“Yoga is the least systematic of exercises.
If one practices postures without addressing needs,
no routine is established,
because needs change from day to day.
One should act on the present and the future
and not worry too much about the past.”
– From interviews with T Krishnamacharya by Sarah Dars,
published in Viniyoga Review no 24, December 1989
“Yoga is the least systematic of exercises.
We can approach these three concepts and the question of their relationship with practice from a chronological and within that, a psychological viewpoint. According to the Yoga teachings from T Krishnamacharya there are three chronological and accompanying psychological stages of life, or Tri Krama.
1. The first Krama is the stage of growth and expansion known as Sṛṣṭi Krama. Here, chronologically, the starting point is the age from which people traditionally began the Āsana aspect of Yoga practice.
Compare Dvipāda Pīṭham and Śalabhāsana in relation to their potential within the following situations:
1. In strengthening the leg muscles.
2. Potential stress on the sacroiliac joint.
3. Influencing the circulation.
4. Potential risk on the knees.
5. As a preparation for Dhanurāsana.
6. In helping with flat feet.
7. In improving the inhalation.
8. In decreasing lower back pain.
Our Yoga practice needs to evolve,
amongst other longer term unfoldings,
towards a live-in personalised relationship,
rather than just a go-out group class affair.
Postural Practice Pointer 12 – The Viniyoga of Daṇḍāsana
“The starting point determines the journey.”
- Legs are together unless some anatomical reason why this is not possible
- The sides of the feet are maintained together, stretch the back of the heels
- A key point here is having active hips, releasing the knees can activate the hips
- Someone who is stiff in spine and legs will certainly need to release the knees
- Release the knees as much as is required to extend the spine towards vertical
- Someone who is flexible may also need to release the knees so as to activate hips
- The mortar (hips/pelvis) must be strong for the pestle (spine) to work strongly
- Shoulder blades are back, feel the channel between the shoulder blades
- Back of the neck drawn up to help lift chest up
- Hands or fingers on the ground back by hips but not weight bearing
“Another important thing that he has understood is
that these Āsana should not be taken one by one,
they have to be taken as a group and as a composition.
This means you don’t do headstand on Monday,
shoulder stand on Tuesday,
you do your group of Āsana linked like words in a sentence.”
– TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’,
given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.
“Breathing techniques should support the Āsana whichever way it needs to be supported.
Sometimes you can de-emphasise the movement by the use of the breath.
This can be in a positive or a negative role.
In a negative role the breath is being abused and not supporting by overpowering the Āsana.
In a positive role the breath can shift the emphasis or attention away from the body.
This would be useful in the case of bodily tension or a particularly sensitive or painful area.”
– From personal lessons with TKV Desikachar
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.
“Contemplate the Source of the Breath.”
Postural Practice Pointer 11 – Vinyāsa for Jaṭhara Parivṛtti
This is a suggestion for a Vinyāsa for approaching and leaving Jaṭhara Parivṛtti.
When lowering from the upward raised legs position use one long exhale,
but through two distinct stages of movement.
The first part of the exhale is to lower the knees over the chest.
The second part of the exhale is used to rotate the trunk into the twist.
The exit is the exact counterpart with one inhale and two stages of movement.
The first part of the inhale brings the knees over the chest.
The second part of the inhale extends the legs upwards.
A suggestion for Bhāvana is to gradually increase the stay.
For example stay one breath each side the first time
and then increase the stay next time to two breaths each side
and finally stay three breaths each side.
As to breathing a suggested ratio of 18.104.22.168. during both movement and stay.
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.
“My understanding of Prāṇāyāma is that the Kumbhaka should be an aid.
The aim is to get a feeling difficult to put into words, but different from normal states.
The question is how much does Kumbhaka play a part in this?
So Investigate the use of Kumbhaka and only use it when it helps you be with the breath.”
– TKV Desikachar Switzerland 1978
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.
“If you are not in a hurry
you will enjoy the process.”
– TKV Desikachar
An example of a Secondary Yoga Practice.
This 25′ practice is intended mainly for post-work early evening use. It was designed for a student as a secondary practice to complement their existing pre-work early morning practice.
The context within which it sits is that they have an early morning Āsana and Prāṇāyāma practice before leaving for work. Getting to work involves 10′ walking to catch a train, often standing during the train journey and then walking a further 10-15′ after getting off.
This framework also includes a demanding decision making and team management working environment, often involving many meetings during a typical day.
Postural Practice Pointer 10 – Forward bends are Paścimatāna Āsana or Back Stretches
Forward Bends are back stretching Āsana in terms of Bhāvana.
Thus in Paścimatāna Āsana one of the foci is on avoiding pushing
from the lower back as you bend forward.
Thus move forward from the abdominal area by drawing it back,
to encourage the lower back to respond by lengthening.
If we push from the lower back in forward bends,
such as Paścimatānāsana, it can tighten this area,
thus inhibiting the focus on the quality of the Apāna Lakṣaṇa,
as well as transferring stress to the sacrum, hips and hamstrings.
An example of a Vinyāsa Krama around Jaṭhara Parivṛtti exploring:
“The quality of our breath expresses our inner feelings.”
– TKV Desikachar