“Dynamic postures bring out inherent weaknesses and trends in the breath.
They can also tell you what ratios should be avoided.”
– From personal lessons with TKV Desikachar
When less Āsana time than you would like,
better to reduce the number of Āsana,
or the number of repetitions,
or the length of the stays,
rather than, reducing the length of the breath.
Or….. even considering lengthening the breath,
thus even fewer Āsana, all with a longer breath than usual.
Here the Bhāvana could be to observe the effect
of a more spacious than usual Āsana breathing
on a more cramped than usual daily mindset.
“Another important aspect is that the masters
taught us to move from a deeper source,
not just from muscles and joints.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1984
“Always raise and lower the arms in the plane of the movement.
This helps the forward movement by causing you
to arch the back slightly before you bend forward.
Traditionally arms are straight and placed behind the ears.”
– TKV Desikachar 1980
My understanding from my discussions over the years with TKV Desikachar regarding the context and content of Yoga Makaranda, is that when teaching youngsters the length of the breath was minimised to a relatively short fixed length and use of Kumbhaka was limited to a few seconds Antar Kumbhaka and Bahya Kumbhaka.
“The Āsana are presented in Vinyāsa Krama, the way it was taught to children in the Yogasāla.
This should not create the impression that T Krishnamacharya taught in this manner to everyone.”
– TKV Desikachar Introduction to Yoga Makaranda
In the adult there were no such limitations for the breath and the work with variations of the Āsana was re-prioritised to working with a fewer Āsana and fewer variations within each Āsana, but with the challenge of a greater range of breathing patterns both in length and combinations.
Certainly Antar Kumbhaka or Bahya Kumbhaka of 10″ was commonplace in the adult practice and here the ‘perfection’ of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the breath rather than for the youngster, where ‘perfection’ of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the form. This was consistent with Krishnamacharya’s teaching in his Yoga Rahasya on Yoga Sādhana and Stages of Life.
Furthermore my understanding is that if we use a particular Āsana with all its permutations of form and thus less focus on the variations of the breath it operates more as an Āsana. If we use a specific primary Āsana with the focus on all its permutations of breath and thus less priority around the variations of the form it operates more as a Mudrā.
Sarvaṅgāsana is such an example with its 32 variations devised by Krishnamacharya emphasising its role as an Āsana and its static solo form with its focus on extensive breath ratios involving all four aspects of the breath, perhaps augmented by the Tri Bandha, emphasising its role as a Mudrā.
For more on introduction to Yoga Makaranda read……
Introduction to the Yoga Makaranda by TKV Desikachar
The Aṣṭāṅgāsana or the eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice are the formula for constructing a skilful and place, time and lifestyle appropriate Āsana practice. These eight limbs fall into eight categories, that of:
- The definition, meaning and context of Āsana
– Core concept – Nāma Rūpa Lakṣana – name, form and characteristics
- How Āsana are arranged into groups and categories
– Core concept – Vinyāsa Krama – collecting postures together
- How counterpostures or Pratikriyāsana are integrated
– Core concept – Pratikriyāsana– maintaining the balance
- The value and purpose of the breath in Āsana
– Core concept – Prāṇāpāna Dhāraṇā – where the focus is
- How movement or stay are used in Āsana
Core concept – Circulation and Purification – dynamic and static
- The adaptation of Āsana practice
– Core concept – Variation and Modification – change and necessity
- Intelligently planning and Āsana practice
– Core concept – Bṛṃhaṇa and Laṅghana Kriyā – connecting postures together
- Observation within Āsana practice
– Core concept – Spine, Breath and Attention – learning to look
In my last post on Aṣṭāṅgāsana I talked about introducing each of these eight topics to help the reader to appreciate more about what is inherent in the depth and breadth of this approach in terms of Āsana planning having a precise and comprehensive formula.
Āsana practice starts with a need to know something about the Āsana we are going to work with as we introduce, persevere and develop and especially personalise our practice. Hence we have to both practice but also have some theoretical background in order to context an Āsana in itself and in relationship to other Āsana.
With nearly 2000 Posts and Resources on the site I have been reflecting on how to expand the access points and yet simplify the reader experience for visitors. So I started by looking at the Blog Page by reviewing the broad topic categories and considering the need to re-organise the groupings as well as increasing the range of related topics within the sub-groupings.
The first general topic in the Journal is that of Posts on Yoga Practice and its five main areas for study are:
Going deeper into these five aspects of practice I see that the first topic, that of Āsana & Kriyā Practice, now has some 500 posts in the one thread. Obviously a need for review here! So turning my attention to this I started to consider what would be a useful, yet appropriate way to sub-categorise the topics in this particular section.
“Any movement can be done on the exhale or stop.
Not every movement can be done on inhale or hold.
Therefore the gradual movement of the breath
or introduction of the breath
should be directed into the exhale.
The exhale must be respected.
When the exhale is secure or firm,
then the attention can be shifted to the inhale or to work on the holds.”
– From personal lessons with TKV Desikachar
I recently wrote a post on:
Within this post I mapped out some of the preliminary steps in the Vinyāsa Krama of the breath that accompanies the performance of the form. Within this map for those beginning their journey into the mysteries of the breath within the mastery of the form, I offered four steps.
Here I want to review these four steps and especially focus on the last of the four, this time in relation to Nirālamba Bhujaṅgāsana or unsupported Cobra posture:
“In order to know where we are going to,
we must first know where we are coming from.”
Often in the Āsana aspect of Yoga practice, whether within our personal practice or a group class environment, the student is directed towards a goal.
This may be to do with a physical or structural foci such as the:
- Basic Performance of the Āsana
- Continuing Improvement of the Āsana
- Specific Intensification of the Āsana
- Introducing Stay into the Āsana
However the common factor within all of these options is that they are goal based.
This is fine as a general principle however as in any area of our lives, setting off towards any goal requires that we also have a clear idea of our starting point. For example, if I am wanting to travel to London I need to know whether I am starting from Birmingham or Brighton in order to set a direction and distance to navigate from. So it is with Āsana.
- Yoga has been adapted to life in the modern day.
- Any posture far removed from the normal posture is a problem and therefore risky if there is any problem with the body.
- Inverted postures present problems because of the tension that people carry in their necks.
- Postures that create tension should be avoided.
- Moving into the posture after the exhale is an adaptation.
- Krishnamacharya designed aids to help people achieve postures.
- Slow movement has a different action on the muscles, it is harder work.
- The role of Āsana, its purpose and goal must be respected.
- Opposite postures are a handicap but can help us to appreciate something different in a posture.
- We must feel ourselves and what is happening in a posture.
“The person who taught me how to vary postures, to bend the legs, to turn the neck, all the simple and complicated variations, as necessary, is Krishnamacharya. It is important to vary each posture according to the individuals requirements.
Further, he also introduced the use of other aids or supports, so that the person gets the benefit of a posture through other means when he is not able to do the posture itself. This can involve sitting on a chair, using a roll, using supports, etc., the use of other means to help a person achieve certain results.”