This post isn't really finished yet, mostly a bunch of notes, but I promised it for today so this is what I have so far. I'll be coming back to tidy it up and improve on it over the next couple of days. As it is my friend commenting here as Anonymous who attended Ramaswami's Big Sur workshop has done most of my john for me, many thanks.
Yoga goddess asked if Ramaswami instructed us in how to teach vinyasa Krama.
Here are two examples using Ramaswami himself as a model. The first is of the 200 hour TT course I attended in 2010, the morning class being a five week course covering the sequences and approach in Ramaswami's book The complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga , the second is a short workshop lasting I think a week, attended by a friend.
Although these are workshop formats, we can perhaps get an idea of how we might approach teaching a series of lessons, whether one-on-one or in a class situation.
The idea seems to be to lay out the basics of breath corresponding with movement in the first few arm movements of the On your feet sequences and then add on more subroutines from that and other sequences as the course continued until we have the framework of a regular integrated practice. Along the way introducing pranayama, pratyahara and meditation as well as perhaps some chanting.
As the course went on we would switch the subroutines, include subroutines from the other sequences, On one leg and Inverted for example as we covered them.
Srivatsa RamaswamiAsana practice has caught the imagination of a number of enthusiasts—especially Vinyasakrama, the sequencing art form of yoga practice. However, yoga has other important ingredients, all of which promote a positive transformation of the individual. A holistic approach would require the yogi to practice not only asana and pranayama (the Hatha yoga aspects) but also chanting, meditation, and contemplation of the philosophical and spiritual aspects (the Raja yoga aspects).
In this program, half of each session will be devoted to different asanas, following the Vinyasakrama method. It will involve doing more than 300 vinyasas, or variations in classical yoga poses, in the course of the program. The other half of the time will be utilized for detailed and varied yogic breathing exercises and the other Raja yoga practices, like chanting, meditation, and philosophical and spiritual contemplation of the yoga sutras. The objective by the end of the program is for participants to have a well-rounded understanding and practice of yoga, as opposed to doing only asanas or meditation. Hatha yoga and Raja yoga are aspects of the integrated system of yogic progression.
I meant to ask you, our course was a teacher training and so Ramaswami could expect a resonable level of practice and experience as well as some awareness of his approach, we all had his book already I imagine. However, I wondered on your shorter course where there were perhaps some relative beginners and/or some unfamiliar with his approach, can you say something about his instruction and guidance in postures. in that context? For us it was mostly a case of saying the name of the posture almost as a reminder and then focussing on the breath or some tiny details as issues came up.
Thanks again for your help with this post anon.
23 May 2012 09:05
The following is a very rough sketch…
Lift! Lift! Lift! Straight back, straight arms, straight legs. Toes, ankles, knees together. Pelvis and rib cage lifting; chin down to pull the spine ever straighter, eyes down. Deep ujjayi breathing.
Ramaswami did not correct alignment by touch, so far as I could see. In one instance he very gently touched my left calf to bring it wider when we were in the preparatory hold in sarvangasana, where he instructs to keep the legs apart with the knees bent, to allow the legs and blood to settle. On another occasion, when I was demonstrating cobra pose, he very quickly pulled me back and up stretching me to my limits to show the length to which one can go in the posture. It was very unexpected and exhilarating and made me and the class chuckle with laughter.
Otherwise, his instruction for correct posture was purely verbal, which, again, is how he was instructed, I think, by Krishnamacharya. As an aside, I was reading through Mohan’s book on K and I think he said the same, regarding how there was no “hands on” correction of postures, per se. I will try and post this later tonight for reference.
Ramaswami’s teaching is very intellectual. As I noted before, my understanding (or experience) of vinyasa krama is that it is really something that must be taught on an individual, one-on-one basis, per the specific abilities and needs of the student. If I ever were to teach the method, I would have to do so in a way that Mysore classes are taught. It is not a practice that I think is easily or strategically taught to large classes. Moreover, it is not a method (at least in my understanding of it thus far) that seems to view asana as an end in itself. Rather, the asana practice is merely a necessary stage to be passed through (traditionally) to sit for pranayama and meditation. Such that if you are able to sit in padmasana, great. If you’re not, no worry—try something else that is suitable for your body. I sense that vinyasa krama astutely undermines the rather egotistical pursuit of perfection in asana. It doesn’t discourage proper asana practice, but it also doesn’t glorify it. It is as it is an integral limb of yoga.
A point Ramaswami stressed and that hit home for me was that pranayama/pratyahara/dharana is an internal process that cannot be seen by the teacher, and so we all must be our own vigilant teachers regarding the internal aspects. He suggested that it is not something we really ought to discuss with others (such as what is happening or being experienced inside) but should be observed and kept secret. He said one should directly approach their teacher for specific guidance or questions, but otherwise it is a individual path to be walked alone. This, I think, harkens back the traditional guru/disciple relationship.
Personally, I think asana can be corrected only so much from the point of view as a physical form. The alignment must be sensed by the practitioner from inside. Likewise with pranayama, the digital and cyclical method can be instructed, and the slow passage of breath listened to and observed by the teacher, but the process itself again is something that is personal and internal.
To close, I will note that Ramaswami stressed the importance and necessity of practicing the inversions and the bandhas, so as to massage the heart and organs covered by the rib cage. He also suggested that our joints all have superior and inferior aspects to them, and that when in inversions, these are thus inverted and can rejuvenate in the reversed positions, easing compression, such as the heart and lungs do in sirsasana, etc. Pranayama is necessary also for physically massaging and stretching the portion of the vertebral column that is connected to the rib cage, and likewise the heart and lungs.