Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Day 60 : Dwipadapitam ( Desk pose) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Supine sequence

VIDEO LINK

Classic Vinyasa Krama, a key posture extend, developed and explored through a number of vinyasas.

Dwipadapitam is a deceptively simple posture, one that could so easily be neglected or practised half hearted on the way to a more complex and intricate posture.

And yet this is a key backbend preparation posture, for those postures in which we arch backwards or upwards relying on strength and control in the hips and pelvis.

And once we achieve a fair semblance of such backbends, it is perhaps strength in the legs and skill at nutating, tilting the pelvis, that will allow us to go deeper, and achieve steadiness and comfort.

Control of the hips, tilting the pelvis, developing leg strength along with improved control of the bandhas  can all be worked upon here in the dwipadapitam subroutine and it's vinyasas.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

Use all or part of the dwipadapitam subroutine as preparation or warm up for the deeper backbends.

Use all or part of the dwipadapitam subroutine as  counterpose for deep forward bending postures and subroutines.

As warm up or counterpose pactice these vinyasas gently focusing on the breath.

For a more intense practise work on pushing the hips further up on every breath

Keep the legs strong throughout, push the feet into the mat especially the toes and stretch though the whole length of the leg(s).

Explore nutation, tilting the pelvis upwards, to create more space for the spine to arch.

Take the weight on the shoulders rather than the neck, make sure the shoulderblades are dropped down the back and not hunched up and compessing the neck

Push the chest up and almost over the shoulders.

Dont feel you have to practise all the vinyasas of this suboutine in one practise, practise some one day the others another day.

However the postures where the heel(s) are gabbed are the more advanced and challenging vinyasas.

If time is limited you might practise a couple of the simple vinyasas and then switch to the more advanced variations rather than  the simple and advanced versions for every variation.

I have penguin feet : first drop back without lifting heels PLUS Heather Morton's back bending DVD

I've decided I have penguin feet!


*This whole post is basically an excuse to show that clip, my favourite, from Sir David Attenborough new series Frozen Planet



Here's my drop back from yesterday, I was quite proud of it, first time dropping back without lifting the heels with the feet straight.



No they're not turned out, I checked, honest

...it's just that I have Penguin feet.

Here's this morning's drop back



Heels down but they look turned out right?








au contraire.




So is it that I have penguin feet or do people turn their feet IN, have the outside of the foot straight rather than the inside, a whole different ball game no?


Either way it feels like an improvement, can't seem to come up yet with my heels grounded and it's not as gentle a touchdown but I guess that will come as I get used to the new shift in balance.

Another one of those things that I'd come to think impossible, thought about nailing my feet to the floor once, or at least a pair of shoes.

Why the improvement?
I think it's to do with tucking my tailbone in before pushing the hips forward and stretching out of the pelvis, something I picked up from Heather Morton's Back bending DVD this week.


This from heather's Bio

'In 2000, Heather trained under Ashtanga Guru, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore. She had the privilege of learning the primary series of Ashtanga directly from him. During this same year she met Yogacharya V. Venkatesha, the founder of AtmaVikasa Yoga and a champion in backbending. Yogacharya became her primary teacher and from 2000 to the present she has been personally trained under Yogacharya'.

I heard about Venkatesh, the 'Mysore back bending guy', through Boodiba who spent some time with him, she made some excellent videos of his approach (more of these can be found by clicking on the video and going to her Youtube channel).



Heather's video is a kind of backbending routine DVD, she has a sun salutation that has more backbends than the one we're used to in Ashtanga or Vinyasa Krama. Next she moves on to some standing arches and counter poses, some Bow postures, same kind of thing as Ramaswami's Bow sequence and some table and wheel postures, again similar to what I'm posting this week on Ramaswami's Supine subroutines.

So it's familiar stuff but Heather's talking you through these postures, giving you little hints and reminders and really bringing out the best of your back bending, she has some long stays that are really challenging.

If your struggling with back bending at the moment then this might be for you an extra evening practice, go through it a few times and them bring some of here suggestions to the backbends in your regular Ashtanga practice.

She also has an Advanced back bending DVD that I picked up at the same time but haven't had the chance to practice with as yet, here's a preview.



Best of all, both these DVD's can be paid for using Paypal and downloaded, took about ten minutes on my connection.

If you buy the download version you'll get two emails the first will be a welcome and give you login details, password etc. the second mail will be an order confirmation with a link to put your password in and start the download.

Oh for Mac you might need a converter as it downloads into .rar files you can pick up a free converter here http://www.unrarx.com/ I used it and it worked fine.

One last back bending note, my Vrschikasana is improving too...


and an earlier one

Still a way to go to touch my head but it's happened in raja kapotasana and gandha B. so why not here.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hey Grim, do you have any tips for headstand?

The only true headstand, the rest are arm balances
'Hey Grim, do you have any tips for headstand? I'm been trying it out against the wall, but was wary to kick up tried it once, and it made my neck really uncomfortable for a few days. Tried searching your blog for sirsasana, but all the 'hits' are quite advanced.. is it one of those pose that will 'come' when you're ready? just train your core strength, and dolphin pose (that's what a lot of pple said)'.

Cautionary note, I'm not a teacher, not really, despite what Ramaswami's certificate on the wall of the home shala says. I think it was a couple of years of teaching English before I considered myself a genuine English teacher ( and by then I was already teaching teachers to teach English), before I began to understand my students and how I might best be able to communicate what I was trying to impart.

Same goes for asana, I can pass on what Ramaswami taught me in Vinyasa Krama along with the tips/hints/ suggestions that I've found useful in my own practice, but it's always only what's worked for me, for my body shape, size and strength.

So I hesitate to post a how to headstand video, what works for me might not work for you but I was asked for any tips so that's what this video is, some ideas that might help when your beginning headstands which has to be better than trying out some of the Advanced headstand videos I have on this blog.

The main tips are
  • Using a wall, for building confidence
  • Making a firm base with your arms, your going to press down through your arms and take most if not all  of the weight on them rather than on your head
  • Headstand is an arm balance rather than an actual headstand like the one in the picture above.
  • Focus on the hips or the pelvis in space as I once heard it put.
  • Bring the hips over the shoulders and even beyond them  to use as a counterweight for your legs.
  • Kick up to half headstand with the legs bent
  • Drop the shoulder blades down the back, this should create space stop your neck getting pinched
  • Tap off the wall to find the 'sweet spot'.
  • Stretch out through the whole length of your body, engage your legs and bring your attention to the furthers point, your toes
  • Focusing the mind on the toes will control the balance once your fully extended.
  • Come down by going back to half headstand
  • Bring the legs to the chest
  • Make sure the toes are turned up so you land safely.


Feel free to jump in with any tips of your own in comments.

Day 59 : Supine : Apanaasana (pelvic floor poses) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Supine sequence

VIDEO LINK

This subroutine alternates vinyasas of two postures, apanasana, pelvic floor poses and pavanamuktasana, wind relieving posture.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

In all the anapanasana vinyasas the head stays on the mat, the hip lifts to bring the knee or knees to the chest.

In all the pavamuktasana vinyasas the head lifts off the mat to bring with the chin, nose or forehead to the knee or knees.

It's acceptable to raise the head when catching the knee in anapanasana but once caught lower the head, and tighten the grip around the leg or legs and press the thigh(s) against the lower abdomen.

In the pavamuktasana vinyasas be careful not to strain when bringing your forehead to your knee, stretch up through the length of your spine and drop your shoulder blades down your back.

Engaging uddiyana at the end of the exhalation may also help to allow the forehead to reach the knee.

Ramaswami includes anapanasana along with urdwa-parasarita-pada-hastasana ("U" formation) and dwipadapitam (desk pose) as important sarvangasana (shoulder stand ) preparation.

I also find anapanasana and urdwa-parasarita-pada-hastasana ("U" formation) to be excellent counter postures to intense back bending along with yesterday's tatakamudra ( pond gesture).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Day 58 : Supine : Tatakamudra (pond gesture) & Jayaraparivritti (belly twist) Subroutinesubroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK

Tatakamudra (pond gesture), so called because the pronounced abdominal cavity created by engaging the bandhas fully, resembles a pond.

We engage the bandhas and create this pond effect while the arms are by the side, above our head and also, if we wish, while in jataraparivritti, the belly twist.

To create the effect, Ramaswami writes...

'Exhale completely. Anchor your heels , tailbone, arms and back; press down through your palms and draw in the rectum; pull the lower abdomen in and towards your back. holed the locks for five to ten seconds. your chin should be locked as well' p105  Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga : Srivatsa Ramaswami

The abdominal lock in the arms raised above head position is perhaps the most effective and thus has the most pronounced 'pond' effect, the legs to the sides in jataraparivritti, the belly twist, the least pronounced.


TIPS/HINTS/SUGGESTIONS
Ramaswami recommends holding the bandhas for ten  seconds, this is something to build towards, start with three and then five.

Towards the end of the exhalation begin to focus on mula bandha, and begin to prepare for drawing in the rectum at the end of a full exhalation.

I like to imagine that I'm drawing my mula bandha up but also back where it meets the uddiyana, drawing the belly back towards the spine as if a thread is attached to your belly button. Flatten the spine against the mat eliminating the space caused by the curve of the back and continue to draw back and up your belly to create a cavity beneath the ribcage.

To create a deeper cavity and intensify uddiyana bandha even more once you have drawn your belly back and up as far as it will go stretch the ribcage up and outwards.

Remember to engage jalandhara bandha, the throat lock by bringing the chin firmly down to the chest as much as possible without raising the head.

You may choose to put a small pillow under your head to help engage jalandhara without straining the neck.

Eliminating the space between the mat and the spine seems to relax the spine making this an ideal preparation posture for paschimottanasana, especially on a cold morning or when you have had less of a warm up.

Flatening the length of the spine along the mat also works as a way of relaxing the spine after intense backbends with or without engaging the bandhas fully.

Tatakamudra is an excellent posture for beginning an exploration of bandhas

In jayaraparivritti be careful not to lift the opposite hip to the direction your moving. So if you've moved your legs to the right don't allow the left hip to rise, press it firmly down into the mat.

BANDHAS?
As we become more confident with our asana we should begin to work on engaging the bandhas as these can help to steady us in our postures.
Jalandhara bandha
'There are three important band has. the first is jalandhara bandha, or locking the chin against the breastbone. This may be done during kumbhkas and whenever the the posture requires the chin to be locked, which is normally the case during forward bends and when keeping the back erect. In backbends and twisting postures it is not possible to do jalandhara bandha'. p127

Mula and Uddiyana bandha
'The other two bandhas, however, should be practiced in most of the asanas, especially after exhalation. The first is mula bandha, which means "constricting of the anus" It is done after a complete exhalation. After the exhalation is over, the abhyasi (yoga student) should anchor the body in the asana he or she is in and then slowly and deliberately close the anus and draw in the rectum by contracting the perineal and surrounding muscles of the pelvic floor. Then as if in a continuous movement, the abdomen, including the navel, is drawn in, pushing up the diaphragm into the now almost empty chest cavity, which is then called uddiyana bandha ( drawing in of the diaphragm)... This technique is one of the specialities of yogic breathing' p127

What books influenced your yogic and/or spiritual Life ?

As promised, a response to this question, sooner than I expected...


Hi Grim, 
would you mind dedicating a blog post to a topic called "books that deeply influenced my everyday yoga life" or something similar? I remember when you posted pics on your yoga bookshelf, also remember some posts when writing about Heidegger, etc.


I'd like to read about the books you think influenced your spiritual life (so I'm not talking about asa a practice books).


Thanks in advance,
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I think I indicated this is problematic for me, I tend to avoid the S word at all costs, too loaded.

A spiritual life, do I have a spiritual life?

If I go back to Plato's cave analogy, then the spiritual life and philosophical enquiry are one and the same, to understand things as they are rather than as they appear to be.

A spiritual life in this sense is one of enquiry...

'How things are rather than how they appear to be'.

For Heidegger, we're thrown into a world that's already going on and we take on that world such that it's almost impossible to experience existence in any other way, to exist in any other way.

almost impossible...

almost.

The world we take on is one where religions exist, spiritual traditions, where chalk and blackboards exist, where tools are picked up and used and without reflection and yet there is reflection but this is of the world we're thrown in to also, of the house of language we're trapped within, one where reflection goes on.

I'm thrown into a subject/object world. Through Heidegger I can question this construct intellectually but as soon as I take off my philosophers hat, there I am again in that subject/object world, it's one thing to think the world you experience is other than it appears,  another to experience it as such.

Meditation and Yoga, which I tend to read as the same thing are, for me, just tools, techniques, approaches to seeing if I can experience outside of the subject/object dichotomy, to experience the world other than it appears to me, and if there's still a me and an experience once that subject and object are dissolved.

I've no idea what that would be like and don't have that much interest in reading how others say that it is ... for them, all that is of interest is finding an approach where I can experience that for myself or dissolve myself if that's how it works... or not.

You tend to find what your looking for, better not to look for anything inparticular so you don't stack the deck, in fact it seems better not to look that hard either, just sit, do the practice and then reflect but not too much.
So books that have influenced my spiritual life in this sense of enquiry tend to be philosophical. I studied Philosophy both the analytic and continental traditions but tend to keep coming back to Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger but mostly Heidegger.

I've read the Bible, cover to cover in a cattle truck in the Negev desert I seem to remember, the Christian Mystics, Meister Eckhart, Looked into the Koran and read discourses of the Buddha, the Tao, quite a bit of Zen since I first came across it in my late teens.... I tend to read them as literature, as poetry, aesthetically, rather than as inspiration so I'm not sure I would say they've influenced my spiritual life.


Except perhaps for Buddhism, I don't call myself a Buddhist but that's probably where my leanings lie but more as an approach to daily living, to being a little kinder, more compassionate, forgiving... more tolerant and as a guide to practice.

If you consider those qualities to be indicative of a spiritual life then then you can add the Buddha's discourses to the list.

I tend to focus on Mindfulness as a practice but I've been listening to Gil Frondsal's podcasts on ZENCAST for the last could of years, which put the practice into it's Buddhist context, they've probably been quite influential, just started listening to quite a bit of Jack Kornfield too who for some reason I'd avoided for quite some time, lovely man.

And of course I've read a bunch of other writers on mindfulness, vipassana, good books, interesting writers, mostly different meditation techniques, approaches but nothing particularly comes to mind now, as with philosophy I found it better to just stick with Heidegger so I'm starting to think it's better to just stick with the Buddha and his own discourses.

As for books that have influenced my Yogic life (apart from asana)...

I don't know, I just practice. I learned Ashtanga and just practiced it everyday for a couple of years, rather than any book influencing me I think it's the practice itself. Rather than the text of Jois' Yoga Mala, the main influence was the gaze of the young Jois as he stares out at you, same goes for Krishnamacharya, rather than his words, it's his intensity that seems to say go practice.



Ramaswami of course has been the major influence on me outside of practice, finding in his book a translation of Yoga that emphasises the focus of the mind rather than union, which seemed to fit with why I was practicing asana and meditation in the first place. Through him I've read more around Yoga, put it more historical and cultural context mainly out of intellectual curiosity.

I'm particularly interested in Samkhya at the moment but mainly as a confirmation of how I already see my yoga practice,

...as focus of mind so to enquire.

There you go, best I can do..... of course, that's just what I think I think has or hasn't influenced me, who knows what's really going on in there.

Two questions : How to do headstand? What books influenced your spiritual life?

I occasionally get asked questions, whether through blog comments, direct to email or through FB, two arrived in my inbox yesterday...


Hi Grim, 
would you mind dedicating a blog post to a topic called "books that deeply influenced my everyday yoga life" or something similar? I remember when you posted pics on your yoga bookshelf, also remember some posts when writing about Heidegger, etc.


I'd like to read about the books you think influenced your spiritual life (so I'm not talking about asa a practice books).


Thanks in advance,


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Hey Grim, do you have any tips for headstand? I'm been trying it out against the wall, but was wary to kick up tried it once, and it made my neck really uncomfortable for a few days. Tried searching your blog for sirsasana, but all the 'hits' are quite advanced.. is it one of those pose that will 'come' when you're ready? just train your core strength, and dolphin pose (that's what a lot of pple said).


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Hmmmmm, let me think, will try and do a post on Sirsasana on my day off (tues), taught it to M. recently and I'll be coming up to it in The Inversion subroutines soon anyway.

As for books that influenced my 'spiritual' life..... that's problematic for me, will have to have a think and try to come up with a post by the end of the week.

Do I have a spiritual life?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Just chattin' ( Sunday practice, new books....)

Never get to chat anymore, feel like I'm constantly chasing deadlines at the moment.

I wanted to post the practice notes to a new subroutine for my Vinyasa Krama practice book everyday. It's a nice approach, revisit the subroutine in the morning then write up everything that comes to mind when practicing it and writing the post. That was fine for the first week or so, fun but now I'm up to Day 57 and I'm constantly finding errors in the videos I first posted two years ago or with the practice sheets and am having to reshoot videos and make up new practice sheets on the fly.... all to deadline. Going to be a big sigh of relief when it's finished around Christmas/New year, the notes brought together with the practice sheets into a new version of the book.

I'm griping about it but am actually loving it, revisiting some of the subroutines I've neglected in the past, finding new perspectives on them. Virasana for example from a couple of days ago turns out to be perfect prep for the Samakonasana  (loosens up and lengthens the quads ) I've been working on as well as the perfect counter posture (rotates the femur in the opposite direction).

And of course if I didn't stick to a deadline I'd never get the thing written. Just finished the meditative subroutines, Supine is next then the Inverted and finally the Lotus subroutines, one more month.

It struck me a while ago that Ashtanga has a thriving blogging and Youtube community, lots of tips, hints and suggestions going back and forth, a lot of support. Still early days for Vinyasa Krama though, very few blogs and apart from mine only a handful of videos ( although some nice ones from Debbie Mills where posted this week).

Occasionally perhaps a subroutine might be of interest to Ashtangi's I hope so.

PRACTICE
As for Ashtanga, I'm practising mostly Primary in the evening, reasonably straight though at the moment with some extra Samakonasana work. On my days off I'm practicing a blend of 2nd series and Vinyasa Krama Bow and meditative, so Ashtanga....ish. the Straight Primary is a joy.

I'm loving my morning practice, a short tadasana, the subroutine I'm writing up that day for the book then onto twenty minutes of pranayama and thirty or forty minutes sit. I'm back focusing on mindfulness practice in the morning, I find I've missed it.

Books,

I'm behind in my reading, been meaning to do a post on some books I've picked up recently (thus the picture), some of them as a result of the "What's on your Yoga bookshelf 'post from a little while back. Also a post on why I hated the Muktibodhananda version of Hatha Yoga Paprika you see in the picture, ( my spell checker has other ideas about pradipka, amused me so decided to leave it in : ), to be fair I abandoned it after only a handful of pages, read in the bath when I was down with food poison and decidedly irritable, should probably give it another chance.






Desperate to get stuck in to the Samkhya and the Anatomy and physiology book again but have picked up Dona Holleman's Dancing the Flame of life from ibooks, definitely need to review that one soon, wonderful book.






New improved home Shala
M. and I somehow managed to shift the sofa that's been stuck in the Shala upstairs to Nietzsche's (chinchilla) room, much more space in the shall now in time for the mandala subroutines coming up in the Supine and Inverted subroutines. Cant wait to practice in it tomorrow.




Hope everyones practice is going well.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Day 56 : Meditative : Simhasana (lion pose) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK
Simhasana is a Vinyasa of Virasana, as such the same practice notes apply.

Raise up off the thighs on the inhalation bringing the arms above the head, lower and place the hands on the knees fingers spread, breathe in and on the exhalation make the lion face. 

Lions face: on the exhalation, exhaling with a long "haaaa" sound eyes wide, tongue outstretched.

There are several versions of Simhasana, this one in Virasana with is perhaps the classic but also another  in padmasana. in the Lotus sequence as we shall. Below is another variation.

Simhasana in utpluthi padmasana
The Virasana subroutine is excellent for working on the quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thighs. Strong quads are important for giving support in ushtrasana and kapotasana from the previous Meditative sequence subroutines. In backbends the hips tend to want to be carried back as we arch backwards, strong quads help keep control of the hips keeping them forward and raised. 

The virasana subroutine also involves nutation ( titling ) the pelvis as well as rotating the femurs inwards, two more useful tips for developing back bending.

Virasana is one of the few postures where the femurs and thighs are rotated inwards and towards each other rather than away from each other, as such it is an excellent counter posture for intense hip openers like badha konasana and samakonasana to name but two.

You may not feel ready for postures like kapotasana or dropping back into Urdhava dhanurasana but Virasana can provide some of the groundwork and skills that can be employed later.

TIPS/TRICKS/SUGGESTIONS
If your feet don't lie flat in Vajrasana you can roll up a small towel and place it between the front of the foot and the ankle.

If your knees feel stressed or tilt upwards you can place a small cushion beneath your buttocks or a rolled up yoga mat that you can sit on and even lay back upon in in pictures 7 and 8

Props don't tend to be used that much in Vinyasa Krama but because of the stress that can be put on the knees this seems a subroutine where they might be considered.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Day 55 : Meditative : Virasana ( hero pose) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK

The Virasana subroutine is excellent for working on the quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thighs. Strong quads are important for giving support in ushtrasana and kapotasana from the previous Meditative sequence subroutines. In backbends the hips tend to want to be carried back as we arch backwards, strong quads help keep control of the hips keeping them forward and raised. 

The virasana subroutine also involves nutation ( titling ) the pelvis as well as rotating the femurs inwards, two more useful tips for developing back bending.

Virasana is one of the few postures where the femurs and thighs are rotated inwards and towards each other rather than away from each other, as such it is an excellent counter posture for intense hip openers like badha konasana and samakonasana to name but two.

You may not feel ready for postures like kapotasana or dropping back into Urdhava dhanurasana but Virasana can provide some of the groundwork and skills that can be employed later.

TIPS/TRICKS/SUGGESTIONS
If your feet don't lie flat in Vajrasana you can roll up a small towel and place it between the front of the foot and the ankle.

If your knees feel stressed or tilt upwards you can place a small cushion beneath your buttocks or a rolled up yoga mat that you can sit on and even lay back upon in in pictures 7 and 8

Props don't tend to be used that much in Vinyasa Krama but because of the stress that can be put on the knees this seems a subroutine where they might be considered.

The reclining supta virasana (pics 7& 8) puts the most stress on the knees and should be avoided until the other postures feel comfortable.

Virasana can also stimulate the knee complex and build strength in the muscles that cross the knee.

In picture 3 the knees stay together but the feet come wide enough apart to be able to sit between them.

The forward bend in picture 5 is surprisingly unstable, there's a point as you fold forward where you can overbalance sending our face towards the mat, in this version the arms are outstretched but we can also fold forward with the hands behind the back in reverse prayer although caution is advised, engage the bandhas stingily and press the feet firmly into the mat.

Ideally the buttocks will stay on the mat in the forward bend and our forehead and hands will touch the mat at the same moment.

When arching back in picture 7 it's acceptable to place your forearms on the mat with the hands on the heels.

When arching back tilt (nutate) the coccyx towards the pubic bone and rotate the femurs and thus the thighs inwards. 

Press the toes, the feet  the legs firmly into the mat as you lower backwards to help support the back. Do the same when coming back up,  

It is acceptable to push down on the heels to come back up

Virasana is a beautiful posture, ideal for spending a considerable time and working on engaging the bandhas and elongating the breath.

Virasana is one of the five postures rRmaswami recommends at the end of his book, The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga for pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation, the other four are, Padmasana, Siddhasana, Gomukhasana and vajrasana.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Samakonasana Watch ( Day 9 eve. ) Touchdown!

Relates to THIS post on Samakonasana ( side splits) in 3 months.

I've added a link in the top left hand corner of the blog where I'll add updates over the next three months.

UPDATE ; Day 9 (Evening practice) TOUCHDOWN!

Most likely as a result of being a little more warmed up, more prep and having the time to have three goes at this tonight meant I was able to lower all the way to the mat this evening.

If I'm honest it's probably Samakonasana leaning towards upavishta konasana, a side view would no doubt show that my backside isn't in line with my feet (bit behind) but I'll take this for now, it's somewhere to work from and feels good. On the third go I lowered and was able to do some Vinyasa Kramaa hand/arm vinyasas and try a little pranayama and bandha work, feel that once I get used to it it will be relatively comfortable for a long stay.

Here's the picture just as I touch the mat and the video below that. the rest of the post is from this morning.
Touchdown 24/11/11



Here's the prep from a comment I left on a Samakonasana blog post yesterday.

Prep for me is some standing triangle postures, utthita trikonasana’s utthita parrsva konasana’s then the parasarita padottanasana’s. Down to the mat for upavishta konasana, some vinyasa Krama hand/arm variations, to the side etc. in that. Next, badha konasana then a long paschimottanasana, back up to parasarita padottanasana and then start lowering into samakonasana as far as I can go. Stay there for a few breaths then rotate to the side for hanumanasana, back to samakonasana hopefully a little deeper, rotate to the other side for hanumanasana and then back to samakonasana. 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morning
I was just going to leave this post ticking away in the top corner but I think it finally sunk in this morning that this is going to be doable. Up until now I couldn't work out how or where the 'opening' was going to come, couldn't see the tendons (which i thought were what was holding me back) stretching enough, in this life time, to lower all the way to the ground.

But people do it so there must be a work around. It seems to be in in turning the knees up and kind of tilting the hip up, rotating the femurs ( on a femur trip at the moment can you tell)....

Anyway, still not sure what I'm doing exactly but stuff is happening, trying not to overdo it it with the growing excitement of getting closer, forcing myself to back off and let it happen over time, probably more like a month than three though.

Interestingly I'm already noticing a knock on factor in utthita haste padangusthasana. 2nd series tonight so see what it's doing to my leg behind head in there and planning on practicing a rare 3rd (for me recently) at the weekend just to see if it has an effect on vasisthasana and viswamitrasana.

Here's this mornings picture and video.
24/11/11 (Day 9)



22/11/1 (Day 7)

20/11/11


16/11/11 (First day)
Any improvement.... not so sure, a little perhaps.

Having fun with it though, exploring some different prep postures, focusing on the breath, bandhas etc. Still feels a little silly and it's making me question what is and isn't asana but that's never a bad thing.

Here's the one from August 2010 when i had to film it for the triangle sequence.
21/08/11

Day 54 : Meditative : Advanced Camel walk subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK

This is the advanced version of yesterday's Camel walk subroutine with the advanced Ushtrasana (Picture 5&9).

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

For the advanced Ushtrasana on one knee, a major concerns is of course balance. In the beginning consider stepping through slightly to the outside of the line with the hip, this will make your base more stable.

It's very important to lead with the hip when coming up from this posture.

Advanced Ushtrasana ( from Day 52 ).

Remembering to lift out of the hips and keep pressing the leg, from the toes to the knee, firmly into the mat, engaging the thighs and pushing forward the pelvis, arch back and take your arms over your shoulders towards your heels.

At first you may only be able to reach the mat behind you and may have to work towards taking your heels or ankles over time.

To avoid collapsing as you arch backwards it's necessary to keep your thighs strongly engaged and your hips forward and keep lifting out of your pelvis.

To reach your heels: one way is to land your hands on the mat and then walk them in towards and up your feet.

Ideally you will want to reach your heels from the air, this will take time but the trick is to keep the pelvis forward and the thighs engaged.

Work on strengthening the thighs and keeping the hips forward in other Vinyasa Krama postures, particularly the table subroutine in the Supine sequence.

An advanced extension of this version of Ushtrasana is Eka pada kapotasana, where we lower the head to the food and stretch out the leading leg.
Eka pada kapotasana

The same suggestions for the standard camel walk subroutine from Day 53 apply here but with some extra considerations due to the fact we're stepping up onto one foot.

Step forward about a foot in front of the trailing knee, when you arch back your knee will come forward, you want to step far enough forward that your don't over extend your knee past your toes.

Press down on all four corners of the foot, as you arch back you'll press more firmly on the ball of the foot and the toes.

Press the back toes of the trailing foot into the mat, all of them

Press the back of the foot into the mat

Press the whole of the lower leg from the toes to the knees into the mat

Keep pressing into the mat from the moment you begin to raise your arms above your head, throughout your stay in ustrasana and until you return to vajrasana stithy

Engage uddiyana bandha drawing in your belly as you fold over your leg

Engage your bandhas, draw up your anus and suck in the belly, imagine the muscles of the bandhas holding the base of the spine firmly, (Ramaswami's fishing rod example).

Engage the front of your thighs ( make the most of any postures that engage the quads so as to develop strength).

Most important of all bring the hips forward and keep encouraging them forward throughout, all the way back into ushtrasana and throughout your stay in the posture.

With every inhalation raise up your chest and with every exhalation push your pelvis a little further forward.

As you raise your arms and lift up of your knees lift out of your pelvis and try to keep lift up out of your pelvis throughout your stay in ustrasana.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Day 53 : Meditative : Standard Camel walk subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK

I've split the camel walk up into two sequences the, standard and advanced depending on which version of Ushtrasana is employed.

This is a curious subroutine and has more of the feel of a sequence like the Sun salutation or of some of the other Visesha vinyasa krama's that Ramaswami brings together in Chapter 11 of his Complete book of vinyasa yoga like the Vasishtasana, Halasana, and Ajaneyasana sequences.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

The same suggestions for the ushtrasana subroutine apply here but with some extra considerations due to the fact we're stepping up onto one foot.

Step forward about a foot in front of the trailing knee, when you arch back your knee will come forward, you want to step far enough forward that your don't over extend your knee past your toes.

Press down on all four corners of the foot, as you arch back you'll press more firmly on the ball of the foot and the toes.

Press the back toes of the trailing foot into the mat, all of them

Press the back of the foot into the mat

Press the whole of the lower leg from the toes to the knees into the mat

Keep pressing into the mat from the moment you begin to raise your arms above your head, throughout your stay in ustrasana and until you return to vajrasana stithy

Engage uddiyana bandha drawing in your belly as you fold over your leg

Engage your bandhas, draw up your anus and suck in the belly, imagine the muscles of the bandhas holding the base of the spine firmly, (Ramaswami's fishing rod example).

Engage the front of your thighs ( make the most of any postures that engage the quads so as to develop strength).

In this version of ustrasana we reach around to take hold of our foot rather than taking our arms over our shoulders ( advanced version - see tomorrow Day 54)

Most important of all bring the hips forward and keep encouraging them forward throughout all the way back into ushtrasana and throughout your stay in the posture.

With every inhalation raise up your chest and with every exhalation push your pelvis a little further forward.

As you raise your arms and lift up of your knees lift out of your pelvis and try to keep lift up out of your pelvis throughout your stay in ustrasana.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Relating Bandhas to Back bending

NOTE TO SELF

Epiphany, from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance"

Whatever the backbend, standing, supine, bow, inverted.... engage mula bandha to lift your hips off your femur heads and uddiyana bandha to lift up out of your pelvis.

In bold, highlighted, underlined ....so I don't forget.










The problem

Standing backbends are relatively easy (in the sense of less counterintuitive), you stretch up out of your ankles, your knees, your femurs, your pelvis... but what about when your supine or in bow, kneeling or inverted, how do your get that same action? 

The first mini epiphany came last week, the epiphanette, which was to stretch out through the whole length of the legs while also stretching up out of the pelvis,  like being stretched on a rack, pulled in both directions. I credit that with allowing my toes to reach my head in Raja kapotasana and Garbha bundhasana last week.

Stretching out through the legs though seemed to pull the hips down, how to keep the hips lifted while stretching out through the legs?

Bandhas, it's always the bandhas, engage mula bandha and draw your hips up off the femur heads, engage uddiyana and lift up out of the pelvis. 

No doubt I heard or read this a hundred times before it manifested in the body and in the mind in one big, striking Ahhhhhhh moment.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Day 52 : Meditative : Ushtrasana ( camel ) to Kapotasana (pigeon) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK
This is an extended Ushtrasana subroutine (Day 51) that continues on into Kapotasana (pigeon), kapotasana is a challenging posture, it's wise to work on becoming comfortable and stable in Ustrasana then advanced Ustrasana before moving on to Kapotasna for which they prepare you.


HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

These are the same as for yesterdays ushtrasana subroutine (Day 51)


The danger in kapotasana is to put too great a strain on the lower back, to avoid this we want to create a strong and stable base, ushtrasana allows us to focus on developing that stability.

Press the toes into the mat, all of them

Press the feet into the mat

Press the whole of the lower leg from the toes to the knees into the mat

Keep pressing into the mat from the moment you begin to raise your arms above your head, throughout your stay in ustrasana and until you return to vajrasana stithi

Engage your bandhas, draw up your anus and suck in the belly, imagine the muscles of the bandhas holding the base of the spine firmly, (Ramaswami's fishing rod example).

Engage the front of your thighs ( make the most of any postures that engage the quads so as to develop strength).

Most important of all bring the hips forward and keep encouraging them forward throughout all the way back into ushtrasana and throughout your stay in the posture.

With every inhalation raise up your chest and with every exhalation push your pelvis a little further forward.

As you raise your arms and lift up of your knees lift out of your pelvis and try to keep lift ion out of your pelvis throughout your stay in ustrasana.

Ideally your legs and thighs should be together, this may be something to work towards as it is  less stable


Advanced Ushtrasana (picture 6)

Remembering all of the above, the lifting out of the hips and keeping the legs from the toes to the knee firmly into the mat, engaging the thighs and pushing forward the pelvis, arch back and take your arms over your shoulders towards your heels.

At first you may only be able to reach the mat behind you and may have to work towards taking your heels or ankles over time.

To avoid collapsing as you arch backwards it's necessary to keep your thighs strongly engaged and your hips forward and keep lifting out of your pelvis.

To reach your heels: one way is to land your hands on the mat and then walk them in towards and up your feet.

Ideally you will want to reach your heels from the air, this will take time but the trick is to keep the pelvis forward and the thighs engaged.

Work on strengthening the thighs and keeping the hips forward in other Vinyasa Krama postures, particularly the table subroutine in the Supine sequence.

If Kapotasana is beyond you for now you will bend to come back up from advanced Ustrasana. To do so press your legs from the toes to the knees into the mat, engage the thighs strongly and most importantly lift from the hip pushing your pelvis forward.

Kapotasana
From Advanced Ustrasana inhale, press your palms, engage your thighs and tighten your buttocks, push your pelvis forward as if you were going to come back up to seated but instead lower your head to the mat as near your feet as is possible for you.

By acting as if to lift out of the pose when lowering you give your self more control in lowering into the deep back bend.

You may wish to stay in this version of Kapotasana for a number of breathes, lifting the chest on the inhale and pushing forward the hips on the exhalation.

The depth of your kapotasana will depend on your Ushtrasana, if you begin to lower while your hands are on the mat, your toes or half way up your feet that will be the extent of your kapo. To go deeper into the posture you will need to take your feet, ankles of calves in Ustrasana and then lower.

It is harder to deepen your Kapotasana once you have lowered your head to the mat although it is possible to take a rest and then straighten the arms and lifting the head and walking back in.

The depth of your kapotasana seems to be directly related to how far your able to push tour pelvis forward and keep it forward.

On the exhalation take your arms around to the side and hold your thighs.

To come back up return your arms to your heels on the inhalation and return as in Advanced ushtrasana above, pressing your legs from the toes to the knees into the mat, engaging the thighs strongly and most importantly lifting from the hip and pushing your pelvis forward.

The ideal is to perform this subroutine with your feet, knees and thighs together, this is challenging as it gives you a less secure base and there is the danger of toppling over to one side, good bandha control is necessary as well as smooth and steady breathing.




NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Vinyasa Krama videos on youTube from Debbie Mills

Ramaswami posted a link to some Vinyasa Krama videos on Youtube.

'My friend Debbie Mills has uploaded a few clips of vinyasakrama subrotines on YouTube. Deliberate, unhurried, breath oriented –they are nice' Srivatsa Ramaswami

Nice to seem more video demonstrations finaly appearing.... and in colour too ....and in a nice, big, spacious room... and with a carpet....

Here's a link to Debbie's website http://www.yogaanddharma.com/











Monday, 21 November 2011

Day 51 : Meditative : Ushtrasana ( camel ) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Meditative sequence

VIDEO LINK
In the video I enter ushtrasana from 'namaste' position, with the hands palms together, in the Book Ramaswami has you enter ushtrasana from arms raised as in the pictures above.

Day 52, tomorrow, will look at moving from Ushtrasana to Kapotasana. Kapotasana is an advanced position and challenging without a certain degree of preparation, key to that preparation is Ushtrasana.

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS

The danger in kapotasana is to put too great a strain on the lower back, to avoid this we want to create a strong and stable base, ushtrasana allows us to focus on developing that stability.

Press the toes into the mat, all of them

Press the feet into the mat

Press the whole of the lower leg from the toes to the knees into the mat

Keep pressing into the mat from the moment you begin to raise your arms above your head, throughout your stay in ustrasana and until you return to vajrasana stithi

Engage your bandhas, draw up your anus and suck in the belly, imagine the muscles of the bandhas holding the base of the spine firmly, (Ramaswami's fishing rod example).

Engage the front of your thighs ( make the most of any postures that engage the quads so as to develop strength).

Most important of all bring the hips forward and keep encouraging them forward throughout all the way back into ushtrasana and throughout your stay in the posture.

With every inhalation raise up your chest and with every exhalation push your pelvis a little further forward.

As you raise your arms and lift up of your knees lift out of your pelvis and try to keep lift ion out of your pelvis throughout your stay in ustrasana.

Ideally your legs and thighs should be together, this may be something to work towards as it is  less stable

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Advanced Vinyasa demonstration : Mr. A.F. Lara Abiesheikh

Thanks to Leonardo for the heads up on FB.

Notice the big Krishnamachrya picture in the background, interesting to see the similarities and differences between this, Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga and check out how he whips through his jump through.

* Was just pointed out to me, NO MAT.





'Mr. A.F. Lara Abiesheikh is an exponent of yoga, having practised the entire array of asanas and pranayama techniques since the age of fourteen. He learnt at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, where he continued to teach for nearly eight years. His quest for perfection propelled him to further seek guidance from other senior and popular teachers in the field of Yoga. His unflinching vigour and steady commitment has made him the embodiment of excellence in asana postures, prana kriya and pranayama. His dedication to practice has earned him the rare distinction of modeling for reputed yoga books of international standard. In fact, his mastery of the techniques of pranayama is such that he can voluntarily stop his own heart beat (pulse) for more than 20 seconds.


Having made steady progress towards mastering various postures and understanding the nuances of the effect of the postures on the body and mind, he started devising course planning for several categories like Group, Individual, Special Need, Children, etc. The assiduous learner that he is, he has perfected the art of course planning in a short span.


Mr. Lara has conducted quite a number of workshops on asana practice for international students. His mastery in devising the practice session has earned him a lot of accolades from a wide spectrum of his students. His therapeutic application of yoga is testimony to his keen understanding and appreciation of modifications and adaptations of the techniques of yoga. Mr. Lara has successfully healed several people with complicated and severe conditions like sciatica and other back problems who were bedridden and not able to walk.


Mr. Lara strongly believes that dissemination of knowledge is the best way to serve the society. His strong desire to pass on his appreciation of asana study is truly unmatched'.

Day 50 : Meditative : Vajrasana (thunderbolt) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Bow sequence

VIDEO LINK
A relatively straight forward posture in which, as with tadasana and it's hand/arm vinyasas, we can focus on the breath and movement of the arms but also of the hips.

This is also an excellent posture for engaging the bandhas are lengthening the exhalation in the forward bends which me may choose to stay in for a considerable time.

The forward bends are are more challenging than they look as the posture is less stable than in say paschimottanasan and upavishta konasana. As we begging to fold forward our hips want to list and it's is difficult to control the decent and not end up head butting the mat.

Vajrasana may also be used as a posture for pranayama and meditation and may be the ideal alternative if you struggle with padmasana (lotus).

HINTS/TIPS/SUGGESTIONS.

Engage the bandhas, especially Mula bandha, drawing up the anus. this seems to act as an anchor, focusing our attention on where we need to counter the weight of our arms and upper body as it folds forward.

press the lower legs from the knees to the toes into the mat, especially focusing on the toes and dorsal feet.

The counter poses in the last two pictures are excellent positions to begin focusing on raising the hips as far as possible and pushing them forward, exploring nutation( the tilting of the pelvis both clockwise and counterclockwise) and strengthening the quads, all useful preparation for the backbends that come later in the meditative sequence as well as those in other sequences.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Day 49 : Bow Subroutine breakdown

VIDEO LINK

Day 44 : Bow : Makrasana (crocodile) & Manduka (frog) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Bow sequence


There are a number of intense back bending postures in Vinyasa Krama.
  • Dropping back into Purna chakrasana in the Standing sequence 
  • Raja kapotasana in Bow sequence
  • Gandha Bherundasana in Bow sequence
  • Kapotasana in Meditative the sequence
  • Urdhava Dhanurasana found in the Supine sequence
  • Uttanasana mayurasana in the Supine Sequence
  • Viparita Dandasana in the Inverted sequence
  • Vrishikasana in the Inverted sequence
The subroutines in Bow sequence give perhaps the most preparation and gradual development in developing your back bending facility. As such these subroutines might be included in your practice as preparation for the intense back bending postures in the other sequences.

If you don't feel ready for some of the more intense backbends in the other sequences and tend to skip the postures above, the Bow sequence, missing out Raja kapotasana and gandha berundasana, may be a good place to work towards them.

A light back bending practice might include any or all of the back bending subroutines below
  • The hand/arm variations back stretching subroutine from Standing
  • All of the Bow subroutines passing on raja kapotasana and gandha berundasana
  • Ustrasana subroutine from the meditative sequence missing out kapotasana.
  • The dwipaditam (desk pose) subroutine from Supine possible including urdhva danhurasana
  • Possibly the one legged uttana mayurasana subroutine from  Sequence Supine 
Remember to include a forward folding counter posture after you back bending postures, perhaps working gently into a long stay in paschimottanasana or upavishta konasana

I often tend to practice Bow subroutines and Meditative subroutines together, the Bow subroutines as a preparation for the Meditative sequences Kapotasana subroutine.

' Backbending' is perhaps not the best expression, rather we should think of these postures as an arching of the back, a back stretch rather than bend.

A back stretch begin in the toes and ends in the fingertips.

In the Bow sequence subroutines we stretch out through the legs feet, toes and stretch our body out of the pelvis and up through the arms.

Engaging the bandhas can support the base of the spine in all back bending postures. here's ramaswami from his Sept 2011 Newsletter


'The spinal column descends from the occipital region and we have the aajna chakra in that region and the sahasrara is in the cranial region. The tailbone is the baby of the assembly at the bottom and tucked nicely but is surrounded by heavy muscles and tissues and protected well. It has some mobility.


Since it is the root of the spine it is also known among Yogis as the Mula. Since both Hata Yoga and Kundalini Yoga are predominantly connected with the spine the mula becomes an important aspect of yoga. When one wants to work with the spine, it, the coccyx, should be firmly anchored. Let us consider the example of the fishing rod (old times). It has a flexible pole, a string and the bait. (sorry I could not think of an ahimsa example). One holds the pole at the far end and when the bait is taken, the pole bends. The fisherman will have to hold the pole firmly so that the pole can bend to the extent required, even though there will be some play or movement in the hand of the holder. Further he has to hold at the farthest point, holding a bit inside the pole reduces the leverage and the pole will not bend sufficiently.


The coccyx and sacrum (sacro-coccygeal section) are at the bottom of the backbone. The coccyx is at the very end of the spine. It represents a vestigial tail (hence the common term tailbone) and consists of three to five very small bones fused together. There is, limited movement between these bones permitted by fibrous joints and ligaments. The sacrum is a large triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity and where it is 'inserted' like a bone wedged between the two hip bones. Its upper part  is connected to the last lumbar vertebra and the bottom part to the coccyx. In children it consists normally of five unfused vertebrae which begin fusing around 16 years and become completely fused around 26. It is kyphotic (curved, concavity facing forward). Even so, it is
now an established fact that the sacrum moves between the ilia by both ambulatory and respiratory motions . It would therefore point to the logic of the use of fuller breathing in vinyasa movements as in Vinyasa Krama.


So the mula or the tail bone will have to be held firmly during the spinal exercises. And the yogis used the well known technique called mulabandha which is contracting a few groups of muscles surrounding the tailbone:  the perineum, rectum and the gluteal muscles. All spinal movements, the forward bend,the rounded back, the turn, the back bend, the side bend, all will be better if the mula is gripped firmly and engaged.'


NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

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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