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

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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…

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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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Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as Expansive and Contractive potentials…..

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Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as expansive and contractive activities are two potentials actualised through the Breath and Āsana.

Within the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma they are actualised through an understanding of the primary principles that inform Haṭha Yoga and Āyurveda.

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

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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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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.

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

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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.

There are some forms within the postural resources developed by……

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There are some forms within the postural resources developed by Krishnamacharya that can function as either an Āsana or as a Mudrā. The choice of outcome can be realised according to the specific Bhāvana associated with the intention of the practitioner and the style of performance.

For example if we look at the possibilities around inverted postures interpreted as Āsana through forms known as Śīrṣāsana or Sarvāṅgāsana, we can cultivate the external intensity of Āsana or the internal intensity of a Mudrā through choosing either of two practice directions.

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

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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.

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Aṣṭāṅgāsana – The eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice

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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:

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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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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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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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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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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

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