108 Postural Practice Pointers – 1 – Jaṭhara Parivṛtti and Movement

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Postural Practice Pointer 1 – Jaṭhara Parivṛtti and Movement

When coming up focus on on the lower leg lifting up the upper leg,
rather than the upper leg hauling up the lower leg.

Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 2 Tāḍāsana

Part Two – Growing from our Roots with Tāḍāsana

This is the second in a series of articles presenting the core principles for āsana practice as taught to me through many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

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Reflections on TKV Desikachar’s Teaching and Svatantra……

As his pupil my teacher worked at guiding me towards becoming increasingly independent in developing and refining more and more my personal practice skills so I became less and less dependent on him being the vehicle for if, when, where, what and how well I practice.

I have always respected this aspect of his 121 teaching in that, like a parent with a child, he progressively facilitated my learning to enable me to grow into an intelligently consistent, situation adaptive and yet long term developmental self-practice, initially through, then much more than just Āsana.

Especially as, like any art that we wish to become accomplished in, this self-skill was cultivated primarily within my home environment with all its hues and moods that inevitably influence, or are driven by deeper motivations within our current intentions and situation realities.

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Learning to Chant the Four Chapters of the Yoga Sūtra

Learning to Chant the Four Chapters of the Yoga Sūtra

This post is a kind of addendum to a longer post last August on ‘The strength, depth and potential of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around practice Sādhana“. In this post I talked about the long term development and refinement of the different aspects that constitute a Yoga practice.

These many different aspects of formal practice fell into two general groups:

  • Firstly Bahya Aṅga Sādhana through Haṭha Yoga and the practice of Kriyā, Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Bandha
  • Secondly Antar Aṅga Sādhana through Rāja Yoga and the practice of Dhyānam and Bhakti Adhyayanam or the chanting of the Veda or Jñāna Adhyayanam or the chanting of the Yoga Sūtra

In this post I also used the analogy of raising a family and how to accommodate the “the emerging of other issues we have to contend with, such as the impact on our time, energy and priorities around additional commitments”.

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Experiencing the Yoga Sūtra through Chanting

Experiencing the Yoga Sūtra through Chanting

Over two years ago I offered a short post around Making a start in learning to Chant the Yoga Sūtra, an extract from which is quoted below:

“Mostly we come across the teachings of the Yoga Sūtra through a group class situation or by coming across a book. This is fine as a starting point, however longer term the Yoga Sūtra needs to permeate from the inside rather than just be read and thought about from the outside.

A good starting point for initiating this psychic process is to learn how to chant as a process in itself and then how to chant the Yoga Sūtra specifically. As well as offering a deepening of contact with those special Bhāvana that arise from Chanting, this can also be extremely helpful for the memory processes involved.

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Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 1 Samasthiti

Part One – Moving into our Bodies with Samasthiti.

This is the first in a series of articles presenting the core principles for āsana practice as taught to me over many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

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Keeping the breath longer than the movement within an Āsana

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I recently wrote a post on:

The Breath having its own developmental process within an Āsana.

Within this post I mapped out some of the preliminary steps in the Vinyāsa Krama of the breath that accompanies the performance of the form. Within this map for those beginning their journey into the mysteries of the breath within the mastery of the form, I offered four steps.

Here I want to review these four steps and especially focus on the last of the four, this time in relation to Nirālamba Bhujaṅgāsana or unsupported Cobra posture:

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Finding your starting point within an Āsana to set a direction and goal

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“In order to know where we are going to,
we must first know where we are coming from.”

Often in the Āsana aspect of Yoga practice, whether within our personal practice or a group class environment, the student is directed towards a goal.

This may be to do with a physical or structural foci such as the:

  • Basic Performance of the Āsana
  • Continuing Improvement of the Āsana
  • Specific Intensification of the Āsana
  • Introducing Stay into the Āsana

However the common factor within all of these options is that they are goal based.

This is fine as a general principle however as in any area of our lives, setting off towards any goal requires that we also have a clear idea of our starting point. For example, if I am wanting to travel to London I need to know whether I am starting from Birmingham or Brighton in order to set a direction and distance to navigate from. So it is with Āsana.

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Design an Āsana Practice according to the principles taught by TKV Desikachar

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Design an Āsana Practice for around 45′ according to the planning principles taught by TKV Desikachar.

The Vinyāsa Krama or planning steps in the practice will be a total of 90 breaths based around:

  • Standing Āsana 24 Breaths
  • Lying Āsana 12 Breaths
  • Inverted Āsana 12 Breaths
  • Prone Backbend Āsana 12 Breaths
  • Sitting Āsana 24 Breaths
  • Closing Counterpose Āsana 6 Breaths

In this instance the practice will not include any sitting Mudrā, or seated Prāṇāyāma or Dhyāna.
In the structure link Āsana such as Samasthiti, Śavāsana, Vajrāsana, do not count in the breath tally.

  • State the aim or purpose of the practice in terms of the Āsana goal or goals
  • Indicate the primary or crown Āsana you are choosing to build the practice around
  • Justify your choice of supporting or compensatory Āsana within the scheme

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The Breath has its own developmental process within an Āsana.

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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

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

In the previous three articles in this series we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.

Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.

Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul, rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.

The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.

The third post developed this idea of making time for the practice of Prāṇāyāma by considering the need to add a fixed and consistent time slot within which to build content. We explored this question by looking at the relationship between Āsana and Prāṇāyāma and considered the relationship between the proportions of the time we devote to each.

In this and the next post we will look at some of the techniques that are considered a necessary prerequisite in our journey towards establishing a what would be seen by my teachers as a complete Prāṇāyāma practice.

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Even these days the influence of Krishnamacharya’s teachings……

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Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

Even these days, the influence of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around Yoga are primarily known through his exacting teaching of Āsana. This has also been mainly experienced in the West with the developmental work of his early students, such as through the choreographical artistry in the work of Pattabhi Jois or through the geometrical precision in the work of BKS Iyengar.

However this area of Āsana teaching, though itself multifaceted and hugely influential, if disproportionately predominant within Yoga today, only reveals one aspect of the many dimensions of practice expressed within his teaching. This teaching evolved and refined over 70 years, from his return from his long stay around the borders of Nepal and Tibet in 1919, to his death in 1989

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Examples of Vinyāsa Krama for Sitting Āsana within a Single Practice.

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As Desikachar actually had very few long term students, many peoples views around such as his Āsana teaching, or views on Yoga in general are formed from experiencing him teaching within a group situation, either at a seminar, lecture or retreat.

Actually he really was not very comfortable teaching mixed public groups in these situations, and in relation to teaching practices, what practices he could present had to be very generalised and therefore contrary to the principles he taught according to what he learnt from his father.

On the other hand as a private student the Āsana practices I was exposed to had a precision and intensity offering a breadth and depth impossible to emulate within a group class environment.

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The relationship between the breath in Āsana with that in Prāṇāyāma.

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In the beginning of our journey into the arts of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma, the outcome of our exploration into the breath in Āsana sets a direction and parameters for the beginnings of our exploration into how and where to develop the breath in Prāṇāyāma.

As we establish, progress and refine our practice of Prāṇāyāma, the strengths and issues that arise from our practice of Prāṇāyāma invite a subtler investigation of the breath in Āsana.

This investigation with its reciprocal and yet increasingly subtle direction offers a more precise guidance for where and how we revisit and engage with our work with the breath in Āsana.

Over time we come to both realise and experience the uniqueness of the breath within each of these two arts and the increasingly subtle development of the qualities of the relationship between the breath in Āsana, with that of the breath in Prāṇāyāma.

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

In the previous two articles we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.

Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.

Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.

The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.

I would like to use this post to consider how we need to add a structure within which we can build content. Without a structure our practice in this area can easily become random in terms of length or haphazard in terms of consistency.

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The viniyoga of Yoga is about a system to teach to a student

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The viniyoga of Yoga is about a system to teach to a student,
rather than about students to teach a system to.