I told this person that I had learnt 380 postures in six months……

Āsana_12

“I told this person that I had learnt something like 380 postures in six months,
my daughter could do the same thing in three months,
but this was when I did not know Yoga.
It has taken me years to know how to behave with somebody,
and that is probably more Yoga.”
– TKV Desikachar from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

How is Āyurveda linked to Cikitsā or the therapeutic application of Yoga?

Question to TKV Desikachar:
“How is Āyurveda linked to Cikitsā or the therapeutic application of Yoga?”

TKV Desikachar Response:
“There is a lot of difference. As far as Yoga is concerned, we are concerned with the personality of the person, the mental aspect and the higher aspirations of the student.

That is why Yoga has a lot to offer. For the body Āyurveda is the solution. A good combination would be Āyurveda and Yoga.

My father used to do that. He would teach Āsana practice, or Prāṇāyāma or meditation and he would talk about diet and he would also give some Āyurveda medicine.

He was treating not only the body but the whole person with the help of this great combination.”

– Extract from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

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Keeping the breath longer than the movement within an Āsana

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

“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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Progress must be seen as the distance from the starting point……

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‎”Progress must be seen as the distance from the starting point,
rather than the more usual reference of the distance from the finishing point.”
TKV Desikachar England 1976

Q: How necessary is Yoga in these modern times?

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Question to T Krishnamacharya:
How necessary is Yoga in these modern times?
Krishnamacharya’s Response:
For the strengthening of the Aṅga,
Yoga Āsana practiced with long inhalation and exhalation is important.
To reduce the disturbances of the mind, to gain mental strength and to increase longevity,
Prāṇāyāma is necessary.

Breath is indispensable for life and its absence is death……

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“Breath is indispensable for life and its absence is death.
Hence the necessity to make it longer and accumulate the Prāṇa Śakti.
Just as a rich man accumulates money slowly to get wealthy,
so also one should practice every day
through the proper use of the breath in Āsana to maintain good health.”
T Krishnamacharya‘s response to a question on breathing.

The teacher decides which of the Tri Krama is the……

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“The teacher decides which of the Tri Krama (three steps) is the best for the student:
Śikṣaṇa Krama requires a perfect knowing to transmit a strict practice,
without any compromise, as it should be in Vedic chanting for example.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is aimed at protection and preservation;
it promotes continuity in any levels like health, abilities, knowledge, etc.
Cikitsā Krama looks for adaptation, healing, recovering…”
TKV Desikachar speaking with his senior Western students London 1998

Yoga has been adapted to life in the modern day.

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  • Yoga has been adapted to life in the modern day.
  • Any posture far removed from the normal posture is a problem and therefore risky if there is any problem with the body.
  • Inverted postures present problems because of the tension that people carry in their necks.
  • Postures that create tension should be avoided.
  • Moving into the posture after the exhale is an adaptation.
  • Krishnamacharya designed aids to help people achieve postures.
  • Slow movement has a different action on the muscles, it is harder work.
  • The role of Āsana, its purpose and goal must be respected.
  • Opposite postures are a handicap but can help us to appreciate something different in a posture.
  • We must feel ourselves and what is happening in a posture.

From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly……

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Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly.
Anything is taught to achieve perfection in the practice of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma.
In other words teaching children and healthy people where you can take risks with no problems.
Not a valid approach for groups.
We need to use intelligence and Viveka,
not follow the idea of no pain, no gain to become painless,
or to get to a point without suffering.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

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.

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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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How long should a person stay in an Āsana?

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Question to T Krishnamacharya –

Q: How long should a person stay in an Āsana every day?
A: A person must stay in any one Āsana for at least fifteen minutes.
From the book ‘Śrī Krishnamacharya – The Pūrnācārya’, published by the KYM in 1997

Even in the case of Śikṣaṇa Krama the ancient teachers had steps…….

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“Even in the case of Śikṣaṇa Krama the ancient teachers had steps in the teaching:

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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

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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Āsana for problems of the body and Prāṇāyāma for problems of the mind.

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‎”Use Āsana for problems of the body and
Prāṇāyāma for problems of the mind.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Practice Priorities

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

Āsana_18a

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

Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter Ten Theory

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America,
a transcript of recordings of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980.

Unlike the later redacted edition, re-published in 1995 as the ‘Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’, it captures the evolution of the retreat with the days lectures and Q & A dialogues as they alternated between ‘lectures on the principles and purposes of Yoga and discussions related to the practice of Yoga with special reference to the postures and the breathing techniques’.

TKV Desikachar, in his forward to the original version wrote:

“These lectures and discussions, printed words put before persons I might never meet,
are but reflections of that deeper result that grew out of a living face-to-face encounter.
Coming to learn of Yoga only through reading leaves much to be desired.
Yet, something worthwhile about Yoga might be shared through the medium of the printed word.”

A chapter by chapter Study guide is offered below with added verse and word cross-references where possible to support a a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.

Chapter 10 Theory: Prāṇāyāma – Pages 133-144

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

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

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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Medicine, Mastery and Mystery within the field of Yoga.

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Paul Teaching in Zinal, Switzerland in 1999

Medicine, Mastery and Mystery

An Interview with Paul Harvey by Joseph Le Page. Joseph is the founder and director of Integrative Yoga Therapy. This interview took place while Paul was teaching at Zinal for UENFY in 1999.

JL: How do you adapt Yoga to the individual?

PH: I can approach that in two ways, the chronological and the psychological. Chronologically, the starting point is the age at which people begin Yoga studies.

There are three stages of life, or Trikrama. The first is the stage of growth and expansion (Sṛṣṭi).

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Yoga Learning without Teacher Training and within Group Classes

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

I have just come across a post on the “Pros and Cons of Yoga Teacher Training” by J Brown from July which rolled up yesterday in my Facebook newsfeed via YogaDork.

He raises some good points in his blog such as the observation that running Yoga Teacher Training Courses have become a de rigueur for Yoga Teachers and, I would add, especially Yoga Studios, to the point that as a new studio opens its doors, such offerings are part of its programme from day one.

As I observed in a post from March 2012 on:

Further musings on Yoga Student and Yoga Teacher Trainings……

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We cannot escape the need for adaptation in Āsana.

Āsana_18a

“We cannot escape the need for adaptation.
Adaptation is the application of certain principles to achieve certain results.
It implies:
– Knowing where the person is now.
– Knowing where we want them to go.
Adaptation is the means used to bridge this gap.”
– TKV Desikachar 1981

Pratikriyā Bhāvana for Vīrabhadrāsana


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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