General perceptions in Yoga are that performance progressions in any Āsana are usually around improvement or refinement in the choreography of the entry or exit, or in the extremity of the final form.
For example if we were to compare the performance of students in say Uttānasana, evaluations would tend to be made concerning how far one bends forward, or how near the head is towards the knees, or how straight the legs are, or how close to the ground the hands are, et cetera.
However from the viewpoint of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, in terms of Āsana practice for adults, the breath has its own developmental path within the performance of any Āsana.
Furthermore, within an Āsana and alongside the Vinyāsa Krama of getting in and out of the Āsana and what would be the focus whilst at the crown of the sequence around that particular Āsana, there is also a Vinyāsa Krama around the development of the breath.
“The first step in the practice of Āsana is the linking of the mind to movement and breath.”
– TKV Desikachar
Thus I was taught that within the Vinyāsa Krama, in terms of the breath within an Āsana, there are clearly defined steps in the development of the students relationship with that particular Āsana.
So if we look at Uttānasana we can map out some of the preliminary steps in the Vinyāsa Krama of the breath that accompanies the performance of the form.
- Establishing a theoretical link with the inhale to the opening and exhale to the closing movements of the spine.
- Working on establishing a basic experiential link of the breath to the Vinyāsa Krama of Uttānasana, in that as we raise the arms we inhale and as we bend forward we exhale on the way down, with the coming up on the inhale and lowering the arms on the exhale.
- Refining this basic link by learning to exactly match the steps in the opening and closing movements of the form to the movements of the inhale and exhale. So there is a seamless co-ordination of breath and movement.
- The next step in the progression is to develop the ability to be able to commence the breath a second or two before we start to move and extend the breath a second or two beyond the end of that particular phase of the Vinyāsa Krama of, in this case, Uttānasana. In other words each step in the flow of the form is encapsulated within the breath.
We can already see from these steps that there is a developmental progression that sits alongside the physical performance of the posture. More importantly this progression also helps to define the inner experience of the Āsana as embracing far more than just the usual dimensions of being seen as such as gymnastics, or dance, or keep fit, or stretch, or Yoga for……..
In that it represents and introduces that aspect of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around our relationship with the infinite within the practice of the finite.
Future posts will explore further steps in the Vinyāsa Krama of the breath within Āsana.