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Protesting Youtube Sivananda Videos

Posted Mar 07 2009 3:23pm

This channel contains some high production value, but otherwise horrible videos of someone teaching a Sivananda class in some detail. There are MANY errors and just listening to the chants makes me a little ill that this has such a wide audience. Here is my reply and request from the people at “Expert Village”:

Hello. I write this in the spirit of being constructive and at some risk of being perceived as negative. The teachings of the Sivananda organization are not being served up for the general public in these videos, even as they are presented as doing so.

Further, many of these things are on a level of quite hard to understand the 'why' behind them. I was hard pressed to determine for a time if this was a parody or not.

I only needed to watch the first opening chant to know that this person is NOT a teacher who heard or knows any of the chants properly, first of all, and after viewing the content in the remaining videos I shudder to consider how this clearly newly graduated teacher might be adversely affecting the long and traditional integrity of the 50 years of Swami Vishnu-devananda's organization by their teaching given the numerous other errors in the techniques both in the demonstration and the instruction. Swami Vishnu-devananda invented yoga teacher training courses and yoga vacations, one would think he could get a better representative teaching on Youtube than what is taught in these videos.

Now, when I say Swami Vishnu-devananda I mean 'Swami', not Schwami. This is beyond my understanding, truly. Swing is to Schwing? A swami is a renunciate monastic person, but I cannot say what a schwami is. Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnu-devananda are not schwamis!

Swami Vishnu-devananda knew the Beatles and flew over Belfast with Peter Sellers and flew over the Berlin Wall when they killed people for that. He was a peace missionary and amazing world teacher starting ashrams throughout the world and carrying a mission of teacher training to propagate peace and love in a strongly traditional Classical Yoga tradition. It's like calling The Pope a name like "Pops" or something silly like that! Unbelieveable!

I am a teacher in the Sivananda lineage, having lived at a ashram (Hindu monastery) in the Sivananda gurukalam in California for 3 years full time. During this time I was a teacher of yoga teachers during the Sivananda Teacher Training Course and the head hatha yoga teacher for the entire ashram, training staff and new teachers.

So, I would have been a teacher hopefully helping this featured teacher to become the full expression of a yoga teacher as taught by this lineage that I am quite proud to be a part of, and I am currently authoring a book on yoga.

Kindly refer to my website at to back up my expert perspective on this, and kindly request that you please remove these videos from circulation.

Just the Maha Mritunjaya mantra video itself is almost a mockery of the sacred chant- so much so that it's very much like a long misheard lyric to a rock song (Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy comes to mind), only this song is the sacred Maha Mritunjaya Mantra. Also, there are no endings without beginnings, so I must protest the lack of a proper insertion of the Gajananam prayer at the beginning, which I do not see present anywhere in your video list.

My fiance', whom I encouraged into getting her Sivananda credential in India this last year, sent this to me as though it was a sort of laughing matter, but I found myself fairly horrified about what was being taught.

I say this with respect toward the people who produced these videos, as they are clearly devoted, yet just choosing to feature an inexperienced teacher, however earnest.

In no way could this final chant video (and the content of the other videos, apart from the production quality) be considered meeting the following statement: "Expert Village is dedicated to bringing you the best informational videos on the Web, with each video being well researched and created by trusted sources."

Frankly, I would want to be sure this teacher had some further training before appearing in front of a camera, especially around technical things to say or not say, and how to say them with regard to chants, which are, to be fair, massacred.

I am personally willing to assist this teacher in furthering her knowledge so that the videos can be improved and people can get a genuine sense of what a Sivananda class is about, if she would deem this helpful.

I would like to point out the numerous incorrect technical errors made during these videos, putting aside for the moment the pronunciation, some of which will injure people:

All of Surya Namaskar instructions: The feet are meant to be together in each part of the pose where they are in the same forward/back places. This means: Steps 1-3, Steps 5-8, Steps 10-12.

Uttanasana Forward Fold: Emphasis is placed on having the hands forward (I understand why, but it is not correct to teach exactly this way without explaining why)- putting the palms forward is more subtle instruction and therefore more advanced to teach. By not emphasizing having the hands in line with the toes, the student's hands aren't set up in the fixed hand position for the remaining portions of the Sun Salutation.

Full Surya Namaskar Sun Salutation: Both the demonstrator's elbow poke way out during the first step of the Sun Salutation, which is incorrect and shows a neuromuscular pattern her initial instruction to supinate the hands was intended to alleviate. So which is it?

Both of the heads of the demonstrators drop way back during Step 2 of the Sun Salutation, and this is not correct either. Demonstrators MUST show poses done really properly, especially on videos.

The demonstrator on the right during plank has the feet apart.

"Caterpillar up into cobra".....?

In Step 3, "the hands come beside the feet" is not descriptive enough or tell enough information about what the person should ACTUALLY do, which is to line up the fingers and toes with one another- nor does the teacher properly let them know (she also doesn't do this in the Forward Fold video as she properly should have) to bend the knees to leave the palms flat on the ground where they lack flexibility, as does the demonstrator on the left of my screen.

Position 1 Headstand Variation with One Leg: The person doing the headstand leaves out about 3 steps of the progression of how you come into the headstand, which should be quite a bit slower and with more control, just to start; her head is positioned in a way that will result in neck pain over time, as it's too much having weight toward the forehead, cricking the neck- so I wouldn't recommend this be modeled in an incorrect fashion as this will result in hurting people, especially if they follow the model of the demonstrator shown here. This is extremely important!

The person demonstrating really lacks any control in the headstand, yet they are complimented for coming into and out of the pose improperly by the teacher!

Position 2: Sarvangasana/Shoulderstand: "the lower she walks the hands towards the shoulders the more support she will have." This is not only incorrect, it's irrelevant. It's the movement of the elbows that matters here, not the hands as much.

Position 4: Matsyasana/Fish: you don't look at your toes first, and no description is given for what the demonstrator does about lifting the chest up using the arms. It should be said "inhale pushing the chest up with the arms and dropping the head back to barely touch the ground". The feet and legs are relaxed here, not reaching through as was described, as they have nothing to do. If they are tense then the low back is tense and it should be totally relaxed. Savasana should ALWAYS be mentioned coupled with "relaxation pose", as many people don't get the sanskrit names.

Position 6: Cobra/Bhujangasana- it's the forehead that is down in this pose, not the chin. The chin is only down in the locust pose- salabasana. It's the first of three in the backward bend series, not the back series.

Position 12: Trikonasana: There are several problems here:
a) never use your feet to adjust in any pose except Scorpion pose, and then reluctantly.
b) Moving the hips back while in the full pose with the hands to the feet or knee is dangerous. Always have people come out of the pose, straighten the hips properly and come back into it. The way this pose is entered into is incorrect. It has 5 steps:
1) Set the feet
2) Set the hips
3) Set the hands
4) Move the hand down the leg until the stretch increases on the side of the body to comfort.
5) Relax by putting some weight on the outside hand- the one on the knee or foot- gradually.

c) The way this pose is described brings people to make the same mistake again and again- they think this pose is about reaching the feet and they compromise their hips to achieve that. This pose is about the hips and quadratus lumborum relaxing. The demonstrator should show the basic pose and only then the advanced pose she's capable of, where many people are not.

d) No mention of the second part of that pose, nor of why the left side is done first (ascending and descending colon- ascending is on the left).

Savasana (Corpse) Pose/Final Relaxation: we don't lay in Savasana to "release lactic acid". We do relaxations between every pose for that. We do Savasana at the end for a meditative experience. We also be sure to mention ONLY positive aspects in final relaxation, as opposed to any suggestion of possible negative aspects like "competitive thoughts of the day".

I could go on and on with this technical deconstruction, but it's late and at this point I hope you see that there are just SO many flaws in these videos, both factually and just what is properly known through my long experience. They've been up many months too long.

Kindly let me know if there is something I might contribute along the lines of having a really quality instruction in Sivananda Yoga put up on Youtube.

My apologies if I have offended anyone, yet I simply could not remain silent on seeing this great teaching be so ham-handed.

Regis Chapman
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