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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Updated: Is urdhva Dhanurasana part of the finishing sequence? Fifty-One questions surrounding Urdhva Danhurasana

I was asked this on passing last night ...

Is urdhva Dhanurasana part of the finishing sequence?

found here
Must admit I had to pause for a moment.

My quick answer this morning was..

"Oh, re urdhva dhanurasana, I think of it as part of finishing, Primary ends with setu bandhasana....urdhva dhanurasana is kind of the twilight zone between a series and the finishing sequence".

It bothered me though so I had a look at the texts.

Yoga Mala doesn't include it at all.,...anywhere

However The Yoga Works Pattabhi Jois led video does

As does Sharath's primary video.

Lino's Ashtanga Yoga book includes it as the last posture of the Primary series as well as the end of the Intermediate section and has Finishing as a separate section altogether.

John Scott includes it under 'Back bending' at the end of Primary.

Matthew Sweeney ends Primary with Setu Bandhasana and has a separate section for backbending and includes it there.

Interestingly Krishnamacharya includes setubandhasana in thePprimary group in his asana table but urdhva dhaurasana in the middle group of postures.

In the Nancy Gilgoff 'Original Syllabus of 1974 setubandhasana in there in the first year with the primary postures. Urdhva Dhaurasana shows up in the second year with the intermediate sequence.

It's the same with the David Willams Ashtanga poster which i guess  is based on the same list.

So not that serious a question perhaps, I think it was asked more out of curiosity, but all the same it ....gives pause.

Is urdhva Dhanurasana part of the finishing sequence?

What does your instinct tell...what's your first but then second thought

"Yes. No...yyyyyyyyes.....no, wait a minute....."

I'm going to stick with the Twilight Zone.

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

UPDATE

....from the comments and to continue in a playful mood

"Yes, I said in the post it's not an important question in itself but attempting to answer it raises others that are perhaps more interesting.

1. Does Urdhva Danhurasana have an official place in the series?

2. Does this raise questions about the nature of finishing postures?

3. Does this raise questions concerning what constitutes a series?

4. Is there a difference between series and sequence, is one fixed the other flexible?

5. What does it say about key asana that one should perhaps attempt to include them in each and every practice?

6. We practice Standing and finishing whichever series we're on, does the same go for UD and back bending.

7. Why?

8. When did back bending gain such a status?

9. Should UD be stuck on the end of Primary without other more preparatory backbends?

10. When should UD be taught?

11. How should UD be taught?

12. Should somebody ask Sharath's view?

13. How much weight does Sharath's opinion carry on this given that he was taught by his Grandfather in his later years when he hadn't been practicing himself for several decades, or Is forty years of adjusting others perhaps of more value than forty years of self practise?

14. Which is correct practice? Krishnamacharya's table that had UD placed amongst the middle postures, Yoga Mala that didn't include UD at all,
the 1974 syllabus that didn't include UD in Primary or Pattabhi Jois' later years in which it was included as is the more recent Mysore practice where there's a seeming obsessive compulsion towards back bending?

15. Is their such a thing as correct practice?

16. Is it fixed or does it depend on the student?

17. What does this say about tradition?

18. What does this say about lineage? ( see AG Mohan's YouTube video today).

19. Do we lean towards a teachers early teaching or their later teaching when questioning such an asana. I.E. what Pattabhi Jois presented in the 50's, 70's or 90's?

20. If he himself didn't seem to take notice of his own teacher's later teaching, should we?

21. And what of lineage, should we go with Sharath as an authority based on the later teaching of his Grandfather or of the early students ....or perhaps Pattabhi Jois' own teacher Krishnamacharya ?

22. What does this say about authority with regards practice?

23. How many students have been injured as a result of Urdhva Dhaurasana being shifted to the end of Primary.

24. How much damage is done by the focus on standing up from UD as well as dropping back?

25. Should UD ( and backbending in general) be given such a focus in Ashtanga given the dangers involved?

26. When did backbending gain such  focus and attention? Why?

27. Would an iPad Mini help me in any way with my back bends such that I can justify buying one the vey day they are made available in the UK

28. When did paschimottanasana appear as a counter to urdhva dhanurasana in that twilight zone between series and finishing?

29. If it was thought wise to include the counter posture...why not a backbending preparatory posture or two?

30. How do your know when your mind or body is ready for UD?

31. If the answer is to go with your teacher, which level of authorisation should that teacher be to teach UD ?

32. Would you trust a newly authorised teacher on something as important as backbending or would you prefer to go with a more experienced unauthorised teacher?

33. When did attention get paid to anatomy with regards to back bending and making it safe in Ashtanga?

34. How important is anatomical awareness for a posture like UD?

35. Or Bandha awareness?

36. How much training do perspective authorised teachers receive in Mysore before being given authorisation to teach and assist UD?

37. How many hours of hands on training do they receive, how much anatomy?

38. Should newly authorised teachers have been mentored before being expected to teach UD?

39. If a students back is injured as a result of UD, is that the fault of the student or the authorised teacher?

40. Should UD be included on videos of Ashtanga series?

41. Should UD be attempted/practiced at home?

42. Should one have learned all of Primary before attempting UD

43. Or at which point should one learn UD given that none of the postures in Primary prepare you for it.

44. Which prepares you better for Kapotasana, the back bending postures in 2nd or UD?

45. Should one learn to drop back or come up from UD first?

46 At what point should one begin to learn to come up or drop back, before or after learning the back bending postures of 2nd series?

47. Is UD a standing posture (having dropped into it) an arm balance, a supine posture or a reversed bow posture (?) or all of the above?

48. Is 47 an important question for determining the preparation required for exploring the posture?

49. In the grand scheme of things how important is Urdhva Danhurasana?

50. Is urdhva Dhanurasana part of the finishing sequence?

and so on and so on....

...as I said not an important question perhaps but it does give pause".

Just thought of another...

51. What is the correct transliteration of the name of this posture.

29 comments:

  1. Hi Anthony, I'm a student of Lino and I reckon urdhva dhanurasna is like a gateway to the backbending poses of the intermediate, hence its practice at the end of the first series is looked at as a test to establish if you're ready to move to intermediate. Whether you consider it as "part" of the first or of the finishing does not really matter, like all things in ashtanga you move on when your mind and your body are ready.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For David Swenson' Practice Manual it is the first asana in the Finishing sequence. But I agree it is a transitional pose!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Keni, ahhh your one of Lino's students...have you seen a copy of his new book that goes up to advanced series? Does it have the same format as his previous Ashtanga primary and Intermediate book. I still haven't been able to find a preview of it.

    This is one of those questions that seem innocent enough but become quite revealing when we seek to answer it. Surely the first couple of backbending postures in 2nd series are much more gentle an introduction to backbending than UD. Kind of makes sense to do those perhaps up to ustrasana perhaps and then consider UD.

    I like the idea in Nancy Gilgof's Gilgoff's 1974 syllabus, you do Primary in the first year say then 2nd series the second year including UD at the end and then perhaps introduce it into your primary. There was another posture like that I believe, the second triangle twist forget the name at the moment. That I believe was taught at the end of primary and then re introduced to the standing postures after one bacame more proficient.


    Thank you Chiara, had remembered David's book cycling inot work and was trying to remember where he placed it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes I have Lino's new book but part of it is in Italian at the moment, I believe the full english version will be out early 2013. Frankly I find it a great reference, it covers all four series in great details with vinyasa count and large pictures (of Lino), much less confusing than the first book. It also has some discussions regarding common questions that students have over the course of their practice. Not as researched as Gregor Maehle's books, but nonetheless a very useful guide for daily practice. You need to order it via Lino's web site I guess or get someone to pick it up for you at his workshops.
    You're right about the second series, Lino really treats UD as a gateway and lets everyone approach it in their own time as drop back can be quite scary. Lino also adds more progressive and gentle backbends to the finishing sequences when you practice the primary, so by the time you finish primary at a good level UD is the last hurdle. With Lino you get helped by the teacher for a long time in drop back until the fear factor is reduced and you can relax into it. Then second series then seems less daunting...
    By the way, compliments of your great blog, very valuable rare stuff, great read and most of all not self centered as most blogs tend to be... keep it up !

    ReplyDelete

  5. A safe answer to that one is "why do you ask?". :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sorry to be such a wet blanket, Grimmly, but... why does it matter, beyond being able to give somebody who asks a decisive yes/no answer? Whether it is part of finishing or a sort of gateway to intermediate, you do it (or not), and then move on to second if and when your mind and body are ready, as Keni points out.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for the book review Keni, will look forward to it coming out in English in the New year. thank you too for the kind words re blog.


    ReplyDelete
  8. Good point Steve. I'm guessing it's because the person concerned is a bit short for time in the morning. I'm guessing they do what they can then jump to finishing. The question then being do they feel obliged to start finishing with Urdhva Dhanurasana or go straight to Shoulder stand. Of course if they do UD's then they'll need their paschimottanasana counter. But I'm guessing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Noble. Yes I said in the post it's not an important question in itself but attempting to answer it raises others that are perhaps more interesting.

    Does UD have an official place in the series?

    Does this raise questions about the nature of finishing postures?

    Does this raise questions about what constitutes a series?

    Is there a difference between series and sequence, is one fixed the other flexible?

    What does it say about key asana that one should perhaps attempt to include in each and every practice?

    We practice Standing and finishing whichever series we're on. Does the same go for UD and back bending.

    Why?

    When did back bending gain such a status?

    Should UD be stuck on the end of Primary without other more preparatory backbends?

    When should it be taught?

    How should it be taught?

    Should somebody ask Sharath's view?

    How much weight does Sharath's opinion carry on this given that he was taught by his Grandfather in his later years when he hadn't been practicing himself for several decades.

    Which is correct practice? Krishnamacharya's table that had UD amongst the middle postures. Yoga Mala that didn't include UD at all.
    The 1974 syllabus that didn't include UD in Primary or Pattabhi Jois' later years in which it was included as more recent Mysore practice where there's a seeming obsessive compulsion towards back bending?

    Is their such a thing as correct practice?

    is it fixed or does it depend on the student?

    What does this say about tradition?

    What does this say about lineage? ( see AG Mohan's YouTube video today).

    Do we lean towards a teachers early teaching or their later teaching when questioning such an asana. What P Jois presented in the 50's, 70's or 90's?

    If he himself didn't seem to take notice of his own teacher's later teaching, should we?

    And what of lineage, should we go with Sharath as an authority based on the later teaching of his Grandfather or of the early students ....or perhaps Pattabhi Jois' own teacher?

    What does this say about authority with regards practice?

    How many students have been injured as a result of Urdhva Dhaurasana being shifted to the end of Primary.

    How much damage is done by the focus on standing up from UD as well as dropping back?

    Should UD ( and backbending in general) be given such a focus in Ashtanga given the dangers involved?

    When did backbending gain such a focus and attention?

    Why?

    When did paschimottanasana appear as a counter to urdhva dhanurasana, in that twilight zone between the series and finishing?

    if it was thought wise to include the counter posture...why not a backbending preparatory posture or two?

    How do your know when your mind or body is ready for UD?

    If the answer is to go with your teacher which level of authorisation should that teacher be to teach UD?

    Would you trust a newly authorised teacher on something as important as backbending or would you prefer to go with a more experienced unauthorised teacher?

    When did attention get paid to anatomy with regards to back bending and making it safe in Ashtanga?

    How important is anatomical awareness for a posture like UD?

    Or Bandha awareness?

    How much training do perspective authorised teachers receive in Mysore before being given authorisation to teach and assist UD?

    How many hours of hands on training?

    Should newly authorised teachers have been mentored before being expected to teach UD?

    If a students back is injured as a result of UD, is that the fault of the student or the authorised teacher?

    Should UD be included on videos of Ashtanga series?

    Should UD be attempted/practiced at home?

    and so on and so on....

    ...as I said not an important question perhaps but it does give pause.


    ReplyDelete
  10. ...OK just playing there, and making a point...please don't anyone feel the need to answer all of those. Time would be much better spent on enjoying some good prep backbends, a couple of quality's UD's and a ten minute paschi.

    ReplyDelete
  11. All very valid questions indeed, may be worth thinking about then while preparing for UD actually!
    Personally, I think that the questions you raise are a good starting point as to some of the shortcomings of a set sequence 'tradition' (this word makes me smile recently, not sure why haha) where we may become so obsessed with part one-part two-part three etc that we risk loosing the sense of it all, that we are there to feel good and calm the mind vortexing around.
    As for why this obsession with backbending? Perhaps because we are becoming computer-bound creatures and opening the backs and hearts up feel particularly good? Very simplistic I know but could be an explanation... they also feel and look more daring so there may be a bit of ego-trip there, especially with the drop backs.
    To me it makes sense to prepare it. And prepare it. And prepare it. It is a very special asana, a lot of fears come out, you feel so vulnerable in it, more than any other asana I can think of. Maybe this is part of the attraction? Confront your fears?

    ReplyDelete

  12. Regarding Q.27, If you stand at the front of an iPad 2, and can see the other end when back bending then, yes, you are ready to progress to an iPad Mini.

    Regarding questions 1-51(!), go find a quiet, dark place and recite "Citta vritti nirodaha" several times, then lay down.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @ Steve. or even better do as suggest and rather than sit down and try and answer them all use the time to include some extra prep and a long long paschi afterwards.

    That said we dont get to use 'Citta vritti nirodaha' as an excuse for not questioning our practice or anything else for that matter. Citta vritti nirodaha doesn't mean the practice is anti thought. Amuses me that people who say ( I'm not meaning your good self here) you shouldn't do pranayama or meditation until your asana is perfect still come out and use the citta virtti card when it suits them. Most misunderstood sutra perhaps? We use the mind to overcome the mind, still, there's a time and a place to question and it's now time for practice.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks Chiara. Can't help but think there's something else going on with the Mysore backbend obsession, surely enough to just go down and up without worrying about the whole walking in to the heels, ankles, up your calves, knees....quite weird actually.

    That's another question i should have asked, have never felt particularly vulnerable in UD, Kapo or any other backbend nor have I had a particularly emotional reaction to it though some overcoming of a natural hesitation.

    ReplyDelete
  15. it might be argued that Kausthub Desikachar's student's didn't ask enough questions, sometime the little ones lead to the big ones.
    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/board-of-trustees-committee-family.html

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting debate indeed.
    If I may add my personal thoughts to the edifice, I'd have to say that I agree with Anthony about questioning the practice, but my (limited) experience tells me that what we experience in asanas are very subtle metaphors of how we feel about ourselves, our deep subconscious fears, how mental blocks, our emotional burden. Hence everyone will experience different things at different stages of the practice and in different asanas, based on how much we have evolved and grown from a mental and spiritual point of view.
    That's to say that we should question, not the practice but OUR practice, what these metaphors really mean to us, how to overcome certain hurdles. The teaching is there to give us a method and bring out what needs to be brought up for us to grow. There is no absolute truth in the method, each one of us must find his/her own truth, but we must also remember that Ashtanga means 8 steps and that there is a path to follow. Questioning the method could prevent self questioning and thus prevent our own spiritual progress.
    What is right is what works for each one of us to allow us to reach the next step.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I like the stress on questioning ones OWN practice and relationship to the practice and i agree that there is a danger in losing sight of that by questioning the practice itself too ....obsessively.

    That said questioning, discernment, is part of the practice, it's encouraged, Yoga is a philosophy rather than a religion however the approach to it, the attitude. at times seems to lean towards the religious, towards dogma, outside authority. Mohan's video that I posted today is interesting ( oh and the previous one where he said that Krishnamacharya had serious questions of Hatha Yoga Prapdika and in the the Yvonne Millenard interview K supposedly referred to Svatmarma as "the Donkey").

    I like the practice as metaphors idea also , what did Ricœur say, something like "metaphor shatters reality and re describes it anew'.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I remember reading somewhere that Guruji added UD to the end of primary because students pushed for it. I've seen a Kino video where she recommends ten UDs for some students, rather than more traditional 3. To me it makes sense to add UD when a student is ready, as Kapo is then not that far off. UD has always been fairly easy for me, however Kapo is a whole different story.

    ReplyDelete
  19. :laughing:

    Love this. Question everything. Question the fear of questioning. But do NOT question the obvious need for an ipad mini.

    The thing about UD that is so interesting to me is how much they freak me out, make me high, make me panic, give me some sensation that is like a headrush, only not vascular. Its so INTENSE to do all of that right after the winding down feeling of the end of primary, I sometimes can't face it and just lay over a big ball instead. But, at this point, if I don't do some sort of backbend after seated, I feel weird, too bent in one direction maybe. Probably just force of habit and expectation after three years of primary.

    All the 'should we be doing this now or then or with a teacher or without' etc, I always think, this is my body and I can put it in any position I want, haha. I've got this rebellious streak, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I heard something like that too desperate yogi. I read that primary used to run on in to second but that once everyone started to practice just the one series it meant the only backbend was upward dog ( an excellent backbend though and done throughout the practice of course) it was felt more backbending was required thus UD added at the end. Don't know how true that is and it doesn't explain why the primary of Yoga Mala doesn't have any back bending (apart from upwards dog) which raises questions about the idea of the practice being perfect and so well constructed.

    My view is that the idea of a fixed sequence is inherently problematic and always going to be a compromise.

    ReplyDelete
  21. hi Maya
    Apple just sent me an email asking me if I would like to preorder said iPad Mini....well obviously.

    Yes question everything, including questioning everything.

    UD after the winding down? au contraire, the winding down comes after UD are you perhaps not taking those last few postures of primary seriously enough, thinking perhaps it's game over after kukkutasana or perhaps baddha konasana.... go to the back of the class.

    Yes feels weird not to include it,

    Found something interesting, you know how we do that deep paschimottanasana after UD and drop backs eta as a counter, try doing a five to ten breath paschimottanasana BEFORE your Urdhva Dhnaurasana, magic happens....for me anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  22. That's me, at the back of the class! Clearly once I get to the "lying down bit" I think I'm allowed to chill a bit. Bad lady!

    ReplyDelete
  23. @ Mr Grimmly: "Citta vritti nirodaha doesn't mean the practice is anti thought."

    - Yes, I totally understand that, but it's about 'emptying a cup, in order to fill it again, without spillage (and after all those questions, I needed a mop and bucket!). If you wanted to collate some opinions from those that follow your blog, maybe you should've noted them elsewhere, and put out a maximum of four in one post. Shame, a lot of interesting opinions could've come out ...

    Re: Urdhva Dan., I reckon it's fine for anyone to do it, unless medically advised not too. I think people hurt themselves because they have a self-image that is beyond their personal capability, and need to swallow pride and reel back, then go forward from there with consistent practice over a long period of time. Everyone wants everything so damn quickly these days, then when they get it, they don't know it 'cause they're too busy chasing the next desire.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Grimmly

    The KYM bubble has busted now and I do not know when the Mysore bubble will burst . I am not saying that Pattbhi Joise / Shharat are exploiters like Kausthub but there is lot of mystery and cock and bull story with regard to the Ashtanga Origins , the non existent Yoga Korunta , the regular changing of Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice in Order to accommodate more students without any reason given as to why those changes are made , their claim to "Authentic Yoga" with Mysore as the route for the same like how KYM did with everyone coming to Chennai to receive the Authentic blessings . Now with Hundreds of people visiting Mysore I do not know what further Changes will be made there and now they are also Moving to the Corporate Model of "Joise Yoga" in USA .Basically they want to control Pattabhi Joise legacy the same way KYM wanted to control the legacy of Krishnamacharya and they work as only family enterprise .Nothing wrong in that but after seeing what happened in KYM ,I hope they put in some systems to avoid a nasty episode in Mysore .
    I admire the Ashtanga Vinyasa System of Practice and admire the contribution of Pattabhi Joise and Sharath in taking forward this tradition but some times power and popularity corrupts and hence I expect Sharath to be more careful now .

    ReplyDelete
  25. I find the questions are often more interesting than the answers Steve and and questioning itself of more value than answering. I added numbers in case anyone found a question in particular that they felt like taking a pop at.

    I tend to spend four to five hours a day in practice, repeating a mantra on the breath throughout and to the beat of my heart, these fifty questions took what, fifteen, twenty minutes.... ( I rarely spend more than half hour a day on a blog post) that ratio doesn't seem so bad.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi Krishna. I'm less concerned with the future of Ashtanga than with what's been going on in KHYF. KHYF was concerned with therapy and real harm seems to have taken place.

    With Ashtanga it's different, to be honest I don't think there's that much to worry about, as far as I can tell there are no origins to protect. It strikes me as a practice that came about by a series of accidents but is nonetheless effective and has value. It can be transformative and hopefully along the way lead one towards other aspects of yoga that though Ashtanga itself may nod at at least provides the horizon. It's all good.
    It's seeded well enough by now, Sharath seems to be doing the best he can and seems well meaning enough, it's a tough gig 'though I wonder how all this adoration and growing 'cult of Sharath' will affect him twenty years from now, those who indulge in that are i feel doing him no favours.That was what my earlier post was concerned with, , should such a system be run by a committee, trustee's a family.... Sharath seems a nice enough asana teacher but i never voted for him and 'though I might live in a hereditary monarchy I'm a republican at heart.
    Looking forward to what else AG Mohan has to say about tradition and lineage in the next YouTube video. Some nice questioning going on. I don't remember Ramaswami ever using the L word, he would just say 'this is how my teacher showed me, give it a try'.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Perhaps one future post should be about what asanas freak us out. For me urdhva dhanurasana and sarvangasana are in the top league. And I am not counting stuff which freaks me out so much I cannot do it, like drop backs of course....

    ReplyDelete
  28. I wasn't sure about that Chiara, suspected people would just come up with the usual suspects, UD as you mentioned, kapo, drop back ...but then, when I started to think about it, asanas that freak you out and why, or what scares you about certain asanas....popping your hip out in Leg behind head, popping your knee in baddha lonasana, landing on your head in drop back of course. oh and I had one, falling over in durvasana (standing leg behind head) -would I get my leg back from around my head in time. Mostly silly little fears that get in our heads, might be nice to do a post on that and get rid of disolve some of them, or at least take them out of the shadows.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have talked to two teachers who had been taught by Pattabhi Jois and both mentioned that he suggested that progressing past the first series was only for the "dumbies" who didn't get "it" the first time, or words to that effect. If Krishnamacharya didn't have urdhva danurasana or any other deep back bend in the first series, maybe there was a reason for it. Perhaps deep backbends are bad news for most people's bodies, either quickly or slowly (see Glenn Black's explanation for why he got his L3, L4, and L5 vertebra surgically fused [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eden-g-fromberg-do/yoga_b_1202465.html]). I find it curious that the Chinese/Taoist martial/healing arts have no backbends, but do have forward bends. Perhaps there is something to be learned from Krishnamacharya's approach to the primary series and from the Taoist disciplines? Let me know your thoughts everyone.

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

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
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