Thursday, 12 March 2015

Krishnamacharya on how to breathe in asana (1941) Plus more from Simon Borg-Olivier on exploring the breath.

A dilemma, to continue exploring Simon's use of abdominal breathing or return to Krishnamacharya's  Yogasanagalu guidelines. What would Krishnamacharya himself have done faced with a similar dilemma....., he would no doubt have continued to explore both approaches and then decide on his preference from a position of experience. (But see update at the bottom of the post)

This picture was taken for Krishnamacharya's 1934 Mysore text Yoga Makaranda. The same picture and asana instructions found in that text were included in his later  book Yogasanagalu (1941)  as well as 10 extra general asana guidelines under the title Niyama.

UPDATE: But hang on a moment, if you were breathing into the chest, why would you then need to puff out the chest, wouldn't it have expanded somewhat already ( not necessarily )? If I follow Krishnamacharya's instructions I can still breathe abdominally and then swell the chest, relax  certain abdominal muscles to draw the abdomen in for the kumbhaka, likewise with the exhalation.... see the full update at the end of the blog under notes.



Niyama 

from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

1. In yoganga sadhana we don’t see these (above mentioned) irregularities and with regular practice all organs will become strong.  How is that?  When practicing asanas, we need to maintain deep inhalation and exhalation to normalise the uneven respiration through nasal passages.

 2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Holding the breath is called Kumbhaka.


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'd forgot how explicit Krishnamacharya was regarding the breath here, he buries it away under a Niyama  heading IE. Guidelines for practice.


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


And see this marvellous post from Simon on his Blog, not sure if there's a Part II yet.

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

also this

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.




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And what all this does for your Baddha Konasana ( an excellent posture for exploring the breath).



In his spinal sequence Simon includes several techniques for firming the abdomen while standing (just try leaning forward for example, amazing), seated examples are harder to find, for now you have to work it out yourself somewhat although there was mention of directing the hips or sit bones towards the feet (heels i find works in inversions). I've been exploring. and one interesting side effect of exploring this approach is that when we firm the abdomen in for example baddha konasana by directing the sit bones towards the heels, nothing moves on the outside but by just having that attention/intention all sorts of things seem to happen on the inside, muscles firm, joints it seems open.
Think the sit bones to the heels in baddha konasana and watch it blossom.


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NOTES

UPDATE: But hang on a moment, if you were breathing into the chest, why would you then need to puff out the chest, wouldn't it have expanded somewhat already ( not necessarily )? If I follow Krishnamacharya's instructions I can still breathe abdominally and then swell the chest, relax  certain abdominal muscles to draw the abdomen in for the kumbhaka, likewise with the exhalation....

This section from Simon and Bianca's's book gives us lots to think about and work with perhaps as well as their concepts of related ha and tha bandhas..

"8.2.8.3 Abdominal and thoracic breathing
Abdominal breathing and thoracic breathing are terms sometimes used by people who teach breathing to indicate where on the body an expansion of the trunk should occur reÀecting the primary activation of either the diaphragm (abdominal breathing) or the intercostal muscles (thoracic breathing). It is incorrect to think that air is actually coming into the abdomen during abdominal breathing. In both types of breathing, the air will only go into the lungs.

Abdominal breathing is seen as an outward movement of the abdomen on inhalation and an inward movement of the abdomen on exhalation. Abdominal breathing mainly uses the diaphragm muscle, which moves downwards (distally) as it generates tension. If the abdomen is relaxed, pressure from the diaphragm will move the abdominal contents downwards (distally) and also outwards (anteriorly).

Thoracic breathing is seen as an outward and upward movement of the rib cage on inhalation and an inward and downward movement of the rib cage and chest wall on exhalation. Thoracic breathing mainly uses the intercostal muscles.

Intercostal muscle expansion of the rib cage and chest wall in thoracic breathing is essentially the same as the muscular activation used in the yogic internal lock uddiyana bandha [Section 7.4.1.3]". p227

8.4.3 The Effects of Breathing Rate on Various Body Systems
Some types of pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) require slow breathing that ¿lls and empties the entire lungs. This is sometimes referred to by other authors as complete breathing. Complete breathing requires full use of the diaphragm, the thoracic intercostal muscles and the abdominal muscles:

• The diaphragm [Table 7.4] is the main muscle used in what is referred to as abdominal breathing [Section 8.2.8]. On inhalation the abdomen gets larger as the diaphragm is activated (tenses and shortens), and on exhalation the abdomen gets smaller as the diaphragm relaxes (lengthens) and returns to its original position.

• The thoracic intercostal muscles (intercostals) [Table 7.4] are used in what is referred to as thoracic breathing [Section 8.2.8]. On inhalation the thorax (chest and upper back) gets larger as the intercostals are activated (tensing and shortening), and on exhalation the thorax gets smaller as the intercostals relax (lengthen) and return to their original position.

• The abdominal muscles [Table 7.4] are used to make a forced exhalation or a complete exhalation. 
By maintaining the grip (tension and shortness) of the abdominal muscles after the exhalation it makes it easier to expand the chest on a subsequent inhalation.

Many people have dif¿culty breathing with both the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles and are unable to expand their thorax unless they breathe quite forcefully with relatively fast and deep breathing [Table 8.1]. Fast, deep breathing forces the abdominal muscles to become activated (tense) to get the air out quickly and fully and, since the abdominal muscles have no time to relax after the exhalation, the subsequent inhalation is done with the abdomen ¿rm, thus forcing the thorax (chest and upper back) to expand.

Similarly, there are many people who can not easily relax their abdomen. Their abdominal muscles hold so much tension that these people are unable to breathe into their abdomen, and are hardly able to use their diaphragm at all, unless they spend time focusing on relaxation and slower breathing [Table 8.1]. These people tend to be doing mainly thoracic breathing while doing any physical activity.

In terms of the bandhas, the complete inhalation, i.e. the maximum possible inhalation, can be done with a tha-uddiyana bandha (chest expansion) followed and supplemented by a tha-mula bandha (abdominal expansion), while the maximum possible exhalation can be done with a ha-mula bandha (abdominal contraction) followed and supplemented by a ha-uddiyana bandha (chest contraction).

Table 8.1 compares the effects of two extreme types of breathing (fast deep breathing compared to slow shallow or tidal breathing) on the various body systems. These are only two of the many breathing possibilities that exist and each have varying effects. There is no such thing as right or wrong breathing but one must use the type of breathing that is appropriate for the situation.

Both the thoracic breathing and abdominal breathing confer possible bene¿ts and disadvantages. Ideal yogic breathing is a combination of the most advantageous aspects of both fast, deep breathing and slow, shallow breathing [Table 8.1]. In ideal yogic breathing, the three central bandhas (jalandhara, uddiyana, and mula) [Section 7.4.1] are held throughout the breath cycle. To initially learn to maintain a grip on the three bandhas, the thorax should be kept expanded (tha-uddiyana bandha) throughout the breath cycle as it would be during thoracic breathing inhalation; the lower abdomen should be kept ¿rm and drawn inwards (ha-mula bandha), as in a forced exhalation; while the back of the neck is kept long and the chin kept slightly down and inwards (ha-jalandhara bandha) [Section 7.4.1].
In optimal yogic breathing, slow relaxed diaphragmatic breathing is used to respire only a small amount of air per minute, but with the chest and abdomen held in such a way that only a small volume of air is needed to ¿ll and then empty the lung. In the most advanced stages of pranayama the key emphasis should be not on increasing lung volume from breath to breath but rather on increasing the pressure in the chest with each inhale without increasing the volume. p238

Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga http://anatomy.yogasynergy.com/book

Update 2


"I arrived just in time. Giving me a few lessons a week, he started with a simple asana practice. I was to establish a link between breath and movement. Breathing should be controlled hand movements, slower breathing, the slower the movement. Each asana followed repeated at least four times. After one hour lesson in a sitting position, I learned the sound Udzhdzhayi and be able to distinguish it from the nasal sound. He allowed me to begin the simplest Pranayama - Udzhdzhayi Anuloma and Udzhdzhayi Viloma.

Krishnamacharya used to tell me, "lift up your chest," for the fact that, due to the rise of my chest, I could fill the air flow based on my lungs. After that, he insisted on the exhale with the abdominal muscles and the perineum. Breathe in and out - of course, but with the insertion of pauses, everything changes. Coached control is felt as an affirmation of life and gives a sense of a better life, by controlling breathing and blood circulation, which are interrelated. This is what I felt.


UPDATE 2

Thank you to Enrique for sending through these pages from 

The first two are from Indra Devi's Yoga For you.

Indra Devi famously studied with Krishnamacharya  for a short period in the 1930s, is this how Krishnamacharya taught her to breath or an approach she embraced later based on other sources.

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







The second two pages are from are from an Italian edition of Yvonne's Millerand Guide pratique de HathaYoga. I can't read Italian, perhaps some of Italian readers of the blog might be able to offer a partial translation of the relevant paragraphs.

My earlier post on Yvonne Millerand

Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Yvonne Millerand student of Krishnamacharya in the 1960's inc. some excellent pictures.









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Simon Borg-Oliver and His business partner Bianca Machliss




Website


See also
Simon and Bianca's online course


Yoga Synergy Online Teacher Training and Education


Preview of Simon's excellent book Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga



See also my earlier post on Simon's book

5 comments:

  1. If I follow Krishnamacharya's instructions I can still breathe abdominally and then swell the chest

    If I recall correcty, both Indra Devi and Yvonne Millerand gave directions along those lines (I think Desikachar too). If I remember I will look for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yvonne Millerand
      "I arrived just in time. Giving me a few lessons a week, he started with a simple asana practice. I was to establish a link between breath and movement. Breathing should be controlled hand movements, slower breathing, the slower the movement. Each asana followed repeated at least four times. After one hour lesson in a sitting position, I learned the sound Udzhdzhayi and be able to distinguish it from the nasal sound. He allowed me to begin the simplest Pranayama - Udzhdzhayi Anuloma and Udzhdzhayi Viloma.

      Krishnamacharya used to tell me, "lift up your chest," for the fact that, due to the rise of my chest, I could fill the air flow based on my lungs. After that, he insisted on the exhale with the abdominal muscles and the perineum. Breathe in and out - of course, but with the insertion of pauses, everything changes. Coached control is felt as an affirmation of life and gives a sense of a better life, by controlling breathing and blood circulation, which are interrelated. This is what I felt.
      "
      http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2012/10/yvonne-millerand-student-of.html

      Delete
  2. I just read Yoga Makaranda earlier this week and was looking at the breath charts above. Maybe this is just me, but I find that those breathing patterns occur naturally. For example in Baddhakonasana there is a deeper more complete exhalation and pause at the end because of the shape. In backbending, I don't retain the breath in kapotasana for example, but because of the expanded chest and spinal extension, there is an Antara Kumbhka shape that remains and a lingering at the top of inhalation.

    My take when I read Yoga Makaranda wasn't that Krishnamacharya was advocating pranayama per se in asana, but that different breath motions facilitate moving into postures, and also that different postures facilitate different breathing. From my background, this is another guide to alignment. Maybe I'm just reading this from my frame of reference though. Does the other text actually say to hold the breath for a number of seconds in kapotasana?

    In the Iyengar method, we regularly talk about how each pose has a different shape for the breath. Each pose is a different container that the breath naturally takes shape. We do practice kumbhaka and uddiyana in asana from Prashant though or use the breath to "pump" the shape.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A couple of pages from Indra Devi's _Yoga for you_:

    page 8

    page 10

    And a couple of pages from Yvonne's Millerand _Guide pratique de Hatha-Yoga_ (Italian edition):

    page 46

    page 50

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you Enrique, have added the pages to the end of the blog post, perhaps a partial Italian translation will come through from one of our Italian readers.

    ReplyDelete

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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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