I have repeatedly been asked to shed some light onto the “elusive bandhas”. I’m surprised that they are still considered elusive. In this article I am focussing on Mula Bandha. Mula Bandha has three aspects, layers or phases of which the first is introductory, the second intermediate, the third advanced. To learn the bandhas students should first focus on the introductory aspect and then move on. The introductory aspect, layer or phase of the bandha is gross/muscular.
One of my biggest frustrations with being associated with Ashtanga Yoga is that other yogis perceive that my asana practice and thereby the asana I teach must adhere to what is known as the ‘traditional’ form (I place tradition here in inverted comas to refer to the popular Jois tradition and not the traditional Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga, which is actually what I do practice and teach!). And many have a negative impression of this ‘tradition’.
As we have recently seen women are still discredited for taking a long time to speak out against powerful men like Brett Kavanaugh. In this article Karen Rain describes the slow and painful process to admit to herself that she had been victimized.
Today I want to honor the woman who blew the whistle on sexual abuse in Ashtanga-culture, Anneke Lucas. As Beryl Bender Birch recently said in a podcast even back in the 1980’s everybody knew about Jois’ actions. While everybody knew and few confronted Jois, it took one very brave person to be the first to publicly write about it and thus initiate a platform on which more women can now speak out.
Why do I keep posting about this subject? As far as I know only about half a dozen Ashtanga teachers have come out with apologies about their past actions and concrete support for the assaulted women. To me it looks as if 99% of Ashtanga teachers and this includes most of the big hitters are simply just hoping for this storm to blow over. To make matters worse those who dare to speak up are constantly questioned about their “agenda”. Why are those who remain silent not questioned about their agendas?
One of the last times that I sat in K. Pattabhi Jois’ afternoon student meeting (called “conference”) I looked at a photo of Ramana Maharishi that was hanging on the wall. I asked Jois, “how come Ramana is considered spiritually liberated but he hasn’t done any asanas in his whole life”? I didn’t mean any harm with that question. I was just curious. There are several potential avenues an answer could take and I was simply curious which one Jois would take. But he never got to answering the question. A storm of protest started and I was screamed down by about 20 other Western students. It was considered “questioning the guru”. The screaming subsided after about 2 minutes. KP Jois’ looked around somewhat baffled and then went back to discussing his previous topic, rasam recipes.
When I first visited KP Jois house in late 1995 I did so with the desire to study classical Ashtanga Yoga. I interviewed him closely what sort of yoga he was teaching and he affirmed that it was indeed Patanjali’s yoga. That made me sign up with him. In the following years we Ashtanga yogis often sniggered at the Iyengars because we smugly thought we had it over them. Already the name of our yoga showed that it was a true, authentic and ancient form of yoga, whereas theirs was a yoga named after a modern person, it’s founder. But this initial hubris was long ago replaced by a questioning of what Ashtanga today is, and what it should be.