“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Monday, 12 November 2012

Old Mysore Shala videos, Slow Ashtanga project and that 10 second inhalation

This post is a little ...stitched/cobbled together ( and shows) from a couple of posts I've been working on recently, will tidy it up a little more and add to it as I continue exploring this....work in progress.

 "...the point I think is just to work on lengthening the breath and breathe as fully as possible given the limitations of the posture while at the same time exploring those perceived limitations."

I've was banging on in my previous post (Best Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga YouTube video ever?) about this 10 second inhalation and 10 second exhalation that Patabhi Jois exhorts, there it is again in the post's video. ( BTW, some excellent comments on that post that are worth looking at in this context. one in particular from Karen to keep in mind "...David Garrigues talked about balancing the energies that can arise -- tamasic, potentially, if you go too slow; rajasic, if too fast. Instead of a "correct" answer, it's about the individual paying attention to the energy he/she is creating with the breath.").

These long, slow, subtle inhalations and exhalations are in Krishnamacharya's early writing from the 30's/40's when he was teaching Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi,

"...the breath must be slow and of equal duration"  When practicing asanas, we need to maintain deep inhalation and exhalation to normalise the uneven respiration through nasal passages". Yoga makaranda

" In yoga positions where eyes, head and forehead are raised, inhalation must be performed slowly through the nostrils until the lungs are filled.  Then the chest is pushed forward and puffed up, abdomen tightly tucked in, focusing the eyes on the tip of the nose, and straighten the back bones tightly as much as possible.  This type of inhalation which fills the lungs signifies Puraka.
In yoga positions where eyes, head, forehead, chest and the hip are lowered, we have to slowly exhale the filled air.  Tucking in tightly the upper abdomen, the eyes must be closed.  This type of exhalation is called Rechaka.
Holding the breath is called Kumbhaka". Yogasangalu


"Normally when practicing yoga, inhalation and exhalations must be long and
deep, subtle, with sound and by way of the throat.  This inhalation and
exhalation is called "Anuloma ujjayi" Yogasangalu

It's there in his later writing when he was teaching Desikachar and  Ramaswami.

"...The breaths should be even deep and long" Salutations to the teacher the eternal one

And It's how Ramaswami taught us on his TT course. I'm convinced it's those long inhalations and exhalations that had such a profound effect on me when I first practiced Vinyasa Krama.

And there it is too in Pattabhi Jois' interview's

"Question: Doing vinyasa is it correct to stop for example in urdhva mukha svanasana for more than one breath?
Answer: Only one breath, inhale one breath, exhale. Inhale, exhale only one breath. Inhale 10 seconds or 15 seconds then exhalation also 10 seconds or 15 seconds. This is 10 times I am telling, you don’t understand!"

"Long breathing - inhalation long breathing, your chest expanding and you will be very strong after. If long breathing, inhalation is not correct or if only the exhalation is coming long, that is heart trouble is starting. That is very bad. Inhalation more you take, exhalation little down you take. There is no problem. Inhalation you want, long inhalation'.
http://www.aysnyc.org

...and on yesterdays video, he says loud and clear the breath should be ten seconds inhalation and ten seconds exhalation (in the Interview above he mentions 10-15 seconds).

However, and here's the rub, he then goes on in the video to lead a demonstration where everyone is racing through at two, perhaps three, seconds inhalations and exhalations (as pointed out in the posts comments).

Perhaps that's just a demo, to keep the crowd interested.

But, there it is again in his led videos of Primary, 2nd and Advanced series shot in Encinitas.

Time limitations of VHS perhaps?

Apparently not, there's Sharath on his Primary series, this time on DVD, the whole of Primary in about an hour, again breath rate of a couple of seconds each inhaling and exhaling.

"One suggestion for such behaviour is the sheer speed of the practice – holding postures for five breaths is an advanced form and the breath easily becomes shallow. Despite Pattabhi Jois’ instruction – according to Lino Miele: “teaching a long breath...a practice of ten seconds each inhalation, ten seconds each exhalation” – often the breath is much shorter. Research has shown that when shorter breath is combined with vigorous physical movement we go more into the sympathetic nervous system. It’s the sympathetic nervous system that is fight, flight, freeze – and here we become defended and individualised. In the parasympathetic nervous system there is much more ability to connect: that’s a system of tending and befriending, resting and digesting.
This suggestion that practicing Ashtanga could be pushing us into the sympathetic nervous system needs consideration. Fast breathing is demonstrated in Sharat’s audio CD of the primary series: each pose (not including entry and exit) takes about 20 seconds. With the five breaths in each pose this means that there are four seconds per breath which is an inhalation in two seconds and an exhalation in two seconds. The rapidity of this breath along with strong physical movements might be putting us into thatfighting flighting freezing nervous system: where rather than openness and inclusivity, abundance and compassion there is control and rigidity".
http://www.yogawithnorman.co.uk/worddocs/The_box-an_ashtanga_journey.pdf

If we look at actual Mysore rooms around the world it's a little slower, three - four second, perhaps five. A long way from the 10-15 seconds Pattabhi Jois and Krishnamacharya seem to be endorsing.

Perhaps things have changed. I hunted down the videos from the old Mysore shala, actual practice back in 1987, same story, even Richard Freeman is racing through his Sury and the Sury's was supposedly taken slower than the central part of the practice.

1987


.... and the same in1999




Well, what of David Williams, lets go all the way back to 1974, here's an excellent report of David Williams workshop in 2010 from Terry Slade.

"Question - What about the length of the breath? Sometimes it seems like you are going a little faster.
DW - well slower is always better, but who's that chef on TV? the cajun guy, he says "spice it up", sometimes you want to spice it up, breathe a little faster, it depends on who's there. We're all pretty advanced today so I'm just picking up the pace a bit.
(I didn't notice the pace to be too quick. In our studio we aim for 4 counts or about 4 seconds in each inhale and each exhale. We might have gone a tiny bit faster than that in some of these sessions)."
Notes on David Williams workshop

So nobody, it seems, practices Ashtanga with a ten second inhalation and ten second exhalation, nor do they seem to have done so since Ashtanga came West.

What of Manju Jois, his practiced with his father goes back to the 1950's, what does he have to say, anyone know? hoping to hear something back on this.

Slow Ashtanga Movement

AYRI = Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, lets do some research

So WHY don't we practice our Ashtanga with a 10 second inhalation and 10 second exhalation?

Is it even possible to practice Ashtanga that way?

I ask because I love my Ashtanga but also love those long breathing patterns of Vinyasa Krama. If Pattabhi Jois is recommending ( and not just in the 70's but in the 80's and 90's) , long slow inhalations and exhalations then perhaps the two approaches to practice are compatible, and the early and late Krishnamacharya aren't perhaps exclusive, that there may be that consistency I've been seeking.

It's not just about the count, an ego trip along the lines of "look how slowly I can breath", it's not about the longest breath but rather the, deepest,  fullest, the fullest breath. We want to breath to the end of the inhalation and to the end of the exhalation, pushing out all the breath, perhaps with a little Richard Freeman pfuf at the end (as he pushes out the last remnants of air).  And when we do that, the bandhas engage naturally, we don't have to go wrenching them up but their boot straps, yanking up our anus.

Some Problems

Well it is possible but it'll take forever. I practiced it that way the other morning with my Friday Primary, Standing took me an hour and I had to cut the practice short after janu sirsasana A and move to finishing.

Practice took just under two hours.

I've been practice that way on my day off, the full Primary series and it takes around three hours, If I'm honest it's more like eight second inhalations and eight second exhalations, less in the deep twists.

Now I still want time in the morning, before heading off to work, for my pranayama and meditation practice, I only realistically have three hours available in the mornings, something has to give.

Either we sacrifice the breath and practice at half the rate Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois talked and wrote about or we have to sacrifice asana.

I believe the problem came with the fixed sequence. In Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu we have groups of posture which correspond closely to the Primary, Intermediate and advanced sequence in Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga groups of available asana rather than a  fixed sequence.

We don't have to practice them all. krishnamacharya talks about this in his Salutaions to the Eternal one and pattabhi jois writes about it in Yoga Mala. there are asana that are considered key, everything else is extra and dependent on the time available. We often seem to forget this in our evermore formalised, dogmatised and rigid practice

There is a certain logic to the structure of practice however, a fact I showed in my practice book, how an Ashtanga practice is made up of several short subroutines. We need to keep this in mind when we seek to adapt our practice, be mindful of what we propose to cut.

We can cut out some of the postures from the subroutine but then of course we're moving further away from the Vinyasa Krama aspect of the practice were postures prepare you for the one to come,  we don't want to cut out too many.

Another way is to look again at Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama where we notice three breaths in a regular posture rather than five ( or in the old days of ashtanga,supposedly eight).

Three breaths of ten seconds inhalation and ten seconds exhalation (plus the automatic mini kumbhakas at the end of the inhalation and exhalation) is a little over a minute

Modern Ashtanga's five breaths of three to four second inhalation and exhalation ( and four seconds is pretty good these days) is not even half a minute in a posture.

Three options or a mix of each

So we can follow the same Ashtanga sequence but take less, but longer, slower, deeper, breaths in the asana.

However,  many of the breaths in Ashtanga are in between the asana, the vinyasas between each side and at the end of each posture, (five or six inhalations and exhalations, three full breaths) we can't cut those. Well we can, we could cut the half vinyasa between sides occasionally (vinyasa krama cuts the vinyasa between postures within a subroutine), that would also protect the wrists somewhat.

We can also cut out some, but not too many, postures, treat Primary as a group of postures again rather than a fixed sequence, perhaps cutting elsewhere the following day and practicing those that we missed out the previous day. The danger of course is that we cut out those we don't like, bad form.

And we can cut the practice short, jump to finishing after navasana say and then perhaps the following day begin at navasana.

What, it's that easy?

So why doesn't everyone practice that way?

Why have we become fixated on this fixed sequence, Pattabhi Jois In his Yoga Mala offers us the option of cutting the series short if we're short of time rather than sacrifice the practice.

It's an interesting project, we have the slow cooker movement, I'm suggesting a slow Ashtanga movement. S.A.M. SAM. i was going to call it Slow Ashtanga Project , SAP....perhaps not.

Try it yourself ....surreptitiously, pick one asana in your practice and take three long, slow, full breaths of ten seconds inhalation and ten seconds exhalation just to see what its like. Three breaths like that take about the same time as five breaths at regular modern Ashtanga pace....teacher won't know  : )

And besides Richard Freeman did say, half jokingly, on his workshop that his goal was to practice the slowest Primary series ever.

So what will slow ashtanga look like?

Here are three videos of sury A and B plus janu Sirsasana A , which seemed a good example. Still working at the rhythm but you get an idea. Be warned it's a little like watching grass grow.



The third video shows the difference up quite well, here, with the longer Inhalations and exhalations janu sirsasana is taking six minutes from downward dog to downward dog. A quick look at most of the teaching and demo videos out there to be a little under of over two minutes.

A sample slow Ashtanga practice
This morning I managed to get through the Whole Primary series in 90 minutes.

I cut out the hasta padangustasana's ( nice long slow uttanasana's in the Sury's anyway)

Only two parasarita's A& C ( tomorrow I'll do B and D)

Skipped utthita parsvottanasana ( but will include it tomorrow)

Skipped Ardha baddha padmottanasa ( but practiced the seated version in the main sequence will switch that around tomorrow).

Went straight to paschimottanasa after Utthita Parsvasahita

No jump through between Parsvottanasana ( I'm not alone in this)

No vinyasa between sides in the first couple of Asymmetric postures

Practiced janu Sirsasana A, C (plus Viranchyasana B) on the same side before jumping back and doing the other side

No jump back's between the konasanas ( again not alone in this)

Skipped the ubbaya padangusthasana sequence today but will practice it tomorrow

No jump back's between the konasanas ( again not alone in this)

Skipped setu bandhasana

urdhava Dhaurasana but no dopback ( again, will switch that around tomorrow)

Finishing was pretty standars but...

Skipped karna pindasana in finishing

10 breaths in Sarvangasana

10 braths in Sirsasana

10 breaths in padmasana

3 breaths in utpluthi

As I said, this is an experiment, research, perhaps 10 seconds inhalation  and 10 seconds exhalation isn't sustainable in the Ashtanga context ( I probably average around 8 seconds currently, less in the twists) but if nothing else this might bring us to reflect a little on our breathing and explore slowing it down a little more, deepen it a little, four seconds instead of three or five instead of four, whatever ultimately feels most comfortable, natural and in keeping with the integrity of our own practice.

Karen's comment on David Garrigues again

 "...David Garrigues talked about balancing the energies that can arise -- tamasic, potentially, if you go too slow; rajasic, if too fast. Instead of a "correct" answer, it's about the individual paying attention to the energy he/she is creating with the breath."

26 comments:

  1. Well Grimmly,
    that's probably the best article i've ever read about ashtanga.
    yesterday i practised in slow mode and that was just fantastic, the concentration was much deeper and i my attention was literally glued to the breath. Standing took me over 50 minutes so i had to cut a lot of the sitting postures to make it in my time frame. I'll try your clever skipping posture system. and i'll report here.

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  2. Tomas Zorzo, told us that went he was at the begining wiht Guruji, last 80´ they usually practiced more than three hours. But I dont know exactly the context of the breath pace, just the practice time.

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  3. Thanks Obobinde, little long perhaps and needs some tightening up but glad you liked it. When i think how i used to rush through standing in the beginning to get to the 'main event', what was i thinking, the breath itself is the 'main event'.

    Hi Oscar, be interesting to know if Tomas was taking three hours because he was practicing slowly or just practicing all of primary and all of 2nd or 2nd and 3rd etc.

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  4. Hi Anthony

    I also liked that David Garrigues comment about the tamasic/rajasic twist we can give the practice depending on the breath duration we choose.
    I think it actually comes together fairly well with Gregor Maehle's warning about ujjayi's use as done by Ashtanga vinyasa practitioners.
    On several occasions in his Pranayama book he says that many pratictioners subconsciously associate ujjayi with activation of the symphatetic nervous system to gear up for the practice.... so he said that although it is a good thing that ashtangis have such familiarity with pranayama, they may want to be careful about the mind-body connection outside the physical practice. At least if I understood correctly of course!

    As for me, whenever I practice the Primary series I tend to ignore the five-breaths rule and go woth three long breaths. The result for me is that the sequence becomes like a trance, extremely meditative and with a calmness to it that I rarely experience in other occasions, potentially because the sequence is set so you do not really have to think much? and can sink into yourself.... now perhaps a lot starts to make more sense?!

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    1. Hi Chiara, yes good to keep David in mind while exploring this, "...am I taking things TOO slowly?" But then isn't part of the whole breath thing that the exhalation can lead to tamas the inhalation to rajas and by balancing them you kind of cancel them out....now where did i come across that. That being the case as long as the inhalation and exhalation are the same then you can go as slow as you want. hmmmmm but then perhaps as fast you want also. I think generally people tend to sacrifice the inhalation somewhat as longer exhalations are easier so by focusing on extending that inhalation, the energy level should be fine which is what I'm finding. And of course for krishnamacharya and ramaswami the asana aspect was to get rid of thae rajas and then you follow up with pranayama to get rid of the tamas and put you in the ost satvic frame of mind. But of course Ashtangi's, generally, don't tend to practice pranayama and those that do often do it at the before asana so perhaps this becomes more of an issue.

      I don't know still not 100% convinced by the rajas/tamas/satvic model. I like the idea of asana and pranayama practice to prepare you for meditation but then lets face it at 5am were in our most satvic frame of mind anyway so perhaps don't need to do the asana and pranayama, that's why everyone meditates early in the morning. now if your going to meditate in the early evening then i can see the argument.

      Yes three long breaths rather than five short ones seems to be ideal, i tried something like that when I followed Sharaths' primary for a month early in the year to brush up 9 except he's so quick it's a push to even get three breaths in.

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  5. ah!
    I forgot to say that whenever I go for sun salutations (I have my own version where I add a couple of lounges and twists, variations on anjaneyasana).
    I try to stick to 8-seconds inhales and exhales. Usually I use 6-7 seconds for the breathing and the rest of the time as kumbhaka to engage the bandhas. I tend to use a metronome. Bit sad I know but helps to keep the rythm....

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    1. Yes 8 seconds here too with a second or two of natural, automatic mini kumbhaka either end.....David Robeson' had some drum mp3 he was selling to accompany practice I seem to remember. i tried a metronome once but got irritated with setting it up as it's a traditional clockwork type so just stuck with the breath. i find the mantra i use now throughout practice works well.

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  6. re: "We want to breath to the end of the inhalation and to the end of the exhalation, pushing out all the breath"

    While I think that a slower overall breathing rate is beneficial to the mind/body union, I do not think it is plausible to be machanical about it, and set it a 10:10 ratio, as many of the ansanas in Ashtanga are quite vigorous and/or place the organs in positions that place more pressure on the lungs--or even invert them--which makes slow breathing harder and perhaps not advisabble and so require/demand a shortened breath, such as when jumping through; inverted in sarvangasana; or on the elbows in mayurasana, etc. I think this is where focus on the demands of the asana come into play, and where the practicle wisdom also comes into play, requiring one to b constantly present and aware of the breath as well as the body and mind, its tightness as well as its expansiveness. Anything tending to the mechanical/metronomic is in effect tamasic and dull. Perhaps this sort of practice aids the mnd towards a trance-like state, but I would be cautious of this in the long term.

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  7. Yes I agree Anon. I mentioned in this post and the last about how in the twists for instance I can only manage around five seconds although it is interesting exploring lengthening the breath more than usual in them, finding the space, helps with the posture too. I've done a pasasana video to demonstrate this very thing, also one on drop backs . I expected the binds to be harder to lengthen the breath too but it's not as much of a problem as I expected. Agreed you can't come up with a fixed 10/10 cover all, we all have different lung capacities and as you say different asana have different demands, the point I think is just to work on lengthening the breath and breath as fully as possible given the limitations of the posture while at the same time exploring those perceived limitations. Example, eka pada sirsasana seems difficult to extend the breath but that's perhaps because we might allow the leg behind the head to bend us over slightly and constrict the lungs to the detriment of the breath. Being focussed on lengthening the breath makes us perhaps more mindful of lengthening the back and opening the shoulders. part of this project will be to explore all the postures of primary and 2nd and see how this breath focus plays out, where the limitations are and to what extent they can be overcome. Another example we forget sometimes that we can expand the lungs not just through raising the chest but by expanding out to the side and to the back, hard to explore all thiss in a two or three second inhalation.
    in Yoga makaranda the jump through is done on a kumbhaka I believe. In Sarvangasana we can still seek to lengthen the breath, bringing the chest right up under the chin into full jalandhara bandha. And I was wondering about mayurasana, will be exploring that tomorrow.

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    1. RE: "the point I think is just to work on lengthening the breath and breath as fully as possible given the limitations of the posture while at the same time exploring those perceived limitations."

      Well put! :)

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  8. Grimmly--

    What are your thoughts on a 1:2 ratio for breathing during asana practice? For example, four seconds in, eight seconds out. I've been experimenting with this in my practice and I've noticed it really helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system and put me in a more relaxed and meditative state during and after my practice.

    In general, I guess I'd like a little more clarity on the distinction between asana and pranayama in practice as I suppose what I just described could be considered a blurring of the lines between the two.

    Can/should asana and pranayama be combined?

    I apologize if you've already addressed this at length elsewhere.

    Thank you for sharing your practice,

    --Nick

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  9. Hi Nick

    asana and pranayama are combined a lot in the TKV Desikachar tradition. Lots of exploration of different ratios, kumbhakas etc while during the asanas. Granted, you probably would still use ujjayi and not sitali, so not exploring the full range of different pranayama techniques, but different ratios are often used to induce more of a brahmana (typically with inhale/internal retention) or langhana (long exhale/external retentions) effect.
    Also in my current training my teacher often makes us explore different breath duration in the repetitions of the same asana, say for example dwipadapitham up with inhale and down with exhale making the breaths last say 2-3-4-5-6-5-4-3-2 seconds. In this case it is used to get a very good understanding of your lung capacity and control and your ability to synchronise breath and movement, a small mindful sequence in itself in a way...

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    1. thanks Chiara, interesting that about the different breath duration

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  10. Thank you for your feedback chiara. Out of curiosity, what particular style of yoga are you training in? Are there any particular resources you'd recommend for further exploring the combination of asana and pranayama?

    In general, I'd really like more clarity regarding the distinction between the eight limbs, particularly the distinction between asana and dhyana. I often find myself describing yoga as "dynamic" or "moving" meditation, but I wonder if this is really accurate. Is asana merely preparation for dhyana, or can they be looked at (at least on some level) as one and the same?

    Grimmly, I apologize for commandeering this comment thread to ask an off topic question.

    I appreciate any and all feedback.

    --Nick

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    1. In Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda ( there's a link to a download of the book halfway down my left sidebar) he indicates different approaches to the breath dependent on the posture, some short kumbhaka ( breath retention) is explored. Krishnamacharya wrote this of course in the same period that he was teaching Pattabhi Jois.
      So there are elements of the breathing in asana that are similar to pranayama, preparation at least, however the kumbhaka tends to be particularly short, perhaps extending the natural breath retention at the end of the inhalation and exhalation by an extra couple of seconds. Pranayama per se is surely more formalised. The postures particularly stable where one could remain for a considerable period. The kumbhaka of course would be longer than the few seconds one might explore in asana. perhaps it's best to say that there can be elements of pranayama practice in asana, echoes that can perhaps inform our asana practice and prepare us for a more formal pranayama practice.

      We do say that about Ashtanga don't we, 'moving meditation' and I always thought of it in this way but I think it's the same thing here as with pranayama. There are meditative aspects to the practice, it has a strong focus, whether on Ashtanga drishti or the breath or in my case a mantra linked to the breath focussed at the heart, but it still strikes me as different from a more formal sitting practice. As I just said, in my asana practice I mental repeat a mantra linked to the breath and focussed in the heart, i do pretty much exactly the same thing in my more formal meditation practice. There does seem a difference however. It's as if your stripping more and more away, only one posture, the breath after the first few minutes retreats into the background, the mantra too seems to sit in the heart repeating itself ....i feel I'm doing less, involved less. Of course thoughts still come up and I have to reset, reset the breath reset the mantra and settle again. I guess what I'm saying is that in my current experience, although my asana practice is informed by my pranayama and meditation practice and i go so far as to include many of the same elements the limbs do still feel distinct.
      And of course for Ramaswami they have different goals. the Asana is there to get rid of the rajas, the agitation, the pranayama to reduce the tamas, leathery and that is supposed to put us in the ideal state for practicing our more formal meditation/concentration practice ( not forgetting pratyahara, again more formalised than drishti focus ).
      How about putting it like this
      Ashtanga asana practice kinda is a pranayama practice but it also kinda isn't, it kinda is a meditation practice but it kinda isn't either.

      But remember I'm still exploring this just like you, trying to work it all out to my own satisfaction only in a blog and it is ONLY a blog. Gregor Maehle's book pranayama is a good start for somebody coming from an Ashtanga perspective, it's who he's writing it for. Also Richard freeman who has a pranayama cd and also an online course although I'd go with his CD on the breath first to get used to his approach.

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    2. Thanks Grimmly, I appreciate the depth and honesty of your reply. Maehle's book seems expensive to me right now, but comprehensive enough that I could see myself buying it eventually. In the meantime, I'm going to do some more looking and see what I can come up with, maybe check out the Bihar School of Yoga books, if not Iyengar or Sivananda's books on pranayama. I'll also take a look at Ramaswami's books again to get his perspective, since I'm intrigued by a more ayurvedic approach to the practice (your comment about Ramaswami's approach reminded me of David Frawley's books).

      Out of curiosity, have you done a post on your mantra practice? I've been interested in incorporating mantra into my own practice, but I'm not sure where to start. Unfortunately, none of my classes or training have touched on this topic yet.

      --Nick

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  11. Hi Nick. re 1:2 there are some postures in Vinyasa Krama, paschimottanasana for example where being bent over it's difficult to exhale so deeply however Ramaswami would suggest we still lengthen the exhalation and then engage the banadhas. In general though the 1:2 ratio is probably our natural ratio, we tend to exhale more slowly than we inhale. This is no doubt why on lengthening the breath I think Pattabhi Jois indicates lengthening the inhalation...to catch up with our naturally longer exhalation and thus equalising those two elements of the breath. The important point surely is to inhale fully and exhale fully, but both Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois seem to insist on slow and steady breathing as well as deep and full, like pouring oil i remember seeing it described.

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    1. In my practice, I tend to struggle more with keeping my breath deep, long and smooth in poses like salamba sarvangasana and halasana, in which my breathing usually feels constricted (as in I can't seem to get a full and satisfying expansion in my chest and abdomen). I've asked my teacher about this and he suggested experimenting with a blanket for support or viparita karani as a variation, at least for salamba sarvangasana.

      I'm going to experiment this week with some different breath combinations and see what happens. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I've found lengthening the exhalation to be particularly beneficial. On the other hand, I think 10:10 is definitely an ideal worth practicing toward and something I'd like to explore. I also like the image of pouring oil.

      Thanks for sharing,

      --Nick

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    2. Re mantra I'm exploring this at the moment
      http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/dharana-mantra-is-new-black.html

      There's some mantra relating to pranayama on my pranayama page at the top of the blog, hope that helps Nick

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    3. Thanks Grimmly. I'll be sure to check both out.

      --Nick

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  12. Hi Nick

    After a 200TT mostly on vinyasa flow principles I am now taking further training in the TVK Desikachar tradition. It used to be under the KHYF umbrella but with the recent 'developments' my teacher Antonio and his teacher Chandra (direct student of TKV Desikachar) left the organisation so my training has no label at the moment. Not that I care to be honest.
    I just want to learn more in this lineage and I gradually see that there are many similarities in the 'longer course students' of Krishnamacharya, S Ramaswami, TKV Desikachar and AG Mohan for example. So I always find Anthony's considerations very interesting to use and compare with my own.

    Anthony.... I am not so sure about a longer exhale being spontaneous, at least not for everybody. For me for example, I think I mentioned it previously in another thread, the inhale is longer. I had to train myself to make the exhale longer and complete. And I love it!
    I think the ratio is a combination of constitution, age, general psycho-physical state.
    And of course some asana are naturally leading towards a long exhale (as the paschimottanasana you mention), other towards a long inhale (I can think of tadasana, virabhadrasana) and that again I feel also leads to their therapeutic use or their choice in a morning/evening practice.
    So many choices!

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    1. Thanks for sharing chiara. I agree with you on both counts regarding your interest in traditions and your overall perspective on breathing. I think the practice needs to be tailored according to individual needs and goals. Of course, that's much easier said than done (especially when it comes to practicing in or teaching a class made up of a variety of students). Nevertheless, at least in the US, I feel as if we are in desperate need of more classes and trainings that focus on this in particular and on promoting the teachings of Krishnamacharya, Ramaswami, etc. in general.

      Chiara and Grimmly, I look forward to learning and sharing more from future discussions with you both.

      Grimmly, any thoughts of one day starting your own training program?

      --Nick

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    2. Ramaswami would like me to be teaching more I think, I probably should but there always seems to be so much more to learn in ones own practice and that it should be ever more grounded. I should probably get on and teach more before I think about training programs. I highly recommend attending one of Ramaswami's though whether a short mid or longer course.

      Delete
    3. Sounds good. Let me know if you ever end up in California...

      --Nick

      Delete
  13. Just saw this story and thought of your research ;): http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/clip-board/201211/man-holds-his-breath-world-record-22-minutes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for this Anon, fascinating. he has a book out too i see, lots of mentions of yoga http://tinyurl.com/ccwh8p3

      Delete

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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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