Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The ' Vinyasa Krama' subroutines in Ashtanga Primary Series.

This morning I've been working on something ( see this post on the other blog) for my Vinyasa Karma Practice Book which will make up part of the 2nd edition that I hope to put online this week. The new edition will include most of the Vinyasa Krama subroutines, 80 or so. What I've been working on this morning is an attempt to show one way we can turn the subroutines into a full practice.

As we work through Ramaswami's book it can sometimes be hard to visualise how we can turn all this information, on all these postures, in these great long sequences, into a mornings practice. We can practice the full sequences as they stand and Ramaswami recommends this approach as a way to learn all the sequences and postures, the complete syllabus as it where. I found that approach useful too, you get to see the families of postures, how they relate to each other, leading up to and developing postures. Sooner or latter though we're probably going to want to work at a subroutine level.

Below is the popular Ashtanga Primary sequence. What I've done is divide the practice up into the different  Vinyasa karma sequences. Within those sequence boxes it should be easy to see there are one or more subroutines. The Ashtanga practice that ashtangi's run through every day is just a collection of subroutines.

After their Surynamaskaras, Ashtangi's move on to a Standing sequence that includes a short 'On your feet' sequence and the three 'Triangle' subroutines. Next up are a couple of 'On one leg' sequences before the Warrior sequence which is another 'Triangle' subroutine.

This is STILL my framework for all my asana practices in the morning. I add a short tadasana sequence at the beginning and I might add or change a subroutine but this is pretty much my warm up, It worked, it kept me safe.

The Ashtanga seated section in Primary begins with vinyasas in Paschimottanasana a Vinyasa Krama 'Seated' subroutine then after a counter pose moves on to , what, five simplified 'Asymmetric' subroutines. Four more simplified 'Seated' subroutines come next and then we're into, I count seven, 'Supine" subroutines'.

The series ends with a simple Inverted subroutine, a headstand,  and then a couple of 'Lotus' subroutines before Savasana.

The only things missing are 'Bow' and 'Meditative' subroutines. Some Ashtangi's who have been practicing for some time add on some of the Ashtanga 2nd series postures which include some cobra and locust postures, (these are from our Bow sequence) and Kapotasana (from Meditative).

Vinyasa Krama is different from Ashtanga, we don't use the jump back as much, we breath more slowly, repeat postures, take more breaths but most significantly perhaps, we're not tied to the same sequence of postures every day. However the Ashtanga series I'm so familiar with has helped me to develop a framework to hang my own Vinyasa Karma practice on.

So here's a suggestion.

Come up with a basic practice following Ramaswami's guidelines.

Start with some On your feet Tadasana hand/ arm variations.

Pick a Triangle and On one leg subroutine that you like.

Now pick an Asymmetric subroutine then one from Seated to go with your long Paschimottanasana.

Do the same with Bow and Meditative perhaps and then the Shoulderstand preparation postures.

Finish with  a couple of vinyasas in Shoulderstand ( Supine) and headstand (Inverted) and finally a short Lotus subroutine.

Now practice this for a few weeks until it's so familiar you don't have to think about it. this becomes you framework as Ashtanga has been mine.

The next step is to start switching and changing subroutines. Don't change everything over night, you'll only become lost again just change two or three subroutines at most. Keep doing this over the next couple of weeks keeping the same overall structure of your practice.

This approach might not work for everyone but it's worked for me.


  1. interesesting. I have been able to cover all of the VK asanas basically weekly. I like to get out of bed and do tadasana and then tackle the core postures. then I can do one or two more practices totaling about three hours a day. It is easy to do the advanced poses after I have been up for a while, and then doing another short practice helps keep me loose for the morning. then it just starts over again. I tend to do a more complete tadasana in the morning, then I will take the back bending and forward poses from that sequence as needed before In tackle another sequence in 2nd and 3rd practice. Been doing the seated sequences basically in their entirity at least twice a week. Same with the standing sequences, but I haven't been doing those whole sequences in "one sitting" they are" interspesed throughout the week. I always do assymetrical and basically lotus in their entirity whenever I do them. Then again sometimes I will just sit down and hammer out a long practice that lasts 2:30 hours. in those practices I will do a tadasana opener, then balancing, then triangle then to the floor for assymetric.(i do assymetrical same day as meditative (uttanasana and then kapotasana. and generally lotus the same day as bow. I rarely do all of bow though in one sitting) I think like pranayama once you are" acclamated to the practice, you can do two or better three practices a day none of which exceed 1.5 hours. the one in the morning longest perhaps, all followed by pranayama and some form of meditation. 2nd and 3rd maybe just one hour. I am so glad to be doing this practice intensely once again. anyways I am glad that I don't have to worry about Ashtanga : )
    though you may be interested thanks Tony

  2. Interesting Wyatt, want to read this again more carefully over the weekend.... when my brains not so tired, can't bare to look at a computer screen any more.
    Three practices a day, envious.

  3. ya its really not that clear I guess. I need to spend some more time documenting what I am doing I suppose. I love the cover of your practice book btw . Nice job

  4. No It's clear enough Wyatt I just wanted to read it again and think about it, try and visualise your practice. Love reading this, your approach to practice, so hard to shake off my Ashtanga influence. Actually I've given up trying, just accept the ashtanga vinyasa karma aspect. Still nice hearing about someone else's approach and how versatile VK is. Envious of your three practices, starting to think more and more about teaching, Ramaswami style, a nice gentle class practising along with the students, practicing pranayama together, all day in the zone.
    Glad you like the cove, big fan of pratyahara, think there's more to it, more to understand, still think its the Cinderella limb.

  5. yes, pratyhara is quite the "space" flight! Hmm... more to it? maybe it is like a portal? : ) I am teaching VK at a wellness studio twice a week and i am also currently doing a trade for a great room, teaching the owner of the house the VK and eight-limbed approach. It is really quite the unique experience. I am teaching them about two hours a day, so I am getting alot of VK teaching experience. I want to get more into teaching as well. Do you know I have never tried to do ashtanga? but somehow I end up mixing fourth series poses into my VK practice lol! I can see the appeal, but I just don't feel it is me for some reason. I tend to like the palette of colors or surgeons tool kit approach to VK. I have the good fortune got to see the healing powers first hand too!! My hip is more flexible than before already!!! and the aesthetic appeal to me is very obvious just like the philosophical elements. VK has it all! to me there is really nothing missing. . . kirtan?