Musings About an Ashtanga Asana Practice from Twenty-something to Forty-something
by Philippa Asher
"I discovered the Ashtanga practice in my late twenties. It was incredible. It still is. For me, the asana limb was a healthy replacement for dance. I trained as a ballet dancer and taught for the education departments of a couple of British ballet companies, after completing my post graduate degree in teaching adults, at university.
What I loved most about the asana system, was that in the 1990s, it didn’t seem to be at all competitive and you could be any shape, size or age to enjoy it. You just had to make an effort to show up to class (which for a twenty-something in London back then, wasn’t easy). It was the euphoria that I felt when taking rest, that was so amazing. I started off going to led-classes. I decided that if I could ever master Supta Kurmasana, I would stop. It seemed like such an unachievable goal, but gave my mind something to aspire to. It wasn’t long before I got the bug and one class a week, turned into two and then ‘guided self-practice’. I was was fairly supple from having been a dancer, but lacked adequate shoulder and arm strength. I worked hard to correct the imbalance in my body and my mind discovered a whole new level of determination and drive".
I enjoyed many years of feeling invincible after my tendon grafts, but ‘overdoing it’ eventually caught up with me. Osteoarthritis is not uncommon for athletic women, when they reach their mid-forties. Worst affected are my wrists, from excessive weight-bearing; neck, from placing my feet on the floor in Ganda Bherundasana and big toe joints, from years of landing heavily in Chaturanga, on unsprung floors. I now work more intelligently with the practice. Swift Suryanamaskaras and vinyasas between sides and postures, compound my joint pain. Elongated breaths and steadiness of mind and body, are key to my staying healthy. Regular exercise is good for my osteoarthritis, but I have to be smart when assessing which asanas have become too extreme. Ahimsa (non-harming), is the first yama of the Ashtanga practice after all".
~ abridged version appeared in Pushpam magazine, Summer 2016
Philippa's website http://ashtangaphilippa.com/
|LINK to website|
See perhaps my earlier post
Convince me Krishnamacharya are there any serious benefits to Leg behind head postures?
Krishnamacharya doesn't mention maha bhandhasana (mulabhandasana) in Yoga Makaranda but to all of the advanced postures he usually mentions a benefit, generally relating to one or more chakras being activated, here we would perhaps expect muladhara cakra to be perhaps affected. But surely one might expect a single heel pressed against the rectum as in say janu sirsasana B to be more effective than here where with two heels the pressure in the area seems less direct. However in most of the advanced asana where Krishnamacharya mentions Muladhara cakra the cakra is being affected by pranayama not by the pressure of the heel ( he mentions muladhara cakra in relation to advanced leg behind head postures for example Kapilasana) which seems more intended to fix the focus of attention, prana follows the mind (attention) theory. Mahabhanda, a mudra involves all three locks, mahabhanda, uddiyanabhanda and jalandhara bandha, we can see Krishnamacharya below with his chin down in jaladhara bandha, the drishti is of course nasagra, the tip of the nose. Just as there are mudra versions of many asana, mahabhandasana seems to be an asana version of the mudra which can of course still be practiced as a musra as krishnamacharya clearly does though engagement of the the bandhas, focus on the appropriate cakra and the practice of kumbhaka.
|Krishnamacharya maha bhandasana|
|My favourite mula bhandasana photo.|
|Krishnamacharya getting into maha bhandasana in the 1938 video below|
(3 minutes in).
|Pattabhi Jois patting Maty Ezraty on the hip, telling her that the hands go there not in namaste|
|Maty Ezraty Mula bhandasana|
|Tim Miller setting up for Mulu bhandasana. Pattabhi Jois had just mentioned his back wasn't correct and to set up again|
|Tim Miller mula bhandasana|
|Chuck Miller Mula bhandasana|
|Richard Freeman setting up from Nahusasana A ( Mulabhandasana variation)|
While googling maha bhandasana I came across a photo of Philippa in a photo she labels maha bhandasana prep, I love this picture, with 84 million asana, surely this must be one of them and have it's own name, it has poise and balance and makes me want to explore it myself, inhabit it a while and see what it has to offer the breath.