Friday, 16 June 2017

Underwater Yoga on Bhaya kumbhaka and Krishnamacharya's one kumbhaka vinyasa.

Part 1 Yoga asana underwater
Part 2  Krishnamacharya's one kumbhaka vinyasa.


On fb this week I saw a video of my friend Simon Borg-Olivier (http://simonborgolivier.com/) practicing his Spinal movements sequence underwater....



The video isn't on youtube but you should be able to see it on this post.



So I have this Lake.......,


Living as I do on the shore of Japan's four million year old Lake Biwa, I couldn't resist trying it myself.

The trick here is exhale fully, which allows you to sink to the bottom where you can then attempt the sequence on bahya kumbhaka (ceasing of breath when the exhalation/Rechak is complete). This ties in nicely with the work I've been doing recently on Simon's Introduction to breath control (pranayama) course See THIS LINK to my review of  course ( and this to the course itself http://simonborgolivier.com/breath-training-for-health-and-longevity/).

In the course Simon has you emphasise different aspects of the breath, so in one exercise you are inhaling for thirty seconds or longer



Above a one minute inhalation, the trick is to visualise the inhalation back and forth up the body while trying to stay as relaxed as possible.

...., in another, exhaling for thirty seconds, in a third, Antar Kumbhaka (ceasing of breath when the inhalation/Puraka is complete) for thirty seconds and in a fourth, bahya kumbhaka (ceasing of breath when the exhalation/Rechak is complete).

In Simon's underwater spinal sequence video he is practicing the sequence on a minutes bahya kumbhaka, it's challenging. I can manage a three minutes Antar Kumbhaka at a push but ceasing to breathe for a minute after exhaling is at my limit, let alone trying move through a sequence and stay sitting on the bottom of the lake in padmasana.





Simon takes this further and has a wonderful video and post on underwater yoga on his blog. Simon's father was a free diver, he could swim a length below the surface before he could swim the same on the surface, probably before he could walk.




Below a couple of shots from the video, Simon in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana




I've just been down to the lake to try this out and had the best time. It's a beautiful day here in Shiga, the rainy season is yet to start and I have the beach to myself as usual, the lake is a little cold though, I'm looking forward to July.

Simon talks of practicing thirty asana in thirty minutes underwater...

"In my late teens my Tibetan Lama told me that traditionally (in the system he learnt) that postures where help for a long as one breath retention. So progressively I developed my underwater yoga practice know finding it the easiest place to hold the breath and be in a pose.
In this practice I take a breath in, hold my breath, go underwater and get into a posture, hold for some time floating just under the surface, then exhale fully and sink down underwater (to the bottom if it is not far!) and hold my breath out and perform uddiyana bandha, mula bandha, nauli and lauliki (rolling my abdomen with my chest expanded etc). Then, I swim to the surface (often still in pose such as the lotus as in the video here) and when I break the surface I inhale to begin the next posture. I regularly practice a 30 minute sequence of up to 30 postures in this manner".

This afternoon I just practiced, 

Dandasana
Paschimattanasana 
Ustrasana
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana
Tiriangmukhaikapada Paschimattanasana
 Bharadvajrasana
Janu Shirshasana A
Baddha Konasana
Baddha padmasana
Padmasana

It was only really in dandasana, baddha konasana and padmasana that I stayed for around thirty seconds, the others were perhaps fifteen to twenty as I had the bind to worry about.


Why do this?

Well, I have this lake......
                                                                                                  
The Shala


The Shala
Practice this morning: a swim in place of sun salutations, standing sequence in the water, Primary series up to upavishta konasana (which doesn't seem to work) under the water - bhaya kumbhaka ( ceasing to breathe after the exhalation) while mentally chanting the pranayama mantra in every posture. (Note: peg on the nose for folding forward) Back to the tatami room for finishing - until I'm more used to the sun. This may well be my summer and make up for working nights.
Update: I was asked on Instagram how you can practice Ashtanga underwater....should you want to.
Exhale fully, allows you to bend over underwater in standing (with the help of a peg on the nose) . Again, exhale fully to drop to the bottom and fold into the pose or the bind. Hold it for 20-30 seconds ( I mentally Chant the pranayama mantra), come up to the surface between sides or postures. It works, was a nice practice this morning.

Also, Krishnamacharya indicated bhaya kumbhaka ( ceasing to breathe after the exhalation) in most primary asana in Yoga Makaranda ( Mysore 1934).

Observation: Richard Freeman talks about giving a little extra puff in his pranayama course, to push out the last of the air and automatically engage bandhas. Getting rid of that last puff of the air helps ground you on the surface of the lake. That puff is almost automatic in twists if you allow it. Re twists, mostly Krishnamacharya doesn't mention kumbhaka on twists, preferring instead to indicate long slow equal inhalation and exhalation, except for a clear mention of kumbhaka for Bharadvajrasana.

Also, the movement of the water raises challenges for the posture which are interesting to overcome, likewise challenges for the breath, the kumbhaka and Bandha work but mostly, it's just beautiful and serene there in the lake with the sun breaking through the surface.



Part 2  Krishnamacharya's one kumbhaka vinyasa.

Splashtanga™may be more 'traditional than you might think...., Krishnamacharya is said to have learned from his teacher on the shore of Lake Manasarovar 




Did you pick up on the line in the quote about Simon's Tibetan Lama....

"In my late teens my Tibetan Lama told me that traditionally (in the system he learnt) that postures where help for a long as one breath retention". 

This reminded me of something that's played on my mind for some time.

In Ashtanga we tend to stay in a posture for five breaths, it used to be eight or ten back in the day supposedly but now it tends to be five, these can be pretty speedy.... Sharath for instance takes about fifteen seconds for five breaths on his dvd's and led classes (just double checked on his Moscow led for paschimottanasana). That's three seconds a breath, one and a half seconds each for inhalation and exhalation. In interviews/talks Pattabhi Jois would speak of fifteen, even twenty seconds, each for inhalation and exhalation as an ideal ( but then lead his demonstrators though there asana just as fast as Sharath), he recognised that householders didn't have time for such a slow practice but perhaps he over compensated.

NOTE: If I follow a led Ashtanga DVD or class I tend to take one or two slower breaths to the count of five, works for me.

So these days in Ashtanga it tends to be five breaths (finishing asana tend to be longer). In Yoga Mala however, Jois would talk of breathing in an asana for as long as possible....

"(for paschimottanasana) Next, doing rechaka, grasp and hold the upper parts of the feet; this is the 8th vinyasa (as your practice becomes firm, you should be able to lock your hands behind your feet). Then, doing puraka slowly, then rechaka, straighten both legs, and place the head between the knees; this is the 9th vinyasa and the state of the asana. While in the state, do puraka and rechaka slowly and deeply, as much as possible". Yoga Mala -Pattabhi Jois.

In Ashtanga then we have mention of a number of breaths, whether, ten, eight, five or, as in Yoga mala, breathing as much as possible.

In Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934), written when Pattabhi Jois was Krishnamacharya's student, we don't find this at all. Krishnamacharya stresses kumbhaka in almost every asana except for twists. He talks of practicing the kumbhaka for as long as possible while in the asana and this ties in with Simon's Tibetan Lama

"....that postures where held for a long as one breath retention".

What Krishnamacharya does talk about is TIME with regards to certain key asana that are held for a longer. He recognises that one might not be able to stay in kumbhaka for five minutes ( thank you for that K.) so suggests coming out of the posture, taking puraka (inhalation) then re entering the asana.

"While holding the feet with the hands, pull and clasp the feet tightly. Keep the head or face or nose on top of the kneecap and remain in this sthiti from 5 minutes up to half an hour. If it is not possible to stay in recaka for that long, raise the head in between, do puraka kumbhaka and then, doing recaka, place the head back down on the knee. While keeping the head lowered onto the knee, puraka kumbhaka should not be done". Yoga Makaranda - Krishnamacharya

For Krishnamacharya there are a few key asana he would have you stay in for a significant period, ten minutes or so E.G. Paschimottanasana, Maha mudra ( of which janu sirsasana is it's asana), Sarvangasana, Sirsasana, also trikonasana, mayaurasana. baddha konasana. 

But in other asana, is Krishnamacharya suggestion we stay in the asana for one (extended) kumbhaka? 

If we remember that Krishnamacharya was supposedly in Tibet with his teacher, even if not for as long as legend suggests, might he have been influenced by this suggestion of one asana one Kumbhaka, that may or may not have characterised tibetan yoga?

We would need more evidence, does one asana/one kumbhaka really characterise Tibetan yoga, is this indeed what Krishnamacharya was suggesting back in Yoga Makaranda?

It was carried forward into Jois' Ashtanga vinyasa, perhaps Krishnamacharya never taught it to the young boys of the practice, perhaps it was only how he practiced himself.

In Ramaswami we see both time and count, stay for five breaths, or , in the same key asana, stay for ten minutes. Kumbhaka was retained in Krishnamacharya's later teaching but there doesn't seem to be the suggestion of one asana/one kumbhaka, did he consider it too challenging for most students ( at this time many of Krishnamacharya's students were patients) ?


Just as I lost interest in Advanced asana after briefly practicing Ashtanga Advanced A and B, I lost interest in all the different pranayamas teachers would offer, they seemed a distraction, better to settle on Ramaswami's presentation of nadi shodhana and do more rounds rather learn and practice these endless variations.

And yet I was impressed by Simon's post on free divers (https://yogasynergy.com/blog/pranayama-at-its-highest-level-in-the-practical-sense-william-truebridges-world-record-free-dive-to-124-metres-with-only-one-breath/), on how free diving is all about relaxing...., and isn't that (one of) the objective of pranayama, calming the emotions, overcoming the growing sense of panic in bhaya kumbhaka, the fear of death.

And so with Simon's introduction to breath control I've been working on increasing the length of my inhalation and exhalation, of my kumbhaka's, not to ridiculous levels but longer than I might have considered in the past. Not so much for my pranayama practice, I'm happy with the nadi shodhana I practice, but for the kumbhaka's Krishnamacharya mentions in his asana.

Besides, Krishnamacharya talks of seeing god in the kumbhaka, kumbhaka is the infinity between two points, the two stages of the breath. 

Do we find god or the absence of god, it seems more worthy of exploration than yet another handstand variation.



Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Book Review: Yoga for the three stages of Life. My 'all time favourite' book on yoga.

Despite this being my favourite book of Ramaswami's and probably the best book on yoga I've come across, I don't seem to have given the book a standalone review on the blog. Time to make amends, so coming soon a full review with all or at least many of my favourite bits....

This first post is more of an introduction to a series of posts that I'm considering for each chapter, a 'Look Inside' preview if you like, based on Ramaswami's own introduction on fb this week. I've come back to this book so many times over the last ten years, discovering something I'd missed completely each time that has frankly rocked my thinking and approach to my own practice of Ashtanga. The book reminds me of practicing to Richard Freeman's dvd's (Who's new book is called the 'Art of Vinyasa' btw)  or attending his workshops, the first few times (make that twenty) most of it goes over your head but at some point you find that it perhaps seeded anyway and the next time or the next a little more makes sense or starts to bear fruit in some aspect of your practice.

Amazon Link


Sharath Jois has, of late, has begun to refer to the Ashtanga Vinyasa he teaches as a 'Vinyasa Krama', this is also the name of the approach to asana presented by Ramaswami. This should not be surprising, Pattabhi Jois, Sharath's grandfather, studied with Krishnmacharya for twenty-five years, Ramaswami for around thrirty-three.

There was the suggestion when I first started practicing Ashtanga ten years ago that there was an early Krishnamacharya and a late Krishnamacharya, perhaps it suited students, teachers and indeed the family to perpetuate that, I hope in this blog I've gone some way to question that assumption.

On the evidence of many of the glossy self promotional videos of a few Ashtanga teachers and practitioners, of led classes perhaps, Ashtanga vinyasa can appear fast paced, flashy, dynamic, obsessed with asana and with appearance. The less glossy videos hidden away on YouTube however, show something different. If we look at videos of actual Mysore rooms, both shala and home, we see practitioners, teachers, moving through their practice at their own pace, their attention focussed on the breath, we see an honesty, a humbleness even, a dedication to developing a daily discipline through the practice of asana.

If we look to Krishnamacharya's early work, Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) and Yogasanagalu Mysore 1941), written when the young Pattabhi Jois was his student and occasional assistant we find, the slowness of the breath emphasised '...like the pouring of oil', Kumbhaka ( retaining the breath in or out) indicated for almost every asana presented and, in the 1938 Mysore documentary footage, the young BKS Iyengar (also Krishnamacharya) running through a demonstration of advanced asana that were it in colour, in a fancy location and with a euromix soundtrack would garner tens of thousands of followers on Instagram today.




But we also see Krishnamacharya himself, moving through head and shoulderstand variations that aren't to be found in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga Vinyasa method perhaps but are presented in the books of Srivatsa Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya's student from just after he left Mysore up until Krishnamacharya's passing thirty plus years later.



There are differences between the teaching of Pattabhi Jois and Ramaswami but these tend to be pedagogic, related more to the teaching environment the student and teacher found themselves. Pattabhi Jois was a young boy when he was Krishnamacharya's student, his peers were boys, his students when he first started teaching were college students. Ramaswami practiced with Krishnamacharya from his teens to middle age when Krishnamacharya was mostly teaching on a one to one basis, people of all ages, just as he did in the side rooms of the Mysore palace. As well as asana and pranayama Ramaswami studied yoga philosophy, endless chanting, the close study of yoga texts, he studied yoga for the three stages of life.

Srivatsa Ramaswami's Yoga for the Three stages of Life is a marvellous book. If the final third of the book focusses on a seemingly different approach to asana than that which you may practice yourself or are familiar with it is still worthy of exploration, injuries happen, whether a result of asana practice or just of life generally. Ramaswami's book presents variations of asana that can be of benefit when injuries arise, or to better help us in moving towards more challenging asana, or as options for our students new to asana practice, just as Manju Jois mentions his father, like Krishnamacharya before him, would offer variations of an asana to struggling students.

As we get older we may choose to let go of the more challenging asana and look to variations and alternatives to those asana we love, as we mature mentally in our practice, not just physically, many of those fancy 'demonstration' asana may start to seem faintly ridiculous, or at least unnecessary, even a hindrance to practice. We may indeed, finally, be in a place, situation, frame of mind to look to the other limbs and adapt our physical practice accordingly.

But, if for now, we are quite happy merely exploring asana. If building that discipline through our asana practice seems quite enough thank you very much and we find ourselves somewhat irritated/frustrated by the comments on the likes of the fb Ashtanga discussion page, that what we are doing is NOT yoga, Ramaswami's Yoga for the three stages of life comes to our defence, an asana dominated practice may well be perfectly appropriate, in the mid stage of life less asana and more pranayama may be more appropriate and at a still late stage, more philosophy and the later limbs.

Photo: Three stages of life







Below I've merely slipped in a page from each chapter to illustrate Ramaswami's comments from his fb post. In coming blogs I will look more closely at each section, perhaps chapter by chapter, sharing some of the gems I continue to discover in the text.


*


I wrote a book "Yoga for three stages of Life"--An Art, A Therapy, A Philosophy. I thought it was a comprehensive book of Yoga with some depth, all inspired by my studies with Sri Krishnamacharya. I followed the thought sequence of Patanjali in this book. 





The first chapter was on "My studies with Sri Krishnamacharya" wherein I attempted to bring the various subjects Sri Krishnamacharya taught. 




Then there is the story of Patanjali based on the work "Patanjali Carita" written by a Sanskrit scholar Ramabhadra Dikshitar from South India. 





The third chapter is "What is Yoga". It is based on the introduction my Guru gave when he started teaching the Yogasutras. 

Advanced Yoga contains discussion beyond Hatayoga. 





There is then a chapter on Mantra Yoga. 




Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga and the yamaniyamas is then. 

The next several chapters deal with asanas following Vinyasakrama-- 

the standing poses, 




Supine, 


Inversions,

prone poses, 


paschimatanasana, 



Padmasana. 




Then there are yogic breathing exercises and health benefits, 


then there is one section on Yoga for Women, 


then reference to Yoga texts,




followed by Internal yoga practices (antaranga sadhana--meditation) 



and finally Freedom or Kaivalya, 


in all 17 chapters. 

I enjoyed writing this book. 

The book also contains some stories and graphic illustrations like siva's dance. 



This is still available from Amazon. Here is the link
https://www.amazon.com/…/…/ref=pd_bbs_2/103-1755689-4479843…
I understand the publishers, Inner Traditions, have also a Spanish edition of this book


*

See also my Srivatsa Ramaswami resource page for a look at Ramaswami7s other books and more besides.




Monday, 5 June 2017

Notes from Krishnamacharya in AG Mohan's new edition of Hatha Yoga Pradipka



Friends have been getting in touch this week to ask me if I've seen or yet have a copy of AG Mohan and Dr. Ganeseha Mohan's new edition of the Hatha Yoga Pradipka with notes from Krishnamacharya.

I don't, not yet.

I had a look on Amazon but there was no Look Inside preview feature, I mentioned this on the Svastha fb page ( LINK) and one appeared this morning, perhaps I was not the only one to ask.

So I've been having a look at the generous preview on amazon this morning and it appears to be quite marvellous, I just ordered my copy.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't been that interested in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka for some time, the texts in Mallinson and Singleton's Root's of Yoga strike me as being of more interest and besides, I generally lean more towards Raja than Hatha and have become quite dismissive of the later. 

Was hatha a wrong turn ( the turn towards tantra), a distraction?

More recently still, I've turned my gaze back to the West and the contemplative traditions that form(ed) my own horizon/worldview. Why try to appropriate another tradition when I have one of my own, learn about others surely, it's always of value, but if we seek to inquire on a deep level, look perhaps to our own ground (of being). It struck me some time ago, while listening to Ramswami lecture on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, his weaving in of songs and chants, commentaries and illustrative stories from his grandmother, that I could never know the text on a similar level however much I studied it, the text wasn't organic for me, unlike say, the Greeks ( I originally went to Uni to study Classics, switching to single honours Philosophy after a Greek philosophy lecture but I of course also grew up with the Greek myths and legends as much as stories from the bible or Jesus of Nazareth and Ben Hur every Easter and Christmas rather than say the Ramayama and Mahabharata ). I remember too Kristina Karitinou reminding us of our own culture in my interview with her a while back Entelechy : An Interview with Certified Ashtanga Teacher Kristina Karitinou

Anthony: I noticed on your alter a small bust of Socrates do you have any thoughts regarding Ashtanga as a philosophy, yoga sutras etc and Greek philosophy?

Kristina: It is of paramount importance for the practitioners to develop awareness of the cultural heritage of the place they are in. Being in Greece we bear great responsibility towards our ancestors and our roots, so having a small bust of Socrates triggers the energy that surrounds us and constantly reminds us why we actually practice. "Knowing thyself" is the epitome of knowledge, and it should always be there in our practice, in our breathing in our everyday life. "Practice and all is coming" incorporates the true meaning of knowing oneself as this is the only way given to us to actually manage and have some results. Greek and Indian civilisations appear to be connected on a spiritual level throughout the centuries, and they have both set the foundations for the development of philosophical thinking so much in the East as well as in the West respectively. Socratic inquisitive way of approaching discourse and the mental freedom he offers to human existence match uniquely the legacy of practice Patanjali has bequeathed us. Both of them have offered a means to free the mind from the conventionality of life as they give you alternatives and they both require freedom of thought so that man can reach the higher level of existence and the ultimate point of liberation and self - fulfillment. Freedom works as a prerequisite while it is the final destination of each of these two methods. Therefore the presence of both philosophies on my alter seemed like a natural thing to do.

I may hold on to my asana and pranayama practice out of fondness and habit (although I could I suppose just as well run or swim perhaps) but I'm leaning more towards Lectio Divina as a contemplative approach of late rather than the chanting of vedic mantras, to Plotinus rather than Patanjali, Marcus's meditations rather than the Yama/Niyama's and to my old friend Heidegger rather than Shankara.

Note: Lectio Divina, the contemplative approach of the early church. Read, recite or listen to an appropriate a text (traditionally the psalms and/or gospels but it could just as well be the Enneads. There should be no sense that one needs to complete a reading, when a word or phrase strikes you, sit with it, allow it live within you for a time..... for ten minutes, an hour, a month, years.

That said, Krishnamacharya still fascinates, and inspires my practice and here he is in the pages of AG Mohan and his son's wonderful new book, I look forward to revisiting the text.

Below, a selection of pages from the Amazon preview.

Link to Amazon
Amazon intro

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, authored in the 15th century is one of the most well-known texts on physical yoga. This translation offers unique perspectives and insight from Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who had perhaps the most influence in physical yoga in the modern era. Drawing upon extensive notes of private studies with Krishnamacharya, his long time student, A. G. Mohan, presents critical analysis unavailable in any other translation to date. This translation includes summaries, notes on which practices may be more or less useful or even harmful, and comparisons to the Gheranda Samhita. This book is a worthwhile read and companion to any serious yoga aspirant, especially those interested in knowing what one of the most influential yogis of the modern times had to say on the esoteric practices of hatha yoga: on pranayama, mudras, and bandhas.

About the Author
A. G. Mohan was a student of “the father of modern yoga,” Yogacarya Sri T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), for eighteen years. He is the author of several books on yoga, including Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind; Yoga Therapy; and Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings. Co-founder of Svastha Yoga & Ayurveda and YogaKnowledge.net, he is respected internationally as a teacher of rare authenticity and knowledge.

Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Svastha Yoga (May 8, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9811131333
ISBN-13: 978-9811131332
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches


Link to Amazon



AG Mohan's website




Looking Inside



Krishnamacharya's practice guidelines from the introduction




Also from the introductory notes....






Layout, a nice summary of the chapter




Presented in sanskrit, it's transliteration and translation into English, notes by Mohan and in many cases Krishnamacharya.









A nice section from Chapter III



from chapter III















Not all the verses have a note from Krishnamacharya, at times the notes are short but also in some case quite long, this section from Chapter II gives a good indication perhaps.









see too 






Yoga Yajnavalkya: Trans: AG Mohan  
( My preference over Hatha Yoga Pradipka)


Amazon Link

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Padmasana variations, a question: "..right leg always first in padmasana as in Ashtanga? and Vinyasa krama lotus sequence videos and book pages.

Note: I recommend reading this post from Simon Borg-Olivier before trying any of these asana and variations.

Being able to comfortably practice a standing half lotus posture like Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana should be considered a prerequisite for approaching full lotus postures.




Question: What are your views on right leg always first in padmasana according to Ashtanga tradition?

Anthony Grim Hall: I'm with Krishnamacharya on this and personally think we should practice both right and left on top, strikes me as tradition getting in the way of common sense (but see the note at the end of the post).

"This asana ( baddha Padmasana) must be repeated on the other side (that is, first place the left foot on top of the right thigh and then the right foot on top of the left thigh) in order to exercise both sides of the body. 

Krishnamacharya- Yoga Makaranda  (Mysore 1934).
Actually found trying to bind in baddha padmasana with the other leg on top (the left) quite a struggle at first, mainly because my shoulders didn't seem use to the bind on the other side which probably shows why we should indeed practice both sides.
Excellent padamasana instruction and cautions in video's 19a and 19b on Simon Borg-Olivier's new course '84 key asana for strength and flexibility' (http://simonborgolivier.com/84-key-postures/) for those struggling with padmasana as well as tips for improved binding in 15b and 19a
see my review post of the course here which includes an ashtanga concordance 
Note: Thank you to Steve for this reminder of Pattabhi Jois' argument "Guruji pointed out that the liver and spleen are purified during the bending forward action in Baddha Padmasana. This is quite possibly why daily practice of the right side first set up is recommended at that point of the series..."
I remember the Jois liver/spleen argument. Ramaswami, channelling Krishnamacharya, used to talk about how with postures like this we are able to 'massage' the internal organs, showing how yoga practice was able to access all areas of the body. Benefits Krishnamacharya mentioned in Yoga Makaranda part I are "Benefit: It will cure all diseases of the lower abdomen. Pregnant women should not do this asana.". and in Part II "Benefits: This benefits all parts of the body, reduces the waistline, strengthens the lungs and the blood vessels."


Below, some Padmasana/Lotus variations.

Practicing with both the left and the right leg on top






APPENDIX

Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

Day's 87 to  93 from my Vinyasa yoga practice book on the Vinyasa krama lotus sequence



My book above is a companion to Srivatsa Ramaswami's 
Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga which gives instruction for every breath in every vinyasa.



https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Book-Vinyasa-Yoga-Presentation-Based/dp/1569244022

Caution: Although presented as a sequence in the two videos below, what is actually shown is a series of subroutines. Part or all of one or more of these subroutines might be included as part of ones regular practice rather than practicing the full sequence which might be quite stressful for the knees.



Day 87 : LOTUS : Ardha badha-padmasana (half lotus) from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

VIDEO LINK
This is almost the same subroutine as Day 26, Adha padmasana, found in the Asymmetric sequence.

This subroutine along with the half lotus subroutines found in the other sequences can be considered as preparation for full lotus

from On One Leg Sequence Day 17 Vrikmasana
from Asymmetric Sequence Day 26 Ardha padmasana
from Asymmetric Sequence Day 32 Ardha padma marichiyasana
from Supine Sequence Day 60 Dwipadapitam
from Supine Sequence Day 68 Supta ardha badha halasana

The hip opening Mahamudra subroutine from Asymmetric Day 27 is also good preparation for the half lotus as well as the Badha konasana Subroutine leading up to padmasana  from Day 42

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

Half lotus
See Day 17 Vrikmasana for some notes on standing half lotus.

To get into half lotus : Bend the knee bringing it towards the chest, allow the knee to drop out to the side, key here is the natural rotation in the hip joint. Bring the foot close to the opposite thigh, hold your foot in one hand and the knee in the other and GENTLY encourage the roration of the ball and socket hip joint, bring the knee forward parallel with the floor towards the opposite knee and the foot further up the thigh and ideally, eventually, towards the groin.

CAUTION
You don't want to force this action, if you feel strain on your knee it may be better to practice tomorrows subroutine built around mama mudra with the foot against the thigh rather than on top instead. Practicing the maha mudra subroutine will bring half, and eventually, full lotus closer.

As we have found in all forward bending asana, stretch out of the hips as we practiced in the standing On your feet sequences, the same goes for the twisting postures.

CAUTION.
In picture 4 (the raised hip), Vasishtasana or Kashyapasana we must be careful of the knee. Work from the top down, pushing down into the mat and lifting your shoulders then lifting the hip which will allow the leg to straighten, lower in reverse, DON'T push off the mat from the foot, knee or hip first as this will put too much strain on the knee which is vulnerable here.



Day 88 : LOTUS : Padmasana (lotus) from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

VIDEO LINK
Padmasana (lotus) can be a challenging posture and there are many places to work towards it in Vinyasa Krama.

In Asymmetric Sequence: Padmasana doesn't appear as such but there are several hip opening postures, janusirsasana leading to mahamudra in particular, that prepare you for ardha baddha padmasana (half lotus).

In Lotus sequence : The lotus sequence picks up where Asymmetric leaves off with more vinyasas in half lotus before moving on to full lotus.

In Seated sequence : Padmasana (lotus) follows the deep hip opening subroutines of upavishta konasana and badha konasana.

In Supine sequence : More half lotus variations, this time in dwipadapitam (table pose). In shoulder stand we have the half lotus vinyasas of Day 68 but also the extreme hip openers of the previous (Day 69 ) Urdhva Konasana subroutine.

In Inverted Sequnece : As with Supine and Seated the lotus vinyasas in headstand follow, konasana and badha konasana subroutine.

In all of the above sequences we can see that padmasana (lotus) follows hip opening postures, this is because padmasana (lotus) involves a rotation of the hip joint rather than a twisting of the knees.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

Getting in to full Lotus

NB: THE most important thing to remember is to protect your knees, that it's the hip joints that do all the work, the knees only bend one way it's the rotation of the ball and socket hip joint that makes padmasana possible

Right leg
Bend the right knee and bring it up towards the chest. Reach with the right hand down inside the thigh and take hold of the right ankle.

Allow the right knee to drop out to the side through the rotation of the hip joint. Focus on that hip action, of the ball and socket joint, the femur head rotating in the hip socket, encourage it.

There's a tensing of the right buttock a lifting almost and a stretching of the thigh as you encourage the rotation in the hip joint that will bring the knee down towards the mat and the ankle to come up. This action should only happen at the hips joint your NOT pulling up the ankle and your NOT forcing the knee down.

If this isn't happening it might be best to work on more hip opening postures, mahamudra in Asymmetric, badha konasana in Seated.

Lift up through the torso, support the right foot with the left and right palms and guide NOT pull the foot to the left thigh.

Lift up again and bend forward slightly, roll onto the front of the sit bones and guide the right foot a little further up the left thigh into the groin.

Again lift and roll further onto the sit bones allowing the right knee to rest on the mat.

Left leg
Bend the left knee and again focusing on the hip joint allowing the left knee to drop out to the side.

Rock your body forward and draw the right knee out to the side through the thigh muscles. Lock the knee by pressing the calf muscles against the thigh.

Reach over the left foot and support the left ankle with the left palm, cupping under the foot with the right palm, encourage the hip joint to rotate further and allow the knee to drop further out and down. Again, your not pulling on the foot but rather supporting it to allow the hip joint to do it's work.

Lift up through the torso, rock further forward on the sit bones and stretch out through the left thigh to allow the foot to come up over the right leg. 

Using the strength of the thighs bring the knees a little towards each other this will bring the right foot finally up onto the right thigh closer to the groin.

Shuffle around on your sit bones if necessary, encouraging more rotation of the hip joints to tighten the lotus, this is preferable to wrenching, tugging, pulling the feet.

Ultimately, for many of the lotus vinyasas you will require a nice tight lotus where the heels are digging slightly into the belly, the soles of the feet pointing up and the knees closer together. In fact, the heels can be considered to be massaging the inner organs in some of the vinyasas by pressing deep into the belly

To release
Sit up straight lifting up through the torso, focus on the left hip joint and encourage it to rotate by engaging the thigh muscles which will press the left knee into the mat this will allow you to very gently encourage the left foot off of the right thigh.

As you allow the knees to draw apart the lotus will unfold, again allow the right hip joint to do it's work bringing the right knee down into the mat and allowing the right foot to glide off the left thigh.

Padmasana subroutine
Ramaswami recommends coming into half lotus, taking a breath or two, continuing into full lotus, staying for a three breaths and then releasing the lotus before repeating six times.

You may wish to enter and exit your lotus for each of the vinyasa in this subroutine. Over time you may feel comfortable staying for a couple of the vinyasas and eventually the whole subroutine even sequence.

Lotus postures are excellent for working on the bandhas, the perineum is grounded allowing for greater focus on mula bandha, the lotus a stable base for deep uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas ( see practice guidelines Day 1 for more on bandhas).

Bhadrasana The hand position can be low on the thigh fingers tucked under the feet (pic 5) or closer to the knee (pic 6). If the knee be careful not to press the knees down, especially if the lotus position is still new to you.

Laghu yoga mudra (pic 8) is a deep forward bend, draw the buttocks back, come onto the front of the sit bones, engage mula and uddiyana bandha, sucking in the belly in to create more space for the body to fold forwards over your lotus. The same goes for the side vinyasas of yoga mudra (pic 11 & 12), be careful not to allow the opposite knee from the side your folding in to to raise, encourage it to stay down by grounding the sit bones.

Utpluthi (Pic 9) is all about hand placement. place the hands too far forward and the weight of the hip bones will keep your grounded, too far back and the weight of the knees will stop you from achieving lift. So place the hands just forward of mid thigh as close to your thighs as possible.

Bring your shoulders over your hands, bring your shoulders down, engage the shoulder girdle and after exhaling hold the breath out and push down into the mat through your hands and lift

Mula bandha should be engaged but engage it more strongly, tuck the tailbone under, the lower half of your body should feel tight and compact, draw your pelvis up into your torso and hold.

Keep the bandhas engaged and the tailbone tucked while your breath.

In this version of utpluthi you bend the body over the lotus, in a later version in the lotus sequence the body is more erect.



Day 89 : LOTUS : Badha Padmasana (bound lotus) from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

VIDEO LINK
HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

There are some easier versions of baddha padmasana (pic 3)

1. Reach around the back with the left hand and place the back of the hand on the waist, just above the hip bone. Reach around with the right arm and place the back of the hand against the waist just above the left hip.

2. When the above feels comfortable, turn the left hand (the one resting above the right hip) over, use the little finger to draw your hand onto the hip bone.

3. When that too feels comfortable, try to do the same with the other hand, turning it over and using the little finger to leaver the hand down onto the hip bone.

This may be your bind for a little while, play with it, stretching  up, arching back a little, twisting a little to the left a little to the right, explore how to get a better grip on the hip bone.

Try to lever the right elbow a little further over the left by using your right hand as a fulcrum.

4. When you feel ready to move on reach far around with the left hand and take hold of the big toe now use the hip bind above for the other hand, reaching around with the other hand but just pressing the back of the hand against the waist above the hip. Switch hands to become comfortable with both sides.

5. It's possible to use a belt, strap or scarf thrown over the feet  to work your hands down to your toes or perhaps the second hand.

6. Another approach is to reach around with the left hand and take hold of the left toe then instead over throwing the right arm around the back and over the left arm, try threading your right arm between your left elbow and back. Use the left arm to work your right over your back and down toward the left hip and finally right toe.

7. To get the full bind , make a tight lotus, you feet high up in your groin, heels pressing into your belly.

Lift up out of the pelvis and twist around to the left as far as possible, keep lifting and twisting. Use your hand to press into the hip and lever you arm a little further around to enable you to take hold of your toe.

Now twist to the right leading with the shoulder, bring the back of the hand to the waist and work it down over the hip lifting and twisting all the way until your able to hold your other toe.

Straighten up the shoulders, settle and engage bandhas and take long slow breaths.

Forward bending, to the front and sides.

here we need to engage mula and uddiyana bandha, sucking in the belly to create space, this is especially importat in the forward bends to the sides where we want to stretch out over the knee.

Before folding forwards, arch the back slightly, stretch up tall out of the pelvis, push back the buttocks and stretch out over your lotus and when to the slides, your knees.

Urdha mukha padmasana (pic 7) is a back stretch, a counter pose, tuck the tailbone under and push the chest out and up.

Baddha matsyasnana (pic 10 )is a more challenging version of seated baddha padmasana, try the above variations to work towards it, ultimately you will need to arch your back and twist fist to the left and then the right. 

You might find this version of the baddha padmasana bind easier as you have the floor to help you work your arm around, your also able to tilt the lotus towards.



Day 90 : LOTUS : Urdhva padmasana (lifted up lotus pose) Subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

VIDEO LINK
HINTS\TIPS\SUGGESTIONS

To get up into Shoulder stand while in Lotus, bring you arms to your side, exhale fully and press your arms down into the mat, hold and roll the lotus up to your chest, aim your knees at a 45 degree angle up over your head and stretch/push your knees up into shoulder stand while shifting your hands to your hips and then your back either side of your spine with the fingers pointing up and the elbows not too far apart.

Alternatively, Start from regular shoulder stand, spread the legs apart, drop the left leg back a little, bring the right foot to the left thigh by rotating at the hip then bring the left foot to the right thigh again through the rotation of the hip.

Engage mula and uddiyana bandha at the end of the exhalation sucking in the belly to create more space to lower your lotus down to your chest.

Remember in Vinyasa Krama you can work towards this, lowering a little way on the first exhalation, take it back up on the inhalation, lower a little further on each exhalation.

When lowering your need to make sure your hips are high and over your shoulders or you will tend to roll back down to the mat.

Pindasana (pic 4) The fold needs to be deep, use the bad has, sucking your belly back and up into your ribcage to create space. your inhalations will be short but try to keep your exhalations long.

Ultimately your want to wrap your arms around your lotus and bind at the wrist, this requires a deep lotus with the feet high up in the groin and heels digging into the belly.

If your lotus is not as tight then bind at the fingers or just hold the thighs.

Twists
From udrdhava padmasana (lotus shoulderstand) Stretch up through the pelvis lengthening the body as much as possible, twist on the exhalation and lower/fold your  knee to the outside of your forehead.

Again, work a little lower on each exhalation

Remember to keep the hips high and over the shoulders to prevent rolling back.

Counterpose (pic 8) There are two hand positions, the one in the picture with the palms supporting the sacrum and the another where the thumbs point toward but remain outside of the spine, resting lower down on the back of the hips with the fingers coming around the hip bone. I tend to prefer the later.

This is a back stretch so tuck the tailbone under and to counter the weight of the legs by pushing the chest out and up, engage jalandhara bandha (chin lock) firmly. 

The posture is entered on the inhalation by bending from the waist and arching the back.

Stay in the position for three breaths, perhaps going a little deeper into the pose each time or go back and forth to akunchita urdhva padmasana (pic 3) and the counter pose on the breath if holding is too challenging.

Simhasana Subroutine VIDEO LINK. From Akunchita urdhave padmasana, stretch out the arms above your head, roll your lotus slowly down to the mat, keep the momentum to bring your arms up and over passing through regular lotus as you put your hands to the floor and come up on to your knees. Lower your body flat to the floor stretch your arms out in front of you, palms together as if in prayer.

Place the palms on the mat beside you close to your chest. Tuck the tailbone (this is a back stretch) anchor the knees, try to bring the hips as close to the mat as possible , arch the back stretching out through the waist. Stretch out through the full length of your body, pushing out your chest take the head back. The is a Bhujangasana variation and can be worked on in the Bow sequence subroutines.

Another Lion face variation
Lions face. Inhale stretching back the head and as you exhale make a long  Haaa sound while stretching your tongue out and down and widening the eyes. Focus your attention on the mid brow. 

You may like to repeat this three times, closing the mouth on the inhalation and taking the head back before repeating the lions face on the exhalation.









Bharadwajrasana, raise the arms and twist then lower into the pose

Kukkutasana
Push the arms through the space between your thighs and calf muscles, you may need to spray some water on your arms if your legs are bare and the weather cooler (no sweat). If this is a problem see the notes below for garbha pindasana.

Exhale fully, hold, engage mula and uddiyana bandha and drop the shoulder blades down the back. Press down into the mat to lift but keep the shoulderbaldes lowered .

As you press down visualise moving slightly forward and up. If you just push down there is a tendency to keep falling backwards off your hands. look at picture 7 and notice how there is a slight lean forward, the shoulders over the hands.

Garbha pindasana


Creating space to get the arms through
Here, once in lotus, I lift my left leg a little away from the right holding just above the ankle. this creates a little more space to get the first arm through. For the second arm I press the top side of my left foot against my right thigh flexing the ankle a little to lever the leg up a little thus creating more of an opening to pass the arm through.
Video Tutorial here http://youtu.be/chQwvJN-K98

Try taking the arms through at an angle, the right arm runs parallel to the right calf, same for the left.
Video Tutorial here http://youtu.be/Ct35la57mBw

Utpluthi (Pic 4) is all about hand placement. place the hands too far forward and the weight of the hip bones will keep your grounded, too far back and the weight of the knees will stop you from achieving lift. So place the hands just forward of mid thigh as close to your thighs as possible.

Bring your shoulders over your hands, bring your shoulders down, engage the shoulder girdle and after exhaling hold the breath out and push down into the mat through your hands and lift

Mula bandha should be engaged but engage it more strongly, tuck the tailbone under, the lower half of your body should feel tight and compact, draw your pelvis up into your torso and hold.

Keep the bandhas engaged and the tailbone tucked while your breath.

In the earlier version of utpluthi you bend the body over the lotus, in a this version the body is more erect.



Day 92 : LOTUS : Special lotus balancing postures subroutine Subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence


VIDEO LINK


Practicing these arm balances and inversions together in one subroutine can be challenging, consider working on them separately at first perhaps including one arm balance a practice or every few days. Utpluthis, the raised lotus from Day 91 is another arm balance as is Kukkutasana, also from Day 91, both will build strength as will the lead in's to most of the subroutines and the sun salutation with mantra.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

This version of urdhava kukkutasana is a sliding up the arms or rather the arms are there as a guide, we don't want to rely on them too much.

Place the hands close to the knees, rock up onto the knees, shoulders over the fingers. Drop the shoulder blades down the back, engage mula and uddiyana bandha.

Exhale completely hold and pressing the hands down into the mat hoist the lotus up towards the armpits lifting up from your perineum, mula bandha.

The shoulders remember are over the fingers as you come up your shoulders may need to come even further forward to create a counterweight to your hips.

In the beginning hold for a breath and then lower on the inhalation, as you become stronger and improve your balance you may stay for longer, three to six breaths.

Padma mayurasana

Place the hands on the mat as close to the body as possible, almost tucked under your lotus.

bend your elbows slightly and allow your shoulders to drop to allow your elbows to dig into your belly.

Come up onto your knees and then stretch forward while at the same time raising your knees off the ground. 

Padma Mayurasana is in effect a back stretch, tuck in the tailbone and attempt to arch the back slightly to bring the lotus up higher.

The elbows need to be together and really dig into the belly.

In the beginning hold for a breath and then lower on the exhalation, as you become stronger and improve your balance you mary stay for longer, three to six breaths.

Lotus to Sirsasana VIDEO LINK

The final vinyasa called for a tight lotus and you may wish to work towards this as a separate subroutine (see Lotus subroutines -to come).

From seated padmasana, lift up onto your knees, bend forward and place your hands on the mat with the fingers interlocked ready for headstand. Place the back of your head in the cup formed by your hands and bring your knees forward so they are touching your elbows.

To lift back up from here, exhale fully, engage the badhas and pressing firmly into the mat with your elbows draw your knees back up the back of your arms to your armpits.

Take a breath and on the next exhalation, straighten the back to bring the knees to the chest and then straighten the waist to bring your lotus the last of the way up.

Follow the directions above for the 3rd version (pic 11) to lower and raise your lotus to and from the mat. 

DAY 93 Lotus Subroutine Breakdown


VIDEO LINK
Padmasana, the lotus posture is, of course, the classic meditation posture. Although there are other notable meditation postures, siddhasana, gomukhasana, virasana and vajrasana, padmasana holds a special place because of it's stability. There is a beauty to it's construction, it feels symmetrical, the legs bound secure allowing for the arm balances, for example, in the final subroutine of the series. It is an excellent posture for engaging the bandhas, mula bandha feels particularly grounded and the stability of the pose lends itself to exploring uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas.

As well as for meditation practice, padmasana is an excellent posture for pranayama, again, on account of it's stability.

Some however may ind the posture boring or tedious, the subroutines allow us to explore multiple vinyasas while in padmasana, creating interest that may encourage us to spend longer in the posture which will in time allow the posture to become more comfortable.

The first subroutine day 88, the half lotus, is a good preparation for developing the lotus posture as are many of the hip opening postures and vinyasas from the asymmetric and seated sequences.

In this course of subroutines I've placed the sequences in order in which I tend to practice them, starting with standing postures moving on through seated or backbend postures up to inverted. I tend to finish my practice with one or more lotus subroutines, staying in the posture for my pranayama and meditation practice.

However, while working towards padmasana the half lotus or siddhasana for example would serve just as well.

I've tried to stress that padmasana is about the hips rather than the knees so here, again are my practice notes for entering padmasana from Day 88

Getting in to full Lotus

NB: THE most important thing to remember is to protect your knees, that it's the hip joints that do all the work, the knees only bend one way it's the rotation of the ball and socket hip joint that makes padmasana possible

Right leg
Bend the right knee and bring it up towards the chest. Reach with the right hand down inside the thigh and take hold of the right ankle.

Allow the right knee to drop out to the side through the rotation of the hip joint. Focus on that hip action, of the ball and socket joint, the femur head rotating in the hip socket, encourage it.

There's a tensing of the right buttock a lifting almost and a stretching of the thigh as you encourage the rotation in the hip joint that will bring the knee down towards the mat and the ankle to come up. This action should only happen at the hips joint your NOT pulling up the ankle and your NOT forcing the knee down.

If this isn't happening it might be best to work on more hip opening postures, mahamudra in Asymmetric, badha konasana in Seated.

Lift up through the torso, support the right foot with the left and right palms and guide NOT pull the foot to the left thigh.

Lift up again and bend forward slightly, roll onto the front of the sit bones and guide the right foot a little further up the left thigh into the groin.

Again lift and roll further onto the sit bones allowing the right knee to rest on the mat.

Left leg
Bend the left knee and again focusing on the hip joint allowing the left knee to drop out to the side.

Rock your body forward and draw the right knee out to the side through the thigh muscles. Lock the knee by pressing the calf muscles against the thigh.

Reach over the left foot and support the left ankle with the left palm, cupping under the foot with the right palm, encourage the hip joint to rotate further and allow the knee to drop further out and down. Again, your not pulling on the foot but rather supporting it to allow the hip joint to do it's work.

Lift up through the torso, rock further forward on the sit bones and stretch out through the left thigh to allow the foot to come up over the right leg. 

Using the strength of the thighs bring the knees a little towards each other this will bring the right foot finally up onto the right thigh closer to the groin.

Shuffle around on your sit bones if necessary, encouraging more rotation of the hip joints to tighten the lotus, this is preferable to wrenching, tugging, pulling the feet.

Ultimately, for many of the lotus vinyasas you will require a nice tight lotus where the heels are digging slightly into the belly, the soles of the feet pointing up and the knees closer together. In fact, the heels can be considered to be massaging the inner organs in some of the vinyasas by pressing deep into the belly

To release
Sit up straight lifting up through the torso, focus on the left hip joint and encourage it to rotate by engaging the thigh muscles which will press the left knee into the mat this will allow you to very gently encourage the left foot off of the right thigh.

As you allow the knees to draw apart the lotus will unfold, again allow the right hip joint to do it's work bringing the right knee down into the mat and allowing the right foot to glide off the left thigh.


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A Reminder

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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