Tag Archives: asana

January 2015 – some thoughts on the next 6 weeks of yoga

Course notes for classes from January 2015.

Overall Theme 1:  The Gunas – 6 weeks

TAMAS – darkness, inactivity, matter, inertia, stodge

RAJAS – energy, action, change, movement, fire, enthusiasm, drive

SATTVA – clarity, light, consciousness, harmony, balance, joy

Incorporating all three of these in our yoga practice.  Tamas – grounding, steadiness, holding the posture.  Rajas – energy within the posture, moving in and out.  Sattva – lightness and clarity – achieving balance and harmony in the posture.

Standing limber incorporating these three.

Tamas – stand in Tadasana, feel rooted, grounded, steady, solid.

Surya Namaskar – version using plank, zen-asana and bringing the foot forward.  Work on this – 2 to 3 rounds.

Stand and assimilate.

New postures to work on:  Dhanurasana; Garudasana; Krounchasana; Malasana; Marichyasana A; Matsyana; Nataraja; Navasana; Parsvottanasana; Warrior 3; Humble Warrior.

Week 1 –

Stand in Tadasana.  Feel rooted to mother earth. Observe the breath.  Surya namaskar; 3 Complete breaths[1]  Natarajasana; Tryaka Tadasana; Uttanasana; Malasana; Cat; Down Dog; Up Dog; Child; Ardha Matsyendrasana; Paschimottanasana with straps

Pranayama: ‘Once this harmony and control is attained through the practices of pranayama, it becomes possible to observe and transcend the gunas, and thus attain liberation’[2]

Abdominal breathing in Savasana

Relaxation:  David Coulter 562

The marriage of breath and movement[3]

  • Gently stretch the hands so the fingers are softly extended but not tense; observe the breath
  • Relax the hands and let the fingers curl inwards, so your palms form a slight hollow;
  • Extend this movement so you are also turning your arms out as you extend the fingers and back again as you curl them;
  • Grow this movement even more so that your spine becomes involved. Think of a sea anemone opening and closing under the waves – what is the breath doing?  Then gradually make the movements smaller again.
  • Notice how the movement of the hands and arms stimulates the movement of the breath and determines the rhythm and the speed of the breath.

The rise and fall of the abdomen[4]

  • Lie in savasana
  • Concentrate on the rise of the abdomen with each inhalation and the fall of the abdomen with each exhalation.
  • Make the breath as even as possible and watch its pace gradually diminish.
  • Notice how the inhalation merges smoothly into the exhalation.
  • Notice the pause at the end of the exhalation before the next breath in;
  • This seemingly simple exercise is concentration is also one of the most advanced – concentrating on this rise and fall is so relaxing that you have to be hyper-alert not to drift off.

Sweeping the breath up and down the body

  • As you breathe in, let your attention travel up the body from the toes to the crown of the head.
  • As you breathe out, let your attention travel back down again from the crown of the head to the toes.
  • Notice how the breath gradually lengthens.
  • Try to stay attentive – this is quite a challenge.
  • You can try reversing the direction – so letting the attention travel down from the top of the head to the toes on the in-breath, and back up again on the out-breath. Do you find this more difficult?


[1] David Coulter p. 128

[2] Prana & Pranayama p.107

[3] Donna Farhi p. 16

[4] David Coulter p. 562


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A lesson in the Sivananda tradition

I spent a lovely morning yesterday at a class offered in the Sivananda tradition by Helen, another local teacher here in mid Wales.

Founded by Swami Sivananda,  the spread of Sivananda Yoga in the west is a direct result of the travels of his enthusiastic pupil,  Swami Vishnudevananda.   Swami Vishnu established ashrams and yoga centres all over the west, offering classes retreats and teacher training courses.  Since establishing the first western Yoga Teacher Training course in 1969, 30,000 teachers have been trained in the Sivananda tradition.

Swami Vishnu condensed the many separate classic yoga texts into five, simple rules for living:-

Proper exercise;

Proper breathing;

Proper diet;

Proper relaxation and

Positive thinking and Meditation.

He also radically pruned the number of asanasa to a core of 12.

1. Sirshasana – (Headstand)

2.Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

3.  Halasana (Plough)

4.Matsyasana (Fish)

5.Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

6. Bhujangasana (Cobra)

7. Salabhasana (Locust)

8. Dhanurasana (Bow)

9. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist)

10.  Kakasana (Crow)

11.  Pada Hasthasana (Standing Forward Bend)

12.  Trikonasana (Triangle)

Between postures the practitioner rests in Savasana.  I particularly like this because when I first began yoga in the 1980s my then teacher (trained at the Iyengar Institute) would always suggest that we rested in between postures in order to assimilate the practice.

There is also great emphasis on chanting in the Sivananda tradition.  I am quite new to chanting, but I very much enjoy  it, and I’m hoping to expand my knowledge of it in the future.  There is a wonderful power in many voices making the same sound, especially if there are both men and women chanting, which expands the range considerably.

I was interested to learn that pranayama is normally practiced at the beginning of a Sivananda Class (apparently in the early days students would do their asana practice and then leave, so Swami Vishnu moved the pranayama work to early on in the session).

After a guided relaxation, we finished with more chanting and a short period of meditation.


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