Monday, 31 October 2011

Day 31 : Tiryang mukha Marichiyasana (Backward facing foot marichi) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
Stay at each stage for three to six breaths

This subroutine is an extension on the previous subroutine but also of the marchi sequence from Day 25

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS


The forward bend here(pic 2)  is surprisingly challenging, lift up out of the pelvis, enter the forward bend on the front of your sit bones pushing your backside back.

Make the exhalation long and slow as you bend forward, constrict the glottis more to make a more forceful ujjayi to control the descent.

As with the standing and seated marchi subroutines, the bind can be the challenge


We reach behind our back on a smooth exhalation


As you swing the arm around the knee think of putting on a coat the dipping of the shoulder forward as you reach around, half rotating your arm to get further around the knee.

Engage the bandhas, mula will ground you providing more stability, sucking in your belly in uddiyana bandha will give you more room for the forward bend.

As ever on the twist we again want to stretch up out of our pelvis on the inhale and twist a little more on on each of the exhalations, lifting a little more on the inhalations.

Day 30 : Triyangmukha ( bent back leg) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK


This is actually two subroutines, the first ends with Picture 5 the counter pose, however you can see how the folded back leg postures gives a stretch to the quadriceps preparing your for hanumanasana/ anjanayasana (pic 7 ).

In Hanumanasana we're stretching the hamstrings on the fount leg and the quadriceps on the back leg so we want to make sure both have received sufficient preparation in earlier subroutines in our practice.

I struggled with hanumanasana for a long time before coming to Vinyasa krama. I credit my ability to enter the posture to the long stays paschimottanasana that we'll see in the seated sequence subroutines. 

A long stay is called for in picture 2, the forward bend with the leg bent back, Ramaswami recommends five minutes and that extra time is well spent. 

Picture 4 is, I've just realised, an addition of my own, it's a bent back leg version of kraunchasana which we saw in Day 28. I've mistakenly carried this over from ashtanga but it doesn't seem out of place. Here we're stretching the hamstrings as well as the quads, again excellent preparation for hanumanasana.

Although the preceding postures can be seen as excellent preparation for hanumanasana they are all excellent stand alone postures and this is one of my favourite subroutines whether or not I choose to continue on to hanumanasana in that particular days practice or not.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

Ramaswami stresses here that hanumanasana, the monkey-god posture is particularly challenging and should be practiced with guidance.

Prepare yourself for a year or so working towards this, that prep will include becoming more comfortable in extended stays in paschimmotanasana.

In a sense hanumanasana is also a backbend so that is another area we can work on leading up to this posture.

When you are ready to attempt it, from downward dog you might try stepping through, rocking back on your heel and lowering on to your trailing knee.

Don't step through too far at first, as so often in Vinyasa Krama we enter a pose gently, on the breath and then return to stithi on the breath then enter again a little more deeply, eventually entering for a longer stay which we then precede to deepen with each breath.

Find a place that is comfortable and focus on your breathing keeping both legs engaged.

Eventually you will be able to step through a little further and as you rock back on your heel stretch back with your reclining leg. Again find a point that is comfortable, keep both legs engaged and focus on your breath, the longer you stay the better.

The time will come when you have stretched through and have stretched into the pose far enough to no longer be balanced on your knee, only your hands will be supporting you. Blocks here might be something to consider.

Try engaging the muscles of both legs firmly and keeping them engaged for a count of fifteen second then relax and allow yourself to lower  a little deeper. Again caution is advised.

If you overdo it here, you'll pull or at least tweak a hamstring and won't be able to work on the pose for another three to six months, this is not one to rush.

There is a temptation when you almost reach the floor to allow your hip to twist slightly and come down on the side of one buttock, this is a bad idea as it puts tension on the knee.

I found this is a nice posture to work on after practicing eka pada raja kapotasana

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Day 29 : Eka pada sirsasana ( leg to head ) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK

On DAY 21 for Durvasana, the standing leg behind head posture subroutine, I wrote...

Standing leg behind head, it's perhaps a good time to mention that we don't have to practice the subroutines consecutively, nor are we expected to be able to do all of them. A Leg behind head posture comes up here, in the one leg sequence, but It may be a good idea to work towards the posture in the Asymmetric sequence or Supine where it also appears. The leg behind head subroutines in those sequences include more preparation than here too.

Even though I've been able to put my leg behind my head comfortably for a number of years I still tend to include a number of preparation postures. In the subroutine above we have kauranchasana but I always tend to include akrarna dhanurasana (archer) from the previous subroutine (day 28). I'll also take the hip back as in the archer pose and then bring my leg from my foot to my knee parallel to my chest while supporting my foot with one hand and my knee with the other, I think of this as rocking the baby, I'm not sure if it has a sanskrit name or is even a posture.

The earlier Asymmetric subroutines are also excellent preparation for the eka para sirsasana and this is one example where keeping a number of subroutines together and following them in order may be good practice. Here are my key leg behind head preparatory postures.

Marichiyasana Day 25 where the knee is bent and we forward bend down the inside of the bent leg.

Maha mudra and Janu sirsasana from Day 27 where the hip is opened right up on one side and then the forward bend while the hip is so open.

Akrarna dhanurasana  from Day 28 where the the leg is drawn back, rotating the head of the femur up and back in the hip socket

Kauranchasana from Day 28 which continues the rotation of the head of the femur as we take the leg perpendicular

Rocking the baby ( see above) where the rotation is turned inward bringing the leg into a semblance of the position it will aim to be in Eka pada sirsasana but here in front of the body.

I tend to include the above postures in an extended Eka para sirsasana subroutine

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS


If putting your leg behind your head is not available to you at this time you might work towards it in this subroutine by simple putting your leg over your shoulder, your right leg over your right shoulder say. I practiced chakorasana this way for quite some time. Go through the subroutine in the same way perhaps including the preparatory postures I mention, taking the usual breath count, gradually working towards the full expression of eka padasirsasana.


Getting the leg behind the head
If your already able to put your leg behind your head it's still important to make sure your sufficiently warmed up and stretched out. The Utkatasana is a good place to start for the work on the hips, uttanasana for the forward bend and I highly recommend the Uthita padangusthasana and especially the standing marchi subroutines. The standing marchi will do a good job of pushing your hip back.

For leg behind head postures in general I made a video recently on approaching the posture in Vinyasa Karma. In the video I approach the standing LBH from seated, putting the leg behind my head and then moving into the LBH forward bend Skandasana or Richikasana. Here's the link

http://vinyasayogaathome.blogspot.com/2011/08/few-words-on-getting-your-leg-behind.html

Bring the foot into the rocking the baby position ( take the hip back as in the archer pose and then bring my leg from my foot to my knee parallel to my chest while supporting my foot with one hand and my knee with the other, I think of this as rocking the baby) take the leg outwards, rotating in the hip socket then bending then unbending at the knee bring the leg over in a circular motion dipping your head under the leg.

When dipping under the the leg slightly twist in towards the inside of the knee, as the foot settles behind the head you can the  straighten out of the twist taking the leg a little further and more comfortably over the shoulder.

Shuffle the foot a little further behind with your shoulder, you want to have your leg far enough around that the foot isn't pushing too strongly on your neck.

I used to try and pull my leg as far behind my head, as far over towards the other shoulder as possible, now I like to take my leg just over my head but as far over to the leg side as possible, this allows me to then shrug my shoulders further through and seems to allow the lag to settle lower and ultimately deeper. this is perhaps more easily seen on the video link above.

It's advisable perhaps. to have done some work on back bending postures to make your back stronger before moving on to leg behind head postures.

I've just noticed the forward bend in Eka para sirsasana picture is missing from the above practice sheet (a new practice sheet will be on it's way shortly).

Before folding forward try to stretch tall out of the pelvis just as in all other forward bends.

Lead with the chest

there is a slight twist as we bring our body over the outstretched leg

Reclining into Skandasana
Before reclining backward we want to again try and stretch out of our hip just as we have seen in the on your feet/tadasana postures.

Ground the heel, better to allow the knee to bend than let the leg come up and flap about as the grounding of the heel will give you some control and stop you from rolling over to the side.

There is a reclining version of Skandasana in the Supine sequence where you put your leg behind your head in supine, this is good to know as your head popping out from behind the head while reclined is not a disaster.

To return to Eka pada sirsasana bring your outstretched leg up over your head far enough to give you some momentum as you rock backup to seated.

Chakorasana
Place your hands forward of your hips and push down through the mat lifting your body.

Raise your outstretched leg towards your face (eventually you will be able to bring your face to your knee while lifted) by rocking your hips forward.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Day 28 : akrarnadhanurasana (archer) and Kraunchasana (heron) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
These postures were a revelation for me when working towards the leg behind head postures as they provide such excellent preparation.

Although we're holding on to the big toe and these are often referred to as big toe stretching postures it's the complete other end of the leg we're focused on,where the head of the femur enters the pelvis.

Remember this is a ball and socket joint, rather than wrenching the leg back there is a gentle drawing back of the leg that allows for some rotation in the joint in akrarnadhanurasana. 

In Kraunchasana as well there is a slow raising of the leg which allows for the rotation in the joint.

Caution

Although we're focussing on the hip joint here Kraunchasana gives an extreme hamstring stretch so we need to be sufficiently prepared, possibly through earlier standing postures in out practice. 


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Day 27 : Maha mudra (great seal) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
Ramaswami mentions mahamudra as a key posture in Vinyasa Krama and encourages us to include it in our daily practice.

Ramaswami also advises us to stay in the pose 'a long time, say about five or more minutes'.

Because we are encouraged to stay in mahamudra for a significant amount of time we may choose to practice just janusirsasana in this subroutine and then later, at the end of our practice, dwell in mahamudra as preparation for pranayama.

I like to practice it in this subroutine for the usual three to six breaths and then do an extended stay at the end of my practice followed by badha konasana before entering padmasana (lotus) for my pranayama practice.

Maha mudra is an excellent posture for working on mull, uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas.

As we take hold of our toe we have sit forward on our sit bones, grounded in this way it becomes easier to focus on exploring mula bandha, the holding of the toe, gives a sense of stability when engaging uddiyana bandha


Mula and Uddiyana bandha
'The other two bandhas, however, should be practiced in most of the asanas, especially after exhalation. The first is mula bandha, which means "constricting of the anus" It is done after a complete exhalation. After the exhalation is over, the abhyasi (yoga student) should anchor the body in the asana he or she is in and then slowly and deliberately close the anus and draw in the rectum by contracting the perineal and surrounding muscles of the pelvic floor. Then as if in a continuous movement, the abdomen, including the navel, is drawn in, pushing up the diaphragm into the now almost empty chest cavity, which is then called uddiyana bandha ( drawing in of the diaphragm)... This technique is one of the specialities of yogic breathing" p127

Leaning forward to grab our toe we allow our head to tilt forward bring our chin down. the chin tilted down is almost the default positing in Vinyasa Krama for the beneficial effect it has in the spine. We can practice it lightly or bring the chin tighter into the breastbone for Jalandhara bandha


Jalandhara bandha
'There are three important band has. the first is jalandhara bandha, or locking the chin against the breastbone. This may be done during kumbhkas and whenever the the posture requires the chin to be locked, which is normally the case during forward bends and when keeping the back erect. In backbends and twisting postures it is not possible to do jalandhara bandha'. p127



Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Day 26 : Ardha padmasana (half lotus) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
This subroutine follows the pattern mentioned in day 25. A 'hub' pose (pic 1), a starting position or stithy  here ardha padmasana stithi (pic 3) which is also, in this case, the key posture Ardha padmasana, a number of variations follow (pic 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9) and finally a counter pose (pic 10). What's different here are the lifts/arm balances (pic 9) and the side/lateral lift (pic 6). This subroutine when practiced on both sides gives us a full range of hip movement.

Half lotus
See Day 17 Vrikmasana for some notes on standing half lotus.

To get into half lotus : Bend the knee bringing it towards the chest, allow the knee to drop out to the side, key here is the natural rotation in the hip joint. Bring the foot close to the opposite thigh, hold your foot in one hand and the knee in the other and GENTLY encourage the roration of the ball and socket hip joint, bring the knee forward parallel with the floor towards the opposite knee and the foot further up the thigh and ideally, eventually, towards the groin.

CAUTION
You don't want to force this action, if you feel strain on your knee it may be better to practice tomorrows subroutine built around mama mudra with the foot against the thigh rather than on top instead. Practicing the maha mudra subroutine will bring half, and eventually, full lotus closer.

As we have found in all forward bending asana, stretch out of the hips as we practiced in the standing On your feet sequences, the same goes for the twisting postures.

CAUTION.
In picture six (the raised hip), Vasishtasana or Kashyapasana we must be careful of the knee. Work from the top down, pushing down into the mat and lifting your shoulders then lifting the hip which will allow the leg to straighten, lower in reverse, DON'T push off the mat from the foot, knee or hip first as this will put too much strain on the knee which is vulnerable here.

The lift /Utpluthi (pic9)
Lean forward , put your hands slightly forward of your hips, engage mula and uddiyana bandha, drop your shoulders bend your elbows. Now push down through the mat lifting your body off the mat. At first you might only manage to lift your backside off the mat, your heels remaining grounded. However, keep engaging the legs for the full count of three to six breaths as this will build strength for future attempts.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Day 25 : Marchi (after the sage) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
This subroutine forms a pattern that we find in many of the subroutines. A 'hub' pose (pic 1) a starting position or stithi, here Marichiyasana stithi, the key posture, Marichyasana (pic 4), a number of variations (pic 5, 6 and 7) and finally a counter pose (pic8).

We have the option of practising the whole sequence on one side, the left say and then the right or if we are doing a number of Asymmetric subroutines we might practice all of them on one side before moving on to the other.

There are some other marchi vinyasas and that come up later in the Asymmetric series under Hybrid asymmetric vinyasas. These could be added to this subroutine before the counter pose if we were only including this subroutine in our practice.

Picture 10, Ardha matsyendrasana is not really part of the marchi although it differs from the marchi variation in Picture 7 only by the crossing of the leg and doesn't seem out of place here as an extension or development of the marchi sequence. It appears again at the end of the Asymmetric sequence with the more challenging full kingfisher pose, purna matsyendrasana.

There are a few other postures that I've encountered in the advanced Ashtanga series that don't appear in Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama book, it's interesting to see where they might be best placed as a development and extension of a subroutine just as ardha matsyendrasana is here.

Hints/Tips/Suggestions
Remember to lift up and out of the pelvis in preparation for the forward bends. The stretching of the arms overhead in Dandasana should remind us of tadasana.

The tibia (inner shin bone) is kept upright, try to avoid turning it inwards or outwards.

There is a subtle twist at the hips as we bend over the outstretched leg.

The chin is down in a light to strong jaladhara bandha, we aim to bring the forehead to the knee or beyond in vinyasa krama.

We stay in each stage for at least three breaths.

The breaths are long, slow, steady, smooth, aim for five second inhalations but try to extend the exhalations.

As with the standing march we squeeze more air out of the lung by tightening the bind on each exhalation.

As you swing the arm around the knee think of putting on a coat the dipping of the shoulder forward as you reach around, half rotating your arm to get further around the knee.

As you settle into the bind, roll your sit bone over the muscle, once over you become more stable and feel less likely to fall backwards.

Engage the bandhas, mula will ground you providing more stability, sucking in your belly in uddiyana bandha will give you more room for the forward bend.

In the counterpose (pratikriya) ground the toes and really push the hips up on each breath, well be seeing more of these hip lifts in the supine subroutines.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Day 24 : Dandasana (Staff pose) lead in, subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
The lead in to Dandasana above includes the challenging jump through the arms to seated, below is a simplified version of the lead in where we enter dandasana from utkatasana (full squat) I've included it at the end of the video.

VIDEO LINK

Dandasana is an important 'hub' pose of all the seated asana, as such I sometimes like to explore the posture a little by borrowing the hand/arm vinyasas from the On your feet subroutines.

VIDEO LINK
Hints/Tips/Suggestions.
It's good to keep the 'On your feet' subroutines in mind with the seated postures, we have the same lifting up and stretching out of the pelvis that we stress in tadasana. The chin trends to be down as is the gaze and in the upcoming forward bends we bend from the hip pushing our buttocks back so want to be sitting forward on our sit bones in Dandasana.

Jump through
The jump through is challenging. One of the best ways to learn it is, from downward facing dog, to jump/hop to just behind our arms landing with our feet slightly crossed, then with our knees bent shuffle through our arms and sit down. Engage the arms all the time in preparation for taking all the weight of the body when progressing to the full jump through. We should also aim to engage mula and uddiyana bandha as this will help to give is some lift.

In the practice Book I include screenshots ten different kinds of jump through and jump back, they can also be found HERE and can be seen on the Video link below the poster.

Below is the legs uncrossed jump through that Ramaswami recommends, it comes towards the end of the video.

VIDEO LINK
I find the above approach to the jump back very challenging and tend to stick with the crossed leg version I'm most familiar with. Here though is a link to a video of my friend Chris from Ramaswami's 2010 Vinyasa krama teacher training course we both attended http://youtu.be/qGQSH-2OOjI.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Day 23 : Practising On one leg subroutines inc. On one leg subroutine breakdown sheet


Day 17 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Vrikrmasana ( tree pose )subroutine On one leg sequence






I tend to practice One leg postures at the beginning of my practice along with the other standing poses in the Triangle and Tadasana subroutines but this may be the influence of Ashtanga, force of habit. I try to mix up the subroutines Standing marchi one day, the one legged virabhadrasana another, Again, with my Ashtanga background I tend to practice the bound vrikmasana and Utthita para paschimnottanasana postures daily but will turn one of them into it's Vinyasa Krama subroutine, squatting in the one posture one day the other the next.

I tend to practice Natarjasana as part of a group of back bending subroutines, Bow and Meditative with eka pada raja kapotasana as preparation for the subroutine.

I practice the standing leg behind head as part of other leg behind head subroutines, usually those from the Asymmetric series.

To recap 

Ramaswami refers to the On one leg series as tapas (heat) or austerity postures.

Caution
One legged postures build strength in the legs, protecting the knees by strengthening the muscles above and below. However, while building up those muscles the knee is at risk in the one legged squats, especially coming back up so caution is advised.

Quietening the mind
No other postures seem to quieten the mind as much as balancing on one leg postures, if your having a sever attack of monkey mind one morning a One leg subroutine might be just the thing.

Balance
Balance can be improved by fixing the gaze on one point. In most postures in the On one leg sequence the chin is down as is the gaze.

Slowing and regulating the breath can help with balance as well, make your ujjayi a little stronger a little more forceful by tightening the throat, the glottis a little more.

Engaging the bandhas (see practice guidelines  DAY 1), drawing up the anus and sucking in and up the belly but not too strongly which might send you off balance.

Gripping the mat with the standing foot as if trying to make fist, pushing down with the heels and big toe while drawing up the instep can also improve stability.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Day 22 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Natarjasana (dancing Shiva) subroutine On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
I still find some backbend preparation helpful before attempting Natarjasana. I tend to do some of the Bow postures and perhaps Kapotasana from meditative and even Eka pada raja kapotasana below to prepare myself for bringing the elbow out and around.

One of the difficulties with Natarjasana as with Eka pada raja kapotasana is the grip on the foot. Here it is at full speed and then in slow motion.





....and some screen shots.


1. Lift your leg up behind you bending the knee and bringing your heel towards your buttock but turn the foot outwards. Rest the back of your hand against the outside of your ankle.

2. Turn your hand palm outwards and take hold of the top of your foot.

3. Rotate your elbow outwards and your bring the foot up. At this point you'll need to begin the backbend to make the space for the elbow to come out and the shoulder rotate. 

4. Stretch up out of your hips, tilt the pelvis down and begin to arch the back as if you were preparing to drop back into urdhva danhurasana, continue to bring the elbow out and over to end up above your shoulder.






Friday, 21 October 2011

Day 21 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Durvasana ( named after a sage ) subroutine On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
Standing leg behind head, it's perhaps a good time to mention that we don't have to practice the subroutines consecutively, nor are we expected to be able to do all of them. A Leg behind head posture comes up here, in the one leg sequence, but It may be a good idea to work towards the posture in the Asymmetric sequence or Supine where it also appears. The leg behind head subroutines in those sequences include more preparation than here too.

If your already able to put your leg behind your head comfortably and want to try it standing with this subroutine it's probably a good idea to make sure your sufficiently warmed up and stretched out. The Utkatasana is a good place to start for the work on the hips, uttanasana for the forward bend and I highly recommend the Uthita padangusthasana and especially the standing marchi subroutines. The standing marchi will do a good job of pushing your hip back.

For leg behind head postures in general I made a video recently on approaching the posture in Vinyasa Karma. In the video I approach the standing LBH from seated, putting the leg behind my head and then moving into the LBH forward bend Skandasana or Richikasana. Here's the link

http://vinyasayogaathome.blogspot.com/2011/08/few-words-on-getting-your-leg-behind.html

To get the leg behind the head in standing you want to bend forward, take the leg over above your elbow, push the hip  back ( why standing marchi is useful prep) and take the foot over and around your head dipping your head in at the same time. 

Shuffle the foot a little further behind with your shoulder, you want to have your leg far enough around that the foot isn't pushing too strongly on your neck.

Next it's case of straightening up although your always likely to be a little stooped...unless your nine. one way is to walk the hands up the leg but that's a bit of a cheat, better is to stretch out of your hips just as we've been doing in the On your feet sequences and keeping your back strong.

It's advisable perhaps. to have done some work on back bending postures to make your back strong before moving on to leg behind head postures.

One more thing that I remembered practicing this earlier, I think we tend to be afraid of falling out of this and landing awkwardly and painfully with our leg still behind our head. I've stumbled in this a couple of times, this evening included and always the leg pops back from behind the leg neatly giving you time to stop yourself falling. It's tricky, can take a couple of attempts if you haven't practiced it for a while or if it's your first time.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Day 20 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Virabhadrasana (warrior) subroutine On one leg sequence


VIDEO LINK
This is the similar to the final vinyasas of the virabhadrasana subroutine from the triangle sequnece

TIPS/HINTS/ SUGGESTIONS

We aim to stay in each position for three long steady breaths.

Ramaswami has us bend our knees slightly and lower the trunk, then from the bent leg position we raise the leg


As with parsva konasana the raising of the leg comes from the hip

Keep the standing leg bent as you stretch out the leg and arms

Visualise a rope on you wrist and on your raised ankle stretching you.

Now straighten the leg on the inhalation 

Focus on bandhas to help keep your steady and fix your gaze on a point on the mat.

Again, to raise the leg higher for the final position, raise from the hip.

Cautions
As with Day 12, Utthita parsva konasana, we need to protect our knee as we straighten and bend the leg

Use the back of a chair in the beginning  if necessary,

Don't go down too low at first.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Day 19 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Utthita Padangushtasana (stretched leg-arm) subroutine On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
My own BĂȘte Noire of a subroutine, pure tapas.

Some discrepancies between the book and video. There are two main approaches to uttita padangustasana, one is to bring the knee to the chest and then straighten the leg out in front of you as I do in the video. The other approach and the one, the one I use now is the same as in Ramaswamis book, raise the leg straight up in front of you and then take hold of the big toe.

I noticed Ramaswami has us raise the leg on the exhalation, I've always done it on the inhalation, I tried it his way this morning and I think I like it, it feels more controlled, focused.

In every stage we should aim to stay for three long, smooth breathes.

TIPS/HINTS/SUGGESTIONS

Ground your standing foot, from the big toe to the heel.

Ramaswami recommends engaging the bandhas, see guidelines Day One, basically, draw up the anus and suck in and raise the belly at the end of the exhalations and hold. 

Uddiyana bandha seems particularly effective for keeping the leg raised, really suck the belly in and up into the ribcage as much as possible while holding the leg out straight.

Sucking the belly in will also give you more room for folding over your leg.

When folding forward to bring your forehead to the knee, push the hip/buttock back, remember your uttanasana.

Lift up the buttock of the raised leg, I visualise that it's supported on some kind of Subway standing lean/seat

Don't drop the pelvis when swinging the leg around to the side


The squat is on the long slow exhalation, strong ujjayi will give more control

I find the squat here the easiest of the one legged squats, the outstretched leg with the foot held seems to give you more control as you lower. 

Folding over your leg in the squat imagine a rope attached to you foot and another to your hips and that your being stretched outward, your still wanting to be pushing your backside out in this forward bend.

To come up engage the bandhas strongly, press through the mat, raise up slowly with the inhalation. 

Coming up from these one legged squats is where you'll start to think there may be something to bandha work after all.

Caution
This is an intense hamstring stretch and forward bend so make sure you are nicely warmed up. The utkatasana and uttanasana half and full subroutines from the On your feet sequence would be one way to go or perhaps the Utthita parsvottanasana. The latter is an intense hamstring stretch itself but it's possible to work into the stretch in that subroutine.

Work up to the squat, lowering a little way and then coming back up perhaps on the breath. if your wobbling and swaying too much don't try to lower all the way or you risk spraining an ankle

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Day 18 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Standing Marchi subroutine On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK

TIPS/HINTS/SUGGESTIONS

As with yesterday, Day17, slow steady breathing, downward gaze fixed on a single point and the engaging of the bandhas can help here.

Ramaswami suggests leaning forward slightly when we try to reach around the leg.

When bound, as we bend forward, we aim to ultimately bring the forehead below the knee but in the beginning can settle for first the forehead and then the nose.

We might entering the posture on the exhalation and then come straight out on the following inhalation. then as we become more confident stay for one breath and progress from there, the die is to work on remaining steady and comfortable.

the gaze will move of course as we bend but try to keep it in a single line, tracking from the mat to our foot and up our leg.

Ramaswami asks us to squeeze the knee tight against our chest on each exhalation 'squeezing as much air out of our lungs as possible'.

Caution
As we bend deeper into the bound pose we give quite a stretch to the gluteus maximus (buttock) so want to make sure we're sufficiently warmed up. The forward bends, uttanasana and ardho uttanasana subroutines in the On your feet sequence are a suggestion.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Day 17 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Vrikrmasana ( tree pose )subroutine On one leg sequence

VIDEO LINK
TIPS/HINTS/SUGGESTIONS


Ramaswami refers to the On one leg series as tapas (heat) or austerity postures.

My favourite austerity story is the tragic tale of Amba from the Mahabharata. Rejected by the great warrior Bima, the man she loves, Amba practices austerities, standing on one toe for twelve years in the snow. Siva grants her the boon (gift) of telling her that in he next life she will kill Bima.

Caution
One legged postures build strength in the legs, protecting the knees by strengthening the muscles above and below. However, while building up those muscles the knee is at risk in the one legged squats, especially coming back up so caution is advised. I've had operations on my knees in my youth so, while happy to squat down into these postures I still tend to come back up but putting down my hands and returning via uttanasana (forward bend) just to be on the safe side, especially in the colder weather, see video link.

Quietening the mind
No other postures seem to quieten the mind as much as balancing postures, if your having a sever attack of monkey mind one morning a One leg subroutine might be just the thing.

Balance
Balance can be improved by fixing the gaze on one point. In most postures in the On one leg sequence the chin is down as is the gaze.

Slowing and regulating the breath can help with balance as well, make your ujjayi a little stronger a little more forceful by tightening the throat, the glottis a little more.

Engaging the bandhas (see practice guidelines  DAY 1), drawing up the anus and sucking in and up the belly but not too strongly which might send you off balance.

Half lotus
Many find this challenging, don't worry, we get to work on half and full lotus in many of the Vinyasa Krama sequences, taking different approaches. In the Asymmetric sequence we have a long build up to half and full lotus while seated. In Supine we approach the postures laying down and upside down as well as in the Inverted sequence. In the Lotus sequence several of the Asymmetric subroutines reappear as preparation for full lotus.

I was thinking this morning that standing on one leg is actually a good first approach to half lotus. The danger of lotus is thinking it's all about the knees, bending and twisting and pretzeling them into position.  Lotus is actually all about the hip.

Look at the first picture, Bhagiratasana, we place the foot against the inner thigh. To do so we bend the knee, lifting the foot, then take the knee outwards bringing the foot to the inside of the thigh. The hip is a ball and socket joint, we've already begun to rotate the ball in the socket. To go deeper and into half lotus and Vrikmasana (tree pose), rotate the ball a little further in the socket, taking the knee a little further out and down which automatically brings the foot up towards the groin. Here's the bit I like best about approaching it standing, to go a little deeper still and bring the foot up a little higher into the groin we allow the knee to drop a little further. There's been no wrenching and pulling up to get the foot into position it's done almost of it's own accord and is worth remembering when we approach half lotus seated.

Of course depending on our flexibility we might knot get the foot as high up into the groin as we might wish, we may have to make do with half way up the thigh so we can support the foot with our hand. As we start to squat the bend in the knee will give us some support allowing us to let go and take the hand position, whether out in front or above the head.

Squatting
Gazing down, engaging bandhas, focusing the breath all help. At first go just as far down as feels comfortable then come back up.

We lower on the exhale, come back up on the inhalation.

Ideally we will lower all the way and stay for a number of breaths, 3-6 but on first encountering squats it might be a good idea to go down as far as is comfortable on the exhale and then come straight back up on the inhale a few times, then if we feel confident go down a little way stay for a breath, perhaps two and then come back up. We might also try it holding onto the back of a chair.

Binding
As with the Lotus we will come across the arm behind the back while holding onto the toe bind in several of the sequences, seated, reclining and inverted approaches.

While working on the bind we might hold the raised right foot with our left hand and then reach around with our right and hold the inside of the left elbow.

To get in a little deeper we can walk our fingers down our forearm towards our foot, a little further each day.

Another approach is to stretch up out of the pelvis, twist to the right and take our shoulder over and back as if we were putting our hand through a sleeve. When we have gripped as far down our arm as we're able or perhaps our hip bone we then take a firm hold and then straighten back up and realign ourselves as best we can.

Yet another approach is to put our right arm behind our back, the back of our hand just above our hip and then turn and then twist to the right sliding our hand over our hip towards our foot.

It took me quite a while to get this bind, I seem to remember wrapping a belt around my foot and holding the ends, working a little further down the belt each day, each week.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Day 16 : Practising triangle subroutines inc Triangle subroutine breakdown sheet

VIDEO LINK

Day 10 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Uttita Trikonasana subroutine Triangle sequence








I first began practicing yoga in the ashtanga style of Patthabi Jois and a number of triangle postures, even a subroutine (prasarita), begin that style of practice. Ashtanga starts with a number of Suryanamaskaras (sun salutations), the second type of which includes a nod to virabhadrasana, after a forward bend, the next nine postures are triangle asana. 

Ashtanga can be quite an extreme practice and I tend to credit the fact that I didn't receive an injuries with the practice of the standing sequence, considering it to be warm up and preparation, "triangle keeps your safe". This is a blessing but also a bit of a curse. I find it hard to consider a practice without including some triangle asana but I've also tended to think of the triangle postures as merely warm up, preparation for the more challenging postures to come.

So when practicing Vinyasa Krama I include a number of Triangle postures directly after the tadasana sequence, sometimes with a couple of suryanamaskara sandwiched in between. As a rule I'll follow the order of triangle postures I'm familiar with from ashtanga, utthita trikonasana including the reverse twist but at utthita parsvakonasana i'll include the vinyasa Krama subroutine ( day 12) with the palms coming together and the one leg squat. I'll do the prasaritta subroutine next and then throw in the parsva konasana posture before moving on to some On one leg postures.

One thing to come out of this review of trikonasana subroutines is that I'll be spending more time in my practice on the parsva konasana subroutine (day 13) rather than just the key posture.

Another problem with seeing the triangle postures as merely warm up/preparation postures is that we can forget what an intense hamstring stretch is involved. In Ashtanga we would have practiced eight to ten sun salutations before moving onto trikonasana, the body and legs in particular are warm and well stretched out. In Vinyasa Krama we tend not to include as many Sun salutations and for this reason need to approach the triangle postures with caution. 

The utkatasana and ardho utkatasana subroutines from the On your feet sequence can be good preparation for the one leg squats in triangle and the Uttanasana, forward bend, On your feet subroutine can warm up the hamstrings for the intense stretch they'll receive in Utthita parsvakonasana.

Vinyasa krama subroutines often tend to include a gentle approach to the postures, we might enter and exit on the breath a few times, going a little deeper into the posture each time before settling into the full expression of the pose. We should think carefully before dropping that gentle introduction.

Tomorrow : On your feet Subroutines

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Day 15 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes :Parasarita padottanasana subroutine Triangle sequence

Tips/hints/suggestions
  • Stretch up out of the pelvis
  • As with the forward bends in the On the feet subroutines this posture is all about the hips. Think more about bringing the hips over and down.
  • Keep the feet facing forward to protect the knees
  • Engage mula bandha for stability, visualise a weight on a chain dropping to the mat from your perineum. as you take your hips over imaging your mull bandha and uddiyana bandha trying to raise the weight, pulling up on the chain as you bring your hips over.
  • Stick your backside out/back
  • Draw in your uddiyana bandha, your belly back and up to give more room for the final fold as your head reaches the mat between your feet.
  • Engage the bandhas before raising back up on the inhalation 
  • Don't rush it, take a tip from the earlier subroutines, enter the pose hands to the floor on the exhalation and come up on the inhalation , then go a little deeper with each breath.
  • Try it with the wall a foot behind you so you know you won't topple backwards.
  • The twist (pic 5 +6 ) is tricky here's a similar action from seated. Watch the video( link under practice sheet), if I'm going to the right leg I'll take my right arm over to my left hip as fold/lean/twist towards my right foot, taking my left arm over in front of my fact to grab the outside of my left foot. Now reach for the inside of the left foot with the palm of your right hand and twist as if to bring your chest through your arms. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Day 14 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Viabhadrasana ( Warrior ) subroutine Triangle sequence

VIDEO LINK

Tips/Hints/Suggestions

The motion from the first to the second picture is revolving shoulder joint action, a fluid almost circular motion. the same action comes up in the On your feet sequence in the haste variations from Day one.

Notice the difference between the third picture here and yesterdays parsva konasana, this is similar but with the knee bent. It's the bent knee that characterises virabhadrasana

As with parsva konasana the raising of the leg comes from the hip

Visualise a rope on you wrist and on your raised ankle stretching you

As with Day 12, Utthita parsva konasana we need to protect our one as we straighten and bend the leg

Be careful of your knees, use the back of a chair if necessary,

Don't go down too low at first.

Lowering is easier than coming back up. If necessary lower slowly but then put your hand and foot back down to come back up before raising your arm and leg and lowering again until your legs strengthen enough to come back up unsupported.

Focus on bandhas to help keep your steady and fix your gaze on a point on the mat.

In the final posture use the repeat approach at first going in and out of the posture on the breath a little deeper each time.

Commentary

I was asked "Why Subroutines"? 

Here seems as good a place as any to put my own thoughts on this.

Vinyasa' in the Ashtnga style of Pattabhi Jois tends to refer to the transitioning in and out of a posture, the jump back often referred to as the half-vinyasa but in Vinyasa Krama it has Krishnamacharya's usage as variation.

I seem to remember Ramaswami referencing Krishnamacharya as saying that asana without it's vinyasa is futile. Krishnamcharya writes on this in his Yoga Makaranda, p79 saying '...all the vinyasas should be followed'.

The subroutines are the vinyasas/variations of an asana, but also the stages that lead into and out of an asana. Krishanamacharya says too that the vinyasas must be practiced so that the prana circulates evenly. Ramaswami talks about the vast range of asana as allowing the blood to circulate to all areas of the body. I'm happy to link (loosely) prana to blood circulation. If we only practice a few asana we don't access our bodies evenly and completely. 

This suggests that practicing a bunch of unrelated postures in a practice is less than ideal.

But of course we can only practice so much, so there's compromise

Vinyasa Krama recommends practicing a number of subroutines one morning and then different subroutines the following day and so on through the week or ten days so we reach all areas of the body in our practice.

Ashtanga has a wide mixture of postures and mini subroutines that you practice daily.

I like a subroutine will often lead up to a posture, give you variations that allow you to extend and develop the main posture and then finish with a counterpose, it seems to make sense. Plus if your going to do a posture, if we think that a posture has some value, some benefit then surely we should be milking it for everything it's got. Every slight variation of the posture has a different subtle effect on the body.

The sequences in the book are just groupings of postures, all the Supine postures, all the Bow postures. Standing gets split into three sequences both feet , one foot/leg and triangle which seems to form a grouping of it's own, then of course all the many postures in lotus and inversions etc. At the back of the book are a number of subroutines that don't seem to fit into any grouping.

Within that grouping, Asymmetric say, there are a number of key asana and it's around these that the vinyasas, the variations are built. Ashtanga has that with the janu sirsasana mini subroutine but it also has the one leg bent back posture, tiring mukha eka para paschimottanasana all on it's own. Vinyasa Krama has a whole subroutine built around that pose, the different possibilities it raises. Interestingly there is a nice variations but in fourth series ashtanga, with the other leg behind the head.

Some subroutines are more challenging than others and they would come later in that overall grouping of subroutines and some of those subroutines seem to lead on to each other others are complete and stand alone.  It seems to make sense that Virabhadrasana subroutine follows utthita Parsva konasana but it's clearly different. The prasaritta subroutine (see tomorrow day 15), almost exactly the same as in Ashtanga, isn't a development at all and could probably go anywhere in the triangle sequence at the beginning, middle or end.





Thursday, 13 October 2011

Day 13 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Parsva konasana ( side stretch ) subroutine Triangle sequence

VIDEO LINK
I've practiced Parsva konasana ( or utthita parsvottanasana in ashtanga speak) in the Ashtanga style of Pattabhi Jois for a number of years, enter the posture on the breath, stay for five, exit on the breath and repeat on the other side. 

In the Vinyasa Krama approach to parsva konasana we can see the comprehensive nature of this style of practice. First we enter and exit a simplified, supported, vinyasa/variation of the posture on the breath, then on the third entry we stay for a significant period of time, three to six long slow inhalations and exhalations. Next up come two versions of the posture, an elbow bind and the more classic hands in reverse prayer. As we have seen from the On your feet sequences there are probably other hand/arm variations that we might explore here. Finally we enter the posture again with our palms on the mat but this time raise our trailing leg from the hip in a counter pose, holding for another three to six breaths before returning to the original starting point of trikonasana stithi. There are approximately fifty breaths taken in this one subroutine and it can take anywhere from twelve to twenty minutes depending on how long and slow we make our breath.

This is a pattern that we see in many of the Vinyasa Krama subroutines.
  • Enter/exit on the breath
  • long stay
  • Vinyasas/variations
  • counter posture
  • return to starting position (stithy).

I tend to practice a couple of the vinyasas in different postures from different subroutines and sequences, building my practice by covering a wide range of posture types. This morning, re shooting the video for this practice sheet I was reminded of how profound practicing a posture in this way can be. 

Entering and exiting on the breath allows us to work a little deeper into the posture each time. Knowing we have several attempts we can be gentle on ourselves, ease into the posture

The long stay in the posture allows us to settle, find the spaces, shift our weight here there, sink into the pose.

The vinyasas allow us to explore, extend, expand upon the 'theme' and yet remain centred 

The counter pose and return to the point in which we began  gives a sense of completeness, the subroutines generally exists as a whole.

And there's flexibility, depending on the level of our practice or how warmed up we are we might not bend as deeply, do all the vinyasas or stay as long.

Caution.
parsva konasana offers a deep stretch to the hamstrings and this is one benefit of working slowly into the posture, it's not one to rush unless we have been prepared before hand by other postures or subroutines.

Tips.
  • Protect the hamstrings by pressing the leading foots toes firmly into the mat

  • Focus on the trailing hip, make the movement form there. So if your bending over your right leg focus on your left hip, bend from there. but make sure your hips are in line with each other.

  • Leading with that trailing hip has the curious sensation of having your backside pulled up into the air as your bent over as if there is a giant balloon hooked into your gluteus maximus

  • In the final variation, when you raise your leg, again lift from the hip  

  • When entering those three times at the beginning of the subroutine I lead with my chin the first time, my nose the second and my forehead the third, this come from a later supine subroutine.

  • Engage your mula and uddiyana bandhas, these help protect your hamstrings in paschimottanasana, the seated forward bend but will have the same effect here.


A tweaked or pulled hamstring seems to take forever to heal up completely, for months you'll find yourself mindful of it. You can still practice but it puts a bit of a damper on it, so go easy here. Thats' what a vinyasa karma subroutine is designed to do, to ease you into a posture and vinyasas.



Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Day 12 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Uttita parsva konasana ( side stretch ) subroutine Triangle sequence

This is another subroutine that I decided to re shoot and make up another sheet from that on my Vinyasa Krama Sequences and subroutines website. The main difference is that here I include the intermediate stage of keeping the palm on the mat while bending and straightening the knee. This is a particularly challenging subroutine and the intermediate stage may be plenty to be going on with for a while. The important thing is to work on the balance and breathing, only moving on when the breath allows us to do so.

The first two weeks of Ramaswami's Teacher Training course had seemed relatively easy. We'd spent a lot of time with the On your feet sequence focusing on principles and guidelines as well as some Asymmetric and Seated postures. The 4th of July holiday was coming up and we had a couple of days off, a few of us came up with the idea of practicing the complete Vinyasa Krama syllabus, one sequence after another, we figured it would take around five hours.

Perhaps Ramaswami got to hear about it but the next sequence we began to study was the triangle sequence, watch the video, Ramaswami had us do this particular subroutine at about half the speed ( at least it felt that way ), long slow inhalations and exhalation as we would raise and lower on one leg. The next sequence we explored was the On one leg sequence, more long slow one legged squats.

The plan to practice the whole syllabus in one go quickly dissolved.

Ramaswami referred to the On one leg postures and subroutines as tapas.

In Sanskrit tapas means heat and these postures certainly heat you up, used figuratively tapas can denote spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity, which comes closer to the experience of a one legged squat.



Tips and hints to make this subroutine a little easier or at least more manageable.
  • Bandhas Mula and Uddiyana 
see Day 4 Ardho Uttkatasana
  • Balance. 
Balance is everything here, move your weight about, depending on where you are in the sequence, move it forward , bringing your heavy pelvis forward over your knee as you raise you leg
  • Raise your leg from the hip
  • Look straight ahead
  • Vizualize
I use a geyser coming up out of the ground and up through my leg which seems to help to keep it strong ( old Aikido trick). As I lower I'm lowering down into the geyser which keeps me strong and supported. Whatever you use the mind needs to be completely focused.
  • Tapas
Think tapas, you get to ask the gods for a boon (favour) after this.
  • Benefits 
These are tough but they strengthen the legs, above and below the knees which will protect them in the long term. Strong legs help in the standing backbends.

Caution
Be careful of your knees, use the back of a chair if necessary,
Don't go down too low at first.
Lowering is easier than coming back up. If necessary lower slowly but then put your hand and foot back down to come back up before raising your arm and leg and lowering again until your legs strengthen enough to come back up unsupported.

Good luck.

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