Sunday, October 16, 2011

in and out: getting closer to kapotasana

I've had another aha! on my journey to kapotasana (see my summer poses and unexpected detour)! Vinyasa is loosely translated as flow. Though there is a fluidity inherent in the vinyasa practice, the term vinyasa comes from nyasa meaning to place, and vi meaning in a special way. Vinyasa is the conscious, progressive placement of asana that supports a healthy opening of the physical body. Simpler movements and shapes will naturally produce more advanced poses.

Srivasta Ramaswami writes, 
"My guru believed that the correct vinyasa method is essential in order to receive the full benefits from yoga practice. The following quote, which I translated from Yoga Makaranda, perfectly captures this sentiment."From time immemorial the Vedic syllables...are chanted with the correct (high, low, and level) notes. Likewise, sruti (pitch) and laya(rhythm) govern Indian classical music. Classical Sanskrit poetry follows strict rules of chandas (meter), yati(caesura), and prasa (assemblage). Further, in mantra worship, nyasas (usually the assignment of different parts of the body to various deities, with mantras and gestures) - such as Kala nyasa, Matruka nyasa, Tatwa nyasa - are integral parts. Likewise yogasana (yogic poses), pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), and mudras (seals, locks, gestures) have been practiced with vinyasas from time immemorial. However, these days, in many places, many great souls who teach yoga do so without the vinyasas. They merely stretch or contract the limbs and proclaim that they are practicing yoga... Just as music without proper pitch (sruti) and rhythm (laya) will not give happiness, yogasana practice without the observance of vinyasas will not give health. That being the case what can I say about the long life, strength and other benefits?"
Vinyasa is essential to revealing these benefits, and it isn't a static experience. Yoga is the way to rediscover life, and movement is key to life.
Learning only static postures does not reveal the incredible potential of asana. When individual asanas are linked together correctly in a sequence, the result is a physiological mantram, a fleshy vortex of intersecting rivers of everything. The word vinyasa means "a joining or linking mechanism." Krama means "the process"; it refers to the succession of changes that occurs from moment to moment. Vinyasa krama means the succession of changes undertaken with a single pointed intention, free from fluctuation. 
      Most people are not conscious of their intention from moment to moment. Details fill their lives, but the casual thread of the vinyasa remains elusive. They may often find themselves in situations wondering, "How did I get into this one?" When we establish a conscious intention and teach ourselves how to remain aligned with that intention, no matter how much we are dissuaded or distracted by the external world, the process unfolds as it should. 
      The vinyasa is the element that sews together the various moments in a sequence of changes. It is like the string on which pearls are strung for a necklace. The linking strand may be of two types: conscious or unconscious. Change is always occurring, but usually a sequence of changes is linked by unconsciousness; in other words, the conscious mind fails to perceive it. The yogi, having escaped from the illusion of duality, is able to perceive the moment-to-moment sequence of changes past, present, and future. When one perceives clearly both the instigation and the outcome of moment-to-moment changes, one can choose to undertake a sequence of actions that has a conscious end point and will have a particular effect. 
     When you practice a sequence of asanas, you link them with conscious breathing. The real vinyasa, or link, however, is the intention with which you practice asanas. It is the intention that links the postures with consciousness instead of unconsciousness. The breath is a metaphor for that intention. If your intention is to practice asana to realize the Self, every breath you take will help break down your sense of separation from others.
Excerpt from Jivamukti Yoga, by Sharon Gannon and David Life - June 2004 Focus

Though I know all this, I fall victim to the common pitfalls of holding and trying when I'm working on shapes that are newer to my body and my practice. Experience (with padmasana and Hanumanasana and other asanas) has shown me that flirting with a shape is more beneficial than forcing the relationship but... sometimes I forget. Forgetting allows me to have the experience of remembering, of reconnecting with my intentions and with the present moment, and to make each step deliberate and conscious. In my courtship with kapotasana I've been frustrated. Even though dropping back to urdvha dhanurasana has become consistent and strong, and eka pada raja kapotasana has been comfortably open and deep, I have yet to move my head to my feet in kapotasana.

Today, while in vrschikasana b and in urdvha dhanurasana I found that by backing off from the pose a little and then going into it again that I was actually going deeper. This has always yielded great results in forward bends. I am not talking about bouncing or pulsing in the pose but about coming out of the pose a little and then exhaling into it again. For example, in urdvha dhanurasana if I bend and straighten my elbows a couple of times (directing my head toward my feet with each bend) I move deeper into the backbend without any compression in my low back, and am then able to walk my hands closer to my feet. After having this aha!, I decided to leave well enough alone so I don't know yet if head and hands will be any closer to my feet in kapotasana. I'll see what tomorrow brings. And THAT'S the real beauty of a daily practice!

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