Friday, October 29, 2010

3) Transition from Classical Hatha Style ( Sivananda ) to Flow Vinyasa Style (Ashtanga )Yoga

I have been fully involved in practicing and teaching the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga for more than 10 years and making a transition to the Ashtanga Flow Vinayasa Yoga style was a bit challenging one as they were much differed in the way the asanas were being done .
Sivananda System of Yoga represents the Classical Hatha Yoga style of doing the postures and Ashtanga Yoga represents the Vinyasa or flow yoga type of doing the postures and there are various differences in their approach and given below are some of the main differences .
1) Hatha Yoga is slow and gentle movement while Vinyasa /Flow Yoga is fast and vigorous movements based that also includes jumping .
2) Hatha Yoga involves holding the postures for a longer duration in a meditative way while in Vinyasa /Flow Yoga the postures are not being held for long and held for just 5 breaths ( except for inversions where they are held for long ) before moving on to the next posture .
3) In Hatha Yoga there is rest between the postures while in Vinyasa /Flow Yoga there is no rest at all between the postures and one needs to keep on moving till the end of the class as that is what  is required  to produce heat and detoxify the body .
4) In a Hatha Yoga class there is emphasis on gentle conscious breathing while holding the postures or while moving through one posture to another and in Vinyasa /Flow yoga the emphasis is on Ujjayai breathing .
5) In Hatha Yoga class there is no emphasis on holding the Bandhas while in Vinaysa /Flow Yoga there is continuous emphasis on holding the Bandhas and Drishtis ( Gazes ) and in fact Bandhas are key to jumps in Vinayasa Yoga .
6) You do not sweat much in a Hatha Yoga class while you sweat a lot in Vinyasa /Flow Yoga class .
7) The only sweating part of Hatha Yoga Class is the Surya Namaskar where the movements are vigorous and only in that respect  it resembles a Vinayasa /Flow Yoga type and it other respects it differs a lot .

So for me getting adjusted to this new style is quite a challenging one but that is exactly what I have kept as my sadhana for the next decade . The body &  mind  always finds comfort in doing what it likes but body & mind repels when it is pushed outside its comfort zone and my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice is basically to push my body and mind away from its comfort zone and to explore how far I am successful in that .This is not a mad exercise in blindly pushing the body and mind to something unpleasant but a scientific approach to enhance the potential of body and mind in moving outside its comfort zones and master something new that is not familiar to me and by this process I enrich myself a lot and the benefits of the same will not only be felt by me but also by my students .

I consider both the styles i.e Classical Hatha Yoga ( Sivananda Style ) as well as the Dynamic Vinyasa Flow Yoga ( Ashtanga Style )  to be equally valid and it is futile to compare which is better .Both are better for people following the respective styles faithfully .My aim is not to take sides as to which is better  but to master both these styles so that I become a more complete Yoga practitioner / teacher .I consider Sivananda Style to represent the Yin style of doing Yoga and Ashtanga to represent the Yang style of doing Yoga and that an ideal Yogi is one who is comfortable practicing and teaching both the Yin and Yang style of Yogas .So I will continue to keep my sivananda style of practice / teaching alive along with my new exploration of Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga and I see no conflict in the same .
When I say that I will keep both these styles of practice alive in my Yogic life I mean that I will keep them independently alive and would not mix them .The benefits of both these styles are experienced only when you practice them as they are intended to be  in isolation and not by mixing the styles .So in essence my goals is  when practicing  Sivananada ,practice Sivananda as it is supposed to be and when practicing Ashtanga ,practice Ashtanga as it is supposed to be and do not mix one into another .

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2) How my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice began

The period 2004-2009
Practically my serious Ashtanga Yoga practice began on Mid July 2010 but my interest in Ashtanga Yoga goes back to 2004 when I completed my Advanced Yoga Teachers Training Course ( ATTC ) at the Sivananda Ashram in India and was motivated to practice Intense Yoga Asana practice and felt that Ashtanga Yoga would be suitable and hence bought the book "Yoga Mala" by Sri .K.Pattabhi Jois .This is the classical book for Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and I bought the book on 30 Aug 2004 . Apart from that book I also got the DVD on Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga by Richard Freeman and I got it through a friend of mine from America .These were the initial tools that I had for my practice but I did not get to serious practice as I felt the Ashtanga System too complicated with its long asana list and  various vinyasas for each posture and I felt that it was not my cup of tea and hence left it and continued to practice the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga as taught by Swami Vishnu devananda .
The Period 2009 - July 2010
After I completed my Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI ) in Jan 2009 at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai I felt motivated to expand beyond the Sivananda System as I have now completed all the 3 levels at the Sivananda System i.e my Teachers Training Program ( TTC ) in 1998 , ATTC in 2004 and SI in 2009 and again in 2010 .A sense of saturation came to me and I felt that I need to move ahead and learn more .I started to look in to Yoga Teachings of senior Yoga Teachers like BKS Iyengar , Judith Lasater , Donna Farhi ,John Schumacher ,Sarah Powers ( Yin Yoga ) , Esther Myers , Vanda Scravelli ,Jill Miller ,Sadie Nardini , Seane Corn and Shiva Rea .I bought books of the above teachers and also some of their DVDs and also went through their articles /posts on Internet and watched their videos on You Tube .I also tried following some of their routines and practices but was not motivated enough to continue further with anyone .During this period I suddenly developed an intense pain in my lower left back and I did not know the cause of the same but it was creating lot of discomfort . I did not know the cause of the discomfort as I did not lift anything heavy or did any intense Asana practice to hurt my lower back .So I Searched the internet for the likely causes and came across the reason for my pain as SI ( Sacro Illiac ) Joint pain that comes to regular yoga practitioners .I felt that one reason for this pain could be due to my weak lower back or weak core and since Sivananda System did not address the core region I felt I need to focus on some other exercise system that addressed the Core region and came across Pilates as the right tool to strengthen my core first and heal my lower back pain .So I bought books and DVDs  related to Pilates Practice and did try some of them .They were good no doubt but since the breathing system in Pilates is different from that in Yoga I did not have the feeling of doing a real workout as I was not getting the same  feeling that I get by doing yoga so I gave it up .Around this time I found out that my  lower back pain started slowly healing and I did not find much discomfort and so started to continue with my basic Sivananda Practice .
In Jan 2010 I redid my SI course at the Sivananda Ashtram in Madurai and that was an excellent opportunity for me to deepen my Yoga Sadhana . After the course I again felt the need to go beyond the Sivananda System and learn something new that not only enriches me but will also add value to my students .So I restarted with my exploration of alternative systems and this time moved beyond Yoga to explore other Movement Therapies like Tai Chi , Undulation , Fieldenkrais method etc and did buy books /CDs and DVDs of the same and did try them but before I could explore deeper in to any one of them I met with a very severe ankle injury during my trip to Kumbakonam, a temple town in Tamil Nadu  . There was no fracture in the ankle but the ligament was severely damaged and I could not walk  properly and was on medicines and physio therapy .I thought it would heal within a week or so but it was actually taking months and I could not do even the Soorya Namaskar .I felt very frustrated by the same because in year 2009 a major part of my time was spent fighting the lower back pain but in 2010 I was confronted by a new ankle injury .I was using this opportunity to do very gentle yoga practice and lot of pranayama and meditation but deep down I was very upset that I could not do yoga asanas intensively and while the ankle was getting healed a little bit It was nearly 3 months since I did any serious yoga practice and that resulted me in putting on more weight and the ankle was yet to be fully healed .This created more frustration in me and I decided that enough is enough and that I needed to get back to my serious practice of  Yoga and I wanted to do some intense workout to make up for the loss of practice for more than 3 months .
Mid July 2010 onwards 
That was the time in Mid July 2010  I came across Shiva Rea's Audio CD that I bought few months back and started to try out the same . When I went through the booklet supplied along with the CD I found out that it had the Surya Namaskar sequence similar to the Ashtanga Surya Namaskar A& B and some of the other postures were also copied from the Ashtanga Sequence . This was the time I found out that many yoga teachers who were promoting a dynamic form of Yoga like Shiva Rea , Seane Corn , etc were actually copying the Ashtanga Vinyasa  System and modifying them to their own respective styles . So I decided that instead of getting caught up in various confusing styles of dynamic yoga /flow vinyasa yoga why not go to the Original source i.e Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and start from there and that was the time I went through the internet again downloaded the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Surya Namaskar A & B Charts , went through their videos on You Tube and started practicing the same on my own .It was quite a challenge for me as i) I was not used to this new Soorya Namaskar Vinyasa ii) my ankle injury was yet to be healed and iii) I was restarting my yoga after a gap of nearly 3 months,but in spite of that I found the practice to be very excellent in that it gave me lot of energy , a new energy that I was experiencing for the first time after a long gap . I decided then and there that Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga   is what I have been seeking right from 2009 and I had to find it out in a round about way after 2 injuries .So from Mid July 2010 onwards I have started to practice Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga as taught by Sri K.Pattabhi Jois and have got hooked to it and have decided to keep this Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga as my main yoga sadhana for the next decade i.e from 2010-2020 .How far I will be successful in this is yet to be seen but I am really happy to have found Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga .
In mid July 1997 I was very thrilled to have found the Sivananda System of Yoga and practiced it with full dedication for more than 10 years and also successfully completed all its 3 levels of training ( TTC ,ATTC ,SI ) and also visited its Head Quarters in Val Morin ,Quebec ,Canada for the purpose of Yoga Vacation and was immensely benefited by the teachings of its founder and my first Yoga Guru Swami Vishnu devananda and will be every grateful to him for bringing me on the path of Yoga and I will still continue to teach the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga to my students as I believe that it is an excellent system for beginners and for people( like housewives , busy professionals  etc )  who have less time to dedicate to yoga . Even when I become proficient to teach the Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga I would still keep teaching the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga to beginners and people interested in a more gentle approach to yoga . So by practicing the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga I am not abandoning the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga but only complementing my own knowledge and skill in Yoga and I am currently using it to only raise my level and deepen my practice and explore through my own self practice  the benefits of Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga  as claimed by its founder Sri  K.Pattabhi Jois . More in my next post .

1) Reasons for starting this blog

I already have 2 blogs : 1) which deals with Yoga according to Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga and other related yoga articles and 2) that deals with non duality ,vedanta and other related spiritual topics .I am not a very frequent blogger and do keep updating the above 2 blogs from time to time and sometimes never update them for a long time . From July 2010 I started seriously pursuing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and now have been hooked on to it and have decided to keep mastering all the series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as my main Yoga Sadhana for the coming decade i.e from 2010 -2020 .It is not that I am giving up my Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga , I still continue to practice and teach the same and do feel that it is a very excellent system of Yoga for a beginner or for people who do not have the time and energy( like householders and busy professionals ) to commit to any serious yoga sadhana and will continue to pursue it as my main teaching tool but personally for me Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga will be the main yoga sadhana for the next decade i.e from 2010-2020 .
When I started my Yoga journey through the Sivananda System in July 1997 I did not have sufficient guidance from my teachers in maintaining a regular practice journal or sadahna diary but Swami Sivananda had always insisted on every spiritual aspirant in maintaining a regular spiritual diary so that they it helps them as well as their teachers to monitor their spiritual progress and suggest changes accordingly .In fact Swami Sivananda had even given a basic template of how a spiritual diary must be in some of his books and the same can be downloaded from the site .Looking back at my Sivananda Yoga Journey from mid 1997 onwards I feel that I have missed a great opportunity in noting down my own yoga journey i.e my daily yoga sadhana , my insights , my teaching experience and other things that I learnt along the way . After my Advanced Yoga Teachers Training in 2004 I did start making note of my practices and insights but it was not consistent enough .It was only in mid 2008 I seriously started Journaling after reading an article from Life Positive by Anita Anand on the benefits of maintaining a journal .I started using an Old Bound diary for the same and it was quite tough writing using a pen after a long gap . There was enormous mental resistance in putting my thoughts on to paper and the mind was always postponing me to write later when I took up the journal . But I never gave up and started writing even if it was few lines and even if the matter was not very important . After my Sadhana Intensive (SI) Course at the Sivananda Ashram ,Madurai in 2009 I really got hooked to maintaining my journal more regularly as during the course of SI I was maintaining my journal there regualrly documenting all my practices and other things at the ashram . I felt I need to carry forward this when I got back home and was quite regular in maintaining my Yoga sadahana journal as well my regular journal .I moved away from using Old diary to using a regular spiral bound Journal for my Journaling activity . In Jan 2010 I had an opportunity to redo my SI course at Maduari and that was also an excellent opportunity for me to keep my journaling activity in tact .By Mid 2010 i.e around July 2010 I got seriously interested in practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and decided that I need to maintain a separate journal noting my daily practice , my insights about the practice and other things that can help me see later how I evolved myself in my own ashtanga vinyasa yoga practice .What I missed in my Sivananda journey I did not want to miss the same again in my Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey and I started maintaining a separate spiral journal for the same and was writing on it regularly and even documented all of my ashtanga yoga practices up to date .During this period I came across many blogs on the internet totally dedicated to Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga practice and that there was a virtual ashtanga yoga community there on the net and I also wanted myself to be part of the same and hence started this online blog exclusively dedicated to my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice .So this is the reason why I started this blog and will keep updating it regularly documenting my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice as well as the various insights that I gather by reading from books ,blogs ,DVDs related to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga .