Sunday, 8 September 2013

Notes to self: Ashtanga and the breath. The only one you need to impress is Vayu.

A sprawling post, bits and pieces from half written posts that seemed to cut and paste in my head as well as here...but what to call it?
Vayu. British MuseumGouache painting on paper (watermarked 1814) from a set of twelve paintings of deities. The deity Vayu standing upon a lotus-covered dais, with a mriga (gazelle) behind. He holds a dhvaja (a flag) in right hand and da??a (a rod) in the left.

from Anne Nuotio
"A very good way to practice this is to finish every asana in Samasthiti. Really to finish, not just stopping for a while having the mind in the next breath or step. Feeling the end. Feeling the pause inside. Feeling the body in harmony and not in stress. It’s not the matter of time at all, it’s the matter of awareness and presence. It can be a split-second moment, but usually to really feel you take more time in the beginning. When you get used to this way of practice and life, it becomes integrated in your system. Then practice every breath with the same presence: feeling the beginning of the breath, the evolution and the end. The real silence in the end of an exhalation. That’s the synonym of death. A moment of no-thing, no-mind. And you start anew"!


*********

Notes to self

It was useful to have Manju's workshop in Crete and have something to look ahead to as I tried to rebuild my practice after those three months of illness ( one thing after another). I was tempted to cancel the course in the beginning, I didn't want to let myself down, embarrass myself. Later I smartened up a little and just wanted to get the most out of the course, stumble through a full Primary and to hell with how it looked. Tomorrow I have another day with Manju, a Led Sunday at Stillpoint Yoga in London. I still don't feel my practice is back up to scratch, tempted not to go, but again, Manju doesn't care how floaty my practice is, just that I turn up and do my best. And that's our practice really, isn't it, turn up every morning ( or evening if necessary) and do our best. It's the Yama's and Niyama right there, turn up to life and do your best, in the yama/niyama's, in your asana, in pranayama and in the meditative limbs. When seeking to concentrate, to focus, to attend, be present we just keep turning up and doing our best.

It's supposed to be hard, the mind wanders, those ruddy vrittis. Patanjali knew us best, the mind wanders and the game is to kindly bring the attention back.

Something else that struck me that relates to this perhaps and to the quote of Anna's above, bringing them together perhaps

The only guy in the room you need to even consider trying to impress is.....

Vayu

It doesn't matter if your having a bad morning, if your feeling a little stiff, a little tight,

There are always days like that....

Do less, practice more slowly, especially those first few Sury's, step back rather than jump back, milk, really milk, the standing postures, hell, do each standing asana twice and call it quits, miss out the reverse twists or do the beginner version you used to do back when you first started practice, don't go in so deep. Do three Pashimottanasana A's instead of B and C, skip Marichi B and D, or again do that beginner version, take it easy, ahmisa, be kindly to yourself. Sacrifice how deeply you try to get into an asana perhaps but don't sacrifice the breath.

It's your practice, there's nobody to impress...

Except perhaps this guy


Vayu

How ever many postures we do practice that day...

and it struck me there are only three to worry about really however many asana we do that day, Tadasana, that first samasthithi (aren't all the standing postures there to work on our Samasthiti?)


Dandasana, the seated Samasthiti...


and our finishing lotus or half lotus, or seated cross legged (wherever we are) at the end of out practice.


But I digress..

How ever many postures we do practice that day...even if it's only the Sury's or the sanding sequence, or the first two postures of Primary series... aim to breathe well, impress Vayu. That breath, ideally, is long, full, slow, 'like the pouring of oil'. Your body might be stiff and you might be giving yourself an easier ride today but how ever stiff we may be we can still work on the breath, give that our best. Let it be the breath that guides our alignment, the balance, the practice itself. If alignment is off the breath probably isn't that great anyway, if the balance is off the subtle anxiety of trying not to fall over is no doubt showing up in the breathing, if the asana is all crunched up then we probably haven't found the space to open our chest as much as possible, or found that hidden space for the breath in the back or in the sides of our chest....

I know this, we're in the breathing business, it's a breathing practice, I obsess about the breath, but STILL I find myself forgetting, somewhere, half way though my practice, the breath gets a little shorter, a little rushed. I start to think about the next posture, the next breath or even the end of the current one.... Note to self, attend to the breath all the way to the end.

 "...practice every breath with the same presence: feeling the beginning of the breath, the evolution and the end. The real silence in the end of an exhalation".

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

Vāyu (Sanskrit: वायु, IAST: Vāyu; Malay: Bayu, Thai: Phra Pai) is a primary Hindu deity, the Lord of the winds, the father of Bhima and the spiritual father of Lord Hanuman. He is also known as Vāta (वात), Pavana (पवन, the Purifier)[2], and sometimes Prāna (प्राण, the breath).

As the word for air, (Vāyu) or wind (Pavana) is one of the Panchamahābhuta or five great elements. The Sanskrit word 'Vāta' literally means "blown", 'Vāyu' "blower", and 'Prāna' "breathing" (viz. the breath of life, cf. the *an- in 'animate'). Hence, the primary referent of the word is the "deity of Life", who is sometimes for clarity referred to as "Mukhya-Vāyu" (the chief Vāyu) or "Mukhya Prāna" (the chief of Life).

Sometimes the word "vayu," which is more generally used in the sense of the physical air or wind, is used as a synonym for "prāna".[3] There is however a separate set of five deities of Prāna (vital breath), Mukhya-Prāna being chief among them, so that, in Hindi and other Indian languages, someone's death is stated as "his lives departed" (uske prān nikal gaye) rather than "his life departed." These five Vāyu deities, Prāna, Apāna, Vyāna, Udāna, and Samāna, control life (and the vital breath), the wind, touch/sensation, digestion, and excretion.


***********

The section below is from my on-going notes to Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu ( which in turn are based on Ramaswami's notes) Krishnamacharya quotes Yoga Sutra II-47, these notes explore his interpretation of this sutra and directly relate to the breath and to Vayu.


-see ongoing translation project at the top of the blog).
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/yogasanagalu-translation-project.html



The translation and treatment of the sutra below is from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras Based on the teaching of Srivatsa Ramaswami by Pamela Hoxsey and taught on the Vinyasa Krama teacher training course that I attended in 2010. This is relevant because Ramaswami spent over thirty years, from the 1950's to the 1980's, as Krishnamacharya's student.

Yoga Sutra II-47
“प्रायत्नशैथिल्यानन्तसमापत्तिभ्याम्”
“prayatnashithilyanantasamapattibhyam”

"prayatna - effort (of life which is breathing)

saithilya - smooth (make it smooth)

ananta-samapattibhyam:

          ananta -breath

          samapattibhyam - focusing on it
By making the breath smooth (and long), and by concentration or focusing the mind on the breath, the perfection of the posture is obtained.

Note: Krishnamacharya interprets this sutra differently than other teachers. he gives the correct technical meaning (in this context) fromn prayatna or Jivana prayatna, or effort of life which is breath. he says that it is the breath that should be made smooth and effortless, not the posture. it is not physical; it is the breathing" p55
------------------------------

-I also found an Online edition of The Yoga Sutras with Vyasa's commentary and the explanation/gloss called
 tattva- vaicardi of Vachaspati Micra ( Mitra) quoted in length in the text above.

http://archive.org/details/yogasystemofpata00wooduoft

II- 47. By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with reference to Ananta
[A posture] results. With these words the sentence is completed. When efforts cease the posture is completed,so that there is no agitation of the body. Or the mind-stuff comes into a balanced-state with reference to Ananta and produces the posture. (Vyasa)

Having stated what the postures are, he tells what are the means of attaining them. 47.By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with reference to Ananta. A natural effort sustaining the body is not the cause of this kind of posture which is to be taught as an aid to yoga. For if its cause were such, the preaching of it would be purposeless in that it could be naturally perfected. Therefore this natural effort does not accomplish this kind of posture which is to be taught and is contrary [to it]. For in so far as this [natural posture] is the cause of an arbitrarily chosen posture it is the destroyer of the specific kind of posture. Consequently a man, practising the specific posture as taught, should resort to an effort which consists in the relaxation of the natural effort. Otherwise the posture taught cannot be accomplished. Or . . . with Ananta,^ the Chief of Serpents, who upholds the globe of the earth upon his thousand very steadfast hoods, [with him] the mind-stuff comes into a balanced state and produces the posture". (Vachaspati Micra)

Translation of Ananta
Ananta is another name for Vishnu (the infinite. limitless one) and often gets translated as infinity, some argue that the meaning of this sutra is to meditate upon the infinite, Sankara puts it like this,

"When the mind attains samadhi on that which stands pervading all existence, the posture is perfected, made firm" p275
Sankara on the Yoga Sutras, Trevor Leggett.

As Ramaswami states
"Krishnamacharya interprets this sutra differently than other teachers..."

"There is another interpretation of the word ananta. The...meaning comes from the word "ana" which means to breathe. Ana means preach. for example, prana, apana, vyana, and so on. They all come from the root ana, to breath. So, here ananta refers to the breath. Ananta Samapatti is to focus your attention on the breath. Anatasamapatti is to focus your attention on the life force which is the breath." p97-98
A Brief Introduction to yoga philosophy, based on the lectures of Srivatsa Ramaswami  by David Hurwitz.

Enjoy the two types ?

I've been troubled by the meaning of this, it seems to be a heading but what are the two types Krishnamacharya is referring too.

In the quoted (at length) commentary of Vachaspati Micra we find this line,

"By relaxation of effort or by a [mental] state-of-balance with reference to Ananta"

Is this then the two types (approaches to practice or asana)  that Krishnamacharya is referring too

1. "By relaxation of effort 
A natural effort sustaining the body is not the cause of this kind of posture which is to be taught as an aid to yoga. For if its cause were such, the preaching of it would be purposeless in that it could be naturally perfected. Therefore this natural effort does not accomplish this kind of posture which is to be taught and is contrary [to it]. For in so far as this [natural posture] is the cause of an arbitrarily chosen posture it is the destroyer of the specific kind of posture. Consequently a man, practising the specific posture as taught, should resort to an effort which consists in the relaxation of the natural effort. Otherwise the posture taught cannot be accomplished". Vachaspati Micra

How do we do this?
As Ramaswami stated above
"By making the breath smooth (and long), and by concentration or focussing the mind on the breath, the perfection of the posture is obtained".

Note: Krishnamacharya interprets this sutra differently than other teachers. he gives the correct technical meaning (in this context) fromn prayatna or Jivana prayatna, or effort of life which is breath. he says that it is the breath that should be made smooth and effortless, not the posture. it is not physical; it is the breathing" p55

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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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