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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

2008 My year in posts

2008 (89)

December (19)
Better Jump Through
St. Nick gave me Eka pada Sirsasana C for christma...
Jump Through needs work.
Press to handstand . Did I just..........
Press to handstand update.... a little closer
Eka Pada Sirsasana C transition. Some Confusion
Coming up from Urdva Danurasana (first attempts)
Working towards the Press to handstand
Beginning Intermediate transitions.
Press to handstand madness
When to start Intermediate if your home practice
New sheriff in town : Lydia from Squamish BC. Pelv...
7 of 7 Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through
6 of 7 Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through
5 of 7 Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through
4 of 7. Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through
3 of 7. Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through
2 of 7. Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through
1 of 7. Seven Elements that helped me achieve the Jump back and through

November (7)
Why this obsession with Jump Back. Letter to Japan...
Jump Back Achieved: At last, the Jump Back I always wanted
Changing from morning to afternoon practice
Solved Jump Back problem
A week without Ashtanga, Venice and Cat fleas
Jump back: how to make your arms 2 Inches longer
Why I haven't posted for a week

October (18)
Jumping back from forward bend.
Backbend and drop back videos on Youtube
Jump Back: pushing up rather than lifting up.
Came across some new Jump back videos
New problems with my jump back and jump through
Manduka eQua yoga Towel Arrived
Kino MacGregor Primary Series DVD Review
Working towards leg behind head asanas and jumping...
Early handstand work
One way of working towards Kino's Jump Through
Home made Non-slip Yoga towel
Chakrasana ( 3 of 3 )
Kino style Jump Through and how to make a home mad...
Owning my practice
Chakrasana Redux ( 2 of3 )
Chakrasana The Roll back (1 of 3 )
KINO MACGREGOR: a workshop, a journey : Jump back ...

September (12)
Second Mysore class
Alternative to a Yogitoes Skidless yoga towel
Flicking through Lino Miele's Ashtanga Yoga book
Straight leg jump through, a cold and a Netti pot....
Jumping back on a Mysore rug
Thinking about going to your first Mysore class? A...
Matthew Sweeney's new book Vinyasa Krama
Kino Mcgregor Jump Back
Moola bandha Jump back: good days, bad days
Moola Bandha in the Bath
Manduka mat review
September Jump Back on new Manduka mat ( Jump back...

August (15)
Comparing Screenshot of my Jump back with Sharath,...
Intermediate: all you need is a manduka mat
Using screenshots to Compare the Jump Back of Shar...
Jump Back: Improving lift off
Jump back Coordination: Ujjayi and uddiyana
Jump back: all you need is a Manduka mat
2 Ashtanga accident videos : Dropping back to head...
Call to Bloggers: Any old posts on your struggles ...
Jump Back's little brother, The drop back
My Jump backs STUNK this morning
Reply to comment on Jump back after Baddha konasan...
Mat or Rug for jump back : Should you buy a Mysore...
Does everything else suffer by focusing on the jum...
Key areas to work on to PREPARE for the jump back....
Lift off: Pulling knees up to keep feet closer to ...

July (18)
The handle: Lifting up from the Manubrium (Jalandh...
Moolah Bandah and lost action
Best practice ever!
Hmmmm... interesting. Approaching jump back from j...
Links to jump back articles
Puzzle metaphor for jump back
Buhujapidasana and it's role in jump back practice...
So close I can almost tase it!
Lifting up
Straight legs or bent in Jump through
Crossing ankles higher up the leg
Ashtanga with Bricks
Planned future posts
Lift up practice tip to avoid frustration
Grip socks
Notes from my Jump back notebook
Favourite jump back videos on youtube
Jumping back

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Better Jump Through

Jump through is a little better. Coming through with more control and barely brushing the mat but there's still contact and while I'm getting away with it on the eQua towel on just the Manduka I'm getting caught up a little. The difference is lots of uddiyana and crossing my right leg behind my left. Why that makes a difference I don't know.Looking at the video my feet seem to have drifted a long way from my backside. Will try and keep more compact through this mornings practice, which I'm avoiding due to discovering the Martini last night. Actually, discovering the Classic, the Modern and the Gibson Martini. This will be my first practice with a hangover.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

St. Nick gave me Eka pada Sirsasana C for christmas

Just what I always wanted
The best Christmas present ever.......
OK so I exaggerate a little, there was that whirlybird I got when I was ten.

Decided to slip a couple of extra poses into my Primary . Eka Pada Sirasana to Yoganidrasana after Supta Kurmasana and Shalabhasana to Kapotasana at the end of Primary just before Urdhva Dhanurasana. Think it must have been something to do with doing Eka pada in the middle of primary but I felt much more flexible and was able to lift up into ,what Swenson refers to as Eka pada Sirasana C, without my leg popping out from behind my neck and on to my shoulder. Was just about able to swing it up and back and through too though that was a bit untidy.
That extra hip opening before moving into Eka pada seemed to make the difference, was able to get my leg more behind my shoulder which allowed me to push down without dislodging it. Need to work on my breath and the count a little but was excited about it, another of those asana I never thought I'd be able to do.
"Practice and all is coming".

A shala of my very own.

Got really irritated the other day with not having a separate place to practice or being keep able to keep the heat up in this very open house. Shifted some bookcases to make a room divider and threw up a make shift curtain rail.

Not as much space to practice as I'm used to but it gets pretty hot in there. Gets me used to practicing in a more confined space too in case I decide to visit a Shala again.

Curious about the different places everyone finds to practice at home. Kitchens, bedrooms, a corner here a few free feet there and didn't I come across someone, somewhere, who has a Yurt in their garden.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Jump Through needs work.

My Jump Through needs work. Jump back is moving along nicely and becoming consistent. Manged to pull off a whole primary series worth this morning. But my Jump Through is weak.

Yes ,I have that nice Kino float up to half handstand, which feels light and floaty, but more often than not I'm coming down and brushing my feet along the mat or even landing short. I can manage to nail it occasionally but not consistently and not on demand. So January will be Jump Through month and possibly Feburary too. I'll see if I can find out what it is I'm doing wrong and try to correct it.

Turns out that strong Jump Throughs are almost more important in Intermediate than the Jump Backs which are less strenuous than in Primary. Particularly the jumping into poses which takes a great deal of control. And then there's the jumping through leading with the left leg as well as the right something I didn't really practice in Primary. Again, curiously, it's not a problem jumping back with either leg though feels a little strange.

Plan is to do three primary three intermediate and focus on jumping through and switching legs.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Press to handstand . Did I just..........

Does this count? Is there still the hint of a hop up, not sure. Either way the legs are not going up as straight as I'd like, but that should come now I seem to be over the biggest hurdle. Trick seems to be reducing the jump up to smaller and smaller hops.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Press to handstand update.... a little closer

Getting a little closer. there was a moment there.......

Float up is getting there as well, legs much straighter and feeling lighter. Focusing on the pelvis seems to take out some of the strain I was feeling in the neck and back as I'd tried to control it.

Thanks to (0v0) for this comment on the gaze on the earlier post
"There's a lot of power in the gaze. I realize this here as nowhere else. Something random--look deeply to the navel from a full forward fold, rise to the tiptoes sucking in the belly strongly, then move the gaze forward between the hands (or a little in front).Among other things, this seems to focus my mind like nothing else. Dials the brainwaves down yet another notch. "

Previous Press to handstand posts

Eka Pada Sirsasana C transition. Some Confusion

Some confusion about the Eka pada C transition from this post

Somebody let me know that I was doing it wrong and that I should be bringing my leg straight up towards my face, holding it for a breath and only then jumping back. Checked My Swenson video and it seems I was doing it the same way he does. checked his book and same again. he even says this in his comments.

"If you are lifting the extended leg away from the floor, keep it parallel to the earth, not pointed up. pointing up is an asana from Advanced A".

But then I looked in Matthew Sweeney's book and he does it the other way pointing the leg up.

Sweeney's way seems to be how it's done now and how my friend is being taught it at the Shala. Either way it's still my favourite transition from Intermediate, I think I like the pointing up method a little more, get to savour it longer.

Here's my attempt, not quite right, just noticed I didn't hold my leg parallel for five breaths (which was, of course, the whole point) as I was focused on the transition but I like it all the same. Lifting up with the leg still behind my head though feels a long way off, but then I thought that about bending forward while keeping the leg behind and yet it seemed to stay put yesterday. "practice and all is coming" love how that actually does what it says on the tin.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Coming up from Urdva Danurasana (first attempts)

Ok not a Jump Back but it's still a transition right?

Don't think I've ever really tried coming up from Urdva Danurasana before this week. Tried dropping back a few times a month or two ago. I don't think just dropping back is actually that hard, it's more about overcoming fear plus a timing thing. But it's not just about being able to drop back onto your hands is it. It's a backbend and the idea is to develop your backbend such that you can go deeper and deeper into the pose taking your hands over and hang in the air like that for a bit before, finally, dropping down the last couple of inches onto your hands with good control..
That was why I stopped doing them and instead worked on deepening my Urdva Danurasana and one of the reasons I started into the first few Intermediate backbend asana. Seemed logical and to make good sense to do all the back bend prep I could before giving it another go.

So revisited dropbacks this week and had my first go at coming up. Dropping back, no problem, could tell my backbend had improved and was able to hang in the air a little longer while deeper in the pose.
And here's one of my first attempts at coming up from Urdva Danurasana. To be honest I really don't see the big deal, seems more a question of technique. A little shift of the weight further over the hips, time it right, conquer some fear and up you come. Why does overcoming some fear and timing mean you ready to move on to the next stage. We're not talking Tomb Raider here surely.

I can see the argument at least with dropping back. Personally though, I think that Salabhasana to Laghu Vajrasana is good prep for dropback and if we want to be proscriptive, I'd say you shouldn't work on dropping back until after you've worked on them, much less stress on the back surely, but what do I know.

Coming up though! I don't see it.

That said I do love that whole flip flop sequence of backbends, coming up, dropping back, coming up to handstand dropping back and flipping back over into handstand the other way. Very cool, very intense and I imagine really focuses the mind. Besides I love all the jumps and handstands and the feeling that your some kind of Alexander Calder mobile, hanging in the air, defying gravity.

Actually this post is just an excuse to try out the new camera and how I can get a whole standing shot in it's 25mm lens without chopping off legs, arms or my head. (Panasonic DMCfx500).

Oh and I think my feet are supposed to be straighter, bad form to have them turning out like that. And that twist at the end away from the wall is a bad idea.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Working towards the Press to handstand

The Press to Handstand still eludes me. Here are a couple of exercises I've settled on that I figure will bring it about sooner or later. I can fit these into my regular practice without disrupting it too much.

First up my usual Sury A variation. I start doing these handstands after about my third Sury A and carry on through Sury B. I'm working on getting my forward bend deeper and my pelvis higher. Still using the little hop up for now, but trying to make it a smaller and smaller hop until eventually, hopefully, the full press will come. The jump up from downward dog is working on focusing on the "pelvis in space" and playing around with it.

Exercise 1.

In the next one I'm just practicing that lifting up from the pelvis motion in headstand and tripod. I'm trying to get that fixed in my head and body so I can transfer it more easily.

Exercise 2.

The third one is working on the press by allowing my head to contact the wall giving me a little support. Wouldn't recommend doing this too many times as it puts some strain on the neck. But once, going into Utkatasana should be OK.

Exercise 3.

On top of these there are the exercises Lydia suggests in her Youtube Video "Some ways to press to handstand" tutorial. I'm trying to keep these separate from my main practice, extracurricular practice if you will.

* By the way I'm thinking about a new camcorder for these videos,any suggestions? Something cheap, HD perhaps but nothing too fancy At the moment I'm just using my phone. None of the YouTube or cnet camcorder reviews give an idea of which would be best for recording this kind of thing indoors

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Beginning Intermediate transitions.

So that I can have something to compare with as I progress in Intermediate, here are some videos of my first (ish) attempts at Intermediate transitions. The last couple of days I've spent working on Pressing to handstand has been helpful. That "focusing on the pelvis in Space" has allowed me to control my descent more and has finally given me the jump to Bakasana.

First up, attempting to jump into Krounchasana.

Next, jumping into Bakasana

Jump to Eka pada, almost make it but not quite.

Jump back out of Eka pada, only from leg over the shoulder so far but love this transition.

Tittibhasana. As said, this is to give me something to compare my progress with, long way to go here.

And finally a laughable attempt at jumping back from Supta vajrasana (jumping back from lotus). Anyone with any aesthetic sense may wish to avert their eye now.

Any tips/tricks/suggestions for this?

* By the way I'm thinking about a new camcorder for these videos,any suggestions? Something cheap, HD perhaps but nothing too fancy At the moment I'm just using my phone. None of the YouTube or cnet camcorder reviews give an idea of which would be best for recording this kind of thing indoors

Press to handstand madness

Have become a bit obsessed with the Press to Handstand since seeing Lydia's YouTube videos. (see last post) Keep jumping up and throwing down a mat to give it another try. Her focus on the "pelvis in space"has been revelatory. I can do it in headstand and three point headstand, my legs floating up slowly,effortlessly but in handstand it still eludes me. It's close, too close which is why it's becoming obsessional.
Focusing on the pelvis has begun to appear key. It's affected my jump back I feel that the lift is coming more from my pelvis now and can see how it's possible for Lino to achieve his beautiful Jump Back or John Scott his lift to handstand from Navasana etc. That float back from standing to downward dog, a smoother jump to Bakasana and coming down from handstand into side crow all seem achievable if you can just get this. And of course my Kino jump through has improved, has more control and I can see that focusing on the pelvis will give the control that will enable me to jump into asanas in intermediate, something that seems way beyond me at the moment.

So I'm practising, trying Lydia's hamstring exercises, standing on yoga blocks, doing it again and again in handstands to try and build some muscle memory. My upper body aches, I'm doing something wrong, it's not about strength but positioning. I'm sure I'm not leaning far enough forward. I tried to get further forward and as I went up I crashed into the wall, head at a weird angle. There's a fear thing I'm sure, it's as if your forcing yourself to go beyond your point of balance to achieve a point of balance. It's close I can taste it but perhaps I'm just not ready for it yet. perhaps my hamstrings need to be longer (this is beginning to sound like a Naruda poem " I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her. ") But I know I can do it in Headstand so it MUST be possible in handstand no? Obsession, madness, they're going to cart me off to the crazy house with (0v0).

I just received the comment below with a tip taken from YouTube. The link provided seems to be a different video though.
"I would like to contribute a trick to pushing up to handstand that I learned from YouTube also. Go to a wall as if you are doing a handstand against the wall. But instead of having your fingers touch the wall, place them slightly further away so that if you look up, the crown of your head touches the wall. Now with only the crown of your head touching the wall, try pushing up to handstand. Your head surprisingly provides a lot of support and when you feel stable enough you can move your head until it doesn't touch the wall."

Many thanks for this. I had a go (actually several) and it got me up but puts a bit of a strain on the neck. Perhaps I was doing it wrong, too close or too far away from the wall. Think I'm getting closer, seem to be getting my pelvis higher. Here's a video of my best attempt so far.

*By the way I'm thinking about a new camcorder for these videos,any suggestions? Something cheap, HD perhaps but nothing too fancy At the moment I'm just using my phone. None of the YouTube or cnet camcorder reviews give an idea of which would be best for recording this kind of thing indoors

Monday, 8 December 2008

When to start Intermediate if your home practice

I'm Sure everyone has different views on this, Swenson's has this to say.

" The general criterion I offer for entering Intermediate series is that one should have sufficient knowledge of the flow of the Primary series so that it is not necessary to refer to any external source, such as a video, book, tape or diagram, to prompt the mind as to which asana is next in the sequence. It is also logical that one should be able to continue through the entire Primary sequence from beginning to end, without stopping.'
Ashtanga yoga: The practice manual p129

I flirted with Intermediate a couple of months ago but decided to stick with Primary a little longer. I wanted to nail my Jump Back as there are less standard Jump Backs in Intermediate and I figured, if I didn't get the kind of jump back I wanted before I started I might never get it.

I also wanted to be able to do Pachimottasana's better. My forward bend had improved but I'd never been able to get my calves to stay on the mat until recently. The improvement in my Supta Kurmasana was the deciding factor. I could now get my leg to stay behind my head and wanted to develop that in all the pada sirasanas. Back Bending was improving and EVERYONE goes on and on about Kapotasana, wanted to get in on that. and thought it would help me with dropping back.

Basically it just seemed right. It certainly wasn't out of boredom, I LOVE Primary series, and of course it still needs work but then wont it always and besides it's not like you stop doing Primary altogether. The plan is to do intermediate five days a week and Primary once a week.

The other factor was time. Moving my practice to after work meant I had more time. A new series takes a lot of working out before you get that flow going and can bring the time down. It's taking me a little over two hours at the moment.

First impressions? I have to say it's exhausting. This surprised me as a couple of times I'd done all Primary and then all of Intermediate as well and was knackered but still walking. Maybe taking it more seriously and trying to do it properly is making the difference. I mean I'm into handstand as you know, and yet the forearm stands are killing me, and how come the Shalabasanas and Dhanurasanas are so dammed hard, my thighs ache to ........ well to wherever aching things ache a lot to when they want to make a big deal out of it aching. Kapotasana.....forgetaba ,and what the hell is Vatayanasana all about?

And the Intermediate Jump Backs / Jump Through? What a mess, one that should keep me and this blog busy for a couple of years. If I spent the last six months working on one style of JB where to begin on the eight or so weird transitions in Intermediate. I mean jumping back from lotus, come on already!

Interesting thing though, Intermediate seems to be more about Jumping Through than Jumping Back. There's the whole jumping into asana which I haven't really touched on yet. If your NOT moving into Intermediate and are afraid this blog will no longer be for you, then I think The whole jumping in and out of asana will be as much for Primary as for Intermediate. Watch John Scott's jumps into asanas in his Primary video or David, Lino or Kino. It improves the flow more makes the practice seamless still. My Intermediate transitions so far this week? Laughable really giggle-able. Thank god I practice at home, how does anyone have the nerve to begin this in a public Shala?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

New sheriff in town : Lydia from Squamish BC. Pelvis not Abs

So there's a new Sheriff in town. Came across this video on Youtube of Lydia at Yogastudio Squamish BC (thank god for googlemaps), Ashtangi's get everywhere, don't they?

Great press to handstand taken from the side at 2:42

Love the video, love that her guy is just sitting there in the background while she's doing all this amazing stuff, (whats a girl got to do to impress a guy in Squamish BC). Her arm balances are excellent, superb control but check out her arms. She looks strong but in no way "muscle bound". I don't feel I'm particularly muscular but in some of the videos I guess my arm and shoulder muscles can appear a little pronounced which seems to go against my saying that it's not just about arm strength. So good to see Lydia doing all these handstands and arm balances and that it's so clearly about how she's using her body weight.

But the main reason I wanted to post this is because in one of her comments under the YouTube video she says it's about the pelvis not the abs. She says.

" In the press handstand I focus on where my pelvis is in space. (Funny, not the abdominal muscles!) Especially the very center of the pelvic floor. (Moola Bandha) I am planning to post a video on how to press up so that will be coming soon"

That line "I focus on where my pelvis is in space". Reading that it was as if a light went on above my head. A eureka moment. Luckily I found the video just before I was about to practice and was able to give it a try right away, made a hell of a difference.

Don't have to get hung up on the moolah bandha bit for now just focus on that "where the pelvis is in space". I think when I try to float up to handstand I'm focusing on my shoulders and shifting them up over my arms, makes so much more sense when you shift that focus to your pelvis. It seems so much easier and ......lighter. Notice in the Vid, how she makes her pelvis go higher and higher in the press to handstand. But it works for all the jumps, lift the pelvis high and focus on it's movement through space. Eureka!

NB. came back to the video last night when I was doing some extra practice. Noticed her hand placement in the press to handstand. So much further forward than I usually have mine, She then lifts her pelvis high and as she moves her shoulders over her arms it automatically brings her up on to the tips of her toes. It's as if she's half way up before she begins to lift.

As promised Lydia has now posted her Press to Handstand tutorial on YouTube

And here's a link to Her Blog

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

7 of 7 Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back

Felt this was important so have changed this series from six elements to seven

December 08

7. Focusing on the pelvis in space.

All the work I've done lately on the press to handstand and focusing on the pelvis in space appears to have benefited my Jump back.



I'm employing the other six elements but my attention is now focused on my pelvis.I'm getting much more lift. First time it happened, after the handstand work I was taken by suprise. I'd already got the jump back I wanted, or so I thought but this was so much easier, more controlled, effortless almost. Is this the moola bandha without the mysticism? I know they talk about the moola bandha as being at the base or floor of the pelvis but surely my moola bandha isn't any stronger than it was last week. Only thing that's changed is a shifted focus of attention and a conscious effort to lift from the pelvic floor while engaging Uddiyana, employing stretchy arms and pressing down.

More control on the Jump up to jump through too though I made a hash of the swing through by being too close to the wall.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

6 of 7 Seven elements that helped me achieve the jump back

November 08

6. Stretchy arms

This is strongly connected with 5 of 6 and pressing down but I wanted to present it as a separate element because I think it's so important, has made a huge difference and i wanted to stress that. The two of them together have also helped me virtually push up to handstand from forward bend in the Sury's (posts to come on that) without a jump.

I've lifted most of this from this post

In Navasana have your palms open facing slightly up, reach up towards your toes more (not suggesting your should always do Navasana this way but this will just give you the idea of what I'm talking about). Your shoulders should have rounded as if your hands are two ends of a bow the string goes from one hand to the other, the bend in the bow around your shoulders, really stretch that bend around your shoulders making your arms grow and grow. Now drop your shoulder blades down your back and try and keep that as you come down to prepare to lift up for your jump back. Your arms should feel really long now so bend at the elbow and ground them firmly, really press into the ground and push up. Your pushing up like a normal press up rather than trying to lift up. Now keep going up and up and up Mister fantastic stretchy arms

*By the way I'm thinking about a new camcorder for these videos,any suggestions? Something cheap, HD perhaps but nothing too fancy At the moment I'm just using my phone. None of the YouTube or cnet camcorder reviews give an idea of which would be best for recording this kind of thing indoors

5 of 7 Seven elements that helped me achieve the jump back

October 06

5. Pushing Down to lift up

Had read about this here and there. Different teachers. John Scott saying you should push up into your lift off but I've always lifted up. When you think about it it makes much more sense. We do push ups not lift ups and when we first start getting into jump backs it's almost like were trying to drag ourselves up. Now it could be that my core has become stronger or that I've become stronger all round or that my control and technique has improved such that I'm able to Push up where I couldn't before. However, I suspect it was mostly just a mental block re enforced by the constant reference to "lifting" up. It might also be something to do with following along with Kino's DVD. I picked up on her saying something like"Bring the shoulders further apart and draw your shoulder blades down your back". She mentioned this just before going into the lift off.

This is linked with the next post 6 of 6 on stretchy arms but to focus on the pushing down element. While seating with crossed legs lean forward draw your shoulders apart rounding them, draw your shoulder blades down your back (VERY IMPORTANT) place your hands just in front of your hips, shoulders over your hands and push/press down to lift up. If this is confusing try a couple of regular press ups to get the idea fixed in your head then try it again.

I remember an old physics lesson at school where we were told there was no pulling just pushing, when we pull something towards us were really applying pressure behind. Perhaps it's the the same here there's no lifting just pushing/pressing up

Shot from the front to try to catch the pushing down element.

4 of 7. Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back

September 08

4. Belly up (Bandhas)

Being a good Heideggarian I'm bracketing the Bandhas (according to Martin it allows us to focus on what something is without considering whether it exists). With no fuzzy yellow balls in the house the jury is still out. I like that Kino Mcgregor doesn't mention them in her primary series DVD, she just says "lift your belly up". This seems enough, you can get into the whole esoteric, mystical bandha thing if you want but it seems a bit much at times, for my taste at least. Besides I hate the whole Bandha response to the jump back.

Q. I How do I achieve the jump back?

A. Work on your Bandhas

Great, thanks that was helpful!

However bringing in and lifting up your belly (uddiyana Bandha?) does seem be effective as does tightening and lifting the pelvic floor (Moola bhanda?) see my post on avoiding lost action. Basically I suggest that tightening and lifting these areas helps keep the body tight and contained and easier to lift everything up together rather than first your torso, then your hips, then you legs etc.

So 4 of 6 is lifting up the belly. Handy to look at some of the descriptions of Uddiyana bhanda without getting too hung up on it. The lit. talks about drawing the belly in as if a thread is pulling you belly button out through your back but then you kind of suck it in and up creating a hollow under your ribs. This is great for getting in to some of the really tricky twists and bends in Ashtanga as you end up with so much more space. One of the main benefits for the Jump Back is that it enables you to tilt your hips and crossed legs up, kind of curling your body up into a ball from the bottom rather from the top. Curling all that in and up and lifting helps give you more height to get your legs/feet through and makes everything so much tighter and more controlled.

I found looking at the first couple of stages of nauli helpful without all the tummy twirling bit. here's some links. (actually am kind of into the whole Nauli thing lately and starting to get it).

Refer to stage I of this post don't think you need to take it as extreme as this, to suck it in this far, but it helps to practice this to get the idea. I find that I can't get my Jump Through right if I forget to employ belly up.

NB. If you want to get into the whole bandha thing you can do worse than checking out the ever wise (0v0) whose just posted on the topic (you might want to read her previous post and comments to get some context). Sure to be lots of very current discussion of the topic in the comments section over the next couple of days.

3 of 7. Seven elements that helped me achieve the jump back

August 08

3. Props

Ashtanga frowns on props but they can be useful. I don't necessarily suggest you should use them during your main practice although I did use Nike grips every morning for a few weeks over July/Aug. If you have some spare time in the evening try some jump backs and jump through's using yoga blocks to give you the extra height. Takes away some of the fear of rubbing your feet along the mat or smashing your little toe. Best of all though, you start to get the idea of what a full floaty Jump Back feels like. Again your getting used to how you should be shifting your body weight and exercising your core. You can hold your lolasana in the middle and just generally play around with it. I preferred Nike grips to blocks but either are fine. Also socks are useful (grip socks, great if you can find some) as you can slide along the floor (try it in the kitchen or bathroom if you don't have a wood floor) you don't get hung up on your sticky mat. I think it was John Scott who suggests putting a t-shirt on the floor and sliding it back and forth through your Jump Back. I'm also a big fan of microfiber towels as they are really soft and you can brush over the top of it without rubbing your toes raw, manduka make one. Manduka's black mats are also good when they get good and sweaty as your feet will slide through.


Grip socks

Nike grips

2 of 7. Seven elements that helped me achieve the Jump back

July 08

2. Lolasana

In June's Jump back (previous post 1 0f 6 ) we have the beginning and the end but not the middle. The middle is lolasana and is the stage we need to pass through in both the Jump back and Crossed leg Jump through. David Swenson advises practicing Lolasana and it definitely made a difference.

I'd practice it any chance I got, sometimes during practice, a few times in the evening when I got home on the mat, but more often than not while watching something on TV. It's building arm, shoulder and core strength of course and also focusing on balance and shifting body weight, but perhaps best of all it's building confidence, you Begin to get used to the idea that you can suspend your body in the air. Now it's just a case of bringing them altogether and the subject of the next post on props.

1 of 7. Seven Elements that helped me achieve the jump back

June 08

1. Changing my expectations probably made the biggest difference of all. I'd had this image of what a jump back should be from watching Lino Miele. I'd been trying to lift straight up like him and there just seemed no way I would ever be able to get my backside off the ground far enough to get my feet back and through. I thought perhaps it was something to do with my lack of Bandha control or core strength, arms too short perhaps. My Jump Back aspirations came to a full, complete and frustrating stop.

Coming across Paul Fox's tutorial allowed me to view the Jump Back differently. Here was a transition I could almost do that felt smooth and allowed me to flow much more easily between asana. It was not a million miles away from many of the Jump Backs I'd seen on you tube and I could see that it would help develop the Strength and control I felt I needed. In fact it felt like the only jump back I would ever need.

Link to my first post

Friday, 28 November 2008

Why this obsession with Jump Back. Letter to Japan

I've had a lot of visitors to this blog from Japan the last couple of days thanks to a link from miwamiwa's blog Very happy about this as I lived in Japan for six years, in Osaka and Kyoto. I came back to the UK five years ago but still consider Japan a second home and still hope to return to live there again in the future. Nice to know there's a thriving Ashtanga scene.

On miwamiwa's blog I believe she was discussing the different perspective on Ashtanga from Japan in particular in this case and in the West. I don't think she was being critical, in a negative sense, when she commented on the apparent focus on the physical aspect in the west and on the meditative in Japan. Interesting, as this debate tends to come up a lot, more in the sense of the physical and/or spiritual focus in the west and in India, in particular, as representative of the East. I don't think the spiritual and meditative are necessarily interchangeable here.

Miwa uses blogs as indicators and my blog among others as an example of the focus on the physical and/or on asana and in my case a seeming obsession with the Jump Back in particular. Though she says she enjoys my blog and isn't critical of this I wanted to respond both for myself and for anyone who finds the Jump Back important aspect of practice to them.

I started this blog to focus on one aspect of ashtanga, the Jump back. I've had to resist the urge to comment on other aspects of practice or to get involved in other discussions surrounding Ashtanga (especially hard at times as I come from a philosophical background). I've started and deleted several blogs that went off topic. And perhaps it has become a bit of an obsession in the process of writing about my progress several times a week.

However, I focused on the Jump Back because I felt it was important despite what many teachers say. I still believe it's one of the most important aspects of practice if not the defining aspect of Ashtanga. The Jump Back and Jump Through link the Asana, it's what makes Ashtanga a flowing practice. When the practice flows we're able to focus more on the breath and on the meditative aspect Miwa mentions, rather than focusing on the breath in just the one asana as in other styles of yoga. The whole Ashtanga practice becomes one long meditation. I used to practice Vippasana meditation as well as Ashtanga, now my practice has become an extended Vipasanna meditation. An hour to an hour and a half rather than the 20-40 minutes I used to practice Vipasanna or indeed Zen in the past. As random thoughts enter my mind in practice I try to treat them as I would in Vipassana. This all becomes more effective with a flowing transition between asana.

If you look back to my June and July videos this is when I latch on to a style of Jump Back that begins to flow more and allowed me to focus more on the practice as a whole. The developments since then have been to improve that flow and to achieve a lighter more, graceful practice. It's all abut the breath, the rhythm and flow. If we focus on the asana and we all do at times. isn't it because the asana we struggle with interrupt the flow. Yes there's the sense of triumph and achievement when we begin to get them but we're Ashtangi's, it's the practice as a whole we focus on and every morning (or afternoon) and never really the individual asana, though we might give one or another more attention for awhile. And the practice IS a meditation, what else could it be.
It still amazes me what we do. Getting up in the dark, cold winter mornings six days a week and going through our practice. Whether we practice at home or at a Shala, despite the occasional wandering drishti or monkey mind, for an hour and a half we absorb ourselves in the practice, in the breath. This is meditative and can't help but affect/effect us on a spiritual and indeed moral level. It's a discipline we impose on ourselves so of course it has those aspects. There is no essential difference between Ashtanga PRACTICE in the East and West, how could there be. The different perspectives we may have only surround the practice and dissolve when we step on the mat.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Jump Back Achieved: At last, the Jump Back I always wanted

Something happened during Tuesday's practice, the Jump Back I've been after finally materialized. Half way through the practice everything came together and I just seemed to get the extra lift and there it was. After my practice I tried to catch it on Video. Of the three I took this is the best one with the best Jump Through but I'm a little off shot at the beginning One of the others I took is on youtube).

What I like about it is that I tend to go straight up and get enough height to bring my legs back through without brushing the mat. My hips tend to go up higher and more smoothly, the whole thing has a nice pace about it. The Jump Through too is more controlled, again, I didn't brush the mat and my legs straightened nicely before coming down.

I think it can be improved of course, but this is basically what I've been after and I think the grace and consistency will come.

What's interesting is that it comes after a disrupted month of practice. A post or two before I mention that I've lost some arm and core strength (my jump through was completely shot), so the success here isn't down to just strength. Nor is it due to any mystical Bandha control, although I do draw my belly in and up, there's nothing mystical about it. I think it's just a matter of bringing several techniques together.

I'll try and focus on these in the next couple of posts

*By the way I'm thinking about a new camcorder for these videos,any suggestions? Something cheap, HD perhaps but nothing too fancy At the moment I'm just using my phone. None of the YouTube or cnet camcorder reviews give an idea of which would be best for recording this kind of thing indoors

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Changing from morning to afternoon practice

I used to get up and practice around 6:30 am 6 days a week. Always felt a bit of pressure on work days. If I didn't start on time I would feel the need to rush through Standing or finishing. More often than not I'd end up with only a 5 min Savasana (can almost hear (0v0)'s tut of disapproval). This week I've just given up on it. My practice space has been compromised a little, just not the same practicing with a computer keyboard tapping away in the background. Thought about ways to divide the room in two but nothing seemed to work. Find it's important to me, that sense of my own space to practice, no distractions, mind can wander enough as it is.

So I've moved my practice to after work. I get in at 6pm and have the house to myself until at least 8pm. My body is loose from the day and having just cycled home I'm all warmed up. Finding it a revelation. As my body is so much looser I'm able to bind more deeply and get further into a pose. My calves are finally touching the floor in Pashimottanasana I'm able to grab my wrist in marichyasana D rather than just link my fingers. Legs are starting to go more over my shoulder than just behind my neck in Eka pada sirasana and my backbends are so much higher and I'm able to walk in further. Best of all I can have a good fifteen min Savasana. I have time too to really take my time in Standing and Finishing and am starting to love them again. Feel too that I have that extra time to really work on things too (dropbacks?) and/or start wandering into 2nd series.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Solved Jump Back problem

So I think I've solved my Jump Back problem mentioned in earlier posts where I'd started touching my toe down half way through. Couple of things came together during this mornings practice. Mixture of the stretchy arms, sitting up straighter and hands a bit closer to my hips. I should do a video to go with this but have just stuffed a toasted fish finger salad sandwich with ketchup and can hardly move. Will add it later... have been feeling the pressure to have a November progress video and the months getting away from me.

Basically I'm trying to sit up higher and straighter on my sit bones

Do the stretchy arm thing to make my arms really long (see earlier post)

Drop my shoulder blades down my back

Press my hands just in front of my buttocks (Tended to have them a little further forward before and think this is why I was going over/ forward too soon)

Press down and lift up, a bit straighter up than before

Try to begin my pivot forward a little higher up than I had been (I'd been pivoting forward and bending my arms at the same time up till now)

Being higher up when you swing forward your hips come up more, much smoother jump back and no touching of the toes.

OK, tried to catch it on video after all, feel sick now.

Notice my Jump Through is still weak since I hurt my toe. Coming down too soon, used to be able to do it, so know that I've just slipped back into bad habits. How much of Ashtanga is about breaking bad habits or learning new habits

Monday, 17 November 2008

A week without Ashtanga, Venice and Cat fleas

First time I've gone more than a couple of days without my practice in a year and a half. Went to Venice (picture on the left is of Venice flooding Thursday Morning) last Monday for a mini break but thought I'd be able to practice in the hotel room as with Paris earlier in the year. Hadn't bargained on the smallest room double room ever. About a foot around the bed, not enough room to swing a cat....and talking of cats.

Went to the Island of Torcello on the second day and foolishly allowed a cat that needs swinging to jump up on my lap. Gave it a quick stroke while admiring the Last judgement mosaic in Torcello cathedral.

Come the evening I find I have fifty odd flea bites to my hands and arms and an allergic reaction to boot. This morning was the first morning I dared to practice and what a relief. Practiced a little gingerly at first bit afraid to put any weight on my hands or where to bind safely. Was also a little concerned about the effect of allowing my body to get too hot and whether sweat was a good thing or bad. In the end I decided to just trust the practice and hope that I'd release some toxins that needed releasing. Basically I went all New Age on my ass or arse as we say in the UK.

Curiously Jump Backs were an effort, felt weak and struggled half way through but my Jump Through felt all light and flighty as If I was effortlessly floating up. Perhaps I rely too much on Physical strength. Now I think about it I'm Sure that's a weakness in my Jump Back, I'm strong enough in my arms and shoulders to really muscle through it at the expense of Core strength and technique. Note to self......

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Jump back: how to make your arms 2 Inches longer

Think you'll like this!

Lately I've been trying to get more height in my Jump back, to avoid the bad habit I've recently got into of touching my toe down half way through (see earlier post).

Another thing I've been working on is rounding my shoulders and drawing my shoulder blades further down my back.

The third thing I've begun doing is having my palms turned facing up in my Navasana.

These came together this morning and I felt like I had Mr Fantastic stretchy arms. So try this.

In Navasana have your palms open facing slightly up, facing a little more up than Kino on the left and reach up towards your toes more (not suggesting your should always do Navasana this way but this will just give you the idea of what I'm talking about). Your shoulders should have rounded as if your hands are two ends of a bow the string goes from one hand to the other, the bend in the bow around your shoulders. Now drop your shoulder blades down your back and try and keep that as you come down to prepare to lift up for your jump back. Your arms should feel really long now so bend at the elbow and ground them firmly, really press into the ground and push up. Your pushing up like a normal press up rather than trying to lift up. Now keep going up and up and up Mister fantastic stretchy arms
Will try to add a video to show what I'm getting at.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Jumping back from forward bend.

This is a work in progress....but then isn't everything.

I have a hankering for those press up's to handstand from forward bend or press up to jump back. Been coming back to it off an on for a year or so but never seem to get that much closer. Some progress yesterday though with something I picked up from Kino's DVD. It's that "bringing the shoulders further apart and the shoulderblades down your back" thing that I've mentioned as being helpful in my jump back. Tried doing that yesterday and found I was feeling much stronger and more firmly grounded. I started off with the jump to point of balance I've been doing lately, Kino style, but coming in a step closer to my hands each time until I'm in a normal forward bend. then the trick is to kind of hop the hips above the shoulders hold and then shoot the legs back to Chaturanga. This morning I took it a step further with a hop up and then, still in balance, bending the arms and lowering down as I shoot my legs back....makes for a softer landing, perhaps a little more graceful too.
Anyway it feels good and I'm sure this work will all come in handy for some of the second and third series arm balances one day. Here's the video from yesterday. Ignore the jump forward I was in two minds as to what I was doing and it's a bit of a mess.

To get that press up to handstand I mentioned, I'm also approaching it by getting into handstand walking the feet in 'till I'm up on my toes and then slowly raising mylegs up and then down and then up ETC......... normal headstand and also three point headstands.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Backbend and drop back videos on Youtube

As promised some backbend and drop back video's from Youtube. you can find most of these on my Youtube playlist here.

let me know if you've found something you think should be included.

First link is to the contributors page the second is to the backbend video



bestbuychi : building up to dropbacks

YogiPod : nice long hang

sadienardini dropback tutorial

sarai665 : on the beach, different angle

roboramma : handstand to backbend

bestbuychi : using a wall

partneryogachs cat stevens soundtrack

yogaoctave ; working from handstand to backbend using a chair

wendyspies 9 months pregnant backbend

TheRealYogaChickie using a chair to work on backbends

ashtangaboi backbend series handstand to backbend etc

anakrousis Tiriang Mukhottanasana

yogamatfire one of my favourites, full ashtnga backbend series

mukimukimunmun backbend flipflops outside

more from the great anakrousis : so you think you can do Kappo

excellent backbend tutoriol, as ever, from lrockwood kappotasana

AshtangaVinyasaYoga from Anne Nuotio`s DVD

htimsmot2 dropping back

MahaMondo backbend flip flops

and from me grimmly2007 my first drop back

and my second, crashing onto my head, a cautionary tale

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Jump Back: pushing up rather than lifting up.

Something happened to my Jump Back this week, think I noticed it Tuesday. I found I was getting up higher and that it was feeling easier. I started trying to focus on it, in a nice matter of fact Vipassana kind of a way, and realized I was Pushing up rather than Lifting up. "That's interesting" thinks the Vipassana practitioner in me. "Yipi ai A" shouts the Bruce Willis in me a little more exuberantly. Actually I got mistaken for Bruce Willis once in Osaka Castle, when I was living in Japan. Little old lady came up to me and asked me for an autograph. Of course I signed it, don't see the resemblance myself.
Anyway pushing up. Had read about this here and there. Different teachers saying you should push up into your lift off but I've always lifted up. When you think about it it makes much more sense. We do push ups not lift ups and when we first start getting into jump backs it's almost like were trying to drag ourselves up.
Now it could be that my core has become stronger or that I've become stronger all round or that my control and technique has improved such that I'm able to Push up where i couldn't before. However, I suspect it was mostly just a mental block re enforced by the constant reference to "lifting" up. It might also be something to do with following along with Kino's DVD (really loving this DVD by the way getting a hell of a lot out of. She chats away throughout and you start picking up on different things she says in different practices, highly recommended). I picked up on her saying something like"Bring the shoulders further apart and draw your shoulder blades down your back". She mentioned this just before going into the lift off.

Here's a video from the front to try and show this pushing up aspect.

On youtube for itouch readers

I think I'm doing the Kino shoulder thing but also leaning further forward , ahhhh is that it, my shoulders more over my wrists, does this allow me to push up more? ....Just broke off from my scrambled eggs to give that a try....No I think I've been getting further over for awhile. Just seems to be that, out of the blue, I've started pushing rather than lifting. Going to hit the blogs now and see if anyone else has mentioned this in the past.


I'm moving into the back bend business.

Been feeling, for awhile, that back bends/drop backs and handstands would be suitable for this Blog. Like the Jump back they're elements of the practice that can be looked at and worked on separately from the rest of the practice. Actually, I'm not that sure whether this is the case with the back bend, as you wouldn't want to approach them cold in the way that you can the jump back and the handstand, but hey.

I've been working on them for awhile now and as with the Jump Backs I want to document the transition from getting close to being able to achieve them with some confidence. I've felt all along that the great ashtanga teachers are sometimes too far removed from the struggling student. They can appear godlike. Take Lino Miele for instance, watching his practice in the beginning was almost enough to make me give up there and then, just didn't seem possible for me.

I hope that progress I've made over the past couple of months with the Jump back and Jump through from sliding my toes along the floor to just about clearing it, is encouraging and makes it seem more possible, even likely that anyone can achieve the same.

As with the Jump back I want to bring together some resources, Youtube video's, information, advice, tutorials, Etc.

With all this in mind this is where I am with my back bend.

Felt I was getting close to be able to come up to standing this morning which is why I want to start documenting this now. Going to the shala a few weeks ago and having L lift me up deeper into the back bend made me realise that perhaps it would be possible to achieve the sort of back bends I've seen on youtube (video links to come)in the not so distant future.

I've started stretching more deeply into it and doing five instead of the three I used to do. Coming down after each lift I've started moving my hands a little closer to my legs. I noticed a while ago that after the fifth lift and fifth time moving closer to my legs I was beginning to feel a small shift in my weight towards my legs.

In this second video I've started walking my hands in and started to rock back and forth onto my toes and fingers. I tried this for the first time about two weeks ago but just couldn't get the coordination. Managed it for the first time this week the rocking not the full lift). Still got a way to go but I'm starting to believe it's possible.

The other thing to do, of course, is to work the other way, i.e. Drop backs. Tried drop backs about a month ago. I started off dropping back on to the sofa then onto cushions and finally to the floor. First one was caught on camera and was pretty good (beginners luck?)

Next time I tried it I landed on my head. Haven't tried them since as I wanted to work on deepening my back bend first. After the this mornings practice I'm feeling more confident about giving them another go.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Came across some new Jump back videos

Love this almost slow-mo Jump Back and Through from M_in_M seems to defy the laws of gravity for a moment

and a couple of new tutorials from irockwood on youtube. Lucas also has some excellent backbend tutorials.


New problems with my jump back and jump through

Having a problem with my jump back lately, actually there are still several problems but this is a new one that seems to have come about quite recently. Not sure when I started doing this but noticed it the last couple of practices. It's all to do with the breath. I Lift up OK on the inhale but then when I want to exhale and kick back into chatauranga it's like I'm stuck. I tend to bounce in the middle of it dropping my toe and then exhaling and kicking back. My toe doesn't always go down, I can sometimes muscle it out,but it's awkward. It's not a smooth transition from the inhale to the exhale, from the lift up to the Kick back.

OK, been working on the above and I think I know what it is. I think when I lift up I'm coming up more and more into Lolasana and am already tilted forward. I think before, I used to come up straighter and then the exhale would come more easily on that tilt forward and kick back. Stated coming up into lolasana a little straighter and that seems to be overcoming this lock up on the breath.

Another problem that comes and goes is with my Kino Jump Through. If I don't hit the point of balance POB or even sometimes when I do, I occasionally come straight down into a kind of Jump to sit rather than a Jump through.

The way to overcome this seems to be to jump up to POB bringing the shoulders a little forward of the wrists and then pivoting at the shoulder ball up and swing through.

This video seems to catch what I'm aiming at at the moment when it's going right. (Quite please with my Paschimottanasana at the moment , legs seem to be /staying flatter, have always found it difficult).

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Manduka eQua yoga Towel Arrived

My new Manduka eQua towel arrived today. Will let you know what it's like after my practice tomorrow.First impressions........Green, VERY green! It's like doing your practice at Lords or Wimbledon's center court

So it's now Tomorrow. Practiced with the eQua towel this morning. Had the heating turned up really high to make it a good and sweaty practice.

One problem though, I'd requested the XL towel for my XL manduka mat but in the meantime I'd sliced off the end of my manduka (collective gasp). Thing was I was getting used to this great big long mat but going to the Shala and having to practice on a regular size mat. I was afraid of kicking the person behind me in the head so reluctantly decided to get used to a regular mat at home. So I cut my manduka down to regular size forgetting about the imminent arrival of said XL eQua.

But this is actually OK as I can fold a couple of inches of the mat over each end of the mat making it even more secure (see picture).

So does it work? is it fit for purpose?

Manduka claim

1. Super-absorbent.

It certainly is. I'm about as sweaty an Ashtangi as your likely to find, the eQua did all I could ask of it.

2. Ultra soft.

As a babies bottom. I suffer from ashtanga toes, dried skin on the front of your big toe from rolling over throughout the practice. Gets really sore huh. These days I sually lower onto my knees then adjust my toes to avoid rolling over. With the eQua it's so soft that I was able to go back to rolling over. The towel feels really nice too laying back into the supine asana's and especially savasana.

3. Slip resistant.

Need to give it a quick spray with a water mister but from then on your fine. Parasarita Padattanasana has to be one of the most worrying asanas where slipping can be really nasty. Here's a video from this morning on the towel.

and here's another of a jump back and jump through another area of concern with regards to slipping


4. Moisture Wicking

So this refers to drawing the moisture away from the surface of the mat in the same way as my trusty Nike pro's. I guess it does, seeing as theirs no pool of sweat on top of the mat, but have always wondered.....where does it all go, wicked away to where? one of the great mystery, solve this one next Gordon.

5. Rapid dry.

Oh yeah! again, how, where does it go? pretty much dry ten minutes after practice. Also I rinsed it out in the shower, wrung it out, hung it on the door about an hour ago and it's already dry and ready to go again.

6. Light weight

Yep, weighs almost nothing and folds up into a tiny mesh bag too.

7. Durable

Will have to see about that but I imagine so. Looks well made

BUT.......... well not much a but really. But see my earlier post on making your own yoga towel

The eQua is basically just a pretty microfiber towel. eBay is full of them at the moment so you could make your own as I did.

However, I couldn't find one the right length for a yoga mat and had to settle for a bath towel, cut it down the middle and stitch the seams. The eQua on the other hand is designed for a mat, the right length the right width and comes in cool colours (hard to find a decent colour microfiber towel on eBay).

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Kino MacGregor Primary Series DVD Review

Practiced this morning along with Kino's Primary DVD. Exhausting as she goes at quite a pace and I was trying to do her high Jump Through throughout. My player clocks it 1 hour 15. If you take out the Intro, credits and chanting she gets through the primary series in about 70 minutes, pretty much the same as Sharath.

Here's her own promo on youtube

First thing I should say is that it arrived very quickly. I ordered it from her Miami life studio and it must have taken under a week to arrive with me here in the UK.

As you can see from the top screenshot you get the primary sequence and then an extra section on beginner options, see below.

These tend to be variations or easier ways of getting into the asanas. Very welcome to this blog is a section on the Jump Backs and Jump Through where she gives about five variations (She has another DVD of one of her workshops that goes into the Jump back and Through in even more detail).
The main Primary sequence is broken down into scene selections. Where it says Advanced, this refers to a panel that pops up in the main practice with an Advanced variation or transition. EG. in Parasarita Padottanasana D she mentions the option of pressing up into handstand. She says while it's not traditional it can be fun. (YES! Thanks Kino for recognizing that the practice can be fun).

This morning was the third time I've practiced along with her Primary. First time I almost turned it off before the end of Sury B. She seemed to be talking too fast, saying too much, just sounded really busy and distracting. To be fair John Scott also talks pretty fast at times on his DVD, It's seems a bit much at first but fine once you get used to it. Sury B has a lot going on so it's bound to be an issue there.

I have DVDs by John Scott, Doug Swenson, Lino Miele, Sharath and Mark Darby. I can't say one is better than the other because they are all so different. I'm in awe of Lino's but can't imagine practicing along with it. Similarly with John Scotts though I've used his for reference quite a bit. Watching his practice made me fall in love with the Primary sequence again after a brief flirtation with The Rocket (power yoga). Doug Swanson's' is just so relaxed, something about his Texan drawl perhaps, but he is the master of the practice voice over. Mark Darby's DVD is still my top pick for a beginner DVD. Having him doing the basic practice with some advanced transitions thrown in and Nicole Bordeleau alongside him doing the beginner variations seems the best option for a beginner and it's the DVD I learnt with.

Kino's is probably the next best package for the beginner in that it has the separate section with beginner options. However these are not just for the total beginner but for the intermediate student as well. I've been practicing for a year and a half but like many practitioners have difficulty with Supta kurmasana and until recently marishyasana D as well, both are explored in the options.

I've found her comments throughout helpful in getting deeper into an asana. Kino seems to focus a lot on skeletal structure. Focus on the spine here, lifting out of the hips there. She constantly reminds your that your legs are your foundation and pressing down into your foot when you want to come up reminding you that your whole body is involved in an asana.

Pace is a little fast though that suits me. In most of the video's I have there is a full breath count. Kino doesn't count the breaths, reminding us at one point that our breathing cycles are all different, this frees her to comment and encourage you to get deeper into, or open up more in an asana.

Oh and I hope Kino has a sponsorship deal or something with Yogitoes Skidless towels. She practices her primary on a black one and on a green one in her workshop DVD. They look great and don't move or bunch up, testament indeed, I want one!

Will add anything else that comes to mind as I continue to practice along with the DVD over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to ask in the comments box if you want to know something specific about it.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Working towards leg behind head asanas and jumping back from Eka Pada Sirsasana

Good practice with the new Kino Primary DVD this morning. (Half way through a review but want to practice along with it another couple of times first. It's growing on me, she says some helpful things that help you open up more in an asana).

In some extracurricular practice this afternoon I managed to get my leg behind my head/neck/shoulder and keep it there no hands for the first time today. Amazing to think I'll be able to do this someday with a straight back, hardly seems possible. Had a go too at getting my other leg behind as well so I could get into Kurmasana. Couldn't stop laughing as fell out of it over and over. In the end I propped myself up so I wouldn't fall backwards and managed to just about get into it. Not a lot of style and grace but it's a start. Was surprised at how well the jump back from Eka pada sirasana went though. Excited about it, can see a whole new world opening up.

Also worked on slowing down the Kino jump through and back, quite pleased with how it's coming along.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Early handstand work

Following on from my last couple of posts about the Kino Jump through and how I thought it was useful to work on some handstand and half handstands first. Here are a couple of videos from earlier in the year when I was working on handstands and trying to chuck them in everywhere. The second one is telling I think, no way I could lift myself up to handstand from seating then. Had to be all about shifting the weight forward as well as up.

Hips above shoulders above wrists!

1. Fitting handstands into the Sury's

2. Navasana to handstand

Friday, 10 October 2008

One way of working towards Kino's Jump Through

This is pretty much how I learnt to do it. I picked up the handstand and the float up to standing pretty quickly from the Sadie Youtube video. I used that in my Sury's A & B in frount of a wall for a few months, fun going up to handstand. Only after seeing Kino's DVD this week have I started putting the jump through and the half handstand together. So you might want to spend some time just playing with the handstands and getting comfortable with that. Anyway hope this helps.

Step 1. Pick a wall

Step 2. Bunny hops (Shakti jumps?), Small ones at first, building up to half handstand using the wall to stop you going too far. See the Sadie's 30 Youtube video

Step 3. Jump up to half handstand from Downward Dog and hold.

Step 4. Place large cushion between arms. Repeat step 3 and come down crossed leg on to cushion. (the cushion is basically just to remove the fear factor i was paranoid at first abouyt coming down but only ended up using the cushion about twice).

Step 5. Work on slowing your descent by shifting your body weight a little forward as you come down and curling your hips round and in like a ball.

Step 6. Repeat Step 4 coming down onto a smaller cushion

Step 7. Repeat step 3 then come down softly as before but without the cushion.

Step 8. Repeat step 3 and as you come down lead your frount foot through your arms bringing the other leg through behind Kino style ( see the screen shot slideshow on the side of my blog).

Step 9 Repeat step 7 and then 8 in in the middle of your room away from the wall

Step 10. Repeat step 9 in your practice, fitting it in a couple of times here and there and then building up to all the way through.

Still working on steps and 8 and 9, tricky leading that frount leg through and it's hard to hit the point of balance without the wall as security (notice the unsightly arch in my back). Wednesday I was doing it every time but yesterday I managed to get it right five out of, what, twenty jump throughs in primary.

Here's a video of the above

PS A big big Thank you to Kino for her inspiration and kindness.

Home made Non-slip Yoga towel

Thought this was such a good idea that it deserved it's own post.

I'd ordered a yogitoes skidless towel but the place I ordered it from was out of stock so had to cancel the order. Shame, Kino uses one in her DVD and it looks great and doesn't appear to bunch up. Almost impossible to find them in the UK. I am, however, expecting delivery of a Manduka Equa any day, but until then here's what I've been using.

Yoga towels are made of microfiber so pick up a cheap microfiber towel from eBay. Try to find an XXL one. Cut it down the middle, fold the cut edge slightly over and use a straight forward blanket stitch and there you have it. Two non slip yoga towels that work, for half the price of a branded one. Great absorbency and they dry really quickly too.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Chakrasana ( 3 of 3 )

Seem to have pretty much got the hang of Chakrasana. Trick appears to be finding the " sweet spot". Practice with Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) , take it up really high so your on the tips of your shoulders. now move into halasana and again aim to get as high up on your shoulders as you can. Now if you put your hands under your shoulders, I think that's the sweet spot and where your aiming for. Come down and now while it's fresh in your mind perform your chakrosana. Don't need as much momentum as you think and you don't need to push up with your hands as much as you think either, both of which can be a distraction. The chin is tucked down, your aiming your pointed toes for the the right angle of the floor and the imaginary wall behind you. When you go over it's as if your lightly rolling over your head most of the weight having been taken in your hands. Anyway that's what I think is going on and this is as much for me to be able to remember tomorrow as help for anyone else struggling with it. Here's the video.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Kino style Jump Through and how to make a home made nonslip yoga towel

OK, enough winging, back on topic!

I've been watching Kino MacGregor's DVDs lately (Review of her primary Series DVD to come). Been interested in her Jump Through, especially since mine is now much weaker than my Jump Back. You can now see a new screenshot slide show of her jump back and jump through in the comparison panel on the side of my blog, compared with Doug Swenson, John Scott, Lino Miele and Sharath. She jumps really high into a half handstand point of balance and then brings herself down and through. What interests me is how she leads her leg through. I've been trying this and find it much easier for clearing the mat and it seems a great way to start to move into jumping into an asana. In the video below I'm trying to lead my right leg through as she does, it's not as pronounced as hers, looking at it, but felt it at the time. I then try jumping through into Tiriangmukhaikapada Paschimattanasna (one leg fold back).

Whether this works for you will depend how you are on the jumping into handstand. If you haven't done much of it I can assure you it's not as hard as it looks and there's some help on hand. Sadie has a handy Youtube tutorial called sadies 30 that's great for building strength. Do it against a wall to build confidence. If you can nail it then your closer to those floaty jump ups to standing in the Sury's and jumping into Bakasana etc. I like it because it seems to give me more time for bringing my leg through, it looks cool, feels light and floaty and brings a nice pace to the practice. Mine is still untidy but think it's worth working on and probably going to become my Jump Through of choice. Cheers Kino!

PS. Notice too this is done on a yoga towel on top of my Manduka. It's a home made towel. Pick up a cheap microfiber towel from eBay. An XXL one. Cut it down the middle, fold the cut edge slightly over and use a straight forward blanket stitch and there you have it. Two non slip yoga towels that work for half the price of a branded one. great absorbency and they dry really quickly.

Owning my practice

Hmmmm not sure how to articulate to just jump in and let it work itself out.

I went to a Shala for the first time three weeks ago after a year and a half of self-practice (see posts below) and it was great, very beneficial and no doubt just what I needed. I was made aware of some of the physical possibilities of my body through adjustments. Pulled up gently on a couple of asanas I'd missed out and came away with a mental list of things to work on; getting the sequence of the last third of primary right, focusing on the correct sequence of breath, chakrosana etc. I've been working on all these elements for the last couple of weeks.........thing is, my practice doesn't feel mine anymore. Or less mine.

I started practicing Ashtanga alone at home with a book from the library, and then a DVD, more books more DVDs, youtube and the Internet. Asana I thought were impossible for me, for my body have become possible. All the time it's just been me on my mat, alone in a room early each morning, my practice. It's followed my mood and inclination, will, desire, frustration, stubborn determination, whatever.

Somehow now, after visiting the Shala, it feels a little like I'm practicing for someone else, my teacher? I need to work on this or that, improve this or that. Those elements to work on didn't come from me, didn't arise in me. Perhaps they should have done and done so a long time ago perhaps some things I might never have noticed on my own. Don't get me wrong I'm so very grateful for the attention, the adjustments, advice, suggestions it's just that each morning this last week it's felt a bit of a chore, my hearts not been in it. I feel more distant from my practice, less involved.

No doubt it will pass and it's just an adjustment but it's strange no? Wondered if anyone else had felt the same. And then I began to wonder if there's something similar when someone changes teachers and if so what that says about the teacher / student relationship ( I used to be a teacher ). And when you go to India, to Mysore does it feel more or less your practice, more Guruji's perhaps, more the traditions practice. Or does it always feel your practice.

Perhaps if you began learning Ashtanga in a Shala it's different. If you give yourself over to a teacher to the tradition it's still your practice but in a different context. For me there was just this style of yoga that appealed to me, that appeared graceful and yet powerful, beautiful, perfect. I looked at it as practiced by John Scott, Doug Swenson, Richard Freeman, Sharath, Lino, Kino. And it's the same practice but each time subtly different and sometimes not so subtle. A personal expression...... there you go, a personal practice. As far as I know they all learnt from teachers and studied in Mysore and yet all have their OWN practice. So perhaps I'm just over reacting and it will pass, I hope so because i know i can gain so much from visiting the Shala and perhaps one day, a trip to mysore. And yet...........?

Just read over this and I'm not sure this is what I'm trying to get at, but it's a start.......

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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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