Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Full body Mudras

Decided to repost this from last year as it ties in a little with the Mingus approach I've been talking about the last few days, slowing the practice down at different postures. Here the mudras but it could be at any point, a seemingly simple posture perhaps as well as a more obviously challenging one.


I mentioned in a previous post that I'm using Vinyasa Krama to adapt and moderate my Ashtanga practice. One of the ways I'm doing that is through the use of Mudras.

I'd always thought mudras were hand gestures but it seems there are also full body mudras, some can be found in the Hatha Yoga Padipka

Another word for mudra is lock or seal and the ones here, as they come up in Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga tend to involve engaging of the bandhas.

Ashtangi's are already familiar with mudras. The bandhas (or locks) are mudras, Mulabandha Mudra, Uddiyanabandha Mudra and Jalahandra bandha Mudra, but we're also familiar with the full body mudra, Yoga Mudra in the Finishing sequence is, as it's name suggests, a mudra and not strictly an asana.







Yoga Mudra








Swami Satyananda Saraswati's in his book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, has this to say in his section on Mudras.

'Mudras manipulate Prana in much the same way that energy in the form of light or sound waves is diverted by a mirror or cliff face. The nadis and chakras constantly radiate prana which normally escapes from the body and dissipates into the external world. By creating barriers within the body through the practice of mudra, the energy is redirected within' p424

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I haven't, as yet, bought into the prana/chakra/subtle body model. However I do like how he goes on to say

'The aim is to create fixed, repetitive postures and gestures which can snap the practitioner out of instinctive habit patterns and establish more refined consciousness'. p424

I use them for two reasons, one, they tended to be my favourite postures in Vinyasa Krama, and two, I just find them useful for moderating my practice, slowing it down, taking control.


In Vinyasa Krama you tend to stay in the mudra for an extended period. You might stay in Maha Mudra, for five or more minutes. I tended to stay for ten to twenty-five breaths each side. Because it's a mudra rather than an asana, you can pretty much practice it anywhere.

Below is a video from last year some time. Of course you might feel that it slows your practice down TOO much. Ramaswami recognizes this and suggests that you might like to spend less time in maha mudra in the main sequence (it comes up in the Asytmmetric sequence in VK) and perhaps longer before or after Pranayama. If you have a separate Pranayama and/or Meditation practice, this is a nice mudra to do in preparation for full or half lotus.

In Ashtanga, I include Maha Mudra before Janu Sirsana A. I engage all the bandhas strongly and stay for ten breaths each side. It refocuses my attention on the breath and bandhas and I finding somehow grounding.

I have that tendency in Ashtanga to get carried away with the practice, with the athleticism, the strength and movement, the flow of it all, the mudras kind of pull me up a little. The best thing about Maha Mudra is that it pretty much is Janu A without the forward bend, it slips neatly into the practice. I also like to include it before Leg behind head postures as it opens the hip nicely.

Another favourite is Mahabandhasana (the great lock). I slip this into Intermediate after Bakasana and before Bharadavajrasana (which is pretty much a twisted version of the mudra). If you don't like Maha Mudra so much you could use this after Tirang Mukkha Eka pada Paschimottanasana. From that posture I tend to cross my extended leg into half lotus to jump back anyway, which pretty much puts me into the mudra. Similarly, following Krounchasana in 2nd series or perhaps after Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana, it'll settle you before the seven deadlies.



Vinyasa Krama recommends taking mini Savasanas to settle the breath and heartrate. Breath should be steady in Ashtanga too. Rather than just taking a Savasana you can bring in Tatkamudra (the pond gesture the belly in full Uddiyana looks like a pond). I like it after Supta Vajrasana or Karandavasana, again it slows me down, grounds me, reminds me what I'm doing there on the mat. I also like it towards the end of the practice before the Shoulder stands









I mentioned Yoga Mudra in the finishing sequence, variations of that mudra include bending to the right and left side. Below is Laghu Yoga Mudra (Simple yoga seal) again the bandhas are engaged.
















And just one more because I like it a lot and and always try to include now at the end of my headstand, Viparita Yoga Mudra (inverted yoga seal).

Monday, 29 August 2011

Practice too long? more Mingus ( Goodbye pork Pie Hat ) some Pres and Lady day

Another excellent practice this morning but too long for daily practice. Asana ran to two and a half hours this morning and that's before pranayama and skimping a little on the Inversions.

One of the main reasons I have for practicing Vinyasa Krama rather than Ashtanga is that I can explore a group of postures more deeply, bring in more prep poses, stay in the key ones longer and then develop and explore the more advanced options. Yesterday and today I was exploring too many groups, nice for a holiday practice but not everyday.

So back to how I worked it before, a couple of days focusing on back bends but with  some good counter poses and then a couple of days of Forward bends/ Leg behind head postures with some drop backs as counters. ( and obviously the usual Standing and finishing postures).

A bit more on the Mingus approach from yesterday. It would be nice to spend six to ten long slow breaths in each and every posture of course and you could do that by practicing less postures but the approach I want to take here is to explore an area of practice more deeply. Yeah I can throw my leg behind my head cold, did Dwi pada sirsasana at work in jeans one afternoon, after lunch too, but I like the idea of opening the hips up as much as possible, all those wonderful Asymmetric postures and then going into the LBH work and developing it into the more advanced versions, same with backbends, that nice Bow sequence build up. So I merely visit the prep poses, 3-5 breaths let them build upon each other and then when I get to the key postures really inhabit them, slow the breathing right down, longer and longer inhalations and exhalations before picking it back up again with a number of counter poses and doing that a few times within a practice.



This song, Goodbye Pork Pie hat, story goes, Mingus and his band were playing a gig when they heard that Lester Young  died. The band started to play and this song kind of evolved on stage. Not sure that's true. I also heard that Mingus wrote it as an elegy for Lester a few months after he died, like the former story better. Oh, Lester famously wore a Pork pie hat.

Keep coming back to this idea of practice as a Sax solo, still form and structure but within that, room for improvisation, should develop this. Sequences as keys, subroutines as chords, patterns II-V-I.... OK, perhaps not.


Perhaps that's why I keep coming back to Vinyasa Krama though, Ashtanga's a little too formal, too Apollonian want me some of that Dionysian Jazz. It's just asana for heavens sake, whats wrong with a little, play, a pinch of creativity, a shake of exploration.... always been a place for dance in the devotional.

You get that I'm deliberately leaving that open so you can convince me there's room for dance in Ashtanga too, right?



" I don't think I ever sing the same way twice. I don't think I sing the same tempo twice, one night it's a little slow, then next night a little bit brighter, depending on how I feel".  Billie Holiday

First sax solo is Ben Webster then it's my man Lester ( Pres ) next up is Gerry Mulligan on Bari sax then Coleman Hawkins... who isn't playing on this track.

Yoga and the Blues anyone?

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Mingus: Excellent morning practice,

I think of this as a Mingus approach to practice, changing the tempo. Some of the subroutines I take relatively quickly (ashtanga tempo so not that quick), the Asymmetric subroutine's moving through them five breaths a posture, treating them as prep for the leg behind head postures in which I slow down the tempo ( what I'm thinking of as VK tempo), stay longer, elongate the breath before shifting back to  a slightly faster tempo for the seated sequence, slowing again at Dwi pada and yoga nidrasana and so on throughout the practice.
Different days I could slow the tempo for different postures treating them as prep postures one day, main event postures another . So one day Janu sirsasana could be a prep posture another day I could practice it as maha mudra and stay for ten breaths each leg.




10m short Tadasana subroutine
Sury namaskara's
Some Triangle and On one leg subroutines

Asymmetric subroutines leading to Leg behind head postures
Seated subroutines ( spread angle ) leading to Dwi pada sirsasana and Yoga Nidrasana

Bow sequence leading up to Viparita Salambhasana  and gandha Bherundasana
Ustrasana, Kapotasana, Eka pada raja kapotasana vinyasa's.
Hanumanasana
Dropbacks

Long paschimottanasana
Badha konasana
Kandapindasa, yoga Dandasana work

Inversions
Lotus subroutines

Pranayama
Pratyahara
Meditation

Loved this, little extra time to practice this morning but also tomorrow (Bank holiday) and Tuesday (day off)  so can play with this approach a little. Think I can get it down to 120 minutes which would make it a daily morning practice.

As with Ashtanga 2nd series I'm covering the areas I want to work on but with more VK flexibility for prep and development.

* Will come back to this post and add links to illustrate

Monday, 22 August 2011

Ramaswami's Newsletter collections.

K. a commentator here, has brought together Ramaswami's Newsletters into book form, ideal for mobile readers, in fact they're sitting on my iPad now.

The best thing about them is that as pdf's they have a search function, so searching for pranayama within vol 1 gives us...



There are two volumes, Vol 1 contain Ramaswami's newsletters from 2009 and Volume 2 from 2010.

Here are the links



They will be available for download permanently on the right sidebar along with Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda under the heading FREE TO DOWNLOAD

This years newsletters can be viewed on Ramaswami's website under Newsletters, Hopefully K. will make volume 3 available at the end of the year.

So a big thank you to K as well to Ramaswami for giving permission to publish them here.

Enjoy.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Chants for daily practice

I was asked about chanting in my own practice.

Here are the main chants I use in my daily practice. These are probably the only ones I really know by  heart as they are my favourites. Others, along with the Yoga sutras I might chant, particularly on my day off but with the aid of a book or chant sheets

Click on the titles to link Ramaswami chanting and teaching them


BEFORE PRACTICE

YOGA PRAYER in two parts ( I tend to chant I and II together at the beginning of my yoga practice )


Ganesha prayer 
Aindu karattanai
Aanai muhattanai
Indin ilampirai pondra eyitrinai
Nandi Mahandanai
Jnaanakkozhundinai
Pundiyil vaittadi potruhinrene
(In tamil)


II Patanjali prayer (divided into three sections below)
Yogena cittasya padena vacam
malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena
yopakarottam pravaram muninam
patamjalim pramjaliranatoshmil


Abahu purusakaram
Samka cakrasidharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
pranamami patanjalim


Srimate anataya nagarajaya namonamah
Asmadacaryebhyassarvebhyo namonamah

Translation (from Ramaswami's TT course)
Ganesha prayer
Him who has arms five
Whose face is that of an elephant
Whose single tusk equals the charm of the crescent moon, 
Who is the offspring of the Blissfull Lord
Who is wisdom overflowing
I worship (by) keeping His feet 
Inside my consciousness (mind)


Patanjali prayer
Through Yoga, of the mind, by grammar of language
Through medical science the dross of the body, 
The one who eradicated, to Him of the lineage of sages,
To Patanjali I remain offering my salutations


Upto the shoulders, with a human form,
Holding a conch, disc and sword,
With a thousand heads and white (pure),
I bow to that Patanjali


To the auspicious Ananta, the King of naagas (cobra) community, I bow
To my teachers all I bow.

PRANAYAMA

Pranayama mantra  ( I chant this one mentally while retaining inhalation)

om bhuh om bhuvah omm suvah
om maha om janah om tapah omm satyam


on tatsavitur vareniyam bhargo devasya dhimahi
     dhiyo yonah pracodayat


om apo jyoti rasyo'amrtam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom


Translation
This is the complete form (or long form) of the Gayatri Mantra.

The first section contains an invocation to the seven spheres,

AUM, the primordial sound, resides in all elements of the universe. It permeates the earth (-bhUH), water (-bhuvaH), fire (-svaH), air (-mahaH), ether (-janaH), intelligence (-tapaH) and consciousness (-satyam). 

This is followed by the traditional, most commonly chanted, mantra .

We pay homage to Gayatri, the one who shines like the sun (tat savitur), the one who destroys all our sins through her everlasting and effulgent light. Dear Goddess Gayatri, please illuminate our path towards our higher consciousness and lead us to our true purpose in life.

The final part of the mantra is an invocation to the Goddess of light to illuminate our path as we move towards higher consciousness.

Please shine your light (-jyotiH) in our path so we may partake of the everlasting nectar (rasomRRitaM) of brahman while chanting the primordial sound, AUM!

I've borrowed from THIS excellent site for this translation.

MEDITATION


Short popular mantras ( choose one and stick with it for meditation with a mala )

1. Om sivaya namah
2. Oom namassivaya
3. Om hrim namasivaya
4. Om namo narayanaya
5. Oam namo bhagavate vasudevaya

END OF PRACTICE

Peace chant ( I chant this at the end of my yoga practice )

Om saha navavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
tajasvina vaditamastu
    ma vidvisavahai
Om shanti shanti shanti

Translation
Om, Let both of us protect each other together
May both of us enjoy together
May both of us work together
Let our study become radiant, let there be no hatred between us
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

See Ramaswami's chanting page for more chants as well as for learning to chant the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras.

In Yoga beneath the surface, David Hurwitz asks Ramaswami if we should be chanting in Sanskrit if we are not Hindus and come from another religious background. Ramaswami responds;

 '...if a person has a strong religious disposition, it is best to stick to one's own religious practices, as switching to a different religious practices could create considerable conflict. In fact Lord Krishna  says in the Gita that one should not create religious confusion in others ( na buddhi bhedam janayeth)... But if a person has no religious moorings, then if he/she likes other chants, such as Sanskrit chants or prayers or hymns, he/she may take advantage of it'. p164

Sun Salutation with mantras

Got a bit behind the last couple of days. I'm still doing the 20/20/20 in the evenings. Took Tuesday off though as I'd had a late morning practice. Wednesday I focused on the 'On your feet sequence, the twists, miss out so many of those with the short ten minute version of tadasna. Thursday I did some of the Vajrasana subroutines from the meditative sequence again and then this evening I just did the badha konasana subroutine and some spread angle prep.

Came up with a new plan this morning. Had wondered how I was going to choose the asana subroutines for the evening Vk practice but now I'll pick them to support and extend my morning Ashtanga. Basically, subroutines and postures that just aren't getting covered in my morning practice. During the week when I practicing 2nd series I can work on some of the Forward bending and hip opening subroutines in VK that I don't practice that often and then on Friday when I'm practicing primary in the morning I can do some of the VK backbends. Want to bring in a lot of supine work and some more lotus vinyasas too.

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I was asked about chanting, while I'm getting some things together over the weekend, I thought I'd repost this from the other blog( march 2010 ) on the Sun salutations with mantra.


Srivatsa Ramaswami's 'Complete book of Vinyasa Krama' has a traditional version of the Sun salutation laid out with the corresponding mantras. The idea is that you would move into each pose, retain the inhale or exhale while mentally chanting the mantra.

On the Vinyasa Krama home page you can find a link to Chants and Mantras including the Sury Namaskara chants available for download. To try and learn/practice it, I edited in some pauses to allow me time to enter the postures, and have been playing it on my itouch while performing the Salutation.

It's different, a nice alternative to the usual Sury. I tried to video it this morning but made a bit of a hash of it. First my practice room is too narrow to get a good angle and second, when I played it back, I could hardly hear the audio and had to spend most of the afternoon trying to work out how to switch audio files and synch with the picture. This is as close as I got, not great but perhaps good enough to get an idea of how it works.

You have the option of chanting the full mantra (actually it's three mantras joined together) or just the quick version down below which would mean a shorter breath retention.

The book includes full translations of each of the mantras. and here's a link to an article by Ramaswami on the Sun Salutation with mantra.

*One note on the Video, the squat posture before the first Chatauranga, is like Pasasana without the bind, squatting with the heels down rather than sitting on the mat (difficult to see that from behind).


The Twelve Sury Namaskara mantras





1. Om Hram
udhyannadya mitramaha
Mitraaya Namaha








2. Om Hrim
ārohannuttarāṃ divam
Ravaye Namaha

NB. Fingers are interlaced, palms facing outwards






3. Om Hroom
hṛdroghaṃ mamsūrya
Suryaaya Namaha









4. Om Hraim
harimāṇaṃca nāśaya
Bhaanve Namaha

NB. Squatting on heels






5. Om Hraum
śukeṣume harimāṇaṃ
khagaaya Namaha

NB. I know Susan, elbows in : )







6. Om Hrah
ropaṇākāsu dadhmasi
Pooshney Namaha

NB. Arms out stretched hands together






7. Om Hram
atho hāridraveṣume
Hiranayagarbhaaya Namah








8. Om Hrim
harimāṇaṃ ni dadhmasi
Om Mareechibhyoh Namaha









9. Om Hroom
udaghādayamādityo
Adityaaya Namaha








10.Om Hraim
viśvena sahasā saha
Savitre Namaha






11. Om Hraum
viṣantaṃ mahyaṃ randhyan
Arkaaya Namaha












12. Om Hrah
mo aham dviṣate radham
Bhaaskaraaya Namah





The Above mantras have three parts,

Part 1. (Quick version) Bijakshara mantras
1. Om Hram
2. Om Hrim
3. Om Hroom
4. Om Hraim
5. Om Hraum
6. Om Hrah
7. Om Hram
8. Om Hrim
9. Om Hroom
10. Om Hraim
11. Om Hraum
12. Om Hrah


Part 2. Mantras from the veda

1. Udhyannadya mitramaha
2. Arohannuttarāṃ divam

3. Hṛdroghaṃ mamsūrya
4. Harimāṇaṃca nāśaya

5. Sukeṣume harimāṇaṃ
6. Ropaṇākāsu dadhmasi

7. Atho hāridraveṣume
8. Harimāṇaṃ ni dadhmasi

9. Udaghādayamādityo
10. Viśvena sahasā saha

11. Dviṣantaṃ mahyaṃ randhyan
12. Mo aham dviṣate radham


Part 3 Laukika Mantra



1. Om Mitraaya Namaha (Salutations to the Friend of All)

2. Om Ravaye Namaha (Salutations to the Shining One)

3. Om Suryaaya Namaha (Salutations to he who induces activity )

4. Om Bhaanve Namaha (Salutations to he who illumines)

5. Om khagaaya Namaha - Salutations to one who moves through the sky

6. Om Pooshney Namaha - Salutations to the giver of strength and nourishment

7. Om Hiranayagarbhaaya Namah - Salutations to the Golden Cosmic Self

8. Om Mareechibhyoh Namaha - Salutations to the Rays of the Sun

9. Om Adityaaya Namaha - Salutations to Sun of Aditi (the Cosmic Mother)

10. Om Savitre Namaha - Salutations to the Stimulating power of the Sun

11. Om Arkaaya Namaha - Salutations to he who is fit to be praised (arka= energy)

12. Om Bhaaskaraaya Namah - Salutations to the one who leads to enlightenment




This has been a tricky post to layout so if you come across any blinding errors that I've missed in all the editing, please let me know so I can put it right.


Monday, 15 August 2011

20/20/20 Upavishta konasana (seated angle pose )

I've got this idea, offering an hour lesson, 20 minutes Asana, 20 minutes Pranayama and 20 minutes meditation. 20/20/20 nice and simple idea, actually it's not my idea, it's Krishnamacharya's.

An hour, that's a lunch break, you could take it to the offices, do group lessons for the office workers. You could subcontract it out, come up with a fancy name and take it to the Dragon's Den, one could become rich.

Unfortunately I'm not that motivated to become rich and you just know the office workers would take forever to get themselves settled, an hour would become forty minutes, there'd be questions, loo breaks, people having to leave early to grab coffee....it would never work, shame.

I've been playing with this idea in my evening practice but now I'm practicing Ashtanga in the mornings again I want to pin this down, organise it a little better. It's the asana section that's the problem the rest is fine

PRANAYAMA
5 minutes kapalabhati
15 minutes Viloma Ujaii nadi shodana

MEDITATION
5 minutes Pratyahara
15 minutes meditation practice.

The meditation practice might be japa mantra meditation, going round the mala beads a couple of times chanting my mantra

...or some mahamudra vipassana meditation exercises

....chanting perhaps.

The meditation section coming at the end can of course be longer depending on what I have on but 20 minutes minimum.

But as I said the asana section is the problem. I'm used to doing a long asana practice, I struggle to keep it down to under half an hour. So I'm planning a series of posts, the blog will keep an eye on me and give me the discipline  I need.

Now I'm covering the bases in my morning practice, doing a long paschimottanasana and longer than the usual ashtanga inversions, I also tend to slip in maha mudra too so I'm covered on the key 'daily' recommendations. In the evening I can explore the different subroutines.......

I asked S. last week if she had any suggestions and she mentioned Upavishta Konasana the seated angle pose. It's her Birthday today so Happy Birthday S. sure you would have preferred flowers but this is the best I can do.

Upavishta konasan comes near the end of the Ashtanga primary series and at the end of the Vinyasa Krama seated sequence so I'm used to doing it with some warm up.

This evenings 20 min, Vinyasa Krama asana practice

A few tadasana arm stretches, forward bends in particular.
A couple of triangle postures (not all the vinyasas you see in the video, just a couple)...
Utthita trikonasana
Prasaritta padottanasana
A sun salutation
Paschimottanasana

....then into the Upavishta konasana subroutine (p81-83 in Ramaswami's book) which is where the video below picks up.

I've gone through this subroutine quicker than normal because I was filming it for S. on another day I might do less vinyasas and stay in the ones I do do longer.

The whole asana section came out at about 25 minutes, not bad, close enough.

I have a couple of nice Upavishta  Konasana tips/hints

1. Apply that stretch from Ramaswami's tadasana sequence, really lifting out of the pelvis and trying to stay lifted as much as possible before folding into the forward bend.

2. Engage uddiyana bandha, if your not familiar with the bandhas has don't worry, just suck in your belly, this should create more space for the deep forward bend.

3 Once your seated and have your legs spread, lift up your backside tilt your coccyx up and sit further forward on your sit bones or shuffle your backside back until your right on the edge of your sit bones
( that from Dharma Mittra found it on a youTube clip for getting deeper into paschimottanasana but it works for UK too, will try to find it.).

4. Take it easy, start with your legs less wide or your knees slightly bent or just don't fold in as deep right away, go easy on the hamstrings.



Saturday, 13 August 2011

Gayatri Mantra 1008 times.

This from Ramaswami on FB this morning

Saturday is Raksha Bandhan affirming the bondage between a sister and a brother. It is also the annual vedic day, when one rededicates to the study of vedas. It is affirmed by a 1008 japa of the Gayatri mantra on the following day (Sunday).


I reciting the gayatri mantra 1008 times last year, here's the blog post I wrote that morning on how I approached it and how it went, just in case it's something you'd like to consider for tomorrow.

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OK, a very quick post on this in case someone on the other side of the Atlantic ,waking up soon, might feel like doing this today.

I saw this yesterday in one of Ramaswami's status updates

"On the full moon day (today) during this Shravana month(aug15/Sep15) many in India who have bee initiated into vedic studies do a ceremony restarting the vedic studiess. The following day one sits down and does 1008 japa of the famous Gayatri mantra, after doing 10 times of mantra pranayama."

I've been practicing mantra meditation since the course last month, usually fifteen minutes to half an hour but had been considering a longer sit. I worked it out, 108 gayatrii's would take around fifteen minutes, that means what, well over two hours, strewth.

Then again, on the course Ramaswami chanted the Sury Namaskara mantra from Yajur Veda, it took 2hrs and we would do a Sun salute after each of the 32 sections. I thought that if the course had been this month then Ramaswami would perhaps have invited us to practice the gayatri japam in the mantra and meditation class to give us a little taste of the experience of a longer mantra meditation session.

So this morning I got up at 5am, did half an hour of asana, 10 rounds of Nadi Shodana with the full pranayama mantra followed by the 1008 gayatri's. Actually it went quite quickly, I had to stand up and walk around for five minutes in the middle and needed to change posture a couple of times but otherwise it was quite pleasant.

The hardest thing for me was the mantra. I'm used to saying the pranayama mantra forty odd times a day which contains the gayatrii mantra in the middle although in a slightly different form. I kept mixing up the beginning (where it differs slightly) or I would forget to stop and keep on going half way through the full pranayama mantra before I realized. Helped keep me focused though.

I want to write more about mantra meditation but need to get off to work and am too mellowed out to write much anyway.

But if your tempted, and your taking today as you day off practice for moon day then here's the gayatrii mantra

Aum Bhur Bhuvah Swah, Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

or you might prefer this transliteration


Om bhur bhuvah svah
tat-savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat


A link to a site with the mantra's meaning, word by word here or perhaps this one here

and another site that seems to detail the full gayatrii japam ritual, here.

A quick note on counting. I used my 108 bead mala, going round nine times then an the extra 36 on my 36 bead wrist mala. I used japanese Go stones to mark each time around the mala, Curious to know how it's normally counted.

Let me know if you give it a go and how it went.

UPDATE

I've been reflecting on this a little since yesterday. Two hours, two hours! Actually it was more like two and a quarter, that's a long sit. In the past I've sat mainly for forty minutes, very occasionally fifty at a time. Some day's I sat for forty, did a kind of walking meditation for ten minutes and then sat again for another forty. Many years ago I sat in the Zen'ish tradition but for the last few years I've practiced Vipassana. The Zen was too long ago for me to comment on now except to say forty minutes can seem a long time attempting to keep the mind empty whether holding thoughts at bay or letting them float on through.

Vipassana though, funny, but for all my blogging about asana I've never really wanted to write about my meditation. In the last year or so I've been questioning my Vipassana practice, perhaps in a similar way to how I've been questioning ashtanga. Coming from an analytical, philosophical background (Psych's seem to be drawn to it too as well as those in search of free therapy ) Vipassana seems ideal, don't fight the thoughts, push them away or ignore them as they float by, mentally note them instead, make them the objects of your meditation, the aches that come up, the emotions, the dominant thoughts,note em all, more grist to the mill (over simplification, i know but roll with me here).

Of course this is bad practice, your not supposed to get sucked into them but keep an objectivity, just be present. Hard though , so easy to get suckered into analyzing everything, there's that potentiality in the practice that can lead to a tendency, just as in Ashtanga there is the potentiality to end up getting wrapped up in the next pose, next sequence, to focus too much on the asana. Again bad practice perhaps but not surprising so many of us end up in that tendency. What draws us to the practice, whether Vipassana or Ashtanga can be the very same thing which leads us astray.

Vinyasa Krama seemed a calmer practice, seemed somehow more what I needed than perhaps what I wanted at the time. I recognized it but still thought I needed an ashtanga practice. Somebody compared it to an addiction recently, yep, I can see that. I don't think I would ever have got into Yoga if I had started with Vinyasa Krama, not with my character and yet now it's the only way I want to practice.

And Mantra meditation, not convinced at all when Ramaswami introduced it into the course. Basically, the idea is that you recite a mantra in your head, don't worry about the meaning but just focus on the sound and keep bringing the mind back to that. I've worked on breath meditation, bringing the mind back to the breath, it's kind of a warm up in Vipassana and Jana, it's similar. And that's it. That's it? No noting, is there no more, nope, just keep bringing the mind gently back to the sound of the mantra, perhaps focus on the third eye, but that's pretty much the practice as I understand it.

I've been doing that for fifteen minutes, in the morning, half hour in the evening but had felt a little unsatisfied, still kind of felt like a warm up. It took a month. Last week It finally started to sink in, quite a profound peace, a stillness. And yesterday two hours bringing the mind back to a mantra, focus, concentration, one pointedness you can see where it's going. A mantra, so much easier than the breath or was it that I'd preceded it with the pranayama and some asana. Is there something to Mr Patanjali after all, asana, pranayama, meditation, prepare the mind for meditation, then go ahead and meditate.

I'm not dissing Vipassana, not in the slightest but perhaps it's not best suited to me, and perhaps for the very reasons I'm drawn to it.

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Thursday, 11 August 2011

4 & 5 Diamond postures, Usthrasana and Kapotasana ( feet together )

I mentioned in the dropping back post a couple of days ago that in Ramaswami's book the feet are, perhaps surprisingly ( for me at least coming from ashtanga) together. This adds quite a degree of challenge as you have a less stable base to work from.

I try to keep the three locks/bhandas, (Mula -root, uddiyana-belly and jalendhara-throat ) engaged throughout my practice, in some poses more engaged than others. Uddiyana bandha, drawing in the belly, is especially useful for backbends, seems to help protect the back and ground you somehow, makes you a little more stable.

Recently, somebody mentioned a tip from a workshop where they were told to imagine they had a pea beneath their belly that they were trying not to squish as they were laying in the Salabhasana's (trying to find the source of this anyone remember?). great tip, it really helps but what about standing backbends and kapo, here's my variation.....

This only works if your belly button is an innie, sorry outie's your backbends are just going to have to suffer or perhaps you can come up with your own version in which case please let me know.

The yogi and the pea
So the idea is that you imagine your holding a pea inside your belly button. Now you want to grip that pea so suck your belly in and up, grip the pea and draw it back nice and safe, now keep that engaged like that through your drop back's, kapo's and what have you.

In the video below I'm whizzing through the Bow sequence and part of the meditative sequence. The idea here, as with the previous Leg behind head post, is to show how the postures of the sequences build upon each other preparing you for the more challenging poses.



I'd already done my bow sequence practice this morning, here I'm going in and out of each pose on the breath but earlier, of course, I was repeating the postures three times and or staying in the pose for a number of long, slow breaths.

Key to ushtrasana and kapotasana are getting the hips as far forward as possible, lifting up out of the hips as we do every day in tadasana. There's a tendency to collapse the hips backwards as we go over but all the way keep thinking "hips forward, hips forward...". Mine collapse here because this is my first time doing kapo with my feet and knees together. You may find it easier to work toward the feet together version by practicing with your feet and knees apart.

Look inside

The full kapotasana doesn't show up in Ramaswami's Complete book of vinyasa yoga but it's there in his earlier book ( and one of THE best books on yoga I've come across) Yoga for the three stages of life.



Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A few words on getting your leg behind your head in Vinyasa Karma

Something a little bit different, a  rare talkie.

This a short video showing (most) of the Vinyasa Karma postures leading up to the leg behind head postures in the Asymmetric sequence. Obviously I'm whizzing through them here, just trying to show how they build on each other and gradually work on opening up the hips. Normally you'd be staying in these postures for three to five long, slow, inhalations and exhalations.

Then I try and explain, poorly I'm afraid,  how I personally approach getting my leg behind my head, before carrying on through some of the more advanced LBH vinyasas that come up in other Vinyasa Krama sequences.



The full asymmetric sequences can be found HERE as a practice sheet.

The excitement of practice, the sheer joy of it.

Today's my day off and I'm just about to practice the Asymmetric sequence. I save this one for my Tuesday's as there are a lot of postures and being asymmetric you practicing everything on both sides,  the whole series twice, as it were.

I love this series. It's similar to Ashtanga primary but without the jump back it has a different meditative quality. Your spending a good twenty minutes on each side, slight variations of the postures, coming out, going in, long long stays. Then you do it all again on the other side. this feeling of calm just keeps building and building, even with your leg wrapped around your head.

Ramaswami, being Ramaswami suggests you just do what you can. If your pressed for time you can go subroutine by subroutine, perhaps the marichiyasana's, or the ardha padmasana ( half lotus ) and then move on to finishing.

It's my day off, I'm not pressed for time.

I can do the whole sequence.... on both sides.

Practice is so often a compromise, cutting back on standing or on finishing or the main sequences itself either that or your cutting back on your pranayama or meditation..... or sleep.

Not today, it's my day off.

So I can indulge myself in a long tadasana, bring in some of the triangle and one leg postures that I neglect. After the asymmetric, I can wallow in the inversions and then indulge in 80 glorious rounds of pranayama ..... and still have time for decent pratyahara and a long sit.

and chant, I can chant.

Practice is a privilege, long practices like today, especially so.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Exploring Baddha padmasana & yoga mudra options

Although baddha padmasana, p198 of the Lotus sequence in Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, only gets three diamonds ( representing the degree of challenge), I know, from my own experience, that it's a posture that can be quite challenging. The difficulty comes with that bind, getting the second arm around and grabbing the toe securely enough to be able to fold into yoga mudra.

The video below shows some of the options available.

0.00  Overemphasising the entry into baddha padmasana
1.13  yoga mudra
2.07  Rear view
3.22  Rear view of cheat (sliding one arm between the other arm and back).
3.55  Less tight lotus option
5.25  Half lotus option
6.37  Crossed leg option
7.27  Standard lotus for pranayama and meditation



I've overemphasised the action to try and make what I'm doing clearer. My first lotus is pretty tight but later on I show it's possible even if you can't manage that tight a lotus.

Tips

Get into the lotus and then lift up a little and push your backside back to sit further forward on your sit bones,

Really lift out of your pelvis (sit tall) in a similar way to how we approach the tadasana sequence. If it helps raise your arms over your head, link your fingers and stretch.

Approach the twist to grab the toes as you would one of the extreme marichyasana twists in Asymmetric sequence.

Engage uddiyana bandha ( suck in your belly) as you fold into yoga mudra, this will give you more space and help you to keep hold of your toes.

If you cant manage full lotus try half lotus or just having your legs crossed, reaching around and grabbing the hip bones rather than the toes.

Try whipping the the second arm around your back to catch the toe

Slip your second arm between your back and binding arm and shuffle it further and further through to reach your toe.

Put hand towels or bandanas around your feet and hold on to them rather than your toes.
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Ramaswami suggests 3-6 long inhalations and exhalations for both baddha padmasana and Yoga mudra
and that you may practice all three locks, mula, uddiyana and jalandhara

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 .

Friday, 5 August 2011

5 Diamond postures. Dropping back, Kapotasana (backbending)

NB: Ramaswami marks each of the postures in his book with 1-5 diamonds depending on the challenge.


One of the things that's troubled me about Vinyasa Krama ( oh yes, it's not just Ashtanga I have problems with) is how to work on challenging postures/areas of practice.

In Ashtanga it's kind of straight forward, you do the same postures everyday so your constantly working on the same area of difficulty. If/when you get stuck at the Marichiyasana twists or at Supta Kurmasana, or Kapotasana or the Leg behind head postures, you just keep plugging away at them until you get they get a little easier, more comfortable

In Vinyasa Krama, however, we're seeking to cover a wider range of asana. We also have some key postures to practice daily, paschimottanasana, maha mudra, the inversions, time is often a concern. How to cover a wide range of postures and yet still work on the same ....challenging areas.

Ramaswami mentions difficult/challenging vinyasa in his September 2009 Newsletter .

  • 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. 
These are perhaps the four and five diamond marked postures in his book although.

Lets take backbending and in particular kapotasana and dropping back, both five diamond postures in Ramaswami's book. The former comes up in the Meditative sequence (p182) the latter in the On your Feet sequence (p20). I learned my dropbacks in ashtanga and tend to do a handful of them every morning, they're good prep for the more extreme backbends like Kapotanasana, so even if I'm only doing Bow sequence once a week I still feel I'm not losing any facility. I wonder though, how I would have worked towards them in Vinyasa Krama. How I would have been able to put in the time required to nail them in the first place

Two key elements to backbending come to mind. The first is obvious, improving flexibility along the full length of your back, the second is hip flexibility and strength, being able to push your hips forward as far as possible, this takes a lot of strain off your back and basically 'doubles' the effectiveness of your backbend, supercharges it. So to keep up my current backbend facility or for anyone working towards them we want to find places in Vinyasa Krama where we can work on these areas, if possible,  every day.

Tadasana is nice prep, those behind the back hand variations with the back stretch are nice dropback prep, very similar to some of the hang back exercises I used to do when I was learning to drop back.

The big thing in Dropping back is getting the hips forward and that's something you can work on with some of the supine exercises, variations of which come up after most forward bending subroutines as counterposes. Urdhava Danurasana is pretty much a must and makes an excellent counter after the shoulderstand your going to be doing every day anyway.

Armed with these postures we're going to be working towards dropping back, strengthening our hips and preparing ourselves for any of the more extreme backbends and generally keeping the backbending facility ticking over nicely.

For more backbending ideas, tips, hints, suggestions there's fifty odd posts on my other blog Ashtanga vinyasa krama at home. Take a look at THIS post, for dropbacks, or THIS, for Kapotasana, take a note of the date that most resembles where you currently are in your backbends and look for posts on backbending around that time in the archive on the right of the blog.



Here's a video that looks at dropping back and preparing for it with Vinyasa Krama postures/subroutines, it isn't intended as a sequence but just relates to the above.



NB: Just noticed I'm doing a kind of Ashtanga approach to dropping back here. In Ramaswami;s book he has you stretch up and then continue over into the dropback.

another NB : just noticed too, that there are some other differences from Ashtanga re the dropback. you come up on the exhale and your feet are together throughout! See the next post  HERE

Monday, 1 August 2011

August 2011 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami

Yoga TT Program, What I Learnt.

The 200 hr Vinyasakrama Yoga Program at Loyola Marymount University in
Los Angeles, California went off well. Like the earlier years, I had
the good fortune of having a very nice group of earnest, talented
yogis. I was reminded of the famous vedic prayer of a teacher:

“May earnest students from all directions come to me!
May earnest students with varied capabilities come to me!
May earnest students with exceptional capabilities come to me!
May earnest students with self-restraint come to me!
May earnest students with peace in heart come to me!”

After I got my permanent residency in USA about 5 years back, I
started to work on programs that would give a comprehensive treatment
of my yoga  related studies with my Guru. I always thought that as the
wider perspective that he gave appealed to me, it would appeal to a
few others who may have a similar temperament. While I liked asanas
when I was young (that was what attracted  me to him) I also liked
vedic chanting (I started learning chanting when I was about 10 years
old). Soon thereafter I started wondering about other things that we
wonder when we are young like God, creation, relationships within
extended family and with friends, etc. I found some of the texts like
the Gita, Ramayana and others, all of which looked at life from a
higher and different perspective, very useful and refreshing. So the
natural desire was there and I was fortunate to find one teacher, Sri
Krishnamacharya, who could cover all these in one (w)holistic
approach.

I found when I started teaching here in the USA that there were two
main streams of practice-- one the asana stream the other the
meditative system.  But they  appeared to be completely separated.
Asana practitioners were practicing asanas alone passionately while
the meditators by and large appeared to take little interest in
physical exercises-- I mean in general, there are glorious exceptions
though.

My initial opportunities in USA were limited to an evening talk here
and a weekend workshop somewhere else. I confined myself to
introducing the rather sedate paced vinyasakrama with the slow
synchronous breathing. While it appealed to a few, the majority
especially at conferences found it to be rather at odds with the fast
paced  workout yoga, the in-thing.  Light-hearted comments like “ this
vinyasakrama, it is not sexy or it is boring” were not  exceptions. I
felt a bit puzzled. Krishnamacharya was so famous but what asana
practices I learnt from him for decades did not seem to cut any ice.
So when the opportunity arose to offer a Teacher Training Program, I
decided to  include in the syllabus as many aspects of
Krishnamachara's Yoga as possible, not just confine it to asanas. I
thought somehow the asana part would be ok, mainly because Vinyasas
were getting to be popular and also a few  people gradually  started
finding the slow paced breath oriented asana practice helped them to
look at their bodies more intently, feeling different parts of the
body including the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic organs. But what
about other aspects, like the paradoxically “lifeless” pranayama,
meditation, chanting and the weird Patanjali's yoga philosophy? How
would the asana oriented yogis react to the other aspects of Yoga. I
was not very sure.

Then, during the last four years of offering this program at LMU, I
have tried to learn how people would take to these aspects. And since
every group is new there is no way of knowing how they would react to
the varied contents of the program. In the 60 hour vinyasakrama
segment the ten major sequences were gone through starting from
Tadasana. The participants were slowly introduced to the deliberate
mindful synchronous breathing with the vinyasas, taking anywhere from
5 to 10 seconds for each inhalation and for exhalation. This itself
was a new experience for many people, but they quickly settled down to
the practice. The vinyasakrama asana practice looks very slow to those
who observe it from outside and feels  too slow for their racing
minds.  But  the practitioner  finds that the mind quietly settles
down to the slow pace. Since the mind of the practitioner keeps
observing/following and is with the breath it does not get agitated
but calms down and does not share the anxiety and boredom of the
onlooker. The only way to understand this is to practice vinyasa krama
for a few days and find how the mind feels. In these programs the
participants learnt hundreds of vinyasas and several scores of asanas.
There was a 20 hr program on Visesha or specific sequences like the
breath- oriented- mantra- interspersed Surya Namskara routine, again
ding-namaskara (dik in a sandhi/conjunction becomes ding)-some are
tickled when saying ding namaskara or salutations to all the
directions with vedic mantras dedicated to each direction; then
anjaneyasan, vasishtasana, khagasana, halasana-paschima-uttanamayura
routine etc. The course also included learning  long stay in static
poses like inversions, paschimatana  and others. Guidelines for
designing individualized programs for varied requirements were also
discussed.

Perhaps the more challenging subject was the 20 hour pranayama
routine. Though my Guru considered it to be a very important aspect of
Yoga, there is considerable reluctance to practice and much less teach
the subject in the west. Either it is touted as a potentially
dangerous practice even by some Yoga teachers or teaching of it is
postponed to a very distant future or sine die. In the program the
participants started the practice with simple steps like long smooth
exhalation using sounds like “OM”. Then slow inhalations. Once these
two were in place then breath holding after inhalation and finally
they had the option to hold the breath out for a short period of time
say about 5 seconds. Thereafter many participants were encouraged to
introduce the bandhas during bahya kumbhaka. Of course some found it
difficult to hold the breath out but over a period of time they also
found it possible to hold the breath out for five seconds. Then we put
all of them together to develop a simple pranayama routine of about 5
seconds inhalation, 5 seconds holding, 8 to 10 seconds exhalation and
finally a 5 second bahya kumbhaka.  They also learnt kapalabhati.
Starting with about 12 rounds almost every one was able to do about
108 times kapalabhati. They also learnt different vinyasas of
kapalabhati. Then they all practiced different types of pranayama,--
nadishodhana,ujjayi, anuloma, viloma and others. In about four days of
practice (there were 10 classes of 2 hrs each) they were ready for a
longer stint of pranayama.

They started doing 40 pranayamas at a stretch and during the last week
they could do 80 pranayamas at a stretch almost every day. I know some
were not able to stay or maintain the ratio or sit for the 40 minute
period, but many were able to do it. Their asana practice with long
inhalations and exhalations in vinyasas and postures helped to
develop  a healthy kinship  between the mind and breath.  During one
session, I opened my eyes to see if everyone was still on board and
except 2 or 3 almost everyone was doing the viloma ujjayi pranayama
and appeared to be at peace with the practice. Of course there may
have been some discomforts like sleeping legs but they quickly learnt
to change the positions of their legs. It was overall a very sincere,
disciplined and, equally important, serene practice. Many appeared to
be at ease with the simple and enjoyable pranayama practice.
Then we had a 20 hour course of mantras and meditation. Following the
steps of meditation as detailed by Patanjali in Yoga sutras the
participants learnt a mantra as an object and used it to focus the
mind. The practice invariably followed a stint of pranayama and some
asanas and a few minutes of shanmukhimudra (pratyahara). They also
learnt a few chants like atma sudhi mantras, pranayama mantra and
others. I found that most of them liked to chant. One day all
participated in a mantra chant cum suryanamskara practice. There is a
one hour vedic chant called, Aruna Parayana or Suryanamaskara mantras.
I used to chant this with my guru on Sundays for several years. In
this exercise I chanted the entire chapter interspersed with the group
doing one sun salutation (approximately 1 ½ mt for one namaskara,
following the vinyasakram routine with slow breathing) at the end of
each of the 32 sections (anuvaka). In all it took about 2 hours and
though next day almost everyone was nursing some sore muscles and
joints none complained about this unique procedure of  combined mantra
and breath oriented asana practice—samantraka suryanamaskara.
There was a 20 hour study of the Yoga Sutras. Even though the thought
process in the YS is very logical, the recognition of an eternal Self
and the need to and the desirability of identifying with it are new
ideas that can take a while to sink in even if one is open minded. But
then many students were willing to listen, absorb and contemplate.
They also had an opportunity to chant the Yoga Sutras.
As I have mentioned, even though Sri Krishnamacharya is well known, I
am afraid his teachings are not that well known. So I  thought it
worthwhile to include the study of two works of  his viz., Yoga
Rahasya and Yoga Makaranda. In a matter of 20 hrs the participants had
the opportunity for a  reading of the texts with discussions. They
also had a first hand view of Krishnamacharya's Yoga.
Apart from “Yoga Business” and “Anatomy &Physiology” there was a
course on subtle anatomy and Yoga for Internal organs. The Internal
organs program was based on Sri Krishnamacharya's approach to health
by maintaining the health and positional integrity of the internal
organs, like the heart (hrdaya kosa) and the circulatory system, the
lungs (svasa kosa) and the respiratory system, the stomach (anna kosa)
and the digestive system, the uterus (garbha kosa) and the
reproductive system, the brain, the nadi chakras,  nervous system and
others.

How did the participants find the varied programs? I thought that
there was considerable interest in these yoga related subjects. I feel
that those who have spent years of their time studying yogasanas and
would be making it a life long practice should be given the
opportunity to look at yoga in a wider perspective, in all its glory
and splendor. What I have learnt in these few years of conducting a
comprehensive Teacher Training Program is that there is inherent
interest in many people who have come to Yoga for studying, practicing
and experiencing the different limbs of yoga and not asana alone.
After all Yoga is a perfect adhyatma vidya or the study of oneself in
its entirety-body, mind and the Self.

I also mentioned to some of the students the need of expanding their
interest and study of yoga and yoga related subjects. There is scope
to develop in three different areas in Yoga. One is the  classical
yoga practice, made up of asana, pranayama and meditation, the
traditional Ashtanga Yoga. The vinyasakrama method of asana practice
affords tremendous scope to expand and adapt yoga to different health
conditions and stages of life. Consistent practice of pranayama and
meditiation has a transforming effect on the physiology and on the
mind. The second area of emphasis could be the study of the
fundamental texts that Sri Krishnamacharya thought we should study.
Those who are intellectually inclined can think of studying several
texts like the Yoga Sutras with the commentary of Vyasa and other
traditional commentators, the Bhagavat Gita, some important and
exquisite Upanishad vidyas, Samkhya philosophy and others apart from
hatayoga works like hatayogapradipika, yogayayavalkya, gherunda
samhita  suta samhita, parts of Tirumandiram and others. Then the
third area of interest would be health related yoga. My Guru made many
original contributions to health. He was a master healer too. The
present day therapeutic yoga studies/experiments are tilted more
towards the musculo-skeletal system. While these are essential there
is a lot Yoga can offer to the integrity and health of the internal
organs. Several of the esoteric yoga procedures like the inversions,
bandhas and mudras, long stay in unique poses like paschimatanasana ,
pranayama and meditation have a very powerful role to play with
respect to health. Hence there is a lot that can be got by using Yoga
appropriately. Since many people seem to spend their entire life
practicing and teaching yoga they should try to learn, practice and
teach a broader range of yoga so that we can go beyond the fringe
benefits to substantive and enduring benefits of yoga.

I learnt a lot in these programs. The reason why yoga is presently
skewed towards ekanga (or ardhanga without the breathing component)
and not ashtanga is because by and large teachers do not teach the
other angas. When I was in school I heard a quotation which runs
something like this “If a pupil has not learnt, the teacher has not
taught”. Yoga is a rich subject. Considering its popularity there is
no reason why practitioners should not endeavor to go beyond asana
practice while still having a very firm asana base. I am beholden to
all the participants who have completed the 200 hour program for their
support and enthusiastic participation. I learnt a lot by observing
their practice and the comfort with which they learnt many other angas
of yoga. Almost all appeared to like the other angas of yoga as much
as they liked asanas.
 ****
STOP PRESS! Here is the writeup (received at the eleventh hour) by
Fábio Sayão, from São Paulo, Brazil, who participated in the recent TT
program and whom  anyone would like to meet and watch his beautiful
asana execution I am happy to reproduce  it in toto.

Course Feedback
A PERSONAL JOURNEY INTO  KRISNAMACHARYA'S YOGA--Fábio Sayão
About a year ago I got my hands at a translation into Portuguese of
Krishnamacharya’s book Yoga Makaranda, first published in Kannada in
Mysore 1934. That translation into Portuguese was possible only by the
efforts of a dear friend of mine that found a Tamil edition of the
Makaranda (1938) some years ago and luckily got the help of a Tamil
speaking Indian here in São Paulo that made most of the job
translating it to Portuguese. Since last year my friend and I started
to revise the Portuguese translation to make it someday available to
the general Portuguese speaking public, a task we unfortunately
haven’t completed yet…
Well, that only to say that reading the Yoga Makaranda completely
changed my life and the way I understood and practiced yoga, something
I’ve been studying and practicing daily for about 16 years.
Though I had a copy of that Tamil edition of the Makaranda for about 5
years, it was something that I looked at from time to time, saw the
pictures and got some curious about it’s content, but looking at the
pictures alone made me think it wasn’t something very different I’ve
been doing for some time, despite some intriguing forms of asana that
I haven’t seen in other places, but somehow I took them for granted. I
was practicing a form of yoga that was allegedly taught by
Krishnamacharya himself, but little did I know that the parameters for
the asana practice laid down at the Yoga Makaranda weren’t being
followed at all at the form of yoga I was familiar for so many years
of consistent practice.
Among those parameters one could note for instance, deliberate long-
slow ujjayi breathing throughout the whole asana/vinyasa practice; the
practice of kumbhakas, or breath restraint, together with the
engagement of bandhas (some muscle locks), again throughout the whole
asana/vinyasa practice… Those two parameters alone were something very
different I was used to, which really caught my attention and made me
try to experiment with them in the practice I was familiar with to see
what they were about.
The first day I experimented with those parameters I knew I couldn’t
go back anymore, the whole practice I’ve been doing for many years
scattered down to pieces on the ground and I couldn’t put them back
together. This only happened because I felt the powerful immediate
effects of such a practice following those principles, effects that
are unique on their own and in the same time aligned to the one’s
described in the various ancient texts of the Hatha Yoga tradition,
that were somehow a mystery to me, something not tangible or something
only to aim to… I felt that such a practice really prepared oneself to
the pranayama and prepared one’s mind to meditation, these last two
became so easy after an asana practice following those two parameters
alone!
What to do then? I had to explore more in depth the Yoga Makaranda,
which I did, but soon realized that work itself wasn’t intended to be
exhaustive. I was trying to figure out a routine coherent to the Yoga
Makaranda and went back to study the work of some of Krishnamacharya’s
students. I was among those that believe Krishnamacharya modified
drastically the way he taught asana throughout his life, which might
explain the so many discrepancies in the way different students of his
taught or still teach. But after reading the Yoga Makaranda one may
question if what we think we know to be his earlier teachings are
truly his or merely deviations or misinterpretations of his teachings.
I had already read some articles of Srivatsa Ramaswami but never paid
too much attention before reading the Makaranda, it was only then I
decided to read his books and realized he was being very coherent to
his guru’s earlier teachings, even though he was a student of his at
the “Madras period”. In my view he was the most generous student of
Krishnamacharya in the sense of putting down to words a great amount
of valuable information on his guru’s teachings, I had the sense his
books were the best available companion to the one book I was trying
to decipher. It was that feeling that made me come to his course at
LMU, and it surpassed all my expectations. I could also say it was
only after reading the Yoga Makaranda and learning with Ramaswami that
I understood what Krishnamacharya meant with vinyasa in yoga. It is
true there are many styles of yoga that borrow the term vinyasa out
there, but sadly almost none of them follow the principles given long
ago by its developer.
Fortunately Ramaswami is a living link to Krishnamacharya’s teachings
and I feel privileged to have studied with him. Among many things he
taught us, he showed us the importance of slow breathing and slow
movements; he gave us a huge array of asanas and vinyasas to be
practiced in a gentle way and how to incorporate kumbhakas and bandhas
during the asana practice; he gave us the necessary tools to design
our own practice and stressed the importance of keep changing the
asana routine to make our bodies healthy and fit for pranayama and
meditation throughout our life. It was always an inspiration to me
looking at Krishnamacharya’s asana pictures at old age and made me
wonder in what manner he was practicing so that I could emulate and
reach that age with some of that grace, I can say that now at least I
have some clues about it. We learned how to have a well-rounded
pranayama routine and how it’s important even for the beginner in yoga
to practice pranayama. We also learned some meditation techniques and
practiced and listened to some of the chants of the beautiful Vedic
tradition. We went in detail through each yoga sutra of Patanjali, and
some other texts, including the Yoga Makaranda, which made us relate
what we were doing at the practice room to traditional yoga.
I have to thank with all my gratitude for Ramaswami being in the
countercurrent of today’s yoga scene, for his courage to keep teaching
a traditional form of yoga without making it more attractive or
appealing to the western public, for being faithful to what he learned
from Krishnamacharya and to pass it on to the interested. Thank you
Ramaswamiji! I look forward to the opportunity of studying with you
again!
Sincerely,
Fábio Sayão
****
I spent a couple of days at the beautiful Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New
York State, teaching an introductory workshop (12 hrs) on Pranayama
and Vinyasa Krama to a group of very talented and enthusiastic Yoga
practitioners. Thank you Jyoti Chittur and David Hollander for all
your kind efforts in arranging the program and affording me another
nice opportunity.

****
I also would request once again my friends who have studied with me to
make a short video of one of the asanas like Marichyasana, uttita
parsvskonasana or just the hastavinyasas, running for less than 5
minutes, and post it on  Youtube. The breath may be made audible and
at the normal speed of performance. There are more than a hundred
asana subroutines to choose from in my book  “The Complete Book of
Vinyasa  Yoga”. Call it Vinyasakrama Yoga— and include the asana name
and your name with it.

Anthony Hall is very well known for his great blogs on Ashtanga Yoga
at Home. He was at LMU last year in the 200 hr TT program and has been
a tremendous support to Vinyasa Krama Yoga Practice and has posted
several blogs and tons of videos on Vinyasakrama practice.. He has
started a new Blog “Practicing Vinyasa Krama Yoga At Home” . Here is
the link
http://vinyasayogaathome.blogspot.com/
Please visit the site and I guess you may also post your comments.
Thank you
  ******
Asana- to keep the body still (sthira) for a while
Pranayama- to keep the breath still (sthambha) for a while
Praryahara- to keep the senses still (vasya) for a while
Samyama (Meditation)- to keep the mind still( ekagrata) with an object
for a while
Yoga- to keep the chitta still/quiet (nirodha/Kaivalya) for ever
And the Self is still (aparinami) eternally

Thank you
Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami
P S My earlier newsletters can be accessed by visiting my website
www.vinyasakrama.com and opening the newsletter tab. I request you to
send your comments or suggestions to
i...@vinyasakrama.com

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