Primary Friday: Life is a Blessing

This week's Primary Friday post is late because I wanted to let the previous post sit for a bit, but now let's get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

This week's Friday practice was my first Primary after a whole week of cutting it from my regular practice.  Instead of staying home, I visited a teacher friend's led Primary and practiced to the Sanskrit count.  It was nice to hear the count again but all of this, coupled with the cold turn of the weather had me feeling out of sorts.   Old injuries are flaring up as the chill sets in.  Twisting and forward bending are not fun.  My right shoulder is still bugging me off and on, and it was predictably aggravated by the Primary practice.  All those goddamn jump backs...

Swenson and Shelley, among others, have tried to teach me the straight-armed jump back which relies more on momentum than strength, but I can't seem to do it.  The only jump back I'm capable of is sort of a slow lift and press with the elbows serving as the primary fulcrum instead of the shoulders.  It's exhausting unless you get it just right, and even then it takes a lot of work.  One thing David said that has really made a difference, though, is that when the legs cross for the jump back, the top leg is active and the bottom leg is passive.  It seems so simple, so obvious, but when done with awareness, it really does make the whole process much cleaner and more precise.

Just before I was fired, I decided to congratulate myself on the completion of my training with some yoga goodies.  I ordered a couple of mysore rugs, an eye pillow, and a stack of books.  Even though I really can't afford them now that I've got no income, I'm sort of glad I made the purchases when I did because, between resume submissions, I have nothing but time to read, study, and do my practice.

Last night I finished reading Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings by A.G. Mohan, one of Krishnamacharya's longest standing students.  What a beautiful book!  Mr. Mohan recounts the history of Krishnamacharya as both a student and a teacher, and divides the rest of the book into succinct commentaries on various topics that are all rich with nuggets of wisdom from the father of modern yoga.  Mr. Mohan's dedication and affection for his teacher are clearly communicated through the text.  The span and evolution of their relationship as recounted by Mr. Mohan is quite moving.  I certainly set this book down with a much clearer understanding of Krishnamacharya's influence and a greater appreciation for his efforts.

Nitya Mohan, A.G.'s daughter, began to learn the Vedic chants from her father at the age of 4.  Here she is to usher the good vibes back to Damn Good Yoga:

Next on the reading list?  What else??  Guruji!


  1. Will you say more about the straight arm jumpback? I've been looking online, trying to find some mention of it, but am not finding anything. My jumpbacks are more straight armed, and I've always figured I had to build in more elbow bend..l

  2. Hi Karen - The straight armed variation uses the shoulder as the primary fulcrum in the hinge/swinging action of the jump back. The lift up creates momentum, then the legs are swung back through the arms as the shoulders move forward with the body landing in a high plank position.

    Tight wrists prevent me from accomplishing the sort of forward shift necessary to unweight the lower body for the jump back, so I bend my elbows in order to shift my weight forward into the hands. This results in me landing in a Chaturanga or low plank position when I jump back. This method demands much more strength in the shoulders and upper back, so if you are trying to build more upper body strength, you might try bending the elbow, but if not, I wouldn't bother with the change. My shoulders are bulky and tight and the bent-arm jump back only makes them more so, which is why I am working toward a straight arm jump back in my personal practice. As always, consider what is best for you, your body, and your practice.

  3. with respect, my teacher Srivatsa Ramaswami is Krishnamacharya's longest standing student, 30 some years, Mohan studied with him for about 20. I will be blessed to study with Mohan next year in India.....

  4. I would love to see a vid of your jump back!!!

  5. Thanks for the correction, Linda. My mistake. The information has been updated. I have seen a couple of Mohan's brief lectures on youtube. I love his cheerful and deliberate way of speaking. You will be blessed indeed to study with him, no doubt.

    Anon - I'll try to get a jump back/jump through video posted as soon as my shoulder is feeling better.

  6. yes, reading Mohanji's book made me grateful, again, for having been introduced to the Krishnamacharya lineage by Ramaswamiji so early in my teaching. they are true yogis.

  7. Hi,

    This was a very interesting post. Have you had any progress on the straight arm pickup and jump-back. I can do bent elbows well but the straight arms seems to be the next phase.

    What are the benefits between the straight and the bent arm. I suspect you have to be more open with your chest and back to do the straight arm. Must one really use momentum? I try not to use momentum in the jump-back to avoid injuries and keep form.

    I dont have access to teachers like Swenson and Shelley so any instruction you've received from them would be much appreciated.