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

A sample Parivṛtti and Paścimatāna Themed Group Practice

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Attached as a PDF is a sample group class practice offered to a student as an example of theming two complementary Āsana groupings, that of Parivṛtti and Paścimatāna.

These complementary Lakṣaṇa, or characteristics, can be expanded from either:

  • An Annamaya or structural viewpoint, in terms of the work on such as the spine and the legs.
  • Or from a Prāṇamaya or energetic viewpoint in terms of the effect on Agni, Apāna and Vāta.
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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.

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.

Overview of the viniyoga of Āsana Practice Techniques and Theory Modules

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Follow this link for details of Small Group Learning Art of viniyoga of Āsana Study Workshop options
Follow this link for details of Online Personalised Learning Art of viniyoga of Āsana Study options

The Module One Workshops and Module Two to Seven Courses are in depth studies through:

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viniyoga Vignette 4 – Combining Prāṇāyāma within Āsana

Mid Range Movement in Āsana

A short end of study day 25′ evening practice from the second day of three day Practitioner Training Programme Module. Here the primary Bhāvana or theme was to offer a practice to conclude what would have been in itself a long day of study as well as internalising the student away from the accumulative stresses from two long days of training input.

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viniyoga Vignette 3 – Śītalī and Anuloma Ujjāyī Prāṇāyāma within Āsana

Mid Range Movement in Āsana

A short end of study day 25′ evening practice from the first day of three day Practitioner Training Programme Module. Here the primary Bhāvana or theme was to offer a practice to conclude what would have been a long day with both study and travelling to the venue that morning from various parts of the country.

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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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Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 1 Samasthiti

Part One – Moving into our Bodies with Samasthiti.

This is the first in a series of articles presenting the core principles for āsana practice as taught to me over many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

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Examples of Vinyāsa Krama for Sitting Āsana within a Single Practice.

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As Desikachar actually had very few long term students, many peoples views around such as his Āsana teaching, or views on Yoga in general are formed from experiencing him teaching within a group situation, either at a seminar, lecture or retreat.

Actually he really was not very comfortable teaching mixed public groups in these situations, and in relation to teaching practices, what practices he could present had to be very generalised and therefore contrary to the principles he taught according to what he learnt from his father.

On the other hand as a private student the Āsana practices I was exposed to had a precision and intensity offering a breadth and depth impossible to emulate within a group class environment.

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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

Question Krishnamacharya – “Can you explain the concept of vinyāsa and pratikriyāsana?”

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Question to T Krishnamacharya:
“Can you explain the concept of vinyāsa and pratikriyāsana?”

“The question asked relates to Yoga and not to vidyābhyasa. There is no āsana without vinyāsa. Yoga is an experience, āsana is the third of the eight limbs of Yoga and it is also important to pay attention to first two limbs, namely yama and niyama.

One who wishes to enquire into and understand vinyāsa should first know what is āsana. According to Patañjali Yoga Sūtra, āsana is defined as “sthira sukham āsanam”.

sthira – Namely firm and without disease and sukha – pleasant and comfortable. To be in sukha state, all parts of the body should be in perfect harmony. This is true for all, whether one is a man, woman, deaf, mute, blind or even for animals. Any action that disturbs this state of harmony should be followed by a pratikriyā to restore the harmony. One cannot but accept this principle.

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The Art of viniyoga of Āsana – Empower your Body Customising Āsana

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Just putting the finishing touches to the viniyoga of Āsana Module Two manual as I prepare to teach its contents for the four day Course for a small group starting this weekend. Currently running to 90 pages it complements the 60 page viniyoga of Āsana Module One two day workshop manual.

These 150 pages of student training manuals sit within the Āsana section of the Arts of Yoga and Chant Practice Modular Programmes. The Āsana module sits within the five linked aspects of practice which, taken as a whole aim to reflect the Yoga practice and theory teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar.

These five aspects of practice are the arts of Āsana, MudrāPrāṇāyāmaDhyāna, and Adhyayanam or Chanting. This approach to transmitting the teachings of Desikachar as individual threads arose from the choice to make a complete restructuring of all my training programmes, the first major overhaul in 25 years of teaching courses to students and especially training teachers within group class situations.

It has taken five years from conception to completion and follows a conscious choice to go back to the fundamental learning methodologies following an accumulating dissatisfaction and frustration with my existing models of group student teaching Introductory and Foundation Courses and especially teacher focused training Practitioner and Postgraduate Programmes.

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

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How do we know that a student is ready to attempt a more progressive posture such as Sarvāṅgāsana?

From following the core principle in the teachings of Vinyāsa Krama. In that the Pratikriyāsana or counter posture for a particular Āsana needs to be mastered before that particular Āsana is attempted.

For example if we want to teach Sarvāṅgāsana or shoulder stand, because it will have a specific potential for the particular student, then we teach the counterpose Bhujaṅgāsana first.

So the student first works around Bhujaṅgāsana within their personal practice and the information that arises guides the teacher as to their readiness for, in this case, Sarvāṅgāsana.

“Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, but as it applies to the student.”
– T Krishnamacharya

The information arising from observing how the student practices Bhujaṅgāsana guides the teacher as to the appropriateness of Sarvāṅgāsana. The information that feeds back may be on the level of Annamaya, Prāṇamaya, Manomaya or beyond. Obviously this implies that we are observing the students practice directly.

Once the student shows an adequate performance of Bhujaṅgāsana and it can be integrated into their existing personal practice, then we can be more secure that the student is ready to approach integrating Sarvāṅgāsana into their regular practice.

Pratikriyāsana, the idea of compensation and counterpose……

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Krishnamacharya in Pūrvatāsana

“He has also given to us the concept of Pratikriyāsana,
the idea of compensation and counterpose.
Since all actions have some reactions,
we have to compensate for the reactions.”
TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’,
given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.

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When we teach the headstand we first teach preparation……

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“When we teach the headstand, we first teach preparation, then we teach the counterpose Sarvāṅgāsana which in itself is a major pose that demands its own counterpose Bhujaṅgāsana. It is all very systematic.
Planning means to go gradually, to prepare, and then to compensate.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Four Pages 53-54

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Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter Two Practice

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.

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

Chapter Two Practice: The Principles of Practice – Pages 13-30

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The viniyoga of Yoga perspective is that Śavāsana is a recovery……

savasanaThe viniyoga of Yoga perspective is that the role of Śavāsana
is its use as a recovery from the fatigue of the Āsana,
not its use as a recovery from the fatigue of life.

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Śavāsana is a recovery from the fatigue of practice……

Śavāsana is a recovery from the fatigue of practice,
rather than a recovery from the fatigue of Saṃsāra.

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