This week I thought I would put up some practice sheets relating to Krishnamacharya's primary group asana that I've been working on, a different sheet each day but with the same opening introduction to link them to the earlier post as well as the same guidance notes for practicing kumbhaka. I'll probably add a couple of 'extras' here and there. If you've read the previous post you may want to jump straight to the practice sheets and notes.
A couple of 'extras' on kumbhaka theory. In the previous post on Kumbhaka I posted some quotes from Paul teacher of many years TKV Desikachar, he's posted a couple more.
See Paul's EXCELLENT resource Center for yoga Studies
Especially this page, which is a search of his site for Kumbhaka
CASE STUDY: "The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) during Asana." Guest post by Mick lawton
"I have a rare genetic auto inflammatory disease. As a result I am in the fortunate position that I get extensive blood and medical checks performed on an almost weekly basis. Without going into huge medical details, the tests include full blood test, inflammatory markers, kidney and liver fiction, blood pressure, blood sugars............, the list is endless.
I decided that I was in the very fortunate position to run my own experiment. I decided that I would spend 2 months practising with Kumbhaka and then 2 months practising without Kumbhaka. This process was repeated three times across the course of the year. I was then able to compare my medical results while practising Kumbhaka to my medical results while not practising Kumbhaka".
|see this post for the complete table of asana from Yogasanagalu (1941)|
|from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga|
|from Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga|
This has 22 vinyasas. The 8th and the 15th vinyasas are the asana sthiti. From the 1st until the 7th vinyasa, the asanas follow the rules for ardhabaddha- padma pascimottanasana. But in the 7th vinyasa, extend the left leg straight out in front and fold the right leg facing towards the back.
Then practise the rest of the vinyasas following the pascimottanasana krama and ardhabaddhapadma pascimottanasana krama.
Benefit: Not only will it prevent elephantiasis, all the impurities and deposits in the nerves and joints and ligaments of the leg will dissolve, and it will give strength and speed in walking and running. It will clean the nearby nadis, elim- inate pins and needles, and will make the blood circulation uniform and rapid.
If women practise this properly, they will have a good comfortable childbirth. But women should have practised all this before becoming pregnant. After con- ceiving, other than pranayama, asanas that are not specifically mentioned should not be practised.
Kumbhaka guidence notes from the earlier post.
In general, when inhaling the head goes up, exhaling it goes down, if up then there may well be the option of puraka kumbhaka, retaining the breath for 2-5 seconds at the end of the inhalation. When folded over rechka kumbhaka may be an option to consider.
"The vinyasas in which the head is raised are to be done with puraka kumbhaka and the ones in which the head is lowered must be done with recaka kumbhaka. Uthpluthi (raising the body from the floor with only the support of both hands on the floor is called uthpluthi) should be done on recaka kumbhaka for a fat person and on puraka kumbhaka for a thin person". p28
Yoga Makaranda T Krishnamacharya
In forward bending postures there is often the opportunity to include puraka kumbhaka before exhaling, folding over into the posture, and performing recaka kumbhaka. We might choose to spend a period of time in the preparatory posture taking a number of breaths and engaging in puraka kumbhaka after the inhalations. After completing the folded state of the asana and returning to the preparatory position we might again take a number of breaths and include purkaka kumbhaka after our inhalations.
We can perhaps think of many asana where we might introduce short kumbhaka's at the preparatory stage, the state of asana and following the asana on returning to the preparatory stage before transitioning back to standing or to the next posture.
Krishnamacharya stresses ( In Yoga Makaranda part II) that the kumbhaka in asana should be short, 2-5 seconds.....
Paul"My understanding from my discussions over the years with TKV re the context and content of YM, is that when teaching youngsters the length of the breath was minimised to a relatively short fixed length and use of Kumbhaka was limited to a few seconds AK and BK.
However no limitations on the range or intensity of Āsana and lots of use of variations to be engaged with within each Āsana.
In the adult there were no such limitations for the breath and the work with variations of the Āsana was re-prioritised to working with a fewer Āsana and fewer variations within each Āsana, but with the challenge of a greater range of breathing patterns both in length and combinations.
Certainly AK or BK of 10" was commonplace in the adult practice and here the 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the breath rather than for the youngster, where 'perfection' of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the form.
This was consistent with his teaching in Yoga Rahasya on Yoga Sādhana and Stages of Life.
Begin by noticing the 'natural kumbhaka' between the stages of the breath. If we breathe long, slow and full, "like the pouring of oil", as is recommended by Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois we should notice the faint hint of a pause between the inhalation and exhalation, we notice this more clearly the slower the breath. Begin by extending that pause, that 'natural kumbhaka' to a full second and then to two seconds. As this becomes comfortable we might increase it to three building up to perhaps five seconds but no more in asana ( mudras are a different case as is pranayama proper)".
I did wonder if the short kumbhaka recommended in yoga makaranda Part II was a question of pedagogics, Krishnamacharya doesn't mention how long to hold the kumbhaka in Yoga Makaranda Part One and it is a pretty extreme book with it's long stays in certain challenging postures, the kriya section etc. He doesn't mention keeping kumbhaka short in Yogasanagalu (1941) either. It's only in Yoga Makaranda II ( 1950s- 60s?) that he seems to draw back a little and talk about restricting the kumbhaka to 2-5 seconds, introducing it slowly. I was never sure if it was a reevaluation or just for the teaching purposes of the manual. Ramaswami has Kumbhaka too of course so I knew Krishnamacharya was teaching it in his later years but it seemed shorter except in mudras. What Paul is describing here seems to treating almost any asana as a mudra which is interesting but my understanding of mudra was that they were in a sense custom made for bandhas and thus kumbhaka.
Paul: "Yes my understanding is that if we use a particular Āsana with all its permutations of form and thus less focus on the variations of the breath it operates more as an Āsana.
If we use an Āsana with all its permutations of breath and thus less focus on the variation of the form it operates more as a Mudrā.
Sarvaṅgāsana is such an example with its 32 variations devised by TK emphasising its role as an Āsana and its static solo form with its focus on extensive breath ratio, perhaps augmented by the Tribandha, emphasising its role as a Mudrā".
The more we slow our breath and introduce kumbhaka into our practice the more time becomes an issue. there are several ways to address this.
- We might alternate the postures throughout the week in which we introduce kumbhaka.
- If our breath is becoming particularly long and slow we may wish to take three rather than five breaths within the state of an asana perhaps saving particularly long stays for postures like paschimottanasana, janu sirsasasana and baddha konasana or again alternating longer stays in different postures over a week cycle.
- We might divide our practice up over two or four days, practicing perhaps full vinyasa and including kumbhaka but only up to and including Marichiyasana D before moving straight to the finishing postures. n the second day we might go from the standing postures directly to navasana and then on through finishing. A similar approach could be made to the intermediate series.
- We might choose one day a week, when we have more time our day off or Sunday perhaps, to explore kumbhaka and or full vinyasa.
UPDATED: Why did Krishnamacharya introduce kumbhaka (breath retention) into the practice of asana in Ashtanga?
Exploring Kumbhaka ( breath retention) in Krishnamacharya's Intermediate 'series' inc. Practice Sheets primary- 2nd series