This is a section on bringing Metta into our practice that was buried away in yesterdays long post on Yoga Sutra 1-33 and the Brahmavihāras
Loving Kindness and Brahmavihāras, the four immeasurables in the Yoga Sutras YS1:33 - Inc. introducing Loving Kindness into our asana practice. Also Krishnamacharya and Buddhism.
Question: What does the bhakti mean to a person who has no belief in Isvara?
Krishnamacharya: Love is bhakti for them
During our Practice
In our Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, at some point, we might just forget about the different Drishti (originally there were only two, one in fact, do we really need nine) and focus instead, throughout the practice, on the region of the heart (Hrudaya) "...where our breath begins and where it ends'"
Place a mantra there
May I be safe from internal and external harm
There are others...
May I be peaceful and happy
May I be healthy and strong
May I take care of myself joyfully.
But it's the first one I like to focus on ( you might find the second works for you but I have a sense that all follows from the first). If and when we experience happiness or contentment there in the heart then we can worry about directing it outwards to others, to all beings, first we need to experience for ourselves what it is we wish to project.
While we're at it we can stop worrying about alignment, as long as we've learned enough not to injure ourselves the breath will take care of alignment. Obsessive alignment is perhaps yet one more distraction we give ourselves
And then stop worrying about the breath, or the bandhas (our breathing naturally slows anyway and subtle bandhas follow long slow breathing) and certainly the count, it too will take care of itself, the heart counts, the breath counts whether we focus on it or not.
Another place to put the mantra, or notice the growing sense of contentment, (joy, bliss, happiness, love however you experience it, for me it's peace, contentment), would be in the kumbhaka.
We can focus on the heart in our pranyama too of course.
We can make loving kindness the focus of our more formal Sit or just set up our seated practice by placing the mantra in the region of the heart, perhaps a vague feeling of contentment will arise there and we can drop the mantra and but remain aware of that experience, vague, occasionally tended perhaps throughout our sit. At the end of our Sit we might direct that contentment outwards, to our loved ones, our friends, acquaintances, to all. In this approach it's nor so much the focus of the meditation but more of a background practice, an alternative perhaps to coming back to the breath.
See also perhaps my earlier posts
Why the heart region? Here's Krishnamacharya's son T. Sribhashyam,
"- Hrudaya: the place of residence of God in us. It is a little outside the physiological heart. In the concentration of Mula Shirsha to it automatically by Hrudaya. This is protected from any human emotion. As a state mental Hrudaya is given automatically when the field is free of mental sensations and emotions.""from Pearl" or the influence of Mudra and Prânâyâma in a spiritual search
Perhaps I would use 'the divine' in place of 'God' , or Bhakti (love) perhaps in line with Krishnamacharya's quote at the top of the post. There tends to be very different initial conceptions of God in the East and West, many of us turn off as soon as we see the word, to be honest I turn off at 'divine' too but it gives me pause.
The point here is that the heart region, Hrudaya is a tradition focal point associated with a feeling of well being.
Krishnamacharya also felt Hrudaya could be an appropriate focal point for the exhalation in certain asana, pranayamas. I've found this myself in for example Jhana meditation. When shifting attention to an arising pleasant sensation or experience, whether, a warmth, light, colour etc. directing the exhalation there mentally seems to stoke the coals somewhat and keep the experience ( in this case our sense of well being, contentment... happiness).... ticking over.
See this post perhaps on T. Sribhashyam on Pranayama
Buddha was smart, oh so smart and he knew us well. Love your neighbor says Jesus, that's nice.... but how exactly, I struggle with kittens. And let alone people, or those whose actions make them seem barely people and make us question "Oh god ,what are we that we can do such as this". And not just the nauseating harm we can't turn our minds away from but the small creeping harm we subject our most loved ones too, mentally if not physically. How can we love ourselves let alone our neighbors. Buddha was smart, begin with kittens or if kittens aren't your thing then puppies or babies or better still a teacher, someone you love and respect (and question). Identify that feeling and bring that into your heart-region as you set up the mantra, "May my teacher, this person I love and respect be free from internal and external harm". That's a start. At some point, keeping hold of that feeling, use yourself in the mantra, "May I be free from internal and external harm". As that feeling grows becomes stable we can direct it to other, to friends, loved one, those we work with, come in contact with and then those we don't know and finally to those who irritate us, kittens and small children may come in this category. And so it goes, directed out to those we dislike.... fear, those our first reaction is to hate, to all beings, past, present, future... Buddha was nothing if not ambitious. Buddha knew us, he knew we needed training in this and loving kindness towards ourselves and others, maintained throughout a two hour practice is not perhaps a bad start.
I decided I needed a picture for this post and ended up coming across the wonderful photo of Krishnamacharya at the top of the post. Thought I couldn't leave it at that so fished out krishnamacharya's pictures and instructions for Baddha padmasana and yoga mudra from my earlier post on mudras.
Krishnamacharya on Baddha Padmasana and Yoga Mudra
from Yoga Makaranda parts I and 'II'
from Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) Part I p103-105
18 Baddhapadmasana (Figure 4.52, 4.53, 4.54, 4.55)
Place the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on top of the right thigh. Take the hands behind the back and tightly clasp the big toe of the right foot with the first three fingers of the right hand and tightly clasp the big toe of the left foot with the first three fingers of the left hand.
Press the chin firmly against the chest. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Sit down, keeping the rest of the body straight. This has the name baddhapadmasana. This asana must be repeated on the other side (that is, first place the left foot on top of the right thigh and then the right foot on top of the left thigh) in order to exercise both sides of the body.
This has 16 vinyasas. The 8th and 9th vinyasas are the asana sthiti. The other vinyasas are like pascimottanasana.
Study the pictures (Figures 4.52, 4.53) and learn how to keep the gaze. In this asana, one must do puraka kumbhaka. Only in yoga mudra sthiti should one do recaka. This sthiti consists of two forms — so study the pictures (Figures 4.54, 4.55) carefully.
Benefit: It will cure all diseases of the lower abdomen. Pregnant women should not do this asana.
|originally numbered 052|
|originally numbered 053|
|originally numbered 054|
|originally numbered 055|
from 'Yoga Makaranda Part II' ( or Salutations to the teacher, the eternal one)
35. BADDHA PADMASANA
This asana is the counter pose to the ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA - Section A, and should be done immediately after that asana.
1. Sit upright, with both legs stretched in front. Bend one of the legs, say the right, at the knee and place the foot on the left thigh as high as possible. The heel should be as near the navel as possible. Now bend the left leg at the knee and place the left foot on the right thigh as high as possible, and the heel as near the navel as possible. The knees should be as close as possible and touch the ground.
2. Take the left arm around the back and catch hold of the toes of the left foot by the right hand. Next, take the right hand behind the back and catch hold of the toes of the right foot by the fingers of the right hand.
Note: Which hand is taken round first is important. In the position described above, it will be observed that the LEFT leg is crossed over the right leg, and it is the LEFT arm that is taken round the round back first, to catch hold of the toes. When the asana is repeated on the other side, the right leg will be over the left leg and right arm will be taken round the back first.
3. Chin lock, chest forward. In the case of those who are married, the gaze should be to the tip of the nose, and in the case of the others the gaze should be to the midpoint of the eyebrows.
4. Take deep breaths. The deep breaths in this asana can with advantage be with control both after inhalation and after exhalation i.e., both ANTHER AND BAHYA Kumbhakam. The retention of breath, in the beginning stages, should not be more than 5 seconds after inhalation and not more than two seconds after exhalation. The breathing in and breathing out should be as thin and as long possible, with rubbing sensation in the throat. The number of rounds can be as many as it is conveniently possible without strain. 5. Get back to the position in step (1) and repeat on the other side.
This is one of the asanas specifically recommended for doing Pranayama. When a large number of Pranayamas are done there is a feeling of hunger, but it is a false sensation. Benefits: This benefits all parts of the body, reduces the waistline, strengthens the lungs and the blood vessels.
Yoga Makaranda (part II) p39-40
35. YOGA MUDRA
After step (3) described under Baddha Padmasana while exhaling, bend trunk forward, till the head touches the ground.
Take deep breaths as many as is possible without undue strain.
While inhaling raise trunk.
Yoga Mudra should be done immediately after Baddha Padmasana. The above describes the final complete pose and may not be attainable at the beginning but only after considerable practice. In the beginning the trunk should be lowered to the extent that is conveniently possible without undue strain and the final position will become possible in course of line. p40
See perhaps this earlier post on other Mudras