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Monday, 31 January 2011

Day 91 : LOTUS : Kukkutasana & garbha pindasana subroutine Subroutine from Vinyasa Krama Lotus sequence


Bharadwajrasana, raise the arms and twist then lower into the pose

Push the arms through the space between your thighs and calf muscles, you may need to spray some water on your arms if your legs are bare and the weather cooler (no sweat). If this is a problem see the notes below for garbha pindasana.

Exhale fully, hold, engage mula and uddiyana bandha and drop the shoulder blades down the back. Press down into the mat to lift but keep the shoulderbaldes lowered .

As you press down visualise moving slightly forward and up. If you just push down there is a tendency to keep falling backwards off your hands. look at picture 7 and notice how there is a slight lean forward, the shoulders over the hands.

Garbha pindasana

Creating space to get the arms through
Here, once in lotus, I lift my left leg a little away from the right holding just above the ankle. this creates a little more space to get the first arm through. For the second arm I press the top side of my left foot against my right thigh flexing the ankle a little to lever the leg up a little thus creating more of an opening to pass the arm through.
Video Tutorial here

Try taking the arms through at an angle, the right arm runs parallel to the right calf, same for the left.
Video Tutorial here

Utpluthi (Pic 4) 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 the earlier version of utpluthi you bend the body over the lotus, in a this version the body is more erect.

New addition to the shala

...or alternate drishti in Adho mukha Svanasana, Marichi C & , Sirsasana......

Went to see Black Swan yesterday, thought I'd pop into a large guitar shop nearby to have a look for a cheap Parlor guitar, nothing fancy just something to work on some fingerpicking blues.

Came out with this beautiful Godin 5th Avenue archtop, love at first sight totally, smitten, can't help but feel though that I'm in conflict with one or another of the Yamas/niyamas, but which?

Into the shala for practice this morning trying not to think about her until after practice only to find I have a new drishti point, left is the view from downward dog, the maichi's and headstand... pretty though.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Krishanamacharya's Vinyasa Krama

from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

It made quite an impression seeing these pictures after Studying with Ramaswami on his Vinyasa Krama course. Ramaswami had studied for over thirty years with Krishnamacharya, when anyone brought up a different approach to a pose he would just say that he could only teach how his teacher taught him. He never said a different version was incorrect just that it wasn't how he learned it from his teacher.

Not that we ever doubted that this of course but how marvelous to see these pictures of Krishnamacharya in the different vinyasa, just as Ramaswami had in turn taught us.

Parampara began to resonate a little more the day I saw these.

I looked into fair use on the Internet regarding the thumbnail use of these pictures brought together in this way and came across this ' ( 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) found the purpose of creating the thumbnail images as previews to be sufficiently transformative, noting that they were not meant to be viewed at high resolution like the original artwork was'.

On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the defendant. In reaching its decision, the court utilized the above-mentioned four-factor analysis. First, it found the purpose of creating the thumbnail images as previews to be sufficiently transformative, noting that they were not meant to be viewed at high resolution like the original artwork was. Second, the fact that the photographs had already been published diminished the significance of their nature as creative works. Third, although normally making a "full" replication of a copyrighted work may appear to violate copyright, here it was found to be reasonable and necessary in light of the intended use. Lastly, the court found that the market for the original photographs would not be substantially diminished by the creation of the thumbnails. To the contrary, the thumbnail searches could increase exposure of the originals. In looking at all these factors as a whole, the court found that the thumbnails were fair use and remanded the case to the lower court for trial after issuing a revised opinion on July 7, 2003. The remaining issues were resolved with a default judgment after Arriba Soft had experienced significant financial problems and failed to reach a negotiated settlement.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Guest Vinyasa Krama practice : Wyatt, Part 2

I figure you must be pretty sick of my practice by now so here's Wyatt, a friend from last Summer's Vinyasa Krama teacher training course with Ramaswami. As I mentioned in the previous post, once your familiar with the main sequences and subroutines of Vinyasa Krama then you can mix them up a bit in your practice 'though Ramaswami did recommend that you always have some kind of a plan before you begin. Was quite excited about these when Wyatt posted them as I haven't really seen anyone else's home VK practice.

had to divide this post up as all the videos were making my mac and Itouch crash, here's the link to Part one

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Vinyasa Krama practice sheets and posters now available

So my practice sheets and posters for the ten major sequences from Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa yoga are finally up on my Sister blog. Thanks to Wyatt for spotting a bug, that's now fixed and they should all be available to open and print should anyone wish, feel free to use them as you will ( no need to ask first), I expect to be drawing all over mine, crossing out bits here, drawing arrows there....

Obviously these are not a substitute for Ramaswami's excellent book where you'll find guidance on the breath, how long to stay in different postures, how to move from one pose to the next, which poses to focus on bandhas and which bandhas as well as much more beside. He also has a little star system for each posture showing it's level of difficulty ( although you can probably guess which to hold off on for awhile). In fact without his book these sheets are pretty pointless.

These are then, just cheat sheets, reminders of the general direction of the major sequences, to save us flicking back and forth through the book during practice allowing us to focus on the breath and bandhas. That said there are several errors, mainly mixing up the odd variation but not I think anything too serious. This isn't Ashtanga, it's OK to drop postures from the sequence, add others from another and I would imagine, within reason, occasionally switch the order of the variations. And of course it's just me, a home yogi, no rockstar, YJ cover yogi with perfect alignment and beautiful posture, some postures I'm better at than others, some are dreadful, all still work in progress.

In the beginning at least, Ramaswami recommends practicing the sequences as they are in the book as far as you are able. Once your familiar with them and the different families of postures he suggests you still practice the full sequences every once in a while so that you stay familiar with them. Most likely though your practice will be a selection of different postures and subroutines from the different sequences although with perhaps a focus on one family of postures.

You might start with a ten minute shortened version of the "On your feet' sequence ( On Ramaswami's TT course we started each practice this way) a few standing poses from the Triangle or 'On one leg' sequence. After this you might choose to focus on seated or Asymmetric postures or perhaps backbends from the Bow and/or meditative sequences, all the sequences contain a variety of movements, twist, backbends, forward bends and contain counterposes throughout. Ramaswami does recommend a long Pachimattanasana , shoulder and headstand the latter of course might contain some of the vinyasas ( variations) from the Inverted and Supine sequences.

Now the hard work of taking screenshots, labeling them and bringing them together into sequences is over it will be quite easy to make up sheets of the different subroutines and then perhaps some possible practice sequence ideas,, some short, medium, long practice suggestions, something I hope to look at producing after I've taken a break

One more point worth mentioning perhaps. Each sequence tends to be collections of subroutines. A subroutine will tend to be built around a key pose, Marichiasana say, within Asymmetric sequence. There might be some preparatory poses (or the previous subroutine might do that job) the main pose, some variations of it and perhaps a difficult extension of the pose. When you get to a difficult posture that you don't yet feel ready for it doesn't mean it's game over for the Sequence. You just move on to the next subroutine within the sequence and practice as far as your comfortable within that subroutine then do the same with the next and the next (looking at any of the posters, like the one above, that accompany the practice sheets should make this clear).

So time to practice...

Monday, 24 January 2011

Ever wish you hadn't started something.........

Started the Vinyasa Krama practice sheet project with such enthusiasm a couple of days ago but now it's starting to grind me down a little. It doesn't help that I don't have the right tools for the job. Sure there must be a way to do it quickly in Photoshop but although I have it on the mac I've never really used it that much. So slow but probably quicker going about it the long way around than trying to work Photoshop out.

My method is this.

Import one of my Vinyasa Krama sequence videos into the VLC player and then go through it taking screenshots of all the postures. Import those into iphoto then edit each one, cutting and enhancing so you can see better what's going on, in binds for example. Add the posture name and any notes to each picture then turn the whole lot into contact sheets and save them as a pdf. Convert the pdf to Photoshop so I can add a title and page numbers ( only just worked out how to do this so the first sheets don't have them yet). Finally convert them back to jpeg so I can post them on the blog.

I'm sure there are graphic designers laughing the mulas off at this approach.

The most irritating thing is my printer isn't working (water from leaking radiator came through the ceiling, don't ask, still have saucepans everywhere and no heating!) so it wasn't until I printed a couple out at work yesterday that I was able to see some of the errors and had to go back and redo them.

Still six down but I had to re film one of the longest, Supine, today. Long long sequence, tadasana is long but only ran to around 50 screenshots, Supine is 115. Finally got the pictures into iphoto, next job is to label them all.

Supine was nice to practice again though, made me want to go back and review all the full sequences again. Such a subtle practice Vinyasa Krama and there are so many 'simple' postures that are so hard and that I do so poorly. Perhaps that's the way to go in winter, work on the seemingly simple subtle postures and leave the intricate 'advanced' poses for the summer.

I enjoyed the pace of VK this morning too. Recently I've been doing a short Vinyasa Krama practice in the evening but it's not the same as a long meditative VK practice where this sense of peace slowly envelops you and stays with you for most of the day. Despite the frustrations of this process I haven't screamed at the mac once, big improvement on a few years ago.

Something someone quoted recently ( wont name names as I've mangled the pithy quote) that came from her Ashtanga teacher has been playing on my mind. This isn't how she put it but how it's lodged and played in my mind since. Something about the difficulty of Ashtanga never really going away but that we seek to keep our mind steady and controlled throughout this challenging practice and then try to retain that focus and control of the mind throughout the day, whatever gets thrown at us. I really liked that idea, the practice kind of training you to cope with a hectic and stressful life, hadn't really thought of that aspect of Ashtanga

Here's the actual quote and it's context HERE.Thank you V

"You see, that is your work. That is the yoga: to get on the mat and be the boss of your mind, be present and mindful all the way throughout practice and then stay present and mindful during the rest of your day. You can do it." far off was I ?

Vinyasa Krama goes about it in a softer way perhaps, putting you in this peaceful, mindful state that stays with you throughout the day, perhaps both approaches are useful.

Rambling, no doubt because I can't face labeling. Glad I'm doing it though, good to see the sequences laid out like this, seeing the postures and their relationships at a glance, makes me want to practice and explore them more. So do really I wish I hadn't started it? No, not really.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Vinyasa Krama Sequences home practice sheets and posters

This week I'm working on turning my Vinyasa Krama videos into practice sheets and posters.

Not much interest to the Ashtangi's amongst your perhaps, although I personally found it interestin,g and helpful, finding a posture in Ashtanga that I was struggling with and then looking at the poses in Vinyasa krama that prepare for it EG. Archer and Heron pose as prep for Leg behind head postures in the Asymmetric sequence.

Perhaps it's because I came to Vinyasa Krama from Ashtanga but I'm used to using these kind of sheets as reminders of the sequence, think Mathew Sweeney orDavid Swenson and and the short and full sequences at the back of his book. I think Ramaswami mentioned that it was something he had hoped to do in future editions of his Complete book of vinyasa Yoga but that it never came about. These are no substitute for his book of course, more like 'cheat' sheets for home practice.

So far I've made up the On your feet/tadasana ( picture is of the shorter 10 minute version), Asymmetric and Seated sequences, I hope to have the rest made up by the end of the weekend. Links are below and I'll add the others to this post when they're ready as well as to the VK page at the top of this blog. If you click on the image it should blow it up and be printable. If you think you'll find them useful then feel free to use them as you wish.

The quality isn't that great and some of them don't tally up exactly with the book, I recorded most of the video's before I attended Ramaswami's TT course, hopefully I'll get to improve on them in the future, I just wanted something to be going on for my own practice and that would also serve as a starting point for something better in the future perhaps by somebody more competent and capable than myself.

I welcome suggestions, I'm thinking of making up a set of subroutines as well as Beginner and Intermediate versions of the Sequences, perhaps some sample practice routines as well. If anyone knows how I can set up a downloadable PDF file on this blog with all of them together as a set please let me know.

The Ten major Vinyasa Krama Sequences

Friday, 21 January 2011

Guest vinyasa Krama practice : Wyatt, Part one

I figure you must be pretty sick of my practice by now so here's Wyatt, a friend from last Summer's Vinyasa Krama teacher training course with Ramaswami. As I mentioned in the previous post, once your familiar with the main sequences and subroutines of Vinyasa Krama then you can mix them up a bit in your practice 'though Ramaswami did recommend that you always have some kind of a plan before you begin. Was quite excited about these when Wyatt posted them as I haven't really seen anyone else's home VK practice.

Had to divide this post up as there are so many videos that it's making my Mac and Itouch crash. here's the link to Part Two

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Deep backbends; How do they feel... plus heel lift dropback

Nappper ask in her comment to my previous post how the ankle grabbing kapo felt yesterday.

How it feels? guess I never really do that huh, such a guy : )
I don't get any of the bells and flashes of light, the epiphanies, ekstasis, buckets of tears or kundalini rising, perhaps guys are wired differently. I mean that's a pretty deep kapo, if I was going to get that kind of thing I'd get by now right?

I remember feeling a little more open on the first one which is why I got the camera, I'd just about managed to catch my heels and seeing as I'd just written about that I wanted to catch the next attempt.

So on this one I went to grab my heels, missed but felt comfortable enough to reach for it again. Got my heels and there still felt space in my back to go up to the ankles, felt a bit deep, bit extreme but then felt good when I lowered my elbows and settled in, felt I could have stayed longer than usual. That said there's still the uncomfortableness in the back, not pain exactly but just letting you know not to push it any further for now. Lifting up into kapo B felt very good, quite refreshing if that makes any sense.

Heel lift dropback
This is new, an experiment with the heel lift. usually my feet turn outwards(actually only the one turns out now) when I come back up but here I've gone for a narrower stance and am allowing the heels to lift a little. interesting, kind of feel that i might find it easier to eliminate the heel lift bit by bit rather than stop the feet turning out on the other approach so might explore this for a while.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

State of backbends ; UPDATED

Was saying earlier today, before practice (below), that I'd allowed backbends slip recently. It seems that just writing that was enough to get me to focus on them a little more during practice, this, my first ankle grab in Kapo seems to have come from nowhere ( thought it was my first but I came across a photo of one from march 2010). The first one I caught my heels which surprised me enough to interrupt the practice to turn on the camera and catch the ankle grab. Strange how the deep ones come and go.


Noticed I haven't posted on backbends in a long time and seeing as it's the beginning of the year, kind of..... sort of, I thought a 'State of the backbend post' might be an idea. Besides, I woke up late, am feeling dopey and need to get some motivation up for practicing 2nd.

So apart from the one post on putting a block between my thighs when dropping back they've taken a backseat, on the blog at least. Why is that I wonder, still doing them everyday. I guess focus just shifts to and from different elements of the practice, this seems to work well actually, you focus on one particular element and everything else ticks along nicely, working itself out.

Recently I've been wrapped up with hip openers while backbends have taken care of themselves.... sort of. Kapo has slipped a little, good days bad days. Haven't landed my hands on my heels from the air in a long time but still manage to land half way up the foot and can work my way up to the heels, at least when the will is strong, some days I just settle for the instep and move on.

Dropbacks have been pretty settled, I'm managing to dropback and come up with the breath nicely now. I used to hold my breath for a moment going back and coming up I would take a sharp intake of breath and it would be a struggle coming up the rest of the way if I didn't make it all the way. Now the breathing is slow and regular, down with the breath up, with the breath, all much more relaxed but perhaps not dropping in as deep. I used to be able to walk in and touch my heels but this is now as close as I get. Oh and I only turn the one foot out now, the left, that's an improvement right?

Uttana Shalabhasana is new though. I still tend to add a couple of extra backbend postures from the Vinyasa Krama Bow series to my Ashtanga 2nd. These tend to be kind of salambhasana prep poses ( see the first couple of minutes of this video) which lead into Viparita Salambhasana and Gandha B before carrying on into the Kapo build up. Recently I started looking at bringing my hands forward in Viparitta Salamabhasana which makes it Uttanha Salabhasana. I'd always been paranoid about flipping over and breaking my neck, bit off putting but it seems OK, feeling relatively controlled at the moment and there's always the wall nearby if I get into trouble, starting to think about grabbing my feet). Cant flip out from this angle due to the length of the room but you get the idea. Starting to think getting the feet or at least toenails to the floor might be possible though getting them to the head seem just as unlikely as ever.Thought I'd worked it out the other week, kind of lowering the feet to the head rather than drawing them in but no luck. Think Boodie, uses Kapo as prep for this whereas I do it the other way around, perhaps I should try her way, this morning maybe.

Wish I had enough room to explore Tick tocks, should get back into flipping out of vipparita dandasana, perhaps when I nail that I wont feel I need as much room for tocking.

OK! Need to practice, been sitting here in thermals trying to warm the body up but if I don't practice soon food will become an issue. Made that mistake last week on my day off. Put off early practice then felt the need for breakfast as I'd planned on practicing Advanced A. That meant I couldn't practice for a couple of hours. I took a hot pre practice bath to warm myself up but that was a bad idea because I just felt weak and flaky, awful, awful practice.

Oh I had my second Mysore dream. I woke up in the night and read on my itouch a tweet about Sharath, who seems to be on the quite the charm offensive and winning everyone over ( good for him, settling into his role perhaps, a tough gig) taking everyone at the Shala for lunch ( 200 ashtangi's supposedly.... there is a quite time in Mysore right? ). Dreamt about that, think Sharath was scattering his grandfather's ashes while everyone watched, strange. Then I woke up again but when I went back to sleep I was dreaming about working late and showed one of the guys I work with a video on my Itouch of the same 'lunch' event, that had by then turned into some kind of fancy dress party, so a Mysore dream within a dream.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Evening practice, leg behind head ( LBH ) first Buddhasana and Kapilasana

Question of getting deeper/further into Eka pada Sirsasana came up in the cybershala this week and I couldn't for the life of me remember if I put my forehead to my knee or my chin. I'd have thought it would have been forehead as that's how I approach most of my foreword bends ( vinyasa krama style rather than Ashtanga ) but as it turns out I lead with the chin, probably because I'm trying to keep my leg in place.

Couldn't find many of my LBH videos either, lots of Kapo, loads of dropbacks but few Eka pada Sirsasanas. Decided to make it the subject of my evening Vinyasa krama practice.

As usual this is twenty minutes of asana as prep for pranayama and meditation and this evening ran something like this.

Couple of Sury's
Squat in Ardha badha padmottanasana ending up in utthita Swastikasana
Maha mudra
Janu Sirsasana A B and C
Akarna Dhanurasana A and B
Eka pada sirsasana
Buddhasana (first time getting all the way in)
Urdhava Danhurasana

Buddhasana and Kapilasana were a nice bonus, had a look at them last week but didn't think I'd be able to get into them before summer and a proper sweaty practice.

Do seem to be getting further into Eka pada sirsasana, the long paschi's in Vinyasa krama have probably helped as well as all the hip openers I've been doing recently but looking at the video I noticed a couple of things I'd forgotten that I do.

Think I'm getting more of my ribs in frount of my thigh.
Lifting up to push my sit bones back (from Dharma mittra video).
Taking a deeper inhalation and engaging uddiyana bandha to bring my ribs up.
Stretching further out of my pelvis.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Coping with a lousy practice.... plus press to handstand

Lousy practice this morning ( late morning), real stinker. Started later than I intended and being my day off I went for the David Williams when all I really wanted to do was Primary with a long long stay in Baddha Konasana. So my heart wasn't in it plus the bath I took before hand was probably too hot so I was feeling weak, not what you want for 3rd Arm balances.

Managed all of 3rd and a little of the extras in Advanced A but it was all a bit scrappy. Then the day went from bad to worse, Internet connection went down, irritating as I had online stuff to organise and when it did come back I got stuck and couldn't get away to my Heidegger ( new book arrived yesterday) which was the main plan for the day.

The day was saved by coming across some old harmonica hero's of mine on Youtube. Sonny boy Williams, Sonny Terry, Howlin woolf.... sitting there with a big grin on my face. Went off hunting for an old Harp that surely I'd have lying around somewhere but couldn't find one for the life of me, where do they go, they're like pencils.

As an afterthought I thought I'd fish out a sax ( my old beloved, neglected King Super 20 that sounds like it needs stripping down), hardly blown one since I started Ashtanga (except for testing them at work, but that's different). A lot of fun actually, though I hardly remember how to play the thing. Even made a clip to see how it sounded and thought, what the heck, it's nothing just some doodlin' but why not...

Press to handstand
Light bulb switched on during the press/pike to handstand this morning. In the post from a couple of days ago I was managing to lift from the ground without hopping but my legs we're still bending a little coming up. This morning I realized it was because I was taking my shoulders forward but forgetting about my hips/pelvis which was getting left behind somewhat.

This morning I made a point of bringing it forward (in my head at least), such that as my feet left the ground my pelvis was the point of focus and quickly caught up with my shoulders allowing the legs to float up just as in a headstand.

Looking at the video I think I take my hands a little further forward than I need to and there's still a slight bend at the knee, a tremor even, but it's coming.

The bit at the end, the float back up is improving as well, my arms were much straighter virtually locked, almost lifting my shoulders off my arms, gave me more control.

Oh and the lowering down from handstand is something I'm working on in preparation for some of those fancy advanced series poses where you lower down into something like ardhomukkha padmasana.

Party tricks, perhaps but it makes those ten Sury's in the morning a little more fun.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

First Mysore dream and Pink Saris

All these Mysore blogs and tweets floating around at the moment seem to have caused me to have a Mysore dream. Perhaps watching pink Saris last night was a contributing factor.

India, India, starting to play on my mind

...but anyway the dream, drifting away now but it was one of those long ones that seem to run all night. I remember arriving, being in a very small room/space, almost like boot camp (hmmm perhaps that's telling). Practice was strange though, you started one end of the room and ended up working towards the other as the practice progressed, not sure how that worked but the room looked just like in the pictures and youtube videos.

And then the shala seemed to be in a different place, more rural, beautiful. There was a tent like extension to the Shala which looked out onto a/the desert. Seems I was still in Mysore though because walking around I bumped into OvO who was scandalized that I hadn't visited some park and took me there right away telling me somebody was there (forget who, but was excited about it while she was telling me ).

Then there was practice again and it was hot and sweaty and I was paranoid I hadn't brought enough practice gear. Oh I think I heard, rather than saw Jamie : )

And there was something else, I saw Sharath say something to an 'assistant' who told me I had to practice in the old man area, that was his exact words (think that might have been the tent extension) but then the next day I was told to practice in the main Shala again.

That's all I remember, still befuddled and dopey and all over the place, hate long dreams. Time to practice ( 2nd, was going to do the David Williams Advanced A today but am too dazed ), going to be all over the place in Standing.

UPDATE : Nope Can't stand up straight, going to do the Advanced A later instead.

Oh and Pink Saris, great doc, virtually no narration. watch it if you get the chance. In the UK you can probably still catch it on 4OD. Just checked and it's no longer available but here's what they say about it.

Acclaimed filmmaker Kim Longinotto's award-winning Pink Saris celebrates Sampat Pal, a woman fighting social injustices against other women in northern India.

Pink saris are worn by the Gulabi Gang, a group of female vigilantes in northern India - from the 'untouchable caste' - who have resisted being condescended to as the lowest social class.

And they have a champion in Sampat Pal, who takes up cases of social injustice and domestic abuse against women. The crimes are often perpetrated by the husbands' extended families, with whom the abused women are forced to live.

Declaring, 'What do women have but their tears?', Sampat Pal has learnt from experience. In circumstances that are far from unusual, she was married at a young age and beaten by her in-laws. But, she fought back and escaped the family.

Now beleaguered women from throughout Uttar Pradesh seek her out, looking for the support and strength to do the same.

And here's a clip


Clauda just told me that the video clip above is in the way making it difficult to comment, so a few lines then to create some space between button and video.

So........ lovely weather we're having, OK not really, pretty lousy weather in fact...

So practice was OK this morning, actually, come to think of it that was pretty lousy too. Advanced A the David Williams version but wasn't really into it just wanted to do Primary and a long baddha Konasana ( see yesterdays post) but it's my day off and I thought I should make the most of it.

Did, finally, work out the press to handstand, post to come on that and one on the state of backbends too seeing as it's the beginning of the year. What else, another evening practice post (leading to yogidandasana) and a couple of interviews from Ramaswami that I hope to transcribe little by little over a couple of posts.

Enough space Claudia, want to give it another try : )

Inhabiting badha konasana as prep for work on Kanddasana

I've been loving my Primary series lately, using large chunks of it as prep for some of the Advanced A and B poses in the evening and just expanding on the series a little in the mornings. I seem to have fallen in love with hip openers, I guess they're hip openers, what else would you call them? I've always liked the VK Maha Mudra but am now spending forever in the Janu Sirsasana's.

However it's Baddha Konasana that is my particular sweetheart at the moment. Guess for some it's back bends or binding, bet your thought for me it would be arm balances, nope, the humble hip opener. Who'd have thought it.

I've been spending ages in it, allowing everything to open up a little more, get the heels in closer and just basically deepen the pose, inhabit the posture. It started off as prep for the Advanced A, Kandapindasana ( which is why my ankles are turned out like that) but that's now pretty much an afterthought. I'm exploring the breath, playing with the bandhas, riffing on Vinyasa Krama variations, just having a whale of a time. tomorrow is my day off and I find myself considering Pranayama, even Meditation....

I seem to remember Ramaswami saying that badha konasana is a key posture to spend time in at the end of the practice before moving into pranayama

This morning I thought I'd record it because I can never really remember what goes on, seems to be different one practice to the next. The Kanadapindasana is only marginally improved but as I said it's becoming a bit of an afterthought. This was at the end of a pretty much standard primary though with perhaps a little extra time spent in the Janu's and a few VK variations in Upavista Konasana.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Marichiyasana D in the round also Purna Matsyendrasana, Pasasana and Marichiyasana H

Was thinking the other morning how Marichiyasana was all in the preparation. Perhaps because I had cut back on the Ashtanga for a while and needed to work at Mari D a bit to get the wrist bind back. Probably lost a bit of the flexibility in the twist so compensated by over emphasising the set up/preparation and get my shoulder as close to my knee as possible.

Feels like a similar approach to Purna matsyendrasana, Pasasana and Marichiyasana H, all in the preparation or set up.

Not suggesting this is a perfect Mari, sure my shoulders should be more level, buttock higher or lower, foot further forward or back or in or out, whatever, it kinda works.

Marichiyasana D : Primary Series

Pashasana / Pasasana ( from March 2009 ) : Intermediate Series

Purna Matsyendrasana : Advanced A

Marichiyasana H : Advanced B

Friday, 7 January 2011

Press to handstand and working towards Sayanasana

I've been working on that elusive Press to handstand off and on (links to the last stint working on it last April) for a couple of years. Managed to get pretty close but there was always the hint of a hop. Saw a link to a video/demo at Boodiba's place and, for some reason, something seemed to click this time. Not sure if it's just that the hands are in the right place or that I'm stretching my head out a little to counterbalance but I seem to be getting the lift off I wanted.

The actual pike bit is still untidy but I have it nice and controlled in my headstands so that should come. Oh and I tap off the wall at the top, it's untidy, it's not pretty but I'm going to claim it anyway. The interesting thing about it is that I haven't been doing a lot of arm balances recently, OK, a little Advanced A but not as much as I used to, which suggests it's not so much about strength (some obviously) as technique.

Here's the guy mentioned in the comments on boodie's post

Towards Sayanasana
Again this relates to another post at Boodiba's where she mentions her teacher suggested hopping straight into Sayanasana!!!! I've tried doing it, again, off an on from pincha mayarasana but can never hold it for more than a couple of ( quick) breaths. I tried hopping up of course and landed straight on my face. Boodie mentioned trying it in frount of a wall and I'm starting to think it's not just possible hopping straight up but even preferable. Still haven't got it, half a breath doesn't count, but hmmmmmm

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Evening practice : Omkrasana

Ramaswami suggested a second, evening, practice for the serious yoga student, were on a teacher training course after all. He recommended a short, perhaps vigorous, asana practice, an opportunity to work on difficult postures or some of the subroutines we might not generally cover in our regular morning practice. The asana would be followed by Pranayama and Meditation.

On the course, as I've mentioned before, we would have a late afternoon session where we would have the freedom to practice whatever asana we wished for fifteen twenty minutes before practicing pranayama for forty minutes and meditation for another twenty to forty, building up as the course went on. I took the opportunity to explore a vigorous arm balance practice one day, a relaxed inversion practice another, each day trying something different to see how it affected my meditation.

I seem to be quite settled in my morning Vinyasa Krama influenced Ashtanga practice at the moment but my evening practice has slipped a little. I used to get on the mat/cushion five to six evening s a week but that's slipped to three to four the last month, something I want to remedy.

When I have managed to get on the mat in the evenings I seem to have got into the habit of coming up with a short vinyasa krama subroutine that preparers me for and then explores a tricky posture that I'm keen to work on. It might be some extra work around Hanumanasana/Eka pada raja kapotasana/Natajarasana or a seated sequence of hip openers that leads into my work on kandasana, perhaps an asymmetric subroutine that leads into one of the fancy arm balances Pungu Kukkutasana, Parsva dandasana or yesterdays Omkarasana.

It doesn't really matter which, it's just asana, the tricky pose is the carrot that entices you onto the mat, it's a light, fun, dare I say playful practice.

Yesterday then was my first look at Omkarasana. Looking at Sweeney it's the last posture in Advanced B but I can't find it anywhere on the David Williams poster and it doesn't appear in Ramaswami's book at all. It's not actually that hard ( Shhhh) if you have your 2nd series leg behind head poses down and the chakrasana exit then I think you could probably do it. The arms need to be a little closer together than usual ( that's the tricky bit, especially when exiting) so you can hook your toe on your arm. I'm sure as you work at it a little the lower leg will get a little further up the arm.

The practice was basically,

A couple of Sury's A and B
Ardha badha Padmottanasana
Maha mudra then forward bending into janu Sirsasana A
Ardha badha padmottanasana followed by some VK twists based on the pose
Arkana dandasana A and B
Eka pada sirsasana
Badha konasana/Kandasana
Check out the video, still rough but perhaps you can see what I mean when I say it's a delightfully playful pose.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Plans for 2011

I was asked in comments about plans for the year and if I might go to Mysore now that I'm practicing some Ashtanga once more.

Well I'm kind of practicing Ashtanga again but it's a strongly Vinyasa Krama influenced Ashtanga. Would I be allowed to do my ten minute tadasana sequence warm up I wonder, or slip in maha mudra, the shoulderstand prep I do, or the long stays in Paschi and the inversions, probably not. But I could live with that of course for the intensity of that room, still love Govinda Kai's pictures and videos of the mysore room.

I'm tempted to go to India this year but probably not Mysore, the JoisYoga thing still sits uncomfortably with me, some of the comments that come out of conference grate a little and, I don't know, perhaps there are just too many people going there now, think I might have liked it ten, twenty years ago.

Rolf in Goa is a thought, he's been a bit of an Ashtanga hero of mine since watching the GURU movie a couple of years ago. But what would I do in Goa, I'm not a beach person, be worse than the pools of Mysore and besides I'm not really interested in having an asana teacher. My asana comes along well enough on it's own, untidy perhaps but a few visits to an Iyengar studio or a London Shala would sort out a lot of that. The advanced asana I'd rather work out myself, that's part of the fun of it.

KYM perhaps or of course to practice with Ramaswami in India if he and LMU run the winter course again. But to be honest I think I rather just go to India for India rather than yoga or at least asana, travel around a bit and just throw a towel down to do my practice each morning wherever we happen to be.

Other travel plans are a couple of mini breaks ( so as not to leave the chinchilla too long ), one to Heidegger's hut up in the German Black forest mountains (I worked in Switzerland for a while back in my traveling days and have recently been craving mountain air).

The other mini break is to Sicily, hopefully Syracuse, but we say that every year.

I put my Heidegger away last year so I could study a little Indian philosophy and literature without him whispering away on my shoulder. Just ordered his Phenomenology of religious life, although he's writing about Christian mysticism and religious experience I'm hoping I'm going to hear him talking about Indian mysticism in the back of my mind. The question, what would Heidegger say about yoga. Heidegger, it's all study of the self, Patanjali would surely approve.

UPDATE. Just had a wonderful call from my Continental philosophy teacher in Greece, best teacher I ever had. It was he who first introduced me to Heidegger fifteen years ago and I've been reading him ever since. Such a nice surprise and quite out of the blue, perhaps it'll be a trip to Athens and Delphi this April, be lovely to see him and his family again.

I also want to fish out my Brain science course books from a couple of years ago and catch up on what's been going on lately in that area, couple of interesting podcasts from the BBC HERE.

the main thing I want to work on is deepening my pranayama and meditation practice. I do them for a little while in the morning but my evening practice has become a little inconsistent over the last couple of months (down to an hour three times a week), want to tighten that up. Maybe, just maybe go on a 10 day vipassana retreat, we'll see.

And as for asana, consolidate my 2nd series ( get back my hands to heels from the air), get rid of that squish in Karandavasana and work on the Advanced series from the David Williams. More interested in those hip opener postures like kandasana and yoga dandasana than deepening my backbending much further. Oh and get that ruddy flip out of Viparita dandasana.

I also plan on spending a day a week practicing a whole vinyasa krama sequence or two, rotating them, just to keep my familiarity, find it so useful having that tool chest to hand. perhaps I'll have a go at putting together a poster of the sequences.

That's plenty to be going on with.

Oh, thought of a couple more....

Write up and review my notes from last Summer's Vinyasa Krama TT course

Get back into some chanting

Clean my Manduka

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Iswarapranidhana - Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami - January 2011

Quite a complex newsletter this month but I came across a speech Ramaswami gave a few days ago at the awards ceremony he mentions at the beginning of the letter. As the topic of the speech is the same as that of the newsletter I thought it could act as a nice introduction.

January 2011 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami—Iswarapranidhana

Wish you a very happy and prosperous New year, a New Decade.

December was India month. LMU had arranged a ten day retreat in New
Delhi the modern capital of India and Rishikesh the holy city along
the Ganga, About ten participants from the USA and six from India
attended the program. We had almost six hours instruction everyday,
three hours of asanas and pranayama and about three hours of Yoga
Sutras and Yoga for Health. I thought the programs went well. What was
remarkable was that despite some real difficulties and challenges,
everyone stayed to the end. I am beholden to all participants for
their interest, support and patience. Thank you Dr Chris Chapple and
Alana Bray of LMU for affording the opportunity.

I spent a couple of days in Hyderabad thanks to the invitation of
Saraswati Vasudevan of Yoga Vahini and Salil Ganeriwal of Shwaas,
both of whom have long experience in the Krishnamaharya tradition.
Saraswathy Vasudevan who has more than 17 years teaching experience in
the Krishnamacharya tradition was the director of a 500 hr Yoga
Therapy certification program. 14 very enthusiastic and knowledgeable
yoga teachers completed the program and I had the pleasant opportunity
to distribute the certificates and speak briefly. The teachers
included Amala Akkaneni, one of my first students. She studied yoga
with me for a few years as a student of Kalakshetra in the mid 1970s.
It was nice to meet her too. Salil gave me an opportunity to speak
about Yoga for Healing (Health) at his beautiful studio Shwaas.


Maybe I have written on this topic earlier.

Normally in Sutras, the same term/idea should not be repeated. But in
the yogasutras of Patanjali the term Iswarapranidhana is used three
times. It is acceptable if the term is used with different
connotations in different places/contexts.

According to my Guru, the yogasutra even as it deals with subject of
(Raja)Yoga, caters to the needs of three different groups or levels of
yoga aspirants. The first one the highest or the uttama adhikaris are
the intended group of aspirants in the first chapter called the
samadhi pada. Here Patanjali used the term Iswarapranidhana as an
independent means of achieving the goal of Kaivalya or spiritual
freedom the set goal of yoga. It is the complete quietening of the
mind or chitta vritii nirodha. According to Patanjali it is possible
to achieve this yogic goal by intense devotion to Iswara (pranidhana=
bhakti visesha) as indicated by the term Iswarapranidhana in this
context. By the proper Japa of pranava which would indicate the mystic
syllable or mantra “OM” the highest aspirant (adhikari) who already
has the ability to go into a stage of samadhi (hence dealt with in
Samadhi Pada) will be able to achieve this extraordinary result. An
intense faith and devotion to the eternal unfettered spirit,
Iswara,whose essence is pure consciousness and still endowed with
omniscience would do the trick and nothing else is needed. If however
this devotional fervor is lacking even if the samadhi capacity is
there, the more step by step process of going through stages of
mastering Prakriti (24 aspects ) may be resorted to following the
path of Niriswara Samkhyas who have difficulty in subscribing to a
nimitta karana or an efficient cause for creation..

In the second chapter, Sadhana Pada, Patanjali takes the case of those
who without the yogic skill of Samadhi, but still wish to start to go
along the path of Yoga, the first step in a 1000 mile long yoga
journey. To them, the absolute beginners, he would include
Iswarapranidhana as one of the steps in Kriya yoga . Here
Iswarapranidhana has a different application. It is not the use of
Pranava Japa as the Samadhi Yogi would do but Iswarapujana or worship
of Iswara as per many yogis. Simple to complicated rituals are
available for the interested to remain focused on Iswara for a period
of time every day. This in practical terms is much easier to resort to
following the well established procedures of puja (worship rituals) of
the Lord. This is possible for anyone with faith in God, but lack the
samadhi capability. One may not be able to achieve Samadhi with this
but it will slowly prepare the mind to go along the path of yogic
samadhi. Concurrently it will also reduce the mental pain caused by
several kleshas like avidya etc.

One may ask if Iswarapranidhana or Iswarapujana as it is said in Kriya
yoga can by itself lead to samadhi bhavana or is it part of a whole
practice called Kriya yoga. Another corollary question would be what
if one has difficulty believing in God, could one still take advantage
of kriyayoga? There are references to practices of kriya yoga used
without the Iswarapranidhana component. The great epic Ramayana
describes a sage as one established in austerity and scriptural
studies. The Ramayana opens with the two traits of Kriaya yoga viz.,
tapas and swadhyaya. (tapas swadhyaya nirataam). So we may see that
there are occasions where the first two traits are mentioned
independent of Iswarapranidhana. Of course it would be best to use all
the three parts of kriya yoga.

When a start up yogi belonging to the iswarapranidhana stream
practices iswara pujana assiduously, the mental klesas come down and
she/he will be well on the path of conditioning the mind for samadhi.
Then we have the next yoga stage called ashtanga yoga a more elaborate
and complete yoga sadhana or yoga practice. Herein also is
Iswarapranidhana mentioned and the result of this practice as part of
niyama would be Samadhi itself, which also is the goal of the entire
ashtanga yoga as samadhi is the last anga. Commentators give a
different interpretation of Iswarapranidhana here in ashtanga yoga
than what is found in first chapter and in kriya yoga.. They would
say that it would refer to doing one's prescribed duties diligently as
God's work and surrendering oneself to the Lord and also the fruits of
all actions. This intermediate stage yogi or madhyama adhikari the
one not having the skill of going into samadhi but is totally
committed to yoga as a life long pursuit. For her/him Patanjali
suggests the classical ashtanga yoga. Here as per my Guru and several
commentators it would mean total surrender to the Lord or Saranagati
or prapatti. One may say that the prescribed duties would also imply
practicing the stipulated duties in ashtanga yoga and doing them as
God's work with a complete sense of surrender to the Lord. This “karma
Yoga” in which the results of the practices do not cloud the yogi's
mind is “karma phala tyaga”. This devotional path will lead to Samadhi
the necessary skill to take the last lap in the yoga journey.

My teacher being a devout Bhakti Yogi stressed the importance of the
Iswarapranidhana stream in the Yoga Sutras. The Yogis who have an
intense devotional fervor could do well to follow the devotional path.
For most yogis a judicious combination of samkhya yoga and bhakti yoga
would be helpful as is the direction of the sutras. But it is also
necessary to point out that Iswarapranidhana even though it is
mentioned just three times in the whole text forms an independent and
complete system of Yoga in the Yoga sutras. For the start up Yogi it
prepares the mind for samadhi and also simultaneously reduces the
mental klesas. At the intermediate level it leads to dawn of Samadhi a
necessary tool for both Siddhis and Kaivalya and a reduction in
impurities of the mind, the Rajas and Tamas.. At the highest level
Isawarapranidhana leads to understanding the true nature of oneself
(pratyak cetana)and also the removal of all spiritual obstacles

Many other acharyas also have taken the efforts to stress the
importance of both the streams. Adi Sankara the advocate of Advaita
or nondualism, wrote great works not only on the intellectually
challenging subjects as advaita like the Brahma Sutra Bhashya,
Vivekachudaani etc., but also wrote such wonderful devotional works as
Bhaja Govindam, Soundarya Lahari and several others. Sri Sankara apart
from being the most revered exponent of Advaita also came to be known
as one who established the six methods of orthodox worship of the
divine in India (shan-mata-sthapana-acahrya), The six methods are
worship of Ganesa (Ganapatya), Kumara (Kaumara), of Mother Sakti
(Saakta), of Siva (Saiva), of Vishnu (Vaishnava) and of the Sun
(Saura). He wrote numerous works of poetry on all these deities.
Patanjali, Adi Sankara, my own Guru Sri Krishnamacharya and several
orthodox teachers of yesteryear were at considerable ease with both
the paths of wisdom and of devotion.

Again, I wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

It is two years since I started sending these Newsletters and thank
you all for the kind support.

The earlier newsletters and articles may be accessed by going to my
website and then clicking on the Newsletter tab or click HERE.

For reply or comments please send to

With best wishes

Srivatsa Ramaswami

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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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