108 Postural Practice Pointers – 73 – Today there are many expectations around what was known in Yoga…

Today there are many expectations
around what was known in Yoga as
Padmāsana or the lotus posture, in
terms of its place in Yoga practice.

For example, seeing this pose as a
representative of Yoga Āsana can
arouse misunderstandings as to
the role and purpose of the form.

As an emblem for a ‘classical’ sitting
Āsana, it can proffer a dual image of
a vertical strength or stability; allied
with horizontal flexibility or mobility.

This image is an important aspect in
appreciating the form and function of
Padmāsana, and is also a Bhāvana that
should be applied to any sitting Āsana.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 72 – Within the Bhāvana for certain prone backbend Āsana…

Within the Bhāvana for certain prone backbend Āsana,
such as in Sālambana Bhujaṅgāsana, or supported Cobra,
there is no intentional weight bearing on, or by the hands,
though the opposite of which is a more common occurrence.

Hence, being able to lift the hands off the ground at any point.
Thus, in Sālambana Bhujaṅgāsana, the hands are not weight
bearing, as in such as Ūrdhva Mukha Śvānāsana. Instead they
have a role as a barometer with regard to vertical or downward
pressure on the ground, along with a role as a compass with regard
to horizontal or forward movement emanating from the sternum.

Here, the Bhāvana is a sensation of wall to wall in terms of,
as if a movement forward, rather than the more stereotypical
image of a straight arm lift, often including over emphasis on
the cervical/thoracic and lumbar/sacral junctions creating an
upward backbend rather than encouraging a forward spinal arch.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 71 – Samasthiti – The Space between the Past and the Future

One Bhāvana for Samasthiti is to hold it as a
unique space between the past and the future.
Here it can offer a timeless moment of presence
between the past action and the future intention.
A moment to reflect on the outcome of the Āsana
done ere to the experience of the Āsana to come.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 70 – Janu Śīrṣāsana, known as the head to knee Āsana…

Janu Śīrṣāsana, known as the head to knee Āsana,
combines the qualities of a seated forward bend with
those of an asymmetrical pose, in that it works first,
on one side of the body more, then on the other side.

In this Āsana, the physical focus is on the lengthening
of the muscles of the back, spine and the extended leg,
and the rotational effects on the joints in the folded leg.

Plus, with its seated forward bend Bhāvana, there is
a natural support favouring the exhalation, offering
opportunities to both lengthen and deepen the breath.

This support, along with its  internalising and closing
qualities, offers possibilities for the student to focus on
the quality of the attention within the form of the body.

Thus, using Janu Śīrṣāsana with its seated forward bend
Bhāvana, and when linked with a mindful breath, can help
the student to experience the deeper function of the Āsana,
even if there are limitations with regard to its Śikṣaṇa form.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 69 – When working with Paścimatāna Āsana, such as Uttānāsana…

When working with Paścimatāna Āsana,
such as Uttānāsana, or Parśva Uttānāsana,
or Paścimatānāsana, or Janu Śīrṣāsana.

Keep the arms held up as you exhale down,
releasing and lowering them lightly at the end.

Lifting the arms first as you inhale up and
leading from the arms until upright again.

Activate the abdomen as you exhale down,
retaining a degree of tone as you complete.
This helps in maintaining the effort to keep the
abdomen activated as you inhale and lift up.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 68 – A primary Bhāvana in Tāḍāsana is in raising the arms forward of the body…

 

A primary Bhāvana in Tāḍāsana is in raising
the arms forward of the body watching
that the lumbar spine doesn’t hollow.

We want to keep the lower back steady,
whilst adjusting the arms, by releasing
the elbows sideways, as much as is needed
to ensure that the lower back stays long,
and that we maintain the space between
the top of the shoulders and the ear lobes.

Inhale, raise the arms, turning the palms out,
release the elbows, keeping the lower back long.
Exhale, lowering the arms again in a forwards
movement, straightening the elbows by half way,
whilst actively engaging the abdomen to ensure
we don’t collapse the chest and the upper spine.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 67 – Another key Bhāvana for Samasthiti is on the relationship of the neck…

Another key Bhāvana for Samasthiti is on the
relationship of the neck to the upper spine with
the intention of sensitising the Prāṇa Sthāna.

We start by activating the back of the neck
through the application of  Jālandhara Bandha.

Here the focus is on lengthening the spine
through lifting the back of the neck, rather
than dropping the chin towards the chest.

Engaging Jālandhara Bandha can create more
space between the earlobes and the shoulders,
a focus to be maintained when engaging the next
step with raising the arms, such as in Tāḍāsana.

Engaging Jālandhara Bandha, means the shoulders
lower, the arms extend downwards and effectively
lengthen. This activates the arms, meaning active
hands. Here, extend the fingers, feel the fingernails.

All of which is a support and preparation for
focusing on how to access an active inhalation
initiated and sustained from the Prāṇa Sthāna.

You can practice getting people to explore
access to movement in the upper spine with
and then without Jālandhara Bandha to help
experience its relationship with Prāṇa Sthāna as
the starting focus in the spine for the inhalation.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 66 – A key Bhāvana for Samasthiti is on the relationship of the feet

A key Bhāvana for Samasthiti is on the
relationship of the feet to the ground with
the intention of sensitising the Apāna Sthāna.

We start by activating the soles of the feet
by applying a focused downward pressure.
This helps activate muscle tone in the legs,
and can effect a drop in the sacral area,
and causing a slight lift in the abdomen,
whilst helping to lengthen the lumbar.
All of which is a support and preparation
for focusing on an active exhalation
initiated from the Apāna Sthāna.

You can practice getting people to as if
turn on and turn off the feet and notice
what can happen. Soggy feet implies
both soggy legs and a soggy abdomen.

108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 65 – Bhujaṅgāsana is more commonly known as the Cobra posture…

Bhujaṅgāsana is more commonly known as the
Cobra posture and is seen in many Yoga groups
as an example of a “classical” Yoga backbend.

It is an Āsana where the emphasis is intended to be
on arching the entire spine and expanding the upper
chest forwards rather than merely bending backwards.

Its energetic opening actions also make the Āsana
an  essential reference for people’s Yoga practice
as a prone backbend in one form or another.

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108 Postural Practice Pointers – 64 – Sarvāṅgāsana is the Āsana commonly known as shoulder stand…

Sarvāṅgāsana is the Āsana commonly known as
shoulder stand. It is seen as one of the so called
“classical” inverted Āsana, the other “classical”
inverted Āsana being Śīrṣāsana, or head stand.

This Āsana draws together a firmness in the
body, with the subtler purpose of the breath,
with a sense of inner attention for the student.

For this triad to be realised, certain steps need
to be respected with regards to a rationale for
the application of Sarvāṅgāsana, along with
appropriate choices in long-term and short-term
preparation for its use, incorporating appropriate
use of Pratikriyāsana, and cultivation of an
increasing length of stay in the Āsana.

For adults, the most important link whilst in
the Āsana is the relationship with the breath.
Cultivating the power of the breath can also help
in keeping the practitioner attentive to the possible
bio-stresses accumulating from staying in the Āsana.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 63 – Dvi Pāda Pīṭham or Two Foot Support combines the characteristics of a lying Āsana…

Dvi Pāda Pīṭham or Two Foot Support combines
the characteristics of a lying Āsana and a backbend,
as well as offering an alternative to more intense
backbends, or as a preparation for inverted Āsana.

This Āsana can be applied initially within a dynamic
context working as a preparation for the body,
plus allowing gradual access to stronger Āsana,
such as prone backbends and inverted Āsana.

The way for progressive work to access the upper half
of the body, neck and shoulders links to a subtle and
precise work with the breath, especially the inhalation.
Here the focus of attention is supported through the
application of techniques such as, firstly, locational
breathing and then, if appropriate, directional breathing.
This can further help the involvement of the student
in the longer-term intention and purpose of the Āsana.

In its more intense Śikṣaṇa form Dvi Pāda Pīṭham is a
challenging option for the more experienced student.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 62 – Supta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana is a lying and apparently relatively simple Āsana…

Supta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana is a lying and apparently
relatively simple Āsana in its external form.

It is described as the fingers and thumbs holding the
big toes of each foot, with the legs extended straight
and held upwards at an angle of 45 degrees with the
spine and head fully in contact with the ground.

In reality, this is literally beyond the reach of most students.
Though, given consistent time and appropriate development
in accessing this Āsana, there is the possibility of deep work.
This is initially felt primarily through the effect on the legs,
Though, given time the primary effect is felt more in the spine.

As a Samāna Āsana, an equal breath would be emphasised with
a Samavṛtti ratio, perhaps incorporating the use of Kumbhaka.
The focus of attention is on the spine, from crown to coccyx,
and is accessed via the breath, which can help support the
student’s effort within the external demands of the Āsana,
such as that more often found within the tightness in the legs.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 61 – Vīrabhadrāsana represents the fighting stance of the  warrior…

Vīrabhadrāsana represents the fighting stance of the  warrior
Vīrabhadra, who is said to represent the fierce form of Maṅgala.
He was created by Śiva from a matted lock of his own hair,
in a vengeful response to the death of his wife Satī after
her self-immolation in the sacrificial fire at her father’s Yajña.

It’s a demanding standing position coupled with a backbend in the spine
to give the Āsana its opening energising and strengthening qualities.

 The focus of attention can be brought to the chest and upper back
through its form and the emphasis on the breath, especially the inhalation.

Its role as an expansive, demanding standing Āsana can be
graduated to suit the practice capacity of the student.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 60 – Uttānāsana is an intense standing forward bend…

Uttānāsana is an intense standing forward bend.
It is often used to begin a sequence of Āsana.
Its use can improve mobility in the primary joints
and extend muscles, primarily on the back of the body.
Its form respects the movements adapted in daily life.

The use of an intense closing Āsana implies
some cautions in the stretched areas of the body,
such as the lower back, sacrum, hips and legs.

The awareness can be placed on the abdomen
leading to a longer, smoother exhalation and
counterbalancing, with this inner work, the
physical effort required by its dynamic approach.

There are a number of adaptations to support
the student experiencing a feeling of melding
between the energetic flow of the movement
and the depth and stillness of the breath.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 59 – In the beginning of our relationship with Āsana…

In the beginning of our relationship with Āsana,
we work at adding Breath to the movement.
As we refine our relationship with Āsana,
we work at adding movement to the Breath.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 58 – In Āsana one should not always count the breath length…

In Āsana one should not
always count the breath length,
otherwise one loses mindfulness.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 57 – The Bhāvana should vary from Āsana to Āsana…

The Bhāvana should vary from Āsana to Āsana.
For example, one could use the Bhāvana
to decide the ratio or, where to place
the attention on the breath.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 56 – In Asana one should vary the breath ratio.

In Āsana one should vary the breath ratio.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 55 – Bhāvana on the relationship between the Viśuddhi Sthāna and Jālandhara Bandha…

A common escape when using Dvi Pāda Pīṭham is the neck arching rather than lengthening, resulting in the lifting of the head as if to compensate for the increased sense of the neck compressing.

Hence a key Bhāvana here is the deepening of the Jālandhara Bandha whilst working with the potential dissipation that can arise through the simultaneous lifting of the arms.

This escape is something that is also further exaggerated when raising the arms at the same time as lifting the hips, due to the increasingly upward force from the hips pushing down onto the shoulders, also increasingly unstable due to the lifting of the arms.

We can explore this escape by holding a Bhāvana on the relationship between the Viśuddhi Sthāna and Jālandhara Bandha through choosing an alternative Vinyāsa Krama in Dvi Pāda Pīṭham. One suggestion here is to investigate the interaction between the arms and trunk via the breath as shown in the illustration above.

The intention here is to maintain a gradual lengthening in the neck whilst resisting the tendency for the shoulders to as if skateboard on the scapula and increase the distance between the head and the feet. Here also an active role for the arms and shoulders is suggested at all points especially when they are not being lifted.

Perhaps experiment with repeating this alternate suggestion for a  Vinyāsa Krama in Dvi Pāda Pīṭham some 6 times whilst maintaining a breath pattern of around 4 breaths per minute. The entire sequence taking some six minutes to explore.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting

108 Postural Practice Pointers – 54 – Just because you can perform a posture…

Just because you can perform a posture,
doesn’t automatically mean you can
experience the posture as an Āsana.
To experience a posture as an Āsana
implies some other factors are involved.
Such as how to facilitate a decreasing
resistance within the confines of the body,
and integrating a transcendent involvement
with the mystery of what is beyond the body.

Link to Series: 108 Postural Practice Pointers

Āsana and Mudrā Glossary
– Grouped into Standing, Kneeling,
Lying, Inverted, Backbend, Seated & Sitting