Sunday, 7 August 2011

Vinyasa Krama drop back, feet together, come up on exhale.

Had a bit of a shock this morning.

I was checking out the dropback in Ramaswami's book The Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, it appears in the 'On your feet sequence' on p20. I noticed that Ramaswami writes,

"During the exhalation, move back slowly to tadasana"

Exhale? Exhale back up out of a dropback, out of a backbend? Surely he meant come up on the inhalation.  I thought I'd mention it to him latter, thought it was a printing mistake.

Then I checked Kapotasana, p182,

" ...and as you breath out, return to the starting position and then to vajrasana sthitti".

Again the exhale!

I'd learned to come up from backbends on the inhale in ashtanga and it seems to make sense, in fact we often say ride the breath back up.

Thinking about it though, inhaling is all about lifting the chest but as you play with backbends more the attention shifts to the pelvis, to the legs, you push down through the legs and push your hip forward...

exhaling is good for pushing.

So I tried and you know what, it kind of works, in fact I think I might prefer it. Not saying that ashtanga  is wrong just that the Vinyasa Krama approach is different. Wonder when and why Krishnamacharya changed his way of teaching this.

If that wasn't enough of a shock another penny dropped.

The dropback appears in tadasana, the On your feet sequence....

the feet are together.

So not only am I working on coming up on the exhale I'm nowtrying to do it with the feet together, tricky.

Here's my first attempt, almost there but I needed to tap off the wall. The second attempt I fell out of it over to the side, very strange and unstable having the feet together.

Which reminds me, on the course Ramaswami mentioned that kapotasana was done with the feet, legs, knees together in Vinyasa Krama, which makes sense as in VK it's approached from vajrasana.

Vinyasa Krama, not so easy .


  1. haha, Vinyasa Krama, not so easy. I love it. Feet together you say? I have still been doing my drop backs with my feet apart.. Feet together is a lot harder. I bet the knees are suppose be together too but that sounds like craziness.

  2. I think your probably right about the knees being together, lots to work on, sooner or later I'm going to. Have to give that knees together Kapo another try, not looking forward to it. Try coming up on the exhale Chris, be interested to hear how you find it.

  3. As I was checking the Bow seq. yesterday, there was the concept of "langhana kriya", it is also "reversed" breathing, but somehow different to your current post.

  4. Thanks for the reminder K. That's for someone who might be overweight or unfit if I remember but I wonder if there's a connection, must look at it again, seem to remember he talks about langhana kriya in 'Yoga beneath the surface'.

  5. ha, wow. What do you know? changing the game all over again... at least for Kramis!

  6. OK, just watched the video... gee, looks a tiddy bit dangerous

  7. Dear Grimmly
    I noticed reading in the book about the feet together in the dropback and did not know what to do, when relating it to the way in ashtanga. I wonder what it does to the function of the back. Teachers say that feet aligned are better than splayed out. Splayed out is considered bad for the muscular skeletal system. But Ramaswami's book places the feet close to each other.

  8. Hi Claudia, Arturo. curious isn't it. K's feet are a little apart in the Makaranda. takes a lot of control to drop back with the together like that, let alone come up, not much of a base but doable. the coming up on the exhale is really interesting, really encourages you to push on down through the legs.

    The second one I did, M. was filming and I fell out of it over to the side, slammed my arm and hand dow as I was taught in aikido to take the energy out of the fall but on the floorboards it sounded quite dramatic. , freaked her out a bit.
    Sorry honey : )

  9. Hi Arturo. The fun of the anatomy guys is that no matter how you have your feet, straight or splayed, together or apart, heels up or down there's going to be one of them expressing horror with a sharp intake of breath. Bit of a surprise coming across that though, can you imagine trying your first drop back that way. It's a problem with vinyasa Krama we have Ramaswami's book but there's no room for discussion on working towards the more challenging postures and of course not so many VK teachers around. But then you do what you can and after a while a few more become possible, less pressure perhaps because of the less dominant role of asana.

  10. I think it is also worth to re-read again the Namarupe issue 2011-05, the Richard Schechner interview, as I can remember there is several times stated that inhale/exhale rhythm is also related to one's physical buildup (like on page 6, K also told him while he still had the belly, he should move on the exhale).

    It would be very nice to address these questions to Ramaswami in e-mail on a regular basis, if he is open, so he would be able to answer them in his monthly newsletter, I'm pretty sure that would be the most efficient way, although I can imagine as Krishnamacharya taught one by one, there are more answers to one question...

  11. Dear Grimmly, can I have a technical question as well? Could you please setup an RSS feed for the comments or put a last comments box on the main page of your blog? Wonderful comments are coming in (related to older posts as well) all the time, and now it requires more and more effort to find them :) Thank you!

  12. Ramaswami has a contact email address on his website K. and of course he's sometimes able to answer questions on the Vinyasa Krama FB page.

    Happy to oblige, I've added a subscribe box/feed box to the page, that's what you meant yes? Also tried to add a recent comments widget, not sure if it's working yet.

  13. Excellent, thank you! Already subscribed to it :)

  14. I realized that ustrasana (camel) is also instructed with closed knees in VK.

  15. Did you try it K? bit unstable, i can get away with that but dropping back into kapo is very hard, as if kapo isn't hard enough. Think we have to build up to doing all these with fee together.

  16. Yes, definitely! I did the VK way, I liked it very much, especially the later subroutine, how the vinyasa is built up going into virasana, I always had problems with that, but here everything is so prepared and presented step by step, so this was my best hero pose ever with knees kept together, which was impossible before.

    Ps. For me everything is hard in VK, I mean the really slow breathing in harder asanas, but I like it. I see this as a complete system know, which is not a marketing slogan at all.

    I think I don't really understand your last sentence, but if you intended to write, that we have to follow the instructions and in the meantime we will strengthen, than I fully agree.

  17. I am currently re-reading The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga and in it no-one does the feet together drop-back. Their feet are always slightly apart but I think you right, it should probably be done with the feet together.

  18. It's one of my favourite things about Vinyasa karma, K, the way the vinyasa is built up, each posture leading on from the next. you see it in Ashtanga a little, at the beginning of primary leading up to the difficult marichiyasana D and at also at the beginning of 2nd series with the back bending but in Vinyasa karma that progression is everywhere, love that.

    By my last sentence I meant start with the feet apart and then work on bringing them in a little closer each time until they're together.

  19. Your right Chris, on p20 her feet are a little apart, at least her toes are, but then your supposed to start in tadasana sthiti (feet together) and then go up and over so it makes sense for them to stay together.....if possible. t's doable but tricky, takes lots of control, glad I learnt to do it feet apart first though.

  20. Some questions, a little bit off topic, sorry for that, I was thinking about where to put them...

    1. I went through the Posterior stretch, in Paschimatanasana Ramaswami writes, that exhale should be longer than inhale. Why is that? Did he explain the reason behind that during the TTC or somewhere else?

    2. About tadasana. Read the book several times and still don't know the proper way I think. When streching your arms with interlocked fingers, do you pull down your shoulders and keep out somehow from your ears?

    3. In tadasana when arms raised and opening the chest I'm trying to push the hips forward and lift the pelvis up, still at the end of tadasana I feel uncomfortable in the back of the waist, it is not a pain, but somehow a strange feeling.

  21. Put the questions anywhere, M. suggested I turn them int a FAQ.

    1. perhaps your thinking ashtanga where the inhalation and exhalation are supposed to be the same. In Vinyasa karma postures are held longer, paschimottanasana in particular, ten minutes is suggested. With that amount of time you can really inhabit the posture, work on the breath, the band has, becomes a little like pranayama. in pranayama you would have perhaps a five second inhalation but ten second ( or longer) exhalation. Think that was kind of the idea. On the course we stayed in pas chi for ten minutes, engaged band has and practiced long exhalations, quite powerful stuff. ten minutes is long, try three and then five. Supposedly Ashtanga used to have ten second exhalations and you would stay in a posture for eight breaths. there used to be four variations of Paschimottanasana, if you do the math your pretty much getting on for ten minutes.

    2. I raise my arms up, stretching all the time, interlock my fingers and give that last bit of a stretch, I try to keep my shoulder blades drawn down my back but that might just be a carry over from Ashtanga. There wasn't that much on alignment. My feeling on alignment is get the general idea of a pose and then let the body work out the best alignment over time.

    3. i don't think it's so much pushing the hips forward as lifting them up. on the course Ramaswami had us work in pairs and take turns placing our hands on each others hips and lifting up as we stretched into tadasana and then holding/pushing the hips up throughout the hold and even as we lowered, the die seems to be to keep the hips lifted throughout the series, constantly trying to remember to keep them lifted. Tricky, but something to work at over time. this and pushing the sacrum forward in paschimottanasana were the only hands on 'assist' Ramasami had us do the whole six weeks.

    Remember this is Vinyasa Krama, no Ashtanga or Iyengar police to worry about, it'll come/improve over time.

  22. Many thanks, I will focus on that lifting thing!

    As for the inhalation/exhalation, yes, absolutely, you're right, this comes from my Ashtanga practice. I have to read the book also keeping this question in my mind...

    Unfortunately the book does not really covers the pranayama session, I'm doing something I learnt before on an Ashtanga class, but again, that also has got somehow the ratio of 1:1:1:1.
    I already checked your Pranayama subpage, also learnt that Ramaswami's other book covers this topic, but again, too much threads running parallel, so I slowed down again :) (Actually I'm doing Nadi Sodhana in a wrong way, because I'm not alternating the nostrils, using only the right for inhale, left for exhale, how bad...)

    Cannot be thankful enough...