Wednesday, 25 December 2013

We're all Yogi's - Yoga for the Three Stages of Life - how to practice Vinyasa Krama from Ramaswami's Sept 2009 Newsletter

Making Timpano toaday, try and find two recipes the same..

In the previous post on the new Vinyasa Krama Practice manual from Harmony Yoga I mentioned that Ramaswami's  Sept 2009 Newsletter was included at the back of the book. Reading it again it's an excellent newsletter, it lays out a clear, modifiable, daily Vinyasa Krama approach to practice as well as introducing the idea of Yoga for the three stages of life.

I've come across a few comments/posts/rants recently where somebody, quite pompously it has to be said, raves about people calling themselves 'Yogi's'. One can perhaps imagine the idea of the yogi these guys have in their head, ash and loincloths come to mind, perhaps a meditative renunciant .

Below Ramaswami mentions how Krishnamacharya would talk about 'Yoga for the three stages of life' (Ramaswami used this for the title of my favourite book of his), the youthful yogi would have a very much asana based practice, the midlife yogi would still have quite a bit of asana but perhaps less acrobatic and more pranayama, also a little meditation. In the final stage of life the yogi would have some simple asana for health but a more meditative, spiritual practice.

So you see, by this reckoning, we're all yogi's if we practice any of the elements of yoga, any of the limbs, sincerely and with commitment.

I probably have the same image of a yogi as those who rant so don't tend to refer to (except occasionally out of convenience, same with 'Ashtangi') or even think of myself as a yogi but I practice, I'm on the path, working on the limbs and so are you, so perhaps we are Yogi's.

But then of course that means that if we have yogi's we have non yogi's and we end up with a them and us situation. But I have no idea what the guy on the other side of the train is practicing, no doubt he's working at whatever moral (yama/niyama) code he has, perhaps he has a devotional practice, trying to come to terms with, understand, make sense of, the world and his place within it. Perhaps he has a physical practice of some kind which he is committed to or an art he practices, perhaps before falling asleep he reflects for a moment on his day..... perhaps we are all yogi's, all on the path, stepping back on and off, Descartes thought we are defined by the fact that we think, I'd narrow it down and suggest that we are that which questions.... sooner or later. Questioning is Yoga, questioning everything, one tatva at a time....., employing the mind to overcome the mind.

The path of Yoga is one of radical enquiry

There's a point in the newsletter where Ramaswami is critical of a fixed practice...

"Hence, to suggest a practice of a set of asanas or a routine for everyone
irrespective of the age, condition, temperament and goal is incorrect"

I can imagine my Ashtangi readers prickling at that somewhat, "Is he talking about us"?

But of course there is no fixed Ashtanga, we all  practice it differently, our teachers if we have them are aware of where we each struggle in our practice and give us assistance, at home we make allowances for old injuries or areas of difficulties, either we do the best we can and move on or stop there move to finishing and try again tomorrow. Our breath is different one mat to the next, a little slower a little fuller all working towards consistency. We all focus a little more a little less on different asana in the series, we know what our bodies need that morning. Sometimes we might add an extra asana, cut one or more out (if the reason is good enough) or spend a little longer, breath a little slower in one we neglected the day before or that we have a particular asanacrush on and we have a LOT of asana to play with.

Ashtanga has a count but so does Jazz, we can make as much or as little space for our runs as we need, we all improvise, to some extent (if you can listen to Mingus and how he now slows, now speeds up the beat).

Notice too how our Ashtanga practice, including  the Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda Primary series I'm currently practicing/exploring fits within the model of the Modified Vinyasa Krama practice in the sheets below, surprised, we shouldn't be, it's all Krishnamacharya.

*

Here then is part of Ramaswami's Sept 2009 Newsletter, I've cut it about a bit and reformatted the paragraphs to focus on certain elements, the full untangled newsletter can be found here, as well as in Harmony Yoga's practice manual.

And if Christmas is your thing, have a wonderful day today, a very Merry Christmas, if it's not your thing, then have a great practice (which is just what I'm off to do, Ramaswami's Modifiable VK practice below).

VINYASA KRAMA PRACTICE from Ramaswami Sept 2009 Newsletter
(my reformatting and titles)

Adapting yoga to individual requirements is an art by itself. We must
understand that there is no one standard practice that is suitable to
everyone. In medicine you have to give different treatment to
different patients; what is suitable to one suffering from digestive
problem would be different from the one that is suitable for one who
is suffering from some low back pain. According to an important motto
of Krishnamacharya, yoga for children and the adolescents (growth
stage) is different from yoga practice in their midlife which again is
different from the practice in old age. The body, mind and goals
change during different stages of life. Sri Krishnamacharya’s teaching
is based on this principle as we could discern from his works, Yoga
Makaranda and Yoga Rahasya.

Yoga For the three stages of life

Yoga for the young
Basically yoga for kids and young adults will have a considerable
amount of asana vinyasa practice -- many vinyasas, difficult poses,
etc. It will help them to work out the considerable rajas in their
system and proper growth (vriddhi). Of course they should also
practice some pranayama and meditation or chanting.

Yoga for the midlife Yogi
For the midlife yogi, the practice will still include some asana, but specifically
some of the health giving  and restorative postures like the
Inversions, Paschimatanasana, Mahamudra, etc., in which poses one may
be required to stay for a longer period of time. There will be more
emphasis on Pranayama and then more meditation, chanting, worship etc.
When I started studying with my Guru I was 15 years old. During the
beginning years of my study it was mostly difficult asanas and
vinyasas. Swing throughs, jump arounds, utplutis etc and other fun
filled unique sequences were the order of the day. As I grew up, my
teacher slowly but surely changed the mix, focus and direction of my
yoga practice. On the last day I was with him (I was close to 50 then)
it was just chanting of Surya Namaskara (Aruna) mantras for the entire
duration with him.

Yoga for the third stage of life
During the third stage of life, the old age, the
emphasis is usually spiritual and/or devotional even as one is
required to do some simple movements and pranayama.

And within the group, the daily practice can be varying depending upon
the requirements and goals set forth by the yogi for herself/himself.

For instance, for the midlife yogi, the main goal will be to maintain
good physical and mental health, rather than being able to stand, say,
on one leg or even on one hand (Of course the child in me wants to do
that). He/She would like to avoid risky movements so that the practice
would be safe and does not cause injuries—immediate or cumulative. Too
much exertion (kayaklesa), like several rounds of continuous,
breathless Suryanamaskaras again should be avoided, says Brahmananda
in his commentary on Hatayogapadipika. A few may be more inclined to
have some spirituality thrown in. Many would like to develop the
ability to and the habit of visiting the peace zone of the mind daily.
There are some who are more rajasic or tamasic in which case the mix
of asana and pranayama should be properly adjusted, sometimes taking
care of even the day to day variations of the gunas. It requires some
careful attention in deciding a particular day’s practice.

Hence, to suggest a practice of a set of asanas or a routine for everyone
irrespective of the age, condition, temperament and goal is incorrect.

Such an approach does not take into consideration not only the
versatility and richness of orthodox, traditional vinyasakrama yoga
practice but also does not take the varying factors of individual
requirements. Sri Krishnamacharya’s yoga can appropriately be termed
as ‘Appropriate Yoga’.

However, as a general rule, for the serious mid-life yogi, a daily
practice of about 90 mts to 2 hrs will be necessary and sufficient.


A Modifiable VINYASA KRAMA PRACTICE .

Everyday before the start of the practice the yogi should take a
minute and decide on a definite agenda and as far as possible try to
stick to the agenda. What asanas and vinyasas, which pranayama and how
many rounds and other details should be determined before hand and one
should adhere to it. It brings some discipline and coherence to one’s
practice.

short prayer

Tadasana 
doing the main vinyasas two or preferably three
times each. It should take about ten minutes.

Triangle subroutine
One may do a subsequence of Triangle pose like warrior pose and /or one sequence in one legged
pose.
Asymmetric
Then one subsequence in the asymmetric could be taken up, say Marichyasana or Triyangmukha or
the half lotus. The choice may be varied on a daily basis.

Paschimottanasana
Five minute stay in Paschimottanasana and the counter poses may be practiced.

Sarvangasana Preparation
Sarvangasana
Sirsasana
Sarvangasana
Then one may do preparation of Sarvangasana and a brief stay in it,
followed by headstand stay for about 5 to 10 minutes or more and then
staying in Sarvangasana for 5 to 10 more minutes, if one can do
inversions.

Paschimatanasana, Sarvangaana and Headstand are to be
practiced preferably daily for their health benefits.

If time permits one may do few vinyasas in these inversions.

Maha Mudra
Mahamudra for about 5 minutes each on both sides can then be
practiced.

Kapalabhati, 
say for about 108 times

Pranayama,
Ujjayi, Nadisodhana or Viloma with
or without mantras for about 15 minutes

Shanmukhmudra
to be followed by five minutes
Shanmukhimudra

Meditative practice
chanting or meditation of about 15 minutes.

Peace Chant
It is customary to end the practice with peace chant.




If interested, one may allocate an additional 30 minutes (or practice
at another time in the day, say, in the evening) during which time one
may practice a few subroutines from the other scores of sequences that
have not been included in this core yoga practice.

*

Handy print out version





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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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