<formerly titled: Vinyasa krama: methods pt.1>
If awareness of our true nature represents a vast discovery, then the sequence of yoga postures we practice would certainly be a purposeful invention of sorts towards this end. Like all inventions, a certain sequence, or krama at it is called in Sanskrit, can be better designed for a particular task than another, depending on what we really intend to accomplish on the mat. Now, I am also convinced that there is no wrong way to move and breathe. However, when exploring the depths and breadths of our mental, energetic and physical beings, choosing the best possible method can make a world of difference.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa primary series presents as the single most powerful strength and flexibility building routine I know of. Furthermore, this krama has a secondary function, to ground the nervous system allowing for deeper states of relaxation and concentration to spontaneously arise. Students frequently ask me how to approach the primary series in order to experience these subtle benefits for themselves. Reflecting on the various responses I have given over the last couple years of teaching yoga, I currently feel that the most important lesson is to not confuse the true nature of one’s practice with its physical appearance. In the words of the gifted teacher David Williams, “What you can see is not very important, all the important stuff is invisible, so keep that in mind, and enjoy it.”
To paraphrase David’s insight, our best chance at fostering calm focus while we practice is by attending to our breath, gaze, and energetic being as we intuitively cycle through each posture in the sequence. The breath of Ashtanga Vinyasa is ujjayi, a resonate style of breathing which I have showcased in the video below. In terms of tools, ujjayi is sort of like the Swiss Army Knife of breathing techniques, based on its multiple properties, ranging from: CO2 expiration, metabolic dynamism, pacifism of compulsive thoughts, and heat generation. But perhaps its most important property is the grounding affect I previous spoke of, an affect which the primary series is quite renowned for. I will go into further detail about how this is accomplished in future posts. If you have any lingering questions concerning ujjayi breath, feel free to send your comments my way.