Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yoga Sutra II.35

ahimsa pratisthayam tat sannidhau vaira tyagaha

In the presence of one who is established in nonviolence enmity is abandoned.

Hariharananda says violent thoughts have to be rooted out through dharana, fixing mind, which perfects yamas and niyamas. this shows that the later limbs deepen the earlier limbs, perfecting the yamas and making asana faultless.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sharath in conference: Bandhas, and not sweating the details

Claudia has conference notes from DC-based teacher Megan Riley from Mysore. Here, Sharath field questions on the bandhas, what makes a good student, and how to handle all the little bits of Ashtanga like jump-backs and moving into standing poses. Here's what I picked up as key:
Bandhas take time—there is no quick one month certificate for Mula Bandha. Bandhas will help the asanas to develop energy inside us and bring stability to the body and mind. Some asanas are also good for developing the bandhas. Navasana, Utpluthih, and lifting up in our jumpbacks help us to strengthen the bandhas. This is why he makes us do them longer in led practices. Also, he added, it is fun for him.
The first question he took from students was what jumping back in Suryanamasakara A and B should look like. Sharath said to just do it—straight legs, bent legs, doesn’t matter. Another asana question asked was whether we should hop or simply step into our standing postures from Samasthitih. Again, Sharath said this doesn’t matter much. The vinyasa is important but using straight legs versus crossed legs, stepping or hopping, is not so important as long as the student has the correct vinyasa.
What makes a good student? Sharath said this question was difficult. A good student wants to learn yoga for self transformation. He or she doesn’t have any desire, only to get enlightened. Pattabhi Jois didn’t learn this to become famous. We do not need to be Brahmin or go through a ceremony. It doesn’t automatically make us enlightened. We can reach enlightenment without it. This is his karma. He was born in India and this is what he does. At the end of the day, it’s our own karma. To be human, that is our duty. Don’t be like an animal. Protect Dharma (truth) and Dharma will protect you. Just doing asanas is not enough. We have to be more responsible and think of more than just ourselves. This is a 24 hour practice.

Ashtanga Yoga - Practice and philosophy

Here's the current flier for my class, designed by my wife, the talented Amy Koman.

Jungle animal jumping through

I like David Garrigues' teaching on jumping through in the Ashtanga vinyasa. It's all about the crouch and springing forward. In this video he offer four options, from stepping it through, to using blocks, to the full jump-through. It's about gathering leg-hip energy with the crouch and then releasing that energy forward - woosh! We worked on this a bit in my class today, which btw, is Sundays 11:00 am at Yoga Studio Ganesha.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Richard Freeman dives in deep

British Ashtanga blogger Grimmly attended a full five-day workshop with the extraordinary Richard Freeman and has this excellent report. If you have taken classes with Richard before, much of this resonates as familiar. Start with posture and the prana/apana movements:
-frount of armpit up back and out -Bankers pose- exaggerates the patters of the yoga postures, prana and apana.. -there's a tendency to shut down the opposite pattern, pinching the shoulder blades together, closing the kidney wings -to avoid that we keep the exaggeration of the prana pattern, -we drop the coccyx, and float the shoulder blades apart slightly, allowing the floating ribs to spread, the pattern of apana returning -we get both patterns simultaneously, strong, each one stronger because of it's opposite
As Grimmly says: "Much of Richard'ss pranayama practice/teaching seems to inform his approach to asana, just as his approach to asana, the keen attention to alignment, informs his approach to pranayama." His notes are really very detailed, so they're worth a read, especially on the palate and the link to mula bandha. I appreciated his closing thoughts:
I really wanted to communicate this focus on the gaze/breath/ palate/release/bandha connection with the prana and apana model as it's key to Richards teaching. It doesn't matter the posture, any asana will do, it doesn't have to be fancy, the first half of primary will give you plenty to be going on with. An advanced practice doesn't begin with pasasana or kapo or vasisatasana it begins with ekam and dve ...if we attend to the breath. And it's because a pranayama practice can inform our asana practice that it may be worth considering beginning a simple, formal pranayama practice.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Ashtanga Class: Sundays at 11 am in Sebastopol

(Photo by Lena Gardelli)

I'm starting up a new Ashtanga Yoga class at Yoga Studio Ganesha, Sundays at 11. The studio is right on the Plaza, so do a little shopping at the Farmer's Market before class. Here's my official description of the class:

Ashtanga yoga is known as a challenging yoga practice, but it is much more than that. The primary series presents an incredibly logical and opening sequence of poses, from standing to forward bends and hip openers, backbends and meditative postures. Underlying all of this is the yoga philosophy of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the path to liberation. Come learn or practice the Primary Series, coupled with a short discussion of the Sutras.
The emphasis is definitely on the practice: moving with the breath through the Primary Series sequence. But my practice is clearly informed by the underpinnings of the seminal text, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which teach the process of concentration and meditation that lead to samadhi.

How do we use asana to achieve concentration or even "single-pointed" attention? Sri K. Pattabhi Jois's Ashtanga method is incredibly powerful at helping us get there. The pratice must be understood in terms of yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ -- "yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

Once you get that yoga is about mind, not flexibility or handstands, you appreciate a practice that values focus and one-pointedness. For me, ashtanga offers both a fiery physical practice and a deeply internal awareness (even if it is fueled by exhaustion.)

Having said all that, the class is appropriate for those new to Ashtanga, but are at least advanced beginning yoga students. Six months of Iyengar or "flow" classes would be ideal.