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


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