This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice as well as most of my practice videos in YouTube, other than those linked to my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book).

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Practicing Pratyahara - 10 techniques


Krishnamacharya Shanmukha / sat mukhi mudra - Pratyahara


“Ṣat Mukhi Mudrā –A means to ‘Listen’ to the Space within the Heart.”

Q: What must form an essential part of a person’s daily practice?
A: A minimum of ten minutes in Antaḥ Trāṭakam, Ṣat Mukhī Mudrā or Mahā Mudrā is essential.
– Śrī Krishnamacharya – The Pūrnācārya – published by the KYM in 1997

Note: Ramaswami would have us practice this for five minutes after pranayama


below from Hatha Yoga Pradipka chapter 4
मुक्तासने सथितो योगी मुद्रां सन्धाय शाम्भवीम |
शॄणुयाद्दक्ष्हिणे कर्णे नादमन्तास्थमेकधीः || ६७ ||

muktāsane sthito yoghī mudrāṃ sandhāya śāmbhavīm |
śṝṇuyāddakṣhiṇe karṇe nādamantāsthamekadhīḥ || 67 ||

Sitting with Mukta Âsana and with the Sâmbhavî Madill, the Yogî should hear the sound inside his right ear, with collected mind. 67.

शरवण-पुट-नयन-युगल
घराण-मुखानां निरोधनं कार्यम |
शुद्ध-सुष्हुम्णा-सरणौ
सफुटममलः शरूयते नादः || ६८ ||

śravaṇa-puṭa-nayana-yughala
ghrāṇa-mukhānāṃ nirodhanaṃ kāryam |
śuddha-suṣhumṇā-saraṇau
sphuṭamamalaḥ śrūyate nādaḥ || 68 ||

The ears, the eyes, the nose, and the mouth should be closed and then the clear sound is heard in the passage of the Suṣumnâ which has been cleansed of all its impurities.


*

Off work for a couple of days with a medial calf strain, this is sometimes referred to as 'tennis leg'

Tennis leg’ is an incomplete rupture of the inside of the calf muscle (figure 1). It is a typical tennis injury that often occurs in players in the 35 to 50 age group. This muscle injury may occur as a result of a sudden contraction of the calf muscles, for instance during a sprint. Symptoms are a sudden, sharp or burning pain in the leg, sometimes accompanied by an audible sound. In most cases, the player is unable to continue play because of the severe pain. Depending on the severity of the injury, recovery may take between a few days and six weeks'.

Here's a very (very ) slim argument against Mark Singleton's Yoga Body...

Tennis leg is NOT a yoga injury, run thorough a practice in your mind, can you think of any posture any movement where you're at risk of tennis leg (if you can then your probably doing it wrong).  'A sudden contraction of the calf muscles'? No, of course notwe don't do sudden. That's where the similarity between western gymnastics and Krishnamacharya's asana practice falls down.

OK, said it was a slim argument ( a very slim argument )but it came to mind after I pulled the muscle suddenly, deciding to run up a hill ( was a little late and had a flat so no bike) and while hobbling the rest of the way to work Thursday.

I actually really liked Mark's book and highly recommend it, don't think I agree with some of his conclusions but that's no reason for not recommending it, it's a great read and will challenge some of your assumptions and force you to think them through, always good.

Here's an interesting discourse between Ramaswami and Mark Singleton.

------------------------------------

So I'm at home and haven't had a decent practice since Wednesday evening. I tried modifying practice, (some light on your feet seated and supine) but my heart hasn't been in it. I missed practice Thursday morning making up the practice sheets for the Yogasanagalu practice (that's why I was running late) and was looking forward to practicing it when I got home and over the weekend.

Still there's pranayama (second part of Richard Freeman's on line pranayama course -more to come on that soon) and pratyahara.

With time to spare I decided to reread the Yogayajnavalkya Samhita, this is probably the second most important text on Yoga, (no not the HYP, that's a relative newcomer, Yogayajnavalkya is old school, it's where HYP gets all it's good stuff from) not as old as Patanjali's Yoga sutras but not far off. Yajnavalkya also wrote one of the ten major Upanishads, the Bruhadarankya Upanishad, it includes one of the most famous peace chants

oṁ asato mā sad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṁ gamaya
oṁ śānti śānti śāntiḥ – bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣad 1.3.28

Lead Us From the Unreal To the Real,
Lead Us From Darkness To Light,
Lead Us From Death To Immortality,
Let There Be Peace Peace Peace. – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28.



PRACTICING PRATYAHARA


Anyway, I'd forgotten but Yogayajnavalkya Samhita has one of the best treatments of pratyahara I've come across. I've tended to think of pratyahara as the Cinderella limb of Ashtanga, so often neglected, overlooked and yet I've always suspected it should be given more attention but how.....

Technique1. Shanmukhi mudra/ Yoni mudra  (sealing the senses)
Ramaswami taught us to practice pratyahara using Shanmukhi mudra (sealing the senses ) thumb closing the ears, first and index fingers lightly on the eyelids, third fingers resting gently on the sides of the nose and the pinky on the corner of the mouth. Apart from the thumbs the fingers are just a gesture, your not pressing into your eyes or nose.

So after your pranayama practice you take up Shanmukhi mudra and withdraw the sense for five to ten minutes.

Technique 2 (nada yoga)
Researching it recently I came across linking pratyahara with nada yoga (yoga of sound), withdrawing the senses inward and picking up and then focussing on an internal sound, that might be your heartbeat, a hum, ringing, whatever the sound that's most subtle, for me it's a hum.

The Yogayajnavalkya Samhita and Pratyahara/pranayama techniques.

http://shrifreedom.org/yogapratyahara.shtml

The first couple of techniques use the marman points, this is a little like Yoga Nidra, if your familiar with it, where you shift your attention slowly from your toes to your fingertips to the top of your head.

You might have tried something similar if your having trouble sleeping, tense the big toe for a moment then relax it, move on to the other toes and the the foot, the ankle, the lower leg.... there's probably more but I usually drop off to sleep by the time I get to the knees.

The Marma points are supposed to be little energy or nerve centres centres.

The yogayajnavalky links these with pranayama you exhale practice breath retention, and then move the prana from one point to the next.

Technique 3.
Focus the prana at the ankle and then shift it from one point to the next up to your forehead.

Technique 4.
Focus the prana at the forehead, between the eyebrows and mentally move it from one point to the next down to your ankle.

Technique 5
This is interesting, came across it by accident, it's an article on the indian martial art Marma Shastra that uses pressure points or the marma's to inflict pain or injury (reminds me a little of my old Aikido/Aki-jitsu days).


Marma Shastra Meditation
Marma knowledge is the mother of all Chi/Prana information. The martial arts aspect of this ancient knowledge, going back to the beginning of the fifth root race, has been said to be more lethal than far eastern martial arts. What is known is that the cleansing and energizing of the marmas results in more physical, emotional and mental poise with a more sonorous voice. Eso- terically, when energized on the Tantric and non-dual paths, the marmas can act much like the mitochondria of the cells and that they are focal points of power. Ashramically, the disciple (once enough of the samskaras are transformed and transpersonal Love, the soul Love of presence) can receive real help and direction in service. The energies can be both outgoing and ingoing, in other words, the inbreathing of energies through the marmas can provide very accurate information to the ashram. This oper- ates analogously to digital information.

Traditionally, there are 107 marma points in the body with the 108th being at region of the brahmarandra.

The marma points can be energized for purposes of healing. There is a way of applying healing to another via their marma points. It is not until the dis- ciple has been sufficiently cleared of the samskaras, and enough time in consecrated service that the hierarchical functioning begins to impact the life.

Below we have presented a form of meditation and Pratyahara using marma points according to this yogic teaching, as Vasishta Samhita states,

“One should practice concentration by drawing one’s Prana by the power of attention from each of these marma regions.”

To do this, practice the following method carefully, using inhalation and exhalation at each marma region, much like flexing and relaxing of the muscles. It is important to prepare by following the breath foce, and doing the following through any awareness practice through the sense of presence.

1. Direct your attention to your toes. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
2. Move your attention to your ankles. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize (intend or feel) this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
3. Move your attention to the middle of your calves. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
4. Move your attention to the base of your knees. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
5. Move your attention to the middle of your knees. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
6. Move your energy to the middle of your thighs. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
7. Move your energy to the root of your anus. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
8. Move your energy to the middle of your hips. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
9. Move your energy to the root of your urethra. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
10. Move your energy to your navel. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
11. Move your energy to your heart. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
12. Move your energy to the root of your throat. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
13. Move your attention to the root of your tongue. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
14. Move your attention to the root of your nose. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
15. Move your attention to your eyes. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
16. Move your attention to the point between your brows. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
17. Move your attention to the middle of your forehead. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visu- alize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.
18. Move your attention to the top of the head. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Visualize this region of your body energized, healed and relaxed.

In this practice one concentrates both mind and Prana in each of these regions starting with the feet. Gather your attention from one marma region to another like climbing a series of steps from the bottom of the body to the top of the body. Finally, you can hold your awareness at the top of the head in the space of the Supreme Self beyond birth and death and all suffering. However, you can also direct your breath and attention to any of these marma sites to heal that area or for specific therapeutic purposes.'
from Sevanti Wellness

Pratyahara/meditation techniques

Technique 6. - Candle flame
Download your candle app from iTunes (or if you can still find a shop that still sells them buy a real one).
Stare at the candle flame for a minute or so, close your eyes and focus on the image of the flame, holding it in the minds eye until it fades. Repeat

Technique 7.
Same as above but choose an icon of a deity

Techniques 8
Choose any strong visual impression, now you could use a memory but I think the idea is to withdraw the senses from 'something actual' to it's image in the mind.

So, sit in front of a tree and use the same technique as with the candle, or look up at a blue sky, stare at the ocean, a pebble, a tree stump ( no not a tree stump, conjures up too many ideas of death, for the same reason avoid cherry blossom, we don't want to withdraw our senses only to end up with our mids getting all philosophical).

Technique 9  - Charles MacInerney's Sense Withdrawal 
I came across this one a couple of years back, practiced it for a while and then forgot about it.

'I recommend you begin the practice of sense withdrawal by focusing on sounds. With eyes closed, covered, or lights turned out, listen to all the sounds in your environment. Of all the sounds you can hear, choose to focus on the most subtle. As you improve your ability to focus your mind, the most subtle sound will become louder, and louder. Then ask yourself, is there a more subtler sound beneath the one you are focusing on. Shift your attention to this new sound until it becomes louder.

This is the most important aspect of this practice... do not attempt to "not hear" the louder sounds. Let them come and go. They are of no consequence. Stay focused on the most subtle. As you step back further and further along this chain of sounds you eventually hear your own breathing, beneath that perhaps your heart, beneath that... eventually you are hearing imaginary sounds, sounds of consciousness. Of all of these imaginary sounds, which is the most subtle? Focus on that. Eventually they say that you hear the sound of creation. The echo left over from the big bang, and when asked what does that sound like the sages would reply AAAUUUMMM.... AAAUUUMMM.... AAAUUUMMM'.

Technique 10 - OM
This last one I remember reading about somewhere but can't find the link.

I dismissed it at the time as I wasn't comfortable, Bhagavan Das has changed my thinking on that now and I'm all for big powerful AUM'ing


The idea is to chant Om/Aum nice and loud and long with good vibration. As your OM trails off there's a point where there's no actual sound but you can still kind of hear it the OM in your head, focus on that, allow it perhaps to get louder but don't force it don't engage with it just allow it to happen kind of how that irritating Trololo song seems to get louder and louder in your head until it's all you can hear.

You could use the fella's smile for technique 8. too.


Which technique do I practice? 
The one Ramaswami taught me,  Technique 1. Shanmukhi mudra/ Yoni mudra  (sealing the senses) is my bread and butter pratyahara, five minutes at least between pranayama and meditation but if I have a little extra time I work on Technique 2. nada yoga/pratyahara and recently Technique 10 - OM but in the evenings when M. is out.

Sadly I seem to be practicing the Trololo version half the day while at work.

6 comments:

  1. Re: Tennis leg is NOT a yoga injury, run thorough a practice in your mind, can you think of any posture any movement where you're at risk of tennis leg (if you can then your probably doing it wrong).

    In fact, a few weeks ago while practicing the vinyasakrama Tadasana sequence, I rather over-vigorously stood in Tadasana on my tip-toes. Soon thereafter I felt a dull pain in my right calf that persisted for several days. Fortunately it went away quickly, as it was not as sudden a movement as your uphill sprint; but yes, it was an injury I brought on myself from standing tip-toe in Tadasana on cold muscles. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. ' I rather over-vigorously stood in Tadasana on my tip-toes'

    I think the idea is to ever so ever so slowly rise up onto your tip-toes with the breath and we're talking Vinyasa krama breathing here a 5-10 second inhalation , ending so lifting up onto the toes as slowly as possible, same goes for lowering (even slower exhalation).....still, said it was the slimest of arguments.
    Hope your's is feeling OK by now...vigorous Vinyasa Krama (shakes head : )

    ReplyDelete
  3. So glad I found your blog. Attention to Marma in yoga seems to be a rare thing. If you want more information, there are hints in Shadow Yoga, Chaya Yoga by Shandor Remete (there is a kindle edition). Taking courses from him was the first I'd heard of it.

    David

    ReplyDelete
  4. indeed, but vigorous only in that I remained poised on tip toe for perhaps too long. entry in and out of was smooth and slow. best!

    ReplyDelete
  5. thank you David will look into it, just checked out the website, something interesting there about using the energy of the legs to move them into position without relying on the hands, like that. My friend Susan mentioned it once, said it was very very tough on the legs, lots of squatting and twisting. Marma points don't seem a million miles away from the pressure points we used in Aikido, quite open to the idea.

    My apologies Anon, was confused by the use of vigorous, guess I'll have to avoid going up on the toes for a while, shame it's one of my favourite parts of tadasana.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very, very interesting post. Sorry to hear about the calf. I have also been re-reading chapter 9 of Singleton and he did do a great job, however some of his conclusions make me uneasy. But, nevertheless he definitelly went the extra mile on his research, he found students of the time of the palace to talk to him, he lookeda t the palace records, it is a great thing to read about...

    You know how much I like lists, this one is a keeper!

    ReplyDelete

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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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