- Yama and Niyama: Krishnamacharya, Jois, Ramaswami
- How to meditate
- Chanting Yoga Sutras
- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois - Resources
- Manju Pattabhi Jois Resource
- R. Saraswathi Jois Resource
- Sharath R. Jois Resource
- Srivatsa Ramaswami Vinyasa Krama Resource page
- Old Ashtanga Videos : A selection of old Pattabhi Jois Led Ashtanga videos (also interviews etc.).
- Asana Lists Inc. Original 1974 Ashtanga Syllabus
- Ashtanga Rishi Series
- Slow Ashtanga PLUS Yoga Makaranda Part I and II
- Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941) (translation project)
- VINYASA KRAMA sequences/subroutines
- Ashtanga Workshops Reviews
- On Ashtanga Practice
- The Ashtanga Key - Surya Namaskara
- Developing a home practice
- YOGA GLOSSARY
- How to practice Krishnamacharya's Early Ashtanga Yoga
- How to practice Vinyasa Krama
- Yoga Reading List
- Ashtanga History
- Beginning Yoga / Ashtanga / Vinyasa
- Derek Ireland, the teacher's teacher.
- Ashtanga History: Authorisation 1980 - Present.
- Proficient Primary.
- Some suggested posts 2008-Present
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- Ashtanga/Yoga and Ageing
- Workshop photos and my Books on Krishnamacharya's Original Ashtanga Practice and Vinyasa Krama yoga
- Krishnamacharya resource page
The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
Off work for the next couple of weeks.
The plan is to practice the two main Vinyasa Krama Back bend sequences IE. The Bow Sequence and the Vajrasana Sub routine from the Meditative sequence. I'll also throw in the Tadasana Hand variations behind back sub routine from the On your feet sequence. I want to incorporate some of the Venkatesh excercises that Boodiba has been sharing, the standing arches from last year which should follow on nicely from the Tadasana sequence, plus the Hang back exercises for Drop back and Kapotasana from last week. Finishing will be a pretty standard extended
Paschmottanasana, Sarvangasana and Sirsasana etc.
Thought it would be a good idea to take a look at my current state of play so that I can compare my Back bends at the end of the fortnight.
It's a long video so here are the times for the different sections to enable jumping around.
0:00 Vinyasa Krama hands variations behind back
Love using this subroutine as prep for back bends, I used to include it before the Sury's when I was doing Intermediate as well as when I went through a phase of doing drop back's at the beginning of the practice. The different hand positions seem to open up the different areas of the back nicely
3:30 Venkatesh standing arches
Need to review Boodie's notes and video's again here. I seem to remember she was hanging in these for a minute, I manage about 15 seconds tops, be interesting to see if and how much this improves by the end of the fortnight.
5:00 Drop back
Thanks to Boodie these have come on over the last couple of days. I misunderstood her instructions and started to bend my knees from the beginning. Though not the idea, it did make the importance of getting the knees as far over the feet as possible finally sink in. I'm aiming at a similarfeet/shin angle as in Pasasana. Add this to the riding the spring idea from a few weeks back and It's given me the back support and confidence to hang back. and control my descent more. Plus my feet are staying pretty straight.
6:00 Coming up
Work needed here. I think the knees over the feet is key to stop the feet turning out but I seem to have to completely relearn the hip action to come up. the second attempt on the video gives me hope, though the feet do move slightly.
Big surprise here as I haven't done Kapo for a month. The hang back exercise seems to really help. I'm getting my hips as far forward as possible to try to employ the 'spring' support and while hanging I have the time to keep trying to push my hips forward. Getting this Hang back in Kapo is exciting me more than grabbing my heels at the moment. I was surprised how deep I dropped in too, was thinking it would take a couple of goes. Lot's of work needed here though.
Yes I got my heels, but I think I can improve it by pushing up more, straightening my arms, breathing better. A voice in the back of my head is whispering 'ankles, ankles' but I hardly dear listen. Besides, it should be whispering "breathe, breathe'.
One thing I've noticed about both the Drop back and Kapo is the use of the wall. Those three steps away force you to drop down closer than perhaps you might do with a full mat to play with.
8:30 Walking in on Urdhava Danurasana or Ardha Chakrasana to chakrasana
This is actually in Vinyasa Krama in the Supine Sequence, Ramaswami has this to say.
' As a variation you can bring your palms closer to your feet during exhalation and keep your back arched. Stay in the position for three breathes, stretching and lifting your tailbone at the end of the inhalation.'
The Complete book of Vinyasa Krama p113
God, a ten minute video takes forever to load on YouTube, wont be doing that again. Here's a quick, minute a half version.
It strikes me, watching this all the way through, that, rather than thinking about grabbing the ankles in Kapo or Chakrasana or probably even getting my feet straight, I should be thinking about the breath, still ragged, unsteady and at times forced. Would be nice to make this video again, two weeks from now, and find long smooth steady breathing throughout.
Friday, 26 February 2010
I have a couple of weeks off, starting this weekend. I'd planned on doing the Asymmetric sequence the first week and Supine the second. These are the two longest sequences in Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama book and it made sense to go through them while I have some extra time. However, all the good stuff coming out of Boodie's place at the moment has seduced me to the dark side and back bending. (besides Asymmetric isn't taking as long now that I'm becoming more familiar with it. I've also cut Supine down a bit by practicing the Sarvangasana sequence with Sirsasana in the Inverted sequence).
I'm a little ambivalent towards back bending. On the one hand I tend to feel it's a little over emphasised in Ashtanga, the whole back bend sequence at the end of practice let alone the Kapo's and Vrishi's that await, and yet.....
You have to admit they are the coolest postures, such wonderful, shapes, classic poses one and all. Ustrasana, Kapotasana, Salabhasana , Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, Vrschikasana, Chakra Bandhasana......
I should work at them more and Boodiba always inspires me to work hard, to work harder.
The deciding factor was her writing about staying longer in the poses, this is something I'm into at the moment, breathing through the poses, fits in with what I'm working at in Vinyasa Krama.
The main back bend heavy sequences in Vinyasa krama are the Bow and Vrajasana Sequences, though of course back bends crop up through most of the sequences, often as counter poses.
The Bow sequence subroutines are built around
Makrarasana, Mandukasana, Bhujangasana , Rajakapotanasana, Salabhasana, Viparita salabhasana, Bherundasana, Dhanurasana.
To this I've been adding the Vajrasana sequence form the Meditative poses Sequence which includes Subroutines around
Vajrasana, Balasana, Ushtra nishada , Advanced Ushtrasana and Kapotasana
These seem to go together well, the Bow sequence acting almost as preparation for the deeper back bend's of the Vajrasana Sequence. After those I should be nicely set up for some long Urdhava Danhurasana's and Slow controlled Drop back's.
The rest of my time off I'd planned to take up with extending and developing my Pranayama and chanting routine, plus some quality time with the second half of the Yoga Sutra's and Sankara's Brahma Sutra commentary. Been reading a book on Sankara and my guy Heidegger recently and the young Adi is blowing my mind.
So quite the yoga fortnight, looking forward to it.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
I've always tended to drop straight back as soon as I took my hands over my head. This morning I managed to hang back for the first time. I think it has something to do with the exercise I was working on in the previous post. There, I was bending the knees which was creating a steeper angle between my feet and shins. This morning I kept aiming for that steep angle but without bending the legs. This meant that my hips were much further forward and my body was constantly wanting to spring back up on it's own accord. I used that to give myself the support and confidence to hang back. The further back I went the more I tried to increase the angle at my feet and get my hips forward and retain that springing action.
Does that make sense, not sure what else to call that feeling of riding the spring back.
Coming up was not so successful tried the coming up onto fingertips that Boodie is talking about, but once I was up there I wasn't sure where to take it next, how to avoid pushing up through the hands and arms. I suspect it's to do with finding that springing action from the bottom up, probably increasing that angle again to get the hips forward, possibly bending the
legs to deepen the angle, then straightening them yet keeping the angle, voila, up you'll come, oh so easy to write, I can visualise it and everything, and yet........
This is what the Springiness reminds me of, kind of like I'm Jacob and the springiness is the Angel in Epstein's sculpture, holding me up. (If you ever come this way again Owl, this is the one I wanted to show you at the Tate that was all boxed up and in storage).
On the VK frount, Lotus sequence is going well. First day I had to unbind and stretch my legs a lot, this morning I only had to do that once, when you think your spending forty minutes in full lotus in this sequence, that's pretty good going. The most I tend to meditate for is Forty minutes at a time so if I can become comfortable in lotus for that long, I'll be most pleased. Nice sequence.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Having a go at an exercise Boodiba has been talking about here.
The idea seems to be to keep your legs bent throughout which is, I believe, supposed to help you come up more slowly and with more control. Clearly more work is needed. At the end I try lifting my heels, something I never usually do...to disastrous effects.
I like this exercise though, something about having the legs bent gives you more of a tendency to spring back up. By focusing on the point just before you spring you can ride it back more slowly to the floor and can probably do the same in reverse to come back up. Found that edge dropping back but not coming up....so far.
Of course I may have completely got the wrong end of the stick and doing it all wrong, Interesting though.
Have to say this is a pretty embarrassing stance, though it does remind me of an old martial arts posture, horse stance. I keep telling myself, "... your in horse stance, not at all squatting'.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Starting my week on Sunday. Gives me more time to work through the new sequence with Ramaswami's book. This week it's the Lotus Sequence. It was my favourite last time around.
more on this later.
A most meditative sequence but none the worse for that. I'll look at it in more detail later but just wanted to throw out a couple of things from yesterday.
Vinyasa Krama, bit boring after Ashtanga? Can see why you might think that but not at all, it's just different. There are still some crowd pleases in there, they're just scattered about rather than strung together in one series.
Padma Mayurasana for instance. Some improvement here from September.
Word of warning with this. If your familiar with Mayurasana and decide to give it a try then be sure to remember that you have less of a counterweight with your legs folded. First time I tried it I ended up grinding my face into the mat.
It's coming on. Same with the standard Mayurasana you tend to lose control as you try to stretch it and get your head up. Would love to see a picture of Swan neck girl doing this one. Exit is rough on the first one but better on the second.
Oh and if you think Karandavasana is tricky (which is in this sequence by the way) then try sitting in lotus and then taking it up into headstand! Tried three times yesterday and not even close. The idea is to, while in lotus, put your head on the mat with your hands around the head as in your usual Sirsasana, then your supposed to bring the knees in as close to your body as you can, engage the bandhas and take it up........ in theory.
However, Urdhwa Kukkutasana is in there too just before all the Padma Sirsasanas, so for now I'm lifting up into that and then going down into headstand that way (re 3rd ) then bringing the hands back to normal Sirsasana position. After the headstands I take the hands back to Pincha position for Karandavasana. Seems to work well.
Just read the last paragraph and realized I can't help myself, still trying to make one asana flow into the next. What I should be doing is lowering back down after Padma Sirsasana, take a couple of breaths in lotusto collect myself, then see about Padma Pinchamayurasana. I think the Urdhwa kukkutasana entry is ox until I manage to work out this lift, either that or I can shuffle the knees up on to the backs of my forearms and raise the duck, kinda karandavasana in reverse.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
For the next couple of months I'm working at improving familiarity with the different VK sequences by spending a week or two on each sequence. Last time I approached Vinyasa Krama, I was alternating the sequences through the the week but by the time the following week came around I was still having to stop and check the book. Hopefully, this way, I'll manage to get the sequences fixed in my head and in a month or so I can go back to alternating the sequences without the need to keep checking.
This week has been the Seated Sequence. As I'm still getting used to the transition from Ashtanga I've kept most of the Standing and Finishing sequences the same as I'm familiar with, basically the Sury's, a couple of Triangle sequence sub-routines and 'On one leg' subroutines for Standing and Sarvangasana and Lotus Subroutines for Finishing Later I'll get around to alternating the subroutines. Besides the Ashtanga Standing sequence is ideal for the Seated sequence, if aint not broke, don't fix it.
Seated appears to be a straight forward Sequence, a Jump Through into Paschimatanasana, no change there from Ashtanga's Primary. As with Primary you repeat the posture, this is something that comes up a lot in Vinyasa Krama. However, where in primary you do Paschi four times, A, B, C and D in VK's Seated there's also E, F, G, H and I ('though they aren't called that). These include crossing the arms, crossing the arms and twisting forward and then back, Paschi without support, IE. your hands just resting beside your feet and then a kind of Paschi version of Parasarita C with your arms out stretched behind you and then finally in reverse prayer position.
That's a lot of Paschimatanasana, and yet somehow it works. The breath is the real focus here, I aim at a five second inhalation, ten seconds exhalation and five seconds holding the exhale bahya kumbhaka while engaging mula and uddiyana bandhas (I don't engage the bandhas in the twists). I do ten rounds/breaths in each Paschi. It's hard to keep the breath steady and smooth when your bent double like that getting deeper and deeper into the pose each time but it also feels quite powerful, profound even as they build upon eachother.
Next is Kurmasana. In VK you tend to have a Jump Back and Through at the beginning of the sequence as well as at the end, VK calls it a lead in . I'm used to more so tend to fit one in between each of the sub-routines, It seems to be a nice balance. Akunchita Kurmasana I approach as usual via Dwi pada Sirsasana (legs behind head and lower down into it) I also exit via Titibhasana and Bakasana, again it's just what I'm used to and doesn't require much effort for me, so doesn't disturb my breath.
Purvatanasana is up next but there's also the side version on one arm, Vasishtasana. Then your on into Chatushpadapeetam, table pose with leg raises. Then it's Navasana, I do five with a lift in between, there's no lifting up here in VK but again I'm used to it and I want to keep some of the strength and fitness I've developed, I still throw in a couple of handstands in the Sury's too. Urdhwa Paschimotanasana finishes off this little sub routine and there's a rest in VK here where you lay back in corpse for a couple of minutes to settle the breath and the heartbeat. In VK you would take one of these whenever you felt the need. Steady breath is everything in Vinyasa Krama and remember your aiming at these long slow exhales and retentions with bandhas which make the poses deeper somehow.
After your little rest your back with more forward bends Upavishta Konasana, seated angle pose. As with Paschi there are eight versions of this and they take a similar form, supported and unsupported, hand variations and twists. Each time your getting deeper and your doing the same thing with the breath, short inhales, long steady exhales with retention and bandhas.
Side splits is next, Samkonasana, I'm still miles off being able to do that, I'm working on hanumanasana but I tend to give this one a pass.
The sequence finsishes off with Badha Konasana, Mula bhandasana, Padmasana, Siddhasana and Gomukhasana in each of these your basically doing Pranayama, long slow steady inhalation and exhalation, retention after both inhale and exhale and strongly engaging Mula, Udiyana and Jalahandra bandhas. I do about ten breaths in each 1-2 breaths a minute.
And then your on into finishing and the long Sarvangasana and Sirsasana via UD and Drop back's
Seated is a pretty straight forward sequence and easy enough to remember so I'll most likely move onto the Lotus Sequence Next week, this was my favourite sequence last time around so I'm looking forward to it.
On a side note, I've started using the Paranayama App at work. Found a quite room and am doing twenty minutes on my lunch break. Had a really tricky Sax yesterday but managed to stay patient with it all day, perhaps the Pranayama helped.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
So yes, an app for Pranayama. It's not ideal, it would be nice to have more control and be able to set your own ratios and/or time for each section. I want a 1:4:2:1 ratio of 5/20/10/5 seconds but it's a little awkward working out how to do that. I pretty much managed it, eventually, with the Advanced setting set at level 3.
I like using it because I kept losing count and forgetting where I was, especially with Viloma Ujaii. Best of all though is sticking it on at work while repairing, great when your doing something you don't have to think about to much like striping down an old sax.
A 20 second retention gives me enough time to silently chant the Pranayama mantra.
Here's a little demo of how I'm using it. This is the first app. demo I've done so excuse the thumb in all the wrong places. I think it's going for 2.99 GBP
Here's a link to the developers site and more professional demo's
I've settled into a routine now of finishing my practice with Kapalabhati (bellows like breathing) I do 108 of those, split into three, 36 in Padmasana (lotus) then 36 in Utpluthi (Lift up) and another 36 with my arms raised up bent back, hands crossed on my shoulders. I then do ten minutes of Nadi Sodana. I follow that with meditation, ten to twenty minutes depending on how I am for time. In the evening I do the same amount of pranayama, some more chanting and a longer sit.
Nadi Sodana Pranayama
Inhale : 5 seconds. Left nostril
retain : 20 seconds. Chant Pranayama mantra in my head
exhale : 10 seconds. Right nostril
retain : 5 seconds. Engage Locks
This is the Pranayama mantra I use.
And here's a link to Srivatsa Ramaswami teaching the Pranayama Mantra
As well as teaching some other Chants, including the Yoga Sutra's here http://vinyasakrama.com/Chants
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
This is the problem I've had from the start with Vinyasa Krama, how to actually practice it. Coming from Ashtanga made it even more difficult as I was used to the same routine everyday. The layout of The complete book of Vinyasa Krama doesn't really help self practice either, Text/Picture/Text/Picture/Text/Picture. It's difficult looking over and checking where you are and what comes next. But then how else would you lay it out.
I actually really like the book's approach, love reading through the sequences and how the breath is adapted to the posture, little stories of background information about the name or history of a pose. Love all that, just hard to practice with. Perhaps, at the end of each sequence, all the asanas could be laid out on a double page spread, that would help.
Plus there's the problem of how to use the sequences and sub routines. Do you just practice one sequence a day or do you mix them up. Ashtanga is a mixture of all these little sub routines and that seems to work well. And yet I like how the asanas are placed within the context of a sequence and build upon each other. That's something that's stressed within the book.
One of Ramaswami's other book's Yoga beneath the surface helps clear thing up a little. It's format is questions and answers between Ramaswami and one of his students David Hurwitz. As well as dealing with the practice they discuss Patanjali's Sutras, Meditation, Pranayama ETC. In that book it's suggested that a few key asanas should be practiced everyday. The Sun Salutaion of course but also the forward bend Uttanasana and Paschimatanasana, Maha Mudra (kind of like Janu A without bending forward, Sirsasana and Sarvangasana. One is advised to spend a considerable time in each of these postures. And of course after the asnana practice (60-90 minutes) comes the PCM, Pranayama, Chanting and Meditation (30 minutes)
That gives you a framework and is not a million miles away from Ashtanga. A standing sequence Paschi A, B and C the Janu's and finishing with all the Shoulder stand variations and the 25 breath headstand.
Broadly speaking, my approach is to stick one of the sequences in between Paschimatanasana and Maha Mudra. I also tend to add in some of the shorter sub-routines from the Standing sequences after the Sury's. Again this is similar to Ashtanga, The Trikonasanas, Parsvakonasana's and Prasarita's are sub-routines found in the the Triangle sequence and then you have the 'On one leg' Sub-routines.
There are a lot of variations of these in Vinyasa Krama, I plan to link some of the Standing Sub-routines to the 'central Sequence' so whenever I practice the seated sequence I'll have set standing routines to go with it. With the Supine Sequence I'll have another set, that way I get to cover all the different Standing Vinyasa's and work on address areas of my body. This seems a sensible approach too, I can link standing sub-routines that prepare me well for Lotus say or a different set for the Backbends of the Bow sequence.
My problem before was that I went straight into trying to do a different sequence every day. I didn't learn Ashtanga that way, rather I built up a familiarity with the sequence such that I didn't have to think about it anymore and could just get on with the practice. This time I propose to spend a week or two on practicing the Seated sequence every day and then spend a couple of weeks on the Inverted sequence and so on. Like I said, I already know the asanas it's just the sequence and it's subtleties I need to nail down.
The Asymmetric and Supine sequences are quite long however. I could split them up but think I'll go with practicing them on my day's off. So this week and perhaps next I'll practice the Seated sequence all week except for Tuesday and Sunday when I'll practice Asymmetric. The following week will be the Meditative Sequence all week say, except for my day's off when I'll practice Supine. That kind of thing. I'll just tweak the key everyday poses to work as counter poses although there are these within the sequences. It makes sense though to practice a long Paschi' after the Bow sequence rather than before.
This week then is the Seated Posterior Stretch Sequence
28.Suptasana/paschimatanasana 29. Paschimatanasana 30.
Purvatanasana 31. Chatushpadapeetam 32. Upavishtakonasana 33.
Pratikriya 34. Samakonasana. 35. Baddhakonasana 36 Siddhasana
except for today (day off) and Sunday when it'll be the Asymmetric Seated Vinyasa Sequence
15 Lead sequence 16. Dandasana 17. Marichyasana 18.Mahamudra
19. Ardhapadmasana 20. Akarnadhanurasana/Cakorasana 21.
Ekapadasirsasana 22. Triyangmukha 23. Marichyasana(advanced) 24.
Bharadwajasana 26. Mahabandha 26. Matyendrasana 27.Return sequence
* A list of all the sequences in the book can be found here
These are two of my favourite sequences so should be a nice week.
Monday, 15 February 2010
or Back with the program...... the er, other program.
It's a cliche really. Kind of like a relationship that you wont admit is over. You keep trying to give it another go, you take each other back, try your best, you really do, but finally you just have to admit that it was over a long time ago.
Maybe it's because today is Valentines Day but I can't seem to think about this in any other way than as some Romantic melodrama.
Vinyasa Krama as the other woman, Ashtanga as my first love.
.... the argument was right, wrong discipline.
You find a regime, a discipline and stick with it. I chose the wrong one to try and stick with.
I loved Ashtanga, loved practicing it, but Vinyasa Krama was a revelation to me. The only problem with Vinyasa Krama was that it wasn't Ashtanga. I was used to practicing yoga in a particular way and couldn't seem to square Vinyasa Krama with the only way I knew how to practice. I tried to bring the two together, found so much in common and wrote a lot of posts on that. I'm probably going to need a couple of posts to work out why that didn't work out, why and how they are different and perhaps incompatible.
It's difficult, to say why I think Ashtanga is the wrong choice for me personally, it could seem like I'm being critical of Ashtanga and some may take offense at that. That of course is part of the problem. I want to explore Yoga, the philosophy as well as the practice. For me exploring is engaging, questioning, challenging. I see that as respect rather than disrespect. The practice would be OK but it's everything that surrounds it, I become frustrated angry even, that doesn't work for me. But I don't want to go there, don't want to say anything more about it. It's a wonderful practice, if it works for you great, it just doesn't for me anymore.
I've been doing a little Vinyasa Krama in the evening and practicing Ashtanga in the morning. However, it's the evening VK practice that I find myself looking forward to the most and finding more rewarding. I always assumed I would end up doing a Vinyasa Krama practice eventually, either because I was getting too old for Ashtanga ( not suggesting Ashtanga is a young persons game here but speculating I might become less interested in all the jumping about) , an injury (old knee injury coming back perhaps) or because I'd finally grow out of the need for such a pneumatic practice. I might miss some aspects of it occasionally but I think I can deal with that now. I don't know what it is, I just find VK more grounding, more..... profound.
I love Ramaswami's books, they're intelligent, philosophical, engaging, they make me want to understand more about this practice this tradition......
Yesterday I practiced the Lotus sequence today it was Vajrasana and I didn't miss Ashtanga one bit. Perhaps I'm finally ready to move on and let it go.
Sunday, 14 February 2010
Somebody was saying recently that meditation was in the air. I came across this Newsletter again today and thought it might be nice to share.
Meditating on Meditation (The Newsletter in full is found here )
'...how should one meditate? Many start meditation and give it up
after a few days or weeks as they fail to see any appreciable benefit
or perceivable progress. The drop out rate is quite high among
meditators. The mind continues to be agitated and does not get into
the meditating routine. Or quite often one tends to take petit naps
while meditating. Why does this happen? It is due to lack of adequate
preparation. Basically one has to prepare oneself properly for
meditation. The Yogis mention two sadhanas or two yogic procedures as
preparations. They are asanas and pranayama. Asanas, as we have seen
earlier, reduce rajas which manifests as restlessness of the mind, an
inability to remain focused for an appreciable amount of time. But
another guna, tamas also is not helpful during meditation, manifesting
as laziness, lethargy and sloth and this also should be brought under
control if one wants to meditate. Patanjali, Tirumular and several old
Yogis advocate the practice of Pranayama to reduce the effects of
Tamas. Patanjali says Pranayama helps to reduce avarana or Tamas. He
along with conventional ashtanga yogis also mentions that Pranayama
makes the mind capable of Dharana or the first stage of meditation.
Pranayama is an important prerequisite of meditation.
There is evidence that pranayama has a salutary effect on the whole
system. In an earlier article I had explained the beneficial effects
of deep pranayama on the heart and the circulatory system. Further,
when it is done correctly, it helps to draw in anywhere between 3 to 4
liters of atmospheric air compared to just about ½ liter of air
during normal breathing. This helps to stretch the air sacs of the
lungs affording an excellent exchange of oxygen and gaseous waste
products. These waste products are proactively thrown out of the
system by deep pranayama, which yogis refer to as reduction of tamas.
Thus soon after pranayama, the yogi feels refreshed and calm and
becomes fit for the first stage of meditation which is called Dharana.
What should one meditate on? Several works talk about meditating on
cakras, mantras, auspicious icons, various tatwas and on the spirit/
soul etc. But, the method of meditating, only a few works detail.
Perhaps the most precise is that of Patanjali in Yoga Sutras.
Patanjali details not only a step by step methodology of meditation
but also the various objects of prakriti and ultimately the spirit
within to meditate on. Hence his work may be considered as the most
detailed, complete and rigorous on meditation
For a start Patanjali would like the abhyasi to get the technique
right. So he does not initially specify the object but merely says
that the Yogi after the preliminary practices of asana, pranayama and
pratyahara, should sit down in a comfortable yogasana and start the
meditation. Tying the mind to a spot is dharana. Which spot? Vyasa in
his commentary suggests going by tradition, a few spots, firstly
inside the body, like the chakras as the Kundalini Yogi would do,, or
the heart lotus as the bhakti yogi would do, or the mid-brows as a
sidhha yogi would do or even an icon outside as a kriya yogi would do.
The icon should be an auspicious object like the image of one’s
favorite deity. Many find it easier to choose a mantra and focus
attention on that. Thousands everyday meditate on the Gayatri mantra
visualizing the sun in the middle of the eyebrows or the heart as part
of their daily Sandhyavandana** routine. It is also an ancient
practice followed even today to meditate on the breath with or without
using the Pranayama Mantra.
(** Namarupa published my article “Sandhyavandanam-Ritualistic
Gayatri Meditation” with all the routines, mantras, meanings, about 40
pictures, and also an audio with the chanting of the mantras in the
Sep/Oct 2008 issue).
What of the technique?
The Yogabhyasi starts the antaranga sadhana or the internal practice
by bringing the mind to the same object again and again even as the
mind tends to move away from the chosen object of meditation. The
active, repeated attempts to bring the mind back to the simple, single
object again and again is the first stage of meditation (samyama)
called dharana. Even though one has done everything possible to make
the body/mind system more satwic, because of the accumulated samskaras
or habits, the mind continues to drift away from the object chosen for
meditation. The mind starts with the focus on the object but within a
short time it swiftly drifts to another related thought then a third
one and within a short time this train of thoughts leads to a stage
which has no connection whatsoever with the object one started with.
Then suddenly the meditator remembers that one is drifting and soon
brings the mind back to the object and resumes remaining with the
“object”. This process repeats over and over again. This repeated
attempts to coax and bring the mind to the same object is dharana. At
the end of the session lasting for about 15 minutes, the meditator may
(may means must) take a short time to review the quality of
meditation. How often was the mind drifting away from the object and
how long on an average the mind wandered? And further what were the
kinds of interfering thoughts? The meditator takes note of these. If
they are recurrent and strong then one may take efforts to sort out
the problem that interferes with the meditation repeatedly or at least
decide to accept and endure the situation but may decide to take
efforts to keep those thoughts away at least during the time one
If during the dharana period, the mind gets distracted too often and
this does not change over days of practice, perhaps it may indicate
that the rajas is still dominant and one may want to reduce the
systemic rajas by doing more asanas in the practice. On the other hand
if the rajas is due to influences from outside, one may take special
efforts to adhere to the yamaniyamas more scrupulously. Perhaps every
night before going to sleep one may review the day’s activities and
see if one had willfully violated the tenets of yamaniyamas like “did
I hurt someone by deed, word or derive satisfaction at the expense of
others’ pain”. Or did I say untruths and so on. On the other hand if
one tends to go to sleep during the meditation minutes, one may
consider increasing the pranayama practice and also consider reducing
tamasic interactions, foods etc.
Then one may continue the practice daily and also review the progress
on a daily basis and also make the necessary adjustments in practice
and interactions with the outside world. Theoretically and practically
when this practice is continued diligently and regularly, slowly the
practitioner of dharana will find that the frequency and duration of
these extraneous interferences start reducing and one day, the abhyasi
may find that for the entire duration one stayed with the object. When
this takes place, when the mind is completely with the object moment
after moment in a continuous flow of attention, then one may say that
the abhyasi has graduated into the next stage of meditation known as
dhyana. Many meditators are happy to have reached this stage. Then one
has to continue with the practice so that the dhyana habits or
samskaras get strengthened. The following day may not be as
interruption free, but Patanjali says conscious practice will make it
more successful. “dhyana heyat tad vrittayah”. If one continues with
this practice for sufficiently long time meditating on the same object
diligently, one would hopefully reach the next stage of meditation
called Samadhi. In this state only the object remains occupying the
mind and the abhyasi even forgets herself/himself. Naturally if one
continues the meditation practice one would master the technique of
meditation. Almost every time the yagabhasi gets into meditation
practice, one would get into Samadhi. Once one gets this capability
one is a yogi—a technically competent yogi-- and one may be able to
use the skill on any other yoga worthy object and make further
progress in Yoga. (tatra bhumishu viniyogah)
The consummate yogi could make a further refinement. An object has a
name and one has a memory of the object, apart from the object itself
(sabda, artha gnyana). If a Yogi is able to further refine the
meditation by focusing attention on one aspect like the name of the
object such a meditation is considered superior. For instance when the
sound ‘gow” is heard (gow is cow ), if the meditiator intently
maintains the word ‘gow’ alone in his mind without bringing the
impression(form) of a cow in his mind then that is considered a
refined meditation. Or when he sees the cow, he does not bring the
name ‘gow’ in the meditation process, it is a refined meditation.
The next aspect-after mastering meditation— one may consider is, what
should be the object one should meditate upon. For Bhakti Yogis it is
the Lord one should meditate upon. According to my teacher, a great
Bhakti Yogi, there is only one dhyana or meditation and that is
bhagavat dhyana or meditating upon the Lord. There is a difference
between a religious person and a devotee. A devotee loves the Lord and
meditates on the Lord, all through life. The Vedas refer to the
Pararmatman or the Supreme Lord and bhakti yogis meditate on the Lord.
The Vedas also refer to several gods and some may meditate on these as
well. By meditating on the Lord one may transcend the cycle of
transmigration. At the end of the bhakti yogi’s life one reaches the
same world of the Lord (saloka), the heaven. Some attain the same form
as the Lord. Some stay in the proximity of the Lord and some merge
with the Lord. The Puranas which are the later creation of poet seers
personify the Lord and the vedic gods. Thus we have several puranas as
Agni purana, Vayu purana and then those of the Lord Himself like the
Bhagavata Purana , Siva Purana , Vishnu Purana. Running to thousands
of slokas and pages the puranic age helped to worship the Lord more
easily as these stories helped to visualize the Lord as a person,
which was rather difficult to do from the Vedas. Later on Agamas made
the Lord more accessible by allowing idols to be made of the Lord and
divine beings and consecrating them in temples. Thus these various
methods helped the general populace remain rooted to religion and
religious worship. So meditating upon the charming idol/icon of the
Lord made it possible for many to worship and meditate . Of course
many traditional Brahmins belonging to the vedic practices stuck to
the vedic fire rituals, frowned upon and refrained from any ‘form
worship’, but millions of others found form worship a great boon.
Meditating on the form of the chosen deity either in a temple or at
one’s own home has made it possible to sidestep the intermediate
priestly class to a great extent. One can become responsible for one’s
own religious practice, including meditation. The ultimate reality is
meditated on in different forms, in any form as Siva Vishnu etc or as
Father, Mother, Preceptor or even a Friend. Some idol meditators
define meditating on the whole form as dharana, then meditating on
each aspect of the form as the toe or head or the arms or the
bewitching eyes as dhyana and thus giving a different interpretation
to meditation. Some, after meditating on the icon, close the eyes and
meditate on the form in their mind’s eye (manasika).
Darshanas like Samkhya and Yoga which do not subscribe to the theory
of a Creator commended ‘the understanding of one’s own Self’ as a
means of liberation. The Self which is non-changing is pure
consciousness and by deep unwavering meditation after getting the
technique right, one can realize the nature of oneself and be
liberated. Following this approach, the Samkhyas commend meditating on
each and every of the 24 aspects of prakriti in the body-mind complex
of oneself and transcend them to directly know the true nature of
oneself, and that will be Freedom or Kaivalya. Similarly the Yogis
would say that the true nature of the self is known when the mind
transcends(nirodha) the five types of its activities called vrittis to
reach kaivalya, by a process of subtler and subtler meditation.
The Upanishads on the other hand while agreeing with the other
Nivritti sastras like Yoga and Samkhya in so far as the nature of the
self is concerned, indicate that the individual and the Supreme Being
are one and the same and meditating on this identity leads to
liberation. They would like the spiritual aspirant to first follow a
disciplined life to get an unwavering satwic state of the mind. Then
one would study the upanishadic texts (sravana), by analysis (manana)
understand them and realize the nature of the self through several
step by step meditation approaches (nidhidhyasana). The Vedas, for the
sake of the spiritual aspirant, have several Upanishad vidyas to study
and understand It from several viewpoints. For instance, the panchkosa
vidya indicates that the real self is beyond (or within) the five
koshas (sheaths). It could also be considered as the pure
consciousness which is beyond the three states of awareness (avasta)
of waking, dream and deep sleep, as the Pranava(Om) vidya would
indicate. The understanding and conviction that Self and the Supreme
Self are one and the same is what one needs to get, before doing
Upanishadic meditation following the advaitic interpretation.
Summarizing one may say that traditional meditation warrants proper
preparation so that the mind becomes irrevocably satwic and thus fit
for and capable of meditation. Secondly it requires practice on a
simple object until the meditation technique is mastered and such
meditatin samskaras developed. Then the Yogi should set the goal of
meditation based on the conviction of a solid philosophy—bhakti,
samkhya, yoga, vedanta, kundalini (or if comfortable, nirvana) or
The Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga has a short sequence called 'The meditative pose sequence' based on Vajrasana or bolt pose. Vajrasana can be used for meditation as an alternative to Lotus. The sequence is basically Vajrasana with different hand and arm variations and including some forward and backward bending. It's a nice sequence and ideal perhaps for an Ashtanga rest day and as preparation for Pranayama and Meditation.
Friday, 12 February 2010
You may remember this post from a few weeks ago.
I'd ordered a new Manduka eQua from AllergyLiberation.com. On choosing a colour I went for for Sunset, expecting a bold, reddish towel.
However, when it arrived it was on the pinkish side of Pink. Though great to practice on, I had a little rant on the blog about
it's pinkness and the loss of my manly reputation in my workshop.
Clearly, there are some self-realized yogi's at Manduka who, rather than take offense, were chilled enough to see the funny side and immediately offered to send me a more manly towel.
And here it is.
Now this is a macho yoga towel. Grey, dare I say charcoal even and there is nothing pink about the bold red trim. THIS is a manly towel.
It speaks of practicing Ashtanga down the pits of the Rhondda Valley
As it happens I've kind of become attached to my pink towel, in a bright light it is, it's true,
quite pink but in the candle light it has a much warmer blush.
One thing I did notice this week was the difference in size between the old Manduka eQua and the new. The old towel, the lime green one (next to the new manly grey one )below, is quite narrow. Having got used to the wider new eQua over the last couple of weeks, I found it a little irritating jumping back on the old one, the seam being in the middle of my hands. Next to it is a picture of my brown Yogitoes, also narrower and a little shorter than the new eQua.
Sunday, 7 February 2010
Even orthodox Astangi's get 25 breaths in Sarvangasana and Sirasasana which can be taken as long, deep and as slow as they like. For the home Ashtangi The complete book of Vinyasa Krama has some nice variations worth considering while your up there.
from Srivatsa Ramaswami's February 2010 Newsletter.
The brain and its nerve pathways form an important system of the human
being and again Yoga has some unique procedures to help the efficacy
of the nervous system. The brain, the spinal cord containing the nerve
fibers, the ganglions, the plexuses and the peripheral nerves form
this system. We have already seen the benefit the yogic technique of
meditation can bring to the brain. It helps to create new neural
connections and reduce disturbances. This Raja Yoga technique works
within the brain and transforms (parinama) it to a better functioning
organ. The Hata Yogis through the Hata Yoga practices such as
Pranayama, viparitakaranis and some mudras help to maintain good
health of the brain. The two postures that really help the brain are,
as you can guess, the inversions, Sirasasana and Sarvangasana.
Many people, when they start to practice Headstand, find that their
faces flush and they feel a rush of blood to the face and the skull.
After some regular practice for a short period of time, the body
adjusts to the new posture and auto regulates the flow of blood. Even
so when one practices this posture for a significant time, the blood
circulation in the brain improves considerably, since the blood
vessels in the brain do not contract or dilate the way other blood
vessels do. This is very refreshing to the brain and normally people
get a cleansed feeling. Equally important is that the cerebro-spinal
fluid, which is a clear and colorless liquid surrounding the brain and
the spinal cord, drains and pools upon the top portion of the brain.
It enters the ventricles and small recesses in the brain and helps in
the nourishment of the brain cells. The third ventricle conveys a
small recess to the posterior portion of the pituitary gland. The
pressure of the CSF, while staying in Headstand, helps the gland to
secrete more of the hormones into the CSF which again is said to
stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. So people who have a weak
sympathetic system may benefit from remaining in Headstand for a
considerable amount of time. The weak sympathetic is considered to be
one of the causes of some ailments like bronchial asthma. Hence this
exercise could be useful for those who suffer from such conditions as
bronchial asthma, its cousin eczema and distant relative, epilepsy y
stimulating the sympathetic.
Sarvangasana is similar to but yet different from Headstand. In this,
instead of the crown, the occipital portion of the head is on the
floor, and the CSF pools into the midbrain and the back of the brain
including the medulla. These areas are really stimulated by a good
stint in Sarvangasana. It is said the Vagas nerve nuclei are
stimulated by this exercise. Thus it results in the activation of the
para sympathetic. It results in reduction in anxiety and insomnia. My
Guru used to say that it helps normalize sexual functions. Thus a
judicious mix of Headstand and Shoulder stand would help to bring
about a healthy balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic
Yoga is particularly directed towards maintaining the integrity of the
spine. The spinal cord is about 45 cm long for men and 43cm for women.
The enclosing bony vertebral column protects the relatively shorter
spinal cord. In fact, the spinal cord extends down to only the last of
the thoracic vertebrae, or the thoracic spine, and then the tail flows
down the lumbar region. The spinal cord is inside the neural canal --
almost the diameter of the thumb-- of the backbone. The nerves from
the spine emanate on either side through openings called neural
foramina and then proceed to the autonomic nervous system and then
various organs. The slightest displacement of the vertebrae will
result in chronic or acute pain. In Yoga, efforts are made to maintain
the spinal column in proper position and mobility. There are fibers of
both the central and autonomic nervous system. When there is some
pressure on the nerves due to even the slightest displacement of the
vertebrae, there is pain which inhibits the various impulses that pass
through the brain, spinal cord, the various organs and muscles. This
can be compared to ‘noise’ in the telephone transmission system. In
such cases the signals do not properly reach the organs or the brain
and spinal cord do not receive the signals properly resulting in the
inefficiency of those organs. So Yogis take special care to see that
the spinal column is properly exercised, mobile and supple. The
exercises are designed to prevent any vertebral pressure on the nerves
by maintaining a healthy inter-vertebral space. And then these spinal
exercises help to circulate blood and CSF to nourish the spinal
nerves. They also suggest strengthening the back muscles so that the
spinal column is well supported. Paschimatanasana, as the name
implies, will meet the requirement admirably.
The movements for the spine include side bending, forward bending,
curving the back, back bending and of course twisting. These may be
done in different postures as is usually done in Vinyasakrama. One of
the simple sequences that helps achieve this is hasta vinyasas and
thoracic exercises in Tadasana, which include all these movements.
(See my book “Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga, Chapter on Tadasana).
This stretching of the spine will be enhanced if one practices the
scores of vinyasas in inversion poses like Sarvangasana and sirsasana.
The spinal cord is inside the thoracic region of the vertebral column.
So when we move the arms and do the various movements the spine at the
thoracic region does not stretch as the ribcage moves up and down as
one unit. The intervertebral discs in the region of the thoracic spine
are much thinner than in the cervical and the lumbar regions. As a
result there is generally less movement between the vertebrae of the
thoracic spine. The yogis have found a unique way of stretching the
thoracic spine. This is achieved by doing all the movements with deep
breathing, especially inhalation. When we do deep inhalation, the
chest expands side to side, front to back and also up and down which
will help stretch the vertical thoracic spine and maintain a good
intervertebral space for mobility and freedom for the nerves. Hence
the vinyasakrama method of doing asanas with good breathing has this
additional advantage. Again a good stint of Pranayama practice
especially Nadisodhana (nerve cleansing) with an easy, graceful and
secure Jalandharabandha should be very useful for the spinal cord.
Pranayamic deep inhalation and the long breath holding (1:4:2) after
inhalation (antah kumbhaka) directly benefit the nerves inside the
spine.. So when you do deep inhalation, hold the breath and stretch
the spine, the breathing itself acts as an internal traction of the
See Day 1 for an explanation of the challenge/experiment.
This is the last video on this for a while, you'll be pleased to hear, though I think I'll stick with these for a while This one, like Day 1 is at normal speed.
On the last post Susan and Dana were talking about leading with my head when coming back up and suggested taking the head back last. Here are two stills that show the difference between
my head position going down and coming up again.
I mean it works though doeslook a little strained. Something to work on along with the splayed feet.
I like the shadow in the first picture.
Had a go at trying to bring the head up last today but couldn't get the rhythm right and went back to what's working, for now anyway.
I've been doing the fifteen to twenty of these all week and the back has been fine, a little stiffness in the beginning but otherwise no problems. I'm feeling more confident with both. Before this week it was a little hit or miss, but that was due to laziness on my part and not practicing them regularly enough. I've always Ashtanga is a bit obsessive about back bending but, it's fun and curiously revitalizing, practiced the Iyengar way, however, the 15-20, I find quite meditative.
Saturday, 6 February 2010
See Day 1 for an explanation of what the point of all this is.
Managed to keep it pretty much on the breath up to around seven or eight then lost a little control of the breath and lost the coordination. Lost count and ended up doing around seventeen, eighteen, rather than the fifteen I'd planned.
How to keep track of these for the 108. on the 108 sury's you could move a stone.
Friday, 5 February 2010
See Day 1 for an explanation of what's going on with this.
Both dropping back and coming up feel pretty secure now, more a case of getting the rhythm and making it consistent with the breath. Once the rhythm is nailed, the plan is to slowly tweak it bit by bit bringing the feet a little closer together dropping back and losing the splayed feet coming back up.
Find myself really looking forward to drop backs now, couldn't wait to get home. I think I did 18 in this one, lost count. A few weeks ago I grumbled my way through three now I'm having to force myself to stop and not over do it.
First couple of days I was feeling a little stiff but this morning was fine and I went through Intermediate without any discomfort. I'd been wondering how Kapo would feel but it was pretty much the same as usual, no better no worse.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
“So,are you a guru?”I asked Mr.Iyengar.
I had been going to Iyengar yoga classes for three years, and BKS
Iyengar was visiting Australia for the first time.I was making a one-
hour radio program on yoga and interviewed the great master.
He replied, “Your guru is your practice.”The greatest thing a guru
could ever say. You learn to do it by doing it. Yoga is learned in the
practice of yoga ...”
Inez Baranay.From Iyengar:The Yoga Master,
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
So we looked at the Iyengar drop back challenge, how about the fifteen minute Kapo?
The Drop back's didn't turn out to be as scary as I imagined and I was wondering if the Kapo might be the same, the idea of it being perhaps worse than the reality, all bark no bite.
Oh but no, it bites.
I decided on a light toe bind rather than aiming for half way up the foot or the heels. My main reason for exploring it was to see if I could manage a longer, slower steadier breath than usual. As it turned out I managed twenty-five slower, steadier breathes, about two minutes, not so long.
Long way to go then.
Problems I found, were what to do with my head and cramping in the quads. I felt like the angle of my head wasn't ideal, always seemed OK for the usual five breathes but for a longer period it shows up as putting stress on the neck. It could of course be bad technique on my part or because I went for the softer bind, perhaps grabbing the heels would bring me up higher and create a better angle, free the head up more. The quads just began to ache half way in and I tried a half hearted attempt to bring in some Vipassana technique to deal with the aching. In the end I was happy with the twenty-five breathes and still managed to go into Kapo B and then come up.
Fifteen minutes still seems insane but five minutes of longer steadier breathing doesn't seem such a bad idea to occasionally consider.
DROP BACK CHALLENGE UPDATE : Day 3
I thought it had gone all too well on Sunday. I just did the usual yesterday, erring on the side of caution so no Day 2 video, couldn't wait to try them again today. It didn't go so well, couldn't seem to get the same rhythm going and failed to come up five times out of twenty. I was trying to take my head back later and perhaps that had something to do with putting me off, or perhaps I was just trying too hard.
Still no harm done, except to my ego. Here's a video, speeded up, because, lets face it, these are kind of like watching grass grow.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
After some reflection I've decided to bring back the Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama blog title. I intend to stick with the 'Intermediate for a year' pact, in the mornings but I've decided to continue exploring Vinyasa Krama in the evenings. VK just makes more sense to me, personally, as a practice. Physically and temperamentally, however I seem to be drawn to Ashtanga. Perhaps I just want to explore Yoga more and don't feel able to do that here under an straight Ashtanga umbrella.
In the evening I've been pretty much doing some Vinyasa Krama anyway. A couple of Sun Salutes, Uttanasana, Maha Mudra and then into Pranayama and Chanting before my usual Meditation. This week I wanted to add the multiple Drop backs, prepping it with some VK Tadasana poses and following it with the extended Paschimottanasana before my PCM. In the future I'll explore some other short subroutines again. Basically a light pre PCM VK evening practice.
And of course as has been pointed out I'd already added a couple of extra poses to Standing, it was always going to be Ashtanga +.
'Try it (Ashtanga) for ten years! '
I've seen this a few times now. I don't know, but 'try' and 'ten years' don't seem to collate. I think Mad Men missed a trick here. Why would you 'try' anything for ten years. You may commit yourself to ten years, that collates, but not try. I'm happy to commit myself to Yoga for ten years, to explore it, study it, interrogate it, engage with it but Ashtanga seems to want to resist that and I find that problematic for me personally. You can explore it and engage 'with' it but only it seems within certain parameters, heaven forbid you try to interrogate it. It often times gets presented as a regime to be followed not questioned, fair enough but was it always so I wonder?
This sounds like I'm being critical of the practice and perhaps even of those who chose to practice it. That's not my intention at all. I'm not suggesting anyone follows this blindly. I'm sure everyone thinks it through, sometime or other, and makes a decision to follow that method and stick with it. I can see the arguments for not wanting to worry about the In's and Out's and just get on with the practice and let the teacher deal with all the logistics, hell we have enough to worry about in our busy lives, perhaps it needs to be that way to be able to practice it every day.
So the Ashtanga I'll just get on with and shut up about, though perhaps some posts on how it's going. Other posts though, will no doubt be on different aspects of Yoga and of Vinyasa Krama. I might even take a couple of Iyengar classes and find out what's going on over there, perhaps the odd workshop.
I'm also considering a month long workshop with Ramaswami at Loyola University Nr. Venice beach, California, June-July this year. Been thinking about it off and on for quite a while. I thought I'd be able to get a cheap room at the University for the duration but they don't seem to do that. If anyone has any thoughts on accommodation in that area for a month or if anyone else is planning on doing the workshop and thinks we can reduce costs by sharing or something then please get in touch (email is on my profile under contact info).
Monday, 1 February 2010
So a quick reminder.
In the comment section on a previous post it come up that in Iyengar, 12-20 Drop backs may be recommended. It was also related that Iyengar himself dropped back 108 times on his 80th birthday.
Now this blew me away, 108! 12-20! I'm used to 3-5 in Ashtanga (Although as I point out in the previous post to this one, there are 21 back bends in the full Mysore back bend sequence as presented in Matthew Sweeney's book ASTANGA AS IT IS).
I take Sunday as my day off regular practice, rather than Saturday so thought I'd give the multiple drop backs a try.
Surprisingly it went well, really well. I did a little Vinyasa Krama back bend prep. basically leaning back in Tadasana with different hand variations. I followed that with Five UD's and then went straight into Drop Back's. The first one went so well that I thought I'd video the whole thing and edit it up later. I expected a couple of good one's coming up after a little rocking, some fails where I wouldn't manage to come back up, lots of pauses. I thought I might manage six.
As it turned out I did fifteen. The first fourteen without any rocking. The last one I had to rock once before coming up and decided to call it a day. A couple of times I go to far forward and have to reach out to the wall and a couple I have to take a step back. in the middle somewhere there are a couple where I come up and then go straight back, those were my favourites.
I'm using my new drop back approach that I try to outline here.
I can't get over how meditative it was. You begin to get a rhythm going (best ones are at 6.00), the breath is steady, your very focused, it was really quite wonderful. If it was like this after the first attempt then it really should be marvelous when I can go straight up and down on the breath.
Best of all I don't feel any strain, tension or ache just very very relaxed, peaceful and mellow. 108 doesn't seem such madness, in fact I imagine it's quite a profound experience.
I believe they tend to do the 108 on their birthday's, mine is in July and I think I might have to give it a try.
UPDATE: The morning after
My back felt a little stiff this morning so decided to go with Primary instead of Intermediate. Went round twice in Garbha Pindasana. Interesting the comment that Iyengar went easy on the backbends when he decided to focus on Pranayama. Some of the Drop Back's yesterday were better than others, smoother, I'm guessing the stiffness comes from the not so great ones. I didn't feel at the time that I was straining to come up in anyway. I might give it a miss tonight and then take ten minutes rest before doing them after 2nd tomorrow.
This has been going on all week now so have decided to christen it the Iyengar Drop back challenge week.
So we where talking about the multiple Drop Back's in Iyengar yoga (here) . A recommendation of twelve to twenty was related in the comments section and it was mentioned that Iyengar himself did 108 on his 80th birthday.
Twelve to twenty does seem a lot to Ashtangi's who tend to do three to five.
or do we....
I was just looking at the Mathew Sweeney's book and in his section on Back Bending he has ...
Drop back's x5
Handstand drop-over x5
Viparita Chakrasana x5
Final Drop-over x1
Setu bandhasana x5
= 21 back bends
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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.
"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.
"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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