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Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 my year in posts

Wasn't planning on doing one of these this year but every other blog I open seems to have one which got me looking at the one I wrote last year 2010 my year in posts. That was just a list of the blog post for the year, can't really do that this time as I have 90 odd VK Subroutine posts for my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book. Still, can't help looking back and noticing a few posts I liked and besides, I wanted to get an idea of what happened with my practice this year.

January (18 Posts)
I wrote a post on Plans for 2011 lets see...

Mysore? Nope
Rolf in Goa? Nope
KYM? Nope
Heidegger's hut in the black forest? Almost but nope
Sicily? Again, not this year, difficult with the Chinchilla though did manage a mini break to Athens to see our old Philosophy professor.
Heidegger and Yoga blog? Started it but never saw the light of day.
Consolidate 2nd? Didn't I just write the same thing yesterday?
Advanced series with David Williams' poster? Guess so but for three postures and only really practiced Advanced B a couple of times as a series so don't think it counts.
Putting together a poster of the Vinyasa krama sequences? If I only knew ...turned out to be a book rather than a poster.
Get back into chanting? yes....but then no, dropped off again.
Clean my manduka? yes , of course.....couple of times.

Feburary (16 posts)
I'd forgotten this, I wrote a post Yoga injury in February about a back injury playing up, an old one from my pizza throwing days that I seemed to reawaken when I fell off my bike. So that was in Feburary, I've been in pain ever since, every practice (affects forward bending more than backbends), and for the last month I haven't been able to do much in the morning, just beginning to show some signs of improvement. So it's been a year...perhaps I should see somebody about it... but I'm English...don't like to be a bother. That post led to my painkiller poll post 

End of the month, First time coming up without turning the feet out.

March (14 posts)
The whole month seemed to get taken over by the silly discussion of Kino's shorts, Yogi's! put some clothes on and the blogosphere turned a little sour as everyone took sides, not our finest hour, probably led to me deciding to take a break from blogging with the warmer weather was on it's way, Gone Fishing. Looking at the pictures in that post I'd been practicing a lot of the Advanced series.

Was away from blogging a week. Back so soon? Interestingly I've been thinking about taking a break from blogging over the last couple of weeks, might as well not bother.

April (19 posts)
April started with a Mea Culpa as I realised how tatty my primary had become with all the tweaking and mixing of styles. This was as a result of Practising along with Sharath, back when he did that live feed from Encinitas. I captured the stream and practiced along with it every morning for a month.

May (27 posts)
An Ashtanga focus by the look of it, the month dominated by the tictak challenge

The Namarupa : Richard Schechner's notebook on his studies with Krishanamacharya that came out at the end of the month was a highlight. was, I'm ashamed to say, for me anyway, my Completely pointless yoga party trick # 7 : Lotus without hands

June (23 posts)
When a blog post comes back to bite you : 108 Dropback challenge, AC reminded me of the 108 drop back challenge. Managed it a week or two later, the speeded up video is here Summer Solstice : 108 dropbacks. UPDATE

Seems to be around here that I started to look again at yoga philosophy, What is practice and how does it become well established? a thread that started here with the yoga sutras and led to the Gita as it was. I think what I forgot, missed or failed to understand for a while, was that Ramaswami had a strong Yoga Sutra focus, Raja yoga and that the asana, the pranayama practice were very much in the service of that, an integrated practice.

Ashtanga strikes me more now as having a Hatha yoga focus in the sense of Hatha Yoga Pradipika , the Raja yoga is almost put to one side for a while, work on your hatha and then when your ready, when you've been through the threshing floor you can start to think about Raja yoga. That's not a criticism, there's a strong argument there.

July (17 posts)
First time practicing 4th as a series seems a long time ago now.

Our beloved Claudia's book came out Book review : 21 Things to know before starting an ashtanga practice Blogs 3rd Birthday

Would I be welcome at your Shala? was related to the Norman Blair article The Box

I launched my Vinyasa Krama Blog, Launching my NEW blog : Practicing Vinyasa Krama Yoga at Home figured Ashtangi's weren't always that interested in the VK posts and those coming to VK not really up on the Ashtanga intertextuality.

Oh and I got my heels back in kapo after three months, nice to know it'll come back, only managed my toes yesterday. This was at the hotel in Wales where I went for a week and Practiced all the Vinyasa Krama sequences Holiday practice update

August (25 posts)
Hit by the 2nd series truck

Stories : Saxophones to Yoga mats

My favourite blog post from the whole blog not just this year Yoga, it aint Rocket Science

Liked the Yoga Bookshelves post, feel free to keep sending them in.

Seemed to be practising mostly vinyasa krama, working at exploring the rhythm of the practice with Mingus Mingus Mingus

Kapo ankles back thanks to Vinyasa Krama Bow sequence

September (23 posts)
Cured the back pain for a couple of weeks with pasasana

Spent a lot of time this month reading the original 84 verse version of the Gita without all the god stuff The Original Gita. No Surrender! ( Updated with the original Gita? ) as it was and the Original yoga sutras

I also started work on my Vinyasa Krama Practice book, started off as just the sequences, then all the subroutines for the 2nd edition and now I'm just finishing off the last of the practice notes for each subroutine to be published for free download in a week or two. So many resources for Ashtangi's that I wanted to put something out there that might be helpful for anyone struggling with Ramaswami's book and turning it into a viable home practice.

October (51 posts)
The practice notes for the book take up most of the year, amusing to see that while my page hits dropped off there was a huge hike when I posted an old Sharath video. other hikes tend to be when I post on backbends or jump backs : ) Should have added google advertising back when I started this blog and didn't post about much else, could have made a fortune.

Did find time to posit the question Is Ashtanga compatible with Vinyasa Krama?

and look at how I've jumped back and forth between the two like  ...a ridiculous Mexican Soap Opera

November (52 posts)
I was asked What books influenced your yogic and/or spiritual Life ? I should come back to this, there are books that I would recommend must have a think about that and post something in the new year.

Some improvement in backbends, Raja kapotasana, first toes to head followed quickly by Ganda Bherundasana : first toes to head... and a tentative new project. and I have penguin feet : first drop back without lifting heels PLUS Heather Morton's back bending DVD

Started a Samakonasana Challenge and managed to touchdown but it seemed to play havoc with my badha konasana so have put it on hold, perhaps I rushed it.

A rare talkie, on How to do headstands

December (55 posts)
Started to thin about my Ashtanga practice this month Working out the lift into Upavishta Konasana B which led to YOGA MALA: '...we keep tearing pages out there'll be nothing left' and Full Vinyasa

Wake up call - The hidden arm balance series made me notice how weak I've become recently with my fancy-trick free Primary and focus on pranayama in  my VK practice as well as a general lack of discipline in my practice and no doubt as a result, life in general Nearly the end of the year....  I'm still practicing, still twice a day but it all feels a little ...slack, let things slip a little. And so 2nd series, nice to see you again. Nothing focusses the mind like 2nd series.
So the year seems to end where it began, with the desire to tidy up and consolidate my 2nd series practice,

Ashtanga only seems possible with full commitment.Vinyasa Krama allows for more flexibility, a shorter asana practice in favour of a stronger pranayama and meditation focus, you can get away with that. If I'm still going to practice Ashtanga, and it seems it's still my practice, then I just have to get on and practice it as it is. 2nd series, five days a week with a Primary on Friday does seem to be the only way to go about it.

Despite  the odd hike in visits when I post on backbends, jump backs, Kino or Sharath or the drop off when I post on Vinyasa Krama there does seem to be a number of regular readers who seem to put up with or make allowances for whatever nonsense I go off on. Never sure how to read the stats, by google analytics it seems there ranges from 300 to 400  visitors a day, Blogger has it at 700 to 800 page views, no idea what all that means but thank you to everyone who visits and comments even when it's to give me a hard time.

I especially love that I get so many visitors from all over the world, I don't tend to look at the stats that much but I love the feedjit widget down on the bottom right of the blog and seeing all the different flags. I know language can be a problem if English isn't your first language, I was an English teacher for a number of years. My apologies if my posts are confusing sometimes. Perhaps if you don't want to write or ask a question in the public comment box, please feel free to send me an email or get in touch through FB.

Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see more of here, a posture you struggle with or some aspect of the practice, can only say how I've approached it, what's worked for me but often somebody else will chip in with a comment on something perhaps more useful.

Happy New Year.

Sun nien fai lok
Xin nian yu kuai
Godt Nytår
Gelukkig nieuwjaar
Aide shoma mobarak
Bonne année
Aith-bhliain Fe Nhaise Dhuit
Gutes Neues Jahr
Hauoli Makahiki Hou
HShanah tovah
Nav Varsh Ki Badhaai/ Naya Saal Mubarak Ho
Nyob zoo xyoo tshiab
IElamat Tahun Baru
Buon Capo d'Anno
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu
Godt Nyttår
Maligayang Bagong Taon
Nowego roku
Feliz ano novo
La Multi Ani
S Novym Godom
Feliz Año Nuevo
Wilujeng Tahun Baru
Gott Nytt År
Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
Gelukkige nuwejaar / voorspoedige nuwejaar
Gëzuar vitin e ri
честита нова година (chestita nova godina)
šťastný nový rok
kali chronia / kali xronia eutichismenos o kainourgios chronos (we wish you a happy new year)
boldog új évet
zhana zhiliniz kutti bolsin
Selamat Tahun Baru
 Xin Nian Kuai Le (新年快乐)

Appologies if I've missed anyone out or written it out incorrectly

...and so to practice (2nd).

Day 90 : LOTUS : Urdhva padmasana (lifted up lotus pose) Subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence


To get up into Shoulder stand while in Lotus, bring you arms to your side, exhale fully and press your arms down into the mat, hold and roll the lotus up to your chest, aim your knees at a 45 degree angle up over your head and stretch/push your knees up into shoulder stand while shifting your hands to your hips and then your back either side of your spine with the fingers pointing up and the elbows not too far apart.

Alternatively, Start from regular shoulder stand, spread the legs apart, drop the left leg back a little, bring the right foot to the left thigh by rotating at the hip then bring the left foot to the right thigh again through the rotation of the hip.

Engage mula and uddiyana bandha at the end of the exhalation sucking in the belly to create more space to lower your lotus down to your chest.

Remember in Vinyasa Krama you can work towards this, lowering a little way on the first exhalation, take it back up on the inhalation, lower a little further on each exhalation.

When lowering your need to make sure your hips are high and over your shoulders or you will tend to roll back down to the mat.

Pindasana (pic 4) The fold needs to be deep, use the bad has, sucking your belly back and up into your ribcage to create space. your inhalations will be short but try to keep your exhalations long.

Ultimately your want to wrap your arms around your lotus and bind at the wrist, this requires a deep lotus with the feet high up in the groin and heels digging into the belly.

If your lotus is not as tight then bind at the fingers or just hold the thighs.

From udrdhava padmasana (lotus shoulderstand) Stretch up through the pelvis lengthening the body as much as possible, twist on the exhalation and lower/fold your  knee to the outside of your forehead.

Again, work a little lower on each exhalation

Remember to keep the hips high and over the shoulders to prevent rolling back.

Counterpose (pic 8) There are two hand positions, the one in the picture with the palms supporting the sacrum and the another where the thumbs point toward but remain outside of the spine, resting lower down on the back of the hips with the fingers coming around the hip bone. I tend to prefer the later.

This is a back stretch so tuck the tailbone under and to counter the weight of the legs by pushing the chest out and up, engage jalandhara bandha (chin lock) firmly. 

The posture is entered on the inhalation by bending from the waist and arching the back.

Stay in the position for three breaths, perhaps going a little deeper into the pose each time or go back and forth to akunchita urdhva padmasana (pic 3) and the counter pose on the breath if holding is too challenging.

Simhasana Subroutine VIDEO LINK. From Akunchita urdhave padmasana, stretch out the arms above your head, roll your lotus slowly down to the mat, keep the momentum to bring your arms up and over passing through regular lotus as you put your hands to the floor and come up on to your knees. Lower your body flat to the floor stretch your arms out in front of you, palms together as if in prayer.

Place the palms on the mat beside you close to your chest. Tuck the tailbone (this is a back stretch) anchor the knees, try to bring the hips as close to the mat as possible , arch the back stretching out through the waist. Stretch out through the full length of your body, pushing out your chest take the head back. The is a Bhujangasana variation and can be worked on in the Bow sequence subroutines.

Another Lion face variation
Lions face. Inhale stretching back the head and as you exhale make a long  Haaa sound while stretching your tongue out and down and widening the eyes. Focus your attention on the mid brow. 

You may like to repeat this three times, closing the mouth on the inhalation and taking the head back before repeating the lions face on the exhalation.

Day 89 : LOTUS : Badha Padmasana (bound lotus) from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence


There are some easier versions of baddha padmasana (pic 3)

1. Reach around the back with the left hand and place the back of the hand on the waist, just above the hip bone. Reach around with the right arm and place the back of the hand against the waist just above the left hip.

2. When the above feels comfortable, turn the left hand (the one resting above the right hip) over, use the little finger to draw your hand onto the hip bone.

3. When that too feels comfortable, try to do the same with the other hand, turning it over and using the little finger to leaver the hand down onto the hip bone.

This may be your bind for a little while, play with it, stretching  up, arching back a little, twisting a little to the left a little to the right, explore how to get a better grip on the hip bone.

Try to lever the right elbow a little further over the left by using your right hand as a fulcrum.

4. When you feel ready to move on reach far around with the left hand and take hold of the big toe now use the hip bind above for the other hand, reaching around with the other hand but just pressing the back of the hand against the waist above the hip. Switch hands to become comfortable with both sides.

5. It's possible to use a belt, strap or scarf thrown over the feet  to work your hands down to your toes or perhaps the second hand.

6. Another approach is to reach around with the left hand and take hold of the left toe then instead over throwing the right arm around the back and over the left arm, try threading your right arm between your left elbow and back. Use the left arm to work your right over your back and down toward the left hip and finally right toe.

7. To get the full bind , make a tight lotus, you feet high up in your groin, heels pressing into your belly.

Lift up out of the pelvis and twist around to the left as far as possible, keep lifting and twisting. Use your hand to press into the hip and lever you arm a little further around to enable you to take hold of your toe.

Now twist to the right leading with the shoulder, bring the back of the hand to the waist and work it down over the hip lifting and twisting all the way until your able to hold your other toe.

Straighten up the shoulders, settle and engage bandhas and take long slow breaths.

Forward bending, to the front and sides.

here we need to engage mula and uddiyana bandha, sucking in the belly to create space, this is especially importat in the forward bends to the sides where we want to stretch out over the knee.

Before folding forwards, arch the back slightly, stretch up tall out of the pelvis, push back the buttocks and stretch out over your lotus and when to the slides, your knees.

Urdha mukha padmasana (pic 7) is a back stretch, a counter pose, tuck the tailbone under and push the chest out and up.

Baddha matsyasnana (pic 10 )is a more challenging version of seated baddha padmasana, try the above variations to work towards it, ultimately you will need to arch your back and twist fist to the left and then the right. 

You might find this version of the baddha padmasana bind easier as you have the floor to help you work your arm around, your also able to tilt the lotus towards.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2nd series, nice to see you again.

A straight up 2nd this evening, first in ages. I've done the odd 2nd series/VK backbend practice, most recently on Christmas day but can't remember the last time I played it straight and did the whole series without any modifications.

Recently I've tended to practise Standing, the VK bow sequence then pick up 2nd at ustrasana, miss out the leg behind head postures, pick it up again at Vatayanasana, that kind of thing, been laying off the lbw as my back hasn't felt right recently and wanted to give it a break.

So straight 2nd this evening was nice. Despite a little overindulgence over Christmas by ashtangi standards and a lack of practice I pretty much sailed through it, needed to take a breather after karanda but it went back up so was happy to pause for a moment.

The backbends up to kapo are better, using the tuck the tailbone technique and it's making a difference, much easier, no 'strain' (strain doesn't seem the right word, was going to say no or less effort but there's still effort just...not such a struggle). Kapo was toes only but thats' OK it'll come back, only did the one, if I'd done three I'd probably have touched my heels, was taking it easy.

Bakasana no longer floaty but landed, need to work on my arm balances. Had to glance at my Sweeney for the twists, couldn't picture bharadvajrasana in my mind of some reason.

Leg behind head was a bit of a risk but was OK I tend to do the dwi pada entry to sputa kumasana in Primary but that's about it, didn't take my leg as far back on my shoulder as I used to but they felt OK.

Perhaps the cooler weather had something to do with finding the series not too hard, been cursing the lack of heat for Primary but was a blessing here.

Mayurasana, again benefiting from the tuck the tailbone mantra and my Vasyanasana is still nice and tall, can't think why that has improved so much but I'm loving the posture. Supv was well, supv, settled for just rolling over the arm and keeping hold will have to work on getting the leg back mid roll, managed it a few times but never felt it's really nailed.

Headstands are all fine but then they're kind of a strong area for me, lots of time spent in them in VK.

Dropbacks, again fine, though my heels lifted on the first couple.

All in all tolerable, looks like 2nd is back in the game and I'm thinking a good six months of straight Intermediate series with a Friday Primary may be on the cards, time to consolidate and take my ashtanga practice back.

Trying to think how I ended up letting my practice drop off so much, was doing 4th series earlier in the year but I think I'd be starting from scratch with 3rd if I was to consider it, which I'm not. I think somewhere in the year I shifted to a calmer Vinyasa Krama practice, staying in postures longer, more focus on pranayama, you can't play with Ashtanga either you practice it fully committed or not at all.

Not ready to let it droop off that much yet.

This will be in the evenings until spring at least with my VK practice in the mornings.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Day 88 : LOTUS : Padmasana (lotus) from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

Padmasana (lotus) can be a challenging posture and there are many places to work towards it in Vinyasa Krama.

In Asymmetric Sequence: Padmasana doesn't appear as such but there are several hip opening postures, janusirsasana leading to mahamudra in particular, that prepare you for ardha baddha padmasana (half lotus).

In Lotus sequence : The lotus sequence picks up where Asymmetric leaves off with more vinyasas in half lotus before moving on to full lotus.

In Seated sequence : Padmasana (lotus) follows the deep hip opening subroutines of upavishta konasana and badha konasana.

In Supine sequence : More half lotus variations, this time in dwipadapitam (table pose). In shoulder stand we have the half lotus vinyasas of Day 68 but also the extreme hip openers of the previous (Day 69 ) Urdhva Konasana subroutine.

In Inverted Sequnece : As with Supine and Seated the lotus vinyasas in headstand follow, konasana and badha konasana subroutine.

In all of the above sequences we can see that padmasana (lotus) follows hip opening postures, this is because padmasana (lotus) involves a rotation of the hip joint rather than a twisting of the knees.


Getting in to full Lotus

NB: THE most important thing to remember is to protect your knees, that it's the hip joints that do all the work, the knees only bend one way it's the rotation of the ball and socket hip joint that makes padmasana possible

Right leg
Bend the right knee and bring it up towards the chest. Reach with the right hand down inside the thigh and take hold of the right ankle.

Allow the right knee to drop out to the side through the rotation of the hip joint. Focus on that hip action, of the ball and socket joint, the femur head rotating in the hip socket, encourage it.

There's a tensing of the right buttock a lifting almost and a stretching of the thigh as you encourage the rotation in the hip joint that will bring the knee down towards the mat and the ankle to come up. This action should only happen at the hips joint your NOT pulling up the ankle and your NOT forcing the knee down.

If this isn't happening it might be best to work on more hip opening postures, mahamudra in Asymmetric, badha konasana in Seated.

Lift up through the torso, support the right foot with the left and right palms and guide NOT pull the foot to the left thigh.

Lift up again and bend forward slightly, roll onto the front of the sit bones and guide the right foot a little further up the left thigh into the groin.

Again lift and roll further onto the sit bones allowing the right knee to rest on the mat.

Left leg
Bend the left knee and again focusing on the hip joint allowing the left knee to drop out to the side.

Rock your body forward and draw the right knee out to the side through the thigh muscles. Lock the knee by pressing the calf muscles against the thigh.

Reach over the left foot and support the left ankle with the left palm, cupping under the foot with the right palm, encourage the hip joint to rotate further and allow the knee to drop further out and down. Again, your not pulling on the foot but rather supporting it to allow the hip joint to do it's work.

Lift up through the torso, rock further forward on the sit bones and stretch out through the left thigh to allow the foot to come up over the right leg. 

Using the strength of the thighs bring the knees a little towards each other this will bring the right foot finally up onto the right thigh closer to the groin.

Shuffle around on your sit bones if necessary, encouraging more rotation of the hip joints to tighten the lotus, this is preferable to wrenching, tugging, pulling the feet.

Ultimately, for many of the lotus vinyasas you will require a nice tight lotus where the heels are digging slightly into the belly, the soles of the feet pointing up and the knees closer together. In fact, the heels can be considered to be massaging the inner organs in some of the vinyasas by pressing deep into the belly

To release
Sit up straight lifting up through the torso, focus on the left hip joint and encourage it to rotate by engaging the thigh muscles which will press the left knee into the mat this will allow you to very gently encourage the left foot off of the right thigh.

As you allow the knees to draw apart the lotus will unfold, again allow the right hip joint to do it's work bringing the right knee down into the mat and allowing the right foot to glide off the left thigh.

Padmasana subroutine
Ramaswami recommends coming into half lotus, taking a breath or two, continuing into full lotus, staying for a three breaths and then releasing the lotus before repeating six times.

You may wish to enter and exit your lotus for each of the vinyasa in this subroutine. Over time you may feel comfortable staying for a couple of the vinyasas and eventually the whole subroutine even sequence.

Lotus postures are excellent for working on the bandhas, the perineum is grounded allowing for greater focus on mula bandha, the lotus a stable base for deep uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas ( see practice guidelines Day 1 for more on bandhas).

Bhadrasana The hand position can be low on the thigh fingers tucked under the feet (pic 5) or closer to the knee (pic 6). If the knee be careful not to press the knees down, especially if the lotus position is still new to you.

Laghu yoga mudra (pic 8) is a deep forward bend, draw the buttocks back, come onto the front of the sit bones, engage mula and uddiyana bandha, sucking in the belly in to create more space for the body to fold forwards over your lotus. The same goes for the side vinyasas of yoga mudra (pic 11 & 12), be careful not to allow the opposite knee from the side your folding in to to raise, encourage it to stay down by grounding the sit bones.

Utpluthi (Pic 9) is all about hand placement. place the hands too far forward and the weight of the hip bones will keep your grounded, too far back and the weight of the knees will stop you from achieving lift. So place the hands just forward of mid thigh as close to your thighs as possible.

Bring your shoulders over your hands, bring your shoulders down, engage the shoulder girdle and after exhaling hold the breath out and push down into the mat through your hands and lift

Mula bandha should be engaged but engage it more strongly, tuck the tailbone under, the lower half of your body should feel tight and compact, draw your pelvis up into your torso and hold.

Keep the bandhas engaged and the tailbone tucked while your breath.

In this version of utpluthi you bend the body over the lotus, in a later version in the lotus sequence the body is more erect.

Day 87 : LOTUS : Ardha badha-padmasana (half lotus) from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence

This is almost the same subroutine as Day 26, Adha padmasana, found in the Asymmetric sequence.

This subroutine along with the half lotus subroutines found in the other sequences can be considered as preparation for full lotus

from On One Leg Sequence Day 17 Vrikmasana
from Asymmetric Sequence Day 26 Ardha padmasana
from Asymmetric Sequence Day 32 Ardha padma marichiyasana
from Supine Sequence Day 60 Dwipadapitam
from Supine Sequence Day 68 Supta ardha badha halasana

The hip opening Mahamudra subroutine from Asymmetric Day 27 is also good preparation for the half lotus as well as the Badha konasana Subroutine leading up to padmasana  from Day 42


Half lotus
See Day 17 Vrikmasana for some notes on standing half lotus.

To get into half lotus : Bend the knee bringing it towards the chest, allow the knee to drop out to the side, key here is the natural rotation in the hip joint. Bring the foot close to the opposite thigh, hold your foot in one hand and the knee in the other and GENTLY encourage the roration of the ball and socket hip joint, bring the knee forward parallel with the floor towards the opposite knee and the foot further up the thigh and ideally, eventually, towards the groin.

You don't want to force this action, if you feel strain on your knee it may be better to practice tomorrows subroutine built around mama mudra with the foot against the thigh rather than on top instead. Practicing the maha mudra subroutine will bring half, and eventually, full lotus closer.

As we have found in all forward bending asana, stretch out of the hips as we practiced in the standing On your feet sequences, the same goes for the twisting postures.

In picture 4 (the raised hip), Vasishtasana or Kashyapasana we must be careful of the knee. Work from the top down, pushing down into the mat and lifting your shoulders then lifting the hip which will allow the leg to straighten, lower in reverse, DON'T push off the mat from the foot, knee or hip first as this will put too much strain on the knee which is vulnerable here.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Almost the end of the year.....

So almost the end of the year, had thought the Practice book project I was doing would be finished by now and I could tidy it it up, post it and be done but there's still the Lotus sequence to go, another week.

I'm tired of writing about asana and can't for the life of me remember why I started it. I think it was about making Ramaswami's book more accessible for the home yogi but I wonder if I'm not obscuring it more. It's actually a very clear book, Ramaswami's not mine, mostly telling you where to breath as you move in and out of an asana. Perhaps all it needed was a picture chart of all the sequences at the end of the book and it would have been perfect.

And I thought I had all these tips and tricks I'd picked up from the this blog, from the Ashtanga community but truth be told I find myself repeating the same things, 'engage the bandhas, remember to stretch and tuck in the tailbone', everything else is probably extraneous, we tend to work it out sooner or later.

That said it's been good for me to work through Ramaswami's book so closely, think I'm clearer about his system, or his teacher's system, his use of the breath, although my body probably worked it out most of the time by just making the movements. By the time you get past chapter one, lift your arms on the long inhalation, lower them on the long slow exhalation, you've pretty much got it, asana, it's not rocket science.

While working on the Vinyasa Krama project I've moved back towards Ashtanga in my practice, how curious. Perhaps it's the silence, those same familiar postures, the rhythm of the breath and bringing the attention to it again and again.

It's like that too in Vinyasa Krama, not so much the rhythm we have in Ashtanga, the movement of the pendulum with the posture  the moment of stillness at the top of the ark but rather the stillness in the posture itself. For now though, when in a Posture in my VK subroutines my attention is somewhere on the page and how I can explain what I think is happening, how I think I'm getting into a posture.

Going back to Ashtanga in the evenings has been a sanctuary.

Sitting a revelation.

And blogging, I wanted to keep it so light that I wonder if I've not forgotten how to think deeply anymore, perhaps that's no bad thing be nice to come back to Heidegger without the philosopher's hat and just read him again as the yogi he was rather than as the high professor.

And I want to play my saxophone again, been a while. Thought recently that Vinyasa Krama was like Coleman Hawkins and Ashtanga like Lester Young and what a nice blog post that would make but I'm sure the blogosphere can do without it.

Sounds like a sabbatical is called for.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Boxing Day, a sweaty practice at last

Christmas Morning was 2nd series with most of Vinyasa Krama's Bow sequence squeezed in, it was OK, sneaking in a practice on Christmas morning feels somewhat of a guilty pleasure, why is that?

This morning's practice though was something special, a seriously sweaty Primary.

Been a while.

Probably a result of the martinis while cooking, one too many perhaps...or five too many. They do go down well while cooking and listening to anything from Deano's Let it snow, Let it snow to Snoop Dog's A Pimp's Christmas (M. and Youtube were looking after the music while I cooked). Was there really a line about smoking the tree or is that the martini distorting my memory.

Dinner was a Chestnut, cranberry and parsnip loaf thing, worked well, stayed moist, so often the nut roasts get a little dry. 

So too much drink, too much food and I fell asleep through King Fu panda, didn't feel very yogic.

M. still doesn't get why us gaijin cram everything on the same plate

It felt warmer this morning, cranked up the heat and went through Primary at a faster pace than usual to try and sweat the festivities out, nice practice, sweatiest in ages.

Best thing about this practice, it's like we start from scratch again with every practice, from the first Sury, the first Ujayii...

After only a little hinting M. got me the Yoga tradition of the Mysore palace. I read a copy in the LMU library while on Ramaswami's TT course, always wanted my own. Review to come in the New Year

Got M. the Pali cannon or at least a large part of it, can't wait to sneak a peek while she's at work....and she's always at work.

DAY 86 : Inverted: Subroutine Breakdown

Day 76 : INVERTED : Sirsasana (headstand) lead in from Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence

'...when sirsasana is mastered, the breath rate, which is normally about fifteen to twenty breaths per minute, automatically comes down', 

Work towards two breaths a minute over time.

'Sirsasana should always be practiced in the morning, as is laid down by the authorities on yoga.' 

'And, as a counterpose, it should be followed by an equal length of time in the practice of sarvangasana (shoulder stand)'. 

'The procedure is thus to do  sirsasanam for twenty-four breaths, followed by a two-minute rest in savasana. Then one should do sarvangasana for the equal number of twenty four breaths, followed by a sitting posture each as padmasana for a few breaths, until one feels normal and relaxed'.  

from Srivatsa Ramaswami Yoga for the Three Stages of Life p142

Practicing Inverted Subroutines

Towards the end of my morning asana practice I spend few minutes in the sarvangasana preparatory postures, anapanasana, urdhva prasarita pada hastasana and dwipadapitam.

I then spend at least five minutes in sarvangasana, the first three minutes with the legs relaxed.

Then I practice for headstands for ten to twenty minutes (ten minutes minimum).

For the first five minutes I don't practice any vinyasas but try to slow my breathing towards two breaths a minute and work on engaging bandhas.

The rest of the time in headstands I spend on Vinyasas, one or more of the inverted subroutines.

Coming down from headstand I'll stay for a few moments with my forehead on the mat, when sitting up I'll bring my head up last.

After a couple of minutes in savasana I practice another five minutes of Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), this time practising vinyasas, one or more shoulder stand subroutines

Finally I'll spend a period of time in Vajrasana, padmasana or mahamudra before moving on to my pranayama practice.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Day 85 : INVERTED : Handstand subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence

This handstands subroutine takes a considerable amount of strength and stamina as well as good balance, it is something we can work towards however. Pincha mayurasana, the forearm stand from Day 83 is excellent preparation, individual vinyasas from Day 83's Niralumba Sirsasana subroutine might be included in our regular daily practice to build strength.

In this subroutine the full handstand is achieved by pushing up from kapliasana, the tripod headstand, this is particularly challenging and may take regular practice. 

Another entry to handstand is from Downward dog, jumping with the feet together bringing the hips over the shoulders, the legs straight out in an inverted dandasana then unbending the waist to bring the legs vertical. We may prefer to practice this at the wall.

Another option, is again from downward dog to kick first one leg and then the other vertical.

The trick is the bring the shoulders over the hands as we kick or jump up bringing the hips over the shoulders.


Handstand from tripod
Lift the head from the mat and bring it through the arms taking the legs over the head, exhale hold and push down ion the mat engaging and stretching up through your legs to press up to handstand.

In working towards this entry we might kick up to the wall in handstand and then, with the feet against the wall, bend the elbows slightly to allow the head to lower, with control, towards the mat. Lower just a little at first and then push back up to handstand. Lower a little further each day or each week.

Vrishikasana (pic 4)
A backbend, bring the head and chest through the arms and the feet as far over the head as possible. 

Engage mula and uddiyana bandha as if your taking a firm grip on the tailbone which you then tuck in as much as possible.

Push the hips forward as much as possible, stretch out through the full length of the spine, bring the chest through even further, stretch out through the hips, legs feet.

Allow the hips to drop arching the back, allow the knees to bend bringing the feet towards your head.

To return to regular handstand, unbend at the waist pushing up through the legs.

Bhuja peedasana (pic. 6)

Returning to Kapilasana, the tripod headstand, bend the knees, engage mula and uddiyana bandha drawing in the belly to allow your knees to come as high up and close to the chest as possible.

Bend at the waist and bring the knees to the outside of the armpits. Squeeze the knees as if trying to bring them together although your torso, of course, is in the way.

Allow the hips to drop at the same time bringing your head off of the mat.

Drop the shoulder blades down the back, Engage the shoulder girdle. Press down into the mat, bring the shoulders ever further forward to counter the weight of your hips. Straighten the arms and try to bring the feet as close to your bottom as possible.

To exit, bend your elbows slowly and lower your head gently to the mat, take the knees up and then unbend the knees back into kapilasana.

Bhuja peedasana variation (pic. 7)

Precede as above for buja peedasana but being sure that the knees are as far up on the outside of the armpits as possible, unbend the knees and stretch them around in front of your body and bind at the ankle. Drop the hips and bring the feet up higher and hold for three to six breaths.

To return.
Unbind the ankles, raise the hips high, bend the knees and bring your feet back behind you and up towards your bottom. Return to kapilasana as for bhjua peedasana above.

Urdhava Kukkutasana (pic 8)

This vinyasa demands a nice tight lotus.

Open your legs or drop back the left leg and bending the right knee rotate the hip joint to allow the left foot to come onto the left thigh high up near the groin. Drop back the right knee, rotate the femur head in the left hip joint to allow the left foot to come up onto the right thigh.

Try to work the right foot high up the thigh to make as tight a lotus as possible.

Engage mula and uddiyana bandha, draw in the belly to create space for the forward bend. Bring the knees as far up into the armpits as possible.

Visualise pressing your knees through your armpits so the protrude out through your arms.

Allow the hips to drop at the same time pressing down through the hands. Move the shoulders forward beyond your hands to counter the weight of the hips. The shoulders blades are dropped down the back the shoulder griddle engaged as the arms straighten and you settle for three to six breaths.

To return
Bend the elbows slightly at first and lower your head slowly and with control to the mat by bringing the hips up.
Once the head is on the floor take the hips back and unfold at the waist raising your lotus, unbind and stretch out through the legs.

Bend the knees towards the chest as if in Bheeja peedasana but twisting bring the right knee (with the let above it) across the chest towards the left armpit, take the knee beyond the arm and resting the knees abut the arm stretch-out the legs on the exhalation while raising the head.

Stretch out through the legs at a right angle to your bay while  raising your chest and head, stretch out through the head and chest as much as possible.

The return is challenging. Lower the head back to the mat as you bend your knees and bring your feet back as close to your bottom as possible while lifting the knees off the arm and untwisting. Take the hips high to bring the knees back to the chest and return to kapilasana.

Yogi Santa

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or have just a great Sunday, whichever is most appropriate.

Anyone know the artist so I can credit it?

Have a nice practice (something I'm hoping to have right now) before hitting the pandoro.

Day 84 : INVERTED : Arm variations in Niralumba sirsasana ( headstand without support) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence

In this subroutine we have four headstand arm variations, the regular sirsasana in Picture 1, arms outstretched (pic 2), arms folded in front of our face (pic 3) and the arms outstretched in front (pic4).

In the previous subroutine we also had the forearm, pincha mayurasana, version.

In the next subroutine there is yet another hand variation where the head and arms form a tripod.


Try all six headstand hand/arm variations individually and decide which two you find most comfortable, more stable.

Try switching between the two, when that is comfortable try switching back and forth between these two most comfortable variations.

Practice switching back and forth in your regular headstand practice.

You may find that although the regular headstand and, perhaps, the tripod variations are the most stable but that this is not necessarily the easiest transition.

Try switching from the regular headstand into each of the hand/arm variations to find which transition is the most comfortable.

Once found, practice this transition regularly becoming more comfortable with the shift in weight as you move first one arm and then the next. The control we develop here can then be applied to the more challenging transitions.

You might find that entering the different headstand variations from vajrasana or downward dog easier than switching hand positions while up in headstand, if so practice each of the headstand variations separately spending time in each until they become stable.

I tended to find the transition from regular headstand to the arms folded in front of the face the most awkward and the entry to the forearm headstand from downward dog was the most challenging, you might be different.

In all the transitions we want to engage the torso, the chest, stretching the front back and sides. Stretch up through the pelvis the legs, feet toes as if reaching up towards the ceiling, we want to create a feeling of lift, of lightness.

Arms outstretched
Ideally we want to have our arms and head in a straight line. the further forward our hands the more stable the position.

Shift your weight slightly to one side pressing down firmly on the right little finger, forearm and elbow, while inhaling stretch your left arm out to the side but slightly forward.

Shift your weight to the left side, the head and left hand, press down through the mat and, on the next inhalation, stretch out the other hand to the side but again a little in front.

Stay for a three breaths then reverse the process bringing first one then the other hand back to support the head.

As you practice this version, work to bring your hands further back until you are comfortable with your hands inline with your head.

The final version is to move both hands at the same time, again begin by moving the hands, on the inhalation, to the sides but a little in front, working, over time to the hands in line with the head ideal.

from downward dog
Again begin practicing with the outstretched arms slightly out of line, forward of your head as it's a more stable position.

The trick is to walk in so that your hips are as far over your shoulders as possible, this will take the most strain away from the neck.

Press firmly into the mat with the hands.

To lower bring the hips as far back as possible so that you can lower slowly and with control, bringing the knees to our chest first and then lowering the feet.

Arms folded
Shift the weight or at least line of balance to the left arm and then thread the right arm in frount of your face. Shift the weight, line of balance, to this arm and then bring the left to join it folding the arms. reverse the process, a subtle shift of weight/balance to one arm while you bring the left hand back to the starting position behind your head and then the other.

from downward dog
With the arms folder in front of your face we need to make even more of an effort to bring out hips over and even beyond our shoulders before bending the knees lifting our and bringing our knees to our chest. 

Lower in the same way as for arms outstretched but shifting the hips even further back over and beyond the shoulders, as far as possible.

Arms outstretched.
We may try this variation with the palms face down at first while we gain control and stability within the posture but ideally the palms will be facing up.

We might get into the position with the palms down and then turn the palms over into the full expression of the vinyasa.

As with all the headstand hand/arm versions above, shift the weight/line of balance slightly to one side as you shift the hand position, here outstretched in front of you. press down through the first palm or back of hand, shift the weight/line of balance slightly and bring the other hand to join it, reversing the process after three breaths.

from downward dog.
We might consider entering the arms outstretched position from tripod headstand, the hands placed on the  mat, palms down at a 45 degree angle to our head.

Walk our feet in to bring our hips over and even beyond our shoulders, bends the knees and bring them to our chest. Unbend the waist taking the fee behind us and then unbend the knee into sirsasana.

Shifting the weight/line of balance move first one hand further forward and then the other.

When we are comfortable entering via tripod try entering the arms outstretched in front variation with the palms down and then finally with the palms up.

Try lowering from this position, first with the palms down but latter with the palms up using the backs of the hands as support.

Lower in the same way as for arms outstretched,shifting the hips even back over and beyond the shoulders, as far as possible.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Conference notes from Mysore
I wanted to give a big thank-you to everyone posting conference notes from Mysore. Used to be that there would just be the odd line or two coming out of Mysore that would get passed around like Chinese Whispers, losing context in the telling and retelling, "Sharath said what????"

I know, me too.

Now, no doubt thanks to iPhones and iPads, we're getting fuller, more detailed notes and it's interesting.

The most detailed notes at the moment seem to be coming from Suzy who's clearly putting a great deal of effort into writing these up and I wanted to send a special thank-you to her and say how much I appreciate her work.

here's the link to her blog

Suzy's Mysore Blog 2011-12

and this to her most recent post

Conference – The true purpose of asana – 4th December 2011

She's running a couple of weeks behind, not surprising given the detail she's providing.

My favourite notes from her last post

'The alternative is to do shirshasana (headstand) and sarvangasana (shoulderstand). You can do these for a long time. You can do them for 1 yama, that is 3 hours. Don’t try this tomorrow. You should slowly build up. You need time also. You can try to do shirshasana for 10-15 minutes when you’re at home. Then amrita bindu will not fall down. Then the life gets longer. I’ve seen Guruji do shirshasana for many hours. Especially when you get older and are not able to do the more difficult postures, you can do sarvangasana and shirshasana – there are many variations in shirshasana you can do – like that you will be healthy'.

Interesting that Sharath is referring to asana and vinyasa outside of the Ashtanga series, we've heard before that Krishnamacharya and Jois would employ different variations when teaching those who couldn't perhaps manage the regular asana or who were having difficulties getting into a new posture.

I'll have the Vinyasa Krama Inverted (headstand) subroutine breakdown sheet for My Practice Book up in a couple of days which will show many of the vinyasa's we can explore in headstand but here's the first page, a taster.

Here's a link to my Sarvangasana, Shoulder stand subroutine breakdown sheet

DAY 75 : Supine: Subroutine Breakdown

...and this note where Sharath refers to the practice as Vinyasa Krama rather than just as Ashtanga

The Vinyasa Krama system is very unique because of the breathing, because the breath controls the mind. Irregular breathing causes lots of delusions and distractions. Other styles of yoga don’t talk about the breath, you just do the postures. When you synchronise the asana with the breath, that is vinyasa.

Always felt that the gap between early and late Krishnamacharya's teaching isn't as large as we often make out.

Kino too has started posting detailed notes from conference thanks to her iPad, she's just posted on Sharath's most recent conference.

A Lifetime of Practice: Conference with Sharath in Mysore December 2011

Thank you Kino and to everyone else passing on their notes and experiences from mysore and tempting us to make the trip ourselves. See the Mysore blog list over on the right of my blog (anyone I'm missing you'd like to recommend?).

Day 83 : INVERTED : Niralumba sirsasana ( headstand without support) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence



Coming up to headstand with the forearms on the mat can be challenging, the trick is to walk the feet in, bringing the hips well over the shoulders.

Press down into the mat from the fingertips to the elbows.

In regular headstand where the fingers are interlocked you may find that you press your arms into the mat while attempting to draw your hands apart and yet squeezing your fingers together to prevent them parting, this pulling of the hands can help ground and anchor your arms as you lift up.

A similar effect can be had in the forearm version where you press down into the mat  but also try and slide your arms apart along the mat, because the pressing into the mat is stronger than the attempt to draw the arms apart the arms stay in place and yet the action anchors the arms and gives a secure foundation as you move through the more challenging vinyasas.

The lift
Notice the 45 degree angle of the arms in Picture 7. To lift, exhale and push down though the hands, forearms and elbows and draw your shoulders back to bring your arms to a 90 degree angle at the elbow, as your shoulders come back your head lifts off the mat.

Stretch out through the full length of your body, through the trunk, hips, legs feet even the toes.

Arch your back bringing your legs over and beyond your shoulders take the head and chest through the arms, to balance.

Forming your lotus.

With your head and legs forward of your shoulders allow one leg to drop back, your left and folding the right one, rotate the hip joint to allow your right leg to rest on the left thigh as high up near the groin as possible. bring the left leg forward and bending the knee bring the left foot on to the right thigh while pressing down through the forearms and pushing the head through the arms as much as possible.

We need to create a deep arch in the back, engage  mula and uddiyana bandha to support the tailbone which we want to tuck forward to create more space in the vertebrae. 

take the head through the arms as much as possible, take the legs further over and push the pelvis forward. Stretch through the length of the legs and allow the weight of the legs to drop them down towards the head.

To exit, push through the legs and unbend the waist on the inhalation.

In the Subroutine we should ideally stay in pinchamyurasana as asana sthiti as we move through the vinyasas. However, as we build strength we might practice each vinyasa separately coming back down to downward dog and even taking a mini savasana to allow the heart rate and breath to steady.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Wake up call - The hidden arm balance series

So this week has been ...a bit of a wake up call.

There's me, letting go of some of the asana madness, dumping the fancy showy stuff, the party tricks.

Turning my back on 3rd because of the arm balances there seem, for a guy at least, a little ...excessive, like we need more upper body strength. So a calmer, softer ....gentler practice, no more handstands in the Sury's, gone the high Kino jump though in preference for the straight leg or subtle Sharath variety. A focus on a meditative Primary, even 2nd series has been replaced with a  Vinyasa Krama backbend version.

And what do I find? Working through the Vinyasa krama sequences, there buried in the Inverted sequence, a couple of hidden away arm balance subroutine that hit you like a two by four in slapstick sepia.

And I'm weak I tell, ya, all my assumed upper body strength out the window, down the proverbial toilet. I can imagine Krishnamacharya perceiving Ramaswami to be a little pleased with himself one morning slightly cocky perhaps (OK I can't imagine it either but for arguments sake), so BOOM, he hits him with the full Mysore.

So at the end of the headstands in the  Inverted sequence, you float up into badha haste sirsasana C for twelve breaths, then you push up into pinch mayurasana (out of practice  with 2nd remember). Stay there for a number of breaths, take your legs over and bring your head and chest through, stay for more breaths, fold into lotus, hold that for a bit, unfold and take your legs over into vrischikasana A.

Next come all the headstand variations from the end of 2nd but you switch from one to the other first and then do them again floating up to each one Ashtanga style.

Up into Muktha hasta sirsasana A, from which you then PUSH up into handstand (tried three times, FAIL), take the legs over into handstand vrischikasana although, it seems,  you don't take the feet to the head. Drop down to the headstand, lower into bakasana and hold it for long VK breaths, up again and then down into bhuja peendasna. Then of course you take it back up into headstand fold your lotus and lower into urdhava Kukkutasana, up and then down into Ashtavakrasana on both sides before finally going back up and dropping out to downward dog.

All those transitions are done without dropping out of headstand and going back in, your up there the whole time, hard.

I was a quivering wreck and you can tell from the video there was a lot of editing going on, lots of forced breathers from falling out of the postures.

Yeah, you stay on your forearms on the exit, how strange is that.

So maybe there's something to be said for 3rd after all, perhaps I need it, cos there ain't a lot of grace in my arm balances at the moment, not much composure... a lack of focus.

If that wasn't enough of a wake up call I ended up practicing 2nd series this morning... I know, I know it's Friday, I'll do Primary this evening.

I shifted Primary to the evenings when it got colder because my back is just so stiff in the morning, like a numb saddle across my lower back. An old injury that plays up in the winter but to be honest it's been there a little all year, since I came off my bike last winter. Not sure if the yoga has helped, it gets me mobile but sometimes I wonder... Still, forward bends are almost impossible for a couple of hours in the morning but back bends don't seem affected so much.

This morning I decided on Vinyasa Krama backbends but then ended up doing 2nd series and it was, quite frankly, a shambles. backbends were OK but I've been taking it easy with my kapo for a while and it shows. Bakasana lame, hardly my nice floaty jump, twists were OK. Skipped the Leg behind head postures, just did a long gentle paschi, tittbhasana's a disaster, shabby, Pincha was hard work, hardly a tight lotus in Karanda and it took three goes and a lot of will to raise it again.

Mayurasana was OK, but then I did the extra VK Bow series prep early on, nakrasana embarrassing. Vatayanasana was the highlight perhaps, nice and tall... and so on up until the headstands which were Ok but not a very elegant exit.

So I can still do it but it's shabby and needs a lot of tidying up before I can think of regaining any focus in it. Second series in the mornings then

... and I suppose, back to doing the odd 3rd once 2nd is a little tidier.

(Sigh) Back to the drawing board,

...oh and my Pranayama was lousy too, couldn't get the rhythm right.

I think the lighter morning practice has meant I've lacked discipline in other areas too, eating a little too much junk, getting fat, OK not fat but not my preferred practice weight/shape/condition. Do you know what I mean, that kind of ideal ...state for practice, it's not just weight but a general overall condition that seems ideal for practice.

Yeah, I know, having a bit of a winge, a gripe, bit irritable but I'm aware that my posts so often tend to be, "Wow, practice was great, this went well" etc etc, thought you'd appreciate a practice was lousy post.

...and then I gave M. a hard time about fresh cranberries, sorry honey, she was right of course, dried cranberries in a chestnut, cranberry and walnut loaf isn't going to work.

Santa did bring me one early Christmas present, a few extra degrees in the home shala.

Day 82 : INVERTED : Inverted Mandala ( Parivrttasana ) Subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence


The Inverted mandala (Parivrttasana) is a more challenging version of the Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) mandala from Day 73.

It includes viparita dandasana from Day 82 but because it doesn't involve the drop back into the posture sit can be practiced as a stand-alone subroutine.

Viparita Dandasana is quite is an intense backbend so some backbend preparation is advised as warm up, the back bend vinyasas from the tadasana subroutine, Day 1, is a suggestion as are some of the pelvic lifts from Supine as well as perhaps urdhava danurasana.

More intense than the backbend is the belly twist as you flip first one way and then the other as you walk around. Twist preparation might include Parsva-bhangis, from Day 2 and especially the belly twists from Supine, Jataraparivritti Subroutine day 64.

The flip
As you lower your feet to the mat, ground your head and elbows and walk around, clockwise, on the inhalation. When you can no longer keep your feet on the floor come up on to your toes.

Exhale, take one last large step with your left foot, hold the exhalation, bring your right hip up, take the right leg over the left, twist at the waist  and flip your leg all the way over so your right toes lands on the mat in front of your left foot.

The higher your able to keep your hip the more you'll be able to keep the head and elbows anchored on the mat.

Continue walking around, pause for a breath at viparita dandansana then carry on around clockwise as far as your able.

Again on the exhalation, take one last step with the right foot up on the toes, the hips high. Hold the exhalation bring the left hip over twisting at the waist as much as possible, step over with the left foot and give a last flip of the hips to bring your left foot all the way over the right landing on the toes.

Continue on round to the starting position and return to Sirsasana

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Kino : Hip joint rotation

Kino showing how she works some of my all time favourite Advanced series postures, Yoga Dandasana, Buddhasana and Kapilasana.

Thank you Kino.

Some more hip joint rotation mini tutorials from Kino

Day 81 : INVERTED : Viparita Dandasana (crooked staff ) subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Inverted sequence


Fear is the biggest problem here, we're never quite sure how far our feet are away from the mat behind us.

Overcoming the fear.

Knowing our body will be comfortable in that position helps. Before dropping into Viparita dandasana from headstand, try it from the mat first. Push up into udhva dandasana then bring the hands to the head, cupping it as in headstand with your forearms and elbows on the mat. Finally walk the feet out into viparita dandasana proper.

From viparita dandasana, walk the feet back in and  hop up and down a few times. your not trying to come up but just to get a feeling for how you'll drop into the position.

Walk further so you have to go up onto your toes, hop up and down again this time on your toes again just to get a feeling for how you'll land on your toes.

Notice how as you walk in your chest comes forward, this will be key for dropping out of headstand but also for hopping back up again.

If you still lack confidence consider putting some large firm cushions at the end of the mat to drop on to.

You might start with several cushions and then take one away each time until your finally dropping directly onto the mat.

Lowering the legs into urdhava dandasana (pic.2)

As you lower your legs, push your hips backwards as far as possible

Keep the lower back flat, don't allow it to round

Stretch out through the legs

If you push your hips back far enough they should act partly as a counter weight to your legs allowing your legs to stay horizontal without too much effort.

The drop (pic. 4 & 5)

As you take the legs over you need to counteract the weight of the legs as much as possible giving you time to lower them, with control, as close to the mat as possible.

Push down into the mat with your elbows, this is your anchor

Drop your shoulder blades down your back

Inhaling push out your chest, bringing it towards your chin, imaging your pushing tour chest out and down towards the mat.

Allow your back to arch

Tuck your tailbone and engage the bandhas as fully as possible

While doing all of the above, lower the legs further and further behind you you.

Your knees will be bent, allow your feet to drop to the mat landing on your toes and then your heels.

Once landed, take a breath and walk your feet out as far as possible stretching through your torso and legs.

Coming back up (pic. 7&8 )

Walk back in to the point at which you landed when you dropped.

You want to bring as much weight forward as possible

Drop the shoulder blades down your back, inhaling push your chest out and down towards the mat, arch the back as much as possible.

When your ready exhale, hold the exhalation and hop up

It's the hips that will carry you over, bend your knees and when you hop up think about lifting your hips rather than your feet and legs.

As you hop up push your hips up and forward over your shoulders and your chest down towards the mat.

You want to catch the point just before you were forced to drop, you don't have to hop all the way up just to that point and catch the point of balance.

Once caught, draw your legs closer to your body and careful release the arching of the back raising the hips, the knees and finally the feet

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Full Vinyasa with the Lino Miele DVD plus first flip back up from Viparita dandasana and Minestrone

I mentioned earlier in the week that I had practiced Full vinyasa Primary and how light and airy it felt, perhaps due to all the coming up to standing, and thus some fresh air, between postures.

Well I did and I didn't.

I practiced with Lino's DVD yesterday and there are a hell of a lot more 'full vinyasas' than I remembered.

For a start, in Standing, he come back to tadasana in between the padangusthasana's,

then again between the parasarita's

That was a surprise.

In seated he transitions back to standing, samasthiti between each of the paschimottanasana's, that felt a bit much but guess this there were five of them A, B, C, D and E. The last one was interesting actually, the arms go over the top of the feet, the fingers under the heel.

Another interesting on e is the vinyasa in-between garbha pindasana and kukkutasana. So instead of rolling up into kukkutasana from Garbha P you do your full vinyasas and then have to force your arms through your lotus again and then lift up into kukkutasana (tricky). I liked it though, Lino does nauli in kukkutasana I half managed it but couldn't get the rolling of the belly.

Something I remembered from last time around, think I bought this DVD in 2009, was that there are vinyasas in between the finishing postures, I liked this too very easy to see finishing as a winding down, to think of the practice as being pretty much over after urdhava danurasana (some places you get sent to another room for finishing). By starting each of the finishing postures from standing they come alive again, treated with a new respect and so they should be, Jois says they are essential even in a reduced practice.

Can't say I enjoyed it as much as the semi full vinyasa I practiced Sunday but that might be because I was practicing with the DVD and that probably threw it out a bit. Need to internalise it and practice it a couple of times on my own, see how it feels then.

When I first go the the DVD back in 2009 I remember being blown away by Lino's, strength, he seems to jump back and through effortlessly, plus he includes some transitions via handstand, navasana for example but also konasana, these are usually in split screen as an option.

What struck me this time though were some of the subtle jump through's he does. Lino is a straight leg jump through guy but he'll jump through into Marchi A for example, somehow keeping one knee bent and he'll jump back from that too and from Janu A and B, not so flashy but a subtle jumping in and out of posture that makes the whole thing flow along nicely.

Best of all you get Jois counting throughout and it's one of the slowest counts I've heard him do in led, of course for me , with my Vinyasa krama influence, that was perhaps the highlight of the whole thing.

NB: Screwed up here, roselil told me last time around that it wasn't Jois counting but Lino, here's her comment from 2009

roselil said...

Why do you write "Guruji's count"? It is Lino himself doing the counting (can't you hear his Italian accent?). He did the recording of the pictures first (in many many takes over many many days - all is filmed by the same guy (Ilpo) with just one camera, so asanas were repeated again and again to shoot the various angels). After the cutting was completed and all the film bits edited together, Lino himself voiced two sound tracks, one with the clear sound of his breath and one with the exact count of the vinyasa - everything adjusted to fit the pictures of the already edited movie. A music track has also been added at some time. So this is no recording of a life performance, but lots of small pieces syncronized into one long smooth movie. This Ilpo guy is absolutely able of something with a camera and an editing table.

If I remember right (getting all nostalgic now), the very first version of the video only had the sound track with Lino's breathing, but as this associated too much with a "heavy breather" further sound tracks have been added for later versions.

And how do I know? Because I was in Kovalam during the winter when he recorded the whole thing.

Does anyone have his new primary DVD, is that full vinyasa also? And his 2nd &3rd series DVD with Gwendolyn hunt, Anyone have it, is that full vinyasa?

Oh, here's the review I did of the DVD first time around back in 2009

Lot's of practice yesterday, the full vinyasa with Lino's DVD in the morning then a Vinyasa Krama backbend practice in the afternoon followed by lots of videoing of the last few inverted Series subroutines for My practice book.

Highlight was hopping back over from Viparita Dandasana, don't think I'd ever managed that before, makes me want to try tic tacks again, more room in the home shala now too.

Low point was bottling out of sirsasna mandala, the one where your in headstand and walk around flipping over into viparita dandasana and then back again as you continue around, like the shoulder stand version.

I've never really had the room to practice the mandalas, managed the shoulder stand one above just and not with much grace but got to where I was about to flip over in headstand yesterday and lost my nerve, didn't feel quite right. Another look at it tonight perhaps.

Another low point was the vinyasa krama arm balances. Ramaswami has you go up into headstand switch into badha hasta sirsasana C, the headstand with the forearms flat beside your head. You then push up into pincha mayurasana for a few breaths, push your head through and take your legs back for a few breaths, while in that position you make a lotus and hold that, then undo your lotus and go into vrischikasana A, (scorpion pose) finally flipping out to down dog while keeping your forearms on the mat.


Crashed out a couple of times as you'll see from the editing.

After that I filmed the headstands, similar to those at the end of 2nd series, so familiar although as with the arm balances I haven't practiced them much for the last few months, only the odd 2nd series ashtanga here and there.

After all that filming the rest of the evening was spent cutting and editing the video's, turning them into screenshots, editing those and making up the new practice sheets so I can be a little ahead over the holidays.

Actually it was a good day, best of all I made a beast of a Minestrone, this is a cold house, can't tell you how good for the soul that soup was.

Just after putting in the stock, garlic carrots, celery, leeks, spring onions, potato , sweet potato, handful of pasta and some butter beans (no cannelloni beans in the house) bit of parmesan rind...oh and some chopped tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes.

Finished off with a handful of chopped baby spinach, parmesan and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil- served generously.

I'm sure practice this evening will feel like it's coming between me and my soup.

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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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