Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tony Sanchez Yoga Challenge 84 classic asana, Kapo and dropback

A little chatter floating around about Bikam this morning. I pricked up my ears when I came across reference to the Bikram Advanced series, didn't know there was one. Anyway searching for info on that led me to this Youtube video by Tony Sanchez. I gather he was a student of Bikram's in the 1970's. He seems to have gone his own way since then, focusing his system around Bishnu Ghosh's 84 classic asana.

I'm posting the video here, A. because it's beautifully produced, gotta love the black and white and B. because of the Kapo approach and drop back/return towards the end of the video, interesting.

Hmmm, it won't allow embedding but here's the link. The kapo is at 5:43 and the dropback at 6:37

Now this guy has a fantastic practice, controlled, focused, disciplined, incredibly stable and yet he drops back raising the heels and comes up with splayed feet. Shock horror! But watch how he does it, how slow, how controlled, really quite something to see.

We get so wrapped up with how our asana are supposed to be performed, the different schools resorting to conflicting anatomical arguments to defend their traditional approach and making us oh so self conscious in the process. My main asana teacher was common sense and, touch wood, in three years, I haven't had any injuries despite exploring many, quite advanced, asana. Obviously, if you practice within a particular school then your obliged to practice their way, under their roof, but if not then your probably fine going with common sense. Worry about the breath and let the asana take care of itself (he says buckling up his flak suit expectantly).

It's just asana, god, how long did that take to sink in. It's why the thought of Bikram getting his Yoga asana championships into the Olympics doesn't bother me in the least. OK, the make-up bothers me but that's about it.

Does anyone try Yoga because they're interested in Yoga? I suspect people take up yoga because they're interested, at first, in a particular style of asana practice or in getting fit or perhaps because they heard Madonna did it. I, myself, picked up a book from the library to complement my meditation practice by getting a little fitter and healthier. For the first couple of years I thought Yoga and Asana were the same thing. It's not Yoga that's going to be judged at the Olympics just as it's not Bushido that's being judged in Karate or Judo competitions. I have an Aikido and Iaido background by the way and confess that we used to look down our noses in a similar way at competition Karate

So it was a pleasure to come across a blog this morning by someone who practices Bikram yoga and is so clearly passionate about their practice. It might not be my kind of thing, I'm not into heat and being so used to practicing alone I don't think I would take well to the dialogue, but I'm tired of reading about how many Rolls Royce's Bikram has or who he is or isn't suing. Just made a nice change to hear about Bikram in the context of someone loving their practice.

14 comments:

  1. That video is a nice find. It's beautiful. So THAT'S the advanced Bikram series- Bishnu Gosh's 84 classic poses? And it's easy to misconstrue yoga as only being about asana - this is what I believed too, when I first got into yoga. Having an asana competition only perpetuates this kind of impression - that yoga is just about contorting your body into different shapes. Also - the idea of comparing your asana to someone else's basically makes it a gymnastics competition, and that's not really asana is it? (Since when should one be comparing one's asana practice to the next person?)

    Also, when you look at it wholistically through the 8 limbs, asana is a means to an end (of self-realization). Not the end goal itself, which is what a competition encourages - that a beautiful physical form is what's important. That's why I find the thought of a yoga asana competition disturbing - that it also fuels the Ego.

    On the practice of Bikram Yoga- when you put all of the teacher chatter/ looking-in-the-mirror stuff aside, I absolutely love the heat and detox element of sweating it out (even if I have to stop loads of times before throwing up or passing out). I just can't seem to build up much internal heat with Ashtanga as I'm still getting used to how cold an EU winter is!

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  2. hey Skippetty, isn't it something. I'm sure Bikram Advanced is different from that but probably not a million miles away.

    Perhaps your right that it perpetuate the equating of Yoga with asana but that's not going to go away. I'm not sure it matters anyway, an asana practice is probably a good idea whatever the reason you take it up. If it leads you to look at some Yoga philosophy later and try some meditation great, but if not, it's still one less early heart attack.

    And lets face it there's quite a bit of comparing of each others asana in Ashtanga too and as for ashtanga/gymnastics, well, I rest my case. How many originally got into Ashtanga for the proverbial hot body

    All these asana focussed styles of practice seem to have that temptation, some more than others. Perhaps that's not a bad thing, it might be the hook that draws you in and keeps you practicing long enough for the philosophy to start becoming of interest. Jois said it best with 'practice and all is coming ', think that goes for Bikram, Iyengar VK etc just as much as for Ashtanga.

    Art for arts sake
    : )
    ... there are worse creeds to aim at.

    Still, while it would be nice to have prettier asana, right now I'll settle for steadier breathing in my Pranayama.

    Your lucky you've only just arrived in Europe, it's been a long hard winter, it'll get easier now.

    Think I'd be throwing up and passing out, I found an Ashtanga shala bad enough, couldn't breath.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very interesting your post video/blog links Grimmly, I find your post thought provoking... yes we do get so caught up sometimes, I think for a loooong time I kind of "forgot" what the real goal is, which is self realization. Now with the addition of pranayama I am finding the focusing on the breath very helpful, very intimate I would say, very conducive to focusing within, into the subtle movements of the skin, the air, the ligaments, the lenght of inhalation and exhalation... feels new and bright... thank you for this

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you Claudia, thought I might have overcooked it a little.

    'goal of yoga',
    'self-realization'

    I struggle with those, the goal of yoga may well be, of coursr, the dissolving of goals leading us into paradox.

    At the moment I'm finding it more useful to reflect on what it isn't rather than what it might be. Perhaps eventually after enough 'it wasn't that' I might be left with something that may be close enough for jazz. I assumed in the beginning it was asana but then figured it had to be more than that.

    Self-realization carries too much baggage for this old philosopher. I never got into this for enlightenment and have no interest in bliss, perhaps twenty years from now that might be of more concern. For now I'd settle for seeing a little more clearly, Ramaswami has an interpretation/translation of Yoga that I keep coming back to.

    'One can note that ultimately it is not unity with a higher principle that is aimed for in this form of yoga, but, rather, the removal of all the distractions of the mind. When such a feat is achieved, the purusa, the indwelling consciousness principle, remains alone (kaivalya), free from the distractions created by the mind.'
    P33 Yoga for the three stages of Life.

    that'll do for me to be going on with.

    That said if somebody just wants to practice asana and strive to perform the most perfect Natajarasana in a competition then good luck to them. Perhaps I'm still a little idealistic about the Olympics.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love the idea he presents (near the beginning)that once we have gotten to a certain level with yoga, once the asana are no longer such a strain or effort, we become more like pure energy.
    And yes, beautiful video and practice. Though I still cannot get over how hyperextended the knees are in Bikram and Bikram-offshoot practices.
    And yeah, the chatter alone is enough to drive me away from those classes. They. Never. Shut. Up.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Speaking of Natarajasana - did you see any of the figure-skating in the winter olympics ? I think those girls and guys could possibly out-asanaed anybody if they want to. Anyway asana is just the jouney not the destination.

    Floss

    ReplyDelete
  7. This unification is multifaceted. In one dimension, it is a unification of the various systems that exist within the human being including the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual systems. In our current understanding of
    yoga retreat, we are working to unify these five bodies or layers of the human being. Another process of unification occurs between of the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness.Observing this from a different angle, Samadhi is a transformation of perception in which disillusionments about the world are reformed so that the truth behind reality can be seen in its purest of form. Yoga, as a system, has developed into various branches through which people pursue the evolution and unification of the elements within their being. Each branch retains its own unique set of ideas and philosophies which defined the process and eventual obtainment of complete unification. Each system is designed to accommodate a different personality type, and yoga has developed into a broad reaching system that can be practiced by nearly anyone who is interested in pursuing a spiritual life. A practice like Jnana yoga is ideal for someone who is philosophically minded whereas the practice of bhakti yoga is good for someone who is emotionally perceptive and inclined towards a sense of devotion. In this article we will be reviewing the more mainstream practices of yoga which are derived from the tradition of yogic spirituality. These traditions of yoga are as young as 500 years and as old as several thousand.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very nice video indeed... but I wish he skipped the comment at the end about "speeding up evolution". I don't like when yogis say things as abstract like this, without any explanation, reasoning, or context. So in the end it just sounds nice and you have to believe it. Probably not a big deal, it is just that my tolerance level for such things is rather low.
    Apart from that, I liked every other aspect of the video, thanks for posting it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes Floss saw some of that, Natajarasana while bombing around the ice, but then they can get a good gip on the Skate, we're left with sweaty toes.

    Did he say that KB, I didn't really listen, don't tend to, just liked his moves.

    Hey Liz, Iyengar says something similar to that, about when you move beyond effort and all the poses become easy...hmmmm

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've been listening to some of Kino's podcasts and using her Primary DVD. I don't remember where exactly, but she mentioned "healing the body and freeing the mind." Somewhere she also described her dialogue with Jois after practicing for a couple years going something like, "Guruji, I still feel crazy! When will I stop feeling crazy?" And of course the response came to keep practicing. That's why I practice -- my body feels better and I'm a little less crazy when I do. :)

    By the way, thanks Grimmly for turning me on to both the podcasts and DVD from Kino!

    ReplyDelete
  11. your welcome Mike, those Chicago podcasts are excellent, was laughing out loud while listening out and about, most embarrassing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi there :) As a Bikram teacher who has practiced the advanced series and Tony's Yoga Challenge series I can tell you that - Yes - Tony Sanchez' Yoga Challenge is the advanced series... Tony does not advocate heating the room -
    FYI - Tony is now offering teacher training for serious practitioners - He resides in Mexico (after having lived in San Fran for years).

    Peace

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks Angela, he doesn't advocate heating a room, that's interesting. Just watched the video again after, what a couple of months, just amazing, think i could learn a lot about balance in Bikram, i should moonlight for awhile and I MUST get that video.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Would love to find Tony. It is August 2011 and I can't find him anywhere. Does anyone know how to make contact?
    The heat has been cranked up higher every decade since the 70s. I'm convinced Bikram can't believe how much abuse we'll take and lick it up like it's good for us! In the beginning, the room was warm, not hot.The sweating was important, but Everyone made it through the series without having to sit down for a second. There was no water in the room, just a dixie-cupful just before we started the second half on the floor. Makes me sad what's happened to the Bikram world. A culture of toughness. Bikram was tough love, with an emphasis on love. Take Bikram out of the equation and I'm afraid we've been left with dogma.
    Anyway, would love to find Tony again.

    ReplyDelete

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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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