Sorry, this has turned into a long post, should probably be broken up into three or four but if I don't do it right away I might not get around to it. Kind of out of the blogging habit, not a bad thing perhaps.
see earlier post, UpcomingTwo week solo practice/study retreat
The idea was to get away for a couple of weeks and have the time to explore those long stay options in Krishnamacharya 'original' Ashtanga (as laid out in his Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu ) as well as to be able to practice 80 rounds of Pranayama ever day and do a close reading of the Aranya Yoga Sutras commentary.
All went to plan, well into the third foot of the Aranya commentary, which is just wonderful by the way, practiced Krishnamacharya's Primary group in the morning and the Middle group in the early evening, some extra proficient group asana added here and there where appropriate. The long stays were interesting.
Highlight of the whole trip though was the Pranayama. Within a couple of days I'd settled into a routine where I would get up do my ten minute Vinyasa Krama Tadasana routine then sit down for anything from 60-90 minutes and work through 80 rounds before moving on to the asana practice.
80 rounds mixed pranayama practice
|Visualise an effulgence in the area of the heart? no problem, Santorini's wall to wall ruddy effulgence|
Basically I started off gently with my legs lightly crossed, ten rounds of surabhedana (inhale right/exhale left nostril) then ten of chandra bhedana (inhale left / exhale right). In these I'd just mentally chant gayatri mantra on the inhale retention and work on slowing and lengthening the inhalation aiming for twelve and then fifteen second inhalations.
Next up was anuloma (exhale throat) and pratiloma (inhale throat) ujjayi, same thing trying to slow and lengthen the breath, harder without the extra control of your fingers and thumbs on the side of your nose.
Hips felt open enough by then to practice in siddhasana
Next vilouma ujjayi shodana where you inhale throat/exhale left nostril/inhale left/exhale throat/inhale throat/exhale right/ inhale right/exhale throat, standard pranayama mantra on the kumbhala (breath retention after the inhalation 20-24 seconds))
On my usual nadi shodana practice I explored repeating the pranayama mantra twice on the inhaled retention (48 seconds). ten rounds like that then another ten rounds trying to bring it all together, 15 second inhalation, 20 second kumbhaka with mantra, 15 second exhalation, 10 second kumbhala, so a one minute breath.
Finishing off with sitali.
If there's one thing I'm taking from this trip it's that asana is going to have to fit around my pranayama practice.
Re. my beach pranayama picture above. Tended to struggle with the meditating on an effulgence in the heart area while practicing pranayama, couldn't visualise it...of course not I live in England ...in Santorini, no problem, it's wall to wall ruddy effulgence.
Aranya by the way, in his commentary to the sutras, suggests meditating for a few minutes on an effulgence around the heart area separate from your pranayama practice, once fixed begin your pranayama, nice tip, one of many.
A note on counting 'rounds' of pranayama
This can get confusing. How DO we count a round of pranayama?
I used to think that there where many kinds of pranayama, suryabheda, nadi shodana, Ujjayi, Viloma Ujjayi shodana... but this is problematic, suryabheda involves one inhalation and exhalation, nadi shodana includes inhalation and exhalation through both nostrils so involves two breaths and viloma ujjayi shodana, both nostrils and the throat so three breaths. If we count each cycle as a 1 pranayama nadi shaodana is going to take twice as long as suryabheda and viloma ujjayi shodana, three times as long.
However, my understanding now is that one pranayama equals one breath. This is often counted as one inhalation followed by kumbhaka (breath retention). obviously you would then inhale and perhaps include another kumbhaka after the inhalation before Inhaling again for the second pranayama.
a cycle of suryabheda counts as 1 pranayama
a cycle of anuloma or pratiloma Ujjayi counts as 1 pranayama
a cycle of nadi shodana counts as 2 pranayamas
a cycle of Viloma Ujjayi shodana counts as 3 pranayamas
So to get to 80 pranayamas I can choose to include cycles of
10 x Suryabheda = 10 pranayamas
10 x Chandrabheda = 10 pranayamas
5 x Anuloma ujjayi = 5 pranayamas
5 x pratiloma ujjayi = 5 pranayamas
10 x Nadi shodana = 20 pranayamas
5 x Viloma Ujjayi Shodana = 20 pranayamas
10 x sitali = 10 pranayamas
or perhaps another combination of the above or some of the other pranayama techniques.
Personally, given the time I like to stick to ten of each as it takes me a couple or cycles before I settle into the rhythm. Also, although I'm currently exploring some of the different techniques and exploring longer inhalations or kumbhakas etc I probably prefer more time on each approach.
My ideal, after this period of experimentation, would probably be
10 x Suryabheda = 10 pranayamas
10 x nadi shodana = 20 pranayamas
10 x viloma ujjayi shodana = 40 pranayamas
10 x sitali (in warmer weather) = 10 pranayamas
How long each cycle takes depends on your ratio. In suryabheda at the beginning I'm doing
a shorter kumbhaka using the gayatri mantra (10 seconds) but building up to longer inhalations and exhalations (fifteen seconds each) and a short kumbhala after inhalations.
In nadi shodana I'm doing my regular
5 second inhalation/20 second kumbhaka (with the pranayama mantra) /10 second exhalation/five second kumbhaka, for the first ten cycles.
for the second 10 cycles I'm doing Krishnamacharya's One minute breath
15 second inhalation/20 second Kumbhka (with pranayama mantra)/ 15 second exhalation/ 10 second kumbhaka
In Viloma ujjayi shodana or sitali I'm exploring the longer kumbhaka after exhalation, chanting the pranayama twice (40 seconds).
Manduka's new Santorini Blue prolite
First time you can hardly see the mat so had to do it again. One thing I really wanted to include was Krishnamachrya's ekapada sirsasana, where the arms are folded rather than palms together in front of the chest.
My past Manduka mat reviews are HERE love my black mat pro at home but for traveling, Prolite every time.
First led Ashtanga class ever with Antonia at Tranquilo
So I've only ever been to a shala twice for Ashtanga Mysore self practice, that would be at AYL, Ashtanga yoga London a few years back, excellent place. It's awkward for to get there, possible but awkward and I decided early on that I just preferred home practice.
In Santorini though I was told about this
Hatha & Ashtanga?
I think because you never know who has and hasn't heard of Ashtanga or what level of practice anyone coming might have. As well as a few who live and work on the island your going to get people passing through on holiday who can only come for a session or two.
This was held in a very chilled place called Tranquillo's down by Perissa beach (black sand) owned by Kylie who managed to get the wonderful Antonia to come and teach three mornings a week, notice it used to be two, it's growing.
There were around ten twelve there the Wednesday I went and Antonia ran out of mats, ended up lending out my Prolite and trying to practice on my equa towel. Friday I think there were sixteen though Antonia brought along more mats this time. Love that words getting around and you can imagine in a year or so they should have a steady core group that may allow for six day a week mysore self practice as well as the led.
Over on the right of the picture below is where we practiced, moving the tables and chairs to the side of the room
And here's the view
...and me heading to my first ever led Ashtanga class
So how did it go? It was fun, basically we worked through standing and finishing, including paschimottanasana and urdhva danhurasana, skipped headstands. It was hard actually, I was one of the more 'experienced' so knew the postures and what was coming next. I'd get into the posture and then be standing there while Antonia worked the room, felt like an hour and a half in utthita eka padasana.
Some nice adjustments, Antonia knew her stuff, felt safe in her hands, firm but gentle adjustments but then what do I know, this was only the third time I'd ever been adjusted. Let me think, she had me bring my stance in a little in prasaritta C and and still took my hands to the floor. Parsvottanasana she whispered "you can go deeper" which was true but practicing at home I tend to work in deeper over a couple of breaths. In Ardha baddha padmottasana I felt her fingers run down my left thigh as she passed, reminding me to point my thigh down more (left is the dodgy leg with the old knee ops, I'm lazy with it sometimes). Oh and upward facing do she did that bring the shoulders back adjustment I' ve seen in videos, liked that.
I enjoyed it, if there was a shala close by I'd probably try and go once a week or two for the reminders, practising at home there are always a mass of things that can do with tidying up.
I didn't go again though I'd planned on going Friday, took my mat down to the beach to watch the sun come up and do my pranayama practice there but it was so beautiful I ended up doing Primary there on the beach then went for a swim and back home for my pranayama.
Another first, practicing outside, on the beach and with the sun coming up.
The videos below are taken just in front of Tranquilo's I cheekily borrowed their decking
Oh and one more thing that I don't want to go into too much but while I was there somebody came to me for a lesson. He was having trouble breathing due to an accident at work. We mainly spent half an hour gentle work on some of the arm movements in tadasana, building up from three to six seconds inhalation but longer exhalations. That was followed by some light, simple pranayama, work gaining a little more control and confidence with the breath.
Thank you to Ramaswami for his course on Yoga for the Internal Organs that I attended in 2010 ( it's running again in a couple of weeks at LMU in LA and I think you can attend just that part of Ramaswami's TT course) and for passing on that aspect of Krishnamacharya's teaching that allowed me, through yoga, to offer some simple support to somebody in a great deal of discomfort .