What good is the sword of wisdom (Jñāna Asinā)……

bhujangasana

“What good is the sword of wisdom (Jñāna Asinā),
to cut away the chains of doubt (Saṃśaya),
if the holder is too weak to bear it.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on the Bhagavad Gītā Chapter 4 verse 42

The term Atha signifies auspicious beginning, uninterrupted continuity and an appropriate end.

‎”The term Atha signifies auspicious beginning,
uninterrupted continuity and an appropriate end.”
– T Krishnamacharya commenting on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 1

Another aspect of Atha is Saṃkalpa……

‎”Another aspect of Atha is Saṃkalpa,
which in the Vedic Tradition is the decision to initiate something important
and to ensure that it is completed at any cost, without distraction or deviation.”
– T Krishnamacharya commenting on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 1

What is healthy for the Heart of Yoga?

urdha_mukha_svanasanamatsyendrasana dhyanam

There has been a surge of media attention in the UK on the health benefits of Yoga based on the results of a recent study published:

In the Guardian under the title ‘Yoga may provide similar health benefits to ‘cycling or brisk walking’.

In the Telegraph under the title ‘Yoga just as good as aerobics for cutting heart disease risk’.

On the BBC News page under the title ‘Yoga may guard against heart disease, study finds’.

Along with a more recent article in the Guardian under the title ‘Should Yoga be part of NHS care?”

All this is on the one hand seems great and on paper appears to be good publicity, yet it lands in an environment where we have a huge amount of information available on the potential dangers of unhelpful lifestyle on the heart and a huge amount of heart problems. It is almost as if there are parallels between the increasing weight of information and the increasing weight of the population.

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Nowadays, a large number of Yoga teachers offer Vedic chanting classes.

tkv_tk_1980

“Nowadays, a large number of Yoga teachers offer Vedic chanting classes.
Some have been studying and practising seriously and others have simply listened to a cassette.”
– Extract from an interview with TKV Desikachar on Vedic Chanting

There is something mysterious about Vedic chanting……

Desikachar and Paul Chanting in 1999
“There is something mysterious about Vedic chanting.
It is so simple that even people who don’t know music at all can practice it.
Many people who have never sung in their life are interested in it.”
– Extract from an interview with TKV Desikachar on Vedic Chanting

Kuṇḍalinī represents that which blocks access to the central energetic channel…..

Unknown

“The great yogin Yājñavalkhya said that the constant and intensive practice of Prāṇāyāma brought Prāṇa and Agni together,
and gradually the obstacle at the base of the Suṣumnā would be totally dissolved.
He gave this block the name ‘Kuṇḍali’ meaning coiled or ‘Kuṇḍalinī’ meaning ‘rolled up’ in other texts.
Kuṇḍalinī represents that which blocks access to the central energetic channel.
When this obstacle is eliminated, Prāṇa penetrates and begins to rise in the central channel.
This is the most precise description we have of the process.
This is also the most clear and coherent.”
– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

There is an increasing tendency in terms of Modern Therapeutic Yoga application strategies……

There is an increasing tendency in terms of Modern Therapeutic Yoga application strategies, especially when marketing Yoga therapy through group class situations, to create brand banding to identify ‘sufferers’.

Personally I feel it is not appropriate when considering Yoga practices for others to ‘lump’ people together as say back pain sufferers, or migraine sufferers, or insomnia sufferers, etc.

It is tempting, or even convenient, to propose a technique and then state that this technique will help this particular situation or problem.

However, my teacher taught me that Yoga is to be tailored to the needs and aspirations of each person rather than fitting the person to some ready made group standard technique.

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It is interesting that in this current boom of Yoga Vogueing there are two distinct camps emerging……


It is interesting that in this current boom of Yoga Vogueing there are two distinct camps emerging.

That of Yoga within the field of extreme fitness and at the other end of the spectrum that of Yoga within the field of therapy or Yoga Tx.

The former is evident through the agenda and primary foci within the modern phenomena of Yoga Studios and Yoga Teachers competing to fill their many Warrior Athlete style Āsana classes with Exotic Sport names such as Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, Hot Power Yoga, Boot Camp Yoga, Extreme Yoga, Fitness Yoga, Fitness Fusion Yoga, Crossfit Yoga, Pilates Yoga, Booty Ballet Yoga, Yoga Burn, Yoga Bums and Tums, et al.

These multifarious Exotic Sport Yoga options are often promoted by studios offering ‘as many as you can eat in a month’ style discounts and modern Yoga mat style cut ’em thin so you can pack ’em in facilities. Though these marketing strategies can also mean thats its increasingly difficult to develop a continuity of student profiling or a systematic developmental pedagogy, but what the heck its all Yoga.

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It is important that we do not start Yoga by first doing Ahiṃsā……

TKV_USA

“It is important that we do not start Yoga by first doing Ahiṃsā and when that is mastered, do Satya, etc.
As we progress, seeking to better ourselves by any means, very gradually these things happen.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Eight Page 111

This approach is known as the Yoga of Rejuvenation and Prevention……

Āsana_18a

3.Yoga as Therapeutic Healthcare

Now Yoga, as both a restorative and preventative, is applied as therapeutic healthcare to help people with problems or poor health. Here the approach needs to be very different for each person. One person’s potential to change their situation will be affected by their problem. Another person’s problem will be affected by their potential to change their situation.

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The concern of Yoga as Meditation is the mystery of life rather than the mastery of life…….

dhyanam

2.Yoga as Meditation

Now the concern is more with the mystery of life than the mastery of life.

Here Yoga is a means for meditation with self-inquiry as the primary focus.

“Who am I?” is the question that acts as a map for an inner journey into our psyche. It is a quest to touch and be touched by the “soulful” quality of being that resides within.

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Yet ask any number of people what Yoga is and you are likely to get……


The word Yoga is by now well known outside India. In fact over the last four decades we have seen it quietly and steadily taking root within our Western culture and language. Yet ask any number of people what Yoga is and you are likely to get many different responses.

These responses are often diverse, and sometimes contradictory. However, Yoga can generally be summarised into three possibilities or approaches:-

1. Yoga as Power

Firstly Yoga can be explained as a means to attain a degree of power or control over our body and mind.

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The self looks out at the world rather than inwards……

upanisat

parāñci khāni vyatṛṇat svayambhūs
tasmāt parāṅ paśyati nāntarātman |

kaś cid dhīrah pratyagātmānam aikṣad
āvṛttacakṣur amṛtattvam icchan ||

The self born creator bored the sense openings outwards,
so the self looks out at the world rather than inwards.

A wise person, wanting to taste the state of immortality,
stops the senses from moving outwards and turns within to the essence.

 Kaṭha Upaniṣaṭ 2.1.1.

108 Prāṇāyāma Practice Pointers – 1 – The movement of the breath is a mirror

nadi_sodanaPrāṇāyāma Practice Pointer 1 – The movement of the breath is a mirror

The movement of the breath is a mirror to the movement of the mind.
Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā Chapter Two verse 2

Link to Posts Series: 108 Prāṇāyāma Practice Pointers

Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter Seven Practice

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House
‘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 deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.

Chapter Seven: Improvisation in Āsana – Pages 91-106

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The principle is we must bring action to the area of the body we wish to improve……

ardha_utkatasanavirabharasana

“Some standing postures develop the legs, such as Ardha Utkaṭāsana (half squat).
This posture is like weight lifting.
Other postures like Vīrabhadrāsana (standing,
bending backward with one knee bent) will also help.
The principle is we must bring action to the area of the body we wish to improve.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Seven Page 106-7

We can only begin to improvise after we begin to understand the various postures……

supta_eka_padangusthasanasupta_eka_padangusthasana_2

“We can only begin to improvise after we begin to understand the various postures.
We do not suggest improvisation for the sake of improvisation.
We do it when we need help to develop or to sustain attention,
or as an aid to a particular physical need”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Seven Page 101

Thus we use improvisation to bring something new and useful into the practice of Āsana……

uttanasana_4uttanasana_3

“Thus we use improvisation to bring something new and useful into the practice of  Āsana.
Therefore, if one of you is asked to do an Āsana with the legs straight and another to do that same Āsana with the legs bent, please don’t think you are winning or losing a contest.
Since this is not dance, form is not important.
What is important when doing an Āsana is the experience that happens at the moment.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Seven Page 98

If we are doing Āsana and the mind continues to wander……

janu sirsasana

“If we are doing Āsana and the mind continues to wander,
we are not doing the Āsana, only our bodies are doing them.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Seven Page 91

The association with the world full of form and change starts with the mind……

baradavajrasana

“The association with the world full of form and change starts with the mind.
Suffering caused because of this association is an eye opener.
Who is suffering?
Who is recognising it?
What can release this suffering?
All these questions exist because of this association,
even though it may often be painful
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 23

Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter Six Theory

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

‘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.

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 Six Theory: Puruṣa and Prakṛti – Pages 81-90

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When there is clarity, there is silence……

Desikachar_1999_1
“When there is clarity, there is silence.
When there is intellectual clarity we are happy,
we are pleased but this might not last.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Six Page 90

The breath can be a key to unlocking the mystery of the relationship……

In looking at how to deepen (rather than broaden) our personal practice choosing to focus on exploring the breath can be a key to unlocking the mystery of the relationship between body, breath, mind and beyond.

Here we can think of the deepening into our practice arising through progressively slowing the patterning of our breathing. To do this we have to reconsider our practice, not in terms of what we do with our body but what we do with the breath within our body.

This means firstly knowing what is our basic practice breath rate per minute and then progressively slowing that rate as we progress from Āsana, through to Mudrā and then to Prāṇāyāma.

For example when working with Āsana we can start with four breaths per minute, then with Mudrā slow it to three breaths per minute and finally with Prāṇāyāma, slow it again to two breaths per minute.

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There is no death for the Puruṣa because there is no change for it……

purusa

“There is no death for the Puruṣa
because there is no change for it,
and what is death but change.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Six Page 87