Friday, 30 July 2010

The grip; Natajarasana and Eka pada raja kapotasana

These poses are very much work in progress but I seem to have finally worked out what's going on with the grip.
One of the things I noticed during the recent VK TT course was how useful certain aspects of my ashtanga background have been, in particular the way we tend to work on the same poses day after day. In many yoga classes it seems, the poses and sequences can change from one class to the next, thus a posture you find difficult might not come around again for a couple of weeks. In Ashtanga, if your last posture is laghu vajrasana, you'll work on on it five days a week until you nail it and once you do you'll continue to polish it day after day. It's a possible drawback to Vinyasa Krama in that your encouraged to try to cover as many postures as possible over a week or a fortnight, although you do have a couple of key asanas that your advised to practice everyday.

My way around this is to practice the key asana as advised and then choose a couple of challenging asana to work on, if not daily then every other day, the rest of the practice will then rotate through the different sub routines and sequences over the week. The 'challenging' postures (to me anyway) that I try to work on everyday are Natajarasana, Hanumanasana and Eka pada Raja kapotasana.

One of the difficulties with Natjarasana and Eka pada raja kapotasana is the grip on the foot. here they are at full speed and then in slow motion.

and some screen shots, notice how the elbow rotates out from underneath.

The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga : Subroutines page numbers

List of individual Asana sequences in Ramaswami's. 'The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga'
I'll also be putting this list at the bottom of the blog for ease of reference, especially for when I post practice sequences.

Highlighted link to sister blog with videos of seequences and subroutines.

Chapter I. On your Feet sequence p. 1
(special sequences from 11th chapter)
12. khagasana p240
14. dingnamaskara p237

Ch II. Asymmetric Seated Vinyasa Sequence p35

ChIII. Seated Posterior Stretch Sequence p71

Ch IV. On One leg Yogasanas p87
44. trivikramasana p97

Ch V. The Supine Sequence p101
48. advanced lead sequence p104
50.jataraparivritti(simple) p105
53.madhyasetu p112
54.urdhvadhanurasana p113
55. advanced dvipadapitam p114
60. jataraparivritti advanced p121
61. jataraparivrittiadvanced II p122
63. sarvangasana-advanced lead sequence p123
71.karnapidasana p135

Ch VI. The Bow Pose Sequence p137
83. dhanurasana p145

Ch.VII. The Triangle Pose Sequence p147
90. samakonasana p159

Ch VIII. The Inverted posture Sequence p161
94.urdhvadandasana p168
96. mandala p169
99. viparita vrikshasana (hand stands) p174

Ch. IX. Meditative Pose Sequence p176
100. vajrasana lead sequences p176
101. vajrasana p178
102. balasana p
103. ushtra nishada p181
104. advanced ushtrasana p181
105. kapotasana p182
106.virasana p184
107. simhasana p186

Ch X. The Lotus Pose Sequence p189
118. p

Ch. XI. Visesha Vinyasa Kramas p213
119. vasishtasana p219
120. anjaneyasana p223
121. halasana-pascimatana-uttanamayura sequence p228
122. utplutis p230

Ch. XII. The Winding Down Procedure p246
123. yogic postures for `breathing exercises p247
124. Kapalabhati p248
125. Pranayama p249
126. The Locks ( Bandhas) p250
127. Pratyahara - Sealing the senses p253

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Free time on the Vinyasa Krama 200 hour TT course

What to do with your free time when your on a TT course? Read the Gita again? Chant through the sutras together, go through our course notes perhaps or begin work on our essay....nope.

I remember seeing David Williams do the hands free lotus on his website. Showy, yes but very cool. One of the guys on the course could do it. This is Chris he also does on of the most beautiful uncrossed jump backs and jump throughs I've seen. check it out here.

He taught it to Wyatt who came in excited one afternoon after god knows how long practicing it on the beach.

I spent the rest of the course trying to do it. I could flip the first leg in to half lotus and secure it and then once that was in, after settling, I could flip the second one into full lotus but not both together at the same time.

I've been sitting on the above videos, wanting to add my own to the end, kind of Chris taught Wyatt taught me kind of a post but it could take a while.....

Closure, at last closure. Decided to give it another try and managed to land it, a little lame perhaps not exactly the tightest lotus but it counts, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Work in progress ; Leg raises

Bad post title, everything is work in progress, no?

Something I've been paying attention to lately is leg raises, very much work in progress.

It's something I have difficulty with, just can't seem to get my leg straight. It's been getting a little better though, every time I'm in Shoulderstand I tend to lower my right foot/toe, say, to the floor near my head and then allow the left foot to drop back to the floor behind me which takes the right foot straight up, then I bring the left foot back up and repeat on the other side. think this is called dakshina pada uttanamayurasana rightside peacock stretch pose

There are also leg raises in some of the Shoulder stand prep, the dwipadapitam vinyasa, (table posture).

If you can do it in Shoulderstand then why not headstand. This isn't in Ramaswami's book The complete book of Vinyasa krama but as the Italians say, it marries. I was pleased with this, I've never dropped back in headstand before, although we came close to trying it on the course. My first time trying it is caught on the video below. It's always scared me a little as I use the wall so have never fallen out of headstand. You have no idea how far away the floor is but I've got into this from the ground up so figured my body knows what it's doing. What do we think dakshina pada viparita dandasana?

And if Table pose, shoulderstand and headstand then why not Urdhwa dhanurasana (wheel pose) I drop back ten times a day, might as well practice them here too. Again not in the book but I saw a video of Tony Sanchez doing it and it was such a classic pose that I've been wanting to try it. He has his leg completely straight, see it here about seven minutes in. Notice he drops back by raising his heels. I don't tend to do this ( I splay my feet instead) and a lot of teachers it seems will get on your case about it and give you some anatomical reason why it's a bad idea but, Mr Sanchez has been doing this for a while and it looks elegant, kind of En pointe.

Because I was recording I've rushed things a little below, generally in Vinyasa Krama you would raise the leg on the inhale, lower on the exhale and repeat three to six times, or perhaps on the third go you might hold the leg up there for three breaths gently nudging the tailbone up higher at the end of each exhalation and again lower on the exhale.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Flotation tank yoga

Just go back from floatworks where I spent an hour in a floatation tank. Why don't they call them isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks anymore I wonder.
If you haven't heard about them before, basically they are pods, half filled with water with a couple of shovel fulls of Epsom salts, basically the Dead sea in a giant bucket. You strip, off, shove in some earplugs (provided) get in, close the lid and float for an hour. At floatworks they give you ear plus, a fluffy white towel (costs an extra pound) there's a shower in the room with the pod for before and after (nice blueberry shampoo in the shower by the way).

I'm sure you can guess the claims that are made for this, theta waves this, Dali lama grade meditation state after a three ticket packet that and so on and so forth. To be honest it doesn't need the hard sell, it's the dead sea in a bucket, in the dark and without a beach full of screaming kids, what more could you want? well, Yoga.

So I got in, naked , there I said it, closed the lid, switched off the light inside and waited for them to turn the room light off, click, pitch black. They play some tape with the sound of waves for ten minutes (and again at the end to let you know your time is about up) and then that fades and there's nothing but the sound of your breathing. This was quite loud as I thought I'd try some pranayama. I engaged bandhas too but that was enough to make me drift into the side and bang my head. I softened the breathing but focused on the breath and I think I drifted off for a few minutes.

I didn't see the point of spending my hour sleeping and to be honest I can meditate better on my cushion at home so ended up doing some yoga. And here I think I'm on to something, flotation tank yoga. I should say I got lucky and was given tank number 8 which is twice the size of the usual one(think that's it in the picture above, guess it was the only one free when they took the photos). I tried some simple postures, tree pose at first but then moved on to padmasana, a kind of floating lotus. I did try sitting up to see if it would keep me afloat but I sank. The good think about lotus in the big tank was that with my hands in angeli on my chest, elbows gently supported by the water, I could float round and round and if you bent a little at the waist and gave yourself a little push you could spin quite nicely.

After a little while I got adventurous and tried Supta vajrasana, which was the highlight of the float, there I am in the picture above, now imagine it without the bolster or indeed the floor, really really nice. I tried a few others, started on leg behind head, getting as far as my shoulder but I would have had to take my foot over my face to get behind my head and didn't want to risk getting the salt water in my eye, shame, can you imagine floating in Kasyapasana?

When the music started to tell me my time was up I unfurled my legs, stretched them for a bit then rolled over. I tried a quick Bhekasana (frog pose) which amused me no end, as well as Dhanurasana and then that was that.

So flotation tanks, nice for power naps on your lunch break I imagine and probably a fine place to meditate, but for some gentle sans mat sans floor yoga it's certainly worth a try.

I have another ticket, it'll probably be the smaller tank but I'm taking suggestions for flotation tank yoga postures, any suggestions?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Siva gave me Karandavasana back for my birthday.

So my birthday today (gained a year, had thought I would be 48 but only 47) and I thought I'd do 2nd series as I hadn't done it for a month.
Surprised how well it went, breath much more controlled, felt stronger and fitter throughout. Perhaps we should rename the course I just took Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama boot camp, I mean I lost 3 kilo (6.6lb).
Kapo was the only thing that was a little lame, lost my heel grab for now but still dropping back to my toes so all is not lost. Coming back up from Kapo was a breeze, legs are very strong from all those squats in the triangle and one leg VK series, as I said Ramaswami's boot camp.
Nice to get my Karandavasana back, I'd tried it a couple of times in the first week, but lowering lacked control and a severe face plant to get back up here I managed to slow it and get up with the merest brush of my chin on the mat.
Think I might keep one 2nd series a week along with my Friday primary to keep my hand in, Vk the rest of the week.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Q&A Vinyasa Krama 200 hr TT course

I've been trying to post something about the course but keep deleting it, perhaps I'm just out of the habit of blogging. I feel a bit bad about that though as know some readers are interested and perhaps somebody might come here in the future who's thinking about going on the course. So I figured I'd just respond to any questions anyone might have, now or in the future, in the comments section.

I'd planned on practicing Primary on Fridays, Vinyasa Kama the rest of the week. This morning was to be my first for three weeks. Strange thing, in the past my VK practice kept morphing into an ashtanga practice, this time it was the reverse and the primary kept morphing into VK.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

First VK practice after getting home.

This was yesterdays practice. Today's was similar except I practiced most of the Bow sequence after Paschimottanasana followed by some dropbacks in place of the asymmetric and seated angle postures below.

Tadasana : 20 minutes of Key variations inc. hand variations, twists, squats, forward bends etc
Sun salutation x 3
Triangle element : some basic postures
On one leg element : Standing Marichi, Stretched leg-arm sequence, Natajarasana

Asymmetric element : Marichiyasana postures
Seated element :Paschimottanasana, Seated angle postures

Shoulderstand prep postures
Shoulderstand 5 minutes
Counterpose : Urdhva Dhanurasana
Headstand : 10 minutes (half and full lotus variations for second 5 minutes)
Shoulderstand : 5 minutes, Lotus variations, Halasana variations

Maha mudra
Badha Konasana

Padmasana (lotus) inc baddha padmasana (hands clasping toes from behind)
Pranayama (12 rounds nadi shodhana with pranayama mantra)
Mantra Meditation :15 minutes

Came to about two hours give or take.

From Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama 200 Hr TT course

A big thank you to Barry Wadsworth (Vinyasa Krama Yoga teacher) for taking the pictures

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Story Time : From Ramaswami's July 2010 Newsletter,

One of the joys of Ramaswami's 200 Hour Vinyasa Krama TT course (we're about to start the fourth week) has been the stories. Whether in Yoga Sutras, Chanting, Mantra or Asana class a story told in his own inimitable style is never far away. Whether these are to clarify, illustrate or bring to presence a text, argument or point of view, or just to use up the odd ten minutes towards the end of a class, the result is the same, we become like children calling upon him to share the story, shuffling in ever closer. It's not just the stories, Ramaswami has recorded over 40 cassettes and CDs in India of various Sanskrit chants. If he doesn't illustrate a point with a story then it's likely to be a short (or occasionally long) chant whether from the Vedas, Upanishads or perhaps the Puranas followed by an on-the-spot translation which bringing the material alive.

I was delighted to see that he titled this months newsletter Story time (perhaps because we've been teasing him about it all week). Here is one of the stories from the newsletter that should give a taste of the two weeks we've just spent studying the Sutras with him. The newsletter in full can be found here

'Here is another story told about Ganesa. Lord Shiva with Goddess
Parvati was in his heavenly abode called Kailasa (the Himalayas). An
old devotee during a visit to Kailas, offered the Lord a delicious
mango. The Lord then turned to His sons, the elder Gajamukha/Ganesa
(the elephant headed) and the younger firebrand Sanmukha (one with six
heads) and offered the mango to the one who would travel around the
Universe quicker. Soon enough the younger Sanmukha mounted his peacock
vahana (vehicle). (In Indian mythology many gods have their vehicles,
Lord Vishnu used a particular variety of the eagle family called
Garuda; Saraswati, the goddess of learning glides around in her swan
vehicle.) Each Deva used a different vehicle as we use a Bentley or
Chevy Impala. Shanmukha had a head start, he was off to a good start
on his “around the world in.a jiffy” adventure. He was sure that he
would win the race. It was just impossible for obese Ganesa to crawl
along on his mushika vahana or mouse vehicle.
Ganesa had his own strategy. He held his hands in Anjali (salute)
Mudra and went round his parents
Siva and Parvati with great reverence. After completing his
pradakshina (perambulation) he told the divine parents that he had
won the contest and asked for the prized mango to be given to him. He
told his quizzical parents “You two are the Universe, my Lord and I
have completed the task of going around the Universe, have I not?” he
asked. “And see, my brother is nowhere in the frame yet,”he said
trunk in cheek. Sure enough, when Shanmukha completed his round trip
of this vast universe, he was flabbergasted to see his sumptuous
looking brother eating the juicy mango. That he became angry and did
not accept the verdict of his parents is another matter. He had lost
the race. The moral of the story is that bhakti is easier to practice
than jnana, which is especially true of Kali Yuga according to my guru
Sri Krishnamacharya. One's mother and father should be revered as
God, so says the Taittiriya Upanishad. All parents agree.
(Here is a commercial break. I have lifted the story from my book
“Yoga for the Three Stages of Life” and I know not many people have
read the book, so knew nobody would notice it. It contains many more
stories from the puranas and others that are relevant to Yoga.)
Ok, what is the relevance of this story? In Yoga Sutras the first
chapter is intended for the highest evolved yogis-- the Uttama
Adhikaris – the born yogis who could get into a samadhi state at the
drop of a hat. Here there are two types of Yogis, the nirishwara
Samkhya oriented philosophers who do not find the need to accept God
in the creation and running of the Universe, even though it is an
orthodox philosophy subscribing to the authority of the vedas, and the
yogis who accept God. Patanjali in his Yoga philosophy accepts the 25
tatwas (24 tatwa of the prakriti or Universe and one distinct tatwa,
the purusha) but, adds the 26th tatwa Iswara or God to facilitate the
spiritual journey of some aspirants. That is why Yoga Philosophy is
also known as “seswara Samkhya” or Sankhya philosophy which includes
Iswara or God.) While one set of yogis have difficulty in accepting
God in their equation there is considerable number who believe in God.
One interesting facet of Yoga is that it is Universal. It is for
everybody, believers and non-believers alike. So, in the first
chapter, Patanjali addresses the question of Chitta Vritti nirodha and
Kaivalya for both the groups. Those who follow the Samkhya path alone
would practice dispassion towards the 24 tatwas in four groups
(visesha avisesha lingamatra and alinga) because these 24 tatwas are
the non-self and ultimately reach the stage of kaivalya. But Patanjali
recommends another approach -- rather than muddling through the
practice of vairagya on all these 24 tatwas, one may meditate upon the
One Tatwa (eka tatwa), Iswara or God and attain Kaivalya or freedom.
People pray to God for a number things. Here Patanjali suggests
praying for spiritual Freedom or kailvalya. Madhava, who wrote a book
“Sarva Darsana Sangraha” or a “Concise elucidation of all
philosophies”, says (following Sankara ) that the born Yogi who
practices Iswarapranidhana using the Pranava mantra and also
contemplates on the import of the Mantra attains salvation easily,
like Ganesa who worshiped the Lord and Sakti unlike Shanmukha who took
the laborious and circuitous path going around the Universe. The
implication is: those yogis who have faith in God may do well to use
that devotional fervor and make spiritual progress more easily. In
fact my guru Sri Krishnamacharya in spite of his enormous yogic
practice was an ardent Bhakti yogi. Of course one should admit that if
someone has genuine difficulty in having faith in God that person may
follow the step by step yoga approach of the Samkhyas'.

So the course is going well as you might have gathered. The campus we're staying on (Loyola Marymont Uni.) is beautiful, lots of palm trees. I've only been off campus twice, once to Venice beach and the other to Marina del Ray where we spent three hours walking around one marina after the next trying to find the car. Might go to San Marino tomorrow. Great people on the course, remember I've never really practiced in a class setting before (just two visits to a Mysore self practice room), yet I felt instantly comfortable practicing with these people, encouraging, supportive, a big thank you to everyone.

For the first couple of weeks I stuck with my own practice in a stairwell before class but last week the triangle sequence took it's toll. As we all lay on our mats exhausted (asana class is three and a half hours long) in one of the many savasanas, Ramaswami joked 'Vinyasa Krama is easy'. I thought, coming from Ashtanga, I was pretty tough but I'm being quite humbled by this deceptively gritty practice and there's still the one legged sequence to come.

Three weeks into the course and the Asana class has a good shape, we're working the new sequences into a coherent practice. We spent the first two weeks on Pranayama and the one just gone on mantra meditation (more of that this week) so are able to add those to the end of asana class. In fact the afternoon Meditation class has developed into something that would make an excellent evening practice, twenty minutes each of asana, pranayama and mantra meditation. Two more weeks to really ground this practice.

Thanks to Barry, our resident class photographer for the shot above of story time. This was in the dance studio where we have asana class and I'm pretty sure it was the story about Vajrasana .


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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