Paul’s Short & Longer Yoga Practice Theory Articles – Collected & Collated

There are currently some 100 short and longer articles I have written around Yoga Practice and Yoga Practice Theory. So I felt it could be worthwhile to set up a webpage where they are all collected together onto a single page, as well as being collated into topics according to content.

So, below you can find an outline of the primary Yoga practice topics and where relevant, practice sub-topics. Live links are shown to take you to the page itself and directly to the topic in question.

As well as aiming to help the reader by offering resources from my studies with Desikachar around Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma, Dhāraṇā and Chant Practice, it also highlights that there are some topics that I could offer more articles around. So over the next months I will post around themes such as the application of Dynamic and Static Form or understanding the differences in the Variation or Modification of Āsana.

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Navaratri or the Nine Nights of Durgā as a time for Mantra Sādhana……

tri_devi_470

The nine-night long Navaratri, an important occasion in India, is celebrated as a time to honour the Divine Feminine, especially the Goddess Durgā within the Indian tradition. It will commence today Saturday 17th October 2020, the first day of the month of Aśvin, according to the Hindu calendar. During this time the primary focus is Durgā manifesting through three primary aspects of the Divine Feminine.

Thus for the first three nights the focus is around the Divine Feminine in her power-bestowing aspect known as Durgā. For the second three nights the focus is around the Divine Feminine in her prosperity-bestowing aspect known as Lakṣmī. For the third three nights the focus is around the Divine Feminine in her wisdom-bestowing aspect known as Sarasvatī.

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T Krishnamacharya’s accomplishments should not be defined just by his more well known characterisations……

Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

I feel Krishnamacharya’s accomplishments should not be defined just by his more well known characterisations, such as his remarkable philosophical background being applied to contextualising traditional Indian texts from within a Yoga viewpoint, or his unique access to Haṭha teachings and texts and innovating from these resources when choreographing modern postural Āsana synthesises for children and young adults.

“All of Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s
life work focused on the training of students,
some of whom then went on to become teachers.”

However, what he is less well known for is his work with individual students, probably because it happened behind closed doors and students rarely had cause to speak about it to others. Nor would they have reason to want to teach it to others as it had been taught to them, as it was given at a particular moment in time, within a unique situation, with a specific purpose and within a private, rather than a public group setting.

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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 7 of 15 – Different Types of Postural Activity in Āsana Practice

7. Different Types of Postural Activity in Āsana Practice

Generally in terms of Āsana practice we can consider two types of physical activity:

– Dynamic or Movement and Stay or Static.

1. Dynamic is the movement aspect of an Āsana or posture.

– Though some Āsana are more suited to Movement or Dynamic Work

For Example:

2. Stay is the Static aspect of an Āsana or posture.

– Though some Āsana are more suited to Stay or Static Work

For Example:

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cYs Practitioner Training Programme Retreat Extract 3 – Self Planning & Self Practice

cYs Practitioner Training Programme 2004 Retreat Extract 3

Session 4 – Self Planning & Self Practice

This was a five day mid-afternoon Prāṇāyāma only planning and practice project for year Four students within a four year Practitioner Training Programme.

The format was:

  • 5′ Pulse taking
  • 15′ Prāṇāyāma Planning
  • 10’ Group Chanting
  • 15′ Prāṇāyāma Practice
  • 5’ Sitting
  • 5′ Pulse taking
  • 5’ For recording your pulse, personal notes or reflections from the practice

The Bhāvana practice proposition and Prāṇāyāma practice techniques that set each afternoons focus, technique and crown ratio are shown below.

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Cultivating the skills within Yoga Practice Planning for Individual Students

One important facet I experienced within the teaching process of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar was an intensive apprenticeship into the skills of being able to design individual practices for a range of possibilities, as well as for a variety of situations and stages within a student’s learning interests, needs and practice potentials.

Within this was the key premise of designing an individualised developmental practice for all aspects of practice, rather than just the more well-known notions of therapeutic adaptations, or the homogenous sequencings, that are more commonly seen as representative of Krishnamacharya’s teaching within modern Yoga approaches.

Accordingly, this meant that I spent a lot of time over the years in my lessons with Desikachar learning how to plan practices that incorporated a wide variety of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma techniques, initially as goal in themselves, ere to how these schematics could be applied within a students developmental Yoga journey.

For example in terms of Āsana

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cYs Practitioner Training Programme Retreat Extract 2 – Self Planning & Self Practice

cYs Practitioner Training Programme 2004 Retreat Extract 2

Session 4 – Self Planning & Self Practice

This was a five day mid-afternoon Prāṇāyāma only planning and practice project for year Two students within a Four year Practitioner Training Programme.

The format was:

  • 5′ Pulse taking
  • 15′ Prāṇāyāma Planning
  • 10’ Group Chanting
  • 15′ Prāṇāyāma Practice
  • 5’ Sitting
  • 5′ Pulse taking
  • 5’ For recording your pulse, personal notes or reflections from the practice

The Bhāvana practice proposition and Prāṇāyāma practice techniques that set each afternoons focus, technique and crown ratio are shown below.

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cYs Practitioner Training Programme Retreat Extract 1 – Self Planning & Self Practice

cYs Practitioner Training Programme 1999 Retreat Extract 1

Session 1 – Self Planning & Self Practice

This was a six day pre-breakfast planning and practice project for year three students within a four year Practitioner Training Programme.

The format was:

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The Viniyoga of Inversion as an Āsana or as a Mudrā……

The Viniyoga of Inversion as an Āsana or as a Mudrā……

There are some forms within the postural resources developed by Krishnamacharya that can function as either an Āsana or as a Mudrā, depending on how they are approached and utilised. This choice of direction and outcome can be realised according to the specific Bhāvana associated with the intention of the practitioner and the style of performance.

This distinction in characteristics can be generalised around whether the practitioner focuses on a dynamic form with the developmental priority around the variations of and in the posture, or on a static form with the focus on the developmental priority on the lengthening and refinement of the breath.

In other words, as to whether the focus is on the development of the various Vinyāsa Krama within the dynamic form through a specific competence within a number of physical variations. Or, the focus is on the development within the static form, of a specific competence within a number of respiratory ratios.

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Learning Support for Chanting the Nārāyaṇa Sūktam

Śrī TKV Desikachar 1938-2016

In Memorium August 8th 2020

Learning Support for Chanting the Nārāyaṇa Sūktam

– From the Taittirīya Upaniṣad Chapter 4 verses 25-27 in the Mahānārāyaṇaya Upaniṣad
An offering for this day from my personal library of recordings from my studies with TKV Desikachar.
To Listen or Download the Nārāyaṇa Sūktam as an MP3 Sound File
To Download the Chant Sheet with Romanised Saṃskṛta and Chant Notations

Guidelines for skilful dynamics within the performance of Vīrabhadrāsana……

Vīrabhadra Āsana or warrior pose is an Āsana where the postural focus at the level of Annamaya or the structural aspect, involves the skill of holding seemingly opposite points of attention at the same time.

Feet –
Front Leg Focus on Toes Down
Rear Leg Focus on Heel Down

For example, if we start by considering the attention on the feet using the above illustration, the front left foot focus is on the rooting of toes, whereas the focus on the rear right foot is on the rooting of the heel.

Thus, here we have an example of a Pratikriyā Bhāvana, or opposite action focus, where we need to hold our attention with a contrasting dynamic in two places simultaneously. In this example on both the front left or rear right foot at the same time, but with different points of attention.

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This particular full moon day is known as Guru Pūrṇimā……

Guru Pūrṇimā

This particular full moon day is known as Guru Pūrṇimā. On this day the ongoing transmission from teacher to student is especially honoured. In previous years I have offered posts with chants honouring the lineage of teachers.

This year I would like to focus on the significance of the full moon within this day by offering a chant known as the Candra Namaskṛtya Mantra.

oṣadhayaḥ saṃvadante somena saha rājñā ‖
– Taittirīya Saṃhitā 4.2.6

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The pursuit of ‘Yoga happiness’ can be so demanding or intense……

The pursuit of ‘Yoga bliss’ can be so demanding or intense that it can drive us as students to search for it through moving experientially from one Yoga seminar, workshop or retreat, or live or online Yoga class, or the latest Yoga hybrid or crossover style, to another.

The primary purpose for Āsana is to take us towards Yoga,
rather than just taking us towards more and more Āsana.

One irony from this pursuit is that any experience will not be exactly the same next time we reach for it, once we have been through that ‘first time taste’. This is the nature of Avidyā and its illusory mimicry, as lived through its child Rāga.

“Attraction is the consequence of happiness.”
Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 7

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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 6 of 15 – Planning an Appropriate Āsana Practice

6. Planning an Appropriate Āsana Practice

In this post we will consider questions around the planning of an appropriate Āsana practice.

For example how would we consider the following situation:

  • Rising at 6.30am
  • Stiff neck
  • Stiff legs
  • Nostrils blocked
  • Stomach pain
  • Head heavy
  • Work meeting at 8.30am (15′ walk)

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

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New Resources Page for Veda Mantra Chanting Practice PDF’s & Sound Files

yoga_sutra_cover

The role of this page is to offer a centralised resource where you can access and download all the PDF’s and MP3’s that are currently offered as references and supports for the continuing development of our Personal Veda Mantra Chanting Practice.

These will also offer a further point of reference as the resources are grouped under the categories shown below. The date at the bottom of each topic group will indicate the last update.

Quick Links:
1. Veda Chant – Beginners Exercises
2. Veda Chant – Opening Chants
3. Taittirīya Saṃhitā Chants
4. Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa Chants
5. Taittirīya Āraṇyaka Chants
6. Taittirīyra Upaniṣat Chants
7. Other Upaniṣat Chants
8. Other Chants – Ancient
9. Other Chants – Modern
10. Veda Chant – Closing Chants
11. Veda Chant – Resources as Sound Files

Following the Quick Links above will take you to the downloads within that group.

New Resources Page for Yoga Sūtra Chanting Practice PDF’s & Sound Files

yoga_sutra_cover

The role of this page is to offer a centralised resource where you can access and download all the PDF’s and MP3’s that are currently offered as references and supports for the continuing development of our Personal Yoga Sūtra Chanting Practice.

These will also offer a further point of reference as the resources are grouped under the categories shown below. The date at the bottom of each topic group will indicate the last update.

Quick Links:
1. Opening Yoga Chants
2. Opening Yoga Sūtra Chants
3. Beginners Yoga Sūtra Chants
4. Yoga Sūtra Chant in Chapters
5. Closing Yoga Chants
6. Closing Yoga Sūtra Chants
7. Yoga Sūtra Chanting Resources as Sound Files

Following the Quick Links above will take you to the downloads within that group.

Know your breath and its unique characteristics in Āsana and you will……

Know your breath and
its unique characteristics within Āsana
and 
you will have an initial template
for working with your breath in Prāṇāyāma.

Modern Postural Yoga talks a lot about individual patterning from our genetic past, along with upbringing and lifestyle conditioning, determining what body patterns we inherently carry from life to death. From this, how we need to consider what body we bring to Āsana practice and how we need to be intelligent in our choice of Āsana for our body and mind and the developmental direction of our body in Āsana practice.

Less talked about is that exactly the same can be said for our breath and the individual patterning from our genetic past, along with upbringing and lifestyle conditioning, determining what breathing patterns we inherently carry from life to death. From this, we also need to consider what breath we bring to Āsana practice and how we need to be intelligent in our choice of breathing patterns in Āsana for our body and mind and the developmental direction of our breath in Āsana practice.

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Strange to find my bananas enveloped by Yoga teachings on Vinyāsa Krama……

fruit_stall_madras

One day I was shopping at my favourite fruit stall in Adyar, Chennai in 1980.
This was in the days prior to such things as plastic bags, plastic bottles, etc.

So my fruit was put into paper bags and as the vendor handed them to me I noticed that they had been handmade from someone’s old A4 notes written in a distinctive green ink.

S’funny I thought, as the writing and sketches look familiar and sure enough
it was my own notes from my personal lessons with Desikachar.

Somehow my original notes had worked their way from being written up by me,
to the waste paper basket in my apartment, and via my cook,
to a paper bag maker, to be resold to the street vendors.

A curious juxtaposition to find my bananas
enveloped by Yoga teachings on Vinyāsa Krama.

When reflecting on the intimacy of the relationship between Prāṇāyāma and Āsana experientially……

When reflecting on the intimacy of the relationship between
Prāṇāyāma and Āsana experientially, we could consider
exploring the practice of Prāṇāyāma and its developmental
conjunction with Āsana, via the following reference points.

Within the age-old coalescence of Prāṇāyāma and Āsana,
Prāṇāyāma can have three potential roles in influencing
the physical, energetic, psychological or emotional
effects arising from the prior practice of Āsana.

In this context the application of Prāṇāyāma can be
from one of three directions. It can be used to either
pacify, or to stabilise, or to intensify, the various
experiences arising from the practice of  Āsana.

In the beginning of our journey into the arts of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma……


In the beginning of our journey into the arts of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma, the outcome of our exploration into the breath in Āsana sets a direction and parameters for the beginnings of our exploration into how and where to develop the breath in Prāṇāyāma.

As we establish, progress and refine our practice of Prāṇāyāma, the strengths and issues that arise from our practice of Prāṇāyāma invite a subtler investigation of the breath in Āsana.

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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 5 of 15 – Common Points within the Variables in Āsana Practice

5. What are the Common Points within the Variables in Āsana Practice

If we look at all the variables around Āsana practice we can find some similarities between various individuals.

For example:

  • The variable must accept and include a persons previous training
  • We must respect where a person is coming or starting from
  • It is better to consider the immediate situation rather than the long term
  • We must respect the after effect of the Āsana practice
  • We must respect the after action to come
  • We must respect the travel from A to Z or Upāya
  • Z seems to vary much more than A, i.e.
    Practice in the morning – generally less variables
    Practice in the evening – more subject to the days effects and different lifestyles
  • We must respect age, condition, gender, work, lifestyle, etc
  • It is also necessary to consider some technical priorities
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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 4 of 15 – Considerations around the Direction of Āsana Practice

4. Considerations around the Direction of Āsana Practice

As well as considering what is acceptable to each and everybody as basic principles of Āsana practice, we must consider the direction of one’s Āsana practice.

For example:

  • 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 consideration of all the factors that surround the establishing of a home practice. For example this can be:

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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 3 of 15 – The Principles used in Constructing an Āsana Practice

3. The Principles used in Constructing an Āsana Practice

So how have the various schools of Yoga come to ideas of using rest, preparation, counterpose, etc as planning principles in the practice of Āsana?

Also if we have certain principles underpinning how we work, how do we apply them to students already set in a particular mode of Āsana practice?

For example:

  • Perhaps 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.
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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 2 of 15 – There are Many Approaches to Āsana Practice

2. There are Many Approaches to Āsana Practice

To consider this aspect we need to look at different approaches to Āsana practice using as examples the viewpoints of different schools of practice 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 schools of thought around the principles of practice of Āsana.

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The Viniyoga of Āsana Part 1 of 15 – Āsana according to Haṭha and Rāja

1. The Definition of Āsana according to Haṭha and Rāja Yoga

HAṬHA PRADĪPIKĀ Chapter One verse 17

haṭhasya prathama-aṅgatvād-āsanaṁ pūrvam-ucyate |
kuryāt-tad-āsanaṃ sthairyam-ārogyaṃ cāṅga-lāghvam ||

Āsana, being the initial limb of Haṭha, is spoken of first.
Āsana brings about steadiness, improved health and lightness of limb.

For me, still to this day, one of the simplest, direct and most succinct definitions on the purpose of Āsana within the processes and practices of Haṭha Yoga, is the definition offered in the Haṭha Pradīpikā Chapter One verse 17.

It is a definition valid for any situation, discussion or presentation, or as a response to questions from any background, or level of interest around why we practice Āsana.

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Considerations for Vinyāsa Krama around Bakāsana……

bakasana

When studying the many aspects of Āsana, my teacher taught me not just the final form of the Āsana, but also that there was a learning around the context and especially the Vinyāsa Krama of each Āsana and the ‘family’ to which they belonged.

For example when studying Āsana such as Bakāsana, I was taught that there are certain protective and selective criteria that need to be considered as part of both the dynamic of the form and the prerequisite steps. These also help in determining the readiness of the practitioner to engage in the dynamic that Āsana, such as this one, sit within.

These considerations include a specific Vinyāsa Krama or steps into and out of the Āsana. These steps in themselves offer a sort of check list to determine if the student is adequately prepared and thus ready to engage in the process of which the final form is but a still frame within a movie.

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