First look at the circumstances around the practice……

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First look at the circumstances around the practice rather than the practice itself.
For example, what is the purpose of the practice?

Āsana brings steadiness, health and lightness……

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kuryāttadāsanaṃ sthairyamārogyaṃ cāṅgalāghvam |
‘Āsana brings steadiness, health and lightness.’
– Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā Chapter 1 verse 17

For me, still to this day, one of the finest, simplest, direct and most succinct definitions on the purpose of Āsana within the processes and practices of Haṭha Yoga, is the definition offered in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā Chapter 1 verse 17.

It is a definition valid for any presentation or as a response to questions from any level around why we practice Āsana.

It can be a springboard to discussing physiological qualities such as the relationship of Agni to the energetic qualities of health and lightness.

Or it can be a springboard to discussing psychological qualities such as the relationship of the Guṇa, such as Rajas, to mental qualities such as steadiness.

Āsana is basically something linked to Prāṇāyāma……

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“In the Yoga SūtraĀsana is basically something linked to Prāṇāyāma,
since Prāṇāyāma is a very important practice there, linked to Dhyāna.”
– TKV Desikachar

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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Practice as a Process and Practice as Content…..

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Where do we start when approaching the determination to open up to practice options beyond the group class mentality with its double edged sword of support and dependancy?

We can start by exploring what it means to cultivate a personal regular home practice in terms of looking at it as from the viewpoint of being a process as well as having content.

Here it might be helpful to examine what are the differences between these two concepts so vital in the work of Desikachar around planning Yoga practices for individual students.

So what is Yoga practice as a process? Practice as a process is everything that surrounds the establishing of a home practice.

This can be the time of the day, energy levels at the time of practice, what the student would be stepping away from in order to engage in practice, differences in gender and impact on body rhythms, what follows the practice in terms of activity or life demands, to name but a few aspects of process.

Practice as content is what we put into the practice in terms of choices around Yoga tools such as how we utilise and develop both short term and longer term, Yoga postures, breathing, chanting, rituals, meditation, etc.

Follow-on posts will examine these different aspects of Yoga as a process with examples of how we engage the important and unique differences between students personal lives, rather than the more standardised time and place processes within external group class setups.

It increasingly appears that Yoga has been acculturated into the fitness mindset……

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It increasingly appears that Yoga has been acculturated into the fitness mindset
rather than fitness being acculturated into the Yoga mindset.

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.

The heart of the breath is our home.

tat_tvam_asi

The heart of the breath is our home.

A fundamental facet in the principles of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice……

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A fundamental facet in the principles of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice, in the teachings of Krishnamacharya through Desikachar, is the ordering of Āsana according to the acronym SLIBSS.

It is the practice arrangement or Vinyāsa Krama in the following order:

  • Standing Āsana
  • Supine Lying Āsana
  • Inverted Āsana
  • Prone Backbend Āsana
  • Sitting Āsana
  • Seated Āsana

This is referred to in Religiousness in Yoga page 23-27.

It is the foundational structure on which all the other variants of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice arise from or are goals towards.

Vinyāsa Krama is pronounced according to its meaning as Vi-Nyāsa Krama or special placing in sequence. 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.

Thus the way I was taught by Desikachar was that if I move away from this schematic as the core of my Āsana practice or teaching, there needs to be a compelling rationale within which it remains a potential goal to move back to or towards, both short term and long term.

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Freedom of movement within the Annamaya does not presume……

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Freedom of movement within the Annamaya
does not presume freedom of movement within the Prāṇamaya.

Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part One

Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool

Part One – Yoga as a View

Rāja Yoga – Yoga and Samādhi

 

Yoga as a Process

– The View, Path and Goal towards Samādhi as in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra

It is interesting these days that as a Yoga teacher the question I am more likely to be asked is ‘What kind of Yoga do you do?’ rather than ‘What is Yoga?’. It’s either that we think we already know what Yoga is or, more likely, that the view is becoming lost within the myriad of ways in which Yoga is offered.

These days there seems to be little apparent clarity around what Yoga is, or if there is a view, it is not very apparent.

This view may also be coloured by religious influences such as Hinduism, Sikhism or even bodywork paradigms such as physical culture, bodybuilding, gymnastics and even wrestling.

In the Yoga world of today in the West it seems as if many teachers are teaching without a clear ‘view’ of what Yoga is and how we might realize this view.

Look for example at how we appear not to even know or use the Yoga name for meditation. Here the most often used phrase is Āsana, Prāṇāyāma and Meditation.

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Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part Three

 Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool

Part Three – Yoga as a Tool

The viniyoga of Yoga – Yoga and Sādhana

 

Yoga as a Tool

– The Art of viniyoga for developing a Personalized Practice

Yoga as a tool is more likely to be the starting point for most students these days in that we often choose a style or approach to Yoga as a starting point in our Yoga experience.

There are many, many choices these days, although the common denominator now appears to based around Yoga teachers rather than Yoga teachings.

For example we have Anusāra, Aṣṭāṅga, Bikram, Dru, Gītānada, Integral, Iyengar, Jīvamukti, Kripālu, Kuṇḍalinī, Sahaja, Scaravelli, Śivananda, Satyānanda, viniyoga of Yoga, etc.

Which is fine in itself. However the question that arises is how do the various methodologies relate to the principles of practice in order to realize the view of Yoga?

My own field of expertise lies within the teachings often referred to as the viniyoga (application) of Yoga, so I can only speak with experience from this perspective.

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I feel our priorities need to be more around how we practice rather……

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Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool – Part Two

Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool

Part Two – Yoga as a Practice

Haṭha Yoga – Yoga and Prāṇa

Yoga as Alchemy

– The Place and Purpose of Prāṇa Agni Doṣa Nādī & Cakra

A further irony in the emerging role and identity of Yoga in the West today is with regard to the term Haṭha Yoga. The term is mainly used generically these days to identify and group ‘physically’ based Yoga practices.

As a teacher I am often asked in connection with the question what kind of Yoga do you teach, is it Haṭha Yoga?

The irony is that when we look at what Haṭha Yoga really is we find that the physical elements are relatively limited with very few Āsana discussed.

Furthermore within the few discussed, the most important are concerned with sitting, in preparation for practice elements other than Āsana.

Primarily to facilitate a quality of being able to sit still and as if move beyond the physical body.

Here, the primary concern and field of activity for Haṭha Yoga practitioners is with regard to the energetic ‘Prāṇa’ body or Prāṇamaya and its role in helping to facilitate a quality of energetic ‘clarity’ and energetic ‘stillness’, ultimately as a ladder to support the practitioners exploration of meditational states of being in terms of Rāja Yoga or the Yoga of Samādhi.

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In terms of Haṭha Yoga the role of freedom in movement is not an end in itself…….

bhujangasana 5pascimatanasana

Freedom of or in movement is a useful pursuit and obviously an asset in the world of homo-sedens that abounds these days.

However movement according to the principles inherent in Hatha Yoga has another role other than freedom of movement as an end in itself.

Thus in terms of Haṭha Yoga the role of freedom in movement is a useful tool but not the goal that seems to dominate Āsana classes within Modern Postural Yoga.

Of course freedom in movement is obviously a support in allowing us to apply the principles of Hatha Āsana practice, but not the end in itself it seems to have become.

For example it can help with facilitating an exploration of the energetic processes that define, guide and differentiate Hatha Yoga from movement forms such as exercise, fitness, dance, etc.

Yet it seems to be that on the way to the goals of Haṭha Yoga and its relationship to Rāja Yoga, we are being sidetracked by the goals within the myriad of movement forms that proliferate or even pose (‘xcuse pun) as Āsana practice today.

Module Two Art of Haṭha Energetics Course

Āsana_35

I have just finished preparing a 25 page workbook as a student study support for the upcoming Module Two Art of Haṭha Energetics Course.

Once again I am filled with appreciation for the Paramparā and my Haṭha Yoga teachers from the many hours study in India from personal lessons in India with TKV Desikachar at his home and small study groups with AG Mohan in the KYM.

The group size for this Module Two weekend is limited to five students to allow for a personalised approach and in-depth transmission between teacher and student.

It is presented with the aim of reflecting the fundamentals of Śrī T Krishnamacharya’s teaching, namely, transmission occurs through the direct experience of the teacher with the students personal practice and study Sādhana.

The Module Two Course builds on the foundational Art of Haṭha Energetics Module One weekend workshop on the principles underpinning the study and practice of the processes involved in Haṭha Yoga.

This particular textual study weekend Course is focused on an in-depth exploration of the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā by Svāmi Svātmārāma. We will be studying each of its four chapters on Āsana, Prāṇāyāma, Mudrā and Nāda Dhyānam.

Below is a quote from my personal studies with Desikachar which I feel encapsulates the process known as Haṭha.

“There are two different energies which are in conflict – Ha and Ṭha.
Because of these two energies we are not in our natural state.
Why do they never meet?
Because there is a big obstacle in the form of a coiled serpent.
Further we add to the obstacle rather than reduce it.
Through practices we can use the fire that is in our system to slowly reduce the obstacle.
When this happens the two have the possibility of entering Suṣumnā and become one.
When this happens there is the union of Ha and Ṭha.”