Āsana practice as a prerequisite to exploring how to integrate Prāṇāyāma……


I was taught by Desikachar that we need to at least have some sort of working relationship with an Āsana practice as a prerequisite to exploring how to integrate Prāṇāyāma into our practice Sādhana.

Also in the approach of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar to Yoga practice this idea is even more relevant as important information, that guides our initial and subsequent steps into Prāṇāyāma, is gleaned from certain factors only apparent from observation of how our respiratory system performs during Āsana practice.

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When considering what to practice, it can be helpful to consider our starting point……

When considering what to practice, it can be helpful to consider our starting point. For example are we looking for the role of an Āsana practice to help in recovering from a situation where we are as if personally overdrawn. Also what is the nature of our ‘overdraft’?

Is its impact or origin physical, energetic, psychological or emotional, or even a combination of more than one. Here the concepts of too little, too much or wrong can also be helpful as a reference in that, as well as considering the nature of the ‘overdraft’ we need to consider the means we undertake to remedy this aspect of the situation. In other words our first priority is to reduce the negative aspect at least.

However sometimes we can try something that is as if a short term loan and at a high rate of interest in terms of time, effort, energy and committment. Thus whilst finding our situation temporarily improving a further depletion can possibly arise as we find ourselves unable to as if ‘keep up with the extra payments’ given the nature of the original depletion and its current impact on our potentials.

So having a clear reference point in terms of identifying the nature of the starting point and the short term or longer term potentials of our choice of an appropriate remedy is as important as the personal determination to clear the deficit we have created within us. Here a personal teacher can be helpful.

Āsana is not just another form of exercise……


In exploring the principles that underpin the practice of Āsana the first idea to consider is that our practice is not just another form of exercise. Yoga Āsana are more than just physical postures or exercises to stretch and tone the body, or enhance our sense of personalised well-being. From within its Haṭha roots the concern of Yoga is our relationship with the force which is behind our movements and its source that initiates our every action.

Further the different practice elements that constitute a mature Yoga practice are not separate compartments. They are linked through the principles underpinning them. For example a respiratory competence learnt through the practice of Āsana facilitates progress within the seated practice of Prāṇāyāma. An enduring stable posture learnt through the practice of Prāṇāyāma supports the cultivation the meditative attitude inherent in progress towards Dhyāna or meditation.

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Five Musings around Śīrṣāsana……

sirsasana

Five questions my teacher taught me that need to be ‘posed’,
for or to any student wishing to practice Śīrṣāsana,
or even for and to any teacher wishing to teach Śīrṣāsana,
whatever the situation.

1. Who is going to practice it?
2. Why do they wish to use it?
3. When are they going to practice it?
4. How are they going to get in and out of it?
5. What do they need to have done to verify their capability?

Once you lose the breath in Āsana……

Once you lose the breath in Āsana, effort becomes force.

Because I am too wired to practice I don’t practice……

Because I am too wired to practice I don’t practice.
Because I don’t practice I am too wired to practice.
Because I am too wired to practice I don’t practice.
Because…….

Because I am too tired to practice I don’t practice…..

Because I am too tired to practice I don’t practice.
Because I don’t practice I am too tired to practice.
Because I am too tired to practice I don’t practice.
Because…….

Life is often divided into agendas, two of which are headed “chore” and “reward”……

Āsana_70

“Life is often divided into agendas,
two of which are headed “chore” and “reward”.
Try to keep some room on the latter list for your practice
in the same way that you would greet an old friend.
Take time in their company and return to your everyday life rejuvenated
and better able to embrace your surroundings.”

We can make a profession out of the myriad of ways we use Āsana….

Āsana_11

“We can make a profession out of the myriad of ways we find
to use Āsana to stay too busy to make time for Prāṇāyāma.”

We can make a career out of finding a myriad of ways……

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“We can make a profession out of the myriad of ways we find
to stay too busy to make time for home practice.”

Then there are those Āsana that you learn solely for practices other than Āsana.

Āsana_68

Then there are those Āsana that you learn solely for practices other than Āsana.

We can learn how we can fine tune our practice according to our basic nature…

 Āsana_16a

One of the potentials in the Haṭha Yoga teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar is the understanding around the viniyoga or application of Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā in terms of their potential to enhance sensory stimulation or to diminish sensory stimulation.

Both approaches can be used where appropriate to impact on how we are stimulated by the world through the senses and thus be more drawn to interact with it in a more extravert way, or how our sensory stimulation is quietened and thus we are more easily able to withdraw from the activities of the senses.

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Prāṇāyāma Practice as a Four Quadrant Tool for the Mind…..

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Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Morning,
– Can be a Means to Hone the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Afternoon,
– Can be a Means to Refresh the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Evening,
– Can be a Means to Clear the Mind.

Prāṇāyāma as a Tool in the Night,
– Can be a Means to Settle the Mind.

Are we confusing the maturation of our Āsana practice with the maturation of our Yoga practice?

Āsana_5_web

Are we confusing the maturation of our Āsana practice
with the maturation of our Yoga practice?

The role of Śavāsana within an Āsana practice was as a transitional link pose…

savasana

Within the teachings of T Krishnamacharya, as transmitted to TKV Desikachar, the role of Śavāsana within an Āsana practice was as a transitional link pose between categories of Āsana.

For example between Standing and Lying Āsana, or Lying and Inverted Āsana, or Inverted and Prone Backbends, or Prone Backbends and Seated Āsana, or Seated Āsana and Sitting Practices.

The extent of its use and length of rest at each stage, when transiting from one category to another within our Āsana practice journey, was dependent on the facility of the practitioner and the intensity of the practice.

“Cale Vāte Calaṃ Cittam
As is the breath so is the mind.”

Within this individualised variance is the guiding principle that the role of Śavāsana is to facilitate a smooth transition for the flow of the breath and also the pulse through and beyond the Āsana practice as a marker for the practitioners state of mind.

However according to Desikachar the viniyoga of Śavāsana was seen in terms of recovery from the fatigue of the preceding aspect of the practice rather, than say recovery from the preceding aspects of ones life.

Regarding the approach for the latter, amongst other things such as Vihāra, the purpose, content, duration and frequency of the Āsana practice must be carefully reconsidered.

Vinyāsa Krama is pronounced according to its meaning as……

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Vinyāsa Krama is pronounced according to its meaning as Vi-Nyāsa Krama or special placing in a sequence of steps. It is the arranging of the various postures or breathing patterns in an intelligent sequence, respecting the variables in the student and the purpose of the practice.

What might be helpful to consider is one of the ways Desikachar presented this teaching to me within our lessons in that the viniyoga of Vinyāsa Krama is comparable to the notion of climbing steps. Here intelligent application means to climb each step by bringing both feet onto the same step before taking the next one. In other words ensure we are grounded and stable before we take another step.

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Just because a person can achieve the form of the Āsana….

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“Just because a person can achieve the form of the Āsana,
we can’t presume they will also achieve the experience of the Āsana.”

One of the primary roles for Āsana is to make the spine a fit vehicle for Prāṇāyāma.

seated_pranayama_2

“One of the primary roles for Āsana
is to make the spine a fit vehicle for Prāṇāyāma.”

Reflections on Pratikriyāsana or the role of Opposite Action Postures

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When considering the viniyoga or application of Pratikriyāsana or opposite action postures within a students personal practice, it may help to look at the integration of their intended role from three perspectives.

– Firstly their intended role as a counterposture, thus more from a physiological perspective.
– Secondly their intended role as a compensation, thus more from a psychological perspective.
– Thirdly their intended role as a transition, thus more from sequential perspective.

Appropriate integration of these three principles constitute an essential component in the Vinyāsa Krama or intelligent steps utilised within practice planning.

it is still unclear how much Yoga someone has to do to get the benefits…..

Āsana_16a

“But it is still unclear how much Yoga someone has to do to get the benefits found and
how cost-effective it is relative to undertaking other forms of exercise or taking drugs.”
– Prof Myriam Hunink
Erasmus University medical centre in Rotterdam and Harvard school of public health in Boston

Are we in danger of the teaching of Yoga Āsana (and consequently Yoga ‘Therapy’ Teacher Training Courses) being increasingly shaped towards the health and therapeutic healthcare ‘Yoga For’ needs to meet the demands and standardisations of the medical and/or insurance health authorities in terms of:

1. Choice – Which Yoga posture works for what problem?
2. Duration – How long must I stay in a particular posture in order to have a specific effect/result?
3. Frequency – How often must I practice this posture to effect a result?
4. Timescale – Over what period of time must I practice this posture to effect a result?
5. Comparable Applications – What will be the effect of Yoga postures compared to other forms of physical exercise?
6. Relative Costs – What will be the cost of Yoga compared to other forms of exercise?
7. Treatment Budgets – What will be the cost of Yoga as a form of treatment relative to taking drugs?

Complex implications to evaluate and they leave us with more questions around what is healthy for the heart of Yoga rather than what is healthy for the heart of the person!

“We cannot say that this Āsana or this Prāṇāyāma can be given for this disease.”
– T Krishnamacharya 1984

Five Musings around Sarvāṅgāsana……

sarvangasana

Five questions my teacher taught me that need to be ‘posed’,
for or to any student wishing to practice Sarvāṅgāsana,
or even for and to any teacher wishing to teach Sarvāṅgāsana,
whatever the situation.

1. Who is going to practice it?
2. Why do they wish to use it?
3. When are they going to practice it?
4. How are they going to get in and out of it?
5. What do they need to have done to verify their capability?

The art of viniyoga presumes that the five application principles of……

viniyoga

The art of viniyoga presumes that
the five application principles of
1. What is being taught,
2. Why it is being taught,
3. When it is being taught
4. Where it is being taught and especially
5. How it is being taught,
are personally applicable and
socially relevant to
Who is being taught.

Sometimes the Vinyāsa Krama or special placing of steps from is more……

vinyasa

Sometimes the Vinyāsa Krama,
or special placing of steps from,
is more important than the steps to.
At other times the Vinyāsa Krama,
or special placing of steps to,
is more important than the steps from.
In our life as well as our practice.

To be within the presence of the Mantra……..

tat_tvam_asi

To be within the presence of the Mantra
is to be within the presence of Grace.

Ujjāyī is a breathing technique that can facilitate the ability to remain in the doorway……

ujjayi

Amongst other roles Ujjāyī is a breathing technique that
can facilitate the ability to remain in the doorway of awareness,
neither going in and introverting, when tempted by the manoeuvring of the mind,
nor going out and extraverting, when tempted by the shimmering of the senses.

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