In Krishnamacharya's 1941 text Yogasanagalu (see translation project HERE ) written in Mysore back when he was teaching the Young Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya stated explicitly what he intended by his usage of rechaka, puraka and kumbhaka in asana.
This is important as Krishnamacharya goes on to outline the main breathing principle for each asana in his three groups Primary, Middle and Advanced asana on which Pattabhi Jois was to base his four year college syllabus (1940s- ) with it's four sequences that was to go on to form the six sequences of current Ashtanga vinyasa.
Below: sample of the table from Yogasanagalu
|Sheet 2 Full table HERE|
|Sheet 4 Full table HERE|
I've been exploring Simon Borg-Olivier's use of the breath recently, abdominal breathing in asana in particular. I'm fascinated by the subtly, I'd wondered if there was perhaps a grey area in Krishnamacharya's teaching, if it was left somewhat open and abdominal breathing might make some of Krishnamacharya's long stays more achievable. Putting to one side the three hours he mentions in mayurasana, he does also suggest 5-15 minutes in the posture daily. Is five minutes possible with a relaxed abdomen, does a firm and relaxed abdomen make ten minutes in even chatauranga possible?
Simon uses subtle shifts in posture to firm areas of the abdomen (see the end of the post for what this can do for your baddha konasana), to stop the belly ballooning out, and yet also keep it relaxed enough to allow for steady comfortable breathing. Breathing into the abdomen relaxes, it's a fascinating approach to practice, try it in uttana hasta padangusthasana, try it too in inversions, in handstands. Simon draws the example of a truck tire which can support ten tonnes and more, as we hold the abdomen firm and breathe into it, great strength is achievable and yet we are still relaxed, it's somewhat effortless. I'm not so concerned with ten minutes in mayurasana, handstands or carrying ten tonne trucks on my shoulders but can't resist exploring every more refinement in the breath..... just to see.
Here's Simon from my post last week on The breath
"USING YOUR BREATH WITH STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM (TO BE FIRM BUT CALM)
Of course you can get away with doing this if you harden the abdomen with the muscles of exhalation. So if I breathe in here [See demonstration of breathing into the abdomen], and then exhale gently and relaxed as I’ve done there [See demonstration of relaxed exhalation] with the abdomen soft the lungs are not fully empty. Also, to exhale fully you are required to tighten the muscles of exhalation. These are circular muscles that go all around the bottom of the trunk. So you see my fingers in my abdomen now, if I tighten my exhalation muscles, the trunk moves inwards away from my fingers. So it’s like I’ve wrapped a belt around my lower waist. This gives a certain amount of abdominal firmness and protects my back if I’m doing a lifting exercise or a straining or stretching exercise.
But the problem is because I’ve used the muscles of exhalation to tighten my abdomen that straight away reciprocally relaxes or inhibits the main muscles of inhalation which is the diaphragm. So it means then with the diaphragm inhibited there is an inhibition of the organs that the diaphragm helps to control and stimulate, including the reproductive system, the immune system, and the digestive system.
Also with these belt muscles contracted and pulling the whole spine inwards it blocks the energy and information from the trunk to the legs. So then to pump the blood to the legs the heart has to work a lot harder, the lungs have to work a lot harder. So, the movements that I am trying to do should not have to tighten all of these things if I want to stay calm. In the Hatha Yoga tradition of India there is only one description of physical exercise. It’s only one sentence. It says “Sthiram Sukham Asanam”. It means physical exercise should be with firmness but with calmness. It’s learning how to do stressful things in a relaxing way. So to protect the back I need to be firm. But to keep calm diaphragmatic breathing and stimulation of the para-sympathetic nervous system is important. The funny thing is that once you learn this you will not only be protected but it will give you tremendous strength. So if someone is just tightening the abdomen like this [See demonstration of pulling the abdomen inwards] they cannot breathe from their diaphragm. So, then what tends to happen is that their chest expands. When the chest expands it makes the body weaker. If the abdomen expands it also makes the body weaker. So when you see adept practitioners of eastern forms of exercise including the Chinese Martial Arts or the Indian Hatha Yoga – there’s also Indian Martial Arts and Chinese Yoga as well, but they all relate – you never see adept practitioners expand their abdomen or their chest. You can use the analogy of the balloon which a child blows up as opposed to the tyre of a car, when you blow a balloon up it gets bigger but the walls actually get thinner and less strong. Whereas when you add more air to a car tyre the walls don’t get any larger but actually the more air coming into the tyre allows it to become much stronger. So you can actually put a ten tonne truck on a hard walled tyre filled with air but something which expands like a balloon will just burst if you put more air into it. So the chest and the abdomen are the same. An in-breath which expands the chest will only make the spine weaker. An in-breath which expands the abdomen will only make you weaker. So in the Martial Arts, in Hatha Yoga it’s always said that you should breathe diaphragmatically but with firmness. So if I breathe diaphragmatically standing normally the abdomen puffs out. But if all I do is push the sitting bones forward the front of the abdomen automatically goes firm and the sides are relaxed. Then if I breathe into the abdomen it doesn’t move but because it’s a diaphragmatic breath I stay calm".
Part of Simon's Blog and Youtube Spinal sequence series
Breathing (Part 1): How to breathe to help your spine, internal organs and energy levels
"In this blog I will be discussing the the physical and physiological effects of breathing. There are two main reasons we breathe. The main reason is the physiological reason of getting oxygen into our cells. Perhaps surprisingly to many people the best way to achieve this is to safely breathe as little as possible (hypoventilation) to stimulate the Bohr effect which says significant carbon dioxide must be present for oxygen to be able to enter the cells (see our recent blog). The other reason we breathe could be called physical reason and it includes the effects on joints, muscles, nerves, the mind, emotions, blood floor, digestion, reproduction and immunity. In this blog on breathing (Part 1) I will be focusing on the physical effects of breathing. If you breathe, or use the muscles of breathing in certain ways you can radically improve and/alter strength, flexibility, nerve function, blood flow and internal organ health. Many people inadvertently only focus on this reason for breathing and in their enthusiasm and often lack of knowledge they over-breathe (hyperventilate) and thus miss the primary purpose of breathing. In the next blog on breathing (Part 2) I will be focusing on how to achieve the physiological effects of breathing. The advanced practitioner can control their breath in such a way the both the physical and physiological benefits of breathing are achieved at the same time". Continue to the post...." LINK
And also this post with some breath science from Simon's online Anatomy and physiology course
To Breathe or not to Breathe
Exhale for Pleasure, Strength and Freedom
and this, definitely this
Holding your breath for increased strength, flexibility, healthier digestion and to eat less food
and of course my interview with Simon where we discussed the breath on the Yoga Rainbow festival from this post http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2014/05/interview-with-simon-borg-olivier.html.
An earlier post on Indria Devi which includes 'In the shala', a chapter from one of her books on her experience studying with Krishnamacharya.
Friday, 8 November 2013
Photo: Indra Devi teaching Marilyn Monroe Yoga 1960 ALSO Indra Devi in Mysore
My earlier post on Yvonne Millerand
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Yvonne Millerand student of Krishnamacharya in the 1960's inc. some excellent pictures.