Monday, 29 March 2010

Do I take the manduka?

Starting to think ahead to the summer's Vinyasa Krama (2ooHr TT) course in LA.

Do I take the Manduka or what?

I've used it pretty much every day for two years, hate the thought of jumping about on anything else. How does anyone practice Vatyasana on a regular mat, or rocking back and forth on your spine in Garbha Pindasana....

What DID they do before they invented the wheel?

It's a little known fact (according to Wikipedia) that The Manduka was invented by T. Krishnamacharya who found an ancient text on closed-cell mat production in the Mysore palace library (this text was, of course, latter eaten by beetles). Until then, Yoga asana was a static affair, pretty much just Padmasana on a deer skin, as we know from the Yoga sutra's. Krishnamacharya made this first Manduka mat and came up with another 83, 999 asana's before his tea. Unfortunantely that first Manduka was made up in a faux tiger print and never caught on.

Can you take a Manduka as carry on, I have one of those nifty Manduka carry straps. Airlines are paranoid about deep vein thrombosis, perhaps if I tell them I need the mat to avoid it, I'll be allowed to take it on and pop up to the first class lounge for practice.

And what about when I'm there, on the course. Didn't somebody mention here once, that when they were themselves on a course, to which they took their Manduka, they spent the whole time shifting it from one end of the room to the other.

Has anyone used both a travel Manduka and a normal Manduka, how do they compare really? I mean if your used to the one does the other....... do?

'You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot' Sylvi Plath (famous former Astangi and Manduka Ambassador )

Obviously it will be the gray equa rather the pink.... sorry, sunburst. (As it happens I just bought another eQua towel on ebay, came across it by accident, glacial blue and under a tenner, couldn't help myself, pictures to come).

And another thing.

What do people wear on such courses, Practicing at home I just wear a pair of shorts but I think one would feel slightly under dressed. I guess I have those blue Adidas, could get another couple of pairs of them. Do people really practice in t-shirts? Inversions? How does that work. It explains the one armed handstand of course the other holding down the shirt. I point blank refuse to tuck a vest into my shorts.

I googled current LA fashion and it seems the picture above is de rigeur in Venice Beach. That I can handle, the robe will be ideal for the meditation part of the course and perfect for all those VK savasanas.

..... and people wonder why I practice at home.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Squatting what's with the Squatting? VK's On one leg sequence.

Because I'm going to be doing those two or three Ashtanga practices, I mentioned, in the evenings I thought I should work out a different standing routine for my morning Vinyasa Krama practice. Up until now I'd pretty much been using a modified Ashtanga standing. I've been wanting to work on more balancing postures for a while, still tend to be unsteady in the Utthita sequence, so this seemed as good a time as any.

There are three standing sequences in Vinyasa Krama, one built around Tadasana (mountain pose), another built around Trikonasana (Triangle) and the third containing One leg postures. I tend to start with a little Tadasana as soon as I get on the mat. Trikonasana postures are covered pretty well in the Ashtanga Standing so that left the On one leg Sequence which is ideal for working on balance.

Here it is.

Ch IV. On One leg Yogasanas

Bhagiratasana /Vrikshasana (tree pose subroutine)
Standing mariachi
Uttita-padangushtasana (stretched leg-arm subroutine)
Virabharasana (Warrior Subroutine)
Trivikramasana (conqueror of the three worlds)
Natarajasana (dancing Shiva)
Durvasasana. (standing Leg behind head)

This stuff is HARD.
Nothing hard about tree pose you say? OK, cross your right leg into half lotus now engage your bandhas and slowly slowly slowly squat down with the breath, all the way down, without raising the heel. Stay there for three long slow steady breathes and then slowly slowly slowly come back up on the breath.

or This
Take your leg up into Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Raise up leg straight and grab your toe) like a good Ashtangi and go through the usual THEN, slowly slowly, you see where I'm going with this, slowly squat down, all the way down, again without raising your heel. Three steady breaths THEN lower your head to your knee, three more breaths. Oh, now swing your leg out to the side while still squatting , three breaths, swing it back and come back up again slowly, slowly.........

Not used to this kind of stuff, we don't do much of it in Ashtanga, a couple of semi squats if you can call them that in Sury B. Do we neglect leg strength? I suspect good strong legs help with dropbacks no?

Anyway it's hard but I kind of like it, love working on Natajrasana and Durvasana, be nice to become steady in those poses. Isn't there a scene in Hesse's Siddhartha where he stands on one leg all night long to persuade his father to let him leave.

But don't expect pictures or video's, it ain't pretty.

Was restless this morning, waiting to see if this guy who sent me a question was going to bid on one of my Saxophones ( he did, eventually). So took me ages to get on the mat, at one point I even contemplated cleaning the fridge.

But in the end a nice practice.

Inverted sequence this morning so lots of long handstands in the Sury's. The new On one leg sequence, so a five minute shoulder stand and it's prep before a half hour headstand with all the variations. Another five minutes in Shoulderstand as a counter pose then it's forearm stands, Pinca Mayurasana, Karandavasana and Vrischikasana, then the seven deadlies (the all over the place hand variations on handstand you find in Ashtanga 2nd), arm balances ( I just do that arm balance section from Ashtanga 3rd where you enter them all jumping into headstand). Finishing was just Padmasana with Kapalabhati leading on into Pranayama. Took just over two hours.

Sunday is the first day of my week and now I've spent a week on most of the VK sequences i'll be alternating the sequences.

Today (sunday) - Inverted
Monday - Rest day (working towards 80 rounds of Pranayama on Mondays)
Tuesday -Asymmetric
Wednesday - Bow/Vajrasana
Thursday - Seated
Friday - Lotus
Saturday - Supine

As for the evening Ashtanga practice, probably Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Might make one of them 2nd series, see how I feel.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Knees down heels up.

Noticed this, Thursday evening, on my first primary for Six weeks.





Knees down









Heels up




I'd resigned myself to not getting my heels up in Kurmasana, when it happened I think I was more delighted than when I grabbed my heels in Kapo. It's always felt like that old hand trick.

Get your friend to put their hand flat on the table palm down, now have them curl their second finger under so the tip of the finger is touching their palm. Point to their little finger and ask them to wiggle it , no problem, now bet them twenty quid they can't move the next finger and point at the ring finger. It wont move, just wont move the tiniest bit. Collect your winnings and get the beers in.

That's how my feet felt every time I tried to raise my heels.
Thought my legs/knees might go flatter in Baddha konasana one day but not after six weeks off.

Not sure how to best explain it. Was it the Six weeks of Vinyasa Krama, the first evening practice in a long long while, or perhaps because i hadn't has such a sweaty practice since the Autumn?

Friday, 26 March 2010

And now Intermediate after the six week lay off.

This follows on from yesterdays post where I had my first primary in ages. The idea being that I felt in need of a good sweaty detox practice. Primary went really well so I got curious about my Intermediate.

As with Primary, no harm done despite the long lay off. Was still able to bind Pasasana at the wrist with flat feet, thought I might struggle with that, especially as I was so sweaty, but it was fine. Krounchasana was still lame, no change there. Backbends were better but that was expected after all the back bend work from a couple of weeks ago. Supta V was a really nice tight bind, felt very erect and no problem going up a and down. The bandha work in VK perhaps? Balance and timing were off in Bakasana and I had to check sweeney about the order of the twists. No problem with the LBH's, again, deeper than usual. Is that VK or just the evening practice? Titti B was the treat, legs much straighter, wish I'd taken a picture, felt like I was through a long way.

Karanda, straight up and down, more control coming down, again all the uddiyana bandha work I do in VK no doubt. Coordination was slightly off but still managed to get back up. Mayurasana was Ok but by then I was really slippery and couldn't hold it long, think it was a balance issue rather than strength. Everything else was fine too. Intermediate jump throughs into poses were OK and the headstands were nicely grounded, but then I'd had that week of inversions.

So nice practice, still feel fit and strong enough, don't seem to have lost any of that despite hardly any jump backs etc in VK and the slower pace. The extra handstand ploy in the Sury's seems to be working. All round flexibility seems to have improved and that's helped the Ashtanga but god did I sweat, I checked, weighing myself before and after, I lost 2kilo.

Not as much fun as Primary but enjoyed it. Think I will practice Ashtanga two or three times a week in the evenings, perhaps two primary and an intermediate or 3rd. I do like the sweating and it's fun. As I said yesterday, knowing I have that 'fitness' practice in the evening I'll be happier about cutting down the asana in the mornings in my main VK practice to spend longer on Pranayama and meditation.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

First Ashtanga primary series in six weeks : )

Decided to take a rest day today, noticed I hadn't taken a day off practice in two weeks. By mid afternoon though I was craving practice and not just any practice. While the cats away the mice will play and all that. I've eaten poorly all week and have indulged in the odd martini or two and last night, a couple of jugs of Sake with my noodles, felt in need of a detox.

Figured I'd do ye olde Primary series as soon as I got home from work. Turned up the heat, laid down the manduka and scanned my Sweeney to brush up on the sequence, it's been awhile.

Being an evening practice and my chinchilla calling I didn't have that long to so took it at Sharath's (DVD) pace. Was curious how it would go, I checked, it'll be six weeks tomorrow since my last Ashtanga practice. Surprisingly it went well, very well, remembered why I loved this practice so much.

I was sweating by the end of the Sury's (five of each at a faster pace than usual), waving about all over the place in the Utthta's, but then it was growing dark in the room. The paschi's were deep, really deep as were all the forward bends. The Marichi's were fine even managed to bind at the wrist on Mari D which surprised me as it doesn't tend to come in VK. Navasana hurt, first three were OK but felt the last two. Did manage to go up to handstand on the third one, hips seemed to know where to go without my thinking about it, that might be because of all the handstands I've been doing in the Sury's lately, to make up for the lack of Jump through's. Talking of Jump back/through, they were fine, thought I might get tired half way through the practice but felt great, maybe something to do with all the pranayama. Was still able to do all the fancy jump backs too, the half lotus and even the full lotus jump back after Kukkutasana.

Two things blew me away. For the first time ever I was able to lift my heels off the mat in Kurmasana, and in Badha Konasana my whole legs were flat on the mat all the way up to my knee, remember hearing myself think ' oh wow', wonder why all of a sudden. UD's and drop backs felt comfortable but then I've been doing a lot on those lately, felt like Superman in Sarvangasana and Sirsasana as if I was going to take off, maybe something to do with practicing later afternoon/early evening rather than early morning.

So despite not practicing for six weeks, the practice was still there. Seem to be getting deeper into the poses, not sure if that's due to Vinyasa krama, it being an evening practice or the fact that my body was hotter and sweatier than it has been all winter, no doubt all of the above. Thought I might have lost some fitness with the slower practice of VK but I felt good and strong throughout, despite twenty more jump through's than usual, wondering if that might be because of the pranayama practice.

Anyway loved it, think I might make it a regular thing, say three evenings a week on top of my usual morning VK practice. I was thinking about cutting back the asana in the morning to forty minutes or so to give me more time for pranayama and meditation, this way I wont feel so bad about it. Even thought about taking a class once a week

Still buzzin, can you tell?

PS.
M, Come home, miss you. Love to Okasan and all the family xxx

Vinyasa Krama simplified Supine Sequence Speeded up x4

I realized that in the Inverted sequence, posted a couple of weeks ago, I pretty much had most of the Supine sequence on video (I'm tending to bring together the Supine sequence, with it's shoulder stands, together with the Inverted sequence, with it's headstands, see this post). I Just needed to shift a couple of subroutines around, with my limited editing skills. Hopefully it's enough to give an idea of the Supine sequence, which is the point of the exercise.


The main sections missing are some half lotus postures while in desk pose at 01:17 which leads into Uttana padasana and Urdhava Danurasana (wheel), I guess as counter poses. At 01:48 there should be a Supine leg behind head subroutine with a couple of prep poses that leads on into Yoga Nidrasana (sleeping yogi). At the end of the sequence at 4:29 there should be Savangasana Mandala (circular ambulation), this is very silly but I quite like it. I used to try it last summer and have a video from my phone which gives the general idea. videoSadly, now I'm upstairs, I don't have the room for it.

So I'm calling this a simplified version, if it wasn't speeded up it would run to about twenty minutes and misses out the tricky LBH asanas. Normally in Supine I would go about the Leg to chest, Arm/leg raises and Desk poses much more slowly, longer stays etc. but this, as I said, was originally filmed as part of the Inverted sequence and I tend to use these poses there as prep postures.

As I've mentioned elsewhere (link to come), there would be some Sury's and some standing poses before this sequence and some finishing poses afterwards, similar to Ashtanga but taken from some of the other Vinyasa Krama sequences depending on what seems most appropriate.

NB. Ramaswami recommends practicing the sequences in this way to gain familiarity with the asanas and, I guess, their groupings. Once you have a better idea of the range of asanas your better able to develop an appropriate practice. I'm looking forward to finding out more about this in the summer. I know he has a handful of key asanas that he recommends practicing every day. I assumed that you would practice those and then fit the other asanas around this framework in a similar way to how the Ashtanga series are formed. However, in one of his other books he seems to suggest that Krishnamacharya would have him practice the same kind of asanas within a lesson. I'm guessing one day the key asanas plus some Bow sequence subroutines another day the keys asanas and some inverted subroutines. The point being, these aren't fixed-in-stone sequences, adaption is the name of the game.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Vinyasa Krama Asymmetric seated Sequence, speeded up

This week I'm working on the Asymmetric Seated sequence from Srivatsa Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga. The plan has been to spend a week on each of the book's sequences to improve familiarity, such that I don't need to keep referring to the book during practice. This is the last week, from Sunday I'll start alternating the sequences throughout the week, interested to see how that works out.




Monday - Visesha Vinyasa Kramas
Tuesday - Asymmetric
Wednesday - Bow/Vajrasana
Thursday - Seated
Friday - Ashtanga
Saturday - Lotus
Sunday - Supine/Inverted




I plan the week like this around the Asymmetric and Supine sequences which, being long sequences, are best saved for my days off (Tuesday and Sunday). I want to do the Seated sequence with all it's deep forward bends the day after the Bow/vajrasana sequences and their backbends. I've always tended to practice Ashtanga on Friday, whatever else I was doing, so decided to keep it up, nice to have a flowing practice once a week at least. That leaves Saturday for Lotus.

The standing sequences , On your feet (built around Tadasana), Triangle and On one leg, get practiced throughout the week as warm up poses. Similar to the Ashtanga standing sequence but mixed about a little depending on the sequence I'll be doing.

Ramaswami recommends practicing the sequences in this way to gain familiarity with the asanas and, I guess, their groupings. Once you have a better idea of the range of asanas your better able to develop an appropriate practice. I'm looking forward to finding out more about this in the summer. I know he has a handful of key asanas that he recommends practicing every day. I assumed that you would practice those and then fit the other asanas around this framework in a similar way to how the Ashtanga series are formed. However, in one of his other books he seems to suggest that Krishnamacharya would have him practice the same kind of asanas within a lesson. I'm guessing one day the key asanas plus some Bow sequence subroutines another day the keys asanas and some inverted subroutines.

As you can see I'm still working all this out so don't take anything here as authoritative.

Which brings me to the video.

I tried to Video my Asymmetric sequence this morning. It's a long and complicated sequence that I've tended to save for my day off. There are around 40 asanas in the sequence but you have to multiply that by two as you have to do both sides. Each side takes thirty to forty-five minutes so that's an hour and a half plus the the Sury's, some Standing postures and finishing. The whole thing takes me a little over two hours.

Don't take the video as gospel, I'm still getting familiar with the sequence and there are a couple of times when I miss something out, add something in (Marichiyasana D for example, old habits die hard) mix up the order and get a couple of poses completely wrong (looking over the wrong shoulder in Bharadwajasana for example). I've tried to edit the video a little, switch a couple of bits around, oh and cut out the bit where forget where I am and I jump back from Chakorasana. When I get around to it, I'll annotate the Youtube video with the asana names. But here is a list of the Subroutines in the order they come up.

Asymmetric Seated Vinyasa Sequence
Lead sequence
Dandasana
Marichyasana
Mahamudra
Ardhapadmasana
Akarnadhanurasana
Ekapadasirsasana
Triyangmukha

Hybrid Asymmetric Vinyasas
Marichyasana(advanced)
Bharadwajasana
Mahabandha
Matyendrasana

Although it might look complicated, the format tends to be pretty much the same in each of the subroutines. A stretch followed by forward bends, perhaps a twisting variation and then a counter pose
Remember, this is speeded up x4. In real time it's 36:41 (should you want to slow it back down).

Sunday, 21 March 2010

More dropback exercises


Allowing the feet to splay out again while I get the coming up action back. Trying to come up more slowly and without rocking. Once that's comfortable again I'll see about reducing the duck feet.
I'm trying to get in closer to my feet whether by walking to the wall and pressing my chest against it as I walk in or walking my hands towards my feet and coming up onto fingertips.
Not spending as much time on this lately as I was during my holiday but trying to keep it ticking over.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence, speeded up x4

I posted on the Inverted sequence at the beginning of the week but realized that it's probably a little confusing. I'm taking recommendations from three of Ramaswami's books rather than sticking to the Inverted sequence in The Complete book of Vinyasa yoga. I made a video of this mornings practice to try and illustrate the basic idea. Because Youtube has a ten minute limit I speeded it up x 4. It was originally around forty minutes, this is a little quicker than usual. I started the camera after standing and cut off most of the Pranayama. All the asanas are pretty straight forward, the main challenge of this Sequence is probably the long headstand and keeping the breath slow steady and even while engaging the bandha's upside down.

Curious thing I've noticed about the Inversions is that all week I've been feeling incredibly mellow. The restless night after intense backbending is often remarked upon, I was wondering if anyone else has had a similar reaction to long headstands.

I've lifted the description of the practice from my earlier post with the Krishnamacharya video.
Looking at the three books together plus the newsletter and bringing it all together the recommendation seems to be the following.

A mudra pose that engages the bandhas. (I'm choosing Tatakumudra, pond gesture. Before this though I tend to start my practice with some Tadasana and a couple of Sury's and perhaps some standing postures)

The Sarvangasana preparatory poses...
Apanasana (pelvic lift)
U- formation (arms and legs raised while supine)
Dwipadpitam (Desk pose)

Savangasana Subroutine (As prep for headstand, I do around fifteen minutes of Shoulder stand variations, I stop before the lotus variations)

Sirsasana Subroutine ( Took me around thirty minutes this morning, around three long slow steady breaths engaging moola and uddiyana bandha during exhale retention while in each of the variations)

Childs pose
Sarvangasana (switching back to Shoulder stands here as counter poses for headstand and supposedly to retain the benefits longer. I do the unsupported Shoulder stand variations from the end of the Subroutine)

Padmasana (It's recommended to finish with a seated pose for ten minutes or so).

The Sirsasana and Sarvangasana Subroutines follow a similar pattern in their variations. While up in the the pose you tend to start by bringing the legs to the chest individually and then together as well as in half lotus. This is followed by bringing the legs to the floor individually then together, some lotus variations, halasana variations etc in the Sarvangasana subroutine as well as some unsupported shoulder stand variations. You finish off with some inverted backbend postures.

Had a quick look through the video and noticed that there are a couple of postures I missed out and even a couple from the Krishnamacharya video that slipped in.

NB. Ramaswami recommends practicing the sequences in this way to gain familiarity with the asanas and, I guess, their groupings. Once you have a better idea of the range of asanas your better able to develop an appropriate practice. I'm looking forward to finding out more about this in the summer. I know he has a handful of key asanas that he recommends practicing every day. I assumed that you would practice those and then fit the other asanas around this framework in a similar way to how the Ashtanga series are formed. However, in one of his other books he seems to suggest that Krishnamacharya would have him practice the same kind of asanas within a lesson. I'm guessing one day the key asanas plus some Bow sequence subroutines another day the keys asanas and some inverted subroutines. The point being, these aren't fixed-in-stone sequences, adaption is the name of the game.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Something has to go. Vinyasa Krama 200 hr TT course

The credit card bill has come through for the course and something has to go. But what? Stupidly I made the mistake of playing one of my saxophones that I'd already listed on ebay. I love this Saxophone.
It's a Buesher Super 400, Johnny Hodges played a Buesher similar to this one. That's him playing over the slide show below, first video I ever posted on Youtube. The pictures are form a trip I made to New York for the purpose of buying a saxophone (that sax was stollen in a burglary and it was in an attempt to deal with it that I took up Ashtanga).




I have my King super 20 Alto listed at the same time but am having second thoughts. This Sax came from a club in New Orleans. They'd painted it pink, drilled a couple of holes through the body and stuck it on the wall. It's one of thegreatest saxophones ever made and they had it on a wall! Took me forever to get all that pink paint off.







Here it is in it's pink state before I restored it.












Or perhaps I should sell my 1936 Conn Ladyface tenor... NEVER!









Surely not the Super 20 tenor, best tenor saxophone
I've ever blown





What about my King Super 20 Baritone, a beast of a horn that was rescued from the New Orleans floods. I spent a week cleaning this, in fact I think the picture of it was taken in the bath. Hardly seems right to sell it.






That leaves the Grafton, the rare white acrylic saxophone that was an absolute nightmare to restore. Still waiting for a replacement guard. I'd always figured on putting it in pride of place if I ever opened my own Repair shop.



But which to sell, it's heartbreaking. If anyone makes a crack about non attachment.......


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.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Vinyasa Krama Inverted Sequence

This week I'm moving on to the Inverted sequence, the plan being to spend a week on each of the VK sequences to improve familiarity before alternating the sequences daily. I was a little confused about how to approach them. In a newsletter, Ramaswami discusses Sarvangasana and Sirsasana together and in his book, Yoga beneath the surface, he talks about them as being preparatory as well as counter poses to eachother. In Yoga for the three stages of life he puts the two sequences together in the same section. However, in The Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga the Shoulder stand subroutine appears at the end of the Supine sequence, while the headstands dominate the Inverted sequence, which also includes forearm stands and some other arm balance poses.

Looking at the three books together plus the newsletter and bringing it all together the recommendation seems to be the following.

A mudra pose that engages the bandhas. (I'm choosing Maha Mudra as it opens the hips and there are some lotus poses to come. Before this though I tend to start my practice with some Tadasana and a couple of Sury's)

The Sarvangasana preparatory poses...
Apanasana (pelvic lift)
U- formation (arms and legs raised while supine)
Dwipadpitam (Desk pose)

Savangasana Subroutine (As prep for headstand, I do around fifteen minutes of Shoulder stand variations, I stop before the lotus variations)

Sirsasana Subroutine ( Took me around thirty minutes this morning, around three long slow steady breaths engaging moola and uddiyana bandha during exhale retention while in each of the variations)

Childs pose
Sarvangasana (switching back to Shoulder stands here as counter poses for headstand and supposedly to retain the benefits longer. I do the unsupported Shoulder stand variations from the end of the Subroutine)

Padmasana (It's recommended to finish with a seated pose for ten minutes or so).

The Sirsasana and Sarvangasana Subroutines follow a similar pattern in their variations. While up in the the pose you tend to start by bringing the legs to the chest individually and then together as well as in half lotus. This is followed by bringing the legs to the floor individually then together, some lotus variations, halasana variations etc in the Sarvangasana subroutine as well as some unsupported shoulder stand variations. You finish off with some inverted backbend postures.

Latter in the week I'll try to add some pictures and possible a couple of videos to give more of an idea of the Subroutines.

UPDATE
...or I can just embed this 1938 video of Krishnamacharya himself doing some of the inversion variations. This is of course a Demo, In Ramaswami's book you tend to repeat the variations three to six times.

My whole practice this morning took a little under 90 minutes, which included about half hour each in Sisasana and Sarvangasana.

This is from Ramaswami's August 09 newsletter, where he discusses these inversions.

HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE ……
The two important inversion poses, Sirasasana and its better half
Sarvangasana, called the King and Queen of yogasanas are a unique
contribution of Yoga towards physical culture and physical therapy.
Several contemporary yogis have disputed the place of these poses and
have claimed that they perhaps are later day inventions. But in
Hatayoga they are considered as viparita karani mudras.
Hatayogapradipika refers to inversions as follows
“ There is a wonderful karana or procedure which helps to starve the
sun,( here the gastric fire). One may learn it only from a Guru, and
not from the books. If the position of the sun(stomach) is above and
the moon(the head) below (i.e., upside down) it is called
viparitakarani(inversion). Learn it from a Guru “
The pelvic area—kandasthana-, according to some yogis is a breeding
ground for many ailments. It is also the area from where 72.000 nadis
are said to emanate and also Kundalini. This area should be kept
clean. The dross should be burnt and blown away, figuratively
speaking. How does the Yogi do it?
We have an air principle in that area which is Apana Vayu. We have
also the fire principle in us in the abdominal area in the form of
gastric fire or Jataraagni. This flame is flowing upwards and in the
normal upright position the gastric fire is above the pelvic area,
flowing upward, sometimes when overactive, produces a burning
sensation in the esophagus producing the typical ‘heart burn”. The
Yogi by resorting to the inversions, as Headstand and Sarvangasana, is
able to place the pelvic area above the gastric area. Now the gastric
fire or jataragni,-- figuratively speaking—flows towards the pelvic
area and heats and purifies the Nadias and the Kandasthan, arouses the
Kundalini with the heat. The fire is further supposed to be fanned and
intensified by directing the air tatwa or apana by Mula bandh; it
draws the apana closer to the fire principle and thereby the apana air
also becomes hotter and in turn melts away the dross of the
kandasthana and arouses the sleeping kundalini. So headstand and
shoulderstand, the mulabandha and the intense gastric fire help to
cleanse the nadis and the rogasthana or the disease prone area is
cleaned and spruced up.
There is another interesting concept associated with the inversions of
which I may have referred to in one of the earlier letters/articles.
It is said that our head contains a liquid called amrita which may be
translated as nectar. This nectar gives us life and drips drop by drop
through the uvula into the stomach where it is consumed by the gastric
fire to provide the life energy to live. This reservoir of nectar is
slowly used up and with its total depletion comes the end of one’s
life. The Yogi tries to ration the flow of the nectar, by remaining in
inverted position for a length of time every day—say between half an
hour to an hour or so. During the period of time the yogi is in head
stand and shoulder stand, the amrita remains stored in the head
without dripping down.
The Hatayogapradika has this to say
The Hatayogapradipika explains the inversion mudra as follows. “The
cool nectar that flows from the moon (here the head) is swallowed by
the hot sun (the gastric fire). Hence one’s body becomes aged. There
is a wonderful karana or procedure which helps to starve the sun,
(here the gastric fire). One may learn it only from a Guru, and not
from the books. If the position of the sun is above and the moon below
(i.e., upside down) it is called viparitakarani(inversion). Learn it
from a Guru. Do abhyaa of this inverted pose and increase the duration
every day. One who practices this for a yaama (3 hrs) daily will
conquer death”. When I was young I came across a Yogi who was said to
be practising sirsasana for three hours every day. His face had a
unique bluish tinge. He also practised Mouna or silence.
So by this daily practice, the Yogi is able to increase, so to say,
his/her lifespan by 5%, or say between 3 to 5 years. Normally after
Headstand the yogi is supposed to spend equal time in shoulder stand
as well. In shoulder stand, amrita while still confined to the skull/
brain portion, now is allowed to flow to the entire head portion above
the neck and nourish all the sensitive sense organs, the two eyes, the
two ears, the mouth and the nose (shanmukha). This is also considered
necessary to maintain the acuity of the sense organs
as they are way up in the body and may not get the full nourishment .
Sarvangasana therefore is considered good for the sense organs whereas
the headstand is good for the brain.
The normal upright position and the chin up position in which we keep
our head, both result in a wasteful free flow of the limited amrita in
the head down the uvula to the gastric fire, like a free flowing tap.
The Yogis found it necessary to constantly control the flow of this
nectar and even temporarily stop it. They developed a simple technique
called Jalandhara bandha to temporarily stop and control the flow. The
term Jalandhara-bandha itself indicates the effect it is said to
produce. Jala means water and here it refers to the amrita or nectar
which is said to be in the liquid form. Dhara is to hold, here holding
the amrita in the head itself and bandha is the lock, the procedure
which helps to achieve the holding operation. So Jalandharabandha
means the lock that enables holding the nectar in the head. Of course
while we do asanas and pranayama we adjust the bandha in such a way
that we allow only a small and necessary amount of amrita to flow and
also maintain a good ujjayi control over the breath. That is why the
default position of the head in asana practice whether it is tadasana
or the seated Padmasana or Vajrasana is the head down position. One
could see the pictures of my Guru doing asanas and one could see his
head down position in most of them—even in asanas like urdhvamukha
svanasana or the well known upward facing dog pose. In the entire
vinyasakrama one would find the relaxed default head down position is
resorted to control the flow of amrita and the ujjayi breath.
Some contemporary yogis may read these metaphorical narrations with a
wry smile. However these inversions should be considered as unique
contributions of Yoga, for health. Within the first few minutes of
Sirsasana practice, the leg and thigh muscles, the gluteal muscles,
relax. The chest, back, shoulders and neck muscles also relax as all
these are not required to maintain the postural tone as in the upright
position. It has been found that due to the relaxation of the leg
muscles, the blood pressure in the legs drop to about 30mm.There is no
great rush of blood to the head among the adept yogis due to auto
regulation; yet the gravity helps to open up many capillaries in the
brain, head and face which may otherwise remain partially closed.
People with high blood pressure and retinal problems will have to be
careful. However persons with mild hypertension and under control with
diet, life style change and even medication could benefit from this
posture if they had learnt it from early life. It appears to increase
pressure on the shoulders which would result in the brain trying to
reduce the blood pressure. Therefore if one would practice Sirshasana
regularly for a sufficient duration, one’s pulse rate tends to reduce,
thereby reducing the strain on the heart. Gradually there is a
reduction in the blood pressure.
What is equally important is that Sirsasana helps improve circulation
of the cerebro spinal fluid, which is helpful to the brain and also
for the spinal nerve bundles—the chakras. Because of the increased
pressure in the brain due to this fluid, the pituitary secretions
increase helping the better functioning of the sympathetic nervous
system which will help in many ways including the dilatation of the
bronchial tubes giving great relief to asthmatics. There is draining
of the bronchial tubes, giving some welcome relief for those with
chronic chest congestion. Many feel increased memory power and
general better brain capacity. There are cases of even some correction
of the eyesight. The vinyasas like the twists, Akunchanasana, the
backbends like Viparitadandasana in Sirsasana and Uttanamayurasana in
Sarvangasana help the spine considerably, by not only maintaining the
flexibility of this structure but also nourish the nadis and chakras
or nerve fibers and nerve bundles in the spinal chord.
In the inversions, as mentioned in earlier articles, the internal
organs get positional correction. Pregnant yoginis may find the
inversions help relieve pelvic congestion, oedema of the legs,
conditions that are prevalent during pregnancy. Practising the
inverted poses with the variety of vinyasas gives a complete massage
to all the muscles, organs and considerably increases the blood
circulation. Perhaps equally important is the effect of the twin poses
on the major joints-- the ankles, the knees, the hips and the spine.
The intra-articular space within the joints improves and hence the
joint movements when one does the various vinyasas also will improve.
Dorsal and plantar flexions performed in the ankle joints while in
these asanas help the ankles significantly. Asanas like Akunchanasana
in inversions give good relief to the knees, while inversions help
to open the hips by dragging the big pelvic girdle down a bit and
giving more space for the femur to move and rotate nicely within the
hip socket(pl refer to Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga for headstand and
shoulder stand vinyasas). Perhaps the most benefit accrues to the
entire spine. The inter-vertebral space is enhanced and person who
practises these inversions and the vinyasas like akunchanasana and
backbends will find the spine stretching nicely and becoming more
flexible. The narrowing of the inter-vertebral space can be tackled
positively and the low back pain reduces significantly. I would say
that the inversions are the best yoga postures to alleviate low back
pain. Overall these inversions and the vinyasas in them help to keep
the spine supple and strong. It is said one is as old as the condition
of the spine. Further, because of the relaxation of the lower
extremities Sarvangasana is a good pose to help overcome insomnia.
These twin poses are very good for health.
Contemporary Yogis find the other important inversion, viz., the
Handstand or Vipritvrukshasna very popular. This is a great pose, with
a number of variations possible. However since the head is not fixed
in this group of poses, some of the finer aspects of the other two
head- fixed inversions (sarvangasana and sirshasana) may be missing.
One finds it more difficult to maintain balance and also stay for a
sufficiently long time in viparitavrikshasana or inverted tree pose
(Hand Stand) and other similar poses like scorpion pose etc. These two
regal poses stand ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest in conferring
health benefits to the yogabhyasis.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

An evening's backbends; dropback exercises and Kapo, toes from the air

Been taking it easy with backbends the last couple of days, felt they'd started to take over my time off work when I really wanted to be focusing on my Pranayama practice and taking the opportunity to try out some new techniques there. Anyway, the last couple of days have calmed me down a bit. I had a nice asana practice this morning (supine sequence), some Pranayama, some Chanting. Decided to reward myself this evening and try out some of the dropback exercises I'd picked up from Boodie's and Napper's blogs. Oh and ffom Liz too, the arms back before the head trick in Kapo.

The first video is kind of long. If I remember correctly it includes:

Dropping back to wall, walking down, walking back, squishing chest to the wall.
Dropping back to the floor, walking back and pressing chest to wall
Dropping back, coming up onto fingertips
Hang back, then coming back up from hang
Dropping back coming back up by bouncing off wall
Dropping back arms outstretched
Dropping back coming up but still having to splay feet to do it.

...that kind of thing. Still need to splay my feet to come up. Decided to try and come up without splaying a couple of times and then just come up with reduced splay. Need to keep the action of coming up in my head and hips while trying to make the switch.


The back bends got so deep that I couldn't resist a couple of Kapo's. The first one was nice,
landed very close to my feet and managed to walk up and grab my ankles again. The second one however, the one below, I managed to grab my feet for the first time from the air. Admittedly, it's only my toes but it's a start.


Had a bit of a shock this morning, the usual stripy long pants I use have been in the wash this week. I fished out these that I hadn't worn for a while but thought would do the job. Wore them a couple of times this week but it only struck me this morning, these had got pretty snug on me. In fact, I seem to remember using them when I first started practicing Ashtanga three years ago.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Sun Salutation with mantras

Srivatsa Ramaswami's 'Complete book of Vinyasa Krama' has a traditional version of the Sun salutation laid out with the corresponding mantras. The idea is that you would move into each pose, retain the inhale or exhale while mentally chanting the mantra.

On the Vinyasa Krama home page you can find a link to Chants and Mantras including the Sury Namaskara chants available for download. To try and learn/practice it, I edited in some pauses to allow me time to enter the postures, and have been playing it on my itouch while performing the Salutation.

It's different, a nice alternative to the usual Sury. I tried to video it this morning but made a bit of a hash of it. First my practice room is too narrow to get a good angle and second, when I played it back, I could hardly hear the audio and had to spend most of the afternoon trying to work out how to switch audio files and synch with the picture. This is as close as I got, not great but perhaps good enough to get an idea of how it works.

You have the option of chanting the full mantra (actually it's three mantras joined together) or just the quick version down below which would mean a shorter breath retention.

The book includes full translations of each of the mantras. and here's a link to an article by Ramaswami on the Sun Salutation with mantra.

*One note on the Video, the squat posture before the first Chatauranga, is like Pasasana without the bind, squatting with the heels down rather than sitting on the mat (difficult to see that from behind).


The Twelve Sury Namaskara mantras





1. Om Hram
udhyannadya mitramaha
Mitraaya Namaha








2. Om Hrim
ārohannuttarāṃ divam
Ravaye Namaha

NB. Fingers are interlaced, palms facing outwards






3. Om Hroom
hṛdroghaṃ mamsūrya
Suryaaya Namaha









4. Om Hraim
harimāṇaṃca nāśaya
Bhaanve Namaha

NB. Squatting on heels






5. Om Hraum
śukeṣume harimāṇaṃ
khagaaya Namaha

NB. I know Susan, elbows in : )







6. Om Hrah
ropaṇākāsu dadhmasi
Pooshney Namaha

NB. Arms out stretched hands together






7. Om Hram
atho hāridraveṣume
Hiranayagarbhaaya Namah








8. Om Hrim
harimāṇaṃ ni dadhmasi
Om Mareechibhyoh Namaha









9. Om Hroom
udaghādayamādityo
Adityaaya Namaha








10.Om Hraim
viśvena sahasā saha
Savitre Namaha






11. Om Hraum
viṣantaṃ mahyaṃ randhyan
Arkaaya Namaha











12. Om Hrah
mo aham dviṣate radham
Bhaaskaraaya Namah





The Above mantras have three parts,

Part 1. (Quick version) Bijakshara mantras
1. Om Hram
2. Om Hrim
3. Om Hroom
4. Om Hraim
5. Om Hraum
6. Om Hrah
7. Om Hram
8. Om Hrim
9. Om Hroom
10. Om Hraim
11. Om Hraum
12. Om Hrah


Part 2. Mantras from the veda

1. Udhyannadya mitramaha
2. Arohannuttarāṃ divam

3. Hṛdroghaṃ mamsūrya
4. Harimāṇaṃca nāśaya

5. Sukeṣume harimāṇaṃ
6. Ropaṇākāsu dadhmasi

7. Atho hāridraveṣume
8. Harimāṇaṃ ni dadhmasi

9. Udaghādayamādityo
10. Viśvena sahasā saha

11. Dviṣantaṃ mahyaṃ randhyan
12. Mo aham dviṣate radham


Part 3 Laukika Mantra


1. Om Mitraaya Namaha (Salutations to the Friend of All)

2. Om Ravaye Namaha (Salutations to the Shining One)

3. Om Suryaaya Namaha (Salutations to he who induces activity )

4. Om Bhaanve Namaha (Salutations to he who illumines)

5. Om khagaaya Namaha - Salutations to one who moves through the sky

6. Om Pooshney Namaha - Salutations to the giver of strength and nourishment

7. Om Hiranayagarbhaaya Namah - Salutations to the Golden Cosmic Self

8. Om Mareechibhyoh Namaha - Salutations to the Rays of the Sun

9. Om Adityaaya Namaha - Salutations to Sun of Aditi (the Cosmic Mother)

10. Om Savitre Namaha - Salutations to the Stimulating power of the Sun

11. Om Arkaaya Namaha - Salutations to he who is fit to be praised (arka= energy)

12. Om Bhaaskaraaya Namah - Salutations to the one who leads to enlightenment


Update (1st Oct. 2013)


I've just come across this video of Ramaswami's Sun Salutations with mantras (also sun salutations to directions- 'Ding namaskars') posted by Yvette who I think must have been on Ramaswami's TT this year. I'm excited about this as a couple of years ago I spent forever trying to make a version of this, practicing along to the recording of the mantras Ramaswami had made as a tutorial (listen and repeat) and that were originally included with his Complete book of Vinyasa yoga. The tutorial can still be found on Ramaswami's chant page. http://vinyasakrama.com/Chants

Here's the video and thank you to Yvette (http://yvetteyoga.com) for making and posting it (as well as her other Vinyasa krama videos) and to Ramaswami  of course for 'playing along'.


Yvette, this is great, just seen that you've included the chants and translations


Sun Salutation with Mantra (samantraka-suryanamaskara)

Om Hram. Uddannadya mitramahah.
(You, the One rising now and daily, are the great friend, salutations to the great friend.)
Om Hrim. Arohannuttaram divam. Ravaye namah.
(Climbing, the great one, up the sky. Oh the fast mover, salutation to you.
Om Hrum. Hrudrogam mama surya. Suryaya namah.
(My heart ailment, O the divine guide. My salutations to the divine Surya.
Om Hraim. Harimanancha nasaya. Bhanave namah.
(And the green patches (on my skin due to heart ailment) you destroy. Salutations to you, the provider of light into the world.
Om Hraum. Sukeshu mey harimanam. Khagaya namah.
(Salutations to Thee, the mover in space.
Om Hrah. Ropanakasu dadhmasi. pushne namah.
(And give to the herbs used for healing paste. Salutations to thee the great Nourisher.
Om Hram. Atho Haaridraveshu mey. Hiranyagarbhaaya namah.
(To the green trees. My salutations are to the Golden creator (womb))
Om Hrim. Harimanannidaddhmasi. Marchaye namah.
(Deposit the green patches. Salutations to the radiant one.
Om Hrum. Udagadayamadityah. Adityaya namah.
(This Sun rising in the sky. Salutations to Aditya.
(tutorial)

Then
Salutation To Directions
(Ding-Namaskara)

Om! namh prachyai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the east and the guardian angels that permeate it.)
Om! namh dakshinayai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the south and the guardian angels that permeate it.)
Om! namh prateechyai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the west and the guardian angels that permeate it.)
Om! nama udeechyai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the north and the guardian angels that permeate it.)
Om! namh urdwayai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the upward diection and the guardian angels that permeate it.)
Om! Namo adharayai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the downward diection and the guardian angels that permeate it.)
Om! namo avantharayai diseyascha devata yetasyam prativasanti yetabhyasch namah!
(Om. I bow to the intermediate direction and the guardian angels that permeate it.)

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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

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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