It is possible to have left the practice,
even before we have got onto the mat.
Postural Practice Pointer 21 – Backbends disturb the exhale
Backbends disturb the length and quality of the exhale,
in that they impact the Apāna and push the Mūla downwards.
Thus we need to consider an appropriate Pratikriyā Āsana
to compensate for this disturbance to the Apāna Sthāna.
Hence Pratikriyā such as Apānāsana to restore the Apāna.
I find my personal practice mat a place to face myself.
Thus when I feel resistance to getting onto my mat,
I find it helpful to ask myself a question around,
what is it in myself that I don’t want to face today.
As a teacher it can be helpful to consider Āsana as
vehicles to transmit the fundamental principles of practice.
For example a cardinal principle of practice is that Āsana
have a primary and a secondary aspect within their Lakṣana.
Thus we must inquire into what is the primary aspect in this Āsana,
and what is the secondary aspect in this particular Āsana?
The idea is to maintain the integrity of the primary characteristics.
Thus we may need to compromise the secondary characteristics.
For example in Uttānāsana to sustain the primary work in the spine
we can consider a secondary compromise by releasing the knees.
I feel we need to ensure that
we use our practice to support our teaching,
rather than using our teaching to support our practice.
I was asked in 2011 to provide ‘expert quotes’ in response to three questions for a media article by a freelance journalist on a Yoga related topic. These were my reflections that I am reposting unedited, especially given the surge in these past 7 years in what has become labelled as ‘Yoga Therapy’:
Q1. What are some examples of illnesses or ailments that can improve or be cured with the use of Yoga?
“It is not possible to give examples of illnesses or ailments that can be improved as it all depends on the matrix of the person who may also have certain combinations of problems. A student with cancer may improve or a student with a history of colds may experience little change.
The viewpoint of Yoga is to look at people as individuals and work from there rather than the more usual view of making lists of problems with flash card like answers to a specific problem. e.g. Sciatica, High Blood Pressure, Insomnia, Osteo-arthrosis, Chrohn’s Disease, etc.
Postural Practice Pointer 19 – In Dvipāda Pīṭham a key Bhāvana is on the feet.
With regard to Dvi Pāda Pīṭham, a key Bhāvana is on the feet.
A common approach is people not working from their feet.
Instead they are primarily using their buttocks to push up.
Desikachar taught that we both lift and lower from the feet
Thus Two Foot Support is controlled by using both feet.
Something spreading more widely may not
automatically mean that something is developing.
Should we be reflecting more on that which helps Yoga to develop,
rather than on that which helps Yoga to spread more widely?
TKV Desikachar did not teach different people different things.
Nor did he just teach the same thing to different people.
He taught different people the same thing in different ways.
The same could be said of T Krishnamacharya’s teaching.
Hence the context of the phrase the viniyoga of Yoga.
Prāṇāyāma, as with Āsana and Dhyānam, was taught according
to the principles of Cikitsā, Rakṣaṇa and Śikṣaṇa Krama.
Thus we have breathing practices ranging from Cikitsā,
using simple ratio to settle an irregular breath, to Rakṣaṇa,
with competence and fluidity with various basic techniques and mild ratios,
to Śikṣaṇa and mastery of all techniques, and ratios and especially,
the Kumbhaka with long holds both after the inhale and the exhale.
The Vinyāsa Krama or steps in the evolution of practice are measured
by our practice abilities and consistency and potential within our life situation.
The longer term measure of our Prāṇāyāma potential is determined by
our skilful efforts with all four components of the breath in Āsana.
For example can we maintain 220.127.116.11. in Parśva Uttānāsana or 18.104.22.168 in Mahāmudrā?
These days though, it seems that there is not much place for or interest in the use of Kumbhaka
within breathing practices, if used at all it appears to be mainly Cikitsā or about recovery,
or at best Rakṣaṇa or constitutional, rather than Śikṣaṇa and developmental.
Postural Practice Pointer 17 – Bhāvana for moving into Sālamba Bhujaṅgāsana
1. Keeping the chin in Jālandhara Bandha till the effect is felt
in the lower back will support extending the upper back.
2. Keeping the abdomen firm as you inhale will help to concentrate
the breath into the Prāṇa Sthāna, as well as minimising the
effect of the downward pressure on the Apāna Sthāna.
Āsana alone can be a support for our outer relationship with living.
However can Āsana alone be a support for our inner relationship with dying?
Especially as our conception of death is buried deep within our psyche.
This is why Yoga offers vehicles beyond Āsana for the inner and especially final journey.
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.
A short end of morning study 25′ pre-lunch practice from the second day of three day Practitioner Training Programme Module first year group some years ago. Here the primary Bhāvana or theme was to offer a concise practice to experientially explore previous theoretical teachings around Bandha and the form of Taḍāka Mudrā, with added examples for the introductory application of Uḍḍīyana Bandha within Āsana.
Here the practice began with work in Supta Samasthiti in order to lengthen the breath using Ujjāyī as a base to using Supta Tāḍāsana to introduce the Bāhya Kumbhaka as a preliminary for Uḍḍīyana Bandha. Then Taḍāka Mudrā is introduced, firstly in a dynamic form with a return to base Vinyāsa and then intensified with the static form incorporating successive Uḍḍīyana Bandha. Here it might be helpful to emphasise that according to Krishnamacharya, Uḍḍīyana Bandha is applied within the Bāhya Kumbhaka.