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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Preview / Review : David Garrigues' Vayu Siddhi, Pranayama DVD/book set

"Well it's like…asana, pranayama, limbs three and four….. so you're supposed to be establishing the asana practice first but I also think there's a lot of value in doing a separate breathing practice , even as you're establishing yourself in your asana practice. Or in fact in your case, you've been practicing for so long, you'er established in asana practice but then somehow you never got to a pranayama practice".

David Garrigues in an Interview with Peg Mulqueen  (see youtube clip towards end of post)


Link to buy a copy of Vayu Siddhi
I'm never sure if I'm previewing or reviewing in these posts, perhaps a little of both. When a new book or DVD comes out the first thing I want to know is what's inside, I want to pick it up, check the bibliography, the index, the copyright page and Acknowledgements, then the contents, work how many pages have been devoted to certain sections and then finally have a flick through the book and read a couple of passages, decide if I like the style of how it's written, decide if I'm actually going to read it, if I'll want to read it. I miss that when buying online

If  I still haven't decided to buy it by then (which is usually a deal breaker right there) I might check with somebody I trust who I know has read it already and if I can't find anyone then I might check newspaper or online reviews.

There was a brief discussion here on an older post when we first heard David Garrigues' was planning on releasing a pranayama DVD, lots of excitement in fact. We're familiar with David's tutorials on Vimeo, always fresh, gritty full on explanations of how to work on postures or techniques related to Ashtanga. He's always passionate, undogmatic, I remember him using a boogie board under the shoulders for shoulderstand and dropping back to giant blocks. Loved the last one because I'd received stick for working on my drop back to the sofa and tic tacking to stacked cushions, here was a Certified Ashtanga teacher taking a similar if a little more refined approach.

David Garrigues teaching pranayama, exciting.

When a release date, more details ( it was to be a double DVD and Book set) and price, $110 dollars, was set there was even more discussion. That's quite a bit of money though to somebody forking out daily shala fees and saving up for trips to Mysore, for somebody still not sure if they should be exploring pranayama in the first place, it's a financial commitment and several friends have mentioned it's caused them to hesitate in ordering it.

At the time I decided that it was no more, in fact less, than a weekend workshop and if it gave you the beginnings of an established pranayama practice then it was worth every penny.

I decided against getting it myself though, partly because of the cost but mainly because I already have an established pranayama practice ( Ramaswami taught me pranayama on his TT course at LMU in 2010). I couldn't justify the cost when I was already practicing it daily. However, I am interested in Ashtanga pranayama Sequence, I explored it a little with Tim Millers outline and Derek Irelands Ashtanga pranayama sequence CD, I've also practiced with Richard Freeman's Breathing CD and his online Pranayama course. So I was tempted and couldn't wait to hear what people had to say about it.

I was very excited then when Elizabeth, one of David's assistants, got in touch and asked me if I would be interested in reviewing David's Pranayama series here on the blog, the bytes of her email were probably still warm when I sent off my my own.

Thank you again Elizabeth and David too of course.

David's Pranayama set on the right
and a letter from David himself outlining the themes of the set
Here's what I wrote of my first impressions when it arrived last week.

"Just practiced the Ashtanga pranayama sequence with David, it's quite a bit lighter than the Derek Ireland CD (although the same sequence), the breath faster than I'm used to but that wont be a bad thing for somebody just starting pranayama and they can slow it down a bit once they've learned the sequence. 
Nicely broken down VERY accessible. 
On the one hand I think it is over priced, the book is quite light (content), nicely cloth bound hardback but only 100 pages (actually more like 75 of quite large print) mostly just prep,  instructions, exercises and the minimum expansion ( not necessarily a bad thing). The video is just a camera in a room tracking over a guy ( David of course) breathing or talking to the camera, kind of YouTube like. It's broken up into sections though. There's a little prep and set up, some exercises and then your down to the sequence which also can be broken down into different sections so you can work on it bit by bit and build up to the full sequence. there's also a kind of Q&A.

But then on the other hand it's so accessible, clear and simple, very Ashtanga, just what you need to get on the mat. It will give anyone who buys it an established, basic Ashtanga pranayama practice. How do you put a price on that and besides, forking out that amount of dollars will make you damn sure you do actually read the book and practice along to the videos.

No longer any excuse for not having a pranayama practice.

The book was hand made and designed by two of David's students I hear".

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The cost of the set is something I want to address right away as several of you have asked already

Is it worth it?

Yes, I think it is, very much so but I want to qualify that.

The Book

On the one hand it is light.
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Update: I'm struggling with my use of 'light' here, as in light in content... and yet it's heavy in instruction, guidance and inspiration. The text is surprisingly dense at times, I hesitate to say profound but why not this is profound subject matter, these are weighty matters. There are quotes from the shastras and I'm finding it a curiously poetic text, lines of instruction that I feel I'll want to come back to savour and allow to work on me some more.
------------------

If we compare it to Gregor Maehle Pranayama book, say which is $20 and goes into so much detail on the subject of pranayama and for 330 pages, then David's 105 pages ( actually more like 75 of actual text) are going to make you ask if it's worth the money.

And yet it's easy to get bogged down in Gregor's book, get lost, be put off and not end up actually practicing pranayama. Claudia's 10 part+ review will help you work through it however .

I would argue that David's book IS lighter and yet that's because it's stripped down (but not dumbed down) to the essentials. It's VERY Ashtanga, just what you need to get on the mat and begin your practice. It's more of a support to the DVD, expanding on some of the areas David introduces and demonstrates there. So there's expansion on sitting well, on prana and apana, on the bandhas, the mudra for alternating the airflow through either side of the nose, the kumbhaka, finally it lists the full Ashtanga primary sequence. It's simple straight forward yet also characterised by David's enthusiastic, passionate style of delivery, you want to try this, you can try this, you should try this.

Another point about the cost, the book is hand made and designed by a couple of David's Ashtanga students, Bridget Morris and  Bella Forte of Book Binding Letterpress it's a really nice cloth bound hardback, reminds me a little of Lino's Ashtanga book, simple but something you want to keep and keep going back to.

Yes, David could have put the information in a small pamphlet and kept the costs down, I thought that for a moment but then decided that this is Pranayama, it's special, this profound practice, it' should be well presented and not in something that's going to get lost around the house somewhere but in a beautiful book that takes pride of place in your practice space.

Here's a closer a look.





Contents inc. subheadings 

Dedication
Centralising yourself in breath
Bowing to the Void-minded yogis who came before

Getting started
Three steps to learning pranayama
Guidelines and cautions
The power of Surrender and receptivity
Sit longer and with more ease in pranayama
Setting up a seated position
Setting up a supine position

Imagery for the central axis
Optimizing your seated position
The pelvis
The sacrum
mid torso

Ujjayi breathing
Nine keys to better Ujjayi breathing
prana and apana vagus. the highest agents
prana vayu
prana and apana vayu exercises

Mudras
Uddiyana bandha and kriya
Uddiyana bandha and kriya set-up positions and exercises
Jalandhara bandha
Jalandhara bandha gesture
Mula bandha
Energetic concepts of Mula bandha
Khecari mudra
Thoughts on shushumna

Kumbhaka
The art of becoming a void-minded

Stories
Remembering the source
Prana is first and foremost

The Ashtanga pranayama Sequence

Vayu Siddhi
Vayu
Siddhi

Afterword
Glossary
References


Check back later for some quotes from the book.

As I mentioned, the book supports the DVD and this is where it all happens, the book is like a set of notes outlining and at times expanding the instructions David gives on the DVD ( it also has some nice stories).


THE DVD's

DVD One






I think the pictures are pretty much self explanatory, each section is a few minutes long, anything from one and a half to nine minutes, very manageable, accessible.

Some instructions for setting up, (expanded on a little in the book) I particularly liked the laying back on the bolster exercise. the bolster is placed at the first ribs so lifting your chest up and allowing your pelvis to drop down, the block under the head gives you a natural hint of jalandhara bandha. David talks you through the long inhalations and exhalations, pointing out the terrain of the the breath. I'll be using this on my Itouch occasionally perhaps as an extra relaxation technique.


The exercises are short tutorials walking you through a particular aspect of pranayama technique, again only a few minutes long, bite size chunks. I've been practicing pranayama for a couple of years but  I found the directions, or rather the 'noticing' useful, be nice to play one of two of these before I settle down to my regular pranayama practice.

The interviews are short responses to questions we might have about different aspects of pranayama practice, even the breath in our asana practice.  Very much in the style of David's Vimeo videos where he seeks to explaining some aspect of asana or yoga practice. he's intense, full on, passionate, he wants you to get this.

DVD Two




In the first section David runs through each of the five pranayamas that make up the full Ashtanga pranayama sequence. This way you can work at each pranayama on it's own with David's instructions followed by the actual led technique in the second section. This is nice, you get to break up the whole sequence. Start perhaps by just practising the Ujjayi breathing you're familiar with but as a seated pranayama rather than in your asana practice. Both the instructed and the led ujjayi practice are a little over seven minutes. That's a simple and yet still powerful short ( fifteen minute) pranayama practice right there.


You could practice a different technique each day or work on one a week. 




Or you can practice the Full Ashtanga pranayama sequence which takes around 30 minutes.

Final thoughts.

The book and DVDs have grown on me over the week. It's actually a quite brilliant approach in that I can't imagine a more accessible way into pranayama other than having David teaching you personally one-on-one in your practice space. And this is David, there's never any distance in his presentation, no aloofness, intellectual or academic or all-knowing but rather another ( more experienced) practitioner explaining how he understands the practice,  it's immediate, he's talking to you directly. 

It's quite wonderful actually.

For me personally the breathing is a little fast, but that's probably a good thing, I've been practicing a couple of years, the longer breath becomes comfortable. That said his kumbhaka's are of a fair length and some might struggle a little at first with a ten second kumbhaka after a couple of rounds.

However he provides guidelines cautions etc. in the book indicating when to return to natural breath, 

I'd have like to see a couple of versions of the full sequence, perhaps a beginner and intermediate version ( the full sequence here seems set somewhere between the two). The Ashtanga pranayama sequence is quick and easy sequence to learn however so once memorised you can go off on your own and practice at your own pace.

Interesting for me to look at the Ashtanga Pranayama Sequence again, I'm still not sure what to make of it, strikes me as an overview of pranayama practice (generally Sitali for example is practised in hotter weather), a kind of introduction to the practice. By the time I'd gotten settled into one technique the sequence had moved on to another, I'm used to spending 20,40, 80 rounds on the same technique. But then there's no reason why, once you're familiar with the sequence, you couldn't do extra rounds of nadi Shodana say, or introduce another technique into the mix. This set is designed to introduce you to and establish a practice, it's up to you then to develop that practice further.

I raised the question of value for money at the beginning of this post. If this book/DVD set gets you to actually sit and practice pranayama and that practice becomes established then it's worth every penny and more besides, I think it will.

Here's David giving his own Intro to the course and an in interview with Peg Mulqueen




"DG: To me the breathing is the most important part of the practice, just period, that's all.

 PM: How come I've never learned it before? How come nobody has ever introduced me, REALLY to a practice, taught me to breathe? Ujjayi breath, breath with sound, whatever, in my asana practice but never separate from my asana practice.

 DG: Well it's like…asana, pranayama, limbs three and four….. so you're supposed to be establishing the asana practice first but I also think there's a lot of value in doing a separate breathing practice , even as you're establishing yourself in your asana practice. Or in fact in your case, you've been practicing for so long, your established in asana practice but then somehow you never got to a pranayama practice".


David's Vayu Siddhi  http://ashtangapranayama.com

and his regular website http://www.davidgarrigues.com

UPDATE
I was asked which approach to pranayama I recommended, this one by David Garrigues or Gregor Maehle's pranayama book. I could also include Derek Ireland's, Richard Freeman's or, why not, my own on the page link at the top of the blog.

Gregor's book is excellent I think, goes into a lot of detail but I can understand how somebody just coming to pranayama could become bogged down, put off, even intimidated slightly. I'd say, if you're new to pranayama, go with David it should actually build and establish a pranayama practice. Once that happens you're going to want to explore the practice further and will perhaps enjoy Gregor's book all the more. Likewise Richard Freeman's online course.

Derek Ireland's Ashtanga Primary Sequence CD is perhaps a step up from David's run through of the sequence, I found it quite challenging and if the Ashtanga pranayama sequence is what you want to practice that may be something to move on to after David's. 
Quite quickly you'll settle into your own pace and wont need the led, same as with your asana practice.

My own approach is based on Ramaswami's teaching, the pranayama is built around the use of mantra on the breath retention, I love this approach and it's probably how I'll always practice, rather than changing from one technique to another I prefer 108 rounds of pranayama and then 20, 40 or 80 rounds of Nadi shodana with the pranayama mantra. that said i also include a little ujjayi pranayama and or surya/ chandra bheda before practice. 

The Ashtanga sequence as I mentioned strikes me as an excellent overview and introduction to some of the different pranayama techniques. You can stick with that and make it more challenging with more rounds in the different techniques, longer slower breaths or longer retentions or you can move to a different approach after your practice has become established.
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I mentioned earlier in the week that the video was simplistic, Youtube like in that it was basically just watching a man (David) breathe in front of you, that's right up there with watching paint dry and grass grow right. It's more than that of course it's filmed by Joy Marzec an experienced practitioner herself, she know when to focus the camera on David's belly, the diaphragm, the hand mudra, drift off to look at the beautiful practice space and track back in time for the change from inhalation to exhalation or from left nostril to right. If David's presence feels immediate and direct then that is as much down to Joy's subtle camera work and set up as David's presence and passion for communication.

If Joy is constrained somewhat by the subject matter that is unlikely to be the case in her current movie project The Bhakti Boy Follow the link to the Start up page



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My own Pranayama page at the top of the blog. http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/pranayama.html

10 comments:

  1. Grimmly, It sounds awesome and a very useable resource. Thanks for sharing your review. You gotta love David, I cannot wait to practice with him in February! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course your going to studying with him yourself before long, perhaps he has pranayama classes at his place, some shots of a group pranayama class on that interview video with Peg. Must be coming up soon now : )

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the insight Grimmly. I'd be interested to find out (somehow), whether there are plans downstream to publish this excellent piece of work on a wider scale, without all the 'handmade' aspects, (which I'm sure quite justifiably add to the cost/price). Or, even as a download product. Most of us have limited space at home, for a 'library' and also, I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes to have what I'm reading with me on a train, or at work etc.

    It looks stunning, but I'd be truly miffed if I did part with the cash, and then found out this time next year that it's on Amazon with a paper cover, for $30. I fell into that trap with Gregor's Primary and Intermediate books, and for that reason, I've not bought the pranayama and meditation ones. It bugs me that publishers hold back on Kindle copies, in the expectation that the consumers will buy it again on Kindle. Especially, when they then wave the 'save the trees' banner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My guess is No Steve, just checked and his Primary DVD is still only sold on disk, doesn't seem to be a download version.. I had to rip my copy so I could put it on my ipad and practice away from the Mac, DVDs are pretty much over aren't they?
      M. Said she thought I was selling the book after reading the post, it's not the book I'm selling but pranayama, this struck me as an approach that would establish a pranayama practice.
      There's always Derek Ireland's Pranyama cd and the Ashtanga Pranayama Sequence on my Pranayama. Page but David's set has more of a workshop feel to it, easing you into the practice.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I'm not sure I even know how to use my player!

      I almost succumbed, but the pricing structure's changed since my last look, and now there's an additional $25 shipping charge. Can't justify 150 bucks for a dvd set, plus a risk of import duty.

      As you point out, there's enough info out there now, to commence a practice anyway. It just would've been nice to have it up there on the shelf alongside Yoga Mala & Lino's Vinyasa count book.

      Delete
    3. P.S. Besides, I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Matthew Sweeney's 'Vinyasa Unlocked' this month (which is only going to be a few quid). Even the YouTube clip is full of good ideas that help a home practitioner to find new depths.

      Delete
  3. Guess you could always think of his 20 odd free Asana Kitchen videos as a sweetner to balance out the postage.

    Matthew's dvd sounds interesting must watch the trailer again

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Anthony, please can you tell me if the ashtanga pranayama sequence in this video is the same as the one you have on your blog somewhere (also shown here http://ashtangaseries.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/ashtanga-pranayama.html), I've seen this sequence a few times on the web but have not managed to work out who devised it(I'm guessing Pattabhi Jois). I also note that Gregor Maehle does not mention this sequence in his pranayama book - think he learnt pranayama from BNS Iyengar if I remember rightly).

    ReplyDelete
  5. a litte different Rob. David goes in this order.

    Ujjayi
    Nadi Shodana
    Bhastrika
    Surya and Chandra Bheda
    Sitali


    See my pranayama page here
    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/p/pranayama.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mistake, yes it's the same, thought the order was different for a moment

      Delete

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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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