Tuesday, 1 February 2011

from Thus spake Krishnamacharya inc. Jumping back as a Kriya?

Yesterday I posted Ramaswami's February 2011 newsletter in full. In one section he mentions how Krishnamacharya would, at times, dictate some of his articles. The passage below is from one of these these ( 1967) that Ramaswami translates, it concerns Vinyasa Krama practice. I thought it might be useful to present the different points made about the practice in a more easily referable format. I've tried to separate it up into different points, the italics (mine) seem to expand on the numbered point.

Of particular interest to the Ashtangis might be where Krishnamacharya mentions Plavana as a Kriya ( see points 9, 10 and 16 below). Plavana might be translated as flying or floating. Here he mentions lifting up out of an asana and stretching the legs back and forth before bringing the legs back in and lowering but it seems likely that this would also cover the jump back and jump through that is so familiar to Mysore Ashtanga practice.

Jump back as a a kriya, interesting, no?

The full newsletter can be found under yesterdays post or HERE on Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama site.

'Now let me give a comprehensive treatment of practice krama of yoga...

There are several essential factors that should be kept in view by both the yogabhyasi and the teacher.

1. The student, as instructed by the teacher should check the quality of recaka and puraka (exhalation and inhalation).

Are there any obstructions in the airways? It is mainly because asanas unaided or synchronized with breathing are of no use. For instance, the teacher and the student should check the number of matras (measure of time) the breath takes while inhaling, exhaling. If there is considerable difference in these durations, the teacher should first ask the abhyasi to practice controlled rechaka-puraka even prior to the practice of asanas.

2. Then one should start practicing asanas as per instructions.

There are many asanas--sitting, standing, supine, prone, lying on the sides— there are thus many starting positions. Further there are upside down positions, like Sarvangasana.

3. If the students has a good well proportioned body the teacher can teach the inversions, Sarvangasana and Sirsasana even in the beginning of study.

And such a person should also possess very long and smooth inhalations and exhalations. Further he should learn to maintain the inhalations and exhalations of even duration. If one does 8 to 10 recaka-purakas in sirsasana, then one should practice sarvangasana for the same number of recaka-puraka and of the same duration.

4. Sarvangasana and sirsasana are like the two eyes of yogabhyasa.

These help to maintain “bodily freedom” (sariraswatantriyam) The various vinyasas of these poses also have similar effects. Only by these two poses the acuity of the senses and capacity of the lungs increase. Even as Sarvangasana is an essential pose for persons with heart ailment, it should be done with the help and involvement of the teacher/trainer. While teaching Sarvangasana to such persons, the teacher should stand behind the trainee and at the end of each exhalation should gently nudge the trainee's back a little forward and hold for a second. After about a month's such practice, the trainer should check the strength of recaka, the general health or growth of the body the duration of recaka-puraka and then if they are good should help the trainee stay for about a minute or so. Thereafter the abhyasi should be given rest. If one has some ailment the posture should be repeated two or three times. For instance to an asthmatic doing even half a dozen breaths in Sarvangasana will be difficult. So the trainee should make the abhyasi practice at least 12 breaths over a number of tries. Trying to do many breaths in one go could create some chest pain and discomfort. So, with a relaxed approach in four or six tries one should do the required number of breaths. One should return to the lying down position slowly. The same will apply to obese people while learning sarvangasana, they should be taught the asanas with a lot of care. In this manner the teacher and taught should learn to remain in an asana for several minutes without any doubts about the pose. With sarvangasana and sirsasana other asanas like paschimatanasana, purvatanasana, chatushpada peetam; Parvatasana, vajrasana, Bhujangasana etc can also be practiced.

5. When one starts to learn Yoga, in the beginning the duration of practice can be as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

One can gradually increase the duration. The teacher should check the breath every day and then increase the duration of practice.

6. Whatever be the posture, if one could stay for a long time without the limbs going to sleep (or numb) or any pain or discomfort then such a practitioner is known as jitasana (the conqueror/master of an asana).

While staying in an asana one should not unnecessarily shake the body, bend or contort or move and if one can stay for hours then such a yogi is a jitasana. We learn from the works and sayings of yogis that in the olden days the rishis, every day would remain in any one asana for three hours and do pranayama and meditation. Then if the yogi is able to remain doing long inhalation, exhalation and kumbhaka without feeling any kind of fatigue and for a long period of time such a person would be called “Jitaprana” or Jitaswasa, or one who has conquered the breath.

7. Remaining in a posture and gazing at one's favorite (ishta) icon and experiencing a feeling of bliss is called “trataka”.

It is of two types, anta and bahi. To gaze at an outside object like an icon is external trataka. Closing one's eyes and 'imaging' the object internally and continually focusing attention in between the eyebrows is the antah(r)trataka or internal gazing. One can practice this between one to ten minutes.

8. In the yogasana practice it is good to include a Mudra as well everyday.

Mahamudra and Shanmukhi mudra may be done.

9. Further one should do a kriya called plavana (jumping/stretching).

For instance, remaining in the same place after a particular asana practice, one may place the palms on the floor, lift the body and then stretch the legs one by one. Then in recaka one should bend the leg and in puraka return to the floor If one stays in an asana for a long time, the muscles could slightly cramp and the plavana would help restore the muscles attain normal tone.

10. The yogabhyasi should practice asana, pranayama, mudra and kriya together even from the beginning.

Only then all the benefits mentioned for the varied asanas will accrue. Likewise if one by Pranayama becomes known as Jitaswasa, and then by meditation is able to conquer the mind such a yogi is known as jitamanaska. All the three are necessary.

11. One should practice the same duration for both asana and pranayama and then twice the duration for dhyana or meditation.

12. In the olden days the sages did yoga on three occasions everyday, at dawn, noon and dusk.

13. The time and regulation in Kumbhaka are essential.

14. With regulated time,one should practice all aspects of yoga, like asana, kriyas, pranayama and mudra.

One should do a few asanas that one enjoys doing for about 15 mts and then do the pratikriyas or counter poses. For instancee one may do 15 mts of sirsasana followed by 15 mts of sarvangasana,. Or perhaps 15 mts of viparita dandasana followed by 15 mts of uttana mayurasana.

15. Asanas like sirasasana done while the body trembles or unsteady will not be beneficial.

Done correctly, it helps to maintain prana in sushuna. Without proper practice one will not get faith in Yoga, nor will one get the benefits mentioned in the sastras.

16. One should know the kriyas (like plavana) and there is a relationship bertween asanas and plavana (jumping/stretching) kriya.

17. As mentioned earlier, one should bring under control the body by asana, with recaka kumbhaka the prana and by meditation or dhyana the mind.

For dhyana it may beuseful to choose a charming icon'

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