Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga.

SLOW ASHTANGA : Pattabhi Jois talked in interviews, as well as when writing in Yoga Mala, that if we had less time we should practice less asana. In my own practice time is an issue. I prefer to breathe more slowly in the asana and vinyasas, lengthening my inhalation and exhalation, "slow like the pouring of oil" as Krishnamacharya puts it in Yoga Makaranda. I like to explore kumbhaka and the occasional extended stay, in Mudras especially. I also prefer to practice, much of the time, with my eyes closed, employing internal drishti at different vital focal points and I like to introduce vinyasas, extra preparatory asana on days when they feel appropriate as well as perhaps extending an asana into more challenging, 'proficient' forms on the more flexible days, in keeping perhaps with Krishnamacharya's, Primary, Middle and proficient groups of asana rather than Pattabhi Jois' fixed sequences. I like to practice Pranayama before and after my asana practice as well as finishing my practice with a 'meditative activity'. I was first introduced to Yoga through the Ashtanga sequences and I still maintain that general structure in my main practice but I would rather sacrifice half or more than half a sequence than these other factors and perhaps practice the asana ‘missed’ in the following days, I still consider this to be Ashtanga, Slow Ashtanga.

"When once a fair proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, the aspirant to dhyana has to regulate the time to be spent on each and choose the particular asanas and pranayama which will have the most effect in strengthening the higher organs and centres of perception and thus aid him in attaining dhyana". Krishnamacharya - Dhyana or meditation Yoga Makaranda part II

Monday, 10 November 2014

REVIEW: David Keil's book, Functional Anatomy of Yoga

David sent me a copy of his book to take a look at, I've had it for a little over a week now....

Link to the book on Amazon.com
This is not so much a review as a guided flick through the book, there is no LOOK INSIDE feature on Amazon as yet, so this will perhaps suffice for the time being and perhaps help you decide if you'd like to pick up a copy.

There are however some excellent images from the book on David's web page as well product details, 336 pages, 10.8 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, that kind of thing, and also interviews with David about the book.


Before we take a look, let me say right off that I think it's an excellent book. If you've seen any of David's video's on youtube or have his DVDs ( HIGHLY recommended) then you'll know that David has a gift for explaining anatomy, probably because he helps us to see why it's useful to know this stuff and that keeps us listening. You'll be glad to know that he writes in the same way he speaks/teaches.


NOTE: I don't think it's a case of should I get the book or the Yoganatomy DVD, they complement each other , watch the DVD with the book beside you and the remote control.


The book then is highly readable, it's engaging because we can see the point of it, this is functional anatomy, it's not just about bones and muscles and joints in the abstract but rather why they do what they do... and sometimes won't do and how you can directly employ this knowledge in your  asana practice.

David is a yoga practitioner himself ( an Ashtanga practitioner at that ) as well as a well respected, and very much in demand Anatomy teacher on teacher trainings and other courses/workshops. He knows what we as practitioners are interested in because he is one of us. He's also taken our questions at the end of his presentations, he knows what we struggle with, which concepts we need extra help with, where we need examples, where we need to see the application.

I was asked if this book directly applies to Ashtanga practice, it does and to any other asana practice for that matter. 

Will it help you get into a posture your struggling with? It might, but more importantly it'll probably prevent you from hurting yourself while you keep working towards it.

I particularly like the Introduction where David questions whether he should be teaching anatomy in the first place.....



LOOK INSIDE

Here's a look at the Contents page

To be honest I'd have liked to have seen more detail here, it's a reference book after all, perhaps a second content page that goes more into detail of the sections within sections, it would help us find our way around.


A good Index though


It was a nice surprise to find that I'd been sent not one but two books... inside the same cover



This is similar to the approach taken in his DVD set

We can read it cover to cover or treat it as a reference book, we'll probably end up doing both.

As I've mentioned, David is highly readable, we can read it straight through, it's almost  like a novel, a Russian novel with new characters introduced on every page that interact with those we've met before, and in that interaction we discover ever new aspects of both central and minor characters... 

The secret of course of a good Russian novel, as well as an anatomy book, and , why not, society in general, is that there are no minor characters we all, as well as our bones, muscles and sinews, impact upon/influence each other.

lets take an example of the Knee, we have the basic structure


the bones and joints


the muscles


...but then best of all David integrates our newly acquired anatomical knowledge with our practice.




So, we can read it in a linear fashion, cover to cover or jump to the particular area of interest, the knee, hip, the foot perhaps and read that whole section.

But we can also jump about, there's almost a hyperlink aspect to the book, let me show you what I mean.

This blog started out as being called 'Ashtanga Jump back at home' so indulge me and lets take a look at the jump back and through.

Now it's a little hard to find a first ( see my comment at the beginning re a fuller table of contents) but the jump back is an arm balance, we can find it there in Part II, the Anatomical Patterins in Asana.

And that's important because as we read the section we see that David relates the jump back pattern to other arm balances


bakasana


tittibasana


...and goes so far as to send us back to to our first sury and the hand/shoulder pattern.


This is because of the anatomical structure of the shoulder, so he links to there also... 


we can jump back (sorry) to Part I of the book. Functional Anatomy and look more closely at the structure and then again at the functionality and interrelations.



Which extends to the bandhas



and the bandhas to the breath.


Did I say it's a Russian novel, I take it back, it's a detective novel, it's Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett .

***

So this is a wonderful treatment of the subject that may well leave you wanting more, a sequel, a second series perhaps and if so I'd strongly recommend Simon Borg-Oliver and Bianca Machliss''s, Applied Anatomy and Physiology.

See my earlier review

The nine bandhas (yes Nine) in the APPLIED ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY OF YOGA of Simon Borg-oliver and Bianca machliss

Amazon.com
Simon is inspiring, a scientist yogi ( and in a sense isn't that what the early yogi's always were) who will take your newly won anatomical and functional awareness and astound you with the possibilities of this practice. He also has an online course (his book is the text book for the course), David Keil's book will have prepared you well for getting the most out of Simon's course.

Yoga Synergy Online Teacher Training and Education


***

PREVIOUS POST

SLOW ASHTANGA?
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2014/11/slow-ashtanga.html

***
I'm probably going to be away from the blog for the next couple of weeks as I'm flying back to the UK as well as to Russia to sort out Visa's and present workshops, the first of which is at IndabaYoga in Central London, Saturday 15th November. On the Sunday, 16th November I'm returning to Leamington Spa and Stone Monkey.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Slow Ashtanga?


QUESTION: "Hey, love your posts about K , keeps me motivated. One question... in your understanding of K's yoga, how would one do a practice? If all the asanas have the vinyasas from samastiti to asana stiti and then back, like Ashtanga. So the practice would be like that, some sort of Ashtanga or maybe  a Vinyasa Krama like practice? If one is to dedicate 20 min to a pose that means the practice could be maybe 2, 3 poses and that's it then. How would you adapt that to a class for example?"

This post is an attempt to answer the question above with this morning's practice as an example but bringing in some of my older videos relating to slower practice I. E. slower breathing, longer stays (rishi approach) kumbhaka, adapting the 'sequence' to the demands of a slower practice etc. It's along the lines of the kind of practice I've been teaching in crete this summer and will be looking to present, at some point, in my upcoming workshops (see right panel of blog).

I thought I'd put this up at the top of the blog as a permanent page and develop it over time..

I think of the indications below more as options for practice that Krishnamacharya emphasised in his early Mysore writings (1930s-40s), back when he was still teaching the young Pattabhi Jois.

Slow Ashtanga
  • Longer, slower breathing
  • Longer stays in some asana, shorter stays in others
  • Kumbhaka ( retaining the breath in for between 2 and 10  seconds after the inhalation and/or retaining the breath out for between 2 and 10 seconds after the exhalation) dependent on the particular asana or mudra.
  • It may well follow the general framework of the current Ashtanga sequence but the sequence split perhaps over two or more days.
  • Due to splitting up the sequence other asana or variations of asana may be included to prepare or extend a key asana in the days practice
In my own practice time is an issue. I follow the indications and instructions for practice outlined  in Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) and prefer to breathe slowly in the asana and vinyasas, lengthening my inhalation and exhalation, "slow like the pouring of oil". I like to explore kumbhaka and the occasional extended stay, in Mudras especially. I also prefer to practice, much of the time, with my eyes closed, employing internal drishti at different vital focal points and I like to introduce vinyasas, extra preparatory asana on days when they feel appropriate as well as perhaps extending an asana into more challenging, 'proficient' forms on the more flexible days, this is in keeping perhaps with the idea of groups of asana rather than fixed sequences. I like to practice Pranayama before and after my asana practice as well as finishing my practice with a 'meditative activity'. I was first introduced to Yoga through the Ashtanga sequences and I still maintain that general structure in my main practice but I would rather sacrifice half or more than half a sequence than these other factors and perhaps practice the asana ‘missed’ in the following day(s). I still consider this to be Ashtanga, SLOW Ashtanga.

"When once a fair proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, the aspirant to dhyana has to regulate the time to be spent on each and choose the particular asanas and pranayama which will have the most effect in strengthening the higher organs and centres of perception and thus aid him in attaining dhyana". Krishnamacharya - Dhyana or meditation Yoga Makaranda part II


Sample practice from this morning Approx. 2 hours

The videos may take some time to load, don't worry, your unlikely to watch them anyway, it's like watching  dry or grass grow. 

Numbers beside the postures indicate no. of breaths unless 'times' or 'cycles' indicated

AK = antar kumbhaka (retaining the breath in at the end of the inhalation )
BK = bhaya Kumbhaka (holding the breath out at the end of the exhalation)

Krishnamacharya doesn't say how long the kumbhaka's should be Yoga Makaranda in Part I but in Part II they tend to be working up from 2-5 seconds in later krishnamacharya with experience they may be 10 seconds.  those indicated below are my own kumbhakas.

Kapalabhati in paschimottanasana (holding toes but without folding all the way forward - a kind of two leg version of mahamudra).
Ujjayi in tatkamudra - 6  breaths ( scanning vital points on inhalation, nabhi on exhalation)
Anuloma ujjai - in Vajrasana - 6 cycles

Krishnamacharya Surya Namaskara options

Krishnamacharya writes of staying for extended periods in each stage of what we now think of as a sun salutation or suryanamaskara. He writes of ten minutes or more below I take five long slow breaths in each.

Krishnamacharya shifts his kumbhaka around, generally, if the head is up it's antar kumbhaka, after the inhalation, if the head is down then it's bhya kumbhaka, after exhalation. generally there is no kumbhaka in twists.

Uttanasana B - AK5s
Chaturanga Dandasana - BK 3s
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana - AK 5s
Adho Mukha Shvanasana BK-10s


Utthita Trikonasana - 10 breaths each side,(Krishnamacharya recommends ten minutes in this asana)
Parivritta Trikonasana - 3
Utthita Parshvakonasana - 3
Parivritta Parshvakonasana - 3
Prasarita Padottanasana A. - 5
Parshvottanasana - 5 AK 5s
Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana plus standing marichi variation - 1 full breath in each stage

(I spent longer in standing postures this morning, usually I would split these up over two days)

Dandasana - 10  - AK 5s (scanning through vital points on inhalation hrdaya on exhalation)
Paschimattanasana - 15 - BK 5-10s (scanning through vital points on inhalation nasagra on exhalation)
Purvatanasana - 3

mahamudra -10 each side - BK 5-10s

Slower breathing, 10 second inhalations, 10 second exhalations


Janu Shirshasana A. - 1 each side
Marichyasana A  C - one full breath in each variation and on each side
Tiriangmukhaikapada Paschimattanasana - 3
Bharadvajasana - 6 each side - AK 5s



Maha bandha - 6 each side-  BK-5s
Ardha Matsyendrasana - 3 each side
Baddha Konasana - 10 each vinyasa - AK 5s for B (sitting up)


Padmasana with variations - 10 in total
Uth Pluthi - 5

shoulderstand prep ( 3 vinyasas) 3x each variation

Sarvangasana - 12 (legs relaxed )
viparita karani (sirsasana as mudra no variations) - 12
Sarvangasana with assorted variations - 5 mins ( see THIS post )
Shirshasana with assorted variations - 5 mins (see THIS post) - No intentional kumbhaka but I tend to try and lengthen the inhalation and exhalation as long as possible, between 30-45 second breath, gets slower as it goes on.

Baddha Padmasana - 10

Paranayama - basti - 30 and nadi sodhana -pratiloma ujjayi- with japa ( mentally reciting pranayama mantra 20s) - 6 cycles
Pratyahara 3 mins
trataka - 10 mins

savasana 5 mins

*******

The videos above and below are pretty much unwatchable,  its like trying to watch grass grow, paint dry.... an exercise in trataka perhaps.

but  it perhaps give an impression of how slower breathing, longer stays, less asana might be approached.

Examples of slow practice, Oscar practicing Vinyasa Krama on the left while I take a Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda  Ashtanga approach on the right



Middle group practice

The practice from this morning that I outlined above was based on the Primary group asana, tomorrow I will most likely base my practice on the middle group, a similar approach to standing as above with perhaps some time spent on some tadasana backbending preparation variations from vinyasa Krama.

More time in Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana perhaps, in preparation for pasasana.

Tiriangmukhaikapada Paschimattanasana and krounchasana

I usually switch to the Vinyasa krama Bow sequence leading up to ustrasana, laugh vajrasana and kapotasana. The Bow sequence follows quite closely the layout of Ashtanga 2nd but with some extra vinyasas.

below kapotasana.


and in the leg behind head postures


I've started to leave out dwi pada sirsasana altogether and just practice a longer stay in yoga nidra

****

On the third day I would tend to switch back to primary group asana and explore some of the asana I missed from the regular Ashtanga sequence this morning and on the fourth day, asana missed from tomorrows Middle group.

******

We can practice less postures, below supposedly an example of Krishnamacharya's own personal practice from Krishnamacharya's 3rd son, TV Sribhashyam's book Emergence of Yoga.



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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta

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