Whenever we look at an Āsana we must look at two sides……

“Whenever we look at an Āsana
we must look at two sides:
1. What is involved in the Āsana
2. Who is doing the Āsana
– TKV Desikachar 1984

We cannot escape the need for adaptation……

“We cannot escape the need for adaptation.
Adaptation is the application of certain principles,
to achieve certain results.
It implies:
– Knowing where the person is now.
– Knowing where we want them to go.
Adaptation is the means used to bridge this gap.”
– TKV Desikachar 1981

One hallmark within TKV Desikachar’s teaching on Āsana……

One hallmark within TKV Desikachar’s teaching on Āsana,
was not to confuse ‘appropriate’ alignment techniques,
with ‘proper’ alignment techniques.
The former implies a personalised starting point,
whilst the latter implies a developmental potential.
However both need to be related to 3 questions:
Where am I coming from?
Why am I practicing Āsana?
Where am I going to?

Two primary roles in the adaptation of Āsana……

“Two primary roles in the adaptation of Āsana
to the needs and potential of the student are
Facilitating a decrease of tension within the body
Facilitating an increase of attention within the breath.”
– Commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 47

Traditionally legs remain straight with thighs contracted and knee caps lifted…..

“Traditionally legs remain straight with thighs contracted and knee caps lifted.
Practically the idea is to bend the knees when strain is felt.
This can be observed in several areas.
In the knee caps by movement,
thigh muscles by contraction and resistance in the hamstrings.
When coming up straighten the legs after half way.”
– TKV Desikachar

Variations of Āsana to make Navāsana more accessible……


Practice Study Question around Āsana Planning Theory:
Identify a minimum of two variations of preparatory Āsana
which can be used to make Navāsana more accessible.

To Download or View this Question as a PDF Study Sheet

There are two categories of practice……

“There are two categories of practice, the Śikṣaṇa Krama way, according to the rules,
or the Cikitsā Krama way, the application or adaptation of a posture
to suit a particular person or a particular situation.
Where postures need to be adapted to suit particular bodies and their limitations.
The authority for the postures comes from the teacher,
although some rules are indicated in the texts.”
– From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

The breath makes it possible to find ways to achieve access to……


“The breath makes it possible to find ways to achieve access to the posture,
it is possible to adapt a posture through the breath.”
From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

Moving into the posture after the exhale is an adaptation.


“Moving into the posture after the exhale (Bāhya Kumbhaka) is an adaptation.”
From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

There are some forms within the postural resources developed by……

There are some forms within the postural resources developed by Krishnamacharya that can function as either an Āsana or as a Mudrā. The choice of outcome can be realised according to the specific Bhāvana associated with the intention of the practitioner and the style of performance.

For example if we look at the possibilities around inverted postures interpreted as Āsana through forms known as Śīrṣāsana or Sarvāṅgāsana, we can cultivate the external intensity of Āsana or the internal intensity of a Mudrā through choosing either of two practice directions.

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My understanding on the context and content of Yoga Makaranda

yoga makaranda

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.

However there were no limitations on the range or intensity of Āsana and lots of use of variations to be engaged with within each Āsana.

“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

For more on Sarvaṅgāsana as a Mudrā read….
Saravāṅgāsana as a Mudrā – Part One

Nāma, Rūpa, Lakṣana – The Name, Form and Characteristics of Āsana

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.

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Aṣṭāṅgāsana – The eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice

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.

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Finding your starting point within an Āsana to set a direction and goal

“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.

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Yoga has been adapted to life in the modern day.

  • 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.

From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

The person who taught me how to vary postures……

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.”

– TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’,
given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.

Āsana based Exercises for the management of Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain is an endemic disorder afflicting a large percentage of people. The aetiological factors are mostly psychosomatic along with postural defects, occupational predispositions and sendentary life styles. Though several rehabilitative techniques are prescribed, no systematic analysis of these are available.

The present study evaluates several simple Āsana on the basis of biomechanical principles. These studies also select a set of Āsana which work on the back with increasing intensity. A series of tests are evolved to assess the physiological debility of a patient. These test results form the basis of selection of Āsana to be prescribed to the patient. A chart is finally provided to enable the therapist to increase the intensity of Āsana so that the muscles of the low back can be strengthened systematically and progressively.

The results of clinical trials on 16 patients using this method of Āsana selection and rehabilitation indicates the usefulness of this method for the management of low back pain, Only regular practitioners of these exercises improve while indifferent or improper practice has no rehabilitative value.

by TV Ananthanarayanan – Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and
TM Srinivasan – Founder Member, Biomedical EngineeringDivision, I. I. T., Madras

Originally published in The Yoga Review Vol. III, No. 1, 1983

Download or view as a PDF

T Krishnamacharya Cikitsā Practice excerpt aged 96

A short clip extracted from a video of T Krishnamacharya practising as part of his Yoga Cikitsā or Yoga therapeutics when recovering from a hip fracture from a fall in 1984 when aged 96. Apologies for the quality, the original cassette is a bit flakey.

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