“It is possible to be aware of the state of the mind
by observing the body during an Āsana practice.”
Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool
Part 3 – Yoga as a Tool
“Yoga as a tool is more likely to be the starting point for most students these days in that we often choose a style or approach to Yoga as a starting point in our Yoga experience.
There are many, many choices these days, although the common denominator now appears to be based around Yoga teachers rather than Yoga teachings.
For example we have Anusāra, Aṣṭāṅga, Bikram, Dru, Gītānada, Integral, Iyengar, Jīvamukti, Kripālu, Kuṇḍalinī, Sahaja, Scaravelli, Śivananda, Satyānanda, Viniyoga, etc.
Which is fine in itself. However the question that arises is how much do the various ‘types’ actually apply the Haṭha energetic principles of Practice in order to realize the View of Yoga? My own field of expertise lies within the teachings often referred to as Viniyoga, so I can only speak with experience from this perspective.
The primary principle here is that the Practices of Yoga must be adapted to the starting point, potential and needs of the student. Within this premise is a further question how, or even how much, the tools of Yoga utilize the Practice principles of Haṭha, in order to realise the View of Yoga as presented in what is seen as the primary teaching on the goal of Yoga, the Yoga Sūtra.”
Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool
Part 2 – Yoga as a Practice
“A further irony in the emerging role and identity of Yoga in the West today is with regard to the term Haṭha Yoga. The term is mainly used generically these days to identify and group ‘physically’ based Yoga practices.
As a teacher I am often asked in connection with the question what kind of Yoga do you teach, is it Haṭha Yoga?
The irony is that when we look at what Haṭha Yoga really is we find that the physical elements are relatively limited with very few Āsana discussed.
Furthermore within the few discussed, the largest group are concerned with sitting, in preparation for practice elements other than Āsana.
Primarily to facilitate a quality of being able to sit still and as if move beyond the physical body.
Here the primary concern and field of activity for Haṭha Yoga practitioners is with regard to the energetic or ‘Prāṇa’ body and its role in helping to facilitate a quality of energetic ‘clarity’ and energetic ‘stillness’ ultimately as a ladder to support the practitioners exploration of meditational states of being in terms of Raja Yoga or the Yoga of Samādhi.
The role of Haṭha is to help take the student towards the View and to help refine the View.
What is important also is that we understand the various influences that exist in the West today in terms of ‘Yoga’.
What seems to be in danger of being lost in all of this are the ‘energetic principles’ that underpin Haṭha Yoga because people have become very focused on the physicality, or even gymnastic type influences.
It seems that modern Yoga practice is dominated by Āsana and the words Āsana and Yoga appears to have become sadly synonymous.”
Yoga as a View, Practice and Tool
Part 1 – Yoga as a View
“It is interesting these days that as a Yoga teacher the question I am more likely to be asked is ‘What kind of Yoga do you do?’ rather than ‘What is Yoga?’. It’s either that we think we already know what Yoga is or, more likely, that the view is becoming lost within the myriad of ways in which Yoga is offered.
These days there seems to be little apparent clarity around what Yoga is, or if there is a view, it is not very apparent.”
“If the teacher does not have a ‘view’ to inspire and guide them whilst accommodating the many vagaries of Yoga classes today then we are more likely to be looking at the view dissolving into the many nuances of postural performance.
A Yoga view would be that a group class moves from the starting point of physicality towards some point of stillness, giving students an experience of ‘sitting’ and experiencing the potential of stillness at some point along the way.
The priority in terms of what we are trying to teach is ‘stillness’ or an experience of ‘Cit’. Can I be present within the activities of the mind? The longer I can be present, the more awareness that can emerge.
When people touch that stillness something happens – a wanting to move away from the dominance of the activities of the Citta.
The more that we go back in time with Yoga the more we see the goal was the achievement of the ability to sit and experience stillness. The more forward we move in time with Yoga the more we see the movement towards increased physicality.”
“When less Āsana time than you would like,
better to reduce the number of Āsana,
or the number of repetitions,
or the length of the stays,
rather than, reducing the length of the breath.
Or….. even considering lengthening the breath,
thus even fewer Āsana, all with a longer breath than usual.
Here the Bhāvana could be to observe the effect
of a more spacious than usual Āsana breathing
on a more cramped than usual daily mindset.”
– Paul Harvey
“to reach a point we have not reached before”
“Conscious breathing is one of the greatest
tools to influence the effect of the posture
without changing the posture”
“While it is theoretically possible for the body, the breath, and the mind to work independently, it is the purpose of Yoga to unify their movement. In our very first practice classes, we will experience this unification. What appears as Yoga to an outsider is mainly the physical aspects of our practice. They will not be aware of how we breathe, how we feel the breath, and how we coordinate breathing with physical movement.”
TKV Desikachar – Religiousness in Yoga, ch2, p13
“A man in Ireland broke his leg and spent 10 days in the hospital after injuring himself in a surprising way — while practicing yoga.
The 38-year-old yoga enthusiast fractured the thighbone on his right leg while doing a difficult seated yoga pose known as Marichyasana posture B in his morning yoga class, according to a new report of the man’s case, which was published online Oct. 9 in the journal BMJ Case Reports. The pose involves sitting down, with the knee bent and drawn up to the chest, and then bending the torso toward the floor. “
“At the time of his injury, the man was practicing Ashtanga yoga, a physically demanding style, for an hour every morning.Research suggests that injuries from this style of yoga are more common in the hamstrings, knees and lower back, according to the report.”
credit for image: © BMJ 2015
“In the emergency room, the man could not straighten out his right leg, and needed IV morphine to dull his pain. X-rays showed he had a “low-energy femoral shaft fracture.”he had a “low-energy femoral shaft fracture.”
The “low energy” term refers to the amount of force that causes the bone to break, said Dr. Andrew Moriarity, an orthopedic resident at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, who treated the man and co-authored the case report. Low-energy fractures are sometimes called “stress fractures.”
“Although yoga is considered a gentle mind-body practice, injuries can and do happen, especially as the activity’s popularity rises. Still, this type of fracture is extremely rare in a young, healthy person, and it’s even more unusual for it to occur due to yoga, the researchers wrote in their case report.”
Two weeks before the fracture occurred, the man felt a dull pain in his right thigh. He sought advice about the problem from a physical therapist, who diagnosed it as a muscle strain in the man’s quadriceps, telling him he could return to yoga.”
“But that probably wasn’t a good idea,” Moriarity said.
“The pain he felt in his thigh was likely a stress fracture, a warning of impending fracture if he continued to apply stress to this area,” Moriarity told Live Science.
“To treat his femoral shaft fracture, the man needed surgery to insert a titanium rod inside his thighbone, which would allow him to walk safely,” Moriarity said.
“The reason this man sustained such a rare injury from practicing yoga, Moriarity said, “was likely due to repetitive stress on the thighbone, combined with a weakened bone state, known as osteopenia“
“Indeed, a bone scan taken at the hospital revealed that he the man had did in fact have osteopenia, a condition in which his bone density is lower than normal, which could increase his risk for low-energy fractures, Moriarity explained.
“Five months after his release from the hospital, the man could walk almost pain free and had resumed practicing yoga, but was doing only less-demanding postures.”
“Duḥkha is a disturbance of the mind. While sometimes the words sorrow, misery, and disease are used to define duḥkha, it is best identified as a feeling of restriction.
Somehow something deeply disturbs us and we feel restricted.
This restriction is duḥkha…….
We all aim to remove duḥkha……..
That is what Yoga is trying to do.”
TKV Desikachar, Religiousness in Yoga
“In looking at how to deepen (rather than broaden) our personal practice choosing to focus on exploring the breath can be a key to unlocking the mystery of the relationship between body, breath, mind and beyond.
Here we can think of the deepening into our practice arising through progressively slowing the patterning of our breathing. To do this we have to reconsider our practice, not in terms of what we do with our body but what we do with the breath within our body.
This means firstly knowing what is our basic practice breath rate per minute and then progressively slowing that rate as we progress from Āsana, through to Mudrā and then to Prāṇāyāma.
For example when working with Āsana we can start with four breaths per minute, then with Mudrā slow it to three breaths per minute and finally with Prāṇāyāma, slow it again to two breaths per minute.
An accomplished practitioner may be working with three breaths a minute in Āsana, two breaths a minute in Mudrā and one breath a minute with Prāṇāyāma.
Whereas a less experienced practitioner may be working on five breaths a minute in Āsana, four breaths a minute in Mudrā and three breaths a minute in Prāṇāyāma.
The starting point does not matter and is something that is appropriate to the history, health and training of the student. What is more important is that no matter where we start from, the journey into the mystery of the breath and its relationship to the slowing of psychic activity, is through the progressive slowing of our breathing patterns.
This is realised within the long term developmental refinement of the practice limbs of Āsana, Mudrā and Prāṇāyāma within our journey into the evolution of Haṭha Sādhana towards Rāja Sādhana.”
“The spirit of viniyoga is starting from where one finds oneself.
As everybody is different and changes from time to time,
there can be no common starting point,
and ready-made answers are useless.
The present situation must be examined and
the habitually established status must be re-examined.”
– TKV Desikachar
Posted by Michele Harney, Yoga Rathgar & Dundrum – Dublin
“Āsana is the art of cultivating stability and space (Yoga Sūtra C2 v46)”
“The practice of Yoga āsana without the appropriate steps, and without the conscious regulation of breath, is fruitless.”
“Yoga teaches us that with every action there is both a positive and a negative effect. Anything we do in life will have both a positive and a negative effect. We must recognize what effects are positive and what effects are negative. Then we must stress the positive while we neutralize the negative. In all details of āsana, we must follow this principle.”
-TKV Desikachar – Religiousness in Yoga
Yoga helped me to find my centre.
Yoga practice brings me back to my centre.
“For Yoga Teachers it is important to understand
the movement of the mind as well as the body.”
– TKV Desikachar