Nāma, Rūpa, Lakṣana – The Name, Form and Characteristics of Āsana

The Aṣṭāṅga Āsana or the eight limbs of Āsana Planning and Practice are the formula for constructing a skilful and place, time and lifestyle appropriate Āsana practice. These eight limbs fall into eight categories, that of:

  • The definition, meaning and context of Āsana
    – Core concept – Nāma Rūpa Lakṣana – name, form and characteristics
  • How Āsana are arranged into groups and categories
    – Core concept – Vinyāsa Krama – collecting postures together
  • How counterpostures or Pratikriyāsana are integrated
    – Core concept – Pratikriyāsana– maintaining the balance
  • The value and purpose of the breath in Āsana
    – Core concept – PrāṇaApāna Dhāraṇā – where the focus is
  • How movement or stay are used in Āsana 
    Core concept – Circulation and Purification – dynamic and static
  • The adaptation of Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Variation and Modification – change and necessity
  • Intelligently planning and Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Bṛṃhaṇa and Laṅghana Kriyā – connecting postures together
  • Observation within Āsana practice
    – Core concept – Spine, Breath and Attention – learning to look

In my last post on Aṣṭāṅgāsana I talked about introducing each of these eight topics to help the reader to appreciate more about what is inherent in the depth and breadth of this approach in terms of Āsana planning having a precise and comprehensive formula.

Āsana practice starts with a need to know something about the Āsana we are going to work with as we introduce, persevere and develop and especially personalise our practice. Hence we have to both practice but also have some theoretical background in order to context an Āsana in itself and in relationship to other Āsana.

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Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 3 Uttānāsana

Part Three – Moving from our Spine with Uttānāsana

This is the third in a series of articles presenting the core principles for Āsana practice as taught to me through many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

The emphasis in the previous article was on “Growing from our Roots” and looked at Tāḍāsana, the second Āsana in the series within a general practice.

The first article “Moving into our Bodies” looked at the starting Āsana in the series, Samasthiti, as a pose that offered a means to bring our mind and through it, our deeper awareness to a focussed attention.

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Learning Support for Chanting Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaḥ

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सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः ।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु ।
मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत् ॥

sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ |
sarve santu nirāmayāḥ |
sarve bhadrāṇi paśyantu |
mā kashchit duḥkha bhāgbhavet ‖

May all be happy
May all be free from illness
May all see what is auspicious
May no one suffer

Learning Support for Chanting Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaḥ
From my personal library of recordings from my studies with my teacher TKV Desikachar
To Download or Listen
To Download the Chant Sheet with Devanāgari, Romanised Saṃskṛta and Translation

Viniyoga Vignette 2 – Commentary on Combining techniques in Prāṇāyāma

seated_pranayama_2

For those who read the Viniyoga Vignette post 2 on combining techniques in Prāṇāyāma from two days ago, I would add some observations around rationales on the choice and order of the techniques involved.

Step 1.
Śītalī Inhale with Ujjāyī Exhale
1.½.1.0 for 8 breaths
Step 2.
Anuloma Ujjāyī
1.½.1½.0 for 8 breaths
Step 3.
Pratiloma Ujjāyī
1½.0.1½.0 for 8 breaths
Step 4.
Ujjāyī
½.0.½.0 for 8 breaths

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Viniyoga Vignette 2 – Combining techniques in Prāṇāyāma

seated_pranayama_2

A short mid-afternoon Prāṇāyāma practice from a year one Practitioner Training Programme, to offer an example of how to combine three different Prāṇāyāma techniques within a single Vinyāsa Krama.

Step 1.
Śītalī inhale with Ujjāyī exhale
1.½.1.0 for 8 breaths
Step 2.
Anuloma Ujjāyī
1.½.1½.0 for 8 breaths
Step 3.
Pratiloma Ujjāyī
1½.0.1½.0 for 8 breaths
Step 4.
Ujjāyī
½.0.½.0 for 8 breaths

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Viniyoga Vignette 1 – Antar and Bāhya Kumbhaka in Āsana

A short pre-lunch 25′ practice from the first day of the two day Module One Haṭha Energetics Workshop.

As well as emphasising the use of Jihvā and Jālandhara Bandha, the primary Bhāvana or theme was to explore the application of and response to the introduction and accumulative intensification of Antar Kumbhaka (AK) and Bāhya Kumbhaka (BK) throughout the practice.

I would emphasise that this is an example of a unique situation that existed at that moment and thus reflects an expression of a study point or the students group dynamic as a need at that moment.

Yet within this caveat, this example of a short but intensive practice, whilst not to be taken as a fixed template, also reflects the richness and multifarious possibilities in how the principles in the Viniyoga of Yoga can be expressed as learning and experiential tools within a myriad of situations and personalities.

If there is a sketch quality in the PDF copy it is because these practices were not preplanned and were being notated as they unfolded whilst teaching the group. This also meant I could photocopy them as the practice concluded so copies were immediately available for reflection, reference and discussion.

Link to view or download this Practice as a PDF

Links to Posts in this Series: Viniyoga Vignettes

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This way I have collected hundreds of handwritten Yoga practice examples


Some years ago now I changed the process around how students notated various practices I taught for groups within Student Training Courses or Practitioner Training Programmes.

My methodology previously had prioritised students learning the skills of being able to remember and context what they had just practiced by also being able to recall and then record it accurately. This was part of cultivating personal practice skills, as well as helping in establishing the art of keeping a practice journal over a several year period.

Thus I would teach a small group of students, studying within the contexts of either personal study courses or professional training programmes, a practice and then wait, before perhaps writing it on the board, for it to be notated down from the student’s memory and then we would at some point discuss it and its context to the current situation.

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Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 2 Tāḍāsana

Part Two – Growing from our Roots with Tāḍāsana

This is the second in a series of articles presenting the core principles for āsana practice as taught to me through many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

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Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 1 Samasthiti

Part One – Moving into our Bodies with Samasthiti.

This is the first in a series of articles presenting the core principles for āsana practice as taught to me over many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

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Kayena Vāca – Yoga Sūtra Chanting Closing Prayer with Translation

Yoga Sūtra Chanting Closing Prayer

This post follows on from yesterday’s post introducing the use of and intention within the practice of closing chants that follow the study of chanting, or the study of associated Yoga texts. Traditionally chant practice or textual study was also preceded with an invocatory passage to help forge a link between the chanters, what is about to be chanted and its purport, as well as setting a context for study.

Thus each area of study that the teacher and student were about to venture into was preceded by an appropriate Dhyānam Ślokam, or set of verses that specifically linked the chanters with that particular area of study or practice. Therefore the opening verses would differ according to whether the focus was Veda Chanting, the Upaniṣat, the Bhagavad Gītā, the Yoga Sūtra, etc.

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Kayena Vāca – Veda Chanting Short Closing Prayer with Translation

Veda Chanting Short Closing Prayer

In this lineage this particular dedication is a vital part of the closing process within a chant practice or textual study context and was important to and constantly used by Krishnamacharya throughout his life.

He also taught it to those of his direct students who studied chanting or the chant practices inherent in the study of associated Yoga texts with him within a traditional learning setting.

It is also called a Sāttvika Tyāga. This relates to the concept of not giving up the action, just changing your relationship with your expectations around the fruits of the action. This Bhāvana is inherent in the meaning of the chant and is linked to the teachings around the surrender of the self.

Further reflections on Krishnamacharya’s teachings on the concept of Sāttvika Tyāga within the Bhagavad Gītā will be offered within a future post.

kāyena vācā manasendriyairvā
budhyātmanā vā prakṛteḥ svabhāvāt |

karomi yadyatsakalaṃ parasmai
nārāyaṇāyeti samarpayāmi ||

sarvaṃ śrī kṛṣṇārpaṇamastu ||

” My body, speech, mind, senses,
intellect, essence, or outer and inner tendencies,

All that I will do over and over,
to the supreme Nārāyaṇa I offer.”

“All to the esteemed Kṛṣṇa I consign,
let it be so.”

View or download this Chant and Translation as a PDF.
View or download this post Chant and Translation with chanting notations as a PDF.

Yoga as Exercise, Exercise as Yoga……

WLofHandB

The image that heads this article is one such example of a document that I accumulated from my early studies in Western anatomy, physiology and kinesiology in the 1980’s. It was from a Final Theory Examination for a Teacher Training Course within  the Woman’s League of Health and Beauty. Founded in the 1930’s it now operates under the title of the Fitness League.

Curiously, in researching the current incarnation of this organisation I looked at a promotional video of their ‘style’ on their website and have to comment I would find it quite difficult to distinguish from some of the current offerings around for Yoga Classes.

If you teach using background music, incorporate moving or dance style sequences, or use postures such as two foot support, or cobra, or half locust or seated forward bend, amidst a fitness based approach, then the differences between Yoga Āsana and Exercise Postures become increasingly blurred.

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Finding your starting point within an Āsana to set a direction and 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 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.

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Who needs just Yoga as just Yoga anymore?

Āsana_5_web

“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?

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Reflecting on the relationship between Svadharma and Dharma

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

“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 DharmaI 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.

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Design an Āsana Practice according to the principles taught by TKV Desikachar


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

View or Download this post as a PDF

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

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.

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


As Desikachar actually had very few long term students, many peoples 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 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, Baddha Koṇāsana, Paścimatānāsana and as a Pratikriyāsana, Dvipāda Pīṭham.

There were two options for practice, a lighter application or a more intense one. In the lighter version the balance of repeat or stay was as follows:

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three

In the previous two articles 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.

I would like to use this post to consider how we need to add a structure within which we can build content. Without a structure our practice in this area can easily become random in terms of length or haphazard in terms of consistency.

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Learning Support for Chanting the Gaṇapati Prārthanā Saṃhitā Pāṭhaḥ


Learning Support for Chanting the Taittirīya Saṃhitā 2.3.14
– Gaṇapati Prārthanā Saṃhitā Pāṭhaḥ.
From my personal library of recordings from my studies
with my teacher TKV Desikachar.
To Download or Listen
To Download the Chant Sheet in Romanised Saṃskṛta with Notations

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two

Continuing on from the previous post introducing the question of where to start in our investigation of our breath in Āsana in preparation for establishing and sustaining a consistent base within a Prāṇāyāma practice.

This also needs to be a base practice that both supports our day to day needs and yet allows it, as in any relationship, to grow and develop in terms of intensity and progress.

In this earlier post on where to start there were some key points that I would summarise around:

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Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part One

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start?

According to how I was taught there two possibilities, that of using ratio and that of using nostril techniques. Desikachar taught me, both for my personal practice and teaching skill base, that the journey towards Prāṇāyāma starts with the former before being enhanced and refined through the latter.

According to Krishnamacharya’s methodology around developing the breath aspect of the students practice, initially through Āsana and Mudrā and ultimately through Prāṇāyāma, begins with what happens in and to the breath in Āsana.

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20 Minute Prāṇāyāma Practice focused on Pūraka without Kumbhaka

seated_pranayama_2

20 Minute Prāṇāyāma Practice focused on Pūraka without Kumbhaka

 

Ascent:
Anuloma Ujjāyī Technique with 8.0.16.0. Ratio/Length for 8 Breaths

Crown:
Pratiloma Ujjāyī Technique with 16.0.16.0. Ratio/Length for 16 Breaths

Descent:
Anuloma Ujjāyī Technique with 8.0.12.0. Ratio/Length for 8 Breaths

Closing:
Ujjāyī Technique with 4.0.4.0. Ratio/Length for 4 Breaths

Completion:
Drop the breath and remain with the experience for 5 minutes

Download this post as a PDF

Medicine, Mastery and Mystery within the field of Yoga.

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Paul Teaching in Zinal, Switzerland in 1999

Medicine, Mastery and Mystery

An Interview with Paul Harvey by Joseph Le Page. Joseph is the founder and director of Integrative Yoga Therapy. This interview took place while Paul was teaching at Zinal for UENFY in 1999.

JL: How do you adapt Yoga to the individual?

PH: I can approach that in two ways, the chronological and the psychological. Chronologically, the starting point is the age at which people begin Yoga studies.

There are three stages of life, or Trikrama. The first is the stage of growth and expansion (Sṛṣṭi).

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Dhyāna is taught as a personalised process unique to each student……

dhyanam

Question:
Would appreciate any clues as to the Dhyāna practice as you were taught.”

Response:
Reflecting on this question reminds me of a video of a lecture by S Sridharan from the KYM recently reposted on August 5th 2015 on the Krishnamacharya Yoga Facebook page. I feel that the extract below sums up well the essence of Krishnamacharya’s teaching, especially when involving the Antar Aṅga:

“But when it came to personal practice we would have to meet our teacher in his room separately…..
What my teacher has imparted to me as my Yoga practice. I cannot share it with any of you.
Not for the reason that I don’t want to share it, it will have no value for any of you…..

When we teach something it should be very personal from the point of view of Yoga practice.
Yoga is a topic that just cannot be taught over a platform.”

He also discussed earlier in the video the notion that the only group activity was the study of texts. When it came to personal practice this was within a private room and was a personal matter between the teacher and the student.

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