Nāma, Rūpa, Lakṣana – The Name, Form and Characteristics of Āsana

The Aṣṭāṅgāsana or the eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice are the formula for constructing a skilful and place, time and lifestyle appropriate Āsana practice. These eight limbs fall into eight categories, that of:

  • The definition, meaning and context of Āsana
    – Core concept – Nāma Rūpa Lakṣana – name, form and characteristics
  • How Āsana are arranged into groups and categories
    – Core concept – Vinyāsa Krama – collecting postures together
  • How counterpostures or Pratikriyāsana are integrated
    – Core concept – Pratikriyāsana– maintaining the balance
  • The value and purpose of the breath in Āsana
    – Core concept – Prāṇāpāna Dhāraṇā – where the focus is
  • How movement or stay are used in Āsana 
    Core concept – Circulation and Purification – dynamic and static
  • The adaptation of Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Variation and Modification – change and necessity
  • Intelligently planning and Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Bṛṃhaṇa and Laṅghana Kriyā – connecting postures together
  • Observation within Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Spine, Breath and Attention – learning to look

In my last post on Aṣṭāṅgāsana I talked about introducing each of these eight topics to help the reader to appreciate more about what is inherent in the depth and breadth of this approach in terms of Āsana planning having a precise and comprehensive formula.

Āsana practice starts with a need to know something about the Āsana we are going to work with as we introduce, persevere and develop and especially personalise our practice. Hence we have to both practice but also have some theoretical background in order to context an Āsana in itself and in relationship to other Āsana.

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Aṣṭāṅgāsana – The eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice

With nearly 2000 Posts and Resources on the site I have been reflecting on how to expand the access points and yet simplify the reader experience for visitors. So I started by looking at the Blog Page by reviewing the broad topic categories and considering the need to re-organise the groupings as well as increasing the  range of related topics within the sub-groupings.

The first general topic in the Journal is that of Posts on Yoga Practice and its five main areas for study are:

Going deeper into these five aspects of practice I see that the first topic, that of Āsana & Kriyā Practice, now has some 500 posts in the one thread. Obviously a need for review here! So turning my attention to this I started to consider what would be a useful, yet appropriate way to sub-categorise the topics in this particular section.

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 5 – Consider the accumulative effect

The viniyoga of Planning Principles 5 –  Consider the accumulative effect of Āsana and Pratikriyāsana

Vinyāsa Krama – Intelligent sequence building within Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma

Specific Areas within Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice to consider when planning:

1. Consider the overall purpose of practice (short/long term as appropriate)

  • Be clear about the goal and don’t try to reach too many goals in same practice
  • Keep the practice short and simple in intention and execution
  • Consider time of day and season both inside and out
  • Consider the accumulative effect of Āsana and Pratikriyāsana, in any one practice, and over time if being practiced regularly
  • Consider psychological, physiological and energetic aspects of practice.
  • Energetically we seek to expand, open upper part of the body, above diaphragm and close, reduce lower part of the body below the diaphragm

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 4 – Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga……

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles 4 – Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga

General Aims and Intended Outcomes around Practice Planning:

  • Be clear about the difference between aim(s) and intended outcome(s)
  • Distinguish between short-term and long-term aim(s) and intended outcome(s)
  • Appreciate how you can factor short term outcomes within long term aims
  • Avoid having too many aims or intended outcomes within one practice – keep it focused
  • Consider the five areas that practice can interact with – body, spine, breath, mind and emotions
  • Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 3 – Make the practice shorter than the time available

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles 3 – Make the practice shorter than the time available

Some General Guidelines:

  • Be clear about your purpose
  • Hold the reflection that practice is a means not an end
  • Remember ‘can’ is not the same as ‘should’
  • Ask yourself what is most effective
  • Plan for others as it applies to them, not as it applies to you
  • Consider its relationship to both short term and long term goals
  • Aim to cultivate a state of Sattva by reducing Tamas and stabilising Rajas
  • Keep it simple and consider how to spend more time in fewer Āsana
  • Make the practice shorter than the time available
  • Stick to the conventions of technique unless there is a reason to change them

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 2 – The spirit of viniyoga is achieved……

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles 2 – The spirit of viniyoga is achieved……

In terms of practice planning the spirit of viniyoga is achieved by two broad means:

1. The selection of practice material that is appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the student.

2. The intelligent use of Vinyāsa Krama.

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 1 – According to the viniyoga of Yoga

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles 1 – According to the viniyoga of Yoga

Yoga Sūtra Chapter Three verse 6
tasya bhūmiṣu viniyogaḥ
“Its application is in stages.”

“The spirit of viniyoga is starting from where one finds oneself.
As everybody is different and changes from time to time,
there can be no common starting point and ready-made answers are useless.
The present situation must be examined and the habitually established status must be re-examined.”
– TKV Desikachar

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