Practice as a Process and Practice as Content…..

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Where do we start when approaching the determination to open up to practice options beyond the group class mentality with its double edged sword of support and dependancy?

We can start by exploring what it means to cultivate a personal regular home practice in terms of looking at it as from the viewpoint of being a process as well as having content.

Here it might be helpful to examine what are the differences between these two concepts so vital in the work of Desikachar around planning Yoga practices for individual students.

So what is Yoga practice as a process? Practice as a process is everything that surrounds the establishing of a home practice.

This can be the time of the day, energy levels at the time of practice, what the student would be stepping away from in order to engage in practice, differences in gender and impact on body rhythms, what follows the practice in terms of activity or life demands, to name but a few aspects of process.

Practice as content is what we put into the practice in terms of choices around Yoga tools such as how we utilise and develop both short term and longer term, Yoga postures, breathing, chanting, rituals, meditation, etc.

Follow-on posts will examine these different aspects of Yoga as a process with examples of how we engage the important and unique differences between students personal lives, rather than the more standardised time and place processes within external group class setups.

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One primary prerequisite to initiation into a Tri Bandha Sādhana was a……

nadi_sodana

One primary prerequisite to initiation into a Tri Bandha Sādhana
was an ability in Prāṇāyāma within a Vinyāsa Krama around
Nāḍī Śodhana where the crown was 12 breaths at 12.12.12.12.

Thus before being taught Uḍḍīyāna Bandha,
an essential precursor to Mūla Bandha,
there needed to be competence in sustaining Prāṇāyāma,
within a Vinyāsa Krama leading to a crown ratio of 1.1.1.1.
with the PūrakaAntar KumbhakaRecaka and Bāhya Kumbhaka
each set at 12 seconds in a crown of 12.12.12.12. for 12 breaths.

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What are the concepts of Sṛṣṭi Krama, Sthiti Krama and Anta Krama?

 

What are the concepts of Sṛṣṭi Krama, Sthiti Krama and Antya Krama and what is their significance in relationship to the practice of Āsana, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam?

We can approach these three concepts and the question of their relationship with practice from a chronological and within that, a psychological viewpoint. According to the Yoga teachings from T Krishnamacharya there are three chronological and accompanying psychological stages of life, or Tri Krama.

1. The first Krama is the stage of growth and expansion known as Sṛṣṭi Krama. Here, chronologically, the starting point is the age from which people traditionally began the Āsana aspect of Yoga practice.

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Laṅghana Kriyā can be used for pacification or for purification…….


Following on from yesterdays post on Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as expansive and contractive activities I felt it could be helpful to republish a post from last year developing the concept and application of Laṅghana Kriyā. There is little published information available on these important concepts that Krishnamacharya drew from Āyurveda and applied through his Yoga teaching. For more on this teaching relationship of Yoga and Āyurveda view ‘The Krishnamacharya methodology of melding the viniyoga of Āyurveda with that of Yoga‘.

Whilst reposting this piece on Laṅghana Kriyā and its application within the teaching concepts of Śamanam Kriyā and Śodhanam Kriyā, I have also added links so the reader can further reference the Saṃskṛta Words Compendium, with its now 750 Saṃskṛta word database cross linking concepts and texts.

Finally the original piece can be downloaded as a PDF and is listed on the Yoga Posts as PDF’s Repository, a further resource now approaching 200 downloadable PDF Links.

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Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as Expansive and Contractive potentials…..


Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā as expansive and contractive activities are two potentials actualised through the Breath and Āsana.

Within the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma they are actualised through an understanding of the primary principles that inform Haṭha Yoga and Āyurveda.

The alchemical process underpinning this understanding is the relationship between the two primary principles of Prāṇa and Agni in order to influence Haṭha Yoga concepts such as PrāṇaApānaNāḍī, CakraAgni and Kuṇḍalinī.

In terms of Bṛṃhaṇa Kriyā and Laṅghana Kriyā, the viniyoga of Bṛṃhaṇa affects a dispersion of Agni from the core to the periphery and the viniyoga of Laṅghana affects a withdrawal of Agni from the periphery to the core.

Understanding the application of this particular process facilitates access, through the Vīna Daṇḍa (spine), Prāṇa and Agni, to energising, cleansing and aligning potentials in the practice of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma.

it is still unclear how much Yoga someone has to do to get the benefits…..

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“But it is still unclear how much Yoga someone has to do to get the benefits found and
how cost-effective it is relative to undertaking other forms of exercise or taking drugs.”
– Prof Myriam Hunink
Erasmus University medical centre in Rotterdam and Harvard school of public health in Boston

Are we in danger of the teaching of Yoga Āsana (and consequently Yoga ‘Therapy’ Teacher Training Courses) being increasingly shaped towards the health and therapeutic healthcare ‘Yoga For’ needs to meet the demands and standardisations of the medical and/or insurance health authorities in terms of:

1. Choice – Which Yoga posture works for what problem?
2. Duration – How long must I stay in a particular posture in order to have a specific effect/result?
3. Frequency – How often must I practice this posture to effect a result?
4. Timescale – Over what period of time must I practice this posture to effect a result?
5. Comparable Applications – What will be the effect of Yoga postures compared to other forms of physical exercise?
6. Relative Costs – What will be the cost of Yoga compared to other forms of exercise?
7. Treatment Budgets – What will be the cost of Yoga as a form of treatment relative to taking drugs?

Complex implications to evaluate and they leave us with more questions around what is healthy for the heart of Yoga rather than what is healthy for the heart of the person!

“We cannot say that this Āsana or this Prāṇāyāma can be given for this disease.”
– T Krishnamacharya 1984

It appears that Modern Therapeutic Yoga is increasingly angled at……

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It appears that Modern Therapeutic Yoga is increasingly angled
at looking at the problems in front of the person
in terms of Yoga for What,
rather than looking at the person behind the problems
in terms of Yoga for Who.

Links To Related Posts:

This approach is known as the Yoga of Rejuvenation and Prevention……

There is an increasing tendency in terms of Modern Therapeutic Yoga application strategies……

When somebody comes to us they are not coming with one problem……

This guiding principle of seeing the person rather than the problem……

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

The art of viniyoga presumes that the five application principles of……

viniyoga

The art of viniyoga presumes that
the five application principles of
1. What is being taught,
2. Why it is being taught,
3. When it is being taught
4. Where it is being taught and especially
5. How it is being taught,
are personally applicable and
socially relevant to
Who is being taught.

Sometimes the Vinyāsa Krama or special placing of steps from is more……

vinyasa

Sometimes the Vinyāsa Krama,
or special placing of steps from,
is more important than the steps to.
At other times the Vinyāsa Krama,
or special placing of steps to,
is more important than the steps from.
In our life as well as our practice.

According to the Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, Aśvinī Mudrā and Mūla Bandha are……

maha_mudra_UB

According to such as the Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, Aśvinī Mudrā and Mūla Bandha
are seen as very different forms in terms of definition and application.
Regarding application, only Aśvinī Mudrā is focussed around
the repeated contraction of the anal sphincter muscles.

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My understanding on the context and content of Yoga Makaranda

yoga makaranda

My understanding from my discussions over the years with TKV Desikachar regarding the context and content of Yoga Makaranda, is that when teaching youngsters the length of the breath was minimised to a relatively short fixed length and use of Kumbhaka was limited to a few seconds Antar Kumbhaka and Bahya Kumbhaka.

However there were no limitations on the range or intensity of Āsana and lots of use of variations to be engaged with within each Āsana.

“The Āsana are presented in Vinyāsa Krama, the way it was taught to children in the Yogasāla.
This should not create the impression that T Krishnamacharya taught in this manner to everyone.”
– TKV Desikachar Introduction to Yoga Makaranda

In the adult there were no such limitations for the breath and the work with variations of the Āsana was re-prioritised to working with a fewer Āsana and fewer variations within each Āsana, but with the challenge of a greater range of breathing patterns both in length and combinations.

Certainly Antar Kumbhaka or Bahya Kumbhaka of 10″ was commonplace in the adult practice and here the ‘perfection’ of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the breath rather than for the youngster, where ‘perfection’ of the Āsana was measured by mastery of all aspects of the form. This was consistent with Krishnamacharya’s teaching in his Yoga Rahasya on Yoga Sādhana and Stages of Life.

Furthermore my understanding is that if we use a particular Āsana with all its permutations of form and thus less focus on the variations of the breath it operates more as an Āsana. If we use a specific primary Āsana with the focus on all its permutations of breath and thus less priority around the variations of the form it operates more as a Mudrā.

Sarvaṅgāsana is such an example with its 32 variations devised by Krishnamacharya emphasising its role as an Āsana and its static solo form with its focus on extensive breath ratios involving all four aspects of the breath, perhaps augmented by the Tri Bandha, emphasising its role as a Mudrā.

For more on introduction to Yoga Makaranda read……
Introduction to the Yoga Makaranda by TKV Desikachar

For more on Sarvaṅgāsana as a Mudrā read….
Saravāṅgāsana as a Mudrā – Part One

Overview of the Application of Āsana Practice Techniques and Theory Modules

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Follow this link for details of Small Group Learning Art of Application of Āsana Study Workshop options
Follow this link for details of Online Personalised Learning Art of Application of Āsana Study options

The Module One Workshops and Module Two to Seven Courses are in depth studies through:

1. The Application of Āsana Module One Workshops – 10 hours
 over two days or 7.5 hours online study

  • Introduction to Āsana practice according to age
  • Introduction to Āsana practice according to health
  • Introduction to Āsana practice according to lifestyle
  • Introduction to Āsana practice according to energetic constitution
  • Introduction to Āsana practice according to psychological constitution
  • Introduction to definition, meaning and context of Āsana
  • Introduction to how Āsana are arranged into groups and sequences
  • Introduction to how counterpostures are used in Āsana practice
  • Introduction to how we breathe in Āsana practice
  • Introduction to why we move or stay in Āsana practice
  • Introduction to how we adapt our Āsana practice
  • Introduction to how we intelligently plan our Āsana practice

2. The Application of Āsana Module Two Courses – 20 hours 
over four days or 15 hours online study

  • Why and how we use Sequence Building in planning Āsana practices
  • Why and how we use Counterposes and Transitions in planning Āsana practices
  • In-depth exploration of Specific Primary Āsana Form, Function and Application

3. The Application of Āsana Module Three Courses – 20 hours
 over four days or 15 hours online study

  • Why and how we use Movement or Staying in planning Āsana practices
  • Why and how we use the Breath in planning Āsana practices
  • In-depth exploration of Specific Primary Āsana Form, Function and Application

4. The Application of Āsana Module Four Courses – 20 hours over four days or 15 hours online study

  • Why and how we use Variation and Modification in planning Āsana practices
  • Why and how we use Energetic and Psychological characteristics in planning Āsana practices
  • In-depth exploration of Specific Primary Āsana Form, Function and Application

5. The Application of Āsana Module Five Courses – 20 hours over four days or 15 hours online study

  • In-depth exploration of Observation in Āsana in planning Āsana practices
  • Why and how we use Observation in Āsana in planning Āsana practices
  • In-depth exploration of Specific Primary Āsana Form, Function and Application

6. The Application of Āsana Module Six Courses – 20 hours over four days

  • In-depth exploration of Specific Intermediate Āsana Form, Function and Application
  • Why and how we use Intermediate Āsana in planning Āsana practices

7. The Application of Āsana Module Seven Courses – 20 hours 
over four days

  • In-depth exploration of Specific Strong Āsana Form, Function and Application
  • Why and how we use Strong Āsana in planning Āsana practices
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Even these days the influence of Krishnamacharya’s teachings……

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Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

Even these days, the influence of Krishnamacharya’s teachings around Yoga are primarily known through his exacting teaching of Āsana. This has also been mainly experienced in the West with the developmental work of his early students, such as through the choreographical artistry in the work of Pattabhi Jois or through the geometrical precision in the work of BKS Iyengar.

However this area of Āsana teaching, though itself multifaceted and hugely influential, if disproportionately predominant within Yoga today, only reveals one aspect of the many dimensions of practice expressed within his teaching. This teaching evolved and refined over 70 years, from his return from his long stay around the borders of Nepal and Tibet in 1919, to his death in 1989

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The implications of Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s teachings on practice……

The implications of Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s teachings on practice are:

Firstly –

we need to develop the twin aspects of learning Yoga practice techniques and Yoga practice theory through engaging in learning how to practice, rather than just learning what to practice.

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.

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

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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The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 5 – Consider the accumulative effect

The viniyoga of Planning Principles 5 –  Consider the accumulative effect of Āsana and Pratikriyāsana

Vinyāsa Krama – Intelligent sequence building within Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma

Specific Areas within Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma practice to consider when planning:

1. Consider the overall purpose of practice (short/long term as appropriate)

  • Be clear about the goal and don’t try to reach too many goals in same practice
  • Keep the practice short and simple in intention and execution
  • Consider time of day and season both inside and out
  • Consider the accumulative effect of Āsana and Pratikriyāsana, in any one practice, and over time if being practiced regularly
  • Consider psychological, physiological and energetic aspects of practice.
  • Energetically we seek to expand, open upper part of the body, above diaphragm and close, reduce lower part of the body below the diaphragm

Link to Post Series: The viniyoga of Planning Principles

The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 4 – Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga……

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles 4 – Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga

General Aims and Intended Outcomes around Practice Planning:

  • Be clear about the difference between aim(s) and intended outcome(s)
  • Distinguish between short-term and long-term aim(s) and intended outcome(s)
  • Appreciate how you can factor short term outcomes within long term aims
  • Avoid having too many aims or intended outcomes within one practice – keep it focused
  • Consider the five areas that practice can interact with – body, spine, breath, mind and emotions
  • Whatever the specific aims or intended outcomes preserve the spirit of Yoga

Link to Post Series: The viniyoga of Planning Principles

The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 3 – Make the practice shorter than the time available

tiryang_mukha_eka_pada_pascimatanasana

The viniyoga of Planning Principles 3 – Make the practice shorter than the time available

Some General Guidelines:

  • Be clear about your purpose
  • Hold the reflection that practice is a means not an end
  • Remember ‘can’ is not the same as ‘should’
  • Ask yourself what is most effective
  • Plan for others as it applies to them, not as it applies to you
  • Consider its relationship to both short term and long term goals
  • Aim to cultivate a state of Sattva by reducing Tamas and stabilising Rajas
  • Keep it simple and consider how to spend more time in fewer Āsana
  • Make the practice shorter than the time available
  • Stick to the conventions of technique unless there is a reason to change them

Link to Post Series: The viniyoga of Planning Principles

The viniyoga of Planning Principles – 2 – The spirit of viniyoga is achieved……

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The viniyoga of Planning Principles 2 – The spirit of viniyoga is achieved……

In terms of practice planning the spirit of viniyoga is achieved by two broad means:

1. The selection of practice material that is appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the student.

2. The intelligent use of Vinyāsa Krama.

Link to Post Series: The viniyoga of Planning Principles

Leave more than enough time for Prāṇāyāma……

nadi_sodanaOne of the joyful experiences that can emerge within my morning practice is the feeling that arises on arriving at my Prāṇāyāma seat and taking that first breath within an atmosphere of having more than enough time in hand left to engage with this aspect of my on the mat Sādhana that day.

The sense of Sukha is palpable and offers a spaciousness that facilitates the breath both relaxing and entering into the spirit of, as Krishnamacharya spoke of in terms of Prāṇāyāma, Prayatna Śaithilya and Ananta Samāpatti.

This feeling in itself both automatically lengthens and deepens the flow of the breath without any conscious effort on my part. A precious gift to start my days journey into exploring this vital area of practice.

A constant reminder, if not rejoinder, to not forget to leave more than enough time for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice, or that which is oft easily at best compromised or at worst, forgotten within the seduction of the bodily experiences.

Cale Vāte Calaṃ Cittam – As is the Breath so is the Psyche…….

Cale Vāte Calaṃ Cittam –
As is the breath so is the psyche.

The concept according to my teacher, oft quoted by Krishnamacharya, appears in the second verse of Chapter Two in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. It follows the opening verse which introduces Prāṇāyāma albeit with caveats around certain prerequisites.

Firstly establish an Āsana as a firm seat, not as simple as it seems given the predilection for action Āsana contrasting a difficulty in remaining seated, upright and still for half an hour.

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The concept of Bhāva and Abhāva in Yoga Practice……

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

Amongst the many concepts taught to me by my teacher, to help with understanding and thus working more skilfully with the student, was the notion of Bhāva and Abhāva.

The teaching within this important concept is that when a student comes wanting to learn Yoga, are they interested in learning Yoga to move towards the deeper teachings of Yoga (Bhāva), or wanting to learn Yoga in order to move away from something they find unhelpful or undesirable in their life (Abhāva).

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

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

Here we can think of the deepening into our practice arising through progressively slowing the patterning of our breathing. To do this we have to reconsider our practice, not in terms of what we do with our body but what we do with the breath within our body.

This means firstly knowing what is our basic practice breath rate per minute and then progressively slowing that rate as we progress from Āsana, through to Mudrā and then to Prāṇāyāma.

For example when working with Āsana we can start with four breaths per minute, then with Mudrā slow it to three breaths per minute and finally with Prāṇāyāma, slow it again to two breaths per minute.

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What is the relationship between Yoga training as a Student or as a Teacher?

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What is the relationship between training as a Yoga Student and training as a Yoga Teacher?

Firstly –

The Yoga Studies Programme offers a comprehensive range of Personal Workshop and Course Modules for groups of around 4 students, totalling over 600 contact hours. The Modular Programme falls into the two groups, the Yoga Practice Techniques and Practice Theory Modules offer 300 contact hours study and the Associated Yoga and Lifestyle Texts Modules offer a further 300 contact hours study.

The 600 contact hours studying Yoga Practice Techniques and Theory or Associated Yoga and Lifestyle Texts can be undertaken purely as a student, without any obligation or need to simultaneously train as a Yoga teacher.

Each modular series, whether in the field of Study of Yoga Practice Techniques and Theory or Associated Yoga and Lifestyle Texts, is complete in itself and designed for Yoga students from any background or approach interested in exploring Yoga practice and textual study in small groups of around 4 students for personal development now, or if relevant in the future, professional needs.

“Training to learn how to teach Yoga is not the same as training to learn how to practice & study Yoga.”

This is unusual these days, as normally to access such a breadth and depth of Yoga training material a student would need to be a participant within a Yoga Teacher Training Course.

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An introduction to what is the art of the viniyoga of Yoga Practice

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An introduction to what is the art of the viniyoga of Yoga Practice

The concept of viniyoga is the art of applying Yoga to the needs and aspirations of each person as a unique individual rather than fitting a number of individuals into the more generalised Westernised educational or physical fitness modalities of group class instruction.

“The spirit of viniyoga is starting from where one finds oneself.
As everybody is different and changes from time to time,
there can be no common starting point, and ready-made answers are useless.
The present situation must be examined and the habitually established status must be re-examined.”
– TKV Desikachar

Thus, using the term ‘viniyoga’ to describe a Yoga Class as a ‘Viniyoga Group Class’ or using the term to banner a group class teaching ‘style’ would in reality be a contradiction to how the name viniyoga, offered by Desikachar in 1983 as a collective description for the lifetime teachings of T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar, was intended to be used. In this context the term viniyoga relates solely to the transmission of Yoga within a 121 relationship. In this respect one can consider that even the notion of training teachers just in a group class environment to teach according to ‘Viniyoga’ could be seen as an irony.

So to summarise, the main aim behind the introduction and use of the term viniyoga as the application of Yoga, is to collectively describe an approach to personalising a Yoga practice according to the individual and their situation; through respecting our unique differences in age, gender, mental aptitude, physical health, social lifestyle, occupation and interests; together with developmental potentials according to the persons current situation and needs.

The Link between the practice limbs of Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam

The Link between the practice limbs of Āsana, Mudrā, Prāṇāyāma and Dhyānam

One of the essences of Krishnamacaharya’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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This guiding principle of seeing the person rather than the problem……

Yoga for Every Body (220px)

Yoga Practices for Therapeutic situations

As the basis of this book is Yoga for Every Body I would now like to focus on this aspect of Yoga. To help in understanding how to proceed we will firstly discuss some basic principles for Yoga as a form of therapeutic intervention. From here we will look at different examples of practices for different students each with a unique story accompanied by unhelpful symptoms arising from their particular life story.

It is tempting here to propose a technique and then state that this technique will help this particular situation or problem. However, my teacher taught me that Yoga is to be tailored to the needs and aspirations of each person rather than fitting the person to some ready made technique.

“It appears that modern Yoga Therapy is increasingly angled at looking at a persons problems,
rather than looking at a person with problems.”

Thus with this guiding principle of seeing the person rather than the problem or disease and the acceptance that we are not working just with a preordained technique we can continue.

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