Tuesday, 8 June 2010

500th post, Ashtanga Jump Back remembered

I began this blog, then called Ashtanga Jump Back, in July 08, my first post was called Jumping back. I noticed this week I was coming up to 500 posts and wanted to mark it somehow.

So here's a video of imperfect but functional Jumps. There are a couple in the style of Sharath and Kino, a straight leg jump through that I'm trying to learn for the course next week (running out of time). Jump through to one leg bent, half lotus jump back, full lotus jump back. Jump back from Marichi and from Eka pada sirsasana and back through again. Finally an attempt at jumping through and back without crossing the legs, again for the coming course (not gonna happen). Bit out of practice as we don't do so many in Vinyasa Krama (although there is a little section at the back of Ramaswami's book) but they're coming back. Would still love to get that lift from the shoulders that Lino and Swenson have...



Friday, 4 June 2010

Alternative reading of Yoga, plus Ramaswami's chitta vritti newsletter

One of the reasons I wanted to attend the Vinyasa Krama course this summer and study with Srivatsa Ramaswami was a passage I came across in one of his earlier books Yoga for the three stages of life. It has an alternative interpretation of yoga, based on different root of the word that I found appealing. This months newsletter on chitta vritti reminded me of it. Here's the passage (Sorry, bit hacked up, should really read the whole chapter. Google books has an extended preview here). Quite wonderful book this.

'... yoga can also be derived from the root yuja and mean samadhi or samadhana, "to put in place perfectly".... Thus yoga by this definition, would mean putting all mental energies in place, or harnessing mental energies without any dissipation. This definition is different from the earlier derivation of the word yoga from the root yujir, meaning "unity" (yujir yoga).
Based on this interpretation the yoga of Patanjali is a system of practices that lead to the total harnessing of mental energy without any dissipation whatsoever (nirodha "completely contained") One can note that it is not unity with a higher principle that is aimed for in this form of yoga, but rather the removal of all the distractions of the mind.... One system talks of unity the other of freedom"
Yoga for the Three stages of Life. Chapter III, What is yoga. p34-35 Srivatsa Ramaswami

and this from Ramaswami's June 2010 June Newsletter (and in full here).

Chitta Vritti
The Sanskrit word vritti is used commonly in many Indian languages to
indicate one's main activity or avocation. A farmer is said to be in
krishi vritti or agriculture. A sanyasin is said to live on Uncha
vritti or high way of living which is basically asking for minimal
food with a begging bowl. So vritti is used to indicate one's jivana
or livelihood, vritti- jivane as the grammar book says. One mantra in
Suryanamaskara is “apa ca avrittim” which is a prayer to be gainfully
employed --a+vritti meaning joblessness. Some other prefixes also
modify the meaning of the word: pra+vritti or pravritti will indicate
activities towards getting what one wants whereas ni+vritti or
nivritti will indicate activities (and the result) associated with
getting rid of what one does not want. Chitta vritti would mean the
activity of the chitta. Chitta itself has an interesting meaning.
Chitta which is usually translated as mind-stuff or brain is that
which though is inert matter appears to have consciousness. “Cit iva
bhavayati”, like my computer which does not even have life but appears
to be super intelligent ( I know I have used this comparison
earlier).
So what does the chitta do, what are its vrittis or activities?
Basically the chitta through the vrittis gives us experiences of
varied types. It projects different images within its confines-- in
its own space, mental space, even though the projections appear to be
in the outside real space. For the sake of convenience several works
divide functionally the chitta into manas (mind), buddhi (intellect),
ahamkara(ego) and smriti/citta(memory). I receive information from the
outside world through my senses, eyes, ears, etc., due to the vrittis
of the indriyas. Then the manas or mind which is also known as the
11th indriya collates and coordinates and presents to another faculty
of the chitta called buddhi. Buddhi analyzes all the information and
makes a judgment and then the ego or ahankara aspect of chitta comes
into play. If it likes the presentation, it is happy but if not it
shows its unhappiness and produces various reactions. When the Buddhi
or intellect is active then the chitta vritti is also known as buddhi
vritti but when it is dominated by ahankara aspect of chitta the
chitta vritti is known as ahamkara vritti. When some one says that I
am a good person I am happy, my ahamkara vritti makes me expansive and
I hit the roof. If then someone says I am a lousy yoga teacher, I feel
bad, very bad and am down in the dumps due to the ahamkara vritti. So
moment after moment I have a chitta vritti which includes images not
only of the outside objects but also me as the subject of the whole
experience. Therefore the chitta vritti is the totality of my
experience at any given moment. The one that experiences or observes
all these successive chitta vritties is the real “I”, the purusha,
the drashta or observer or the non-changing and hence eternal pure
consciousness.
Patanjali says the chitta is capable of transcending all the vrittis
and remaining oblivious to all the vrittis. To understand that state
he lists all the chitta vrittis in five categories, the main purpose
of it is to indirectly know or infer the state which is beyond the
chitta vritti state, trying to show the unknown from the known . What
are these known chitta vrittis? The first one is called the pramana
vritti or those vrittis which produce correct knowledge of the various
objects. Through the senses, I get information of the outside world
thanks to the tanmatras received from the objects and the knowledge
produced is the pramana vritti. If the knowledge produced is incorrect
then that vritti is classified as the viparyaya vritti. Either one
interprets the incoming information correctly or incorrectly but the
chitta produces a vritti for experience. The chitta sometimes needs no
outside information to produce a vritti experience in which case it is
called vikalpa vritti, the typical example is the dream vritti. Then
we have deep sleep which is considered another activity of the chitta
which vritti is due to the dominance of Tamas and hence is known as
tamo vritti. Finally we have a lot of information stored in our chitta
and when we recall something vividly in the mind it is termed smriti
vritti. Is there a moment in our lives when the chitta is without a
vritti? No, according to the exhaustive classification of chitta
vrittis, there is not a moment when the chitta stops its activities,
its projections in the mental space, its vrittis.
While ordinarily the chitta wallows in these vrittis, Patanjali talks
about a state in which the chitta transcends all the vrittis
mentioned above and remains in that state. That is the state of Yoga.
It happens when the chitta uses all its faculties and yogic training
to concentrate and knows for sure the true nature of the observing
self/soul, the non-changing, hence eternal consciousness. With that
knowledge, with that direct experience, the chitta remains in a state
of resolution, on realizing the nature of the the Self in its true
form (svarupa). When there is realization in the chitta that nothing,
none of the vrittis changes the essential nature of the pure purusha,
it becomes quiet-- completely quiet. In that state the chitta does not
have any of the vrittis mentioned above. But when not in the state of
Yoga, it does not know the true nature of the soul. Rather than trying
to locate and realize the nature of the Self ( as a Raja Yoga
practitioner attempts to do), it creates and projects a shadow self
using its own vritti, a viparyaya vritti. The chitta is capable of
creating this deception. Take for example what the lazy chitta does
during dream state. Getting out of deep sleep, but yet unable to wake
up completely, the chitta creates its own dream space, dream objects
and also creates a self, a dream self, only to discard it when it
wakes up.
Patanjali uses two terms about the nature of the Self and the nature
of the pseudo self. He uses the term swarupa or own form to indicate
the nature of the true Self. He uses the term sarupa or something
similar to the form of the Self for the self image created by the
chitta. It is like the difference between the subject and the wax
model. The model however much it may look like the original is still a
copy and not the original/Self. In fact Patanjali uses the term
sarupa which would mean similar to rather than tadrupa which would
mean identical with or the exact replica. The emphasis is not so much
on how similar or look alike they are (like the mirror image or
reflection, etc. which would be tadrupa) but that the model is not the
real thing. The implication is that the created self or ego or
ahamkara is a creation of the chitta itself; it is itself a chitta
vritti (vritti saarupya).
The ultimate state of Yoga of the chitta is that in which it
transcends all its vrittis. In that trance-like state the Yogi is
oblivious to the surroundings, not sleeping, not dreaming nor thinking
of the past.
The brain or the mindstuff has also another set of vrittis. The
samkhyas call it the samanya or samanya karanaa vrittis. This set of
vrittis helps to maintain life even of the Yogi. These are vrittis of
prana which itself is an aspect of chitta. These non-descript or
ordinary vrittis maintain life. They are known as prana, apana, vyana,
udana and samana vrittis and correspond to the life sustaining
autonomic
activities of the brain. They function until the Yogi decides to call
it quits.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

'Come up from the hips first'.

Sometimes, saying something a little differently can make all the difference.


I'd read 'push your hips forward' over and over again and wanted to shout "I'm trying, already". Your brain is telling your hips to move forward but nothing seems to happen, maybe it's something to do with having your head upside down.


I was over at Nappper's blog this morning, THE place to be for backbends at the moment, and came across this post. While talking about some backbend exercises she uses the expression 'come up from the hips first'. Well stop me if you've heard it already but for me this was something new, something I hadn't heard before, or perhaps I had but it's only now that I'm in a place where it resonates.


Come up at the hips first.... or start at the hips which is how I remembered it during practice this morning. Made a difference right away. 'Push your hips forward' is kind of jumping right in there, 'Start at the hips' is a little more gradual.....I don't know, it's softer somehow.



Not sure it shows up in the video but it felt smoother, almost effortless.

Before Paris I wrote about the disappearance of 2nd series dread and how I was almost afraid to take a day off Intermediate in case it came back. Well four days without a full practice while in Paris, Primary yesterday, this morning was my first 2nd series and am happy to say, dread free.

Back to the backbends, noticed this evening that the dropback comes into the first Vinyasa Krama Sequence 'On your feet', built around Tadasana. I'd forgotten, in the book the direction is to drop back with your hands close to your feet, so pretty deep back bending in VK.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Aching bones, four days minimal yoga

Just spent the last four days in Paris, came back craving a proper practice.

Saturday no practice,
Sunday in the hotel, minimal Vinyasa Krama key asana, pranayama etc.
Monday, same as Sunday, minimal practice,
Tuesday, no practice due to checking out. (Of course I could have got up at 5am but the floorboards creaked).
Perhaps it was all the walking but my bones ached (Picture from the House of Bones, natural History Museum paris), forward bends were agony by Monday and I was both dreading and yet craving a proper practice.


As it turned out it was a nice Primary this morning. Up at 5:30, practiced from Six. Made a point of a full ten Sury's and took my time through Standing. By Paschi' I must have been nicely warmed up because forward bends were fine again. A renewed respect for the Standing sequence.


All of a sudden the Vinyasa Krama course in LA is upon me. Less than two weeks. Still nothing concrete re housing, I need an address before I hit immigration. Why is the University dragging it's heels on this, don't they get it? I heard, after emailing, that I am assured housing but I still need an address.

What mat to take, what to wear during practice (my skimpy home ashtanga shorts ain't gonna cut it), which books to take.... hate thinking about stuff like that. I like to just dump some clothes in a bag, grab my passport and be done with it. And of course, if it turns out I'm not going to be on campus after all the whole clothes/mat/bag equation changes completely, uggg. Almost feel like forgetting the whole thing and going to my old cave in Crete for a month, practice there all day instead.

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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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