I received an email a few months back from an old student of mine who had moved away from Manchester and although this student doesn’t get to class anymore we still keep in touch about various aspects of their practice.
The email went something like this ..
Hi Matt – I saw a short demo by Sharath Jois online recently and I just wondered if you knew anything about the way he places his feet in upward dog. Is this a new method or just something specific to Sharath
So I tracked down the video in question and checked out just what Sharath was doing with his feet in upward dog. See screen shot below.
Now I must say it was a bit of a quandary for me as I guess I wasn’t sure why Sharath was using this rather particular method of lifting onto his toes. It certainly wasn’t the way I was taught – which is to come onto the top of the foot – see photo of Guruji in upward dog below. I did actually try doing the posture Sharath’s way but it did feel pretty odd and uncomfortable.
I emailed back to my student and said to leave it with me and I’ll ask a few people to see if anyone had any further information. I then set about sending emails out to various Ashtanga friends and acquaintances around the globe to see if anyone could help me out.
Within a few weeks I got back some rather intriguing verdicts and opinions which make for interesting reading. I have chosen not to disclose the identity of the people who gave me the information below, this was my own decision and not theirs.
The person (who gave me this info) has got this from their teacher who spoke to Sharath directly about the foot thing. Here’s the conversation which (allegedly) took place between this person’s teacher and Sharath..
Teacher: Sharath why is it you lift onto your toes in upward dog and not the top of the feet – is this a new method?
Sharath: No this is not a new method. I do this because I suffered from polio as a child which resulted in me being unable to flex my ankles properly, so I’m unable to roll over the toes onto the top of the feet.
Teacher: Oh I didn’t know that. Are you aware that there are some students who are copying your method? What should I say to them?
Sharath: They are stupid.
This opinion came from a student who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the body. This person told me that they did know about the foot thing and had discussed it with other yoga students. Their verdict was this. Some years ago Sharath damaged his lower back on a car journey from Mysore to Bangalore. Anyone who has ever taken this journey before the new road was laid will know the old road was full of pot holes and a potential disaster area for cars and passengers. Sharath had been in a car that had hit a pot hole which resulted in a rather nasty lower back injury. So the reason for the upward dog feet thing was to help with the rehabilitation of the back injury as lifting just onto the toes was a less intensive (on the lower back) variation than lifting onto the top of the feet.
So there you go two rather contrasting verdicts and whilst both of them seem quite plausible I have no idea if either of them are correct. When I next go to Mysore I’ll ask Sharath about this and then I’ll know 100 % which verdict (if any) is correct. I’ll keep you posted.
One thing that this does flag up is that this gives any students who are using this method because they have seen Sharath doing it (without qualifying if it’s actually the right method for them or not) some food for thought.