Sunday, 6 December 2009

Krama a pose in here and Krama a pose in there

Loved this comment on the last post, it makes a valid point. You start adding an extra asana here, an extra one there and you could end up with a series bursting at the seams.

It's had me thinking the last couple of days of why I want the flexibility to add poses in the first place.

3rd series was part of it. It's a nice series but I'm not sure I want to practice it. Now you know I love arm balances, but for all the wrong reasons. However, for a guy they're perhaps the least challenging kind of asanas; we're designed for them. Besides, after only a month of 3rd I could feel myself starting to bulk up. I tend to put muscle on quite easily and feel it just gets in the way of other postures, the twists for example. Twice a week was bad enough, four days a week and my Mari D would be right out the window and wouldn't have a hope of Purna M.

There are a lot of asanas in Third series I like, some I practiced in Vinyasa Krama earlier in the year and some I just find beautiful as well as challenging. In Vinyasa Krama these poses would just show up towards the end of a Sub routine and it seemed to make sense to have the option of slotting them in at the appropriate place in the Primary or Intermediate.

This morning, being my day off, I had an extended practice, Primary to Baddha Konasana then all of Intermediate. After the 2nd series LBH I just slotted in the LBH asanas from 3rd then carried on to Titthibhasana. This seemed to work OK, only added an extra ten minutes on to the practice and just took the LBH a little further. Perhaps next week i'll do a similar thing with back bends after kapo.

One of the things I missed about Vinyasa Krama was the wide range of asanas and variations. As it happens most asanas are represented in Primary to Advanced A, but obviously with less variation. Sometimes I feel like I want more twisting postures say, and this flexible approach allows me to add some. In Vinyasa Krama there are some twisted versions of Paschimottasana, for example, and occasionally it might be nice to slot them in.

Ramaswami writes about having a clear plan for your practice and this seems to be the key to making this approach work. I know too many extra asana will over burden the Series and it will no longer be what I love about Ashtanga.

The idea then is to have days where I add a small group of asanas I want to work on, Standing poses from 3rd say (perhaps my days off), and days where I add the odd variations because I feel like working on a particular area of my body or indeed of the practice.

And of course there's nothing new about Ashtanga VInyasa Krama, I'm sure people have been practicing this way at home ever since the Ashtanga came west. It's useful to give this approach to practice a name though and look at it as a separate style, kinda fun too. Over the next few months I want to locate each of the Primary and Intermediate asanas in their Vinyasa Krama Sub-routines to improve my familiarity with the variations available.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama

So I know I get peoples backs up sometimes by suggesting that what I practice is Ashtanga, so how about I call it something else, that way nobody gets offended.

But what to call it?

Well that was easy, there it is at the at the top of my blog already. I'd intended the title to Suggest Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama practiced at home, now I take it to mean Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama TM... at home

So what IS Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama TM?

Well I'm glad you asked.

1. Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama TM is a 'new' style of yoga (about a week old)

2. It has it's roots in Krishanamcharya's Mysore palace yoga as presented by his student Sri K Patarbhi Jois in his book Yoga Mala. As well as in the Later yoga of Krishnamacharya as presented by his student of 30+ years, Srivatsa Ramaswami in his book, The complete book of Vinyasa Krama.

3. The practice is based on the framework of the familiar Primary and Intermediate series of 'Ashtanga'. However, it's Vinyasa Krama element is found in the way poses and/or subroutines are occasionally added before or after the traditional asana of the Ashtanga series.

Thus Hanumanasana may be approached after the parasarita series of Standing either on it's own or as part of a Vinyasa Krama Sub-routine. Natarajasana may be added after Utthita Parsvasahita. Akarna Dharnurasana A and B from the Vinyasa Krama Asymmetric routine as well as Ashtanga 4th series may appear before the Leg behind head poses of Intermediate. Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana after Kapotasana, Parsva Bakasana after Bakasana, Viranchyasana B after the Janu's and Urdhva kukkutasna after kukkutasana ETC. All these additions or preparation poses and others beside are deemed acceptable in Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama.

4. However it is suggested that too many variations and additional poses may have a detrimental affect on the integrity of the framework series and thus only a small number of variations should be considered in any one practice.

5. It is suggested that the traditional Primary and Intermediate series be practiced once a week each, without any additional asanas to 'ground' the framework.

6. It is also acceptable to drop subroutines from the framework Ashtanga series to make room for the desired Sub routine from Vinyasa Krama.

7. It is suggested that Asana practice last between 60 and 90 minutes and is followed by 30 minutes of Pranayama, Meditation and even Chanting if you like that kind of thing.

7a. However, Shorter practices are of course acceptable and no doubt just as beneficial, if not more so, than the longer practice. Swenson has 15, 30 and 45 minute variations that can be used as alternative frameworks for a flexible Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama short practice TM

8. The main focus of the practice is the breath, long steady inhaling and exhaling, between 5 and 25 breathes per asana depending on the stability of the asana, and the engagement of the bandhas.

That should be enough to be going on with while I rush out, print T-shirts and try to engage Bikram's business manager the Spaghetti Monster.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Knee injury and Vinyasa Krama

I wrote this draft two weeks ago but forgot to post it. (Where it says a month ago read six weeks).

About a month ago I injured my knee and posted about it here. Nothing too serious, just an old injury from twenty odd years ago that plays up in the cold sometimes. I'd ignored the signs and walked around London all day. The following morning I could hardly stand.

My Practice, what about my Practice.
I couldn't really bend my knee so that was most of Primary out of the window and half of Intermediate. If this had happened last winter I would have been devastated, I hadn't come to Ashtanga from another style of yoga, Ashtanga was all I knew, as it was I was still thinking, 'What if this is it and I can't practice Ashtanga anymore'.

Luckily this year I'd come across Ramaswami's Vinyasa flexible Krama. Flexibility is it's middle name. OK, I made that bit up, but it should be it's middle name. Hell of a lot of asana variations in Vinyasa Krama, the system is designed to be adapted to the needs of the yoga practitioner.

So I took it easy for a couple of weeks adapting my practice, then added a few modified Intermediates, dropping asana that affected the knee and adding a couple of others from VK.

With more thought I could probably have added asana that work similar areas of the body as the ones I was cutting. As it was I kept it simple and took the opportunity to add asana from Vinyasa Krama routines that are less well represented in the Ashtnaga series. Parsva Bhangi (side poses) for example. Also Purva Tanasana (anterior stretch poses) In Primary we just get Pursvottanassana. From Vinyasa Krama's Supine sequence I added Apanasana (Pelvic floor poses) and some light Dwipadapitam (desk poses) which were easy on my knee, as were a lot of the shoulder stand series from Supine. I added these to finishing, to take up the slack from dropping Urdhava Padmasana, Pindasana and Matsyasana as well as Baddha Padmasana, Yoga Mudra and Utpluthi. When practicing Intermediate I added most of VK's Bow routine and went backbend crazy followed by long Paschimottanasanas with the different VK hand/arm variations. To Sirsasana I added a lot of the VK Inverted subroutines, there are some asanas that work on the knee but being upside down you can approach them much more lightly.

Best of all I felt I had Vinyasa Krama to fall back on. If I couldn't do Ashtanga anymore I could always practice Vinyasa Krama and that would be just fine, more than fine. What wicked wit and gifts had had the power to seduced me back to Ashtanga anyhow?

Vinyasa Krama doesn't have Jump backs and Jump through, other than at the very beginning and end of a sequence. Not being able to transition became less of a drama than it might have done a year ago. I used the extra time to really slow the breathing down and stay longer in an asana as well as repeating. Can't do Marichiyasana B and D that's OK repeat A and C, Can't do Karandavasana (misery) then do Pincha twice and stay up there longer, breathing more slowly.

Last week I was pretty much back to Full Intermediate bar a couple of obvious knee centric asana. With the extra time that gave me in the morning I worked a little more on Kapo and Dropping back. This morning my knee felt fine enough for a loose, full lotus and even Utpluthi, the only Asana I missed out was the left side of Vatayanasana.

UPDATE : My knee is just about back to normal, copes fine with Full Vinyasa Primary and Intermediate. I'm back doing Vatayanasana on both sides, Garbha Pindasa and with a lotus tight enough again to jump back from Supta Vajrasana. The only thing I find is that for longer periods of Meditation and Pranayama I find it best to sit in half rather than full lotus, at least until the weather warms up.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Exploring Pranayama

This is just a post about my own evolving Pranayama practice, for a more detailed treatment try here.

Last time I posted on Pranayama (excellent just worked out how to do the link thing on blogger) it was Viloma Ujaii, the alternating nostril/throat technique and Kapala bhati, the panting fire breath thing.

This time it's Kumbhaka (retention) Pranayama. I think this is my favourite, the alternating nostrils techniques become confusing (although I still do it for five rounds or so), I find it hard to keep the count and for an extended period my arm gets tired (ahh bless). This is a much simpler but arguably more intense version.

You breathe in and retain the breath, you breathe out and hold the exhale then repeat. That's pretty much it.

It becomes interesting when you start slowing the whole thing down, long, slow steady inhaling and exhaling. I started off with a count of 5:5:7:5 inhale,retain,exhale,retain and now it seems to have settled on 10:7:10:10. I can't seem to even up the inhale, after breathing out so slowly and then retaining the breath, the first part of the inhale is a little fast. Supposedly the retention after the exhale should be a little less than after the exhale, tried it and it evened up my inhale. now its 10:10:8:10

It gets very interesting when you bring in the bandhas and this is why it's my favourite. I've been focusing on Intermediate lately and it just doesn't feel as grounded as Primary, less seated poses I suppose, which I find are the most comfortable for engaging the bandhas. It used to bug me but now I know I'll be doing this at the end of the practice, so I'm much happier.

This is how I approach/experience the bandhas. Towards the end of the exhale (2/3) I let myself become aware of the slight lifting sensation of moola bandha I begin to focus on it and intensify it, drawing it up. As it gets as 'raised as it's going to get uddiyana bandha has begun to become slightly activated, my lower abdomen drawing back towards my spine and up.

This next bit is an added extra . At the end of the exhale I draw my abdomen all the way up creating a cave beneath my ribs and then draw in at the sides as if I were about to perform Nauli Kriya (which I do last few breaths on the video). I tend to hold it for a count of five and then slowly relax it in readiness for the inhale.

It's much harder doing the whole nauli thing when your seated, as opposed to standing and bent over with your hands on your knees. After a few breathes it starts to become a little easier though.

At the moment I'm spending about 15 minutes on pranayama, a couple of minutes on kapala bhati, about five rounds of Viloma Ujaii and the rest of the time on this.

Anyway that's how I'm approaching it at the moment, obviously you wouldn't do this after eating or drinking anything.

Why do it? I love the focus and concentration involved in this. You get much more in touch with the whole bandha thing enabling you to employ them more effectively in the asanas, seems to have been a great help for karandavasana and of course the jump back and jump through, Bakasana B is another that comes to mind. I also find it very calming and use it throughout the day, though without the full uddiyana and with a lighter ratio.

When I do it at work I just sit up straighter with my legs wider as if I'm trying to ground my perineum more and then off I go, though with a much quieter Ujaii to avoid attention.

It's still very much work in progress but as I've said before I'd rather drop a couple of asanas from the series if I'm rushed (though not from finishing) than cut back on the Pranayama. Meditation I might cut back to five minutes followed by the Pranayama chant, then do a proper seated meditation and chanting when I get home but I'm finding I want to do more Pranayama rather than less.

Tried to catch the sound of my breathing but mostly caught the sound of the plumbing (no that's not my stomach rumbling ).

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Long headstands

Before anyone jumps straight to the video I should point out that it's the yogic equivalent of watching paint dry, nothing happens, no really, NOTHING happens. The only source of mild amusement and possible interest is scrolling the play bar back and forth to watch the clock in the corner move and perhaps the uddiyana bandha. What with my dodgy knee it's a slow news day here.

I did a ten to fifteen minute Sirsasana on Sunday and it felt pretty comfortable. I liked how I was approaching the count, 25 breaths up 25 back down, so thought I might see about staying up longer today, 30 minuets, perhaps even an hour.

Annoyingly the video stopped recording before anything interesting happened, seems my camera only records for fifteen minutes before cutting out. Going by the count I figure I was up about twenty to twenty-five minutes when I noticed my toes and feet were going numb. I tried flexing them, rotating my ankles, some side and backward/foreword splits to get some circulation going. I'd done the inverted VK routine a few times in the past and been up in headstand for about forty minutes or so, but while your up there you doing all kinds of asanas so perhaps that's why I didn't experience any numbness then.

I decided to call it quits and see if anyone here can shed any light on this. Now I've heard that you can build up to two hours headstands and I'm sure somebody commented here once that they'd done an hour with the Darby's. So what's the story, is this something that passes? Any suggestions? I was doing some intensive breathing while I was up there, deep breathing, engaging the bandhas, is that a good thing or a bad thing, should I keep the breathing soft and light? What do you think?

Now I don't necessarily want to stay in headstand for two hours or so, but I like the idea of a comfortable 40 minute inverted meditation.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Playing with Vinyasa Krama arm positions as prep for Dropback and Kapotasana

Played with back bends this morning. A kind of back bend focused Vinyasa Krama practice. Taking a break from primary and intermediate for a couple of days until my knee clears up (see last couple of posts).

So practice this morning consisted of a couple of long Sury's, three breaths in each stage then a 25 breath Uttanasana. Part of the Vinyasa Krama Tadasana routine followed, including the back stretching and different behind the back arm positions. I've mentioned these before. I like how they seem to open up/stretch different areas of the back and especially how reverse prayer brings back the shoulders. They give nice support as you bend back into them too, allowing you to stay back longer and work on the quality of your breathing. From them I went into a couple of dropbacks and then filmed part of the routine.

Then it was a 25 breaths Paschimottanasana, part of the VK Bow routine including Salabhasana which led up into Kapo through its 2nd series prep, again employing the VK reverse arm positions to see what effect it had. It was OK didn't reach my heels though. Wish I'd remembered to try the taking turns with an arm outstretched routine I used in the dropback on the first half of the video, next time.

After than I did a quick shoulder stand prep and a 25 breath Savangasana followed by a ten minute Sirasana. I used my meditation timer, turns out that counting up to 25 long slow breaths (nice bandha engagement when upside down) and then back down again is about fifteen minutes. Count up and down again and that's a half hour headstand.

I finished with a 25 breath Maha Mudra right side only (so as not to bend my left knee) ten minutes Pranayama, twenty minutes meditation and about another ten minutes chanting.

Really enjoyed it, nice practice, came out at about an hour and a half.

Forgot how much I enjoy the freedom to explore that Vinyasa Krama invites. Think I'll keep one day a week for exploring the sequences and subroutines some more.

The video below explores/plays with the Vinyasa Krama reverse arm positions as prep for dropping back and for Kapo.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Knee's still playing up.

As I mentioned before in the last post it's just a throw over from an old knee injury. It tends to play up a little in colder weather. Plus I was walking a lot on it the other day. I felt it playing up but didn't take any notice of it and carried on walking all over London., my own fault for not listening to what it was telling me.

This morning I did a very light Vinyasa Krama type practice, focusing around a couple of Key asanas (Uttanasana, Paschimottanasana, Sarvangasana and Sirasana plus the odd prep pose). I then did Maha mudra on the right side and then Pranayama, Meditation and a little Chanting (PCM). I did the PCM with my right leg in half lotus and the other outstretched, seemed to work OK

Thinking a Vinyasa Krama practice again tomorrow, perhaps the bow Subroutine and lead on into Shalabhasana, and Kapo including it's prep. Then some serious Urdhva Dhanurasana dropback work, haven't done enough of that lately. Want to turn the knee issue into a positive and make the most of the time I can't practice Ashtanga proper. Of course I could do Primary or Intermediate avoiding knee affecting asanas but I tried that earlier in the week and it just fell unsatisfactory, and irritating.

Feel quite upbeat about it actually. If this had happened last year I think I would have felt pretty down about it, couldn't bear to miss a mornings practice, even begrudged the rest day and never took moon days. Since the Vinyasa Krama stint I'm much more relaxed about it all. I kind of feel I have a better understanding of what's important in my practice, the breath, those long exhales, my focus on the bandhas and the PCM. As long as I'm able to cover a few key asanas for 30 to 40 minutes it doesn't really matter.

I practice Ashtanga again because I enjoy the form, find it challenging still and because I can. I practice it with pretty much the same Vinyasa Krama focus which is in the spirit of Yoga Mala. I'm still fit and strong enough to do an intensive practice and while I still can and I enjoy it then I might as well. But it's what's inside that form that really seems to matter to me now.

I'm reminded of how Krishnamacharya told Ramasawami that if he was practicing for an hour then he should practice forty minutes of Asana and twenty minutes of PCM. Doesn't seem to matter which asana you practice so much (other than the key asanas mentioned above), but rather how you practice them. And besides, being away from Ashtnga proper for a couple of months doing VK didn't seem to impact detrimentally on my Ashtanga practice, it's all good.

Friday, 23 October 2009

A real pain in the....... knee

So way back in the mists of time I put my knee out in an Aikido accident and ended up with water on the knee. That would come and go, eventually leading to an operation to remove some non-cancerous tumors on the synovial membrane about twenty five years ago.

As the years have gone by the knee would often 'go out' and I'd end up with fluid on the knee again. One memorable time it happened shortly after arriving in Florida to visit a girlfriend. Not wanting to go straight back home, I spent the whole two weeks hobbling around on crutches with a bag of frozen pees strapped to my knee consuming copious amounts of Vodka to dull the pain, ahhh the folly of youth. I had to quit several jobs because of it and in Japan when practicing Iaido I had to skip the Seiza (kneeling Kata ) altogether and just practice standing butchery.

So one of the great joys for me of Ashtanga has been that despite all the pretzel poses I've never had any problems with my knee. There was a little stiffness, I seem to remember, last winter but nothing that hindered me in any way.

This week however, no doubt because of the cold weather it's really playing up again. It's not swollen and there's no fluid. I don't seem to have jarred it or twisted it in anyway, it's just started to hurt like hell. It's the left leg on the right side of the knee. It seems to have come on since Tuesday when I went to London and was walking around all day (ahh, just remembered that bit, so that's why).

It was hurting when I woke up Wednesday morning and yesterday also. I managed to get through Intermediate the last couple of days avoiding anything involving the knee too much, Supta V, left side of Bharadvajrasana etc. But today was Primary.

Primary is not the series to practice if you have a dodgy knee, just nowhere to hide. Thankfully I learnt Ashtanga with the Swenson book and had all those variations to full back on, but it was a depressing and unsatisfactory practice. (my Primary, my beloved Primary!).

I'd forgotten about the walking around on Tuesday until just now. I'd begun to think that I was doomed to agonising winters and limited practice every winter.

Anyway yesterday I bought something called cura-heat. It's a knee support bandage that has a little pocket you can put a heat pad in. The heat pads I know from Japan, wonderful idea, you just open the packet and the air activates the pad causing it to warm up. You put them in your pocked to warm your hands and some of them have a peel off sticky strip that you can stick to your clothes where you have muscle ache.

I put it on this morning before practice but it didn't seem to help and just became irritating. The bandage itself isn't bad, much lighter than the usual sports bandages. Come to think of it it seems to be good for apres practice. I'm wearing it now and my knee feels fine.

Anyone have any other ideas, rubbing with caster oil? Please don't tell me I need to go and have needles stuck in it.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Developing a home practice part 26b. Vinyasa Krama Lessons in a Yurt

Lesson Two of Four

So the first lesson had gone well, pretty much what I'd hoped for, the second lesson was going to be on the Supine sequence, my favourite. The first half of the sequence your laying on your back, a lot of leg to chest variations and desk poses, the second half is all shoulder stand variations, it's a long sequence.

We started with some some of the On your feet sequence, the side poses we'd missed from the day before and then went into the lead into the Supine sequences. All the vinyasa krama sequences have a lead in of some sort, usually a variation of the Sury namaskara or the Jump through. The Sun salutation is a little different from that in Ashtanga, here each position is held for three breaths instead of an inhale or exhale in Ashtanga. For Supine instead of coming up to standing you jump through to sitting and then lay down. Interestingly in downward dog you have your feet together and the preferred jump through is straight legged, though as with most things in VK it doesn't seem to be dogmatic. I'd learned the straight leg jump through a few months ago but hadn't practiced it that much and had lost it again. I should probably get it back, it's easier (less effort) than the 'half Kino' crossed leg, half handstand that I do and thus less chance of disturbing the breath.

Two things my notes for this lesson stress again and again are bandhas and anchoring. I'm looking at the first page of the Supine sequence now, and notice for the Pond gesture (Tatkamudra), the first pose after the lead in, 'Exhale completely. Anchor your heels, tailbone, arms and back; press down through your palms and draw in the rectum; pull in the lower abdomen in and toward your back. hold the locks for five to ten seconds.' and in the next pose the Belly twist ( Jataraarivritti) 'Anchor your pelvis, especially your tail bone.......'. Anchoring, good thing to hold in mind throughout your practice especially when you think that yoga is all about achieving stability and steadiness, mentally and physically.

We stopped at the shoulder stands leaving that section for the next lesson and moved on to some Pranayama, Kapalabhati. I tend to practice this in my Ashtanga practice just before Utpluthih (did I get that from the John Scott DVD, can't remember) but here it seemed to be practiced much slower. This is the one where you breath sharply and suddenly through your nostrils, kind of like a snort. You automatically draw in the breath in preparation for the next 'snort'. Here we did 3 rounds of 36, the first round with the hands on the knees whether in Lotus or crossed legged, the second with your hands raised and linked palms up and the third with the hands dropped back on to the shoulders with the elbows up (this seems to work best for me for some reason).

One moment in the lesson that amused me, was while laying in Savasana, after Supine. S. started to chant and I had to bite my lip to stop myself from bursting out laughing. It wasn't that I was laughing at S. but rather at myself. Here I was, laying in corpse pose, naked but for a skimpy pair of shorts in a Yurt and someone was sitting cross legged a couple of feet away fully dressed chanting over me...... if my Father could see me now.

As it happens I'd started to become interested in the chanting already having listened to some of Ramaswami's chants on his site I'd downloaded them on to my Itouch and an had been humming along for a couple of weeks. I liked S's chanting and took home a copy of Pam Hoxsey's Yoga Sutras with it's chant sheets in the back that S had lent me as I didn't have lessons the following day . He also lent me one of Ramaswami's other books 'Yoga for the Three stages of life' which may well be one of the best book ever written on Yoga, more on that another time.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

When did yoga take over my life?

I get up before dawn and do an hour and a half of Ashtanga or Vinyasa Krama followed by half hour of Pranayama, Meditation and even some chanting of the Yoga Sutras. My morning shower is shared with my yoga towel as I rinse it out for the following morning. Cycling to work I'm listening to some of Ramaswami's chants, chanting away with him cheerfully as I cycle through town.

In my lunch break I'm reading the Upanishads or the Gita and as soon as I get home from work I throw down the mat again and do an hour or so of Yin and some more meditation. In the bath I'm reading Roberto Calasso's Ka (Indian mythology novel type thing....what the hell is this book anyway).

I eat lightly, because of Yoga I have a splash of red wine filling the glass up with sparkling water and let the chinchilla out while reading Sankara's take on the Sutra's or perhaps Yinsights or some such yogary thing.

In bed, before I fall asleep I'm looking at Ramaswami's sequences in preparation for the mornings practice.

When did this happen. It used to be an hour of Ashtanga in the morning, some Vippassana in the afternoon and my reading, mostly Heidegger, some cool novel or perhaps some Livy in the bath. I'd play my Sax, listen to some Jazz (when did I last put on a Jazz CD) while working on some Vintage Saxophone. I'd cook, sipping on a nice Red and I'd watch Lost, Dexter or Mad men in the evening while Nietzsche (the chinchilla) ran around. I'd maybe go to Oxford or London on my day off.

Tried to write to a friend this week, she'd told me what she'd been up to and I had no response that wouldn't sound the same as what I'd written to her the week before. At least then I'd been able to tell her I'd been practicing Yoga in a Yurt.

I need to get out more.

What happened to this guy?

PS. Great Karandavasana this morning, or at least the lowering part was, really slow and tight. going up pretty much the same as usual, up but not pretty. oh and did i mention my Kapo..........

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Vinyasa Krama Hands locked behind back sub-routine leading to drop back

The 'hands locked behind the back' sub-routine is part of the 'On your feet' Vinyasa Krama sequence. In the book the sub-routine comes early, before the forward bends (after the hasta variations in mention in this post ) but I like to do it at the end of my standing forwards bends and lead it into a drop back. This is before my first Sury of the day. After the drop back I do some complete forward bends stretching up and back as far as I can and then folding over. This leads into my long Uttansana and then finally the Surynamaskaras.

I like how the hand positions give you support as you bend back. I never used to be able to hang back for more than a few seconds because I wasn't able to take a breath, this routine has helped me overcome that. I think it's helping with my Kapotasana too,

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Vinyasa Krama Kapotanasana ?

Didn't make it to the Shala this morning. Woke up at 5am but didn't need to be at the station until 6;30 so allowed myself to doze, next thing I knew it was 6;45. Spent the next two hours trying to decide what to practice at home.

I found myself a bit confused, this morning, as to where I was going with my practice. I'd settled into a nice Vinyasa Krama routine, over the last couple of weeks that was evolving and developing nicely. But then I'd practiced that Primary on Tuesday evening on a whim, and loved it ( Plus there were also those amazing videos of Laruga's practice on her blog ). As I was planning on visiting the Shala this morning I practiced Ashtanga for the rest of the week, trying to practice it with Vinyasa Krama in mind, slowing it down, focusing strongly on the breath and finishing with some Pranayama, meditation and even some Chanting.

Reading Yoga Mala again in the week I found those elements stressed by Ramaswami in Vinyasa Krama to be just as emphasised by Jois in his book. Ashtanga, though dynamic as a result of all the full and half Vinyasas still advises long slow, steady inhaling and exhaling and plenty of it. It also recommends you stay in key poses for extended periods, just as Vinyasa Krama does.

Ramaswami recommends that you study and practice the sequences in his book until you've learned them and then develop a practice that best suits you, choosing from the sub-routines in his book and practicing some key postures daily, finishing your practice with Pranayama, Meditation and ideally some chanting. Krishnamacharya developed several such sequences over 70 years ago that we continue to practice today. Perhaps those Ashtanga sequences aren't for everyone but they do seem to pretty much suit me, for now at least.

And yet I also like the flexibility of Vinyasa Krama. I'm becoming familiar with the asanas and sub-routines now and am more able to, occasionally, add postures to my basic practice where I feel they may be beneficial.

For now at least, I'll continue to practice Ashtanga while keeping Vinyasa Krama (and Yoga Mala) firmly in mind. Slowing the practice down as much as possible, with the breath ever paramount. Because of it's dynamism a certain level of fitness is required and once a week doesn't seem to be enough.

So the new plan is to practice Primary and Intermediate twice a week each and Vinyasa Krama the rest of the week pretty much as laid out in the daily practice plan on the blog side bar. I'll continue changing the sequence on those three days while continuing to learn the sequence and improve my understanding of the sub routines.

So in the end, I decided on Intermediate this morning and it turned into a nice practice. Back bends went particularly well. I added a couple more of the back bend asanas from the Bow sequence and managed to come up from Kapo for the first time in ages. I also came up from Urdhva Danurasana for the first time in several months, something I'd just stopped bothering with. It turned into a long practice though, two hours plus another half hour of PMC (Pranayama, Meditation and Chanting).

This is a long slow Kapo build up with a rest, you might want to jump ahead.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Ashtanga Intermediate Vinyasa Krama style

I've called this post Ashtanga Intermediate Vinyasa Krama style, but in light of the last post perhaps I should be calling it Ashtanga Intermediate, Ashtanga style. Most of what I took to characterize Vinyasa Krama relates just as well to Ashtanga as presented in Yoga Mala. The only way it seems to differ is that Ashtanga is a fixed system and Vinyasa Krama a flexible one.

Anyway, this morning I practiced my first Intermediate in a month. The plan was to approach it the same way I approached Thursdays Primary, with particular attention on the breath and bandhas throughout.

As with Thursday's Primary it came out at 90 minutes, half an hour longer than usual. While I loved the slow, steady breathing in Primary it was not exactly something I was looking forward to in 2nd. There are a lot of poses in Intermediate that your really don't look forward to staying in any longer than necessary, it will take some getting used to.

Primary had been fine on Tuesday, perhaps some loss of fitness but not of flexibility. Intermediate was less forgiving of the month off. I found it hard to stay bound on the left side of Pasasana and while Kapo was one of my best ever I wasn't able to come back up from Kapo B. ( though I'd been comfortably able to come up from Laghu V ). My pincha was unsteady and it took me two tries to land Karnadavasana, I wasn't even close to going back up. My right finger kept slipping off in my solo Supta Vaj and I couldn't land my Bakasana B. The Sirasanas were strong though, which I'd expected as I'd been doing a lot of LBH work in VK. Everything else was pretty much the same as usual, slipping out of Mayurasana and dropping my toe as I rolled over in SUPV.

It was a lot less sweaty than usual, breath stayed more regular and overall I enjoyed it, a slower paced 2nd seems to appeal to me.

The plan now is to practice Intermediate twice a week and likewise Primary, plus three days of Vinyasa Krama. I cover most of the Seated and Asymmetric seated sequences in those two Ashtanga series along with Bow sequence. The the VK days I'll focus on the Inverted, Supine and Lotus sequences along with the standing sequences as warm ups. That way I can keep exploring VK and learning the sub-routines.

Tomorrow I'll practice a long, slow Primary again as it looks like I'm making my third ever visit to a shala on Sunday, first time in over a year and my Primary is rusty to say the least.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Ashtanga Primary in A Vinyasa Krama fame of mind

So as mentioned, Tuesday evening I practiced an unscheduled , spur of the moment Primary. It had been a month, so I practiced along with Kino's DVD and it was just great, mind blowing. I was struck by how fast it was, did I really practice like that, day in day out? Well yes, in fact a little faster even. After a month of Vinyasa Krama with it's long slow breaths it quite blew me away.

This morning I wanted to try and bring Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama together, try and find a middle ground somehow. As I keep saying, Ashtanga is a Vinyasa Krama practice. It's a series of Sub routines and I'd already noticed that my daily Vinyasa Krama routine had taken on an Ashtanga shape. I would start with a couple of Standing sub-routines and forward bends, a Sury namaskara. I might be practicing some seated and Asymmetric Seated sequences, which are pretty much Primary series anyway then moving on to finishing routines, shoulder stands, headstands etc. So my routine was pretty much Ashtanga Primary anyway.

But what about the approach to the sequences. Vinyasa Krama is a very slow practice, patient build up long slow breaths, a lot of bandha focus.

The build up was less of a concern, I'm already flexible enough to be practicing Primary without too much trouble, I feel comfortable going straight into all the primary poses and besides they follow a pretty logical progression.

The breath wasn't as much of a sticking point as I'd thought. Owl had gone on about the importance of the breath in Ashtanga last week. Some practitioners really stress that aspect in their practice. In my own practice I'd focused on the breath a little but was more concerned with completing my practice before work and had got it down to an hour. This morning I decided to try and slow it down from 60 minutes to around 90. I approached the breath as if I was practicing VK, long slow breaths, especially the exhales which I would hold and engage the bandhas on pretty much everything without a twist( Just been checking out breath and bandhas in the book and it seems bandhas were encouraged on the twists as well but you shouldn't be retaining the breath on the inhale and exhale in VK, supposed to save that for pranayama in classic asanas).

That was fine through Standing but became a little harder once the jump backs and jump through came into play. That could be because my fitness has dropped off a bit or that I'd woken with a cold. I suspect though that my half kino Jump through is just too strenuous for a VK style Ashtanga practice. Half way through I began to find it hard to keep the breath long and slow. I think the answer might be switching to the less strenuous straight leg jump through. I taught myself to do it a couple of months ago but lost it because I didn't practice it every day. I think if I can get that back, it should solve the breath issue.

There are a few poses that Vinyasa krama recommends extended stays. Paschimottanasana, Salamba Savangasana , Sirasana and Maha Mudra. I noticed on Kino's DVD that she said we tend to Stay in headstand and shoulder stand for ten breaths, I'd forgotten that. Ten long slow breaths with bandhas keeps VK happy. There's a long Paschimottanasana anyway in primary but there's also one after backbending which is perfect for an extended stay. Mr Ramaswami suggests doing Mahamudra after the practice as prep for meditation anyway so again this fits nicely.

And that's how I approached my primary this morning. Still dynamic but with the breath, bandhas and the longer stay in poses emphasised. It felt like Ashtanga but also felt like Vinyasa Krama.

The next thing is to see if I can do the same thing with my Intermediate. The plan now is two days Primary and two days Intermediate. Plus, three days of the Vinyasa Krama routine with the Inverted, Supine and Lotus sequences stressed along with the On the feet, Triangle and On one leg sequences as the Standing element, that way I can continue to build familiarity with the sequences.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Torn between two lovers

Susan put it perfectly this morning when she said, 'your torn between two lovers'. I looked up ye olde cheesy love song on Youtube.... and then ye olde cheesy lyrics too....

Torn between two lovers
There are times when a woman has to say what's on her mind
Even though she knows how much it's gonna hurt
Before I say another word let me tell you, I love you
Let me hold you close and say these words as gently as I can

There's been another man that I've needed and I've loved
But that doesn't mean I love you less
And he knows he can't possess me and he knows he never will
There's just this empty place inside of me that only he can fill

Torn between two lovers, feelin' like a fool
Lovin' both of you is breakin' all the rules
Torn between two lovers, feelin' like a fool
Lovin' you both is breakin' all the rules

You mustn't think you've failed me
Just because there's someone else
You were the first real love I ever had
And all the things I ever said
I swear they still are true
For no one else can have the part of me I gave to you

I couldn't really blame you if you turned and walked away
But with everything I feel inside, I'm asking you to stay

Torn between two lovers

Feelin' like a fool
Lovin' both of you is breakin' all the rules

So there was talk yesterday of perhaps going along with a friend to a mysore practice in London at the Weekend. It was a bit it out of the blue but I thought why not. Then I thought, bloody hell, haven't practiced primary for a month, need to brush up. So I shifted Kino's Primary back on to my Itouch, chucked it in the speaker and laid out my mat and towel. This was at about quarter to seven last night. The only two thoughts I remember going through my head between then and eight pm were, 'WOW' and 'fast' and perhaps 'oh WOW' and 'Bloody FAST'. And this was Kino, I used practice at Sharath's pace which is a little faster, both primary and intermediate used to take me an dead on an hour each, including Standing, Finishing and my two minute Savasana.

I sweat a kilo and a half. my map was dripping, I was dripping, but I absolutely loved it. There might be some things I question about the practice, but it is marvelous and great great fun. And of course now I'm conflicted.

Originally I'd figured that while shifting the main focus of my practice to vinyasa Krama I would still do Primary and Intermediate one day a week. Then it went down to Primary once a week and then I just seemed to forget about practicing Ashtanga altogether and seemed comfortable with that. But now.....?

Primary is just too great, as Susan said, Torn between two lovers'

And one of them is demanding, very demanding. Primary once a week just isn't going to do it, yesterday half killed me.

So I've been scribbling away, making lists and figure I need to practice Ashtanga at least three times a week, a Primary on Friday, a Primary and half intermediate up to and including Karandavasana on Sunday and a straight Intermediate mid week. The other days can be my Vinyasa Krama routine as usual.

I figure I can slow the Ashtanga down quite a bit, VK breathing and bandha work, include the tadasana sub routine at the beginning in place of two Sury's and finish with the VK winding down beginning with Mahamudra on through Pranayama and meditation in place of the traditional long Savasana. I'll spend an extended period in Shoulder and head stands. I've been practicing Ashtanga too fast anyway, it is a Vinyasa Krama practice, I just need to tweak that aspect out more. I think it's pretty much how many practice their Ashtanga anyway.

Oh and here's Mary MacGregor singing Torn Between Two Lovers ony Youtube, with some really awful lip sync.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Leg behind head sub-routine from Vinyasa Krama's Asymmetric seated sequence

Love this sub-routine, it's from this mornings Asymmetric Seated sequence. It comes up half way through and follows a number of Marichiyasana vinyasa's. The Last two asanas come from the 'On one leg sequence' but I find it easier to practice them here.

And here's the video of the above. I kept it to about three long breaths rather than five or six for the recording. Still not completely familiar with the sequence which shows up in some hesitation here and there. Gets a bit raggedy towards the end, the breath especially which is very un VK.

Savasana looks bloody ridiculous from that angle

Monday, 7 September 2009

Vinyasa Krama Lotus Sequence, favourite asanas

The lotus sequence is quickly becoming my favourite. For one thing it has a bit of everything, twists, backbends, shoulder stands, headstands, for another, it has five of my favourite new asanas from Vinysas Krama.

Here they are in order of preference.

5. Padma Mayurasana

This would probably be my second favourite if I could get my lotus up higher or at even a bit straighter. Was disappointed when I saw the picture, it felt better than this.

Thought it was better today, but not that much when I see them next to each other.

4. Padma Pratikriya
Likewise this one, which again feels great when your doing it and felt much more horizontal that in the picture. Checking the name I've just notice the hand position and mine are all wrong, I've still got them in Shoulder stand position and this is stopping me lowering my lotus any further. In the book the hands are turned outwards with the fingers coming around the side. Come to think of it I think Steve made a point of this in one of our lessons.

Had a bit more success today.

3. Supta Padmasana

This just feels great. You can't see in the picture but my hands are linked palms facing outwards.

2. Padma bhujangasana (Lotus Cobra pose)

Think I was told that this was Krishnamachaya's favourite asana. Another wonderful stretch, why does it feel so good to stretch in Lotus.

1. Bhadrasana (peaceful or auspicious pose )

Love this so much that I've added it to my daily fixed practice and do it everyday before Pranayama. The hands can be further up the thigh or closer to the knee. Gives a really nice stretch to the back and is great for practicing all three bandhas.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Developing a home practice part 26a. Vinyasa Krama Lessons in a Yurt

As I mentioned in Part 25, I'd decided to shift the focus of my practice back to Vinyasa Krama in mid August and already had ten days booked off work for the end of the month. I was struggling with turning Ramaswami's book of sequences into a viable daily practice. After two and a half years of Ashtanga, I needed to keep a clear idea of what it was I was going to be practicing each morning.

I did have something in mind though, I thought I would keep, for now at least, the Ashtanga Standing and finishing sequences practiced in a more Vinyasa Krama way plus a different sequence from the book daily. I tried to organise it so I would be practicing Kapotanasana, Leg behind head and Karandavasana every day. I also wanted to keep one day, my day off, for Primary and 2ND series Ashtanga as I really didn't want to give up practicing Ashtanga altogether. Basically I wanted to have my cake and eat it.

I started looking around for any Vinyasa Krama teachers in the UK and found Steve in Somerset. He had been on a number of Srivatsa Ramaswami workshops and had completed Mr.Ramaswami's Teacher Training course in Chicago a couple of years back. Best of all he also had a Yurt in his back garden and I had a soft spot for Yurts

I contacted Steve and gave him an idea of what I was looking for, a chance to go through some of the sequences and get a better understanding of the practice and to try to work out together a way of approaching a daily practice. We settled on four, 2 hour private lessons. I got a good deal on a room at Bath University staying a campus not unlike my old University in Kent and felt like being a student again, the 50m pool and 24/7 Library were a bonus.

This was actually going to be my first ever yoga lessons, though I'd been to a shala twice before in London for Mysore self practice.

Ashtangi's are used to long hot practices, where we sweat buckets and so dress accordingly. I arrived at Steve's headed up to the Yurt where the mat was laid out ready and started to get undressed. Standing there in my short Nike's I got the feeling for a moment that perhaps Steve wasn't expecting me to strip down so far, Vinyasa Krama is a slower paced practice and he was still fully dressed in sweats, oh well.

The yurt was great, on the way up I had begun to regret asking to work on the Inverted Sequence as I'd always practiced inversions near a wall. Here I was going to be practicing in a larger circular tent. Luckily Steve had what he called a yoga wall built inside the Yurt, so I still had my security blanket.

The first lesson was pretty much taken up with going through the 'On your feet' sequence which is an ideal place to start. It's a pretty much a straight forward standing sequence with a lot of stretching, twisting, back bending, forward bends and squatting postures (including Pasasana). It's an excellent series for focusing on how Vinyasa Krama differs in focus from the Ashtanga practice I was used to. I'd practiced it at home of course and was familiar with the slower pace but here I was being slowed down even further and encouraged ever deeper into the pose. Long slow Ujaii breathing, working into the pose by moving in and out of it on the inhale and exhale, each time going deeper than the last until on the third entry you hold the pose and hold it and hold it and hold it some more. I remember reading about Sharath's workshops (going on in london the same week) On Susan's blog and how he would hold everyone at the bottom of Karanada for long slow counts, well same here except it seemed to be happening on almost every asana. Uttansana was held for five to ten minutes. Steve told me that there were a number of poses that Krisnamacarya had taught Ramaswami to stay in for extended periods, Uttanasana was one of these, tomorrows paschimottanasana was another.

The full 'On your feet' sequence is a long one and took up most of the lesson. Throughout Steve would talk me through the sequence every now and then relating something Ramaswami had said on a workshop or the Teacher training course. At the end of the Sequence I rested in Savasana for a few minutes and then we sat for some Pranayama ( Kapalabhati and Viloma Ujaii) and some Meditation on the breath.

And that was the first lesson, exactly the kind of thing I'd been hoping for. I felt relaxed and comfortable with Steve's teaching and how we were approaching the lessons and was looking forward to tomorrow's Supine Sequence, my favourite.

For Reference

On your Feet sequence
1. Samasthitis 2. hasta vinyasas (arm movements). 3.parsva
bhangis (side poses) 4. ardhauttanasana 5. uttanasana 6.ardha
utkatasana 7. utkatasana 8 malasana 9 pasasana 10. tadasana.
(special sequences from 11th chapter)11.uttanasana-utkatasan routine 12. khagasana 13. suryanamaskara 14. dingnamaskara

Saturday, 5 September 2009

How to turn an Ashtanga practice into a Vinyasa Krama practice for the day

So you've come across Vinyasa Krama, whether here or elsewhere, and feel like giving it a go. You've looked at the book but find so much information your confused, besides you love your Ashtanga, your in a routine and don't want to mess with it too much, your just curious that's all.

Here's a way you can turn your Ashtanga practice into a Vinyasa Krama practice for the day with the least amount of effort or confusion.

In Vinyasa Krama there are a number of Sequences, STANDING ON ONE LEG, TRIANGLE, LOTUS, INVERTED etc. Within those Sequences are sub-routines and in a sense Ashtanga is a collection of these Sub-routines brought together into a series. Within each Sub-routine each pose leads on to the next.

So, some ground rules that could be said to characterize a VK practice

1. Long slow breaths
2. Engaging of Bandhas at end of exhale ( with the exception of twisting asanas)
3. A slow pace to the practice
4. Very few jump backs and Jump throughs enabling you to keep alignment between poses
5. Occasional rests
6. Lead into poses
7. Engage Jalahandra almost throughout (except twisting poses and back bends)

I'll try to keep it as close to the Primary your familiar with as possible.

Before your first Surynamaskara take a moment to stand in Samasthiti and focus on your breath, notice where in your chest you are most aware of the inhale and the exhale. Allow a few normal breaths and then engage Ujaii. After a couple of breaths allow your arms to raise above your head as per usual in Sury A but link your hands and turn the palms upwards and stretch. Allow your arms to drop on the exhale and repeat a couple of times. After about four of these let yourself lightly forward bend on the exhale, not too deeply and then come up on the exhale. Do that a couple of times. Then go into your Surynamaskara as usual but at each stage hold the position for three breaths. So three breaths in Chataurunga and Up and down dog etc.

One Sury is enough. Now drop into Pada Hastasana or Uttanasana but stay there for about five minutes or ten long slow breaths. As a rule your inhale and exhale are the same but in a bend your inhale will be shorter(3-5 seconds), your exhale will be longer and slower (10-15 seconds), at the end of the exhale hold and engage the bandhas before releasing them as you inhale

Utthita tri konasana to Utthita Pasvottanasana is pretty much a TRIANGLE sub routine in Vinyasa Krama anyway, approach each pose gently a couple of time, going in a little deeper each time and hold the third time for 3-6 long slow breaths.

Utthita hasta Padangusthanasana is of course another sub-routine, practice as usual but with slower breaths. Carry on in this way to Dandasana

Once you get to Dandasana, lay down and rest for a couple of minutes in Savasana.

Comeback to Dandasana but before going into Paschimottanasana work into it a couple of times, bend on the exhale and come back up on the inhale, just working yourself gently into the pose. Now exhale into Paschimottanasana and stay there for five minutes or ten long slow breaths, if you want to, engage your bandhas at the end of the exhale but relax them as you inhale. Remember to keep jalahandra throughout.

Now take your Purvottanasana counter pose.

Work through the next section of Primary up to navasana as per usual but without any jump backs and jump throughs, make sure your breath is longer and slower, engage the bandhas if you wish on the forward bends, but not on any of the twisting poses.

Reward yourself with a jump back and jump through.

Take a rest in Savasana after Navasana

Continue through your Primary as usual following these principles, take a jump back and jump through perhaps in between sub-routines say, after Konasana but before the Suptas.

On into finishing as usual following the above principles. Spend a good Five minutes in Salamba Sarvangasana and engage the bandhas if you wish, likewise with Sirasana.

In Padmasana spend a good ten minutes on Pranayama, Kapalabhati 3x36, and then ten rounds of Viloma ujaii if you know them.

If you know any mantras now might be a good time to spend five to ten minutes chanting them

Take a more comfortable meditation pose if necessary and spend ten to twenty minutes in meditation on the breath

And there you have it. Obviously this is a much slower practice so may take twice as long as usual so you might want to drop a couple of sub routines or shorten them to fit it into your schedule.

Remember I'm no teacher and haven't been practicing VK that long, so this is no substitute for getting Srivatsa Ramaswami's book which will of course go into more detail and where you can see more clearly how some of the sub-routines are built up in a slightly different way. However, it should give you a taste for the different pace and focus of the practice though.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Individual Asana sequences in the book. “The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga”

List of individual Asana sequences in the book. “The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga”
Mr Ramaswami included thislist at the end of his September newsletter (see yesterdays post) I include it separately for reference purposes.

Chapter I. On your Feet sequence
1. Samasthitis 2. hasta vinyasas (arm movements). 3.parsva
bhangis (side poses) 4. ardhauttanasana 5. uttanasana 6.ardha
utkatasana 7. utkatasana 8 malasana 9 pasasana 10. tadasana.
(special sequences from 11th chapter)11.uttanasana-utkatasan routine 12. khagasana 13. suryanamaskara 14. dingnamaskara

Ch II. Asymmetric Seated Vinyasa Sequence
15 Lead sequence 16. dandasana 17. marichyasana 18.mahamudra
19. ardhapadmasana 20. akarnadhanurasana/cakorasana 21.
ekapadasirsasana 22. triyangmukha 23. marichyasana(advanced) 24.
bharadwajasana 26. Mahabandha 26. matyendrasana 27.return sequence

ChIII. Seated Posterior Stretch Sequence
28.Suptasana/paschimatanasana 29. paschimatanasana 30.
purvatanasana 31. chatushpadapeetam 32. upavishtakonasana 33.
pratikriya 34. samakonasana. 35. baddhakonasana 36 siddhasana
37.gomukkhasana 38.yoganrisimhasana

Ch IV. On One leg Yogasanas
39. bhagiratasana 40. vrikshasana 41. standing mariachi 42.
uttita-padangushtasana 43. virabharasana 44. trivikramasana 45
natarajasana 46. durvasasana. 47.utplutis

Ch V. The Supine Sequence
48. advanced lead sequence 49. tatakamudra 50.jataraparivritti
(simple) 51. apanasana 52. dvipadapitam 53.madhyasetu 54.
urdhvadhanurasana 55. advanced dvipadapitam 56.urdhva-prasarita-pada-
hasta asana 57. supta padangushtasana 58. supta trivikramasana 59.
yoganidrasana 60. jataraparivritti advanced 61. jataraparivritti
advanced II 62. sarvangasana preparation sequence 63. sarvangasana-
advanced lead sequence 64. akunchanasana 65. halasana 66.
urdhvakonasana 67.urdhvapadmasana 68.niralamba sarvangasana
69.halasana-uttana mayurasana 70 sarvangasana-mandala 71.karnapidasana
72. savasana

Ch VI. The Bow Pose Sequence
73. makrarasana 74. mandukasana 75.bhujangasana 76.
rajakapotanasana 77.salabhasana asymmetric 78. salabhasana 79.
vimanasana 80. viparita salabhasana 81. bherundasana 82. dhanurasana-
asymmeric 83. dhanurasana

Ch.VII. The Triangle Pose Sequence
84. Uttita trikonasana 85. parivritta trikonasana 86. uttita
parsvakonasana 87. parsvakonasana 88. virabhadrasana 89. prasarita
padottanasana 90. samakonasana

Ch VIII. The Inverted posture Sequence
91. sirsasana 92. sirsasana vinyasas 93.urdhva padmasana 94.
urdhvadandasana 95. viparitadandasana 96. mandala 97. niralamba
sirsasana 98. vriscikasana 99. viparita vrikshasana (hand stands)

Ch. IX. Meditative Pose Sequence
100. vajrasana lead sequences 101. vajrasana 102. balasana
103. ushtra nishada 104. advanced ushtrasana 105. kapotasana 106.
virasana 107. simhasana

Ch X. The Lotus Pose Sequence
108.ardhapadmasana 109. padmasana 110. utpluti 111.
baddhapadmasana 112. matsyasana 113. urdhvapadmasana 114.
suptapadmasana-simhasana dynamic sequence 115. garbhapindasana 116.
arm balancing poses 117. padmasana-inversions 118.

Ch. XI. Visesha Vinyasa Kramas
119. vasishtasana 120. anjaneyasana 121. halasana-pascimatana-
uttanamayura sequence 122. utplutis

Todays practice, Basic framework plus Lotus Sequence and some adaptions

Nice practice today, playing with the routine a little, feeling more and more comfortable adapting the basic daily framework.

The fixed daily structure is in Block capitals, and where I've adapted it in italics
The alternating floating sequence of the day is in Red

TADASANA subroutine
A few different hasta variations, twists and a little backbending
Added a dropback

Added in Parassaritta Padottanasana and Uttita Padangustasana sub routine here as I knew I'd be doing the Lotus sequence and thought it might be a good idea.
Did some Godasana variations as I'm working on Hanumanasana

SURYNAMASKARA lead in including a three to six breath handstand

Extra jump back and through here

Added in a Maha mudra here as a prep pose for the Lotus sequence and because I like it so much.

LOTUS SEQUENCE (todays alternating sequence)

108.ardhapadmasana 109. padmasana 110. utpluti 111.
baddhapadmasana 112. matsyasana 113. urdhvapadmasana 114.
suptapadmasana-simhasana dynamic sequence 115. garbhapindasan

JUMP BACK lead in (don't get many jump backs now so try to do this one lifting up from dandasana)

APANASANA (prep. pose 1)
DWIPADAPITAM (prep pose 3)

SARVANGASANA Dropped this because I already covered headstands in Lotus

UTTANA MAYURASANA added chakrasana out (very very neat and controlled lately, perhaps because of all the jalahandra)

Some chanting of the Yoga sutras

Took just over 90 minutes

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A daily Vinyasakrama practice. From Mr Ramaswami's Sept. Newsletter

Given the relevance to my last couple of posts on this topic, I'm reproducing, with permission, the complete article from Mr Ramaswami's September Newsletter.


From September's newsletter

Most of the readers of this newsletter have studied Vinyasakrama Asana
practice with me for varying durations, a weekend program, a weeklong
Core Vinyasa program, a 60 hour complete Vinyasa Yoga program or the
200 hour Teacher Training Schedule. Many people see something unique
about this system, somewhat different from the contemporary mainstream
yoga. Most have read the “Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga” book and
finally ask the question, what next? How can I do a daily practice
from these sequences? There are more than 700 asanas/vinyasas and I
normally recommend doing each vinyasa three times. At the rate of
about 4/5 movements per minute (it could be even 3 per minute for good
breathers), it could take about 8 to 9 hours to do the complete
vinyasakrama. Then my Guru would commend doing a short stint of
Pranayama, say for about 15 to 30 mts and then chanting or meditation
for another 15 to 30 mts, daily. We also have to consider that in
asana practice, there are a few heavy weight poses which require one
to stay for a long time. So it is almost impossible to practice all of
it everyday even by a full time ‘practice-live-and-sleep-in-yoga mat’
yogi. The book was written to give as complete as possible, a
presentation of all the vinyasas in a series of sequences that is
logical and easy to learn, as I learnt from my Guru. It is a book for
learning the system. Any serious student of yoga who would spend years
studying and teaching yoga should have in one’s repertoire as many
asanas, vinyasas and logical sequences (krama) as possible. So, one
should firstly study the entire range of asanas and vinyasas of the
vinyasakrama system from a teacher say in the 60 hr vinyasakrama
program. Then note down all the vinyasas that are a bit difficult to
do. One should practice daily for half hour to one hour as many
vinyasas as possible following the recommended sequence, with special
emphasis on the difficult ones. In about six months to one year of
consistent practice one would be comfortable with the system, the
sequences and especially the required synchronous breathing. This
would complete the learning process. Then one may prepare a green list
of asanas and vinyasas one would be able to do and wants to practice
regularly. There will be another list, amber list which would contain
those vinyasas which are difficult now but one would like to practice
them even if they are somewhat imperfect. Then there would be another
red list which will contain procedures that are not appropriate or
possible for the practitioner—which could probably be taken up in the
next janma. Then it would be time for concentrating on using
vinyasakrama for daily practice and also teaching to individuals for
their daily yoga practice.

Adapting yoga to individual requirements is an art by itself. We must
understand that there is no one standard practice that is suitable to
everyone. In medicine you have to give different treatment to
different patients; what is suitable to one suffering from digestive
problem would be different from the one that is suitable for one who
is suffering from some low back pain. According to an important motto
of Krishnamacharya, yoga for children and the adolescents (growth
stage) is different from yoga practice in their midlife which again is
different from the practice in old age. The body, mind and goals
change during different stages of life. Sri Krishnamacharya’s teaching
is based on this principle as we could discern from his works, Yoga
Makaranda and Yoga Rahasya.
Basically yoga for kids and young adults will have a considerable
amount of asana vinyasa practice -- many vinyasas, difficult poses,
etc. It will help them to work out the considerable rajas in their
system and proper growth (vriddhi). Of course they should also
practice some pranayama and meditation or chanting. For the midlife
yogi, the practice will still include some asana, but specifically
some of the health giving and restorative postures like the
Inversions, Paschimatanasana, Mahamudra, etc., in which poses one may
be required to stay for a longer period of time. There will be more
emphasis on Pranayama and then more meditation, chanting, worship etc.
When I started studying with my Guru I was 15 years old. During the
beginning years of my study it was mostly difficult asanas and
vinyasas. Swing throughs, jump arounds, utplutis etc and other fun
filled unique sequences were the order of the day. As I grew up, my
teacher slowly but surely changed the mix, focus and direction of my
yoga practice. On the last day I was with him (I was close to 50 then)
it was just chanting of Surya Namaskara (Aruna) mantras for the entire
duration with him. During the third stage of life, the old age, the
emphasis is usually spiritual and/or devotional even as one is
required to do some simple movements and pranayama.
And within the group, the daily practice can be varying depending upon
the requirements and goals set forth by the yogi for herself/himself.
For instance, for the midlife yogi, the main goal will be to maintain
good physical and mental health, rather than being able to stand, say,
on one leg or even on one hand (Of course the child in me wants to do
that). He/She would like to avoid risky movements so that the practice
would be safe and does not cause injuries—immediate or cumulative. Too
much exertion (kayaklesa), like several rounds of continuous,
breathless Suryanamaskaras again should be avoided, says Brahmananda
in his commentary on Hatayogapadipika. A few may be more inclined to
have some spirituality thrown in. Many would like to develop the
ability to and the habit of visiting the peace zone of the mind daily.
There are some who are more rajasic or tamasic in which case the mix
of asana and pranayama should be properly adjusted, sometimes taking
care of even the day to day variations of the gunas. It requires some
careful attention in deciding a particular day’s practice. Hence, to
suggest a practice of a set of asanas or a routine for everyone
irrespective of the age, condition, temperament and goal is incorrect.
Such an approach does not take into consideration not only the
versatility and richness of orthodox, traditional vinyasakrama yoga
practice but also does not take the varying factors of individual
requirements. Sri Krishnamacharya’s yoga can appropriately be termed
as ‘Appropriate Yoga’.
However, as a general rule, for the serious mid-life yogi, a daily
practice of about 90 mts to 2 hrs will be necessary and sufficient.
Here is modifiable one. After a short prayer, one could do a brief
stint of Tadasana doing the main vinyasas two or preferably three
times each. It should take about ten minutes. Then one subsequence in
the asymmetric could be taken up, say Marichyasana or Triyangmukha or
the half lotus. The choice may be varied on a daily basis. Five minute
stay in Paschimatanasana and the counter poses may be practiced. Then
one may do preparation of Sarvangasana and a brief stay in it,
followed by headstand stay for about 5 to 10 minutes or more and then
staying in Sarvangasana for 5 to 10 more minutes, if one can do
inversions. Paschimatanasana, Sarvangaana and Headstand are to be
practiced preferably daily for their health benefits. If time permits
one may do few vinyasas in these inversions. One may do a subsequence
of Triangle pose like warrior pose and /or one sequence in one legged
pose. Mahamudra for about 5 minutes each on both sides can then be
practiced. Why are these important? In an earlier article I had tried
to explain the unique health benefits of the twin inversions. . In
fact the inversions, Sirsasana and Sarvangasana are mudras, the
viparitakarani mudras. I remember my Guru asking us to do
Paschimatanasana sequence quite often-- it is said to be an important
pose for Kundalini Prabhoda, especially when the bandhas are also done
and the pelvic muscles/floor are drawn towards the back. You could
also observe that Paschimatanasan helps to stretch all the muscles and
tissues in the posterior portion (as the name of the asana indicates)
of the body where there are heavy muscles--thighs calves, glutei etc.
Mahamudra as the name indicates is considered to be the best/great of
Mudras. It is believed that it helps to direct the prana into the
sushumna as it is supposed to block the ida and pingala separately.
Aided by Jalandharabandha, it also helps to keep the spine straight
Then sitting in Vajrasana or Padmasana after doing some movements one
should do a suitable variant of Kapalabhati, say for about 108 times
and then an appropriate Pranayama, Ujjayi, Nadisodhana or Viloma with
or without mantras for about 15 minutes to be followed by five minutes
Shanmukhimudra and then chanting or meditation of about 15 minutes.
The efficacy of Pranayama on the whole system and mind cannot be
overemphasized. Please read the article on “Yoga for the Heart”, in an
earlier newsletter... It refers to the benefits of Pranayama to the
heart and the circulatory system.
If interested, one may allocate an additional 30 minutes (or practice
at another time in the day, say, in the evening) during which time one
may practice a few subroutines from the other scores of sequences that
have not been included in this core yoga practice. Even though the
book contains 10 main sequences, the reader will be able to discern
more than a hundred asana sequences, each one having a unique
structure. In fact each chapter is a major sequence (wave) of many
specific sequences (ripples), which itself is made up of a few vinyaas
(dops of water). Then the whole book is a mega sequence (tide) of
major sequences in the ocean of Yoga. If you take Tadasana itself,
there are firstly the hasta vinyasas, then, parsva bhangis, different
uttanasanas, utkatasana, pasasana and finally the tadasana. Each
subroutine itself may have anywhere between 3 to even 20 vinyasas. So
there is considerable versatility in the system. It is better to stick
to the integrity of the subroutines (like Ushtrasana, Virabhadrasana
or Vrikshasana for instance), as enunciated in the book. Thus we have
a variable component and a fixed component in the daily practice.
Everyday before the start of the practice the yogi should take a
minute and decide on a definite agenda and as far as possible try to
stick to the agenda. What asanas and vinyasas, which pranayama and how
many rounds and other details should be determined before hand and one
should adhere to it. It brings some discipline and coherence to one’s
practice. It is customary to end the practice with peace chant.

Adapting vinyasakrama to individual requirements can be termed as
viniyoga krama. For instance when my Guru gets a middle aged person or
a nine year old with specific condition like scoliosis, he would
design a specific program to the individual requirement. Almost
everyone who comes to him will have a routine developed which will not
be the one that is given to someone else. I have written about the
family class we had with my Guru when we started learning from him.
During the same time period he would teach different vinyasas, poses
and procedures to each one of us, my older father, my somewhat heavy-
set mother, my supple, talented younger sister, my more challenged
brother and me. One reason why people nowadays look for a definite
routine is because a few of the more popular vinyasa systems have a
very small number of regimented sequences which are taught over and
over again almost to all students. So there is a mindset that there
should be a rigid sequence that is applicable for everyone, but that
is not the way we learnt yoga from my Guru. Firstly the teacher should
learn the whole system and then apply it to individuals as per the
requirements -- pick and choose those vinyasa sequences, pranayama and
meditation practices, dietary requirements, etc.. The question that is
to be answered is what does the practitioner want/need and how should
the yoga routine be designed to get the required benefit. Vinyasakrama
is like a yoga supermarket, and each one should put into the cart what
one needs. And the term Vinyasakrama includes not just asanas but also
other aspects of yoga like pranayama, meditation, etc. It is a
progression of different aspects of Yoga. The Vinyasakrama has a huge
collection of asana vinyasas, a well stocked section on Pranayama,
then the meditation department and a spiritual study/contemplation
section as well. So a lot of initiative should be taken by the
individual consumer, like our practitioner who should take the
responsibility of working out with the teacher how to design an
intelligent purposeful yoga practice pertaining to oneself. To reduce
Vinyasakrama to a standard routine as is done with several other
contemporary Vinyasa systems and put it in a straight jacket is not
desirable. I have explained these ideas to many participants of the
longer versions of the programs and thought to touch upon them for the
general reader who would be wondering how to force the VK elephant (or
a camel) into the needle’s eye of daily practice.

There are some friends who after completing the program take a few
private lessons to tailor-make the VK system to their requirements. We
discuss about their physical conditions and mental makeup, age,
obesity, pulse rate, blood pressure, breath rate and breathing
constraints, general disposition, time availability, stress levels,
etc., and design a routine for their benefit. Because there is a
bewildering array of vinyasas, pranayama methods, mantras, etc., we
have a better choice of designing and fine-tune a program suitable to
the particular individual. If there is problem with VK it is a problem
of plenty.
There are a few serious practitioners who have their daily routine cut
out, but then do the complete vinyasakrama separately say in the
evening for about an hour so that they could go through all the
vinyasa sequences in a span of one week. In vedic chanting, the
Taittiriya saka , consists of about 80+ chapters and it would take
about 40 to 45 hours to chant the whole. Those who have learnt the
entire Taittiriya Saka duing their childhood, have to keep chanting
them all their lives. They do it by doing chanting for about 1 to 1 ½
hours per day so that they could complete it in a Mandala or about 40
days. Similarly Carnatic musicians learn several songs, but for their
practice they take a few songs per day and over a period of several
weeks they would cover all the songs they had learnt. Likewise the
yoga practice can be varied and rich. The rich variety makes it
possible to maintain abiding interest in a personal Yoga Practice at
home. It does not become a chore.
A list of more than 120 asana vinyasa routines contained in the book,
“The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga” is added as a post script. Based
on the discussion above on the criteria for daily practice you may
decide on your daily routine by picking specific asana sequences and
have a unique program made specifically for you and by you every day.
Please stick to the integrity of the sequences in the asana. If you
teach, you may modify them for persons who are sick or physically
challenged. Pranayama, inversions, paschimatana mahamudra and
meditation may be included for sure. You have myriad possibilities.
There is no one rigid universal daily practice routine in Vinyasakrama
as I have explained.

Srivatsa Ramaswami

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