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.

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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When considering what to practice, it can be helpful to consider our starting point……

When considering what to practice, it can be helpful to consider our starting point. For example are we looking for the role of an Āsana practice to help in recovering from a situation where we are as if personally overdrawn. Also what is the nature of our ‘overdraft’?

Is its impact or origin physical, energetic, psychological or emotional, or even a combination of more than one. Here the concepts of too little, too much or wrong can also be helpful as a reference in that, as well as considering the nature of the ‘overdraft’ we need to consider the means we undertake to remedy this aspect of the situation. In other words our first priority is to reduce the negative aspect at least.

However sometimes we can try something that is as if a short term loan and at a high rate of interest in terms of time, effort, energy and committment. Thus whilst finding our situation temporarily improving a further depletion can possibly arise as we find ourselves unable to as if ‘keep up with the extra payments’ given the nature of the original depletion and its current impact on our potentials.

So having a clear reference point in terms of identifying the nature of the starting point and the short term or longer term potentials of our choice of an appropriate remedy is as important as the personal determination to clear the deficit we have created within us. Here a personal teacher can be helpful.

The role of Śavāsana within an Āsana practice was as a transitional link pose…

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Within the teachings of T Krishnamacharya, as transmitted to TKV Desikachar, the role of Śavāsana within an Āsana practice was as a transitional link pose between categories of Āsana.

For example between Standing and Lying Āsana, or Lying and Inverted Āsana, or Inverted and Prone Backbends, or Prone Backbends and Seated Āsana, or Seated Āsana and Sitting Practices.

The extent of its use and length of rest at each stage, when transiting from one category to another within our Āsana practice journey, was dependent on the facility of the practitioner and the intensity of the practice.

“Cale Vāte Calaṃ Cittam
As is the breath so is the mind.”

Within this individualised variance is the guiding principle that the role of Śavāsana is to facilitate a smooth transition for the flow of the breath and also the pulse through and beyond the Āsana practice as a marker for the practitioners state of mind.

However according to Desikachar the viniyoga of Śavāsana was seen in terms of recovery from the fatigue of the preceding aspect of the practice rather, than say recovery from the preceding aspects of ones life.

Regarding the approach for the latter, amongst other things such as Vihāra, the purpose, content, duration and frequency of the Āsana practice must be carefully reconsidered.

Vinyāsa Krama is pronounced according to its meaning as……


Vinyāsa Krama is pronounced according to its meaning as Vi-Nyāsa Krama or special placing in a sequence of steps. It is the arranging of the various postures or breathing patterns in an intelligent sequence, respecting the variables in the student and the purpose of the practice.

What might be helpful to consider is one of the ways Desikachar presented this teaching to me within our lessons in that the viniyoga of Vinyāsa Krama is comparable to the notion of climbing steps. Here intelligent application means to climb each step by bringing both feet onto the same step before taking the next one. In other words ensure we are grounded and stable before we take another step.

It also has the benefit of allowing a steady view of what is involved in taking the next step as well as reducing the risk of losing what we already have. However this way of approaching the developmental aspects of our practice may be at variance with our more usual way of climbing steps, such as one step at a time.

How do we know that? Here a teacher who knows you as an individual rather than a member of a group can be very helpful. For example we all have different modes of being, some climb steps slowly, some quickly, some two at a time, all according to our innate tendencies. This is an attitude to life that can reflect in the way we practice, or in the choice of the style of practice, or how we approach ‘progressing’ our practice, or even in the teacher we ‘choose’.

Add to this the notion that in its essential role Yoga was seen as a means to destabilise our perception of self in order to ‘break up’ the notion of what we see as the ‘I’. Perhaps comparing this against the modern approach where folks come to classes seeking stability as a counterpose to the destabilising effects of our worldly involvements, then the notion of Vinyāsa Krama as presented here can have even more relevance.

Reflections on Pratikriyāsana or the role of Opposite Action Postures

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When considering the viniyoga or application of Pratikriyāsana or opposite action postures within a students personal practice, it may help to look at the integration of their intended role from three perspectives.

– Firstly their intended role as a counterposture, thus more from a physiological perspective.
– Secondly their intended role as a compensation, thus more from a psychological perspective.
– Thirdly their intended role as a transition, thus more from sequential perspective.

Appropriate integration of these three principles constitute an essential component in the Vinyāsa Krama or intelligent steps utilised within practice planning.

What are the points to be considered while planning an Āsana practice?


Question asked from the recent post on moving into the posture after the exhale:
What are the points to be considered while planning an Āsana practice?

Response:
An important question within which there are many aspects that come into three primary areas.
Firstly the general considerations or directional overview around planning a Yoga practice.

For Example:

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Overview of the Application of Āsana Practice Techniques and Theory Modules

Follow this link for details of Art of Application of Āsana Small Group Study Workshop options
Follow this link for details of Online Art of Application of Āsana 121 eStudy options

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

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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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What are the Primary Areas for Study of Yoga Practice Techniques……

What are the Primary Areas for Study of Yoga Practice Techniques and Yoga Practice Theory?

As a student we need to consider the five fundamental practice areas that need to be prioritised and developed according to the teachings of Krishnamacharya.
These are the practice of:

  • Āsana or general postures
  • Mudrā or special postures
  • Prāṇāyāma or seated breathing
  • Dhyānam or seated meditation
  • Chanting for learning or as a meditational practice.
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