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Monday, 31 October 2011

Kino : Ashtanga Advanced A, Sthira Bhaga DVD coming soon (?)

Interesting she seems to have gone for 'Advanced A' rather than '3rd series' (see right at the end of the video).

...and will there be an Advanced B sometime in the future?

Here's a link to Kino's store, not showing up there yet and I remember we had to wait a couple of months for her 2nd after the first promo came out.

Struck me today that I haven't thought about, let alone practiced the Advanced series in months, forgot all about it. Been quite happy chugging along through Vinyasa Krama with Primary and the occasional 2nd.

A lot of the Advanced A postures come up in the VK sequences and I like them more in the context of their subroutines, the salabhasanas leading up to Viparita Salabhasana and gandha B, Hanuman as part of the Triyangmukha ( bent back leg) subroutine I mention in the previous post. Advanced A kapo's are nice to practice as part of the Bow and Meditative subroutines along with natarajasana and the Advanced A leg behind head postures as an extension of the Eka pada sirsasana. Oh and Kukkutasanas as part of lotus sequence. The arm balances I find less interesting.

Advanced B however, now THAT's a series, has more of a feel of Primary to it somehow, be nice to get back to practicing it and forget about 3rd altogether, have to wait for the warmer weather though.

Day 30 : Triyangmukha ( bent back leg) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence


This is actually two subroutines, the first ends with Picture 5 the counter pose, however you can see how the folded back leg postures gives a stretch to the quadriceps preparing your for hanumanasana/ anjanayasana (pic 7 ).

In Hanumanasana we're stretching the hamstrings on the fount leg and the quadriceps on the back leg so we want to make sure both have received sufficient preparation in earlier subroutines in our practice.

I struggled with hanumanasana for a long time before coming to Vinyasa krama. I credit my ability to enter the posture to the long stays paschimottanasana that we'll see in the seated sequence subroutines. 

A long stay is called for in picture 2, the forward bend with the leg bent back, Ramaswami recommends five minutes and that extra time is well spent. 

Picture 4 is, I've just realised, an addition of my own, it's a bent back leg version of kraunchasana which we saw in Day 28. I've mistakenly carried this over from ashtanga but it doesn't seem out of place. Here we're stretching the hamstrings as well as the quads, again excellent preparation for hanumanasana.

Although the preceding postures can be seen as excellent preparation for hanumanasana they are all excellent stand alone postures and this is one of my favourite subroutines whether or not I choose to continue on to hanumanasana in that particular days practice or not.


Ramaswami stresses here that hanumanasana, the monkey-god posture is particularly challenging and should be practiced with guidance.

Prepare yourself for a year or so working towards this, that prep will include becoming more comfortable in extended stays in paschimmotanasana.

In a sense hanumanasana is also a backbend so that is another area we can work on leading up to this posture.

When you are ready to attempt it, from downward dog you might try stepping through, rocking back on your heel and lowering on to your trailing knee.

Don't step through too far at first, as so often in Vinyasa Krama we enter a pose gently, on the breath and then return to stithi on the breath then enter again a little more deeply, eventually entering for a longer stay which we then precede to deepen with each breath.

Find a place that is comfortable and focus on your breathing keeping both legs engaged.

Eventually you will be able to step through a little further and as you rock back on your heel stretch back with your reclining leg. Again find a point that is comfortable, keep both legs engaged and focus on your breath, the longer you stay the better.

The time will come when you have stretched through and have stretched into the pose far enough to no longer be balanced on your knee, only your hands will be supporting you. Blocks here might be something to consider.

Try engaging the muscles of both legs firmly and keeping them engaged for a count of fifteen second then relax and allow yourself to lower  a little deeper. Again caution is advised.

If you overdo it here, you'll pull or at least tweak a hamstring and won't be able to work on the pose for another three to six months, this is not one to rush.

There is a temptation when you almost reach the floor to allow your hip to twist slightly and come down on the side of one buttock, this is a bad idea as it puts tension on the knee.

I found this is a nice posture to work on after practicing eka pada raja kapotasana

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Post ....detox Primary

Got up this morning thinking I'd do a simple Vinyasa Krama tadasana routine. That went OK so figured, why not, some basic standing stretches which turned into the Ashtanga standing series. Still OK, do some suryanamaskaras and call it a day but they turned out nice and light, positively floaty, wondered how jump backs might feel.....

So the first bit of Primary led into the marichi's and then after navasana I really wanted the rolling around on the spine so carried on through the kurmasanas to kukkutasana and by then figured I might as well head on to finishing.

Thing is, it was all so light and pretty much effortless, what's that all about, i should have been weak as a daisy no? In one of the jump throughs the first high one I do for the janu's I almost flew right over the top, misjudging completely how light and airy I was.

I'd checked before practice I'd dropped 2 kilo from the... gastroenteritis detox, but that's what, a bag of sugar, surely that shouldn't make a difference. And yet if I look in a mirror I'm thinner, trimmer all over. Perhaps the detox takes the gunk from all over your body and just allows the muscles to work more efficiently.

I really don't know, I've done a couple for the hell of it, mainly for the discipline involved, to focus the mind as it were. Not so interested in the losing weight aspect but I'm curious about whether they really do allow the body to work more efficiently.

So that was this morning, was feeling a lot better most of the day, still not 100% but getting there.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Day 29 : Eka pada sirsasana ( leg to head ) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence


On DAY 21 for Durvasana, the standing leg behind head posture subroutine, I wrote...

Standing leg behind head, it's perhaps a good time to mention that we don't have to practice the subroutines consecutively, nor are we expected to be able to do all of them. A Leg behind head posture comes up here, in the one leg sequence, but It may be a good idea to work towards the posture in the Asymmetric sequence or Supine where it also appears. The leg behind head subroutines in those sequences include more preparation than here too.

Even though I've been able to put my leg behind my head comfortably for a number of years I still tend to include a number of preparation postures. In the subroutine above we have kauranchasana but I always tend to include akrarna dhanurasana (archer) from the previous subroutine (day 28). I'll also take the hip back as in the archer pose and then bring my leg from my foot to my knee parallel to my chest while supporting my foot with one hand and my knee with the other, I think of this as rocking the baby, I'm not sure if it has a sanskrit name or is even a posture.

The earlier Asymmetric subroutines are also excellent preparation for the eka para sirsasana and this is one example where keeping a number of subroutines together and following them in order may be good practice. Here are my key leg behind head preparatory postures.

Marichiyasana Day 25 where the knee is bent and we forward bend down the inside of the bent leg.

Maha mudra and Janu sirsasana from Day 27 where the hip is opened right up on one side and then the forward bend while the hip is so open.

Akrarna dhanurasana  from Day 28 where the the leg is drawn back, rotating the head of the femur up and back in the hip socket

Kauranchasana from Day 28 which continues the rotation of the head of the femur as we take the leg perpendicular

Rocking the baby ( see above) where the rotation is turned inward bringing the leg into a semblance of the position it will aim to be in Eka pada sirsasana but here in front of the body.

I tend to include the above postures in an extended Eka para sirsasana subroutine


If putting your leg behind your head is not available to you at this time you might work towards it in this subroutine by simple putting your leg over your shoulder, your right leg over your right shoulder say. I practiced chakorasana this way for quite some time. Go through the subroutine in the same way perhaps including the preparatory postures I mention, taking the usual breath count, gradually working towards the full expression of eka padasirsasana.

Getting the leg behind the head
If your already able to put your leg behind your head it's still important to make sure your sufficiently warmed up and stretched out. The Utkatasana is a good place to start for the work on the hips, uttanasana for the forward bend and I highly recommend the Uthita padangusthasana and especially the standing marchi subroutines. The standing marchi will do a good job of pushing your hip back.

For leg behind head postures in general I made a video recently on approaching the posture in Vinyasa Karma. In the video I approach the standing LBH from seated, putting the leg behind my head and then moving into the LBH forward bend Skandasana or Richikasana. Here's the link

Bring the foot into the rocking the baby position ( take the hip back as in the archer pose and then bring my leg from my foot to my knee parallel to my chest while supporting my foot with one hand and my knee with the other, I think of this as rocking the baby) take the leg outwards, rotating in the hip socket then bending then unbending at the knee bring the leg over in a circular motion dipping your head under the leg.

When dipping under the the leg slightly twist in towards the inside of the knee, as the foot settles behind the head you can the  straighten out of the twist taking the leg a little further and more comfortably over the shoulder.

Shuffle the foot a little further behind with your shoulder, you want to have your leg far enough around that the foot isn't pushing too strongly on your neck.

I used to try and pull my leg as far behind my head, as far over towards the other shoulder as possible, now I like to take my leg just over my head but as far over to the leg side as possible, this allows me to then shrug my shoulders further through and seems to allow the lag to settle lower and ultimately deeper. this is perhaps more easily seen on the video link above.

It's advisable perhaps. to have done some work on back bending postures to make your back stronger before moving on to leg behind head postures.

I've just noticed the forward bend in Eka para sirsasana picture is missing from the above practice sheet (a new practice sheet will be on it's way shortly).

Before folding forward try to stretch tall out of the pelvis just as in all other forward bends.

Lead with the chest

there is a slight twist as we bring our body over the outstretched leg

Reclining into Skandasana
Before reclining backward we want to again try and stretch out of our hip just as we have seen in the on your feet/tadasana postures.

Ground the heel, better to allow the knee to bend than let the leg come up and flap about as the grounding of the heel will give you some control and stop you from rolling over to the side.

There is a reclining version of Skandasana in the Supine sequence where you put your leg behind your head in supine, this is good to know as your head popping out from behind the head while reclined is not a disaster.

To return to Eka pada sirsasana bring your outstretched leg up over your head far enough to give you some momentum as you rock backup to seated.

Place your hands forward of your hips and push down through the mat lifting your body.

Raise your outstretched leg towards your face (eventually you will be able to bring your face to your knee while lifted) by rocking your hips forward.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Gastroenteritis and a sick bed practice

Practice and blogging on hold for a bit,

Hopefully catch up with th VK subroutine series next week

The projectile vomiting finally tapered off as well as the visits to the bathroom every ten minutes.

Managed to I'd try eating something,  half a slice of malted granary toast which seems to be staying down well enough.

Struck me that perhaps those white blood cells could do with all the help they could get, can't stand or sit up for any length of time, but Vinyasa Krama has that supine sequence, a simplified version seemed doable.

Not sure I feel any better for it but don't feel any worse.

Day 28 : akrarnadhanurasana (archer) and Kraunchasana (heron) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

These postures were a revelation for me when working towards the leg behind head postures as they provide such excellent preparation.

Although we're holding on to the big toe and these are often referred to as big toe stretching postures it's the complete other end of the leg we're focused on,where the head of the femur enters the pelvis.

Remember this is a ball and socket joint, rather than wrenching the leg back there is a gentle drawing back of the leg that allows for some rotation in the joint in akrarnadhanurasana. 

In Kraunchasana as well there is a slow raising of the leg which allows for the rotation in the joint.


Although we're focussing on the hip joint here Kraunchasana gives an extreme hamstring stretch so we need to be sufficiently prepared, possibly through earlier standing postures in out practice. 

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Day 27 : Maha mudra (great seal) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

Ramaswami mentions mahamudra as a key posture in Vinyasa Krama and encourages us to include it in our daily practice.

Ramaswami also advises us to stay in the pose 'a long time, say about five or more minutes'.

Because we are encouraged to stay in mahamudra for a significant amount of time we may choose to practice just janusirsasana in this subroutine and then later, at the end of our practice, dwell in mahamudra as preparation for pranayama.

I like to practice it in this subroutine for the usual three to six breaths and then do an extended stay at the end of my practice followed by badha konasana before entering padmasana (lotus) for my pranayama practice.

Maha mudra is an excellent posture for working on mull, uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas.

As we take hold of our toe we have sit forward on our sit bones, grounded in this way it becomes easier to focus on exploring mula bandha, the holding of the toe, gives a sense of stability when engaging uddiyana bandha

Mula and Uddiyana bandha
'The other two bandhas, however, should be practiced in most of the asanas, especially after exhalation. The first is mula bandha, which means "constricting of the anus" It is done after a complete exhalation. After the exhalation is over, the abhyasi (yoga student) should anchor the body in the asana he or she is in and then slowly and deliberately close the anus and draw in the rectum by contracting the perineal and surrounding muscles of the pelvic floor. Then as if in a continuous movement, the abdomen, including the navel, is drawn in, pushing up the diaphragm into the now almost empty chest cavity, which is then called uddiyana bandha ( drawing in of the diaphragm)... This technique is one of the specialities of yogic breathing" p127

Leaning forward to grab our toe we allow our head to tilt forward bring our chin down. the chin tilted down is almost the default positing in Vinyasa Krama for the beneficial effect it has in the spine. We can practice it lightly or bring the chin tighter into the breastbone for Jalandhara bandha

Jalandhara bandha
'There are three important band has. the first is jalandhara bandha, or locking the chin against the breastbone. This may be done during kumbhkas and whenever the the posture requires the chin to be locked, which is normally the case during forward bends and when keeping the back erect. In backbends and twisting postures it is not possible to do jalandhara bandha'. p127

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Is Ashtanga compatible with Vinyasa Krama?

A question that often gives me pause.


Compatible with THIS


I keep coming back to something Ramaswami wrote in his Complete Vinyasa Yoga Book.

'Ashtanga (Jois') followed a system of rapid movements strung together in a sequence, although it lacked the slow deliberate, smooth and coordinated breathing central to Krishnamacharya's method......Still, the the Patarbhi Jois system of Ashtanga yoga, which looks like gymnastics floor exercises and requires tremendous skill and power, has become very popular.' p. xvi-xv

In the passage above, I understand that the publishers were asking how Vinyasa Krama differed from Iyengar and Ashtanga, my understanding is that the above wasn't intended for publication or as a criticism of Ashtanga.

I can't help but feel Ramaswami is mistaken here  (respectfully). I think Ashtanga can apear that way and perhaps much of it's Power yoga spin off also, but practiced 'correctly' the breath is a central concern. My first self criticism looking at my Primary above (where I'm rebuilding my Ashtanga practice after a bit of a layy off) is that the breath is still unsteady, it was feeling better during practice but watching it back it's still not smooth enough. It's also seems a little rushed no? Sharath practices very quickly on his DVD (standing to finishing in an hour) but  his practice never seems hurried.

The exhalation may not be as long in Ashtanga as in VK but one is instructed to keep the inhalation and exhalation of equal length. Ashtanga also stays in each posture for five steady breaths, in Vinyasa Krama it tends to be three to six.

Ashtanga can seem ....scrappy in the beginning, often lots of panting and hyperventilating but this is one of the reasons why you get stopped at postures no? It took me a long time to accept that, I rushed through the whole practice as soon as I could in the beginning, it built my fitness up but wasn't perhaps ideal. I don't think I was practicing yoga back then.

Of course you could argue that a teacher would have told me that (many times) and  my approach to practice was a result of practicing home alone but I doubt I would have listened or taken it on board .

If we watch some of the advanced practitioners practice ashtanga, (or even some beginners) their practice seems very much in keeping with Yoga sutras 2.46

COMFORT (sukha)
SMOOTH + LONG BREATHING ( pratyatana sithila)

So IS Ashtanga compatible with Vinyasa Krama?

When practiced properly I think it can be and perhaps complimentary

....but then I would say that wouldn't I.

My Primary coming back.

I mentioned last week that I felt heavy and slow, awkward.... clumsy and frankly....old. I had to drag myself through Primary.

Practice has been getting a little better all week but tonight was the first time I felt somewhat back to normal. Still not a great practice but I felt lighter, stronger, my body less like a stranger. Still a way to go and I need to practice along with Sharaths DVD or CD again to get the timing of my vinyasa back but much encouraged.

Loving my new schedule. getting up 5;30 as usual , a short Vinyasa Krama practice, just the core elements and the days subroutine then a nice unrushed twenty to thirty minutes pranayama and forty minutes meditation, great start to the day.

In the evening I cycle home chanting away to myself on the bike, jump straight in a hot shower and then on to the mat within ten minutes for a 90 minute primary or 2nd before jumping into a hot bath.

practice was feeling so good I hit record half way through to see if it looked anywhere as good as it felt, ....not quite but getting there.

Day 26 : Ardha padmasana (half lotus) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

This subroutine follows the pattern mentioned in day 25. A 'hub' pose (pic 1), a starting position or stithy  here ardha padmasana stithi (pic 3) which is also, in this case, the key posture Ardha padmasana, a number of variations follow (pic 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9) and finally a counter pose (pic 10). What's different here are the lifts/arm balances (pic 9) and the side/lateral lift (pic 6). This subroutine when practiced on both sides gives us a full range of hip movement.

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 six (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.

The lift /Utpluthi (pic9)
Lean forward , put your hands slightly forward of your hips, engage mula and uddiyana bandha, drop your shoulders bend your elbows. Now push down through the mat lifting your body off the mat. At first you might only manage to lift your backside off the mat, your heels remaining grounded. However, keep engaging the legs for the full count of three to six breaths as this will build strength for future attempts.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Getting the arms through in Garbha Pindasna

Was making this for the Vinyasa Krama subroutine version  (doesn't have the roll or rock up into kukkutasana, was going to edit out that bit) but thought it wouldn't go amiss here with winter pretty much here and us struggling to get our arms through of a morning.

Noticed yesterday that I push my arms through at an angle, hadn't really struck me before that that's how I approach it. Might be useful if your working at it and trying to shove your arms through straight. hope it makes some sense

Have to turn the sound up all the way as the camera struggles to pick up my riveting narrative.

I'm pretty sweaty here as it was shot after a primary practice, a water spray is handy to have near the mat this time of year, to spray the arms and legs

Day 25 : Marchi (after the sage) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

This subroutine forms a pattern that we find in many of the subroutines. A 'hub' pose (pic 1) a starting position or stithi, here Marichiyasana stithi, the key posture, Marichyasana (pic 4), a number of variations (pic 5, 6 and 7) and finally a counter pose (pic8).

We have the option of practising the whole sequence on one side, the left say and then the right or if we are doing a number of Asymmetric subroutines we might practice all of them on one side before moving on to the other.

There are some other marchi vinyasas and that come up later in the Asymmetric series under Hybrid asymmetric vinyasas. These could be added to this subroutine before the counter pose if we were only including this subroutine in our practice.

Picture 10, Ardha matsyendrasana is not really part of the marchi although it differs from the marchi variation in Picture 7 only by the crossing of the leg and doesn't seem out of place here as an extension or development of the marchi sequence. It appears again at the end of the Asymmetric sequence with the more challenging full kingfisher pose, purna matsyendrasana.

There are a few other postures that I've encountered in the advanced Ashtanga series that don't appear in Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama book, it's interesting to see where they might be best placed as a development and extension of a subroutine just as ardha matsyendrasana is here.

Remember to lift up and out of the pelvis in preparation for the forward bends. The stretching of the arms overhead in Dandasana should remind us of tadasana.

The tibia (inner shin bone) is kept upright, try to avoid turning it inwards or outwards.

There is a subtle twist at the hips as we bend over the outstretched leg.

The chin is down in a light to strong jaladhara bandha, we aim to bring the forehead to the knee or beyond in vinyasa krama.

We stay in each stage for at least three breaths.

The breaths are long, slow, steady, smooth, aim for five second inhalations but try to extend the exhalations.

As with the standing march we squeeze more air out of the lung by tightening the bind on each exhalation.

As you swing the arm around the knee think of putting on a coat the dipping of the shoulder forward as you reach around, half rotating your arm to get further around the knee.

As you settle into the bind, roll your sit bone over the muscle, once over you become more stable and feel less likely to fall backwards.

Engage the bandhas, mula will ground you providing more stability, sucking in your belly in uddiyana bandha will give you more room for the forward bend.

In the counterpose (pratikriya) ground the toes and really push the hips up on each breath, well be seeing more of these hip lifts in the supine subroutines.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

My Practice... like a ridiculous Mexican Soap Opera

I think it was Claudia who mentioned in a comment that watching me go back and forth between Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama was like watching a Mexican Soap Opera.

UPDATE: My mistake it was Megan of Damn Good Yoga on my mysore soap post who mentioned the Mexican soap opera not Claudia.

"Hehe, witnessing your relationship (or lack thereof) with Ashtanga is like watching a Mexican soap opera. I know Vinyasa Krama will treat you right, but I can't help but root for crusty old Ashtanga to win your heart in the end. ;)"

My apologies....and to Claudia too.

I thought I'd look back through my previous blog post list and see........she may have a point.

Was fun to look through these though and see how my practice developed over the last four and a half years, bit embarrassed at the switching back and forth but here it is in all it's ridiculous operatic soapiness.

And my current practice? A short core vinyasa Krama practice in the morning with extended pranayama and meditation and then in the evening as soon as i get in from work, a fast full on Primary or 2nd.

but next week.........

Started Yoga (Ashtanga) March 2007
Switched to the Rocket for a couple of months from December 2007
Started blogging about it July 2008
First 'proper' jump back Nov 2008
Began 2nd series Dec 2008
First drop back into Kapotanasana Jan 09
Started work on karandavasana  Jan 09
First drop back Jan 09
First time coming back up mar 09
First time coming back up fro Kapotasana Mar 09
First Dwi pada Sirsasana Mar 2009
Richard Freeman 14 day Coming up from karandavasana challenge
First unassisted Supta vajrasana Apr 09
Ramaswami's complete book of Vinyasa yoga Arrives (review) June 09
First Vinyasa krama practice June 09
Exploring 3rd Series
Finally coming up from karandavasana June 09
First karandavasana exit July 2009
Switch to Vinyasa krama Aug 09
Torn between two lovers (ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama) Sept 09
Trying to have my cake and eat it Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama Sept 09
Back to Ashtanga ( but Full Vinyasa ) Sept 09
Back to 3rd Nov 09
Flirting with Iyengar Jan 10
Back to Vinyasa Krama  Feb10
Back to Ashtanga Mar 2010
Sniffing at Sivananda Apr 10
Ashtanga AND Vinyasa Krama Apr 10
Ashtanga epiphany Apr 10
First grabbing heels from air in kapo Apr 10
Vinyasa Krama TT prep may 10
Attending ramaswami's Vinyasa krama Teacher training July 10
Back to Ashtanga Primary to 3rd Sept 10
Ashtanga AND Vinyasa Krama Sept 10
Ashtanga rebuilding the discipline Nov 10
Ashtanga is who i am Vinyasa krama who I'd like to be Nov 10
Advanced A Nov10
Achieving balance Dec 10
4th Series Jan 11
Injury: Vinyasa krama modified Ashtanga Feb 11
Advanced A and B Mar 11
Back to basics primary with Sharath month Apr 11
Born again Ashtangi may 11
Towards tic tac May 11
Vinyasa krama is the new 3rd may 11
Ashtanga's Siren song June 11
108 drop backs June 11
Lotus jump through June 11
Clearly I love asana June 11
4th series as a series July 11
Holiday practice back to Vinyasa Krama July 11
Ashtanga AND vinyasa Krama (back to 2nd) Aug 11
My Vinyasa Yoga practice book Sept 11
Subroutine practice notes series Oct 11
Ashamed Oct 11

Truth be told it seems to have settled down, making room for both Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama, what's new perhaps is taking them as they are and not trying to turn one into the other.

Old video: Sharath performs Prasarita Padottanasana 'subroutine' for his Grandfather

Looks like this is from an old TV show, wonder if there's any more on the way.

Day 24 : Dandasana (Staff pose) lead in, subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama Asymmetric sequence

The lead in to Dandasana above includes the challenging jump through the arms to seated, below is a simplified version of the lead in where we enter dandasana from utkatasana (full squat) I've included it at the end of the video.


Dandasana is an important 'hub' pose of all the seated asana, as such I sometimes like to explore the posture a little by borrowing the hand/arm vinyasas from the On your feet subroutines.

It's good to keep the 'On your feet' subroutines in mind with the seated postures, we have the same lifting up and stretching out of the pelvis that we stress in tadasana. The chin trends to be down as is the gaze and in the upcoming forward bends we bend from the hip pushing our buttocks back so want to be sitting forward on our sit bones in Dandasana.

Jump through
The jump through is challenging. One of the best ways to learn it is, from downward facing dog, to jump/hop to just behind our arms landing with our feet slightly crossed, then with our knees bent shuffle through our arms and sit down. Engage the arms all the time in preparation for taking all the weight of the body when progressing to the full jump through. We should also aim to engage mula and uddiyana bandha as this will help to give is some lift.

In the practice Book I include screenshots ten different kinds of jump through and jump back, they can also be found HERE and can be seen on the Video link below the poster.

Below is the legs uncrossed jump through that Ramaswami recommends, it comes towards the end of the video.

I find the above approach to the jump back very challenging and tend to stick with the crossed leg version I'm most familiar with. Here though is a link to a video of my friend Chris from Ramaswami's 2010 Vinyasa krama teacher training course we both attended

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Day 23 : On one leg subroutine breakdown sheet

Day 17 Vinyasa Krama subroutine practice notes : Vrikrmasana ( tree pose )subroutine On one leg sequence

I tend to practice One leg postures at the beginning of my practice along with the other standing poses in the Triangle and Tadasana subroutines but this may be the influence of Ashtanga, force of habit. I try to mix up the subroutines Standing marchi one day, the one legged virabhadrasana another, Again, with my Ashtanga background I tend to practice the bound vrikmasana and Utthita para paschimnottanasana postures daily but will turn one of them into it's Vinyasa Krama subroutine, squatting in the one posture one day the other the next.

I tend to practice Natarjasana as part of a group of back bending subroutines, Bow and Meditative with eka pada raja kapotasana as preparation for the subroutine.

I practice the standing leg behind head as part of other leg behind head subroutines, usually those from the Asymmetric series.

To recap 

Ramaswami refers to the On one leg series as tapas (heat) or austerity postures.

One legged postures build strength in the legs, protecting the knees by strengthening the muscles above and below. However, while building up those muscles the knee is at risk in the one legged squats, especially coming back up so caution is advised.

Quietening the mind
No other postures seem to quieten the mind as much as balancing on one leg postures, if your having a sever attack of monkey mind one morning a One leg subroutine might be just the thing.

Balance can be improved by fixing the gaze on one point. In most postures in the On one leg sequence the chin is down as is the gaze.

Slowing and regulating the breath can help with balance as well, make your ujjayi a little stronger a little more forceful by tightening the throat, the glottis a little more.

Engaging the bandhas (see practice guidelines  DAY 1), drawing up the anus and sucking in and up the belly but not too strongly which might send you off balance.

Gripping the mat with the standing foot as if trying to make fist, pushing down with the heels and big toe while drawing up the instep can also improve stability.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Day 22 : Natarjasana (dancing Shiva) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

I still find some backbend preparation helpful before attempting Natarjasana. I tend to do some of the Bow postures and perhaps Kapotasana from meditative and even Eka pada raja kapotasana below to prepare myself for bringing the elbow out and around.

One of the difficulties with Natarjasana as with Eka pada raja kapotasana is the grip on the foot. Here it is at full speed and then in slow motion.

....and some screen shots.

1. Lift your leg up behind you bending the knee and bringing your heel towards your buttock but turn the foot outwards. Rest the back of your hand against the outside of your ankle.

2. Turn your hand palm outwards and take hold of the top of your foot.

3. Rotate your elbow outwards and your bring the foot up. At this point you'll need to begin the backbend to make the space for the elbow to come out and the shoulder rotate. 

4. Stretch up out of your hips, tilt the pelvis down and begin to arch the back as if you were preparing to drop back into urdhva danhurasana, continue to bring the elbow out and over to end up above your shoulder.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Day 21 : Durvasana ( named after a sage ) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

Standing leg behind head, it's perhaps a good time to mention that we don't have to practice the subroutines consecutively, nor are we expected to be able to do all of them. A Leg behind head posture comes up here, in the one leg sequence, but It may be a good idea to work towards the posture in the Asymmetric sequence or Supine where it also appears. The leg behind head subroutines in those sequences include more preparation than here too.

If your already able to put your leg behind your head comfortably and want to try it standing with this subroutine it's probably a good idea to make sure your sufficiently warmed up and stretched out. The Utkatasana is a good place to start for the work on the hips, uttanasana for the forward bend and I highly recommend the Uthita padangusthasana and especially the standing marchi subroutines. The standing marchi will do a good job of pushing your hip back.

For leg behind head postures in general I made a video recently on approaching the posture in Vinyasa Karma. In the video I approach the standing LBH from seated, putting the leg behind my head and then moving into the LBH forward bend Skandasana or Richikasana. Here's the link

To get the leg behind the head in standing you want to bend forward, take the leg over above your elbow, push the hip  back ( why standing marchi is useful prep) and take the foot over and around your head dipping your head in at the same time. 

Shuffle the foot a little further behind with your shoulder, you want to have your leg far enough around that the foot isn't pushing too strongly on your neck.

Next it's case of straightening up although your always likely to be a little stooped...unless your nine. one way is to walk the hands up the leg but that's a bit of a cheat, better is to stretch out of your hips just as we've been doing in the On your feet sequences and keeping your back strong.

It's advisable perhaps. to have done some work on back bending postures to make your back stronger before moving on to leg behind head postures.

One more thing that I remembered practicing this earlier, I think we tend to be afraid of falling out of this and landing awkwardly and painfully with our leg still behind our head. I've stumbled in this a couple of times, this evening included and always the leg pops back from behind the leg neatly giving you time to stop yourself falling. It's tricky, can take a couple of attempts if you haven't practiced it for a while or if it's your first time.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Friday, 21 October 2011


OK that's putting it a bit strong, slightly miffed with myself perhaps.

Practice (primary) was hard going last night, at first I started to put it down to the stiffness I've been feeling lately but then I realised that along with that I just feel heavy and slow and awkward.

I thought OK I haven't practiced Ashtanga for a bit, bound to take a while to get back into it but then I checked my practice diary, fifteen mornings practicing ashtanga in the last month as well as the usual Vinyasa karma practice.

I haven't been practicing Ashtanga everyday though, some of the Vinyasa Krama practices have been quite light as I've worked on the book and focused on perhaps just the one Subroutine and it's prep  (had skipped my evening practice to write the days subroutine up too).

Ashtanga is very good at giving structure and discipline to the rest of your life, I've lacked that you have to do more of the work, stay focused more in vinyasa karma, easy to let things slip.

So on thinking about it I've eaten a lot of crap, lots of biscuits floating around at work at the moment, I've had a cheese and onion malted granary fetish lately too, so big lunch on top of the junk. And eating in the evening too, usually I only eat breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner but recently I've been eating a lot three times a day. I usually water down my wine, like they do for kids in Italy, a quarter glass of wine topped up with mineral water but Pinot noir ( my favourite grape) has been on offer and I've had a couple of straight glasses of that of an evening. Sake at the weekend with a little too generous servings of Japanese food, a martini..... few too many Cinnamon and raisin cookies in bed with the Sunday papers......

OK, not horrendous perhaps but I tended to be very disciplined in my eating, a light breakfast and lunch or dinner, no alcohol, no snacking and a full on practice....or two.

No wonder I felt heavy

and slow

and awkward.

Hopefully back on track now though, getting up early still but for the light, shorter VK practice with more time for extended pranayama and meditation. Jump on the mat for a Full Ashtanga practice as soon as I get in at six and then finish off writing up the subroutine post before going up to Nietszche ( my Chinchilla who's feeling the cold too at the moment, spending most of the evening buried down between my ankles under a blanket, heaven for him but extreme tapas for me as I can't move). Cut out the crap and eat a little better from today, thank you Ashtanga for the reminder..... 'though by now, I shouldn't need one, bad yogi.

Day 20 : Virabhadrasana (warrior) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

This is the similar to the final vinyasas of the virabhadrasana subroutine from the triangle sequnece


We aim to stay in each position for three long steady breaths.

Ramaswami has us bend our knees slightly and lower the trunk, then from the bent leg position we raise the leg

As with parsva konasana the raising of the leg comes from the hip

Keep the standing leg bent as you stretch out the leg and arms

Visualise a rope on you wrist and on your raised ankle stretching you.

Now straighten the leg on the inhalation 

Focus on bandhas to help keep your steady and fix your gaze on a point on the mat.

Again, to raise the leg higher for the final position, raise from the hip.

As with Day 12, Utthita parsva konasana, we need to protect our knee as we straighten and bend the leg

Use the back of a chair in the beginning  if necessary,

Don't go down too low at first.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Openings and what to do with them Plus Morning stiffness

Trying to explain an 'Opening' to ones workmates who don't practice yoga is...... tricky.

Workmate 1 : "Why are you hobbling"
Me: " I had an opening"
Workmate 2 "What's an opening?"
Me: "It's when in your practice, something shifts in your body allowing you to get deeper into the posture"
Workmate 3 "Shifts?"
Me: Yeah, "In  my case, this morning I was in badha konasana, where my hips are open like a butterfly so my feet are together my knees on the mat then i started to turn my legs inside out and I felt something like my leg joint popping out of the hip socket....that kind of thing".
Workmate 1 "You dislocated your hip?"
Me "No, I experienced an opening?"
Workmate 3 " Sorry, I thought yoga was supposed to be good for you"
Me : "(hobbling off) it is, never felt better".

OK I'm not convinced either. So badha konasana week before last, knees to the mat, nice and comfortable, then as is my habit a half serious attempt at kandasana, of bringing my feet up towards my belly.... It felt good my knees coming further around and down. So I decided on another go and then felt something in my right hip joint, felt as if the ball was coming out of the socket. Hmm that can't be good, backed off did gomukhasana which I kind of use as a counterpose. Everything seemed to be moving OK but my hip felt loose...less connected, open..... Ahhh an opening thinks I, is this what everybody is going on about.

My hip felt a little uncomfortable afterwards, not exactly sore but I was cautious about putting weight on it so was hobbling a bit thus the conversation at work that morning.

Now I'm not convinced about openings, when your read about the tearing and wrenching of joints and ligaments in the back and hip and shoulders ( in the Guruji book for instance) I, like my workmates, tend to think it's just a tearing and wrenching of hips and ligaments.

But what if this was an opening. Now what? What does one do. Jump straight back in there and give the posture another go? If you leave it to settle down for a couple of days does the opening close back up again?

I went for the later option and took it easy in my practice for a few days, avoided hip openers for a week.  This week I'm back to regular practice and my badha konasana open like a well read passage in a cheap paperback. Hip feels fine, perhaps a little more open, can't decide. perhaps it's time to give kandasana another try and see.

Stiffness in the mornings.

My back has been playing up in the mornings, really stiff and painful, practice just no fun. It's getting colder, old injury ( twenty years odd)  playing up, tends to do that in the colder weather. Left knee is stiff too, another old injury.

So a new approach to practice.

I'm back practicing full Ashtanga Primary in the evening as soon as I get in from work, want to generate as much heat as possible, then the back is fine. So deep forward bends, shoulders on the mat in Kurmasana and a nice tight dwi pada entry to Supta Kumasana, long, deep paschi, nailing all the march wrist binds and no problem with my drop backs.

Practice a pleasure again.

In the mornings I'm getting up 5:30 same as usual, a nice tadasana and Vinyasa Karma core postures, gentle paschi with a tatakamudra warm up, some of the spinal postures from Ramaswami's newsletter before Shoulderstand and headstand. Plus I'm slipping in whatever subroutine I'm writing on that day (unless it's a tough one then I'll slip it into the evenings primary). A shorter asana practice, about an hour.

After practice a longer Pranayama session , half an hour and more time for Meditation, 40 minutes ( japa mantra followed by Vipassana ).

Day 19 : Utthita Padangushtasana (stretched leg-arm) subroutine practice notes from Vinyasa Krama On one leg sequence

My own Bête Noire of a subroutine, pure tapas.

Some discrepancies between the book and video. There are two main approaches to uttita padangustasana, one is to bring the knee to the chest and then straighten the leg out in front of you as I do in the video. The other approach and the one, the one I use now is the same as in Ramaswamis book, raise the leg straight up in front of you and then take hold of the big toe.

I noticed Ramaswami has us raise the leg on the exhalation, I've always done it on the inhalation, I tried it his way this morning and I think I like it, it feels more controlled, focused.

In every stage we should aim to stay for three long, smooth breathes.


Ground your standing foot, from the big toe to the heel.

Ramaswami recommends engaging the bandhas, see guidelines Day One, basically, draw up the anus and suck in and raise the belly at the end of the exhalations and hold. 

Uddiyana bandha seems particularly effective for keeping the leg raised, really suck the belly in and up into the ribcage as much as possible while holding the leg out straight.

Sucking the belly in will also give you more room for folding over your leg.

When folding forward to bring your forehead to the knee, push the hip/buttock back, remember your uttanasana.

Lift up the buttock of the raised leg, I visualise that it's supported on some kind of Subway standing lean/seat

Don't drop the pelvis when swinging the leg around to the side

The squat is on the long slow exhalation, strong ujjayi will give more control

I find the squat here the easiest of the one legged squats, the outstretched leg with the foot held seems to give you more control as you lower. 

Folding over your leg in the squat imagine a rope attached to you foot and another to your hips and that your being stretched outward, your still wanting to be pushing your backside out in this forward bend.

To come up engage the bandhas strongly, press through the mat, raise up slowly with the inhalation. 

Coming up from these one legged squats is where you'll start to think there may be something to bandha work after all.

This is an intense hamstring stretch and forward bend so make sure you are nicely warmed up. The utkatasana and uttanasana half and full subroutines from the On your feet sequence would be one way to go or perhaps the Utthita parsvottanasana. The latter is an intense hamstring stretch itself but it's possible to work into the stretch in that subroutine.

Work up to the squat, lowering a little way and then coming back up perhaps on the breath. if your wobbling and swaying too much don't try to lower all the way or you risk spraining an ankle.

NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.

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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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