Tuesday, December 28, 2010

8)Best Introductory books for Practising Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga

When I started on my Ashtanga Journey first in 2004 I had Pattabhi Joise book "Yoga Mala" but I found it difficult to use that book for my personal practice as the book had lots of instructions and only few pictures and moreover the instructions and pictures were in different places and I had to keep turning back and forth the pages to know which instruction is for which pose . Since I was fully immersed in the Sivananada System of Classical Hatha Yoga at that time I was not motivated much by Ashtanga Yoga and though "Yoga Mala "was rich in content but  the way in which the instructions and pictures were laid out put me off in seriously pursing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga . When I restarted my Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey in Mid 2010 ( I consider 2010 to be the real starting point of my Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey ) I was on lookout for a good Introductory Ashtanga Instruction Manual to follow and found the following 2 books to be very excellent books for any student beginning their Ashtanga Vinyasa Journey and the books are :
                                  1)Total Ashtanga by Tara Fraser
                                  2) Ashtanga Yoga the Practice Manual by David Swenson .

While David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual is quite popular and famous among the Ashtanga Community , Tara Fraser's book "Total Ashtanga" is not that much popular but it is equally an excellent book for beginners . This book by Tara Fraser was never in my list of Ashtanga Books as no one in the Ashtanga Community talked about it ( except for one serious Ashtanga blogger ) and every one were talking more about David Swenson's Ashtanga Practice Manual followed by John Scott's book on Ashtanga Yoga and Gregor Maehle's books on Ashtanga Primary and Secondary series . I came to know of Tara Fraser's book while I was on a Trip to Rishikesh in the end of Sept 2010 to learn formally Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga under Louise Ellis . As I was going through a book shop in Rishikesh I was surprised to find this excellent introductory book on AsIhtanga Vinyasa Yoga by Tara Fraser and immediately bought it and since then have started using  it more often   as reference for my Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice . I  would say that John Scott and Gregor Maehle's books would suit more for a person who has had a quite an in depth practice  and for a beginner it is better they choose either Tara Fraser or David Swenson's book on Ashtanga Yoga .The reason why I am suggesting these 2 books are :
 1) They are like a ready reference manual with each page having a picture of the posture and its basic instructions .
2) Modifications are given for difficult postures .( While Hard Core Ashtangis refuse to use props , these books make use of basic props to attempt the difficult postures ) .
3) The layout of the book is that there is a perfect balance between pictures and instructions and makes it easy for a beginner to follow the instructions looking at the picture .
 4) The instructions are also quite simple and not too technical and easy to follow .
5) David Swenson's book covers both the primary as well as secondary sequence and if a person is keen on learning both these sequence it is better to get David Swenson's book . Tara Fraser's book covers only the primary sequence .
5) Both these books at the end give a complete Ashtanga Primary Sequence in Picture format .David Swenson's book also has the Secondary series sequence .So even if u do not have an Ashtanga Vinayas  Poster , this picture sequence can help guide you properly . In fact I keep Tara Fraser book by my side when I practice my Ashtanga sequence .
 6) Both these books give a short primary sequence and while  I have not tried them ,it would be very helpful for those who want to have a short primary practice .

So in  conclusion I would say that if you serious in learning both the primary and secondary ashtanga vinyasa sequence then it is better get David Swenson's book but if you are unsure about your own commitment to Ashtanga Vinaysa Practice then better get Tara Fraser's book as it is a simple one  and deals with just the  primary series .

Note : No book can substitute for the instructions received from a qualified real life  teacher but in the absence of a proper Ashtanga Teacher these 2 books are the best guides for you as a beginner to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga .

Sunday, December 12, 2010

7) Yoga and my Journaling journey

Eventhough I started my yoga journey through the Sivananda System in Mid 1997 I never got in to serious journaling from 2008 onwards .I never had  maintained a dedicated personal  journal so far and during my college days I used to just make some short notes in my diary and in some cases some long notes but never have I seriously documented my life and its happenings in detail .Though Swami Sivananda had urged people on the path of Yoga to maintain a spiritual diary and had also provided a basic template of the same in his books I never felt motivated to develop it as a proper discipline .I used to maintain notes of my practice /  teaching for a few weeks and give it up . It was only in April 2008 when I read an article  titled "Words Heal the world " on the importance of  maintaining a personal journal by Anita Anand  from a magazine called "Life Positive" that I decided that enough is enough and it is high time I started maintaining a dedicated personal journal . Even though I was motivated to start maintaining a personal journal I had my own doubts about how far I will be successful in the same and hence did not to waste any money buying fresh and expensive  writing journals and decided to start writing using an old diary that was virtually empty barring few odd jottings here and there .I could not write properly as I had lost the habit of writing using a pen as most of the time I was using only the Computer to type my letters and I was using the pen only for signing cheques / credit card bills , filling forms and  making short notes and it was years since I wrote a letter to my family / friends as all communications were only through net / emails /phone /cell phones etc . There was heavy mental resistance to writing and I just wrote some short notes for the sake of writing . My  handwriting was horrible and there was no focus on what I wrote and I was just writing for the sake of writing . I wanted to find whether there was any course related to Journal writing for me to get some basic inputs about how to write and maintain a journal as I felt I was not progressing much in my journaling and it was during that time I came across the book "Journal to The Self :by Kathleen Adams " from amazon.com . After reading the initial pages of the book from amazon.com  called" The 79 Cent Therapist " I was totally blown over as to what a powerful tool this journaling was for my own self growth .I immediately got that book and started going over that to see whether there are any rules for maintaining a journal and I was surprised by Kathleen Adams advice is that even though she has suggested various formats and styles for journal writing in her book , in reality there are no rules for journal writing and one just need to write naturally and enjoy the same and that one need not bother about handwriting , grammer , spelling mistakes ,style etc etc . This was a huge relief to me as I all along believed that journal writing should be neat , organized and focused etc etc .So I continued to keep writing whatever came to me and sometimes I wrote short notes , sometimes long notes and sometimes there was a long gap between 2 notes and here again Kathleen Adams advised one need not worry about writing daily or keeping a quota for month or week as journal writing is purely to communicate with ourselves and not to meet any deadlines or win a prize or to fulfill some one's expectation .In that book regarding this  there was an excellent quote from Jim Rohn , the popular motivational speaker and he says " There are 2 things to avoid with your journal .One is never writing in it ; the other is always writing in it . In the first case ,you participate in life without observing it .In the second case , you observe life without participating in it ."
So again I was relaxed that having gaps between 2 journal entries is not a sin and it is perfectly natural . So as I was going through this process of journal writing I felt that I  was only writing randomly on issues that come to my mind but I have not yet developed the discipline of maintaining a proper personal diary of my  yoga practice / teaching and here again I started reading an article from a  magazine called Frozen Thoughts Magazine September 2008 by Lata Krishnaswamy titled "Practicing towards Perfection" pg.52 . She  describes how her Bharatanatyam  Dance teacher Vasanthalakshmi would ask her to maintain a practice notebook where she would be asked to record her practice schedules and what she did and she would always give excuse for not doing that but later felt quite ashamed of it and started practicing regularly . I too felt that it is high time I also maintain a dedicated practice journal to document what I did , what insights I learned , what was my mental state during my practice etc etc and I had the perfect opportunity for the same when I enrolled for the Sadhana Intensive Program in the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai in Jan 2009 . One beauty of this program was that it was purely a personal practice and except for the instructions and basic guidelines each participant had to do their practice independently and also maintain a record of the same and later share their experiences in the afternoon group discussions .I started maintaining a very meticulous record of my own personal practice along with my own mental states of how they were during each practice session . Since it was an intense practice of pranayama ,it gave an excellent opportunity to observe my own mood during the practice as prana and mind originate from the same source .I not only documented my practice sessions but also what happened during discussions and the satsangs , what sort of food was offered to us  each day (  as it was a strict diet conducive for advanced pranayama practice ) .So by the end of the 14 day course I had my entire journal book complete with all details about my practice and other details I observed in the course and was thrilled to have maintained a full comprehensive document of my intensive sadhana .So these 14 days were an excellent training period for me in not only focusing my mind but also in developing a discipline of maintaining a personal journal both for my practice as well as for my own self growth .Apart from my written journal I also started a private  online journal to record my thoughts and feelings and used to alternate between writing on note book  to writing on my online journal .The entire 2009 went like this though there were gaps in between .I got an opportunity to rekindle my Sadhana in 2010 as  I once again redid the Sadhana Intensive Course in  Jan 2010 at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai and this time it was more easy both during my practice as well as in maintaining my own journal during the course and once again by the time the course was over I had m journal fully filled with all the details about my practice , the discussions , the diet etc .Now I knew that no longer I need to fight in maintaining my journal and that it has become a part of my life .It was at this juncture that on coming back home I bought my first new spiral journal on Feb 2010 exclusively for my journaling and till date I have been quite consistent in my journal writing and while I write more offline in my personal journal I do at times write in my online private journal apart from making entries in my 3 blogs .I am not yet a serious blogger but I am happy to have finally developed a good journaling practice and I can see my own improvement in my writing and like my own personal yoga practice I have started to give equal importance to my journaling activity and consider it to be a very excellent tool for helping me develop more clarity with regard to my life and as I do not have any personal real life Gurus /Mentors I find my journals themselves apart from my extensive reading of books to be good tools to help me evaluate myself and check my own progress and help me move ahead .Though I missed out in documenting my first decade of Yoga Journey i.e 1999-2009  ( tlhough I remember many of them ) I intend not to miss  documenting the next phase of my yoga journey i.e from 2010 (  my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga journey also started seriously from 2010)  and happy that I have made journaling a very important aspect of my life from 2010 onwards and so far I have maintained up to date accounts of my Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice and hope to maintain the same .