Continuing Work with Ashtanga

Waking up early in 2020

Krishnamacharya

The new year has brought a new wave of inspiration for my yoga practice and working on the Ashtanga Primary series early in the morning. I’ve been waking up at 5:30, 6, and sometimes even earlier to ensure that I can do most of the series before I have to leave for work.

The entire series usually takes me a couple of hours, because I mediate for 10 minutes before and do some easy yin stretches if I need to before starting the series. Often I don’t finish, but about half of the time, I do. I’ve also practiced the intermediate series a few times, but I am working on getting my flexibility back so the primary series is what my body needs right now.

Adjustments

Patthabhi Jois

With that said, I am taking a long time to get warmed back up in the series. My shoulder are requiring a good amount of patience and stretching to re-align the ligamentation underneath my shoulder-blades and there’s no point in rushing. Rushing leads to loose ligaments that need to be re-tightened and stabilized.

Things are going great in the series, but I’ve had to back off a lot. I am also landscaping full-time right now. My wrists and hands have also needed a lot of care and slow stretching and supporting the series with yin has been the theme so far.

Performance Improvements

I think that on Saturday I held a handstand for a full minute really easily. My sinuses have improved and so has my digestion. My skin is also clearing up and I’m finding that I have a ton of energy during the day, but I am still adjusting to doing yoga every day. Ashtanga requires a lot of time and energy output, focus.

The First Ashtanga Workshop of 2020!

Saturday at 1 we had an awesome practicing the series! We only got through about half because of the orientation and making sure that people had adjustments available, but we did a lot! The opening chant was fun and we got a good chance to chat before the workshop began.

What an awesome group of people! A lot were fairly advanced and a few were probably close to the finishing postures of the series. I’m super excited to see what week 2 will bring.

Growing from Surya Namaskar

I’ll conclude with my biggest takeaway of practicing so often this year and that is self compassion. Some days, its okay to not finish. Some days, finish everything you can, especially if you wake up early and have time. A little amount of yoga and stretching goes a long way with the body and mind.

The two sun salutations are special in this way. You can wake up and practice them anywhere. And they are special movements for the spine, the nervous system, and the mind. I always feel soothed and more connected, clearer of mind and more focused after moving in unison with my breathing. The discipline of waking up early to unify the mind and the body are extremely rewarding in terms of mood and my ability to stay positive and not succumb to stress.

Its the little things that add up to something great. I’m excited for the second workshop this week. If you are going, practice a little every day and see how your body feels during the sequence!

The Sciatic Nerve: A River of Energy Suppyling Human Legs

Sciatic Nerve

The Anatomy of the Sciatic Nerve

Also known as the ischiadic nerve or ischiatic nerve, the Sciatic Nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. The Sciatic Nerve runs down the leg behind the bicep femoris and powers the thigh muscles.By KDS4444 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53368293

The nerve begins in the Sacral Plexus Gray Sacral Plexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

as you can see from contrasting the above depictions of the nerve. Notice the outer thigh innervation and middle leg innervation from the upper nerves in the second photo. Contrast that to the inner thigh/back-leg innervation from the lower set of nerves. The sciatic nerve is a combination of the nervous tissue from L4 to S3 and continues down the leg to branch into the Tibial Nerve and the Common Peroneal Nerve at the popliteal fossa.

The Sacral Plexus and the Greater Sciatic Foramen

Here is a fantastic depiction of the sacral plexus and the nerve’s points of joining and separation through the Greater Sciatic Foramen which is covered by the piriformis. Here prentice-hall-sacral-plexusis a great view of the coccyx and sacral plexus which runs down the back of the leg. As the nerve travels, it is hammocked by the piriformis and then the bicep femoris before it branches. You can see a really great example of the support of the bicep femoris below

Posterior-View-of-the-Lower-Limb-Anatomical-Course-of-the-Sciatic-Nerve
Posterior-View-of-the-Lower-Limb

 

You can also see that as the nerve travels, it branches below the bicep femoris and the popliteal fossa which is also known as the knee pit. The biggest bone in the body, the femur supports and protects the sciatic nerve. We could definitely get into more detail about the branching of the nerve, but for now, let’s stick with the major components, we can get more specialized later.

 

Implications for your Yoga Practice

  1. If you haven’t started finding ways the stretch the muscles surrounding and supporting the biggest nerve in your body, its time to start. Finding ways to relax and stretch the piriformis and strengthen the sciatic nerve should be one of the primary goals of your practice. A healthy sciatic nerve will be most helpful in maintaining a pain-free leg!
  2. It is necessary to work into the layers of muscles surrounding the nerve tissue to truly release tension from it. This means that although an adjustment from a chiropractor might help in the short-term, you should be focused on re-aligning the leg muscles in your daily posture to create space for the sciatic nerve.
  3. Your hamstrings can be the primary instigator of your back pain! Quadriceps are filthy culprits as well! Find ways to stretch your legs and your back will often carry less tension as a result. And legs stretches can allow you to stretch the back in deeper ways. There are certain points inside of your hip/sacrum connection where your back and your legs are the same thing!
  4. This is a huge reason why downward dog feels so fantastic. You get to stretch the muscles around your biggest nerves! Downward can be one of the most sustainable yoga poses. It shouldn’t hurt! Just uncomfortable at first.
  5. Just to take the downward dog thing further, this is also why sun salutations are such a universal stretches in yoga and so good for relaxing the nervous system. I think sun salutations might be one of the best exercises you can do for your back.

15 Yoga Asanas for your Sciatic Nerve

  1. Hero’s Pose
  2. Downward Dog
  3. Foward Fold
  4. Sun Salutation A
  5. Low Lunge
  6. High Lunge
  7. Pyramid Pose
  8. Warrior 1
  9. Eagle Pose
  10. Triangle Pose
  11. Revolved Triangle Pose
  12. Half-moon
  13. Revolved Half-moon
  14. Half Pigeon
  15. Finishing Ashtanga Streches

References

Foot Reflexology Chart

Movement Shapes Your Body

Foot pain from your spine?

Your Foot Bone’s Connection to your spine

How can I break my Neck in my Foot

 

CLOUDS Yin Yoga Class from 8/11/2017

Clouds Yin Yoga Class

Clouds Yin Yoga Class

Clouds Yin Yoga Class was Instructed and Prepared by Elliot Telford and is sponsored by this website, Elliottelford.com

Recoding from Yin Yoga at East Wind in Auburn

Clouds Yin Yoga Class recoding from Friday night at East Wind yoga in Auburn is available below, please download the class take it with you wherever you want, and enjoy!

Here is the playlist from the class as well, lots of great music in there:

The accompanying playlist begins at the 25:00 minute mark. Feel free to check out the playlists from other yoga classes here as well. Prepare for a silent meditation at the beginning, you should be able to drop right into your practice!

This yoga class was pretty smooth and hits a lot of the hard to hit areas in the hips to help the body in circulating.

Clouds Yin Yoga Class Details and notes:

I created this yin yoga class to support a deep mediation on the breath. During the class, I mentioned this article on heart health. I think that there is a lot of evidence to suggest that yoga is very healthy for your heart. In modern society there is a lack of appreciation for this, as heart health is one of the biggest issues we have to face.

Free Yoga Classes from Pada Yogi

pada yogi free yoga classes

Free Yoga Classes

Over the past few months I have recorded some yoga classes from the studios to create some free yoga class downloads for the readers/subscribers of Pada Yogi. All of the downloads are available below, feel free to save the files to your computer and to use them to practice yoga when you travel, or if you want to practice a led class without the yoga studio. I have a few different types of yoga classes available to you, so please enjoy!

Free Yoga Class Downloads

Yin Yoga Class from Black Friday

Yin Yoga Class from Asha Yoga

Flow Yoga Class (1 Hour)

Flow Yoga Class (1 Hour, slightly more difficult)

 

Please enjoy these yoga classes brought to you by Elliot Telford and Pada Yogi. These are not beginner audio recordings. You should have a reasonable yoga(10-20 classes or sessions) practice before using this audio.

 

Please enjoy these free recordings; more are on the way!

 

 

Yoga’s Primary Benefits: Control of the Autonomic Nervous System

Yoga's Primary Benefits_autonomic_nervous_sytstem

Yoga’s Primary Benefits

Honestly, yoga’s primary benefits are still unknown. Our science isn’t good enough yet. Not really. Science is just starting to catch up to the power of some of the world’s most ancient healing traditions and are learning their meaning in a whole new light. Yoga’s primary benefit  is certainly related to the functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems, but how is something that has yet to be explained. The Ujjayi breathing technique, or breathing slowly through the nose is almost certainly related to yoga’s primary benefits; how is something that we have yet to learn. The Western world is slowly learning that the Eastern traditions, medicines, healing techniques, and ritualistic traditions are grounded in some serious observational science, even if it isn’t quantifiable and measurable by current methodologies and technologies. Even if the causes aren’t completely explained. This is happening in Acupuncture, herbology, nutrition, Ayurveda, and even Yoga is one particular field where we are learning a lot about how beneficial something as simple as breath control can be. The human body is more complex than we can currently understand; we are continually learning more about the human ecosystem that is what we define as our body.

Yoga is one particular tradition that reaches very far back in civilization, but our scientific knowledge about how yoga can help the body to heal is fairly rudimentary. We know from clinical studies that yoga helps with sleep duration and quality of sleep, we also know that it helps with anxiety, depression, and stress. But yoga in our modern society mostly means exercise, something that is vastly under-rated in American culture and in our society; 66% of Americans are overweight.

Yoga almost certainly has benefits to the endocrine system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the heart, and the digestive system, but many of these benefits have yet to be measured. Even our understanding of the functioning of the respiratory system is still somewhat archaic, especially in terms of the lungs interacting with the heart, especially in the paradigm of disease. We have a lot to learn, but another, even more powerful benefit that we are learning about is the control one gains over the nervous system.

Yoga and the Nervous System

The nervous system is the central source of energy for your body; the electricity in your body is the fundamental source of energy for your body and therefore your consciousness to exist. The electricity that runs down your spine and into your peripheral nervous system, or the legs, torso, arms, organs, and every other part of your body is a continually firing process that continues from before birth and ends with our final breath. This is what allows us to be alive and is the fuel for our internal fire, passion, love, and existence.

This nervous system that we have evolved into over billions of years is extremely adaptive; different aspects of it have partitioned and specialized; we have a parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system and a sympathetic part; a conscious part of the nervous system and an unconscious part of the nervous system.

Yoga and Stress Regulation

The parasympathetic autonomic system is largely outside of conscious control and regulates most of the “background activities” of the body, such as digestion, sexual activity and arousal, urination, etc. The sympathetic nervous system allows us to control our fight or flight response or panic responses. Yoga allows us to tap into both of these systems Yoga's Primary Benefit LiveScience_Nervous_Systemand influence their activities and awareness breeds control, making awareness of the proprioception of the nervous system a primary benefit as well. That’s why balancing in yoga is such an important part of the practice.

One of yoga’s greatest benefits that is also a byproduct of meditation is alleviation of tension from the muscles, cortisol from the bloodstream (stress hormone), and slowing down of the heart and therefore circulatory system. Control over the nervous system helps us to do this because it allows everything else to slow down as a result of slowing the mind, and allowing the body to reach equilibrium and decompress. This can help us to fully relax in preparation for strenuous activity and the two can balance each other out really nicely because of yoga’s benefit to slowing the nervous systems.

I’ve done yoga in airports, on airplane bathrooms, in buses, in random hotel rooms, in airplanes, in cars, in RV’s, while camping, after long days of strenuous activity, etc and I will always use it to keep my circulatory system “feeling good” while traveling. The benefits of yoga for the body are undeniable and we are just starting to learn about the real consequences of this powerful, healthy, spiritual, and enlightening practice.

 

sources:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Live Science
  3. Ride the Breath

 

Hand Anatomy, Physiology, and Use

"Human-Hands-Front-Back" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Human-Hands-Front-Back.jpg#/media/File:Human-Hands-Front-Back.jpg

The Usefulness of Man’s Hand

The hand is one of the most intricate and useful mechanisms of the entire human body; it is a prehensile (appendage for grasping) that humans share with chimpanzees, lemurs, and monkeys; even Koalas have opposable thumbs that are very similar to the thumbprints of the hands of humans. We humans absolutely have the ability to “think” with our hands; when we consider their connection to the brain we find the hand contributes to our thoughts and feelings. Fingers contain some of the most dense nerve endings on the entire body. The hand is greatest source for tactile feedback on the body and has the greatest impact on the sense of “touch”.

The hand has an intricate connection with the eyes and brain partially because they have the greatest mobility of any part of the human body. Each hand is paired with a dominant opposite side of the brain in the same fashion as the eyes. This “crisscrossing” of neuronal passageways occurs throughout the nervous system. The primary motor cortex is responsible for movement in the hands and body and executes movements in concert with the rest of the motor cortex.

There are 27 bones in the hand. 14 of which are in the fingers. There are 24 muscles groups innervated by various motor and sensory pathways that comprise 3 nerves: the radial, ulnar, and median nerves. These cascade to form 2500 nerve receptors per square centimeter on the surface of each hand.

Bones of the Human Hand

Lets start by looking at the bones. Each finger has three sections of bone: distal (fingertip), middle, and proximal; the thumb has two, theHand Bones middle bone is simply missing in between the top and bottom bones. The proximal bones connect to five metacarpals which connect to the eight carpal bones of the wrist. The fingers have 14 bones, the wrist has 13. The wrist has significantly more ligaments and less sensory nerves and mobility that the fingers. The bones of the hand_bones_detailed wrist are known as the carpal/carpus bones(from the Greek καρπὁς, “carp” means to pluck; an action the wrist performs) and there are eight of them (in order of ossification, or bone tissue growth): Capitate, Hamate, Triquetrum, Lunate, Trapezium, Trapezoid, Scaphoid, and Pisiform. Sometimes the radius and ulna bones are considered a part of the hand because of the role they play in the articulation of the wrist. There are also a large number of sesamoid bones in the hands (named after sesame seeds because they are so small). They are usually found near the thumb and are often formed in response to strain; they act like a pulley system for muscles and ligaments to slide over and spread muscular forces.

Ligaments and Tendons of the Hand and Wrist

In the hand, there are 18 ligaments that are separated into four groups:

  1. The ligaments of the wrist proper which unite the ulna and radius with the carpus: the ulnar and radial collateral ligaments; the palmar and dorsal radiocarpal ligaments; and the palmar ulnocarpal ligament.
  2. The ligaments of the intercarpal articulations which unite the "Braus 1921 201" by Braus, Hermann - Anatomie des Menschen: ein Lehrbuch für Studierende und Ärzte. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Braus_1921_201.png#/media/File:Braus_1921_201.pngcarpal bones with one another: the radiate carpal ligament; the dorsal, palmar, and interosseous intercarpal ligaments; and the pisohamate ligament. (Shown in red in the figure.)
  3. The ligaments of the carpometacarpal articulations which unite the carpal bones with the metacarpal bones: the pisometacarpal ligament and the palmar and dorsal carpometacarpal ligaments. (Shown in green in the figure.)
  4. The ligaments of the intermetacarpal articulations which unite the metacarpal bones: the dorsal, interosseous, and palmar metacarpal ligaments. (Shown in yellow in the figure.)

In the image below, Hand_ligaments you can see how the blood vessels travel between the fingers next to the nerves and the padding of the hand on top of the ligaments used to keep the wrist bones compact as they rotate and move through space. The Ulnar nerve is on the left, near your pinky, and Grays_arm_nervesthe radial nerve is closer to your thumb and is almost entirely dedicated to its innervation and sensitivity. The median nerve is in the middle and acts as what is probably the primary sensory nerve. This nerve innervates your pointer finger and middle finger, which are your primary fingers for tactile sensing. There is a depiction from Gray’s anatomy on the right that shows how the three nerves flow through the arm down to the fingers.

The Hand’s Muscles Groups

I could probably write an article on each of the finger muscles exclusively. Bear with me as we go through these muscles groups. The muscles of the hand are some of the most sensitive and finely tuned muscles in the body. They are normally separated into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic muscles have their muscle belly (the majority of muscles fibers) on the forearm.

The intrinsic muscle groups are the thenar (thumb: Abductor pollicis brevis abductsFlexor pollicis brevisOpponens pollicis) and hypothenar (little finger) muscles; the interossei muscles originatingHand_muscles2 between the metacarpal bones; and the lumbrical muscles arising from the deep flexor digitorum profundus muscles (and are special because they have no bony origin) to insert on the dorsal extensor hood mechanism.

The fingers have two long flexors located on the underside of the forearm. The deep flexor attached to the distal phalanx (farthest) and the superficial flexor attaches to the middle phalanx. These are what allows your fingers to bend. The thumb also has two flexors, one long and one short and these work together with the thenar muscles to allow the thumb to grasp. The thumb is quite a complex mechanism in and of itself; kinda makes me want to write an article on it.

The extensors on the top of the forearm arrange in an even more complex way. The tendons unite with the lumbrical and interrossus muscles to form the extensorhood mechanism. The extensors straighten the digits. The thumb has two extensors on the forearm which form the anatomical snuff-box, or the triad at the base of your thumb. The pointer finger and little finger both have an extra extensor for pointing.

The Skin of the Hand

The skin of the hairless side of the hand (palm) is very thick and can be bent easily while maintaining connection with the muscles and bones of the hand. Palm skin is usually lighter because of inhibited melanin (skin pigment) production and therefore don’t tan. Fingerprints, or the papillary ridges exist to increase friction when the hand is grasping an object. The skin of the top of the hand is soft and pliable to allow the fingers to recoil quickly.

Conclusion

The hand is complicated, especially in terms of muscular innervation, but we are still learning enormous amounts about how they have evolved into their current state. Comparative physiology is very useful for this and we are constantly exploring more about ourselves through animals and our genetic ancestors. If you have any requests for articles, or interesting additions to this one, please ask. Feel free to add anything that I have missed, or to ask any questions in the comments.

sources (besides Wikipedia):
1. http://www.oandplibrary.org/al/pdf/1955_02_022.pdf (Craig L. Taylor PHD & Robert J Schwartz, MD)
2. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-big-toe/Pages/Sesamoiditis.aspx
3. https://ispub.com/IJFS/1/2/9047#sthash.lchtoImt.dpbs

You are the Guru

Patanjali Statue from the Jois Shala

Over the past few months of practicing in a traditional ashtanga setting, in what many people consider to be ‘classical yoga’ with a guru, I have come to the conclusion that the idea of having a ‘guru’ or single appointed teacher is outdated.

This is not to say that the old method of learning spiritual ritualistic techniques for calming the nervous system should be ignored, but in today’s age we are spoiled. We have the internet, multiple sources of information on everything from the endocrine system, to fluid cavities and storages annexes in the body, to advanced mechanical movement analysis from people like Leslie Karminoff (http://www.yogaanatomy.org/) and Ray Long (http://www.bandhayoga.com/).

It is important to have someone supervising you when you first start practicing yoga simply because it is going to be awkward. You’re going to feel weird and use muscles you normally don’t use. It’s also good to have someone who can observe your postures over time, so teachers, in general, are still very useful. But the idea of “having a guru” can be a limiting belief, can be an excuse to shove off responsibility, and can detract from your self knowledge about your humanity. When you write a solid research paper, you don’t use only one source, right? Though, there may be one source that stands out above the others, especially for the individual sub-topics you are interested in. You use the collective data as a whole to inform yourself so you can critically argue your point of view.

In other words, you are going to have favorites, teachers you like more or less than other because that is simply the way diversity and your brain works. But its an illusion. A part of the maya we are born into when we arrive. But the variety of teaching methods and different perspectives add accumulatively to the whole of your knowledge, especially with proper discernment and decision-making for what is important to you. No one else can decide this for you, not even a guru. You have to make those decisions.

Guru’s have been incredibly useful in the past. Think about the relationship between Socrates, Plato, then Aristotle. Transfering knowledge in the student to teacher fashion, 1 on 1, seems to be the most effective form of learning, for anyone. Being able to imitate makes doing things so much easier and it is essentially how we learn from each other. Have you ever had a friend with a different vocabulary that you pick a few words from and then notice yourself using? Our brains are always trying to copy, to compete, it is simply the way the brain functions. It helps to keep us alive.

So knowing this 1 to 1 relationship is key to learning, why can’t you have multiple teachers? Obviously, you will get some conflicting information, but that is a good thing! You want to be able to sort through things yourself and arrive at your own conclusion.

Maybe you want it easy so you decide to only learn from one teacher. Don’t you see how this can be limiting? Every instructor is going to have very different life experiences that you can learn from, different experiences in yoga that you can learn from, and definitely experiences that can teach you. In fact, you should consider everyone to be your teacher, in one way or another.

So in this way, we are all gurus and at the same time none of us are. This doesn’t mean everyone is going to be amazing at teaching yoga, but everyone knows things that we can learn from.

So we can consider individuals as one part of the collective guru, that is really inside of you and could probably be equated with Jung’s unconscious mind (yes, things are happening in your brain right now that you are not aware of). And with this comes a need for intense discernment, in the same way that you choose the food that will taste/feel best you have to choose the sources of information that have the most truth in them. This is how you gain valid knowledge, rather than running in circles choosing one person after another to think is the right one.

It’s up to you. It’s all in your head anyways, so use your intuition to feel what is right. Balancing between delving into a teachers system and maintaining your personal practice is always great, as is balancing between practicing by yourself and with some friends. Do what you want. your teacher doesn’t add validity to your yoga practice, because it’s all on you! With that said, if you have a great teacher, enjoy it cause that shit is the bomb too!

It’s probable that Patanjali was actually multiple people who worked together to create a common knowledge of yoga. This sounds more realistic than what the sacred texts say about Patanjali, being one man and inventing tons of yoga poses and ayurveda and all that other stuff one person was supposed to have done. If you ask me, sacred texts are all big marketing schemes for organizations to grow their influence (governments, churches, nobility, etc). You don’t see Jesus writing shit down in the bible stories. If you look at every major cultural movement in history, there are lots of people involved, not just one person leading it. Where would Dr. King be without Malcolm X and Rosa Parks? They happen in waves, with lots of groups of people involved, that’s why they are so enormous. If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell, he has a great book called the Tipping Point that talk a lot about cultural movements.

So yoga is a cultural movement just like anything else. Just do what feels right and don’t put too much stock into one person. Who knows whats going to happen with them anyways? Who knows what their life is like? Yoga teaches you to take responsibility for your self so you can self-manage. Take advantage 😉

Practicing Ashtanga with Saraswathi Jois

Saraswathi_Jois_Shala

Tuesday marked the final day of my practice at the Pattabhi Jois yoga shala (kpjayi) with Saraswathi Jois. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to spend the last couple of months practicing with her and exploring the lineage of Ashtanga yoga.

Learning there was a bit of a unique challenge in my case because I have practiced for five years before I even got to India. There were certain asanas that I hadn’t done regularly and certain asanas that I was very proficient at in the advanced and intermediate series, but didn’t practice because of how late they are in the series. Even the first day was weird. Saraswathi belted out some commands to me, which I tried to enact (her english is not amazing) and we got up to the Maricyasanas. I worked through them for a while then a couple weeks later moved into kurmasana and supta kurmasana and Bhujangasana and was able to work on the finishing sequence since the beginning of practice. Eventually, 25 breaths of headstand are pretty much effortless.

My daily practice has completely transformed and now I have something to work from. I deviate into variations and stretches that I am craving and work in back bends and some of the intermediate series at the end. Soon, I will start working on the first few poses of the sequence (I’ve been working on Pasasana for over a year, except while in Mysore). And as much as I want to say that I do not care about progression, I do care about deepening my Samadhi and I find that new poses and deepening certain existing postures is a part of that. Supta Kurmasana taught by itself has deepened my practice in many ways, same with the Maricyasanas, so I am grateful for having the opportunity to learn them.

I didn’t get to drop backs or Setu Bandhasana, but that is fine with me. I will work on the intermediate series and the primary series, maybe I will even come back. I enjoyed the alone time and the doing nothing but writing a little, making some music, and making room to practice yoga every morning and meditate during the days. Having experienced the atmosphere of India I can really understand how yoga came about and why it is so powerful for the human body. History I’ve been reading makes a lot more sense now after seeing the environment that Indians live in.

Saraswathi is traditional and you really can’t blame her for that. She teaches the sequence the way it was taught to her and she is a powerful voice for many things, but ultimately you have to regulate your own injuries if the (re)occur. So with the Ashtanga practice in general comes an enormous responsibility to know your own anatomy and to increase your awareness for the functioning of your body. Without a heightened awareness, you can easily injury your knees, shoulders can get used to being hyper-extended in down dog(this happens a lot), and muscles can be easily strained. In doing yoga, you are increasing your sensitivity to your body, especially in a practice as intense as Ashtanga. This allows your to better manage your body, which increases the steadiness of your mind, because your are more aware of the consequences of your actions and of the actions of your environment, which have direct effects upon your body.

So ultimately Saraswathi wakes up early and facilitates the yoga of her students and is very committed and so are her assistants, but the Ashtanga yoga method is usually not suitable for beginners. Especially when you are older, you should have pretty much mastered sun salutations and at least practiced most of the postures. Also knowing and using yin yoga can be a great addition to an Ashtanga yoga, even though it isn’t prescribed by the KPJAYI.

If you want to take a couple of months off, practice a yoga practice that you conform to and focus on those postures for a few months while quieting your mind, the Ashtanga Institute is a great resource and so is Mysore, more specifically Gokulam.

Gokulam is an amazing place, a quiet repose in the midst of a semi-busy city that supposedly is a prototype for southern India. I didn’t get to visit too much else, but Mysore itself is an amazing city, full of animals and wildlife and scooters. The pollution there is bad as well, but I am told that as far as India goes, the pollution in Mysore is minimal.  Basically I didn’t have to wear a mask every day and the streets were walkable, though just barely.

The yoga institutes are hidden away from the city in much quieter Gokulam, with plenty of facilities to practice yoga quietly. It was an experience I will remember as having quieted my mind, as well as given me some great experience with yoga’s history.

So if you are looking to come to the source to practice yoga as it has been taught for the last five decades or so, Saraswathi is great. Ensure you know the sequence, at least the beginning and end, when you arrive. You can also take your time to learn, they are very accepting at the shala, but keep in mind that personal attention from the teachers isn’t something you should rely on. But if you need more, Saraswathi is the one to go to simply because she has fewer students and you are learning the method and not a teacher.

Day 18 of Practice

temple in Gokulam

Today’s practice was very rewarding. Not for any particular reason, the Maricyasana postures, mostly C and D were as challenging as ever to get the bind, and supta kurmasana is always a lot like being put underwater, then resurfacing in a different world. A powerful pose, one of my new favorites. I also am enjoying working on the jump back from budjapidasana, which is a transition out of the arm-balance, into titibasana, then into crow and a jump back. I am also really getting the hang of jump-throughs, quite fun to execute with control.

Saraswathi is really fun to practice with. She has a strict demeanor but is really quite flexible with everything, kind of puts her foot down when necessary, but mostly stays aloof and asks about binds, which poses you did, and focuses on assisting and cueing individuals. The room is a powerful place, when you walk in you can feel the intensity of the energy. I can see myself learning all of the sequences with her, I like the way she sings sometimes and has a balance of intensity and detachment. indian streets

I’ve had a couple of rough patches with my knees, but its taught me a lot about how to open my hips safely. It’s pretty easy for me to overdo it on the knees, especially because I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. So it’s been a challenge in patience, because of course, I want to move on to the next poses, which are the hardest in the series. And I don’t love waiting for lotus, Padmasana. Setu Bandhasana and Garba Pindasana are the only two poses left in the series that I haven’t done before, mostly because I don’t quite have lotus pose yet. I think it’s just a question of time, it will happen when my body is ready. And it’s pretty great to watch unfold, because it is really such a challenge in patience for me.

The lesson I am really learning is to be where I am. I spent extra time in most of the poses, especially the twists to get my spine mobile for the Maricyasana series. I enjoy spending extra time in Urdhva Danurasana, Sirsasana, and Sarvangasana, all three make my mornings pretty unbeatable. The intensity of the practice lends itself to a blissful day, especially when I have no obligation. I get to practice existing. It’s that simple.

I have spending more and more time in meditation, letting thoughts simply pass through, not attaching to anything. It’s getting easier and easier to drop in, like a stream I am becoming more and more familiar with. Thoughts still don’t really stop, but sometimes they do. I think it’s a question of letting my brain run out of fuel and its hard with all of the stimulation I am getting. The stream changes in countless small ways each time I drop in so it takes time to re-adjust and melt back in. It is getting to be quite the reward in and of itself. I have also been spending an inordinate amount of time listening to talks about eastern religion, mostly Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism by Alan Watts, Osho, and a few more random dudes. I find Jainism to be absolutely fascinating, same with Sikkhism, but they aren’t quite as well-known in the west so I don’t concentrate on them. I might have to do more digging into Indian culture to find more of the different practices within the spiritual traditions.

Hinduism is alive and thriving in Mysore, especially Gokulam.

Mysore_Streets
Mysore

Temples are everywhere and the gods are visible in the lives of the people. The philosophy behind Hinduism is ingenious, it really allows the people to live together harmoniously. There’s always talk about Shakti, or the movement of energy working itself out. You could probably stand in the middle of most streets during rush hour and be avoided by the cars, they are really mindful of everything around them when they drive around here. You have to be, everyone is on a scooter. India has a certain type of organized chaos that I have never experienced anywhere else and that I am really going to miss when I leave.

I am mentally preparing myself for a vipasana, I think I’ll start at the beginning of April when I arrive in Kathmandu. 10 days, only silence,Gokulam meditation, no human contact. I am really expecting that to change the way I talk and think.

Tonight, I am going to be loud and make tons of noise. I get to DJ at a resort in the outskirts of the city, for a club that wants EDM mostly electro house. I have really been getting heavy into music ever since I began teaching yoga, so this is a great opportunity for me. I think of the two professions as completely complimentary, representing the yin/yang relationship of silence and meaning to letting go and simply being. I could see myself teaching a couple of classes in the morning, practicing before, then doing a set in the evening at a club. I think that lifestyle would suite me well, I enjoy a thorough change in pace quite often.street_corner

My set is already created, I used Ableton to create the mix and transitions beforehand, so I can focus on effects and managing the crowd. Should have some great pictures and hopefully a couple of videos afterwards. I will also release my set (if I can find the bandwidth) on my music site: alienmusique.wordpress.com. I’ll also release all the song names.

Wish me luck, it’s a moon day (day off for new moon) so I can just focus on music all day.