I hear that one of my Ashtanga heroes Chuck Miller, devotes much of his workshops to Samasitithi,
"On the first day of practice, we stood in samstithi for what felt like hours, while Chuck told us about the importance of this word, sama, and how it had risen to the top of his yogic chart, giving a directionality to all the postures, a place to move towards. He explained, as our legs began to burn and our shoulders involuntarily hunched up only to be pulled back down by his firm reminders of maintaining samastithi, that sama, same-ness, non-separateness is the goal; that yoga is the process of waking up to the realization of non-separation. That there is no separation between the feet and the earth that they press against; the earth gives back as much as we give her. We pressed our feet and grew taller; we swayed a bit, but returned to our core using the breath. Our fingertips grew heavy towards the earth. Our sacrum broadened. He placed a deity inside our bodies, her feet on our pelvic floor, her palms pressing against the inside of our breastbones. Our collective hearts expanded, and we grew roots that connected us to our core." from HERE
I was reminded of this while in dandasana this morning, I felt as if I could stay there all day, all practice at least. Ramaswami refers to Dandasana as Samasithi for seated postures. Just as his teacher Krishnamacharya had taught him, Ramaswami suggested that we might employ many of the hand/arm movements that we had learned from him in tadasana.
Following Krishnamacharya's early instruction we might also employ a long stay in dandasana, we might explore kumbhaka, holding the breath in after inhalation or out after exhalation. We may explore dandasana just as we might tatkamudra with a deep uddiyana bandha.
Here's Krishnamacharya from Yoga Makaranda and the dandasana before folding forward into paschimattanasana
"In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa (Dandasana). That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose".
"Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana
This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.
The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose. After this extend both arms out towards the feet (the legs are already extended in front). Clasp the big toes of the feet tightly with the first three fingers (thumb, index, middle) of the hands such that the left hand holds the left big toe and the right hand holds the right big toe. Do not raise the knees even slightly. Then, pull in the stomach while doing recaka, lower the head and press the face down onto the knee. The knees should not rise from the ground in this sthiti either. This is the 9th vinyasa. This is called pascimottanasana." Krishnamacharya - Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934).
In the Proficient Primary approach to practice that I devote a page to at the top of the blog, treating asana as mudra, I would often include a deep uddiyana bandha. Recently I've been questioning bandhas more and more and include them less often, mostly in tatkamudra, dandasana and perhaps maha mudra, more out of affection and familiarity perhaps rather than anything else.
from my fb post this week on bandhas.
A year on from the series of Proficient Primary posts and I'm questioning the purpose of bandhas' more and blackberries, certainly engaged as fully as this. In a recent video demo Sharath said the 'cheat' jump back from padmasan served no purpose, then the approach Demonstrated That supposedly Engages bandhas .... though I used to practice and enjoy That same transition I can not help but ask now, what is the purpose of bandhas? Are they Merely Tantra inspired Hatha practice of no value whatsoever for 'Patanjali's' Ashtanga. Are they only of benefit Within Hatha practice, the internal muscle control That may or may not involve offering support for certain challenging asanas or extreme Pranayama techniques That Merely give yoga teachers something to teach and are, if we are honest perhaps, surplus to requirements. If we are practicing Ashtanga, then why do we allow ourselves to become distracted know. A criticism of Those Who leave Ashtanga That is Often they could not face the boredom of the same series asanas day in, day out, Are not we who stay Within Ashtanga Often guilty of the same, blackberries asanas, the next series, in new transition, ever fancier, floatier transitions, blackberries anatomy awareness than Necessary, blackberries alignment, blackberries Pranayama techniques, longer retentions, blackberries Sanskrit, blackberries .... texts, learn more chants, learn to chant the whole Yoga sutras rather than Merely do as it says and basically cultivate, or rather embrace, boredom, work on the yama / niyama of our cultures, basic asanas , nadi shodhana and Sit.
In the first video below, from a few years back, I offer the more gently vinyasa krama entry to dandasana. In the second video, an Ashtanga Vinyasa jump through followed by some hand arm movements in dandasana.
In the appendix I include the dandasana section from my Proficent Primary page.
NOTE: My friend Francesca has kindly translated my Proficient Primary post into Italian here
Vinyasa Krama lead in to Dandasana
Vinyasa Krama Dandasana subroutine
I jump into Dandasana four minutes in, before that there is a slow Sun salutation.
If advanced asana can be endlessly promoted through Instagram then perhaps we can also promote Primary asana and the proficiency we can explore there, in postures that most can approach.
2. Dandasana/Pascimattanasana/ Asvini Mudra
Asvini mudra locates between Dandasana and Paschimattanasana, before lowering into asana we may practice the posture as mudra. Krishnamacharya's third son T.K.Sribhashyam indicates that his father suggested practicing Kapalabhati here, 32 or 64 times. We may also practice 12 Ujjayi breaths, sama vrtti (equal) the same long slow inhalation, perhaps 8-10 seconds followed by kumbhaka (breath retention) as with the long slow exhalation and it's kumbhaka. After the exhalation we might engage uddiyana bandha more fully along with mula bandha. Jalandara bandha is engaged throughout.
As mentioned in the earlier post we might employ the default points of focus, Bhrumadhya (between the eyebrows) where the head is up or Nasagra (tip of nose) when the head is down as here with the jalandara bandha.
Mudras unite the body with the mind, internal points of focus and concentration may be employed, indeed they are recommended.
In Asvini Mudra we might shift the concentration on the inhalation from mula (perinium), to Sroni (centre of pelvis), to nabhi (navel), to hrdaya (middle of heart), to Kantha (back of throat). Focus on Bhrumadhya (between the eyebrows) on the kumbhaka after inhalation. Exhalation is always only one concentration point, here nabhi (navel).
Asvini Mudra is a recognised mudra however we might also take a 'mudra like' approach to Paschimattanasana itself. Given the deep fold, a longer exhalation is suited, kumbhaka and a deeper uddiyana bandha might be employed. On the shorter inhalation the jalandara bandha may be slightly relaxed we may even lift slightly out of the fold on the inhalation before folding back in on the next exhalation engaging jalandara fully again in time for the next kumbhaka.
Krishnamacharya suggests staying in Paschimattanasana for around ten minutes and indicates it is a key posture to be practiced daily along with its counterposture Purvotanasana.
For more on the practice of mudra and internal concentration points see T.K Sribhashyam's Emergence of Yoga.
see also this earlier post