"He (Manju) also told me in Virabhadrasana that the back leg should feel so grounded that you can lift the front leg up in a kick—and the true warrior of old would take this stance for fighting to free the front leg for that kick".
Shandor studied with BKS Iyengar and Pattabji Jois and in the article below he talks about stance, the warrior stance found in Ashtanga, the sun salutation and on the walls of Indian temples as well as it's echoes through the Chinese and Japanese martial arts.
So often we take our standing sequence for granted ( I know I used to for the first few years) as we look ahead to the 'main event' the series we're working on, perhaps a particular posture that has been troubling us within that series. But here's a thought, perhaps the standing sequence is the main event, perhaps the key to heaping us with the posture we're most troubled with.
Kapotasana is a curious example perhaps, can the standing sequence, the sun salutation say, really be key to the mastery of a kneeling backbend?
The key to Kapo, for me anyway, is, and as Kino might say, 'a strong foundation', your legs need to be strong, your quads in particular but really, right from the back of your toes along your shins to your knees, and up the thighs to support the pelvis. Your engaged right from the toes, energy shooting along ( like the Aikido unbendable arm example) and it's from the powerfully supported 'stance' that your back finds support and protection and gives you the confidence to approach such a deep posture.
The standing postures we practice everyday allow us to work with this energy as well as building such strength and stability. Have a read of the section from the article below before you practice your Virabhadrasana (warrior pose) and if your new to the practice and still only working on your sury namaskars then your privileged, you get to work on just that, milk the sun salutation II for all it's worth, the utkatasana in particular.
There's not much squatting left in Ashtanga so we need to make the most of what we have, make utkatasana your key posture of the day, go a little deeper, breathe a little slower ( Krishnamacharya had a puraka kumbhaka, dwelling on the space between the inhalation and the next exhalation), take the full, slow count.
If you want more squatting and are practicing at home you might like to look at some of those nasty 'tapas' postures, from the Vinyasa Krama 'On one leg sequence' and bring in some extra work into either your morning Ashtanga practice or as an extra stand alone evening sequence to get rid of some rajas before you settle into a little pranayama and meditation practice.
|Screen shot from my video below|
from australian yoga life
the edge finds its centre [the evolution of Shandor Remete]
Shandor Remete is the founder of Shadow Yoga and has been practising yoga since the age of six. In this article he ￼speaks to Greg Wythes.
The seed planted by his teacher took Shandor back to the ancient yoga texts, such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita, to research how the science of marma and the study of the energetic principle had shaped the way yoga had been originally taught.
"The two systems they used in the old days," he continues, "were the virasthanas – or what they called the warrior stances, which were borrowed from the martial arts tradition – and the suryanamaskas, the sun salutations. Usually the new student was given these practices for the first few years. I know this from a friend who studied with Pattabhi. For the first two and a half years all he was given were the basic standing poses and suryanamaskas. But after that period he achieved the entire length – and it’s quite extensive in the Ashtanga system – in a year and a half. All because of the correct preparatory work.
"But in those days people walked everywhere. They knew how to squat. Today people are not walking as much as in the past. They’re sitting in cars or gazing at the computer. The preparatory steps today are very different to what they were then. People need to learn how to squat like they do in the martial arts. Squatting on the balls of the feet, with the feet shoulder width apart, wide horse stance. In the martial arts you do a lot of squatting. In this way you build power."
Slowly Shandor’s own style began to evolve and grow out of the crucible of his own practice and a mind that needed to inquire into the causes behind appearances. But at all times any change was driven by the experience of practice and the fruits of this practice. It became clearer that the grosser physical form of the body was underpinned and empowered by a finer and more subtle energetic system, and that, depending on how one practised, this energetic system could be enhanced and strengthened. Or as Shandor discovered through experience, that if the practice is incorrectly applied, then the flow and balance of energy could be easily upset.
"What I leant from Mr. Iyengar helped me understand this because whatever he taught me, I worked it. I worked it for years. I was doing a lot of daily practice and suddenly things went wrong. My body bloated up overnight; overnight I became longsighted. My hair turned grey and some of it fell out.
"I questioned what was going on – too much heat in the head – why? I decided the applications were incorrect. It was a questioning time. This was in the early ’90s, I was having difficulty doing even the most simple things. One can have familiarity, ability, capability; but it’s not about this. It’s about learning and understanding what one has to do in order to arrive somewhere; not to dwell on what is already there but to see what is not there, because what is missing, that is the obstruction. This means that until one sees what is missing one cannot advance."
Even though Shandor’s style had grown out of the work of two of the most influential yoga teachers of the twentieth century, he had found in his own body, through his own practice, that something was not complete. There was a missing element and this missing element was the major obstacle to any further progress. To find this missing element he turned to yoga’s origins. But chance and destiny also played a part.
"I decided when things started to go in the wrong direction to look to the basic things, to research back to the beginning," says Shandor. "I had the temple walls in India as references and a couple of really great books on all the stances and positions of Shiva and Parvati and the other gods.
"The books say that Lord Shiva has given 8,400,000 poses and out of this 84 are suitable for human beings. Then the hatha yoga texts break that down to eight or nine, and in the end to one. What are they saying? Well, for the cultivation of energetics not much is needed. One can learn the basic energetics through the simple moves that are very close to daily activity. In this way yoga borrowed from the animal and plant kingdoms and from different arts, crafts and the martial arts. Each one of these activities contributes to a certain development or certain parts of development of the individual.
"I researched the original warrior stances and found that some of these were used and some were discarded or lost over time. When you go to the temples in India you will see the gods doing stances or sits. Nothing else. You don’t see difficult postures. You see a god with a pair of legs and many arms. For me the many arms shows the movement of succession from one point to another."
For Shandor, the hand and arm movements represented in the statues, such as the dancing Shiva, reveal an ancient commonality of practice between yoga and the martial arts; a practice that in recent times has perhaps been more associated with the energy cultivation practices of qigong.
"When you observe those they are no different to what you see in the martial arts" he continues. "Martial stances, one legged stances, warrior stances and the hand and arm movements. They are all there on the walls but people don’t relate to it because yoga has been represented in a very different way."
|image from here LINK|
Shandor had some experience and training earlier in his life with Japanese martial arts and around this time began travelling to Japan to study with an old sword master. Following this he went on to London. It was at this time that these new ideas about the energetic system and the power associated with it began to solidify and become integrated after he met a Shaolin monk.
"This was at a big week called ‘The Way of the Warrior’,’’ recalls Shandor. "I was invited to teach yoga because it is a healing art. I remember the audience was made up of martial arts masters and grand masters amongst others. Three Shaolin monks came on to the stage, just monks and the head monk who had been sent there to open the temple did one stance. A qigong stance. It was over in half a minute. That’s all he did but it felt like the whole ceiling lifted up and that the stage was going to sink under the power of his feet. There were a few thousand people in that hall and they all felt it. They were up on their feet, standing. He just did this one simple move and walked off.
"I became friends with this monk. He showed great understanding of and empathy towards yoga. I wanted to do some sessions of qigong with him but there wasn’t much time. He said that he would teach me one thing and I just worked on that, and all of a sudden I woke up and saw many things. When he left he gave me a very beautiful present; it was a scroll and on it there were yoga poses for beginners. They are exactly the same ones spoken of in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. You find that unless those steps are followed the cultivation of the individual’s mind toward the energetic principle will get clouded and confused. It gets lost from too much."
The monk’s gift was a key that confirmed for Shandor the absolute importance of the correct approach to the early stages of learning yoga. It became clear to him that these poses for beginners were an essential platform for the sound development of the flow and balance of energy in the body, and that the introduction of more advanced poses at an early stage could have a counter- productive effect on the individual.
"I realised that they were using those for the cultivation of power. What became obvious to me was that the monks do possess the power of application and healing, but they are quiet about it."
One of the dilemmas for a teacher like Shandor – a teacher whose practice is in a continual process of growth and whose teaching style is forged by immersion in a variety of influences – is a sense of responsibility to the students who have studied with him over a period of years. The dilemma of maintaining their trust and allegiance when it may have seemed to some that the pace of change was too rapid or the direction of the change too unfamiliar, or perhaps – for those who prefer the stable and the known – the nature of the change just too challenging.
"What I have learnt over the years I’ve taken a long time to introduce" says Shandor. "When this came alive inside me I had the difficulty of bringing it to my students. Maybe they’re going to call it qigong or something else, because they don’t really know. Then I lose them for themselves. So I began with what I call the ‘vajrasana sequence’, which has a lot of squatting, and some twisting and kneeling. But it has the rhythm of what is now in the stances, so people could relate to it as yoga and help avoid confusion. Then I slowly began to put together what I call ‘pratigna’, the beginning of inquiry. I took a couple of stances from the forms and married it into one form and after that I added some asana work.
"I don’t feel I devised anything new, I just took that which existed and was lost. These teachings have been around for so long. If this is all I can do, and contribute, then I’m happy. Definitely it helped me, and my students seem to take to it and feel happy with it – and they grow. I feel that yoga that has been with me since childhood is not by accident, it has a purpose."
|Amazon Look Inside|
And as promised the 'On one leg' Vinyasa Krama sequence for a little extra work on those single leg squats
Pages above from my Vinyasa Practice book (available freely on my free downloads page or on Amazon Kindle/Ipad
also available in print in a couple of days)