The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Evolution of, and influences on, a practice


Another excuse to show off the new Halogen fire that's transformed winter home practice

I though it might be an idea to lay out what's becoming a standard morning practice (from this morning in fact) but showing the influences that have resulted in it evolving as it has, in case anyone else is stumbling along in a similar direction.

Questions along the way have been

How to practice/incoporate ...well, everything?
How to develop a more integrated practice?
How to practice when you slow the breathing down, slower, slower and slower still?
How to practice when you include longer stays?
How do you choose what remains and what is omitted?
What do you sacrifice when you have less time, asana,  part of the sequence or the pranayama, the meditation?
How do you structure your pranayama practice around your asana practice?
How do we approach the Primary, intermediate and Advanced asana as groups rather than series or sequence (Yogasanagalu)

I still consider my practice to be Ashtanga.

I like to think of it as 'original Ashtanga' though ( but perhaps Slow Ashtanga is less provocative), with the long slow inhalations and exhalations,  longer stays and including appropriate kumbhaka (breath retention).

Because of the slowness of the breath, long stays etc. time constraints lead me to cut out postures from the regular Ashtanga sequence. I still cover though the essential key asana mentioned by Krishnamacharya/Jois/ Ramaswami

Sirsasana (headstand ) vinyasa's -from Krishnamacharya YM2 /Ramaswami


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Patanjali prayer - from Ramaswami

Pre practice pranayama - from T.K.SRIBHASHYAM

UJJAYI ANULOMA:
Inhalation (PURAKA) through both nostrils in UJJAYI,
Exhalation (RECHAKA) through Left Nostril, without ujjayi,
Inhalation through both nostrils in Ujjayi, and
Exhalation through the Right Nostril, without Ujjayi.
These two breaths making one Cycle of Ujjayi Anuloma.
6 rounds

UJJAYI VILOMA:
Inhale through the Left Nostril, without using Ujjayi,
Exhale through Ujjayi, with both the nostrils open.
Inhale, again through the Right Nostril, without using Ujjayi, and
Exhale through Ujjayi, with both the nostrils open.
This forms one Cycle.
6rounds

Asana practice with mantra - from.... well me.
(mentally chanted on inhalation and exhalation focussed at the heart and linked to the breath)
either Jesus prayer

"Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" (takes me 8 seconds to repeat...5 in marichi D)

or loving kindness prayer

"May I/you/we/they be safe. May I/you/we/they be well
May I/you/we/they be peaceful. May I/you/we/they be happy".
(takes me ten seconds to repeat)

I tend to start with the loving kindness prayer through standing and finishing, repeated on both the inhalation and exhalation (takes about ten seconds each) and the Jesus prayer through the central part of the practice (takes around eight seconds each).

Warm up short 5 min Tadasana sequence - from Ramaswami

Sunsalutations A and B - from Ashtanga

BUT practiced as individulal asana, 3-5 breaths  in each stage of the Sury's with short kumbakhas - from Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda ( original). Occasionally I practice the suryanamaskara with mantras.

A couple of extra Sury A's and B's - from regular Ashtanga

Ashtanga Standing sequence -from Krishnamachrya and Jois

Focus on long slow inhalations and exhalations of 8-10 seconds each - from Krishnamacharya and Jois

Due to time constraints I need to trim down the Standing sequence, practicing some asana one day, those I miss those I miss I practice the next day or the next ( always include trikonasana).- from *Arturo

Primary or Intermediate group/sequence -from Krishnamacharya and Jois

Again trimmed down due to the length and slowness of the breath, working through all of primary and intermediate over a week - from Arturo

Working through the Primary and Intermediate asana as Subroutines - from Ramaswami.
Often this will be the same as the subroutines found in regular Ashtanga ( the marichi's for example)

Employing Vinyasa Krama to add postures as more preparation or as extension into more advanced postures- from Ramaswami.

Finishing

Urdhava Dahanurasana and dropbacks - from Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga

Shoulderstand prep - from Ramaswami

Long Sarvangasana (shoulder stand ) - from Krishnamacharya ( Yoga Makaranda 2) and Ramaswami

Long headstand with vinyasas - from Krishnamacharya ( Yoga Makaranda 2) and Ramaswami

from Iyengar

Halasana and shoulder stand variations - from Jois Ashtanga

Maha mudra and badha konasana - from Krishnamacharya and Ramaswami

Badha padmasana/ yoga mudra - from krishnamacharya/Jois/Ramaswami

Pranayama - from Krishnamacharya/Ramaswami/ Sribhashyam

NADI SHODHANA:
This is a Pranayama where no ujjayi should ever be used.
Inhale by the Left Nostril,
Exhale by the Right Nostril,
Inhale by the Right Nostril,
Exhale by the Left Nostril.
It is to be noted that a Pranayama can have KUMBHAKA: either after Inhalation (called ANTAH KUMBHAKA) or after Exhalation (called BAHYA KUMBHAKA)

SAMA VRITHI
Sama Vrithi is a Pranayama imperatively practiced in NADI SHODHANA.
In this Pranayama, while following the technique of Nadi Shodhana, the time allotted to Puraka, Antah Kumbhaka, Rechaka and Bahya Kumbhaka should be the same.
For eg. Puraka = Antah Kumbhaka = Rechaka = Bahya Kumbhaka = 5".

UJJAYI PRATHILOMA: With pranayama mantra - from Ramaswami
Inhale through Ujjayi,
Exhale by the Left Nostril,
Inhale by Left Nostril,
Exhale by Ujjayi,
Inhale by Ujjayi,
Exhale by Right Nostril,
Inhale by Right Nostril, and
Exhale by Ujjayi.
These 4 breaths make one cycles, and to be of any value, a minimum of 4 cycles or 16 breaths is needed.

Japa mantra meditation- from Ramaswami
Focussing mantra at heart and with the breath and vizualizing effulgence (light)

Chanting ( usually some Yoga Sutras) - from Ramaswami

Closing chant - from Ramaswami

Viparita Yoga mudra

Evening practice tends to be a couple of Vinyasa Krama subroutines outside of the regular Ashtanga series that would otherwise get missed followed by pranayama and meditation.

*Noting Arturo as an influence here because due to time limitations he would work as far as he was able on a Vinyasa krama or the Ashtanga sequence and then pick up where he left off the next day. this is a variation of that. Thank you Arturo.
------------------------

Interestingly we seem to have less of an issue with meditation, if we're interested we just complement our practice with some Zen or Vipassana/Loving Kindness

More of issue it seems with pranayama

Pranayama is a problem of course if you go to a shala where it's not... encouraged.

I wonder though if it would be possible to include the pre practice pranayama after getting up and before heading off to the shala.

And perhaps the post practice pranayama and mediatation on returning home.

or in a quiet room at work

or in the car in the shala car park?

Spoiled home Ashtangi's

Do shala's provide post practice spaces for anyone who wants to meditate after practice?

I remember AYL had a separate place for finishing, not sure you could stay there for another half hour or so after savasana though, space was limited.

What do those who have reached third series sa,y and get to 'officially' include pranayama do?

Do they practice their pranayama before asana there on the mat, or afterwards in the finishing room?

I remember reading that Tim Miller has his pranayama circle before practice but I'm assuming that's before the regular Mysore self practice time begins.

What do third series folk do in Mysore, get up and practice their pranayama at home before heading off to the shala?

I was taught by Ramaswami ( who was taught this way by Krishnamacharya) that you practice Asana first to get rid of the rajas, then pranayama to get rid of the tamas leaving you in the most satvic of states ready for meditation practice.

No doubt this is the reason Krishnamacharya's son T.K.SRIBHASHYAM, includes those pranayamas ( nadi shodana, surya bhedana, Sama vrithi, the ones with kumbhaka) that 'act on the mental and spiritual plane, at the end of practice and those ( Ujjayi Viloma , Sithali,  Ujjayi prathiloma and Nadi shodana without kumbhaka) that act on the physical and nervous plane at the beginning. See yesterdays post on Pranayama 

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

It must have been twenty-five years or so ago now but I remember my then fiancé trying to persuade me into going to see Ravi Shankar, who passed away today, somewhere in London ( we we're living in Notting Hill at the time, on the Carnival route in fact). Wasn't really my thing at the time and I managed to get out of going. 
What was I thinking?







Here he is in concert last year

10 comments:

  1. My friend who has been "given" pranayama by Sharath practices it at home in private after finishing asana practice. I can't speak to whether this is just how it fits into his day or if he was specifically instructed to do it this way (or if he is going rogue!). In my studies at KPJAYI in Mysore, I don't recall seeing anyone practicing it in either the main room or the finishing room.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Amanda. I think I'm spoiled practicing here at home I can just throw down a fress rug, throw on a hoodie and practice my pranayama and meditation.

    'given' hmmmmm

    I heard last year that there were plans to open up the top floor of the shala, perhaps there will be pranayama/meditation rooms.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's really interesting! I hadn't heard that, but I'm not exactly an insider. I feel like that's one of those things that would be both positive and negative: positive for obvious reasons, negative because it could just become a scene of people making sure they are visible in the meditation room to prove they are extra serious in case Sharath wanders through or whatever.

    Anyway, thanks for the interesting conversation, as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know Amanda, just guessing, may be just more space for the Yoga philosophy, Sanskrit and chanting classes they do already. Do you think that's why people attend, just in case Sharath walks by? I heard chanting is compulsory, is that true i wonder. It Would have put me off going a few years ago though not now. I think it's great that such classes are made available and encouraged but it's not to everyones interest, not the first trip perhaps but it might be the second or the third. Same as pranayama and meditation, I'd like to think it's available to anyone who shows an interest at whatever stage of their practice.

      Delete
  4. Now this is interesting..... my course notes (my teacher is a student of Chandra Cuffaro Klee who is a student of TKV Desikachar) say that we use asana to (mostly) reduce tamas and pranayama to (mostly) reduce rajas, creating more sattwic conditions for dhyanam which then increases sattwa further....

    Who got their notes wrong? Ramaswami is much more directly related to Krishnamacharya than the teacher I was following so that would go in favour of your notes being correct, but instinctively I'd say we tend to struggle to begin our practice, we often come from a tamasic state which would be in favour of my notes.
    And then of course some asanas go towards reducing rajas (simple asanas, seated, pashimatana-type) some towards reducing tamas (more complex asanas, typically standing, purvatana-type) and so different pranayamas have different effects so we may all be in agreement, which I like!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ramaswami's argument always made sense to me except..... most of us tend to practice early in the morning. And yet, in many traditions, mornings are usually considered the best time to practice meditation, we're already at our most Satvic surely. Now the evening practice makes more sense, practice asana to get rid of the agitations of the day......

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is my first time visiting your website, but I found a lot of interesting information.From the volume of comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one! Keep the good work up.
    Ashtanga Yoga

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sharath's building a house for the family down the street so when that's ready, the plan is to fully use the shala building for non-asana activities, especially Sanskrit/philosophy classes which are now conducted in the ladies' changing room.

    Yes the chanting classes are "compulsory" three times a week but not really enforced. Still, there's been a good turnout at each one I've been to. I love it. Great way to get grounded after an intense asana practice.

    As for pranayama, I know that he's teaching students who've completed 2nd series and it's on an invite-basis. That hasn't stopped the odd ashtangi (i.e., me) from doing a short round of nadi shodana before taking rest. I've seen a few others do it too (in the changing room) and haven't heard any complaints so far!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks D. Sanskrit and Philosophy in the changing rooms? No wonder they needed more space. Chanting isn't anything I thought I'd EVER get into but quite like it now,been asked a few times at work what it is that I'm singing to myself, hadn't realized I was doing it, bit awkward : )

      Delete
  8. I'm totally the same way with chanting!! The classes here have really sparked an interest in me and have kept the mental jukebox busy. They're simple tones and rhythm, so it's no wonder they're "sticking"....I'd much prefer to have this playing in the background than an ad jingle or a pop hit ;)

    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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