“Each time we wish to understand a system whatever it is, we need a structure. What applies to modern science already applied to the ancient yogic sages when they were concerning themselves with the human system.
The method of the ancients was to reflect, to meditate and to attempt to find clear replies to their questions. They tried to give a form to what they wanted to understand, corresponding to what they already understood. In this way of proceeding, they did not differ from the sages of the ancient medical science of Āyurveda who also tried to understand the human organism in a particular way, nor from the doctor philosophers of ancient China.
Vinyāsa Krama is pronounced according to its meaning as Vi-Nyāsa Krama or special placing in a sequence of steps. It is the arranging of the various postures or breathing patterns in an intelligent sequence, respecting the variables in the student and the purpose of the practice.
What might be helpful to consider is one of the ways Desikachar presented this teaching to me within our lessons in that the viniyoga of Vinyāsa Krama is comparable to the notion of climbing steps. Here intelligent application means to climb each step by bringing both feet onto the same step before taking the next one. In other words ensure we are grounded and stable before we take another step.
It also has the benefit of allowing a steady view of what is involved in taking the next step as well as reducing the risk of losing what we already have. However this way of approaching the developmental aspects of our practice may be at variance with our more usual way of climbing steps, such as one step at a time.
How do we know that? Here a teacher who knows you as an individual rather than a member of a group can be very helpful. For example we all have different modes of being, some climb steps slowly, some quickly, some two at a time, all according to our innate tendencies. This is an attitude to life that can reflect in the way we practice, or in the choice of the style of practice, or how we approach ‘progressing’ our practice, or even in the teacher we ‘choose’.
Add to this the notion that in its essential role Yoga was seen as a means to destabilise our perception of self in order to ‘break up’ the notion of what we see as the ‘I’. Perhaps comparing this against the modern approach where folks come to classes seeking stability as a counterpose to the destabilising effects of our worldly involvements, then the notion of Vinyāsa Krama as presented here can have even more relevance.
These days, in certain situations, when asked what I do I sometimes say I write technical manuals and that usually moves the conversation quickly onto something like the British weather.
Why don’t I mention Yoga? Am I embarrassed about my relationship with Yoga? Not at all, its more about people’s reaction when asked and saying I am a Yoga teacher, a response somewhere as if an amalgam of being a fitness trainer, dentist and priest.
Also these feelings are often wrapped up in the response that I must do that or diverted into a projection around how I am seen in terms of say flexibility because I ‘do’ Yoga.
There are even folks I have been meeting occasionally for years and each time we meet I get the ‘I must do that’. Aside from the wry amusement at observing folks slight uncomfortableness as the word Yoga appears to represent something that at some level they feel they must need in their lives as if a commodity, there is for me a more important aspect that touches me.
This is around the difference between having to do something and wanting to do something.
Postural Practice Pointer 8 – The Intelligent Leg
The intelligent leg is the back leg.
“What is Yoga?
Yoga is Nirodha of the different activities and fluctuations of the mind,
the leader of the senses.
Nirodha is to completely cover.
Thus this Sūtra implies the Nirodha of involvement of the mind in objects
that distract from a chosen direction of contemplation.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary to Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 2
“Depending on whether the mind is in a state of Samādhi or not,
the person enjoys permanent happiness or successive chains of unhappiness and happiness.
Those who accept nothing short of Samādhi, freedom from the suffering of disease is realised.
After all, the root cause of disease is the disturbed mind,
when we cannot distinguish right from wrong or good from bad.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary to Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 34
“Students need to be aware of which parts of the body to bring attention to,
without the teachers hands to remind them;
so by reminding them in another posture,
they will be aware of which part to move.”
– From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992
“What the mind desires does not diminish as we age,
only the capacity to realise it.”
– TKV Desikachar
When considering the viniyoga or application of Pratikriyāsana or opposite action postures within a students personal practice, it may help to look at the integration of their intended role from three perspectives.
– Firstly their intended role as a counterposture, thus more from a physiological perspective.
– Secondly their intended role as a compensation, thus more from a psychological perspective.
– Thirdly their intended role as a transition, thus more from sequential perspective.
“But it is still unclear how much Yoga someone has to do to get the benefits found and
how cost-effective it is relative to undertaking other forms of exercise or taking drugs.”
– Prof Myriam Hunink
Erasmus University medical centre in Rotterdam and Harvard school of public health in Boston
Are we in danger of the teaching of Yoga Āsana (and consequently Yoga ‘Therapy’ Teacher Training Courses) being increasingly shaped towards the health and therapeutic healthcare ‘Yoga For’ needs to meet the demands and standardisations of the medical and/or insurance health authorities in terms of:
1. Choice – Which Yoga posture works for what problem?
2. Duration – How long must I stay in a particular posture in order to have a specific effect/result?
3. Frequency – How often must I practice this posture to effect a result?
4. Timescale – Over what period of time must I practice this posture to effect a result?
5. Comparable Applications – What will be the effect of Yoga postures compared to other forms of physical exercise?
6. Relative Costs – What will be the cost of Yoga compared to other forms of exercise?
7. Treatment Budgets – What will be the cost of Yoga as a form of treatment relative to taking drugs?
Complex implications to evaluate and they leave us with more questions around what is healthy for the heart of Yoga rather than what is healthy for the heart of the person!
The role of this post is to let readers know that there is now a single resource page where you can centrally access whatever PDF versions of the Yoga Studies posts are available from individual posts within the Journal section of the website. Links to existing PDF’s will gradually be correlated on this page from two primary fields, that of Yoga Practice and of Yoga Study.
“Yoga Practice is an essential part of Yoga Study.
Rather than Yoga Study being an essential part of Yoga Practice.”
Hopefully this will offer those interested a single point of reference to PDF versions of posts around the topics below. As I collate these resources the date at the bottom of the page will indicate the last update.
Meanwhile thank you for your interest.
Currently available group categories are listed below:
‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America,
a transcript of recordings of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980.
Unlike the later redacted edition, re-published in 1995 as the ‘Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’, it captures the evolution of the retreat with the days lectures and Q & A dialogues as they alternated between ‘lectures on the principles and purposes of Yoga and discussions related to the practice of Yoga with special reference to the postures and the breathing techniques’.
TKV Desikachar, in his forward to the original version wrote:
“These lectures and discussions, printed words put before persons I might never meet,
are but reflections of that deeper result that grew out of a living face-to-face encounter.
Coming to learn of Yoga only through reading leaves much to be desired.
Yet, something worthwhile about Yoga might be shared through the medium of the printed word.”
A chapter by chapter Study guide is offered below with added verse and word cross-references where possible to support a a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.
Chapter Twelve Practice: Choosing a Ratio and the Proper Technique for Prāṇāyāma
– Pages 163-177
“A feeling of well-being is not just having flexible joints,
it is much more.’
– TKV Desikachar ‘Choosing a Ratio and the proper technique for Prāṇāyāma’
Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Twelve Page 173
“The choice of a proper ratio involves two things,
what can be done and what should be done.
What can be done involves a given person’s capacity
to inhale, hold the breath, exhale and hold the breath.
What should be done involves
our direction of movement, our aim, our need.”
– TKV Desikachar ‘Choosing a Ratio and the proper technique for Prāṇāyāma’
Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Twelve Page 163