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

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

“Yoga is more about exploring
the movement of the mind, whilst
Āsana is more about exploring
the movement of the body.
The vehicle common to exploring both
is the movement of the breath.
The yoking of all three is towards the goal of
experiencing the source of all movement.”

Here, from the viewpoint of T Krishnamacharya, an avenue for deepening an exploration into the potential of the breath within our practice can be through a systematic and progressive slowing in the cyclic patterning of our breath. To access this deepening we may have to reconsider our practice, not just in terms of what we do with our body, but also what we do with the breath within the various Yoga practices associated with our body.

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The Viniyoga of Yoga is the application of the principles that…

viniyoga

The Viniyoga of Yoga is the application of the principles that,

linked together, offer possibilities to enhance our relationship with ourselves through our personal practice.

This approach, with its emphasis on one to one transmission, opens the possibility that a deepening of our practice comes not from adding more difficult Āsana, but from further refining our relationship with what Āsana we already have.

Life is already full of pressures to go for the newest and latest, ever improved model. Plus it’s often easier shopping around to bring more in from the outside rather than putting time aside and concentrating on bringing more out from the inside.

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Exploring Prāṇāyāma within Cikitsā, Rakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa Krama…

1. Prāṇāyāma, the same as with Āsana and Dhyānam, was taught according to…

Prāṇāyāma, the same as with Āsana and Dhyānam, was taught according to the core principles within Cikitsā KramaRakṣaṇa Krama and Śikṣaṇa Krama.
Thus we have breathwork practice possibilities ranging from Cikitsā, using simple ratios to settle an irregular breathing pattern or pulse fluctuation, to Rakṣaṇa, with a visible competence and fluidity within a range of basic techniques and mild ratios, to Śikṣaṇa and a skill base encompassing all techniques, and ratios and especially, the application and integration of Kumbhaka with long holds both after the inhale and the exhale.

2. What defines the transition between Cikitsā, Rakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa Krama is the desire…

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The Viniyoga of Āsana – Planning an Appropriate Āsana Practice

Planning an Appropriate Āsana Practice

How can we consider factors around the planning of an appropriate Āsana practice?

For example, how would we consider the following situation:

  • Rising at 6.30 am
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Stiffness in the legs
  • Nostrils blocked
  • Stomach tight
  • Head feeling heavy
  • Work meeting at 8.30 am (20 minutes walking time needed)

We can find out how much time is available, say 30′. So now we can prepare a practice. Though, whatever principles we use there are certain things that need to happen.

However, we should have respect for:

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The Force of the Past within the Face of the Present…

“Working together with and directed by past impressions,
the three Guṇa, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas determine
whether the mind is calm, agitated or dull.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 4

“Past impressions also determine the
mind’s direction and quality of perception.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 4

The less we act from within the field of the present moment,
the more we re-act from within the field of past memories.
– Paul Harvey on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verses 4

“The mind acts in countless ways and all of them
stem from the power of past Karma Vāsanā.
This is why individuals differ from one another.”
– T Krishnamacharya on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 6

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Laṅghana Kriyā has two functional dimensions…

Laṅghana Kriyā is a Viniyoga methodology with its reducing, lightening or contractive potentials within the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma. As a practice process it is actualised through an understanding of the primary principles that inform Haṭha Yoga and Āyurveda.

The Viniyoga, or application of Laṅghana Kriyā effects a concentration of Agni from the periphery to the core. This outcome is approached traditionally through effecting systemic changes, primarily in the systemic energies of digestion and elimination. Thus from an Āyurveda perspective, the use of practices which bring about a functional energetic change in the qualities of Vāta, Pitta and Kapha Doṣa.

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Design and Experiment with a Practice around Parśva Uttānāsana and Janu Śīrṣāsana…

Design and Experiment with a Practice around
Parśva Uttānāsana and Janu Śīrṣāsana practicing each
Dynamically 4 Times followed by Static 4 Breaths each side

The Vinyāsa Krama or planning steps in the practice will be for a total of 60 working breaths.

– It will be based around Āsana especially Parśva Uttānāsana and Janu Śīrṣāsana.
– In this instance, the practice will not include any Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma or Dhyāna.
– In the planning structure, any link Āsana such as Samasthiti, Śavāsana, Vajrāsana, do not count in the breath tally.
– Make notes on what you have discovered from this practice
– Justify to yourself your choice of supporting or compensatory Āsana within the scheme.
– This planning question was first proffered within Study and Practice Courses whereby the student’s responses would be shared during the next meeting along with being offered a sample response.
Accordingly, I will post this example by adding it as a PDF resource to this post after 10 days.

To Download or View this Question as a PDF Study Sheet

To Download or View a Sample Practice Response as a PDF

Yoga Practice Planning and Theory Questions – Collected & Collated

Finding your starting point within Āsana to set a direction and route towards a 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 teaching 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.

This notion of establishing the starting point in terms of setting goals and establishing the number of steps, as in Vinyāsa Krama, was one of the fundamental principles within any aspect of practice taught to me by Desikachar. It is also an inherent factor within the notion of the Viniyoga or application of Āsana, in that how can we make and apply an intelligent arrangement without knowing both where the student is starting from as well as going towards.

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Studying, Practicing and Learning the Tri Bandha involves Theory, Techniques and Cautions…

In Studying the Tri Bandha we engage with Haṭha teachings:
In that, the inhale takes the Agni towards the Mūlādhāra.
This effect on Agni increases with the Antar Kumbhaka,
as the Antar Kumbhaka helps to intensify the fire.
Following this process in bringing the Agni down,
the exhale takes the Mūlādhāra towards the Agni.
Thus the exhale draws the Apāna towards the Agni,
plus the intensification of Uḍḍīyana Bandha and
the addition of Mūla Bandha to hold the Apāna up.
This is the link with the effect on the Kuṇḍalinī,
though in terms of practice, it is very hard to get.

In Practicing the Tri Bandha we start

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Correct vibrational intonation was an important emphasis within all aspects of Mantra initiation

Correct vibrational intonation was an important emphasis within all aspects of Mantra initiation and there was a strict process in the transmission of a Mantra lest the vitality of the Mantra becomes increasingly diminished if the vibration is compromised at any level.

As with all aspects of a personal practice, Krishnamacharya and Desikachar taught Mantra within a private and individual initiation with a specific Vinyāsa Krama, which would mean that by the time it came to introduce the Mantra as a form of Japam the student was prepared and capable to both hold and sustain a mental consistency and vibratory resonance.

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Can we find some similar characteristics between various individuals around Āsana practice…

Can we find some similar characteristics between various individuals within Āsana…

If we look at all the variables, can we find some similarities between various individuals within Āsana and Āsana practice?

Here a pragmatic choice that arises, especially relevant for Western bodies today, is the question of establishing what are the priority areas within any given Āsana. This question can be examined through the lens of consideration of setting postural priorities around what constitutes a primary characteristic and what constitutes a secondary characteristic. In other words the importance of where, within the form, to choose or allow an adaptation in the Āsana and where, within the form, to endeavour not to compromise the Āsana.

I do feel these days that our understanding in Āsana practice is dominated by the Nāma, or name and the Rūpa or final form, with little emphasis on the Lakṣaṇa or inherent characteristics of the Āsana. Furthermore, how understanding this aspect can have a profound effect on the approach, application and outcome of the overall or accumulative impact of the Āsana within the student’s personal practice.

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Examples of Vinyāsa Krama for Sitting Āsana within a Single Practice…

Examples of Vinyāsa Krama for Sitting Āsana within a Single Practice…

As Desikachar actually had very few long term students, many people’s views around such as his Āsana teaching, or views on Yoga in general are formed from experiencing him teaching within a group situation, either at a seminar, lecture or retreat.

Actually he really was not very comfortable teaching mixed public groups in these situations, and in relation to teaching practices, what practices he could present had to be very generalised and therefore sometimes even contrary to the principles he taught according to what he learnt from his father.

On the other hand as a private student the Āsana practices I was exposed to had a precision and intensity offering a breadth and depth impossible to emulate within a group class environment.

As an example I am offering an extract from the seated section of a practice he taught me. The Āsana in this section are Daṇḍāsana, Ardha Matsyendrāsana, Mahā Mudrā, Buddha Koṇāsana, Paścimatānāsana and as a Pratikriyā Āsana, Dvi Pāda Pīṭham.

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Design and Experiment with a Practice around Bhujaṅgāsana and Paścimatānāsana…

Design and Experiment with an Āsana Practice around
Bhujaṅgāsana and Paścimatānāsana practicing each
Dynamically 4 Times followed by Static 4 Breaths

The Vinyāsa Krama or planning steps in the practice will be for a total of 60 working breaths.

– It will be based around Āsana especially Bhujaṅgāsana and Paścimatānāsana
– In this instance, the practice will not include any Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma or Dhyāna.
– In the planning structure, any link Āsana such as Samasthiti, Śavāsana, Vajrāsana, do not count in the breath tally.
– Make notes on what you have discovered from this practice
– Justify to yourself your choice of supporting or compensatory Āsana within the scheme.
– This planning question was first proffered within Study and Practice Courses whereby the student’s responses would be shared during the next meeting along with being offered a sample response.
Accordingly I will post this example by adding it as a PDF resource to this post after 10 days.

To Download or View this Question as a PDF Study Sheet
To Download or View a Sample Practice Response as a PDF

Yoga Practice Planning and Theory Questions – Collected & Collated

Primary Prāṇāyāma Techniques as taught by Krishnamacharya and Desikachar

nadi_sodana

Glossary of Prāṇāyāma & Bandha Practice Techniques

Grouped into Primary, Secondary & Ancillary Techniques

1. Primary Prāṇāyāma Breathing Techniques

Nāḍī Śodhana
Pūraka Left Nostril
Recaka Right Nostril
Pūraka Right Nostril
Recaka Left Nostril

2. Primary Support Prāṇāyāma Breathing Techniques

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We need to consider the process that surrounds one’s Āsana practice…

We need to consider the process that surrounds one’s Āsana practice…

As well as considering what is acceptable to each and everybody as content of an Āsana practice, we need to consider the process that surrounds one’s Āsana practice.

Examples of Practice as a Process include inquiry into:

  • Where are we starting from in terms of practice as a process?
  • Where are we going to in terms of practice as a process?
  • Is this process of potential change working with immediate needs in mind?
  • Is this process of potential change working with long term needs in mind?
  • Is this process of potential change trying to integrate both immediate needs and long term needs?

So what is Yoga practice as a process? Practice as a process is a consideration of all the factors that surround the establishing of a home practice.

These include:

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cYs Practitioner Training Programme Retreat Extract 4 – Self Planning & Self Practice

cYs Practitioner Training Programme 2004 Retreat Extract 4

Session 1 – Self Planning & Self Practice

Building and working with Complex Sequences

This was a six day early morning Āsana, Mudrā, Bandha  & Prāṇāyāma planning and practice project for year Four students within a four year Practitioner Training Programme.

The format was:

  • 5′ Pulse taking
  • 15′ Practice Planning the previous day/s for:
    Āsana practice  35′
    Prāṇāyāma practice 10′
  • 5’ Sitting
  • 5′ Pulse taking
  • 5’ For recording your pulse, personal notes or reflections from the practice

The Bhāvana practice proposition and Āsana, Mudrā, Bandha  & Prāṇāyāma practice techniques that set each mornings focus, technique and crown ratio are shown below.

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How do we apply Viniyoga to students already set in a particular mode of Āsana practice?

How do we apply Viniyoga to students already set in a particular mode of Āsana practice?

If we have certain principles underpinning how we teach, how do we apply Viniyoga to students already set in a particular mode of Āsana practice?

For example, if they have a physical problem then you have something to work with. However, you need to be tactful about pointing such things out, maybe waiting. Otherwise, you can try to meet them halfway i.e. adding a couple of things to their practice they know and a couple they don’t.

If they have been practising in this way for several years what does it matter if it takes several months to influence their Āsana practice.

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There are Many Approaches to Āsana Practice…

There are Many Approaches to Āsana Practice

To consider this statement we need to look at different approaches to Āsana practice. Here, we can use viewpoints of different ‘styles’ of practice as to what are seen by many as the two primary ‘classical’ Āsana.

For example:

From these examples we are led to the belief that we must respect that there are various viewpoints on the principles of practice for these two primary Āsana.

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When encountering a student wanting to explore how to engage with Yoga practice…

When encountering a student wanting to explore how to engage with Yoga practice, what could be the starting points for examining what might work for them in terms of determining appropriate short term and longer term steps towards establishing stages in how to proceed?

Here it could be helpful to look at what sits behind their intentions to practice, as well as what appears in front of us in terms of the person and their overt requests around the role of Yoga in their life.

This means we need to investigate what is the process that sits behind and stimulates, or even exacerbates their urge towards a Yoga practice, before considering what is the actual content that we will offer for the first steps into the arena of cultivating and maintaining a personalised practice.

So, what do we mean by investigating what is the process that sits behind their wish to practice?

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Collected Āsana Practice Planning Questions – as of November 2021…

– Collected Āsana Practice Planning Questions

I am collating a number of individual practice planning questions posted previously around Āsana as an illustration of the principles of Vinyāsa Krama.

They are presented here collectively to invite attention to the wide-ranging possibilities that existed in the teachings of TKV Desikachar in the field of working with a variety of Āsana, in terms of exploring this particular aspect of Yoga practice, through emphasising either breadth or depth.

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