Tuesday, 16 February 2010

How to Approach S. Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Krama?

This is the problem I've had from the start with Vinyasa Krama, how to actually practice it. Coming from Ashtanga made it even more difficult as I was used to the same routine everyday. The layout of The complete book of Vinyasa Krama doesn't really help self practice either, Text/Picture/Text/Picture/Text/Picture. It's difficult looking over and checking where you are and what comes next. But then how else would you lay it out.

I actually really like the book's approach, love reading through the sequences and how the breath is adapted to the posture, little stories of background information about the name or history of a pose. Love all that, just hard to practice with. Perhaps, at the end of each sequence, all the asanas could be laid out on a double page spread, that would help.

Plus there's the problem of how to use the sequences and sub routines. Do you just practice one sequence a day or do you mix them up. Ashtanga is a mixture of all these little sub routines and that seems to work well. And yet I like how the asanas are placed within the context of a sequence and build upon each other. That's something that's stressed within the book.

One of Ramaswami's other book's Yoga beneath the surface helps clear thing up a little. It's format is questions and answers between Ramaswami and one of his students David Hurwitz. As well as dealing with the practice they discuss Patanjali's Sutras, Meditation, Pranayama ETC. In that book it's suggested that a few key asanas should be practiced everyday. The Sun Salutaion of course but also the forward bend Uttanasana and Paschimatanasana, Maha Mudra (kind of like Janu A without bending forward, Sirsasana and Sarvangasana. One is advised to spend a considerable time in each of these postures. And of course after the asnana practice (60-90 minutes) comes the PCM, Pranayama, Chanting and Meditation (30 minutes)

That gives you a framework and is not a million miles away from Ashtanga. A standing sequence Paschi A, B and C the Janu's and finishing with all the Shoulder stand variations and the 25 breath headstand.

Broadly speaking, my approach is to stick one of the sequences in between Paschimatanasana and Maha Mudra. I also tend to add in some of the shorter sub-routines from the Standing sequences after the Sury's. Again this is similar to Ashtanga, The Trikonasanas, Parsvakonasana's and Prasarita's are sub-routines found in the the Triangle sequence and then you have the 'On one leg' Sub-routines.

There are a lot of variations of these in Vinyasa Krama, I plan to link some of the Standing Sub-routines to the 'central Sequence' so whenever I practice the seated sequence I'll have set standing routines to go with it. With the Supine Sequence I'll have another set, that way I get to cover all the different Standing Vinyasa's and work on address areas of my body. This seems a sensible approach too, I can link standing sub-routines that prepare me well for Lotus say or a different set for the Backbends of the Bow sequence.

My problem before was that I went straight into trying to do a different sequence every day. I didn't learn Ashtanga that way, rather I built up a familiarity with the sequence such that I didn't have to think about it anymore and could just get on with the practice. This time I propose to spend a week or two on practicing the Seated sequence every day and then spend a couple of weeks on the Inverted sequence and so on. Like I said, I already know the asanas it's just the sequence and it's subtleties I need to nail down.

The Asymmetric and Supine sequences are quite long however. I could split them up but think I'll go with practicing them on my day's off. So this week and perhaps next I'll practice the Seated sequence all week except for Tuesday and Sunday when I'll practice Asymmetric. The following week will be the Meditative Sequence all week say, except for my day's off when I'll practice Supine. That kind of thing. I'll just tweak the key everyday poses to work as counter poses although there are these within the sequences. It makes sense though to practice a long Paschi' after the Bow sequence rather than before.

This week then is the Seated Posterior Stretch Sequence

28.Suptasana/paschimatanasana 29. Paschimatanasana 30.
Purvatanasana 31. Chatushpadapeetam 32. Upavishtakonasana 33.
Pratikriya 34. Samakonasana. 35. Baddhakonasana 36 Siddhasana
37.Gomukkhasana 38.Yoganrisimhasana.

except for today (day off) and Sunday when it'll be the Asymmetric Seated Vinyasa Sequence

15 Lead sequence 16. Dandasana 17. Marichyasana 18.Mahamudra
19. Ardhapadmasana 20. Akarnadhanurasana/Cakorasana 21.
Ekapadasirsasana 22. Triyangmukha 23. Marichyasana(advanced) 24.
Bharadwajasana 26. Mahabandha 26. Matyendrasana 27.Return sequence

* A list of all the sequences in the book can be found here

These are two of my favourite sequences so should be a nice week.



22 comments:

  1. I did a 200 hour Iyengar TT thing back in my twenties and it was nice (I kept getting injured, though) but I never knew what to practice, exactly. Your quest to sort VK out reminds me of that time. Using the routines in the back of Iyengar's book, I had put together a routine that I would do most days (this was before I had kids and had time to fiddle). Turns out that routine was 70% the same as primary! Lots of overlap among Krishnamacharya's students. Anyway, when I came back to yoga, I searched for my old routine, or another that I liked, and found primary--I was so happy to have the 'what to practice' question answered, and so well. I guess sometimes fewer options is what I want. VK sounds like a chinese menu of subroutine options? One from this column, two from that? Sounds lovely if he has worked out a way to approach the mass of asanas. I remember, with Iyegar, it felt like all these asana were separate from each other and could be strung in any order--overwhelming. I have the VK book, must examine more closely. I bogged down early when I tried to read it. I'm very interested in your process of figuring this out for yourself! For my selfish reasons I hope you go to the Ramaswami TT. I want a full report.

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  2. I know what you mean about Primary seeming to cover most of the bases, i felt that a while ago with primary and 2nd which was one of the reasons I went back to it, thought I could practice the Ashtanga series as Vinyasa Krama, it feels different though practicing VK again and doesn't come with all the baggage.

    I've probably over complicated it. Supposedly Krishnamacharya recommended 40 minutes of Asana and 20 minutes Pranayama in an hour lesson. Once you take in a couple of Sury's and the key asana that doesn't leave a lot of room left especially as you tend to spend longer in postures in VK and sometimes even repeat them.

    I still like a long asana practice 60-90 minutes but I think it's kind of straight forward, there's still the Standing/Finishing Sandwich with a series in between but instead of it being primary or second it's a seated sequence or Supine etc. Plus you have the freedom to switch one of the typical triangle sequences in Ashtanga's standing for a different triangle sequence, or not.

    Hopefully I can present it more clearly and simply as I work at it.

    Re the 200 Hrs TT the Registration form is in : )

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  3. I have been following your 'struggle' with ashtanga and your embrace of VK with great interest. I too, have struggled with ashtanga. I find it a little too linear and to some extent, goal orientated (though I think that is probably something that comes from the practitioner not the practice) for my taste.
    I think for me, the main reason for doing primary or 2nd is that it is just so comfortable; once you master the sequence, so to speak, you don't have to really think about it while your doing it; your body seems to instinctively move through the series of postures, thus freeing the mind to focus on the breath alone. This then creates the meditative feel of the practice, which is its greatest reward.
    I am trying to structure a self-practice that uses ashtanga as a foundation or a scaffolding for my practice. Then on that frame, I can place other asanas and/or hold them longer in order to strengthen, open, or release. For me, sometimes, the ashtanga series became so routine that i would get lost in it, which would lead to sloppiness and even injury.
    I have thought of exploring Iyengar, too, but am leery of the props involved...though I am very intrigued by the idea of holding a posture for a long period. There is an amazing amount of movement that comes from the stillness within the asana, if you know what i mean...

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  4. Thanks for this Carol, so nice to get these comments and see that I'm not alone in thinking some of this stuff. There's such a common sense structure to Ashtanga that seems to make it ideal as a framework for practice. When I first got into the Vinyasa Krama book I started to take a couple of Subroutines from each Sequence and then found I pretty much had my usual Ashtanga primary series.

    But I love the flexibility too, fitting the practice to you rather than you to the practice. Like you I like to spend longer and longer in some asanas and that's encouraged in VK as well as Iyengar. I'm enjoying seated at the moment and the time spent in Paschimatatasana and it's close variations. Today was Asymmetric and it was quite startling the improvement I was getting in a couple of the final poses after so many asanas dealing with the same areas of the body, a much straighter, more stable Krounchasana for example.
    Good luck with working out your own practice.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for this G, I am about to get the book so it all sounds like fair warning and even more expectation, I thought about getting the other book... man! I should have just done it... oh well, I will later...

    I am curious about Sweeney's I know you have lots of posts on him but i did not find one whose (at least title wise) talked about the routines he proposes for Krama, I wonder if he helps on making it more clear sequence-wise

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  6. The form is in?! Wow, hey, that's so exciting for you!!

    You said, "...and doesn't come with all the baggage." Which makes me very curious what you mean by baggage. Or maybe that's the stuff you said in your previous post that you didn't want to get into?

    I'm happy as a clam with my ashtanga at the moment, but I look forward to reading more about your VK experiences!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hope you like it now I've gone on about it, all his books are good.
    Ahhh Mr Sweeney. You know, I have never tried his sequences. I bought the book for all the stuff on back bending, jump backs, handstands etc was never that interested in the Sequences (was quite orthodox at the time). One of them though is supposed to be pretty much 5th series Ashtanga, that was interesting to see. Arturo uses them occasionally I believe and I think Patrick used to.

    The Asana dictionary at the back of the book is good. Has all the asanas grouped together. Worth getting but it's an awkward side, can never figure out where to put it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What, pray tell, is PCM?

    NOTE: I practice ashtanga 4-5 days a week and Dharma Mittra yoga the rest of the time. The latter has a structure that allows for a lot of play within the five sequences - and much of it targets areas that ashtanga misses. Dharma's key poses ("main mudras" are not dissimilar to Ramaswami's.

    ReplyDelete
  9. yes Maya, exciting stuff, now I just have to pay for it all. Was going through my vintage saxophones trying to decide which one to sell, heartbreaking. : (

    The baggage. Yeah, don't really want to go there. Just meant there are fixed ways of doing things, seeing things, thats all.

    but hey, I had a great three years practicing it. Still love the practice, but tried doing both and it wasn't working out.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh Hi CK.
    PCM I've been using it for Pranayama, Chanting and Meditation. maybe i should put that up on the side bar somewhere.

    I'm fascinated by Dharma Mittra, I have his asana book and I remember watching a little tutorial by him on Youtube that was a revelation. I imagine you have his DVD, would you recommend it?
    The mudra's are great aren't they, love Maha Mudra especially, my favourite posture.

    Always wondered, what tradition does he come out of, it seems somewhere between Iyengar and Ashtanga.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think Ramaswami needs to take a look at how Sweeney's book is laid out. Now THAT is an incredibly user friendly practice tool.

    Back when C was raining 3rd series poses down on me, I'd study the vinyasa breakdowns in my book at night. Eleven new poses in one day! And I was practicing full 2nd before them. If I messed up the vinyasa I had to repeat. I was NOT into that... I had the Sweeney though & it is a remarkably clear reference tool.

    ReplyDelete
  12. PS

    When Dharma says "main mudras" he seems to be referring primary to postures (headstand, shoulderstand, pascimottanasana, Ardha Matsyndrasana, Cobra, etc).

    ReplyDelete
  13. I do have Dharma's DVDs and highly recommend them, as they cover far more than just asana. In the meantime you can go to the website and have a field day looking at the articles under the library tab.

    Dharma comes from a classical hatha tradition that has more in common with The Sivananda system than the Krishnamacharya lineage. His guru is Yogi Gupta, whose guru was an individual cave-dwelling yogi. Yogi Gupta ran Swami Sivananda's infirmary in Rishikesh, but Swami S was not his guru.

    Dharma collected poses from every book he could find when he created the famous Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures in 1984 (long before the internet or digital photography), and Light on Yoga was a major source. The poster was created as a gift to his guru.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've got that book in my library!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I agree Boodie a couple of double page spreads of all the asanas in a sequence at the back of the book. perhaps the 2nd edition.

    I'd always assumed Mudras were just 'hand asanas' was quite a surprise to come across all these full body mudras, I like them though, I should do a post on it and try and collect them all together, i don't think there are that many and they all seem to be classics.

    Thanks for the DM background i found his Wiki page but it seems inconsistent. Love these cave dwelling yogi's, if i was single i think I'd be tempted run off to my old cave again (see picture top right of blog) for a few years.

    I tried to get a copy of his poster but it appears to be out of print, will try to get a hold of his DVD though. He doesn't seem to travel that much (ie . workshops ) which is great for his regular students, Kind of feel sorry for the home shala students of some of the serial workshop givers.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yes if there's a more user friendly revised edition I'll check it out.

    He came by Yoga Sutra one time to give a talk as part of their teacher trainer program. I'd done my practice & was about the chant with Greg, who mentioned he was there. A few of us went in the room & said hello to him before he started, to the annoyance of the other Sutra teacher organizing that talk!!

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  17. "to" chant with Greg that is.

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  18. never imagined i'd get into chanting but he kind of charmed me with his own chanting. Here's a link to loads of his, downloadable too.
    http://www.vinyasakrama.com/Chants

    My favourite is the pranayama Chant second or third one down. i chant it in my head suring the retention part of my pranayama practice. going to do a post on that tonight. there's an App for it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Dharma actually travels a lot.
    His website is:
    http://dharmayogacenter.com/intro.php
    where you can find his travel sked and articles.

    His senior disciple Chandra Om also has an informative website (visit the Q&A and "articles" sections):
    www.ncschoolofyoga.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hey, wow, Chandra's school is about 40 min from my house! (Which, in North Carolina terms means we're practically neighbors.) That's cool, there isn't much of anything ashtanga-wise around here, I'm going to check her out.

    And there's an APP for pranayama??? WOW. Do tell!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Maya -

    Chandra is not an asthanga vinyasa yoga teacher, although she does follow Patanjali's eight-limb system. She does not teach often, so check the website to find out when she is.

    She is in Asheville this weekend (18-20) for a workshop at Stephanie Keach's place.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi C.K., thanks, I got it, your explanation of the lineages was good. I was just surprised that anyone of ANY lineage of a senior level was around here. It's a yoga wasteland in some ways.

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

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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