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…


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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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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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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Trying to hold onto the fleeting presence of awareness can be likened to a bird…

cit devanagari

Trying to hold onto the fleeting presence of awareness can be likened to a bird choosing to land in the open palm of your hand. We desire to hold onto it because of our attraction towards continuing to enjoy the experience of its delicacy, beauty and gift of presence.

Thus when the bird of awareness alights in your palm the temptation is to close the fingers around the experience, however gently, in order to hold on to it, albeit to protect it or to continue to experience this unique moment of relationship with something that is usually elusive, or out of sight or reach.

However I feel, as with a bird you need to keep your hand open, so with awareness, you need to keep your hand open, as in resisting the desire to cling onto the experience. The bird of awareness might be happy to rest awhile, that is fine and then it flies off, that is also fine.

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Reflections on TKV Desikachar’s Teaching and Svatantra……

As a student, my teacher worked at guiding me towards becoming increasingly independent in developing and refining more and more my personal practice skills so I became less and less dependent on him being the vehicle for if, when, where, what and how well I practice.

I have always respected this aspect of his 121 teaching, in that, like a parent with a child, he progressively facilitated my learning. This enabled me to evolve an intelligently consistent, situation adaptive and yet long term developmental self-practice, initially through and then much more than, just Āsana.

“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.”

Especially as, like any art that we wish to become accomplished in, this self-skill was cultivated primarily within my home environment with all its hues and moods that inevitably influence, or are driven by deeper motivations within our current intentions and situation realities.

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I do feel that verses ten and eleven in Chapter Two of the Yoga Sūtra……

I do feel that verses ten and eleven in Chapter Two of the Yoga Sūtra offer a directional shift as an inspiration for undertaking the transitional commitment from Kriyā Yoga towards Aṣṭāṅga Yoga.

“These (Kleśa) are subtle and are
overcome by going back to their origin.”
Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 10

“This fluctuation
(the rise and fall in their perpetual potency to ‘take over’)
is overcome by meditation.”
Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 11

For me, these two verses are an essential reflection in the transition from the integration of Bāhya Sādhana, towards the cultivation of Antar Sādhana. Furthermore, when considering this deepening of our Sādhana from Bāhya towards Antar, these verses also re-mind me of the simple yet heartfelt teaching inherent in Chapter One.

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Yoga Practice is about a re-turning towards our inner life……

Yoga Practice is about a re-turning towards our inner life.

However, even without outer obstacles,
we can encounter inner feelings that arise
and manifest as if obstacles to that re-turning.

Here it might be helpful to reflect
on how to cultivate the four pillars of
Maitrī, Karuṇā, Muditā and Upekṣā and
the role they can have in helping to transform
the unhelpful aspects of these inner feelings.

“Bhāvana is a beneficial attitude
that is consciously cultivated
despite tendencies to the contrary”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on
Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33

With the spirit of Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33 in mind,
the cultivation of the four pillars is an inner practice
that can support a stepping, rather than stymieing,
onto our practice mat or seat through:

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

Know your breath and
its unique characteristics within Āsana
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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The Practice Planning Interrelationship between Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam

One of the essences in Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s teaching focused on the developmental and progressive integration of the different aspects of ĀsanaMudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam into a single constantly evolving organism.

Thus in honouring the Paramparā it is not possible for me to separate these four practice components into four completely disconnected study topics to be learnt in any random order.

The way I was taught was that a knowledge of the practice and planning principles within Āsana are necessary to appreciate the practice and planning principles within Mudrā.

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The seeds from Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s teachings on Haṭha Yoga……

The seeds from Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s teachings on Haṭha Yoga are best rooted through a personal home practice by:

Firstly –

By prioritising the twin aspects within a joint commitment to learn both Haṭha Yoga practice techniques and Haṭha Yoga practice theory. The intended outcome of this two pronged approach is engaging in learning how to practice, rather than just learning what to practice.

“Yoga must be adapted to an individuals needs,
expectations and possibilities,
rather than adapting an individuals needs,

expectations and possibilities to Yoga.”

This means learning to engage with the process of what it means to have a personal Yoga practice alongside engaging learning to study the theory of the component principles that underpin what constitutes creating and sustaining a personalised Yoga practice.

“Some are satisfied with what Āsana brings them.
Others are curious as to where Āsana can take them.”

These twin aspects of the arts of Yoga practice techniques and Yoga practice theory support our being able to independently and intelligently choose, adapt and ultimately self-develop and self-refine our personal Yoga Sādhana.

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Though there are many different aspects to formal ‘home’ practice……

Though there are many different aspects to Krishnamacharya and Desikachar’s teachings on cultivating a formal ‘home’ practice, they fall into two general groups:

In considering the relationship and intertwining of these multifarious practice elements we can use the analogy of raising a family. In other words how to accommodate the emerging issues we need to contend with, such as the impact on our time and energy, as we look to stream developmental priorities within these additional commitments.

Here I want to consider some of these issues just from the viewpoint of time. For example if we look at the issue of time within one aspect of practice, say Āsana,

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Cultivating a home Yoga practice is an odyssey through a relationship……

“Cultivating a home Yoga practice is an odyssey through a relationship. However, this odyssey not only requires patience and perseverance, but also enthusiasm and care. In this respect, as in any relationship, it is necessary to consider establishing priorities.

“Only through Yoga Yoga is known.
Only through Yoga Yoga arises.

One who is diligent with Yoga,
Enjoys Yoga for a long time.”
Vyāsa Commentary to Yoga Sūtra Chapter Three verse 6

To students interested in forming a relationship with a home practice with its attendant fruits, two initial suggestions are offered: First, think of a personal Yoga practice as if acquiring a new book. However before you try to fit this book into what is probably the already overcrowded bookshelf of life, take a decision to remove an existing book to make room for the new one.

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Āsana practice as a prerequisite to exploring how to integrate Prāṇāyāma……

I was taught by Desikachar that we need to at least have some sort of working relationship with an Āsana practice as a prerequisite to exploring how to integrate Prāṇāyāma into our practice Sādhana.

Also in the approach of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar to Yoga practice this idea is even more relevant as important information, that guides our initial and subsequent steps into Prāṇāyāma, is gleaned from certain factors only apparent from observation of how our respiratory system performs during Āsana practice.

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Āsana is not just another form of exercise……

In exploring the principles that underpin the practice of Āsana the first idea to consider is that our practice is not just another form of exercise. Yoga Āsana are more than just physical postures or exercises to stretch and tone the body, or enhance our sense of personalised well-being. From within its Haṭha roots the concern of Yoga is our relationship with the force which is behind our movements and its source that initiates our every action.

Further the different practice elements that constitute a mature Yoga practice are not separate compartments. They are linked through the principles underpinning them. For example a respiratory competence learnt through the practice of Āsana facilitates progress within the seated practice of Prāṇāyāma. An enduring stable posture learnt through the practice of Prāṇāyāma supports the cultivation the meditative attitude inherent in progress towards Dhyāna or meditation.

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It is the pleasure of practising Yoga because you want to practice……

These days, in certain situations, when asked what I do I sometimes say I write technical manuals and that usually moves the conversation quickly onto something like the British weather.

Why don’t I mention Yoga? Am I embarrassed about my relationship with Yoga? Not at all, its more about people’s reaction when asked and saying I am a Yoga teacher, a response somewhere as if an amalgam of being a fitness trainer, dentist and priest.

Also these feelings are often wrapped up in the response that I must do that or diverted into a projection around how I am seen in terms of say flexibility because I ‘do’ Yoga.

There are even folks I have been meeting occasionally for years and each time we meet I get the ‘I must do that’. Aside from the wry amusement at observing folks slight uncomfortableness as the word Yoga appears to represent something that at some level they feel they must need in their lives as if a commodity, there is for me a more important aspect that touches me.

This is around the difference between having to do something and wanting to do something.

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Trumperies and Tactics for the Discerning Gardener……


I agree it is not easy to work on ourselves and we might compare it to being a bit like encountering a garden that has been left to become overgrown and entangled over years of neglect.

Here the first stage is to look at how we might begin:

We might begin by clearing away the old rubbish that lays all around on the surface of our lives and hampers, distracts or confuses our view of what’s really underneath.

Of course this also means that we are able to discern between the nuances around what we perceive as useful to keep, what is rubbish to clear and especially what we see as precious is in reality useful, or is in fact actually dross we need to cling onto under the illusion (Avidyā) of it being essential for our journey.

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