The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Derek Ireland, the teacher's teacher.

http://www.yogamatters.com/cmscontent/documents/Files/Derek%20Ireland.pdf
When I decided to take up yoga, just seven years ago, one of the first two books I  picked up from the library was by Liz Lark. The first Ashtanga book I actually bought was by John Scott. The first shala I visited was Hamish Hendry's Ashtanga Yoga London, although I was only able to visit on a couple of Sunday's. As a Home Ashtangi I practiced along to Derek's Primary series cd ( among others) and learned the Ashtanga pranayama from his other CD.  The first Shala I actually spent a significant time practicing in was Kristina Karitinou's summer shala in Rethymno Crete last summer. In my last couple of days on Crete I went down to the south of the island, to Agios Pavlos, to chill out on the beach and practice alone. I stayed at the Agios Pavlos hotel, behind it is Yoga Plus run by Radha, Derek's former partner, it used to be called The Practice Place. Kristina gave me and my bags a lift there and over lunch would tell me how The Practice Place came about, how I was staying in one of the first rooms ( since renovated ) dug out of the side of the mountain that Hamish and John and Liz among many many others had stayed in at one time or another, working and practicing at the shala summer after summer, how Hamish and Liz used to cook in the kitchens, John the handyman, and how each year at the end of the season Derek would leave money behind for new rooms to be built, a new floor.... 


And I'm a home Ashtangi, on the edges of the scene, yet still I seem to keep bumping up against the spirit of the big man, his influence in European Ashtanga and Yoga in general was/is immense. He was the teacher's teacher.

I noticed that I had put up quite a few posts on Derek over the years, here I've brought them all together and am putting them here as a permanent page on the blog( because of all the video's you probably won't want to attempt to open this on your phone. There is the link to the tribute issue above, some great videos from the 80s and 90s, a Breakfast TV slot, probably one of the first tv demonstrations of Ashtanga, a demonstration from the 90s where Derek pulls a Handstand after EVERY asana, madness but a joy to behold.

I saw an interview with Manju Jois this morning, where he says we should take Joy in the practice, Derek reminds us of that too perhaps.

He was my teacher Kristina's teacher as well as husband and father to their two fine ( and very tall) sons who I had the pleasure of meeting this summer, he would have continued to be proud of them both. 


Oh, and when I was in Russia a couple of weeks back, one of the guys on the workshop, Sergey,  handed me a copy of Petri Räisänen's new book that he had just translated into Russian. Yep, Petri, another student of Derek's.

Derek Ireland, yoga practitioner and teacher: born Brighton, East Sussex 16 April 1949; married Kristina Karitinou (two sons); died Brighton 24 September 1998.

Outside Kristina's Shala in Rethymno, Crete - Manju's TT course 2013

The picture on the door of Derek Ireland is the same as on the cover of the Fusion magazine 

edition devoted to him.




Monday, 4 November 2013


Some Ashtanga History: Ashtanga in Greece. Kristina Karitinou, Derek Ireland

Kristina Karitinou posted these few lines on fb Saturday about her first Ashtanga teacher Linda Kapetaniou and the early days of Ashtanga in Greece ( and thus Europe). I asked her if I could post them here and if she had any pictures to go with then, as ever she was more than generous.



"Linda Kapetaniou (left) was the first teacher of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Greece, Athens(Kifisia). 

She taught the method over 5 years with the help of Periklis Christodoulopoulos at the "Yoga Centre Lotos" back in 1988. 

Both were students of Derek Ireland and Lesley Warell( Randa) founders of the "Practice Place", the first Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Centre in Europe. 


The practice place
( More posts to come on Derek Ireland and The practice place)
Derek Ireland adjusting

Hamish hendry and John Scott in Derek Ireland's room

The first Greek student that visited Sri K. Pattabhi Joys in Mysore were Maria -Voula Tsakona. Next were Elleni Kyriakopoulou, Alexandra Dimitrioiu, Maria Papaioanou Lila Petrineli!
  Richard Freeman Michaell Anastassiades, Elleni kyriakopoulou and Kristina Karitinou


Alexandra Dimitriou! 

Most of us were students of Linda's! She gave us the right knowledge and tools to move on and become part of this magic!

The greeks where students of Lindas ( including me ) and all did practice with Guruji! 

Me, I was the first Greek to have Guriji s blessings to teach !After few years Maria Tsakona, Maria Papaioanou as well! 

All of us apart from Maria Papaioanou! All the rest with first Linda, where students of Derek and we where the first team of teachers to build Ashtanga community in Greece! 


Maria Tsakona, Maria Papaioanou, Lila Petrineli,  Kristina Karitinou 
Linda thank you so much for teaching me, for trusting me and for giving me this life!!! the life of a teacher!

And in this life the most important path is the gratitude to the lineage"!


*

Kristina Karitinou is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, and has been teaching through the tradition of Sri K Pattabhi Jois since 1991.


She was qualified as an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher by Derek Ireland and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in 2002 and became Certified by Manju Pattabhi Jois in 2012. She has practiced intensively with R.Sharath Jois.


She teaches the Primary, Intermediate and Third Sequence and she offers classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings all year round in Greece, Europe and Asia. Kristina is happy to host workshops and teacher trainings with Manju Pattabhi Jois in Crete.




Kristina’s work is a continuation of Derek Ireland’s teaching principles. Her work is dedicated to him. http://www.yogapractice.gr

Thursday, 31 July 2014


Early Ashtanga; 1989 Derek Ireland and Radha full Demo of Ashtanga 2nd series ( plus a little of 3rd).



My teacher here in Rethymno, Crete, Kristina Karitinou, gave me access to an old Ashtanga file and some discs last week,  I've been busy posting some treasures. You might have caught the old Ashtanga 'cheat sheet' post, Yesterday's 1988 Yoga Journal Pattabhi Jois article and the 1989 video from Helsinki of Kristina's late husband Derek Ireland teaching a 'talk through Primary series class.

The videos below are of full 2nd series ( and a title 3rd) demonstration from the same 1989 visit that Derek Ireland and former girlfriend Radha made to Helsinki. I find it fascinating and possessing great charm.

At a time when we have so many 'perfect', polished videos of practice out there this is very much a work in progress insight into Derek and Radha's practice..., at times I forget that it's a demo,  it seems more like a fly on the wall look at their own practice each morning in their own shala. Look out for them taking turns to pop over to each others mat now and again to spot or help in and out of a posture, the little comments, the shared jokes.


Although they were both practicing and teaching Sivananda yoga for a time, my understanding is that they began practicing Ashtanga in 1986, this video then would be after three years of Ashtanga practice.



In the videos (I've had to divide them into four because of the slow wifi here), you'll see Radha practicing half vinyasa and Derek full vinyasa, however Derek also includes a handstand after every vinyasa, EVERY vinyasa, there he is straight after kapo (with which he struggles) in handstand, after Dwi para Sirsasna (not one of his strengths at this time either), straight up to handstand.... it's madness, delightful madness.


I remember in a workshop with John Scott recently (one of Derek Ireland's former students), John taking me up to handstand after my bakasana exit from Supt kurmasana, I remember thinking at the time, how very 1980s.



Enjoy.


  More on Derek Ireland and Radha



Fusion: Derek Ireland Edition
http://www.yogamatters.com/cmscontent/documents/Files/Derek%20Ireland.pdf




Radha Interview/Aticle

Radha's Search for Truth

Before the sun has risen above the mountain-tops in Saktoria in Southern Crete, I step into the dark marble-floored shala. The familiar sound of Ujjai breath welcomes me as I unroll my mat. Slowly moving in and out of form, my body is gently awoken, coming alive. Radha enters. She lights an incense stick and walks the room, clearing the energy and gently introducing her presence.

My first years of Ashtanga Yoga were spent in her guided class - I simply couldn’t get enough of hearing her clear English accent counting us through the Vinyasas (breath-movement). No one can take you through the Primary Series with more grace than Radha. I remember a time in Goa in the mid-nineties when she had us do eight Sun Salutations each of A and B, and the whole Primary series with full Vinyasa, six days a week! ”I’m just following orders!” one man laughed after the two-hour practice had ended. But for me it wasn’t like following orders, it was more like being carried on that voice, allowing the mind and body to surrender, to acquiesce, and simply follow her count and the rhythm of my own breath. Even today in my self-practice, I can occasionally hear her voice counting in my mind like a mantra...

And here I am, almost two decades later, once again in that little shala in Crete with Radha & Pierre. One evening last summer, Radha and I sat down on the terrace before dinner. I wanted to share some thoughts of hers with my own students and had asked her for a small interview for my blog. But the half hour interview soon turned into a couple of hours and Radha told me some of her fascinating story… Full article at link below

Le Yoga Shop Paris Words and photographs from Crete by Kia Naddermier
http://www.leyogashop.com/blogs/lejournal/7280228-radha-s-truth-search



Radha teaches at Yoga plus, South Crete


Have a look too perhaps at my earlier post


also


and finally 

This from 1998, ten years after the videos above, Derek Ireland introducing Ashtanga to new students while Kristina demonstrates the Primary series ( one breath a posture for demonstration purposes) at The practice place in Crete.



Tuesday, 29 July 2014


1989 Helsinki: Derek Ireland Teaching Ashtanga Primary. "Derek Ireland 'invented the talk through Primary" John Scott

Thank you to my teacher Kristina Karitinou-Ireland for fishing out these old tapes of Derek Ireland from Helsinki in 1989 and sharing them with me, this one is of Derek teaching Ashtanga Primary series.

John Scott mentioned to us in a workshop recently that it was Kristina's late husband Derek Ireland who 'invented' the talk through Primary. Unfortunately the tape starts half way through Standing.
 


Screen shots





More about Derek Ireland

Derek Ireland
From The Independent 28 September 1998

Derek Ireland was born and raised in Brighton. A "ferociously competitive" athlete at school, he was apprenticed to Brighton and Hove Albion football team when a severe knee injury playing rugby ended his hopes of a professional sports career.

When punk came along he spent five years promoting the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Stranglers along the south coast and took fully to the rock and roll lifestyle. He started conventional yoga with his girlfriend Radha Warrell after "living off my memories of my sporting triumphs for ten years". Thereafter he did yoga almost every day.

In 1978 the couple moved to Los Angeles where Ireland was supposed to take a band on the road. "It was to be Foreigner, then the Tubes, then Ozzy Osbourne. In the end I didn't take anyone - I think because they thought I was wilder than the bands."

Two years later the couple went on a one-month teacher training course to a Shivananda yoga retreat in the Bahamas. They stayed six years to run the place. During that time a visiting Shivananda swami from New York introduced them to astanga vinyasa, a vigorous form of yoga that had been rediscovered in the Thirties by Patthabhi Jois in Mysore, who claimed it was the original yoga from which all other hatha yogas had developed.

In 1986 Derek Ireland moved to New York to teach it - in the absence of premises he ran big open-air classes in Central Park until the park authorities moved him on. The following year he and Radha spent six months with Jois in Mysore, then began to teach the form as he had passed it on to them all over the world.

In 1991 they opened the Practice Place, a centre devoted to astanga vinyasa, in a secluded bay in southern Crete. The Practice Place quickly established itself as one of the most important yoga centres in the world. Many of the numerous classes now available in Britain are run by Derek and Radha's former students. More and more people have taken up the yoga, including such celebrities as Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sting, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Demi Moore.

Ireland's ebullient manner and deliberately non-spiritual approach to yoga caused raised eyebrows in the yoga community over the years. "I usually do my practice to music - in England I do it to MTV," he said a couple of years ago. "I used to do it with weights on my wrists: that upset a few purists. I also had a weighted jacket but I got rid of that after I did a handstand and nearly killed myself - it slipped down and hit me on the back of the head."

Ireland had lots of injuries, which made his control of his body even more remarkable. He fell out of a tricky posture and severed a nerve once, losing control of his left arm for four years. In consequence, teaching ta'i chi he kept hitting himself in the eye.

In winter he ran courses in a "yoga shack" on a beach in Goa. He attracted students simply by doing his practice on the beach for passersby to watch. The practice would take two hours and within five minutes he would be surrounded by Indians who weren't familiar with this style of yoga. "Some would plonk babies on me for photographs. I tried to stay focused - I only got uptight if they actually walked on me!"

from Entelchy, my interview with Kristina last year
Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

AnthonyTell me about Derek Ireland?
Derek Ireland, Crete
Kristina: Derek was a truly charismatic teacher setting the foundations of teaching  and spreading  the knowledge of Ashtanga in Europe, by training teachers and evolving the methodology of the practice. He provided us with the right tools to make the practice understandable to our western mentality. He was an extremely generous, knowledgeable and compassionate teacher, who had great respect towards his students and greatly contributed to the formation of the contemporary yoga teacher image. He was a devoted practitioner himself and would always pay his respects to his guru Sri K. Pattabhi  Jois as he would always stress the importance of lineage. At the same time he was an exemplary father and unique husband always caring about his family, not to mention that he was absolutely gorgeous attracting admiration wherever he would appear. 

AnthonyWhat was it like to be taught by Derek, how was he as a teacher?


Kristina: When I first entered his shala I immediately realized the truth and the power of his teaching and it became apparent to me that he had the ability to understand your potential and bring it all up on the surface. He was always keen on making you see the power and strength that lied within you and worked towards making you experience the true possibilities and nature that you might not have been aware of. Myself as a teacher have been shaped by these characteristics of him, and I want to believe that my work also involves some of his teaching style.

AnthonyWhy was he important to the growth of Ashtanga in Europe?

Kristina and Derek wedding day
Kristina: Derek's students were actually the ones who made Ashtanga so popular in Europe. It was with his help that they spread this method and popularized the practice mainly in the UK. Now, retrospectively, it's hard to imagine how things would have been without his presence.

Anthony: Who were some of his students that we may of heard about.

Kristina: The list is long: John Scott, Gingi Lee, Alexander Medin, Lis Lark, Brian Cooper, Mathew Vollmer, Michaela Clarke, Annie Pace, Jocelyn Stern, Petri Raisanen, Joseph Dunham, Ginny Dean, Hemish Hendry and many many more.
Derek assisting Gingi Lee, The practice Place

Derek assisting in his Yoga Room



Tuesday, 8 April 2014


Derek Ireland and Radha mid 80's TVAM Ashtanga spot

Great find from Lucia,

"it was a great thrill to run into this video posted via Ed Ross. when I published his name has not appeared so I write it now. it was exciting because I have had the great honor to practice with Radha, the first time 5 summers ago. I can tell you that this woman embodies the practice and tradition, in her Shala seems that time has stopped. With her, I understood what it means just one breath in one movement, the vinyasa, and without using words because 5 years ago I could barely speak and understand English and no one there spoke Italian with me  she has only ever used her hands on me, no verbal instruction, if I can stay inside the vinyasa I owe it to her, and the funny thing is that she and I are really spoken only a few times. Last summer I also felt her healing touch on me. more than her body moving in the shala I felt the presence of her spirit, that I can not express it in words. so she is still spreading love and devotion to the practise, in such humble way". Lucia

Derek Ireland and Radha in a breakfast TV spot for what looks like the UK's TVAM. This appears to be  a number of 'spots' spread throughout the morning, my mistake, my mistake, Derek mentions that they have been 'showing you things for a few days' so it looks like TVAM may have been featuring Ashtanga all week. First up is Derek talking  Radha in the standing sequence,  introducing Ashtanga, next they switch and Radha talks through Derek's first few primary postures and so on switching back and forth. At the end there's demo of the two of them practising together (unfortunately to some particularly cheesy music the sound editor had deemed appropriate).

This seems to be a very early introduction to Ashtanga in the UK, perhaps the first time it was seen there on TV.

I went hitchhiking for a few years from '83 so would have missed this otherwise who knows....







To put it in perspective, TVAM's regular yoga 'instructor' was 'Mad Lizzie' Web


She was brought in as a response to the BBC's breakfast TV  yoga spot presented by the Green Goddess Diana Moran


UPDATE (what already?)

My friend Oscar ( I presented my first workshop at Oscar's beautiful studio in Leon in December) has just pointed out that the same Youtube channel has this early Spanish TV slot with Tomas Zorzo. Thomas is giving a workshop at Oscar's studio from April 12th, been hearing great hints about Thomas and the breath.


https://www.facebook.com/YogaCentroVictoria

Friday, 21 March 2014


Crete. 1998 Ashtanga Primary series demonstration Kristina Karitinou, Derek Ireland (without the five breaths in the asana) 

This made my day, Kristina Karitinou demonstrating Primary series with Derek Ireland  introducing it just off camera. Admittedly Derek's questionable music taste makes it seem more like 1988 than '98.

Kristina just told me that this was how they used to demonstrate the series to a new group of students, one breath a posture, the whole series in half an hour.

I love this video, such an honesty to it, an innocence....



Derek includes some 'extras' in his Primary, not sure if this was taught to him by Pattabhi Jois or something he just added in EG. the hanumanasana work after the parasarita group, the trivikramasana's








This was at the practice Place in Crete, here's another video  from there, this time Derek leading the class through Primary.



The class above was turned into a Led primary series CD, I have it, it's excellent, a few surprises. See this post for a review of the CD as well as Derek's Pranayama CD also excellent, in fact I was practising along to  it earlier in the week.

Derek Ireland Ashtanga Led Primary CD and Pranayama CD

This post is of the tribute to Derek Ireland in Fusion magazine

Crete - Derek Ireland tribute in old edition of Fusion magazine also Ashtanga.com article links

and another post

Crete - Derek Ireland and the British/European school of Ashtanga

Here's a link to the interview I posted with Kristina Karitinou a few months back.

Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

Anthony: Tell me about ‘The Practice Place’, the Ashtanga community in Greece at that time?


Kristina: The Practice Place, was the first Ashtanga community in Europe. Set up in the UK it had its shala in the South of Crete. This was the place where teachers and students had the possibility to study with Derek and Radha. Derek was the one working mainly with the Mysore advanced practitioners and helped them evolve their practice. The place combined three important features, good practice, good food and accommodation in great surroundings. Most of us had to work our way through our studies there in an effort to learn to offer to this community as this was part of a Karma yoga training. Derek made this possible for us in order to deepen our knowledge and shape a correct attitude towards a dedicated practice.


Kristina is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, and has been teaching through the tradition of Sri K Pattabhi Jois since 1991.
She was qualified as an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher by Derek Ireland and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in 2002 and became Certified by Manju Pattabhi Jois in 2012. She has practiced intensively with R.Sharath Jois.
She teaches the Primary, Intermediate and Third Sequence and she offers classes, workshops, retreats and teacher trainings all year round in Greece, Europe and Asia. Kristina is happy to host workshops and teacher trainings with Manju Pattabhi Jois in Crete.

Kristina’s work is a continuation of Derek Ireland’s teaching principles. Her work is dedicated to him.

Kristina Karitinou Ashtanga yoga Greece (affiliated with Yoga Practice London)

And I can't resist the Ashtanga and Zen video filmed by Alessandro while I was in crete at Kristina's shala for manju's TT course. Watch it to the end for Kristina singing 'The Song of Seikilos'

"This song is one of the earliest examples yet found of a complete musical composition from the ancient world. Although other songs have been found that pre-date 'The Song of Seikilos' by many centuries, they only survive in fragments. 


Kristina and Hyon Gak Sunim (that's him chanting powerfully in the video, an Ashtangi Zen monk or is that a Zen Monk Ashtnagi?) are just about to conduct an Ashtanga and Zen workshop in Geneva if your in town this weekend.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


Crete - Derek Ireland tribute in old edition of Fusion magazine also Ashtanga.com article links


A nice comment from Rani on the video of Derek Ireland I posted a couple of days ago (added the video to the bottom of this post) which made me wonder who took the video. According to the comments on the Youtube video it was somebody called Tony. A google search led me to this tribute to Derek Ireland in Fusion magazine. It's hosted at Yogamatters and I hope they don't mind me sharing it.

http://www.yogamatters.com/cmscontent/documents/Files/Derek%20Ireland.pdf

If you have trouble reading the print head over there, it's a little clearer.

In the article there's a piece by somebody called Anthony Parker with a couple of shots from the movie so it seems this is probably the Tony referred to in the Youtube description.

Some nice pieces on the early days of Yoga in Crete and a particularly nice tribute by John Scott that begins

"Every yoga student remembers their first yoga teacher with love...."












Sunday, 12 May 2013


Crete - Derek Ireland and the British/European school of Ashtanga

Just heard my place on Manju's TT course in Crete is confirmed, thank god for that, had already booked the flight and hotel ( just changed the hotel to somewhere only five minutes from the shala).

M. asked me why Crete ( she noticed that I'd mentioned there was a much cheaper option of the (now only slightly) shorter course with Manju at Stillpoint yoga in London, oops.

Well how about this...

 it's Crete, spiritual home of British (and perhaps European ) Ashtanga.

And if we have a 'spiritual home' of British Ashtanga then we need a patron saint, well that would have to be Derek Ireland, although I suspect we'd hear Derek's big basso laugh that the obituary below refers to at being called a saint.

I had planned on packing a few fresh pairs of Nike pro shorts for the trip but I see from the video that other attire is, it seems,  de rigueur for Ashtanga in Crete and am now off to tanga.com to pick up a suitcase full, did you say turquoise Maya?

Remember I was reviewing Petri Räisänen's book the other week, seems Petri's first certified teacher was Derek Ireland

"In his yogic path Petri has studied with many respected Astanga Yoga teachers such as Derek Ireland (his first certified teacher)".

Does it make sense I wonder  to talk about different Schools of Ashtanga ? The California or US School of Ashtanga, the Hawaii school, The British School,  Russian school....are there slight differences in character I wonder that reflect the different influences of the senior teachers who pass on the practice. Interesting thought....( or not).

Anyway, here's a post from 2011 on Derek Ireland.

In the video, look out for the most stunning Utthita hasta padangushtasana you'll probably ever see (2:12).



Sunday, 22 April 2012


Derek Ireland Ashtanga Led Primary CD and Pranayama CD

I was teaching Vinyasa Krama for much of last week which was fun, an interesting experience but my practice hasn't exactly felt my own all week. I would run through the practice I planned to teach in my morning practice and then half demonstrate/instruct, half practice along with the 'student' in the evening.

I don't know, teaching.... I'd like to do some more, almost feel a responsibility to do so now, to pass on what was shared with me but at the expense of my own practice? I'm accustomed to practicing twice a day, it's a luxury I know...the more students the less time there would be to practice. Ashtanga is a little different perhaps, a fixed sequence, but Vinyasa Krama takes a little planning. But then when I first started teaching, whether as a TA at Uni or as a Schoolteacher or TEFL in Japan, I would spend ages planning lessons/classes, by the end though I'd come up with something on a quick trip to the bathroom or on the way class (just sketch the outlines and allow space for improvising in class, riff off each other). I guess I spent a long time designing teacher training programs when I was a trainer but that was different, even then the courses became pretty much routine after teaching them a few times.

It's a concern though.

Of course if the time ever came when I had enough students to give up work and teach full time (hate the idea, depending on yoga for my livelihood worries me more than a little) one would assume there would be more time to practice again. I'm not convinced, it's no doubt hard to say no to anyone asking for lessons and before you know it your teaching constantly with no time for your own practice or if you do, you fit one in it's with upcoming lessons in mind.

I'd like more time to practice not less, more time for longer pranayama, for longer sits, for more study...

Anyway, I was given Derek Ireland's Primary CD, much better than an apple, thank you. Was looking forward to getting home and practicing with it on Saturday after work. As it happen I ended up with a flat and had to push my bike home, practice was the last thing I was in the mood for.

On FB I asked mentally "Derek, to be gentle" .....wrong teacher, wrong CD, Derek is old school, a fast full on practice.

That said Derek Ireland's practice runs to 1:42 which seems slow, compare it with Sharath's Primary in an hour. That's partly because there are a couple of extra postures in there, a parivtta parsva konasana variation where the arm goes under the leg and binds and then Hanumanasana and Samakonasana are squeezed in after the Prasarita series.

There's a nice focus on dandasna which gets echoed throughout and a pause before each jump through to 'set' yourself up. Time too for an extra breath or so to bind the tricky postures if you want it. It's not exactly a beginners led though, you'd need to know the practice and be practicing for a little while but it makes for a nice led and with a slightly different focus than anyone else. All the led DVD's are useful  every now and again if your practicing at home, everyone has a different take on the practice. I'm still getting a lot out of Richard Freeman's but this was a refreshing change.

I'd expected to suffer a bit, Vinyasa Krama is a slower practice but perhaps it's two weeks of green smoothies but I found the practice comfortable, felt strong and fit but then Vinyasa krama is deceptively demanding.


While I'm mentioning Derek Ireland, I picked up his pranayama CD a while back, this is the Ashtanga approach to pranayama, or perhaps the Ashtanga Pranayama Routine (coming to a shala near you perhaps once Gregor's pranayama book come out in a couple of months) little different than how I was taught by Ramaswami but interesting and highly recommended (here's an outline, pretty much as I remember it on the CD). It goes through Ujaii, nadi shodana (alternating nostrils), sitali... each exercise separated off by a few deep breaths and inhalations, a nice , pre practice routine (pranayama seems to come before asana practice in ashtanag as opposed to after in vinyasa Krama).

I like Derek Ireland, wasn't sure when I first saw the video below with the thong and flowing locks (that WMG seem to have blocked) but his personality comes through on his cd's, he doesn't take himself too seriously, there's a warmth and generosity and even a gentleness from the big man.

Here's a little look at one of his classes


****

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Derek Ireland


I've heard tales about Derek Ireland since I first started Ashtanga, I think he was mentioned as an influence and teacher in the first couple of Ashtanga books I worked with. I've seen pictures of him, one quite iconic of him standing on a cliff somewhere with this long hair of his blowing in the wind. I bought the John Scott DVD, too advanced for me at the time, probably still is, he was Derek's student and often mentions him. I never got managed to see any video's of his practice until Dom linked to this one on FB.

It's a beautiful, powerful practice ( check out the Utthita Eka Padasana, strewth) and yet there's something sad about the video, has that old home movie feel about it, he passed away in 1998. 

It would be easy to dwell on the 80's European swimwear (especially in light of the recent shortsgate) but lets not, the video was uploaded by his family and it would be nice to respect that.



Independent.co.uk


Obituary


Peter Guttridge 

Monday, 28 September 1998
IN 1988, Derek Ireland, the charismatic yoga practitioner who was largely responsible with Radha Warrell for introducing to Europe the "aerobic" yoga called astanga vinyasa, accidentally blew himself up with camping gas canisters on a Greek island. He was severely burnt on his legs and arms so a Greek doctor peeled the skin off. "He peeled my hand which really hurt because of all the nerve endings. My lateral ligament was sticking out like an onion ring," Ireland recalled later.
He was flown to London for skin grafts. On arrival the doctors wrapped the burns in netting and plastic bags and bandages then left him for a few days before starting on the grafts. Whilst waiting, Ireland did head and shoulder stands. "It was the Olympics so I turned the television upside- down and watched it for an hour at a time." Seven days later the doctors took the bandages off. The skin had healed. "No scars, nothing. But I felt tiny because I'd no prana left from healing this thing."
"Prana" in yoga is the breath of life - the life force - and it was the power of the breathing exercises ("pranayama") that first drew Derek Ireland, a former Brighton and Hove football apprentice, to yoga.
"I'm not into meditation," he said. "I don't believe in chakras or kundalini. I'm not a guru worshipper - I know they've grown wise but they're still only human and all they know is some southern Indian village. I got into astanga vinyasa yoga for the combination of breathing and movement."
Ireland was a walking testimonial to the health and fitness properties of the form. Tall, deeply tanned and muscular, he radiated vitality and energy. To see him demonstrate the yoga, accompanied by throbbing pop music, was an eye-popping experience. He combined grace and fluidity of movement with strength and remarkable gymnastic ability.
He clearly believed if you've got it flaunt it. He did the demonstrations in designer knickers and his own yoga practise six days a week wearing only a thong. On his daily run he generally wore nothing but trainers, the thong and a personal stereo.
He got away with such shameless exhibitionism by dint of his genial charm and a willingness to laugh at himself. A warm, caring man, he had a quick sense of humour and a ready laugh - a wonderful, deep, basso laugh that filled the "sweat box" at the Practice Place in Crete or the "yoga shack" on the beach in Goa where he was an inspiring, hands-on teacher to hundreds of students over the years.
"I like to work hands on - I look on my teaching as bodywork therapy," he said. One of his students had over 50 broken bones but was on the second series (the yoga has six levels or series, each one increasing in difficulty). It didn't matter to Derek how good you were, all that mattered was that you were willing to try.
Derek Ireland was born and raised in Brighton. A "ferociously competitive" athlete at school, he was apprenticed to Brighton and Hove Albion football team when a severe knee injury playing rugby ended his hopes of a professional sports career.
When punk came along he spent five years promoting the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Stranglers along the south coast and took fully to the rock and roll lifestyle. He started conventional yoga with his girlfriend Radha Warrell after "living off my memories of my sporting triumphs for ten years". Thereafter he did yoga almost every day.
In 1978 the couple moved to Los Angeles where Ireland was supposed to take a band on the road. "It was to be Foreigner, then the Tubes, then Ozzy Osbourne. In the end I didn't take anyone - I think because they thought I was wilder than the bands."
Two years later the couple went on a one-month teacher training course to a Shivananda yoga retreat in the Bahamas. They stayed six years to run the place. During that time a visiting Shivananda swami from New York introduced them to astanga vinyasa, a vigorous form of yoga that had been rediscovered in the Thirties by Patthabhi Jois in Mysore, who claimed it was the original yoga from which all other hatha yogas had developed.
In 1986 Derek Ireland moved to New York to teach it - in the absence of premises he ran big open-air classes in Central Park until the park authorities moved him on. The following year he and Radha spent six months with Jois in Mysore, then began to teach the form as he had passed it on to them all over the world.
In 1991 they opened the Practice Place, a centre devoted to astanga vinyasa, in a secluded bay in southern Crete. The Practice Place quickly established itself as one of the most important yoga centres in the world. Many of the numerous classes now available in Britain are run by Derek and Radha's former students. More and more people have taken up the yoga, including such celebrities as Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sting, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Demi Moore.
Ireland's ebullient manner and deliberately non-spiritual approach to yoga caused raised eyebrows in the yoga community over the years. "I usually do my practice to music - in England I do it to MTV," he said a couple of years ago. "I used to do it with weights on my wrists: that upset a few purists. I also had a weighted jacket but I got rid of that after I did a handstand and nearly killed myself - it slipped down and hit me on the back of the head."
Ireland had lots of injuries, which made his control of his body even more remarkable. He fell out of a tricky posture and severed a nerve once, losing control of his left arm for four years. In consequence, teaching ta'i chi he kept hitting himself in the eye.
In winter he ran courses in a "yoga shack" on a beach in Goa. He attracted students simply by doing his practice on the beach for passersby to watch. The practice would take two hours and within five minutes he would be surrounded by Indians who weren't familiar with this style of yoga. "Some would plonk babies on me for photographs. I tried to stay focused - I only got uptight if they actually walked on me!"
Derek Ireland had started a new phase of his life with Kristina Karitinou and their child Lumiere when testicular cancer was diagnosed and treated. They had another child, Liam, 18 months ago. Cancer recurred. Ireland continued to teach in Crete and Goa in the periods between his treatments with the same care as before. His warmth and ebullience never left him until the breath of life, the prana, did.
Derek Ireland, yoga practitioner and teacher: born Brighton, East Sussex 16 April 1949; married 1998 Kristina Karitinou (two sons); died Brighton 24 September 1998.

***

And an Interview with Kristina where I ask her several questions about Derek.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

"Each one of us bears a personal responsibility to discover the different parts of ourselves and experience life through entelechy so that we can progress to mentally and physically healthy cells of this planet and offer useful elements to our environment through our existence...." Kristina Karitinou

entelechy,  (from Greek entelecheia), in philosophy, that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely potential.

*
Kristina and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Kristina Karitinou is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, and has been teaching through the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois since 1991


Earlier this year I attended a Manju Jois' Teacher Training course in Rethymno, Crete hosted by Certified Ashtanga teacher Kristina Karitinou.  Since that training Kristina and I have exchanged some emails discussing her late husband Derek Ireland and the early days of Ashtanga in Europe as well as it's development. I recently asked Kristina if she would be interested in contributing to a post along the lines of an interview as I wanted to share and explore further those discussions and she kindly agreed. I sent her an absurd amount of questions, I think she's answered nearly all of them as well as being so generous in sharing a large number of personal photographs. 


I think this collaboration is one of the things I am most proud of posting on this blog, Kristina's responses to these questions have moved me greatly as well as filling me with excitement for this practice, for a life of practice . Although there is much about the past here, there is more about the future, about how the past informs the present, the encounter of cultures and traditions, the embracing of heritage....

"Kristina: It is of paramount importance for the practitioners to develop awareness of the cultural heritage of the place they are in. Being in Greece we bear great responsibility towards our ancestors and our roots, so having a small bust of Socrates (on the altar) triggers the energy that surrounds us and constantly reminds us why we actually practice. "Knowing thyself" is the epitome of knowledge, and it should always be there in our practice, in our breathing in our everyday life. "Practice and all is coming" incorporates the true meaning of knowing oneself as this is the only way given to us to actually manage and have some results. Greek and Indian civilizations appear to be connected on a spiritual level throughout the centuries, and they have both set the foundations for the development of philosophical thinking so much in the East as well as in the West respectively. Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us. Both of them have offered a means to free the mind from the conventionality of life as they give you alternatives and they both require freedom of thought so that man can reach the higher level of existence and the ultimate point of liberation and self - fulfilment. Freedom works as a prerequisite while it is the final destination of each of these two methods. Therefore the presence of both philosophies on my alter seemed like a natural thing to do".

Interview/discussion with Kristina Karitinou

Anthony: How did you come to practice Yoga? Who were your first teachers and how did you come to practice Ashtanga?
Linda Kapetaniou 
Kristina: I was first introduced to yoga by a friend when I was about 14 years old. It was Akis Triantafyllou who gave me my first class in hatha yoga. Then a few years later at the age of 19 Linda Kapetaniou was recommended by a friend and thus I started attending her classes in Ashtanga yoga.


AnthonyTell me about Derek Ireland?


Derek Ireland, Crete
Kristina: Derek was a truly charismatic teacher setting the foundations of teaching  and spreading  the knowledge of Ashtanga in Europe, by training teachers and evolving the methodology of the practice. He provided us with the right tools to make the practice understandable to our western mentality. He was an extremely generous, knowledgeable and compassionate teacher, who had great respect towards his students and greatly contributed to the formation of the contemporary yoga teacher image. He was a devoted practitioner himself and would always pay his respects to his guru Sri K. Pattabhi  Jois as he would always stress the importance of lineage. At the same time he was an exemplary father and unique husband always caring about his family, not to mention that he was absolutely gorgeous attracting admiration wherever he would appear. 

AnthonyHow did you first meet him and what were your first impressions?


Derek Ireland in his Yoga Room, The practice place , Crete
Kristina: After practicing for two years with Linda till about Navasana she advised me to visit either  sri K.Pattabhi Jois in India to advance my practice or go to Crete and practice with Derek Ireland. As Pattabhi was on a summer tour at the time I chose to go to Crete. There I met Derek and started practicing with him. I was overwhelmed so much by his deep and thorough knowledge as well as by his presence as a whole.

AnthonyWhat was it like to be taught by Derek, how was he as a teacher?


Kristina: When I first entered his shala I immediately realized the truth and the power of his teaching and it became apparent to me that he had the ability to understand your potential and bring it all up on the surface. He was always keen on making you see the power and strength that lied within you and worked towards making you experience the true possibilities and nature that you might not have been aware of. Myself as a teacher have been shaped by these characteristics of him, and I want to believe that my work also involves some of his teaching style.

AnthonyWhy was he important to the growth of Ashtanga in Europe?


Kristina and Derek wedding day
Kristina: Derek's students were actually the ones who made Ashtanga so popular in Europe. It was with his help that they spread this method and popularized the practice mainly in the Uk. Now, retrospectively, it's hard to imagine how things would have been without his presence.

Anthony: Who were some of his students that we may of heard about.

Kristina: The list is long: John Scott, Gingi Lee, Alexander Medin, Lis Lark, Brian Cooper, Mathew Vollmer, Michaela Clarke ,Annie Pace, Jocelyn Stern, Petri Raisanen, Joseph Dunham, Ginny Dean, Hemish Hendry and many many more.
Derek assisting Gingi Lee, The practice Place

Derek assisting in his Yoga Room 


Anthony: Tell me about ‘The Practice Place’, the Ashtanga community in Greece at that time?



Kristina: The Practice Place, was the first Ashtanga community in Europe. Set up in the UK it had its shala in the South of Crete. This was the place where teachers and students had the possibility to study with Derek and Radha. Derek was the one working mainly with the Mysore advanced practitioners and helped them evolve their practice. The place combined three important features, good practice, good food and accommodation in great surroundings. Most of us had to work our way through our studies there in an effort to learn to offer to this community as this was part of a Karma yoga training. Derek made this possible for us in order to deepen our knowledge and shape a correct attitude towards a dedicated practice.


The Practice Place Kitchen

Anthony: You taught for some time in Brighton, one of the first Ashtanga classes in the UK I believe, can you tell me a little about your experience of teaching Ashtanga in the UK at that time?
Exhibition in London
Kristina: In 1998 I was the first to teach Ashtanga in Brighton at Evolution Center. In 1999 the first Ashtanga community was established in the Natural Health Center in Brighton where I kept teaching up until 2003. At the time there were only a few teachers in the UK and that was when Ashtanga actually started taking off. This was an extremely important period for me, as it set the foundation for my professional career as an independent Ashtanga teacher. It was the first time that I had to work by myself as Derek had only recently departed.

Anthony: Do you feel that there is a distinctive character to European Ashtanga, to Greek yoga in particular…., visiting your shala it felt like an extended family not just the shala itself but teachers, students of yours from other parts of Greece, returning for Manju’s workshop and even further afield, there seemed to be former students of yours from as far as Finland.

Discussion with Manju ( I'm up there in front of the altar)
Kristina: The teaching we received from Derek had always been a way to accept the spiritual differentiation and mentality of each and every practitioner, making thus each member of the community unique and respectable. Our common goal had always been a beneficial and correct technique on the practice while leaving space for personal growth. This must have also influenced the way I teach Ashtanga, giving the feeling that the teacher is an equal part of the community and not just some leader. The feeling you probably got of a big family must have to do with this acceptance and respect for each member while working on a mutual goal of personal development and improvement.

Anthony: How was it to visit Mysore, tell me about your experience practicing with Pattabhi Jois

Kristina: Sri K Pattabhi Jois was a truly wise man. He was a very generous teacher, as when you practiced in his yoga shala you could feel the intensity of his deep knowledge as well as the connection to the teachers of the past. He had the ability to transfer your practice to a deeper level of understanding the asana and all this would come through his own experience of life and all the hardships and strains he had gone through  which offered him a completely different awareness of the practice and the asana itself. He would always work through a deeper part of himself which had been shaped through the good and the bad times of life and had offered him a unique perspective of simplicity and substantiality. At the same time he was a very sincere man and truly industrious while all his students were made to feel part of his greater family and were always offered this knowledge generously. Through all his hard work he managed to contribute to the shaping of a universal consciousness towards a better world. 

Anthony: Do you feel that the practice of Ashtanga has changed, not so much the details of practice but rather the experience of the practice.
Kristina with Liam Ireland, Old Shala, Mysore
Kristina: The experience of the practice seems like a completely subjective issue, as each of us has his own experience while practicing with few common points. However it has become really popular within the last 20 years, with the help of all the senior teachers around the world. More knowledge has been involved with adding more teacher training courses and information in the method such as alignment, philosophy, reference to the past or even anatomy. The practice is getting enriched as more and more is added through further examination and deeper knowledge. As it spreads through cultures and civilizations it is getting richer in cultural elements since this technique has the ability to adopt to various contemporary elements without getting altered or influenced by globalization. It has the unique characteristic of becoming part of all societies, growing stronger and still keeping its core intact.

Anthony: Tell me about Manju.


Manju, Kristina's Shala, Rethymno, Crete
Kristina: Manju is a truly strong Master having kept the technique of traditional Ashtanga yoga in him alive, knowing the preciousness of this jewel. His point of view and karmic position have not been affected from all these years living in the West, on the contrary he has shown a remarkable strength of character and faith to the method. He has also gone through many difficulties which have made him really strong and given him the unique characteristic of fearlessness. At the same time he is extremely optimistic, and this faith and love towards his ethics and virtues offer great bonding power to the community. He functions as a true spiritual father forging personal relationships with his students, standing close to them and inspiring them to further development.

Anthony: ...and Sharath?

Kristina: Sharath is a man who has also worked really hard and was well prepared by his grandfather. He has taken up a huge responsibility and manages to deal with things in the best possible way, bearing in mind how young he is. He is offering an immediate and true approach to the method while trying to maintain and spread the true essence of this practice, which is certainly not an easy task, and demands great amount of concentration, since our generation is constantly bombarded by huge multinational enterprises and commercialism. He has deep knowledge of both the practice and the way to teach it and I honestly believe that he has both the wisdom and the strength to maintain and convey the legacy of this truly big family.

Anthony: Recently you had Hyon Gak Sunim, a Korean Zen Monk, teaching Zen at your shala, an extended workshop. Can you tell talk about your current thinking regarding Ashtanga and Zen
Kristina and Hyon Gak Sunim
Kristina: Three years ago, I had the honor to meet Hyon Gak Sunim and come in contact with Zen meditation. Sunim managed to awaken a deeper level of internal understanding as he has the unique gift to tune and transform the dynamics of the surrounding environment and the people within it. He reminded me the importance of sitting in meditation and use the potential of my existence through chanting with his charismatic presence and his powerful perspective. There is a bond between meditation techniques and Asana practice. The beauty of Ashtanga practice includes a freedom to choose your own spiritual path when practicing the Asana. You can experience more benefits of this technique when you first try to do your meditation and then do your practice. It is true that both the Asana itself as well as mediation on its own involve certain limitations, so much of the body as well as of the mind, therefore a  combination of the two can supplement each other and offer a more complete result. They both function through breathing and they both need the mind to focus on it in order for them to be successful and experienced to the highest possible level. Our body is made in such a way that it can be activated so much through motion kineasthetically, as well as when in absolute stillness, statically, When we practice a Zen or any other kind of meditation there is a need to be aware of the moment, free of sentimental charges. Through this state of self awareness the body gets well prepared to be able to decode to a higher level the information that each Asana and every single breath carries. Meditation and Asthanga practice are two intertwined elements and can offer a more complete result and a broader and deeper knowledge of reality, allowing the practitioner to get the most possible information at the time.


Hyon Gak Sunim teaching in Rethymno Shala, crete
Anthony: I noticed on your alter a small bust of Socrates do you have any thoughts regarding Ashtanga as a philosophy, yoga sutras etc and Greek philosophy?


Screenshot from Alessandro Sigismondi's 'Come Breathe With Us' ( below)
Kristina: It is of paramount importance for the practitioners to develop awareness of the cultural heritage of the place they are in. Being in Greece we bear great responsibility towards our ancestors and our roots, so having a small bust of Socrates triggers the energy that surrounds us and constantly reminds us why we actually practice. "Knowing thyself" is the epitome of knowledge, and it should always be there in our practice, in our breathing in our everyday life. "Practice and all is coming" incorporates the true meaning of knowing oneself as this is the only way given to us to actually manage and have some results. Greek and Indian civilizations appear to be connected on a spiritual level throughout the centuries, and they have both set the foundations for the development of philosophical thinking so much in the East as well as in the West respectively. Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us. Both of them have offered a means to free the mind from the conventionality of life as they give you alternatives and they both require freedom of thought so that man can reach the higher level of existence and the ultimate point of liberation and self - fulfillment. Freedom works as a prerequisite while it is the final destination of each of these two methods. Therefore the presence of both philosophies on my alter seemed like a natural thing to do.

Anthony: Tell me about your own practice how it has developed, changed over the years?


Kristina and son, Goa
Kristina: The part of my practice that has remained completely unchanged through time is the sense of satisfaction and belongingness I get. It;s this point of reference either on or off the mat I daily have and it;s the place where I always return to meet myself. I used to approach practice with a sense of achievement but I have come to realize that these three sequences I have been given are enough for me to work for the rest of my life. The reasons I want to practice is the necessity for harmony, knowledge of my own being, wisdom, health and beauty. Through the practice I get all these elements and points of reference so much in my body as well as in my mind which actually help me do what I do in the best possible way. Practice is a lifelong partnership and friendship developing and adopting in the same way life is developing. I still feel excited and get fascinated by this method and it feels that there is so much to learn that it's too good to be true.


Liam and Dennis Ireland
Anthony: Where do you feel you are now as a teacher and a practitioner?


Kristina practicing along with everyone else, Manju's Led Primary, Crete
Screenshot from Alessandro Sigismondi's 'Come Breathe With Us' ( below)
Kristina: I feel grateful for all these things that have happened to me while at the same time I feel excited about what is about to come in the future.  

Anthony: What are your hopes for your own shala?



Kristina: The hope is that the shala becomes one more home for the Ashtanga community not just for my students and Derek's but as well for the students that love and respect the work of  Jois family.I want it to be a place which will continue to function based on the same principles, transmitting knowledge the same way we received it. The shala environment works as a place for practice incorporating the ancient notion of Gymnasium where the practitioners working on a physical level focused on purification and balancing both body and mind.

Anthony: What are your feelings about the future of Ashtanga in Greece, in Europe and in general?
Kristina regularly Hosts Manju for his workshops and trainings in Rethymno Crete
(that's me jumping back in front of the altar)
Kristina: There is still great potential for evolution and expansion. We need to have more teachers around the world and not only in big cities;  teachers who will be well prepared and have acquired a great amount of practice. There is need for more trained Ashtangis with respect to the lineage and who have adapted the traditional methods of transmitting this knowledge. A strong  universal community setting the physical and mental awakening as their priority will keep commercialization at least in balance, allowing the development of freedom through this practice ,


AnthonyWhat would you most like to communicate regarding your experience of teaching/practicing Ashtanga or life in general…what would you most like to say/communicate to anyone reading my blog.

Kristina: Each one of us bears a personal responsibility to discover the different parts of ourselves and experience life through entelechy so that we can progress to mentally and physically healthy cells of this planet and offer useful elements to our environment through our existence.  Our status both as teachers but as practitioners as well reminds us of the necessity for purification and evolution, not just for our own sake but also in an effort to prepare our world for the next generations. In this method our teachers worked under Bodhisattva mind keeping all the human qualities active in order to  remind us that the strength of our existence lies in this life as it is.
Who am I? Know thyself!

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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