology consisted of 4 steps. First, he would demonstrate. Then he would dictate the steps verbally and Richard would take notes and/or draw a picture. Then K had Richard do it while he dictated the steps. Lastly, Richard would do it on his own and K would watch without dictating'. p6

So in the article, Richard is flicking through his notebook for the first time in years, it's somehow like hearing a faint echo.... 

We're used to hearing Krishnamacharya 2nd hand, 10th hand, in translation, through a process of Chinese whispers. Ramaswami was taught by him in Tamil I believe, so even here as close to the source as you can now get, there's still a translation to English and a constant revisiting. It's Krishnamacharya but it's also Ramaswami (and perhaps all the better for it). That said I remember towards the end of Ramaswami's TT course seeing a copy of Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu, as I flicked through the 120 odd pictures of Krishnamacharya in asana I was struck by the thought, "This is exactly, exactly, what Ramaswami has been teaching us". The postures, the variations, all exactly the same.

With Richard's notebooks, there's such an immediacy,  I can hear Krishnamacharya's voice as if he's talking directly to me and in a sense he is.

"Later, he tells me how to organize my yoga notes for teaching. ‘Each section, yes, standing positions, laying positions, jumping, sitting positions, face up positions, face down.’ But for now, I must keep this book as it is, chronologically.” p22

This by the way is pretty much exactly as Ramaswami organized his book The Complete book of Vinyasa Krama.

And Krishnamacharya's teaching is preserved 'in wax' in another way too. Although he only studied four to five days a week for a couple of months, Richard has continued to practice, alone, for the last thirty years just as Krishnamacharya taught him. In a sense he's not part of the US 'yoga community/lifestyle as we tend to think of it, he's just someone who went to India and continued to practice the yoga he was taught there, just as he learned it. 

How refreshing is that.

It reminds me of how privileged I was to be able to study with Ramaswami, who also  continues to practice and teach just as Krishnamacharya taught him. And how just a couple of days before I read the article I had decided to go back to practicing Vinyasa Krama as Ramaswami had taught me....the article was a confirmation of sorts.

Is this what lineage is all about?

Perhaps I should consider a little teaching, passing on what was passed on to me.

Richard actually says something quite wonderful about lineage, here's a taster, buy the article for this alone

'Richard: Yeah. I mean, these documents also remain, but basically what remains is our students. And that can fetch back very far. I sometimes, in a class, say, okay, let’s say you’re fifty. You are in your vital time. Or, fifty-five. And you teach something really important to a five-year-old. And that five-year- old remembers it. And when that five- year-old gets to be fifty-five, she teaches it to a five-year-old. How far back can this class reach? So, it goes 2000, 1950, 1900, 1850. You know, it takes
twenty people to get back a thousand years'. p17

Love that.

Or get the article/magazine for the clear and precise instructions Krishnamacharya gives Richard on the breath, on certain postures, how he introduces him to pranayama after just a couple of weeks. Of how he invites him to teach, expects him to teach but only one student at a time, two at most. Or for where he recommends 45 minutes practice, an hour at most or for where he tells Richard,

Too many people battle and torture their way through yoga, go too fast.’ p22

But my favourite quote from the article comes right at the end.

"Going over the materials brought 1971 back again, clear as crystal. And K along with it all, his eyes, his delicate way of moving, his strength, his humanity. And the love and respect you and the others have. A great gift.”p25

Thank you Richard for Sharing your notebooks and all at Namupura for sharing them with the rest of us.

You can get this edition of Namarupa HERE

Srivatsa Ramaswami is teaching his 200 hour Vinyasa Krama teacher training, based on his own studies with Krishnamacharya HERE

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