Postural Practice Pointers 16 – A little movement in a lot of places
One principle taught to me by Desikachar,
related to our relationship with our spine from a Yoga perspective,
whether on a physical, energetic or psychic level.
It is the notion that we are looking for a little movement in a lot of places,
rather than a lot of movement in a few places.
“As Uḍḍīyāna Bandha is done on holding the breath after exhalation,
one of the most important requirements
is that we are able to do a long holding of the breath
without sacrificing the quality of the inhalation and exhalation.
If this is not possible we should forget about Bandha for the time being.”
– TKV Desikachar ‘The Concept, Preparation and Techniques of Bandha’
Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Fourteen Page 197
One hallmark within TKV Desikachar’s teaching on Āsana,
was not to confuse ‘appropriate’ alignment techniques,
with ‘proper’ alignment techniques.
The former implies a personalised starting point,
whilst the latter implies a developmental potential.
However both need to be related to 3 questions:
Where am I coming from?
Why am I practicing Āsana?
Where am I going to?
“One of the important rules is that
we should know what NOT to teach.”
– TKV Desikachar on Yoga as a Therapy’.
“Dynamic postures bring out inherent weaknesses and trends in the breath.
They can also tell you what ratios should be avoided.”
– From personal lessons with TKV Desikachar
“I wonder if Modern Postural Yoga is confusing,
experiencing a supple body,
with experiencing a subtle body?”
“The whole process of observing others
and observing oneself is entirely different.
Often we confuse the two.
Ideally, when we observe others,
we should forget about ourselves.
– TKV Desikachar 1981
At times getting to the practice mat
is more about exercising Mind over Matter.
In other words getting there because of the Mind.
At other times getting to the practice mat
is more about exercising Matter over Mind.
In other words getting there in spite of the Mind.
Compare Paścimatānāsana, Januśīrṣāsana, Upaviṣṭa Koṇāsana and Baddha Koṇāsana
With regard to:
1. Differences between them in terms of stress on the knees.
2. Differences between them in terms of stress on the lower back.
3. Differences between them in terms of effect on high blood pressure.
4. Differences between them as a preparation for runners.
5. Differences between them as a counterpose for runners.
6. Differences between them for a person with sciatica.
When less Āsana time than you would like,
better to reduce the number of Āsana,
or the number of repetitions,
or the length of the stays,
rather than, reducing the length of the breath.
Or….. even considering lengthening the breath,
thus even fewer Āsana, all with a longer breath than usual.
Here the Bhāvana could be to observe the effect
of a more spacious than usual Āsana breathing
on a more cramped than usual daily mindset.
Postural Practice Pointer 15 – Forward bending and Prāṇa to Apāna Breathing
When moving away from the lower limbs during forward bend Āsana,
move firstly by as if arching from the arms and upper back,
before ultimately arching from the lower back.
In terms of a Bhāvana during the movement,
the focus is on inhaling from Prāṇa Sthāna towards Apāna Sthāna.
Thus breathing as if from the upper chest towards the lower abdomen.
Postural Practice Pointer 14 – Forward bending and Apāna to Prāṇa Breathing
When bending towards the lower limbs during forward bend Āsana,
move firstly by as if rounding from the lower back,
before ultimately rounding from the upper back.
In terms of a Bhāvana during the movement,
the focus is on exhaling from Apāna Sthāna towards Prāṇa Sthāna.
Thus breathing as if from the lower abdomen towards the upper chest.
It appears that one can often talk about the effects of Yoga Āsana on the spine in Yoga, yet the reality is more based on the effects of Yoga Āsana on the external aspects of the structural form. It has also been an observation over some four decades of teaching Yoga that the two can get confused in terms of assessing developmental progress within the practice of Yoga Āsana.
Furthermore it appears that it is possible to work the body into ‘advanced’ Yoga Āsana yet observe that the spine is not deeply influenced, for example with the hips and shoulders or lax joint ligaments facilitating the impression of the form. Hence the application of Yoga from this perspective is to start with the spine as the primary priority with the limbs the secondary priority.
Thus the principles of modification of Yoga Āsana are from the perspective of allowing adjustments to the limbs in order to facilitate a deeper more profound impact on the spine.
Compare Dvipāda Pīṭham and Śalabhāsana in relation to their potential within the following situations:
1. In strengthening the leg muscles.
2. Potential stress on the sacroiliac joint.
3. Influencing the circulation.
4. Potential risk on the knees.
5. As a preparation for Dhanurāsana.
6. In helping with flat feet.
7. In improving the inhalation.
8. In decreasing lower back pain.
Postural Practice Pointer 13 – The Lakṣana of Parśva Trikoṇāsana
The Lakṣana of Parśva Trikoṇāsana, or side triangle pose,
is as a movement OF the spine to the side over one leg,
rather than as a bending or arcing IN the spine towards the side.
Thus the aim is for the spine to stay straight relative to the leg,
with the intention of extending it from crown to coccyx.
Postural Practice Pointer 12 – The Viniyoga of Daṇḍāsana
“The starting point determines the journey.”
- Legs are together unless some anatomical reason why this is not possible
- The sides of the feet are maintained together, stretch the back of the heels
- A key point here is having active hips, releasing the knees can activate the hips
- Someone who is stiff in spine and legs will certainly need to release the knees
- Release the knees as much as is required to extend the spine towards vertical
- Someone who is flexible may also need to release the knees so as to activate hips
- The mortar (hips/pelvis) must be strong for the pestle (spine) to work strongly
- Shoulder blades are back, feel the channel between the shoulder blades
- Back of the neck drawn up to help lift chest up
- Hands or fingers on the ground back by hips but not weight bearing
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.
Postural Practice Pointer 11 – Vinyāsa for Jaṭhara Parivṛtti
This is a suggestion for a Vinyāsa for approaching and leaving Jaṭhara Parivṛtti.
When lowering from the upward raised legs position use one long exhale,
but through two distinct stages of movement.
The first part of the exhale is to lower the knees over the chest.
The second part of the exhale is used to rotate the trunk into the twist.
The exit is the exact counterpart with one inhale and two stages of movement.
The first part of the inhale brings the knees over the chest.
The second part of the inhale extends the legs upwards.
A suggestion for Bhāvana is to gradually increase the stay.
For example stay one breath each side the first time
and then increase the stay next time to two breaths each side
and finally stay three breaths each side.
As to breathing a suggested ratio of 188.8.131.52. during both movement and stay.
Postural Practice Pointer 10 – Forward bends are Paścimatāna Āsana or Back Stretches
Forward Bends are back stretching Āsana in terms of Bhāvana.
Thus in Paścimatāna Āsana one of the foci is on avoiding pushing
from the lower back as you bend forward.
Thus move forward from the abdominal area by drawing it back,
to encourage the lower back to respond by lengthening.
If we push from the lower back in forward bends,
such as Paścimatānāsana, it can tighten this area,
thus inhibiting the focus on the quality of the Apāna Lakṣaṇa,
as well as transferring stress to the sacrum, hips and hamstrings.
“With regard to Āsana where the hands are placed on the ground,
the weight should not be on them.
So always weight on the feet not on the hands.”
– TKV Desikachar
“One should move the spine as you would inhale and exhale.”
– TKV Desikachar