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.
“The students in turn, learned and experienced the teachings in their own lives,
and thus became competent to teach.
In this way the lineage of teachers is established.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 1
“These five Kleśa surround the heart of every individual.
They are related to the three Guṇa known as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
As long as one chooses not to inquire into the true nature of one’s self and acts mechanically,
they will unknowingly contribute to the dominance of the Kleśa.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 3
“Has the original and ancient Yoga gene now become merely a non-genetic Yoga meme
and thus is only capable of being imitated rather than propagated?”
Noted amidst a flurry of competing exercise/mind and body workout adverts in my local village newsletter:
- Booty Barre fuses legendary fitness techniques from Pilates, Dance, Callisthenics and Yoga creating balance, posture and body awareness.
- Pilates Fusion Flow is a mix of Yoga, Pilates and Dance Movements which will strengthen the body and calm the mind.
So on top of Yoga being reduced down to postural exercise with added stress reduction and/or autogenic relaxation techniques, we now encounter a further dissipation of even that element in terms of it being a name or technique that can be bolted on or blended in to other exercise entertainment offerings.
Plus they are all competing for the one stop shop marketplace cakeshare in terms of offering a fitness building and stress reducing marriage.
Who needs just Yoga as just Yoga anymore?
“Once I am very clear about what is to be known – Svadharma,
then I can be clear about what is universal Dharma.”
Reflecting on this quote from TKV Desikachar posted on February 15th 2014 on the relationship between Svadharma and Dharma. I feel we first need to understand our personal place within our inner world, only from there can we understand our universal place within our outer world.
This is a concept that can appear to be contrary to the more usual expectations within the Yoga world whereby we are often given a set of universal standardised principles which we are told to constantly aspire to and strive towards realising.
”Progress must be seen as the distance from the starting point,
rather than the more usual reference of the distance from the finishing point.”
– TKV Desikachar England 1976
Design an Āsana Practice for around 45′ according to the planning principles taught by TKV Desikachar.
The Vinyāsa Krama or planning steps in the practice will be a total of 90 breaths based around:
- Standing Āsana 24 Breaths
- Lying Āsana 12 Breaths
- Inverted Āsana 12 Breaths
- Prone Backbend Āsana 12 Breaths
- Sitting Āsana 24 Breaths
- Closing Counterpose Āsana 6 Breaths
In this instance the practice will not include any sitting Mudrā, or seated Prāṇāyāma or Dhyāna.
In the structure link Āsana such as Samasthiti, Śavāsana, Vajrāsana, do not count in the breath tally.
- State the aim or purpose of the practice in terms of the Āsana goal or goals
- Indicate the primary or crown Āsana you are choosing to build the practice around
- Justify your choice of supporting or compensatory Āsana within the scheme
General perceptions in Yoga are that performance progressions in any Āsana are usually around improvement or refinement in the choreography of the entry or exit, or in the extremity of the final form.
For example if we were to compare the performance of students in say Uttānasana, evaluations would tend to be made concerning how far one bends forward, or how near the head is towards the knees, or how straight the legs are, or how close to the ground the hands are, et cetera.
However from the viewpoint of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, in terms of Āsana practice for adults, the breath has its own developmental path within the performance of any Āsana.
Furthermore, within an Āsana and alongside the Vinyāsa Krama of getting in and out of the Āsana and what would be the focus whilst at the crown of the sequence around that particular Āsana, there is also a Vinyāsa Krama around the development of the breath.
Question to T Krishnamacharya:
How necessary is Yoga in these modern times?
For the strengthening of the Aṅga,
Yoga Āsana practiced with long inhalation and exhalation is important.
To reduce the disturbances of the mind,
to gain mental strength and to increase longevity,
Prāṇāyāma is necessary.
“The teacher follows the student and will use many methods
to see the student grasps the teachings.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Eleven verse 1
Learning Support for Chanting the Durgā Gāyatrī
– From the Taittirīya Upaniṣad Chapter 4 verse 1 Sakha Gāyatrī
From my personal library of recordings from my studies with my teacher TKV Desikachar.
To Download or Listen
To Download the Chant Sheet with Romanised Saṃskṛta and Notations
“Breath is indispensable for life and its absence is death.
Hence the necessity to make it longer and accumulate the Prāṇa Śakti.
Just as a rich man accumulates money slowly to get wealthy,
so also one should practice every day
through the proper use of the breath in Āsana to maintain good health.”
– T Krishnamacharya‘s response to a question on breathing.
“The teacher decides which of the Tri Krama (three steps) is the best for the student:
Śikṣaṇa Krama requires a perfect knowing to transmit a strict practice,
without any compromise, as it should be in Vedic chanting for example.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is aimed at protection and preservation;
it promotes continuity in any levels like health, abilities, knowledge, etc.
Cikitsā Krama looks for adaptation, healing, recovering…”
– TKV Desikachar speaking with his senior Western students London 1998
- 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.
“Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly.
Anything is taught to achieve perfection in the practice of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma.
In other words teaching children and healthy people where you can take risks with no problems.
Not a valid approach for groups.
We need to use intelligence and Viveka,
not follow the idea of no pain, no gain to become painless,
or to get to a point without suffering.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983
“True liberty is what relationship you have with your habits.”
– T Krishnamacharya
Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four
In the previous three articles in this series we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.
Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.
Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul, rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.
The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.