Thursday, April 14, 2011


Garbha Pidasana is the Embryo in the Womb Pose, and is part of the Ashtanga Primary Series.

It's basically rolling around on the back nine times clockwise while in the lotus position. First, one takes lotus. Then the arms are wedged behind the knees. The hands cover the ears for five breaths while you balance on the buttocks. Then the hands are placed over the face, and you rock around nine times in a clockwise circle.

At least, it used to be nine times.

When I studied with ashtanga vinyasa yoga guru Pattabhi Jois, from 2000 to 2008, he would call out the pose. Once we'd assumed it and held it for five breaths, he'd say, "Nine times rounding!" and we would go around nine times while he counted to five (most of the ashtanga poses are held for a count of five).

In 2008, in Mysore, when Guruji was still alive but not teaching anymore, Sharath (Guruji's grandson), told us to go around five times - not nine. Of course I did it his way in his presence.

But later, I asked Manju (Guruji's son, who teaches in America and with whom I've studied for years) how many times we should rock around. "It doesn't matter," he said.

To recap:

Guruji: "Nine times rounding!"

Sharath: Five times (as of 2008)

Manju: It doesn't matter

As I said on Grimmly's blog, I prefer to go with the guru.

Lino Miele
put it best, in a workshop he taught in Chicago last year:

"Once the guru dies, everyone goes like this," he said, spreading out his arms. "I don't want to go like this."

Lino - who wrote the book with Guruji - also addressed why we rock around nine times in the pose:

"Because of gestation. According to Pattabhi Jois, when the baby is breach, by doing this you put the baby at the right position."

Read the rest of my review of Lino's workshop here


  1. Since the workshop with Lino, I role 9 times again. This workshop obviously had an influence on my practice. :) I like the symbol of 9 months and it feels good to role 9 times. 5 times is a bit less, but doable.

    Thanks for your profound information, again.

  2. I was taught nine times. I've heard their are some teachers in the Ashtanga world that have been saying "things are changing" because Guruji is dead. How rude.

  3. dear CK, when you say follow the Guru, to you mean only PJ? or can we interpret it to be the person you feel is your Guru, in the real sense of the word, your main teacher? so for some that might be M. or S. or L. or R., etc. maybe i'm playing on semantics, but there is room for interpretation.

  4. Oops! I thought it was clear from the context that I am referring to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois as the guru of ashtanga vinyasa yoga, who was entrusted to teach, promote and keep the practice by his guru, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, and that this post is about the system as he taught it.

    Who is or is not my personal guru does not play into this particular post.

    But from what I understand, guru parampara (lineage) is not necessarily hereditary.

  5. this cracks me up. i like manju's answer the best. of course if you go to his mysore classes when he comes here nothing at all seems to matter!

  6. I'm definitely in the Manju lineage. I don't even count! I'm not sure how many times it takes me or whether the count varies, but I go back on the exhale and rock up on the inhale.

    I think the main point of paying attention to this or that is the specificity of concentration, ie, if it's one pointed it doesn't matter what the point is.

  7. in the BIG scheme it really does NOT matter. i think i'm kind of with you boodiba. manu is indeed delightful. sharath is not.

  8. Hey Bindi,
    One of the few Pure practitioners who will still talk to me (I was branded a traitor for defection from JC back to my first teacher), IMd the other day and asked if I'd visited Sharath at all. I burst out laughing.

    Ahhhh, too funny. I love a lot of the people who still follow him, but I don't personally subscribe.

  9. this issue is so silly all it does is clutter up the mind. students often freak out on the amount of salutations to do. "oh my god!!! was that 5 or 6?" it does NOT matter! my mantra is
    when in doubt, do another one! if you can't even remember, maye the yoga is not working.

    yoga citta vritti nirodha
    it's supposed to be the cessation of the fluxuations of the mind. so the debate has no meaning.

  10. Bingo!

    Although, if one followed SKPJ's oft-repeated directive - "Only one guru taking!" - there would be no debate or chitta vritti.

  11. I like the famous quote, "If the breath I'd correct, the asana is correct."

  12. boodi-u rock. so do you cara. and mollydolly. and arturo. and ursula. & 50ft. thx ladies.
    GREAT post.
    i remember guruji saying "taking 2 gurus is like taking 2 wives. it makes you crazy"