A Mantra is that which shapes space through vibration of sacred syllables.

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A Mantra is that which shapes space through vibration of sacred syllables.
In the art of Mantra Saṃskṛta is a sacred tool for shaping sacred form out of space.
Sounding the Saṃskṛta according to the precisions of pronunciation and vibration
manifests the sacred form inherent in each Mantra out of universal space.
The ancient seers understood this process and left us sacred phonemes
to guide our journey into and beyond the self.

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

Continuing on from the previous post introducing the question of where to start in our investigation of our breath in Āsana in preparation for establishing and sustaining a consistent base within a Prāṇāyāma practice.

This also needs to be a base practice that both supports our day to day needs and yet allows it, as in any relationship, to grow and develop in terms of intensity and progress.

In this earlier post on where to start there were some key points that I would summarise around:

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part One

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start?

According to how I was taught there two possibilities, that of using ratio and that of using nostril techniques. Desikachar taught me, both for my personal practice and teaching skill base, that the journey towards Prāṇāyāma starts with the former before being enhanced and refined through the latter.

According to Krishnamacharya’s methodology around developing the breath aspect of the students practice, initially through Āsana and Mudrā and ultimately through Prāṇāyāma, begins with what happens in and to the breath in Āsana.

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Pratikriyā Bhāvana for Vīrabhadrāsana

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Vīrabhadrāsana or warrior pose is an Āsana where the postural focus at the level of Annamaya or the structural aspect, involves the skill of holding opposite points of attention at the same time.

For example, if we consider the feet, the front foot focus is on the rooting of toes, whereas the focus on the rear foot is on the rooting of the heel.

Thus here we have an example of a Pratikriyā Bhāvana, or opposite action focus, where we need to hold our attention with a contrasting dynamic in two places simultaneously. In this example on both the front or rear foot at the same time, but with different points of attention.

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Dhyāna is taught as a personalised process unique to each student……

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Question:
Would appreciate any clues as to the Dhyāna practice as you were taught.”

Response:
Reflecting on this question reminds me of a video of a lecture by S Sridharan from the KYM recently reposted on August 5th 2015 on the Krishnamacharya Yoga Facebook page. I feel that the extract below sums up well the essence of Krishnamacharya’s teaching, especially when involving the Antar Aṅga:

“But when it came to personal practice we would have to meet our teacher in his room separately…..
What my teacher has imparted to me as my Yoga practice. I cannot share it with any of you.
Not for the reason that I don’t want to share it, it will have no value for any of you…..

When we teach something it should be very personal from the point of view of Yoga practice.
Yoga is a topic that just cannot be taught over a platform.”

He also discussed earlier in the video the notion that the only group activity was the study of texts. When it came to personal practice this was within a private room and was a personal matter between the teacher and the student.

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The strength, depth and potential of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around practice Sādhana……

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The teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar around Yoga practice were far more complex than is often presumed from the popular perception, often formed from the more well publicised work of some of Krishnamacharya’s early students.

My own experiences with Desikachar, developed over repeated study visits to Madras over two decades, may offer an insight into the practice possibilities that I became increasingly exposed to. As with many, being introduced to this tradition meant that Āsana was the starting point for our Bahya Aṅga Sādhana.

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The teaching of Krishnamacharya around Āsana included an in-depth appreciation of the Lakṣaṇa……

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My extensive study of Āsana with TKV Desikachar was shaped around forming a deep appreciation of specific core principles that underpin the planning and practice of Āsana and their application to the individual student’s constitution, psychology and need.

Amongst these dozen or so core principles, the first group I studied when looking at any Āsana in depth, were the concepts of Nāma, Rūpa and Lakṣaṇa, or the name, the form and the characteristics of that particular Āsana.

Obviously the Nāma is a useful tag point for identification and the Rūpa is vital as a reference point for the Sat Viniyoga or appropriate application of the Āsana within overall considerations around direction and outcome such as the Śikṣaṇa Krama, Rakṣaṇa Krama or Cikitsā Krama application of the forms used.

However I do feel these days that our understanding in Āsana practice is dominated by the Nāma and the Rūpa with little emphasis on the Lakṣaṇa or inherent characteristics of the Āsana and how understanding this aspect can have a profound effect on the approach, application and outcome of the overall or accumulative impact of the Āsana within the student’s practice.

The teaching of Krishnamacharya around Āsana included an in-depth appreciation of the Lakṣaṇa, especially around the thirty or so primary Āsana such as Jaṭhara Parivṛtti, Bhujaṅgāsana or Januśīrṣāsana.

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One of the key concepts in the viniyoga of Āsana……

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One of the key concepts in the viniyoga of Āsana
is how to facilitate movement in the spine
rather than just movement of the spine.

If we appreciate the role of breathing in Āsana how can we make it longer?

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Question by Desikachar during my 121 lessons 1980:
“If we appreciate the role of breathing in Āsana how can we make it longer?”

From my notes from his response:

1. By using a valve, such as the throat (Ujjāyī) we can:

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Pratiloma Ujjāyī is a gracious Prāṇāyāma technique.

seated_pranayama_2Pratiloma Ujjāyī is a gracious Prāṇāyāma technique.

Plan an Āsana practice to include Ardha Uttānāsana……

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Plan an Āsana practice to include:

1. Ardha Uttānāsana – Stay 8 Breaths

2. Śīrṣāsana – Stay 20 Breaths

3. Navāsana – Stay 8 Breaths

A  question given it me by TKV Desikachar during our 121 lessons in 1980 when learning Āsana practice planning skills.

Plan an Āsana practice to include Jaṭhara Parivṛtti……

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Plan an Āsana practice to include:

1. Jaṭhara Parivṛtti – Stay 8 breaths each side

2. Uttāna Pādāsana – Stay 8 breaths

3. Viparīta Daṇḍāsana – Stay 8 breaths

A  question given it me by TKV Desikachar during our 121 lessons in 1980 when learning Āsana practice planning skills.

Plan an Āsana practice to include Śalabhāsana……

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Plan an Āsana practice to include:

1. Śalabhāsana – Repeat 12 times

2. Tiryaṅgmukha Ekapāda Paścimatānāsana – Stay 6 breaths each side

3. Paryaṅkāsana – Stay 12 breaths

A  question given it me by TKV Desikachar during our 121 lessons in 1980 when learning Āsana practice planning skills.

Pratikriyāsana or opposite action postures have counterpostural, compensational and transitional roles

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Pratikriyāsana or opposite action postures have counterpostural, compensational and transitional roles and are applied at specific points in the practice in order to maintain a sound physiological and psychological base.

This principle has an important role in how we link the different aspects of the Āsana practice, how we close the practice or how we integrate the Āsana element of the practice into other aspects of our Yoga practice.

There are specific guidelines around how they can be integrated into the practice, the first of which is that the counter posture needs to be mastered before a particular Āsana is attempted.

This principle is especially important when attempting to integrate more complex Āsana such as Bhujaṅgāsana or Sarvāṅgāsana into our practice.

On this point you may wish to refer back to a previous post around the question, how do we know that a student is ready to attempt a more progressive posture such as Sarvāṅgāsana?

Links to Related Posts:

The counter posture needs to be mastered before a particular Āsana is attempted

Vinyāsa Krama for the Catur Bandha in Mahā Mudrā for an advanced Āsana student……

This is an example of a Vinyāsa Krama for the Catur or four Bandha when staying in Mahā Mudrā as a Haṭha Yoga technique for working with the important Haṭha trilogy of Prāṇa, Apāṇa and Agni.

Here I am choosing not to focus on the Pūrvāṅga, the ascending or preparatory phase, nor on the Uttarāṅga, the descending or compensatory phase of the Āsana used in the Vinyāsa Krama for the whole practice.

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Āsana practice to ascertain capability for Sarvāṅgāsana……

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Āsana practice for an intermediate level Āsana student to ascertain capability for working with and exploring in depth the potential of Sarvāṅgāsana or shoulderstand as an Āsana.

Download a PDF version of this practice