Thursday, 29 April 2010

kapotasana, heels from the air. Part II

Relates to yesterdays post.

Another try at dropping back and grabbing the heels from the air using the hands locked behind the head method.

This time I drop back half way as normal, arms outstretched then swing them behind my head and lock them as I drop down the rest of the way. Next time I want to try this without having my hands together as I go back but rather bringing them together as I take them behind my head.

I noticed in the first Kapo this morning that I locked my hands behind my head but didn't bring my head back or push forward through my hips. Decided to try it again. In the video I lock my hands and then try to take my head back further and thus my hands trying to push my hips forward all the time. It's better, I landed half way up my foot the first time, here I grab the heels, just, but slip off the left.

Got to say this approach is a lot easier than landing, walking in, pushing up, walking in some more...

The other thing to note is that I start my Ashtanga intermediate with most of the Vinyasa Krama Bow Sequence which includes Viparita Slabhasana and Sandha Bandhasana so I'm getting a little extra prep before I hit kapo (then continue on through the rest of 2nd as usual).

Grabbing heels from the air. Part I

Saw a video on YouTube a couple of days ago of somebody bracing their hands behind their head as they dropped back into Kapotanasana (can't find the video now). Liz had suggested something similar a while ago but this seemed to go even further, not just having the hands over the head but really locking them there.

Just holding them there wasn't working so well, I would tend to allow them to drift out, locking them in was interesting though and I managed to catch my heels from the air.

Just about anyway, grabbed one (my left in the picture) but my feet and hands were sweaty by then and I slipped off off the right. Also when I drop back to the floor and walk in I tend to push my hips forward, this way my hips tended to come back and I couldn't work out how to get them forward again.

Interesting though and worth exploring a little more.

Found the video, bit different than I remembered it, the Kapo is a 1:24. Nice lift up to jump back too.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Full body Mudra

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm using Vinyasa Krama to adapt and moderate my Ashtanga practice. One of the ways I'm doing that is through the use of Mudras.

I'd always thought mudras were hand gestures but it seems there are also full body mudras, some can be found in the Hatha Yoga Padipka

Another word for mudra is lock or seal and the ones here, as they come up in Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga tend to involve engaging of the bandhas.

Ashtangi's are already familiar with mudras. The bandhas (or locks) are mudras, Mulabandha Mudra, Uddiyanabandha Mudra and Jalahandra bandha Mudra, but we're also familiar with the full body mudra, Yoga Mudra in the Finishing sequence is, as it's name suggests, a mudra and not strictly an asana.

Yoga Mudra

Swami Satyananda Saraswati's in his book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, has this to say in his section on Mudras.

'Mudras manipulate Prana in much the same way that energy in the form of light or sound waves is diverted by a mirror or cliff face. The nadis and chakras constantly radiate prana which normally escapes from the body and dissipates into the external world. By creating barriers within the body through the practice of mudra, the energy is redirected within' p424

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I haven't, as yet, bought into the prana/chakra/subtle body model. However I do like how he goes on to say

'The aim is to create fixed, repetitive postures and gestures which can snap the practitioner out of instinctive habit patterns and establish more refined consciousness'. p424

I use them for two reasons, one, they tended to be my favourite postures in Vinyasa Krama, and two, I just find them useful for moderating my practice, slowing it down, taking control.

In Vinyasa Krama you tend to stay in the mudra for an extended period. You might stay in Maha Mudra, for five or more minutes. I tended to stay for ten to twenty-five breaths each side. Because it's a mudra rather than an asana, you can pretty much practice it anywhere.

Below is a video from last year some time. Of course you might feel that it slows your practice down TOO much. Ramaswami recognizes this and suggests that you might like to spend less time in maha mudra in the main sequence (it comes up in the Asytmmetric sequence in VK) and perhaps longer before or after Pranayama. If you have a separate Pranayama and/or Meditation practice, this is a nice mudra to do in preparation for full or half lotus.

In Ashtanga, I include Maha Mudra before Janu Sirsana A. I engage all the bandhas strongly and stay for ten breaths each side. It refocuses my attention on the breath and bandhas and I finding somehow grounding.

I have that tendency in Ashtanga to get carried away with the practice, with the athleticism, the strength and movement, the flow of it all, the mudras kind of pull me up a little. The best thing about Maha Mudra is that it pretty much is Janu A without the forward bend, it slips neatly into the practice. I also like to include it before Leg behind head postures as it opens the hip nicely.

Another favourite is Mahabandhasana (the great lock). I slip this into Intermediate after Bakasana and before Bharadavajrasana (which is pretty much a twisted version of the mudra). If you don't like Maha Mudra so much you could use this after Tirang Mukkha Eka pada Paschimottanasana. From that posture I tend to cross my extended leg into half lotus to jump back anyway, which pretty much puts me into the mudra. Similarly, following Krounchasana in 2nd series or perhaps after Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana, it'll settle you before the seven deadlies.

Vinyasa Krama recommends taking mini Savasanas to settle the breath and heartrate. Breath should be steady in Ashtanga too. Rather than just taking a Savasana you can bring in Tatkamudra (the pond gesture the belly in full Uddiyana looks like a pond). I like it after Supta Vajrasana or Karandavasana, again it slows me down, grounds me, reminds me what I'm doing there on the mat. I also like it towards the end of the practice before the Shoulder stands

I mentioned Yoga Mudra in the finishing sequence, variations of that mudra include bending to the right and left side. Below is Laghu Yoga Mudra (Simple yoga seal) again the bandhas are engaged.

And just one more because I like it a lot and and always try to include now at the end of my headstand, Viparita Yoga Mudra (inverted yoga seal).

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Vinyasa Krama Seated-angle pose subroutine addition to primary

In the previous post I mentioned how I'm using Vinyasa Krama to adapt my Primary and Intermediate series. The Sequences in Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga are made up of subroutines built around a key pose, often it's variations. The video below is of the Seated-angle pose ( Upavishta Konasana ) Subroutine that I've been slipping into my Primary between Kukkatasana and Badha Konasana. It would probably go well before Kumasana too if you want the extra bit of hip opening before the Leg behind head entry to Supta Kumasana.

Does it disrupt the flow of Primary? It's a little different, five minutes without a jump back but then primary goes a little weird after badha konasana anyway. If I slipped it into Primary earlier in the sequence it might be disruptive but by the time I get to Kukkutasana I'm pretty settled into the rhythm of the practice, it becomes a welcome change of pace, refreshing to work yourself deeper and deeper into a pose.

The other Vinyasa Krama additions I've made have tended to be the odd pose or Mudra here and there. I'm being careful not to overbalance the series. If I wanted to do an inverted Subroutine in headstands, say, then I would probably drop this one and do the inverted instead. So far it's been working out well, practice has been excellent this week.

Taking a rest day today as I think I might be going down with something. Woke up dizzy yesterday, kept veering to the right and banging into things. Standing was quite comical, it was as if I was practicing on a boat in rough seas. Managed to get through the practice but was feeling nauseous through all the forward bends. I checked and I haven't taken a rest day since 31st march, must force myself to take one a week, perhaps just some extended Pranayama and meditation later today and leave it at that.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Epiphany. Deep down, I'm an Ashtangi and just need to live with it.

Trouble with epiphanies is that they rarely come with pen and paper.

My favourite is this one

"Today I saw a red and yellow sunset and thought, how insignificant I am! Of course, I thought that yesterday too, and it rained" ~Woody Allen

So I had an epiphany, of sorts, on the mat yesterday (don't we always), while trying to get to grips with a Vinyasa Krama approach to Sivananda yoga. At the time it seemed much more profound than the post title suggests but I'll go with that.

It started along the lines of "what the hell am I doing" as I tried to squeeze myself into a Sivananda practice and kind of ended up with "Your an Ashtangi for Christ sake, live with it".

Ashtanga was the practice I started with and have practiced six days a week for the last three years (apart from the odd sabbatical), though not so long perhaps, it's enough, it seems, for it to get under your skin. The fact that I took to the practice and have kept it up so long suggests that, overall, it suits me. Mostly I've had a ball, yesterday I described Primary as a joyous practice.

I said yesterday that the practice can bring out aspects of my temperament that I'd rather minimize than encourage in a 'yoga' practice but perhaps, rather than run to other styles I should just face those demons on the mat. What the hell else is the black expanse of a Manduka for than to look into the murky depths of your soul...

Vinyasa Krama seems to bring out the best of me in my practice but it's almost comical how it keeps transforming into an Ashtanga style practice. Stop fighting it, go with the flow and other ahmisic cliches.

So perhaps I can use Vinyasa Krama to bring out the best of me in an Ashtanga practice and overcome the mighty demons. Besides I'm not tied to a Shala and as a home Ashtangi am free to adapt may practice. Vinyasa Krama is all about adapting and tailoring a practice to the practitioner. I'm glad AYRI exists and that Sharath is there preserving a style of practice but there are other ways of practicing Ashtanga. According to Manju, his father used to employ variations as did Krishnamacharya himself. Now I'm more familiar with the sequences and subroutines of Vinyasa krama I want to use them to tailor my own practice.

The trick is not to overdo it and that's where I've gone wrong in the past. Once you've learned the VK sequence your not expected to practice the whole sequence in one go. There are some key asanas that you would aim to practice everyday and you would add some subroutines to those. Many of those key asanas are in Ashtanga Standing and Finishing, Have you noticed that most of the asanas in Finishing are in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka?

So how would it work.

Last nights Primary I added the one legged squat to Utthita hasta Padangusthasana. I stayed in Pashimottanasana for 25 breaths and went in and out of Purvottanasana three times with the breath before holding (the pose that is). Maha Mudra is the same as Janu Sirsasana A but without the bend, I stayed in that 10 breaths each side before bending forward and going through the Janu's as usual. After Supta Konasana I took a short savasana and then slipped into the last part of the Vinyasa Krama seated subroutine, the one with the legs spread wide. I took the practice as slow as I dared and focused strongly on the breath and bandhas, longer slower exhales on the forward bends for example. It was still Ashtanga, still Primary, though some might disagree but it had a vary Vinyasa Krama feel to it.

But what about the jump backs you say. One of the defining differences between the two styles is the lack of jump backs in Vinyasa Krama, just the one Jump through at the beginning of the sequence and a jump back at the end. Well, i'm glad you asked, I was worried about that, but then I came across Ramaswami's argument for not jumping back throughout. He says that the practice is about linking the breath and the movement and that the jump back is too fast to link the breath. that might hold for some jump backs/through but mine is of the slow, floaty Kino variety and the breath is very much engaged. Again, adaption, it's all about adaption.

How about intermediate?

A similar approach to standing as in Primary but I added Natajarasana after the UHP's. Following Krounchasana I went into the Vinyasa krama Bow sequence and did most of that, excellent backbend prep, pretty much an extension of what's already at the beginning of 2nd. I included Viparita Slabhasana and Ganda Bhandasana, they come into the Bow sequence. After Kapo I took ten breaths in Vajrasana. Continued through 2nd as usual until Bharadvajrasana, before going into that I did Mahlabanda which is very similar except you sit on the heel and don't twist. It's a mudra and I'm slipping them into the practice where I appropriate to slow myself down and refocus. I stayed there for 25 breaths. Before Eka pada Sirsasana I did the Archer and Heron poses Arkana danurasana and Kraunchasana. I can do LBH without but these are such great prep poses and allow you to go deeper, they just make sense. I included Skandasana the laying back LBH before folding forward, just a nice stretch. I dropped Nakrasana, too noisy upstairs plus I've heard of too many broken fingers (even from long term ashtangi's ) and to be honest I think it's a stupid asana. I'm strong enough to do it but aren't prepared to risk a finger and skewer my practice for weeks on end. I took ten breaths in each of the Gomukkhasana variations and carried on through the seven deadlies.

In both Primary and Intermediate I emphasised the Finishing sequence (also added the little Sarvangasana leg raises etc prep after UD), starting to think more and more it's the most important part of the whole practice. A ten minute headstand, 108 Kapalibhati and, very unusual for me, a full ten minute Savasana. I forgot to mention, one thing I have kept from the failed Sivananda experiment is ten minutes of Pranayama before I start my practice. That strong focus on the breath and bandhas sets you up nicely from the word go.

Ashtanga purists might be pulling out their hair and Vinyasa Kramites shaking their heads at perhaps mixing too many subroutines but It seems I'm an Ashtangi at heart with strong VK leanings and I just have to live with it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sivananda Yoga, Alice through the looking glass. UPDATED

Since reading Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, almost a year ago, I've been trying to work out how best to develop my practice around the book. I've tried some different approaches,

following the sequences as laid out in the book,
practicing Ashtanga as Vinyasa Krama,
practicing Vinyasa Krama as Ashtanga,
practicing Key VK asanas with alternating VK sequences,
sandwiching a Vinyasa Krama Sequence between Ashtanga Standing and finishing,
following the sequences as laid out in the book with a VK Standing and VK finishing sequence.

The last approach, spending a week on each sequence, has been useful recently for gaining familiarity with the sequences. I still miss a few things here and there but on the whole I'm feeling more comfortable with the practice.

I can't seem to escape Ashtanga though, it creeps into my practice, hijacks it a little. I love Ashtanga I practiced it everyday for a couple of years, I enjoy it, really enjoy it, I find it joyous to practice, and yet.... and yet I'm not sure it's good for me, for me personally, for my temperament. I get drawn into the next pose thing, the physically demanding aspect, the challenge of it, the other aspects of Ashtanga tend to get drowned out. It was great for getting myself in shape, I'm strong fit, flexible but there's always another pose, always another inch up your feet to aim at. Perhaps in a Shala that aspect might have been down played and others drawn out, but I doubt it, it's just me, it's my temperament.

Vinyasa Krama has tended to bring out other sides of my character, the more peaceful meditative... I can't bring myself to say spiritual side, it carries too much baggage, whatever, I just feel more grounded. I can feel like that for a while with Ashtanga but before I know it I'm reflecting on tick tock's on Mulabhandasanas, on Sayanasana.....

I still practice Vinyasa Krama on an Ashtanga framework, Sury's, Standing, the VK Sequence, Finishing. Recently I started to speculate on how else I could approach the practice. I thought about the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP). Perhaps I could focus on those old classic asanas, make them key asanas, make that the framework. One day focus more on HYP seated asana and add VK variations, another day focus on Lotus poses or Supine or Bow.

While thinking about that I came across a couple of books in the local Library. They were new, probably requested by some local yogi, one was the Jivamukta book and the other, the most recent addition of the Sivananda book, The new book of Yoga.

I knew a little about the Sivananda tradition but not much. It always seemed a little old fashioned, kind of like the yoga that you would get on TV in the 70 and early 80's. This new edition of their classic text is excellent though. The layout, the pictures, it's just a great book. It starts out with the basic sequence of, what, 15 asanas but the second half is all the variations around those key asanas. There are some very advanced postures and big full page pictures of them too, it's beautiful. I'm looking at these variations and thinking, "hang on , this is Vinyasa Krama". Ok not exactly, but there's your key posture, here the variations that help you approach it and there variations that allow you to extend , develop and even transform it, Interesting.

All week I've been looking forward to today to try it out.

One thing's topsy, turvy, it's Alice through the looking glass, from an Ashtangi's perspective that is.

You start off with Pranayama, OK, I heard Tim Miller does that, or at least he does it before he a starts his own practice. Next up though is a long headstand (after sun salutation) and then Halasana (plough) and get this, you end the practice with a triangle posture. That's messed up.....or is it?

Something the better side of me has been wanting for a long while is a simpler practice with a greater focus on Pranayama and long headstands. Great, I get to start the practice with them. I know that whatever else happens, whether I'm running late or not, I'm going to get ten to fifteen minutes of Pranayama and a ten minute Headstand, If i have to drop anything it will be the arm balances that come right at the end.

Anyway I practiced it this morning and it was wonderful. Loved the Pranayama and Sirsasana and I imagine if your having trouble getting on the mat then this might be for you (don't think any further ahead than the breathing and standing on your head, let the rest lead on from that). I'm familiar enough now with all the Vinyasa Krama variations that I could just add some to the key stages. Some Supine variations to the Shoulderstand, plough and bridge. The book too has lots of variations that I'm familiar with from VK so I did some of those for Seated, chucked in Vipparita Slamabhasana and Ganda B in the locust section aftera little of it's prep, Kapo etc in Bow and so on.

Practice came out at two hours, but I was exploring. On a regular work day I'd pick a different section to develop on alternating days, a ninty minute practice including the pranayama. The book has sections called cycles, the backbend cycle, lotus cycle, seated cycle, these kind of correspond to the Vinyasa Krama sequences. So Monday I might explore the seated cycle/sequence, Tuseday arm balance cycle/Inverted sequence...

Best of all it's so not Ashtanga, it's completely different, it's... Sivananda Vinyasa Krama, which means I can still do a couple of Ashtanga practices in the evening for the sheer joy of it without it seeping into my morning Vinyasa Krama practice.

Oh, another great thing about the book is a nice section on Pranayama and even one on Kriyas, there's also a little anatomy section in the back, check it out on Amazon LOOK INSIDE feature. In the US it's called The Sivananda companion to Yoga but I'm pretty sure it's the same book.

So I'll explore this for the next week or two and see how it works out. I need to read the book too, rather than just looking at all the pretty pictures and charts. At the moment all I'm doing is nicking the framework for my Vinyasa Krama practice, perhaps it's not as compatible with Vinyasa Krama as it at first appears.

Anybody know any good Sivananda blogs, always good to hear from somebody who's actually practicing something day in day out.

Still love the look of the book but think this was a bit of a wrong turn for me. Thought I could just take the structure and bring in breath awareness, bandhas and more Vinyasa Krama developing that variation aspect inherent in Sivananda practice. Was just all over the place yesterday and had a frustrating, irritating practice. I seem to need a standing sequence as a warm up and like how the poses develop from one another in Vinyasa Krama (and ashtanga, to a lesser degree). Interesting experiment though

Friday, 16 April 2010

Press to handstand, handstands, float ups

Since doing the Inversion sequence the other week I'm on a balance kick. Not just handstands but the 'On one leg' sequence postures as well. So its' long handstands, headstands, Shoulderstands, Standing marichi's tree pose variations, one leg squats......

My handstand is coming on, getting stronger, more in control which allows me to start playing with the handstand version of scorpion, what's that called Taraksvasana? (picture on the left). Still a long way to go with that. I find really arching the legs over, kind of like in Slambhasana (locust) countering it with bringing the chest through then bringing the legs down seems to be helping me get a little deeper but those feet are still miles from my head. Oh and when I start contemplating tick tocks, I notice how far away they are from the ground, flipping over really freaks me out. I mean I know my body will go that way, I do urdhava Danurvasana every day but knowing and going ahead and doing are two different things.

The press up is coming along, I thought I'd eliminated the little 'hopette' at the beginning but it seems to come back. But the Pike up, I dont know, will I ever get that. The float back up to standing is nice and soft now and in theory I should be able to take that back up before lowering all the way , perhaps that's the way to go.

Here's how it should be done this is Laruga's blog Peaceloveyoga, some good tips in her comments to that post and the best quote of the week

'Giving each movement a beginning, middle and end, even the simplest of movements...'

Just been over there and noticed she's just posted some excellent shots of the Icelandic volcano cloud that's messing with out airspace

Zafu! Where have you been all my meditating life?

Okasan sent me a Zafu over from Japan last week, sweet of her, "Thank you so much".

Have to say, it's making such a difference to my practice. Been asking myself for years, if I really need a fancy meditation cushion. If your asking yourself the same question then YES, you do!

I've sat on all kinds of things, folded blankets, corners of futons, sofa cushions, buckwheat cushions, pillows........ but nothing like this. I do yoga, it shouldn't matter, right? I should be able to pop my lotus and sit on a rock somewhere, but this is just perfect, straightens the spine nicely, never felt so comfortable, so settled. Best of all though is pranayama. The shape of the cushion gently presses in just the right place for mula bandha, much gentler than the heel of your foot, it's enough. I seem to have more control over my bandhas which seems to make the breath a little more relaxed, I did twenty minutes tonight and wanted to do another twenty, felt the same about my meditation. Only thing is, throughout my meditation I couldn't stop it popping into my head again and again, "This is a damned fine Zafu'.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence Speeded up x 4

This is the last of the big six sequences from Srivatsa Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, that I've videoed and speeded up. I practice them on alternate days, Lotus on Friday. The full sequence takes me around around forty-five minutes but that includes, what Ramaswami refers to as the 'Lotus special balancing postures' at the end. You could leave these out if they're too challenging and go into a regular headstand, Savasana and Pranayama. They include a Lotus Mayurasana, Urdhwa Kukkutasana's, Lotus headstands, Padma Pincha Mayurasana and I throw in a Karandavasana for luck. Apart from those tricky ones at the end if you can manage lotus then it's not too difficult a sequence, to get through.... to do well is another matter, I need a lot more practice with some of these, but hey, show me an asana that couldn't do with another ten years work.

Ramaswami preface's the Sequence with this.
'The lotus posture (padmasana) is considered by conventional yogis to be the most important seated posture. Mention of this posture can be found not merely in old yoga texts but also in epics and other very ancient Indian religious and cultural books'. p189

In other words, it's old school.

The first time I did this sequence I had to take a lot of breaks to stretch out my legs, now I can do it in one go. The half lotus variations make excellent prep for the main pose and the variations after that keep it interesting. There are forward bends, twists, backbends, shoulder stands and headstands. Forty minutes in lotus, that's a respectable seated meditation practice.

As usual, I need to mention that this is my version of the sequence. I'm still getting used to it and miss things out and get the order wrong. While editing I realized I'd missed out Padma Mayurasana, one of the coolest asana in this sequence and had to go upstairs, record it and edit it in. Trouble was I'd just eaten breakfast, you really don't want to practice this posture on a full stomach. So, no substitute for Ramaswami's book.

As with all these sequences I tend to practice them after some Sury's and standing poses. I used to use a pretty standard Ashtanga Standing sequence but recently I've been using the 'On one leg' sequence from Ramaswami's book. Depending on whether there are any Shoulder stands and headstands I'll do a standard Ashtanga finishing. The Lotus sequence includes both but I tend to like to finish off with a five minute savasana and a ten minute headstand to stretch out my legs before going back into lotus for Pranayama.

One thing I do miss out here is going up to headstand from lotus. Can't for the life of me seem to manage that, very tricky. Padma Pinch Mayurasana is in the sequence, Karandavasana isn't. I added it anyway but probably shouldn't have bothered, I'm all squished up and the exit is horrible, need to start practicing it again.

The straight leg jump through pretty much came off alright again. It's really hit and miss. In my evening Primary I need a couple with my hands on books and then I'm pretty much OK with them throughout the practice. Every now and then though I completely lose it and just can't jump through, very strange, have to do another couple with the books to reset.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Vinyasa Krama Bow sequence Speeded up x 4 plus Kapo/dropbacks

Bow sequence is one of the shorter Sequences in Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga, Here it is speeded up. No doubt I've moved away from the book a couple of times, I'll go through it later and list any variations.
Sometimes I'll add the Vajrasana sequence at the back of the book to Bow as it includes Ustrasana, Lagu Vajrasana and Kapotasana but here I've just gone straight in to them. I've finished it off with drop backs.
In my practice yesterday evening I then moved on to the Seated sequence with it's forward bends. It's a short sequence too and they seem to complement each other.

As with any of my video's, if you think you might find something useful, feel free to download it from Youtube using Realplayer etc. These speeded up sequences can usually be slowed back down again if your trying to learn a sequences. I'm still working them out myself though and sometimes part company with Ramaswami's book so it's worth getting.


So after all those backbends, and that Ganda B felt pretty deep, I knew I was going to have a restless night, must have woken up every hour. Sometime in the night I ended up having a nightmare.
Now when I was about six, I was in Boots the chemist with my Mother, and a wasp flew into my ear. I panicked tried to get it out and it stung me a bunch of times. I've had a bit of a phobia about wasps ever since. Anyway I tend to sleep with earplugs, it's noisy here, you can hear the traffic on the video. Last night I dreamt a wasp flew into my ear. It was very realistic, perhaps because I could feel the earplugs. I was just about to panic, and try and get it out but remembered that it would just sting the hell out of me. Without thinking I started to do Pranayama, getting really into it, retention and everything. All the time the Wasp was moving about in my ear. One moment it seemed it was about to come about but then it would go in deeper again, I could even feel the tiny hairs on it's back and it's hot legs. Eventually the thing crawled out and flew away and I woke. up.

Of course if this happened while I was awake I'm sure I would run shouting and screaming up and down the street sticking sticks in my ear to try and get the bugger out. No doubt some may think this is some deep memory stuck down in my spine somewhere released by the deep Ganda B. but I tend to remember that time as kid every time I see a wasp so I'm not sure I buy it.

On another note. I did primary this morning. Straight leg jump through all the way through. Still clumsy with heavy landing but getting through every time.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Adapted Bow and Seated sequence.

I'm so taken with the seated sequence at the moment that I wanted to try adding it to all the other sequences this week. This morning I thought it would work as a nice counterpose sequence to Bow/Backbends.
This is how it turned out, bit more than I intended but I was having such a good time and things seemed to flow into each other and make sense that I got a bit carried away. There tend to be jump backs and though only between the subroutines. It took a little over 90 minutes. Some sections like seated and Asymmetric were slow with extra, long steady breathes, other sections were more ashtanga like, quite enjoyed altering the pace.

Loved this so much that I wanted to print it out and do it again.....and again. Seeing as I'm typing it out anyway I might as well put it here and post it.

I'm thinking the bow/seated combination might make a nice framework for a daily practice. One day add more Lotus poses another day less Lotus and more Asymmetric or a stronger Inverted posture focus. That way I wont end up trying to add everything all in one go. I want to be ending up with a shorter practice, an hour maximum, and thus more time for Pranayama and meditation rather than allowing it to creep up to two hours of asana.

Surya Namaskara A
Surya Namaskara B

Utthita Trikonasana
Parivritta Trikonasana
Utthita Parshvakonasana
Parivritta Parshvakonasana
Prasarita Padottanasana A
Prasarita Padottanasana B
Prasarita Padottanasana C
Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana (inc. lower to squat then head to knee)
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana
Virabhadrasana (A & B)


Viparita Shalabhasana
Ganda Bherundasana

Parshva Dhanurasana

Laghu Vajrasana
Kapotasana A
Kapotasana B
Eka Pada Raja kapotasana
Urdhva Danurasana/Dropbacks

Paschimattanasana (3 types)

Tiriangmukhaikapada Paschimattanasana
Janu Shirshasana A
Janu Shirshasana C
Ardha Matsyendrasana

Akarna Dhanurasana A
Akarna Dhanurasana B
Eka Pada Shirshasana
Kashyapasana (or Kashyabasana)

Upavishta Konasana Subroutine (from Vinyasa Krama)
Dwi Pada Shirshasana
Supta kurmasana
Garbha Pindasana
Baddha Konasana A B C
Mula Bandhasana

Urdhva Kukkutasana B and C
Padma Sirsasana
Urdhva Kukkutasana
Padma mayurasana

Urdhva Padmasana
Uttana Padasana

Baddha Padmasana
Uth Pluthi

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Vinyasa Krama Seated Sequence Speeded up x4

Another run through of a sequence from Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa krama. Just a guide as it can be difficult to get an overview of the VK sequences from the book. There are a couple of places I get it wrong, (can you get something wrong in Vinyasa krama?) or at least drift away from the sequence as it's laid out, mainly by forgetting what comes next.

I tend to start my practice with some Tadasana (mountain) poses followed by a few Sury's A and B and usually at least one chanted (with the itouch ). A standing sequence, lately that's pretty much been the 'On one leg' sequence' before the lead in to seated. The video takes it up at the lead in Straight leg jump through. The video ends with a jump back legs uncrossed. From there I go into a pretty much standard Ashtanga finishing sequence of Shoulder stand variations, headstand and Padmasana before settling into some Pranayama.

And here's a list of how the video differs from the Sequence laid out in the book.

0.06 Where I lay down at the beginning, after the lead in, my arms should be stretched out over my head. To get the shot I had to move back too close to the wall. Had to just lower after Supta kurmasana rather than jump back for the same reason.

0.50 I do a full wrist bind here, in the book the fingers are linked behind the feet. In the Paschi's the head position changes throughout the variations from forehead to knee to face, chin and then eyes to toes.

2.03 I do a leg behind head, dwi pada sirsasana entry to Supta Kurmasana (turtle in shell) that I picked up in Ashtanga 2nd. In VK the hands appear to be clasped lower, around the backside rather than the back.

4.38 There should be a couple of reverse twists through the arms after the forward twists.

4.43 I should go into a side splits subroutine here, Samakonasana. Not gonna to happen.

5.12 I slip in a lame mulabhandasa here just because it seems an appropriate place and it's something I want to work on.

5.40 There are no lotus variations in the book just padmasana for twelve breaths but it's a short sequence so I tend to do a couple.

6.30 Yoganarasimbasana pose (lion-man) I should have my arm outstretched in frount of me, palms down, arms resting on my knees just behind the elbows.

Slowed down X4 if you speed it back up it's about 27 minutes.

I tend to slip in a couple of extra jump backs in between the different sub routines.

I'm taking three breaths in each pose because I'm making the video. Usually I take between five and ten. The forward bends tend to have a shorter inhale but a long slow exhale that I tend to retain while I engage the bandhas.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Straight leg jump back and through plus handstands

So, as I mentioned before, Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga favors the straight leg jump back and through. I thought I'd try to learn them before the summer course (not that I think it would bother anybody that much if I did the crossed leg version).

The straight leg jump through wasn't too bad. I'd learned it a year or so ago but had tended to stick with my floaty half Kino crossed leg version. I tried it again the other day, but crashed and burned. Not to worry, I fished out the blocks, the socks and the blindfold and retired to the bathroom for half an hour (slippery floor for the socks). It's taken me a couple of goes to get it back but it's pretty much there (It's on the video below after the lame jump back). Not graceful or elegant perhaps and not a lot of control but hopefully that will come. The main thing is that I've got over the fear of smashing my feet into the mat, can start slowing it down a little now. I'm doing a couple of Ashtanga practices in the evening so will confine myself to the straight leg version throughout the practice.

Jumping back without crossing the legs is hard though..... or is it? There's me tearing my hair out about it and beloved wife M. gets up, gets down on the floor and asks 'Oh, do you mean like this?' lifts up and takes her legs back and through. Now she doesn't practice yoga, or anything else for that matter. She has arms like twiglets and no core strength to speak of (she did the same once before with Marichiyasa D "Oh, are you trying to do THIS'). Once I started speaking to he again it became apparent that she's not really using any arm strength but just lifting her hips up and pivoting. It seems to be all in the hand placement and swinging the head down and hips up.

So I tried it and tried it and...... then I would make her show me some more and kept her at it until her arms were like jelly and then I'd try it again. Perhaps I'm a little closer but only marginally. Maybe I'm too used to the crossed leg version or I rely on upper body strength too much.

Came across this section in Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Krama, this morning, that I'd forgotten about. It's at the beginning of the Asymmetric sequence. It's basically prep for the jump back.

So you sit on your haunches in Utkatasana. You exhale stop the breath and engage the bandhas, press down through your palms and lift the heels off the floor keeping your knees in the same bent position. You stay in this Utpluthi position for a couple of breaths. Next you do the same thing but this time lifting your feet off the ground, then you bend your knees and bring the feet up and backward while still holding the breath out and jump back into Chaturanga.

I tried and it was much better. I was still having trouble getting to this position from seated. Eventually I realized where I was going wrong. I was still trying to bring my feet in before lifting. It seems to be better to bring the knees to the chest but NOT the feet to the buttocks. Then you lift up and bring your head over your knees, this brings the hips up and the feet pretty much through. It worked well on a couple of thin books and pretty much without, although I took the yogatowel with me.

Ramaswami explains the uncrossed version by arguing that, 'The purpose of jumping back is to move the legs backward together so that the alignment of the legs and hips is undisturbed (as would happen if the legs were crossed or moved back one at a time).' Fair enough.

It'll come...... wont it?

Being the holidays I've been playing around a little, this time with handstands. I'm still working on the press to handstand but am more interested now in longer stays while up there. I want to get controlled enough for tick tocks and that scorpion pose, what's it called Viparita Vrikshasana (picture on the right, except my feet should be on my head, felt so close while I was doing it, the camera lies)?
Saw a video on Youtube of David Kyle lowering down really slowly and then taking it back up again. In the video I'm trying to slow the descent. OK just watched it back, it felt slower than it looks.

What else, taught my first Vinyasa Krama lesson yesterday, to M of course. I chose the Seated sequence as there's nothing too scary there. She did brilliantly but it was a shock realizing all the things that I now take for granted. I was having to adapt poses a lot and realized how perfect Vinyasa krama is for beginners, So many variations that you can pull out of the hat. For instance you might not be able to go deeper and deeper into Paschimottanasana but you can use those hand variations to work your edge and not get bored or too frustrated that your not getting in as deep as someone else. Perhaps I'd like to teach this after all someday, spent a lot of years in other forms of teaching, forgot how much fun it is. Taught her some Pranayama too, nice practicing that together.

There was one point though where she was struggling with Navasana, I swear she was thinking, 'yeah but I can jump back without crossing my legs. And you...?'

Anyway holiday over, the long Asymmetric sequence today.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu ?

In 'Yoga Body', Mark Singleton mention's a text by Krishnamacharya that I hadn't heard of before last week, called Yogasanagalu. I'm wondering if anyone knows any more about it. The course I'm taking in the summer with Ramaswami has a 20 hour element on Krishnamacharya's writing, but I'm not sure if this text is included.

Here is what Singleton has to say about the text.

'This seminal, though unknown work (Krishanmacharya's Yoga Makaranda) has been, along with Sri Narashimhan's translation of Krishnamacharya's asana manual Yogasanagalu of c.1941, a key source for my understanding of Krishnamacharya's teaching in Mysore in the thirties and forties'. p9

'Although Krishnamacharya did eventualy sytermatize his Mysore teaching--as evidenced by his book Yogasanagalu (c.1941), which contains tables of asana and vinyasa comparable to Pattabhi Jois's system...' p188

'... the ascription of the Ashtanga Vinyasa series to Pattabhi Jois is probably mistaken, not least because Krishanmacharya published a list of the series in yogasanagalu.' p189

Alexander Medin of PURE YOGA also refers to it here.

These quotes come from that article.

Primarily I will be referring to the 'Yoga Makarandam' and 'Yogasanagalu' two early works by Krishnamacharya never translated into English,


Krishnamacharya himself published only two works on Yoga: The Yoga Makarndam (1935) and Yogàsanagalu (1957) both written in Kannada language (the language of the Karnataka state in South India).


In his later publication of Yogàsanagalu (1957) he does indeed list a number of more than two hundred àsanas, but his particular emphasize on correct method is noteworthy. In paragraph number 12, titled: "Beware" he informs us:

Those who practice Yoga, in particular àsana and pràçàyàma without regard to the principles mentioned here but who, upon seeing the photos presented here practice independently in their own house, according to their own desire and fancy, do not gain anything but defile the Yoga of the entire Yogic Sciences. The practice of Yoga, like any other exercise, develops physical strength, but Yoga is not like the kalpavriksa (whishing tree) which, according to age and by means of arduous practice, offers longevity of life, prevents disease, renders the body, flesh and mind with vitality and grants the practitioner with the power to perceive the most minute (suksma) elements/micro-organisms, and the wisdom to differentiate between atman and non-atman [that which is spirit and that which is not spirit]. (Yogasanagalu: 1957)


Friday, 2 April 2010

Vinyasa Krama Jump through and jump back

Feel like I'm stepping back in time, back to when this blog was called Ashtanga Jump Back, anyone still reading from then I wonder, and if so did you get your Jump back? What do you think it was that made the biggest difference and allowed you to nail it? Just curious.

I've always tended to do a crossed leg jump back. In fact, up until recently I wasn't aware there was an uncrossed version. I don't mean lifting up with the legs straight and then bringing them in, crossing them and taking them back through, but this.

'From dandasana, exhale, hold your breath, and lift your body to dandasana-utpluthi. bend your knees, keeping your feet together. Do not cross your legs. Take a short inhalation, balance yourself nicely by leaning forward a little and keeping your head down, and hurtle backward smoothly, close to the ground. Land on your big toes.' S. Ramaswami, The Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga p69-70

'Keep your feet together'
'Do not cross them'

I'd never noticed this before, saw the pictures and did my Jump back. But then I noticed something strange about the picture, the ankles aren't crossed!!! I tried it this morning, no way not even close, impossible, can't be done. Checked Youtube, nothing there. Does anyone do it this way or has seen it done in the Shala or on video? If so please let me know and send me links.

Thanks to niall for this link to a video of Olaf doing this style of jump back. I love it and will be working on this over the next couple of weeks. I have, what, two and a half months left to nail it.

Luckily the Jump back/through doesn't play a huge role in VK (and it's hardly a dogmatic system, adaption is it's middle word). You tend to have a jump through to Dandasana at the start of most (but not all sequences), Seated Sequence, Asymmetric, Lotus etc. Then you tend to have a return series which is basically the jump back to downward facing dog (depending on the series).

Still it would be nice if I could work it out.

And how about the Jump through? Well it's the straight leg version. I've always done the crossed leg Kino style jump through. I learned the Straight leg version a while back (blindfolded) but never really practiced it that much so have forgotten it again. Will have to go back to Blocks and socks on the bathroom floor.

Flicking through the book I came across a Jump through sequence I hadn't really noticed before. This is in Chapter 11 Visesha Vinyasa Kramas. This chapter contains some miscellaneous subroutines. The Chanted Sun salutation is in it, as is the Anjaneyasana/Hanumanasana subroutine along with some others. Buried in there is this little Jump through subroutine that includes all kinds of Jumps. Jump through (and then back) to Dandasana, to lolasana, to Vajrasana. Jumping through one leg bent, jumping though in half-lotus, Durvasana Bhuju, Baksana, handstand, Mayurasana, Astavakasana, Ekapada sirsasana, just about every kind of jump through variation. Curious routine and I can't wait to try it, that's my Easter egg.

Interestingly in Mark Singleton's Yoga Body, a fascinating but quite devastating book by the way, there is a group of pictures from Kuvalayananda's Yougik Sangh Vyayam 1936, that appears to show the same feet together, uncrossed jump back. What's that all about.


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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