Friday, 9 December 2016

YogaGlo 15 day Free trial - Exploring Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor's Internal form of the practice'

Richard Freeman on YogaGlo

Following on from my previous post and  my review of Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor's new book 'The Art of Vinyasa Awakening the Body and Mind through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga', I felt the need to revisit some of Richard's Led classes, to work through some of the '...visceral visualizations that describe internal form of the practice' , outlined in the book, in the context of actual practice.

My Book Review
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2016/12/book-review-richard-freeman-and-mary.html

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Here's an example of one of the visualisations, the shortest.

"Cave of Sacrum
Awareness of the cave of the sacrum is another way of beginning to feel the pelvic  floor, Mūlabandha, and the lower under-belly version of Uḍḍīyāna Bandha.  The sacrum, to which the coccyx is attached, is set in the sacroiliac (SI) joints in the back of the pelvic basin. Together, the sacrum and coccyx form a contour that resembles a deep cave—almost a separate chamber—below the overall abdominal cavity.  The bladder, rectum, and uterus or prostate are housed in this area of the pelvis.
To feel and articulate the pelvic  floor, we need to develop a sense of emptiness or spaciousness, a suction sensation in this cave, as if we had spooned its contents back and up toward the lower lumbar vertebrae.  is feeling depends on having some feeling of tone in the pelvic  floor muscles attached to the coccyx—as if we were holding the coccyx in place to provide stability so we could scoop the spoon of the mind back and up along the front surface of the coccyx and sacrum to “clean out the cave.” Cultivating this cavelike feeling under the belly helps to fully integrate the internal form of nearly all poses and the movements between them.

Energetically the cave of the sacrum is the origin, the womb, and meditating there allows you to relax into the great irreducible mystery beyond thought. Be aware that clean and healthy bowels, as well as some of the less popular and strange kriya (practices) in hatha yoga, facilitate this ability to sense the cave of the sacrum. Most of these esoteric practices, like the ability to suck water up the anus, are actually rooted in train- ing the same muscles of the pelvic  oor that establish a sense of the cave of the sacrum. Overzealous practitioners are sometimes tempted to take the kriyas—like anything extreme or strange—too far, practicing the exercises to excess or believing they are the answer to everything when in fact they are simply another type of perspective or tool among many for connecting to the subtle layers of awareness in the body." The Art of Vinyasa Awakening the Body and Mind through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga'


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I have Richard's early DVDs of course and some transcripts but was reminded that Richard and Mary have been presenting classes over the last few years on YogaGlo.

YogaGlo also have a fifteen day free trial, I've subscribed and am currently working my way through Richard and Mary's videos.

Richard currently has 59 class videos, while Mary has 63 ( bit of a  slacker Richard, clearly).

The classes range from 10 to 90 minutes, some focus on one element of practice others a full led practice with a particular focus ( although of course there is crossover, many elements/visualisations coming of in the same video).

So far I'm enjoying the classes, surprised how much I'd actually internalised on Richard's five-day intensive in London a few years ago. It's good to be reminded of why I practice in a particular way and to brush up on some elements that I've allowed to slip or that went over my head altogether.

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Unfortunately I can't apply to Richard and Mary's teaching intensive in Boulder this year or probably next for that matter so these videos and the book are some consolation at least.

Details of the intensive here, open for application now I believe
http://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/teacher-intensives

http://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/

Below are fifteen video suggestions for a 15-day free trial, one for each of the 13 visceral visualisations that Richard and Mary outline in the book as well as two extras, one from Richard on Pranayama, the other from Mary on meditation. In the appendix below there are some other options that seem to focus on these areas should you wish to continue with your subscription past the free trial.

UPDATE Forgot to mention, the subscription costs $18 a month, you can supposedly cancel whenever you wish.

I put these together for my own use but thought why not share it on the blog with anyone else who's interested. I'll probably change things around a little as I work through the list as well as add some others that illustrate these ideas more effectively.

First impression of YogaGlow? It seems to work, very easy to subscribe and I hear to cancel your subscription should you wish to. As with any online subscription trial, Netflix, Amazon prime etc. It's a good idea to set up an alert on your diary to let you know a day before the trial runs out so you can have a think whether you actually wish to stick with it and have payments start coming out of your credit card.

My only complaint so far is with the optional Ipad app. This is supposed to allow you to download up to 10 videos at a time for offline viewing (although I believe they magically stop working should you cancel your subscription). For some reason the download is dreadfully slow and often cancels itself half way through. I thought it might be just me but a google search suggests I'm not alone.

Streaming however seems fine thus far.

The videos below are mostly of Richard, at some point I'll no doubt focus on Mary's videos as they relate to ideas that come up in the book.

Mary Taylor's 90 minute YogaGlo classes

I'm off now to practice with Backbending on the Wave of Internal Breath - 90mins which seems to be along the lines of the class Richard presented to the Ashtanga yoga Confluence a few years ago that I tried to follow along with and transcribe. The YogaGlo version has much better sound quality and viewing angle.


 

My  fifteen suggestions



Richard includes thirteen '...visceral visualizations that describe internal form of the practice'.  Some I remember from the five day intensive I took with Richard in London a few years back and have stayed a part of my practice ever since, others are new to me. As well as reading them here some pop up in Richard's led videos and apps in the context of practice. See also this post, my part transcription of Richard's backbending workshop at the Ashtanga yoga confluence a few years back to see how these concepts apply to practice http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2012/03/richard-freeman-ayc-backbending.html

Mūlabandha

1. Backbending on the Wave of Internal Breath - 90mins
Use this practice to gain clarity as you learn to support the extension of your spine. These movements are required for full, deep and safe backbends. Begin by heating your body with sun salutations before systematically working through various stages of backbending, exploring the function of mula bandha, the optimal rotations of your femurs and the movements of your shoulder blades. Give yourself the delightful experience of a full, properly aligned backbend.

Releasing the Palate

2. Up and Down the Middle Spine - 60mins

Deepen your practice by first connecting to the subtle layers of alignment and form that unify and illuminate the postures. Focus on awakening and tuning your pelvic floor as you gradually move up through your body to finally awaken your throat and palate. Find detailed instruction moving from baddha konasana and upavistha konasana all the way up to your head and neck with ubhaya padangusthasana and setu bandhasana.



Psoas Line

3. Radiant Extension - 90mins
This Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman tutorial practice will help you learn to articulate the hands and the feet while connecting the legs and the arms into the lower Psoas muscle. When the structural patterns of the arms and legs come to life, they radiate out from and simultaneously root strongly back into the central axis of the body. Includes detailed breath instruction, surya namaskars, standing poses, seated poses, back-bends and cool-down. Prop Suggested: a blanket or block.

Cave of Sacrum

4. The Four Angels - 30mins
The four angels represent the four corners of the pelvic floor; the coccyx in back, the pubic bone in front and the two sitting bones on the sides. Waking up these angels and getting them to work together is the key to structural alignment and to moving the internal breath back and up into the central channel.

Kidney Wings

5. Secret of Kidney Love - 90mins
A step by step exploration of the coccyx, kidney wing, cobra hood pattern which grounds and releases mental and physical patterns. This pattern is the key to mulabandha and one of the great secrets of Hatha and Tantric yogas. Slowly move through a modified Ashtanga sequence with deconstructed sun salutations, padangustasana, trikonasana, parivrita trikonasana, janu sirsasana, marichasana A & C, half lotus, navasana, fish and more.


Psoas Buttons

6. Breathing Through Your Psoas Line - 60mins
With simple yet powerful asanas we explore the art of mulabandha by learning to keep the psoas muscle relaxed and long through out the entire inhale. This involves some amazing full body movements that involve the arms, legs and beyond.

Gaṇeśa Belly

7. Ganesha's Belly - 30 mins
An exploration of the lower abdomen and the pelvic floor in the gradual discovery of good breathing and alignment.

Cobra Hood

8. Elegant Neck - 45mins
In so many postures there is either subtle or extreme backbending through your neck. In this methodically paced class, breakdown upward facing dog before moving into camel and ubhaya padangusthasana. Extending your lower neck, even in backbends, is a skill that takes many years to learn correctly. Once you learn that skill, discover that there are so many delightful moments in a vinyasa sequence where you dissolve into the present moment and wake up!

Skin Flow

9. Continuous Alignment - 90mins
Here there is an emphasis on continuous alignment, on the thread of intelligent, aligned, integrated movement - that links postures together. Often form is taught for a 'static' classical pose rather than in the linking together of complimentary breath and structural patterns that compose the movement between those 'beautiful' poses.


Holding the Tail of a Serpent


10. Tail First Head Last - 60 mins
Feed your practice, find mula bandha, and practice proper breathing and good alignment. Spend time in various down dog variations, padangusthasana, trikonasana and fish pose. Work with practiced principles of form and movement so that these fluid transitions are second nature. In many vinyasa movements, alignment is maintained by continuous sequential rolling of your spine in and out of the postures. Experience this in transitions between poses and within poses themselves.


Feet Reflecting Pelvic Floor

11. 108 Triangles - 60mins
After defining the four corners of the pelvic floor, work them in their various connections to reveal the "esoteric triangles." When the deeply asymmetrical Trikonasana is done this way, it solves structural problems and awakens the reflexes from palate to perineum upon which the Vinyasa practice is based


Palate-Perineum Reflex

12. Shoulderstand and Headstand Family - 90mins
Using special training postures and alternatives, you will construct a delightful way of making these difficult and subtle postures feel wonderful and contemplative. The emphasis will be on internal channels revealed through palate and perineum. Go upside down without sacrificing safety or comfort. Props Suggested: A blanket for shoulderstand and wall space for headstand.


Plumb Line 

13. Up and Down the Middle Spine - 60mins
Deepen your practice by first connecting to the subtle layers of alignment and form that unify and illuminate the postures. Focus on awakening and tuning your pelvic floor as you gradually move up through your body to finally awaken your throat and palate. Find detailed instruction moving from baddha konasana and upavistha konasana all the way up to your head and neck with ubhaya padangusthasana and setu bandhasana.


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14. Principles & Patterns of Pranayama - 15mins

After finding a correct sitting posture, we will explore core principles and patterns of this basic pranayama. Prop Needed: A blanket to sit on. Prop Suggested: A chair to sit on.



15. Establish Your Internal Landscape - 10mins (Mary Taylor)

Take part in a short meditation practice that includes guided cues that help establish a sense of the internal landscape of the body. This will support the unfolding of a silent sitting practice for the last few minutes of your practice. Props Suggested: A blanket or two.



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APPENDIX




including some alternatives to the above.


Mūlabandha


Holding the Pot of Nectar - 15 mins 
The "pot of the belly" is a great internal source of energy, strength and intelligence. It is one source of nectar that spreads through your body in a deliberate and contemplative practice that leads to mula bandha. Gradually develop subtle awareness in your pelvic floor, lower back, psoas muscle, palate and along the central channel of your body, so that one day mula bandha appears.



Tail First Head Last - 60 mins
Feed your practice, find mula bandha, and practice proper breathing and good alignment. Spend time in various down dog variations, padangusthasana, trikonasana and fish pose. Work with practiced principles of form and movement so that these fluid transitions are second nature. In many vinyasa movements, alignment is maintained by continuous sequential rolling of your spine in and out of the postures. Experience this in transitions between poses and within poses themselves.


Backbending on the Wave of Internal Breath - 90mins
Use this practice to gain clarity as you learn to support the extension of your spine. These movements are required for full, deep and safe backbends. Begin by heating your body with sun salutations before systematically working through various stages of backbending, exploring the function of mula bandha, the optimal rotations of your femurs and the movements of your shoulder blades. Give yourself the delightful experience of a full, properly aligned backbend.



Releasing the Palate

Root of Palate - 15mins
Releasing the root of the palate is the key to alignment, Mula Bandha and many other contemplative techniques. Here are the basics and how to feel this gateway to the Central Channel.


Up and Down the Middle Spine - 60mins
Deepen your practice by first connecting to the subtle layers of alignment and form that unify and illuminate the postures. Focus on awakening and tuning your pelvic floor as you gradually move up through your body to finally awaken your throat and palate. Find detailed instruction moving from baddha konasana and upavistha konasana all the way up to your head and neck with ubhaya padangusthasana and setu bandhasana.




Psoas Line

Breathing Through Your Psoas Line - 60mins
With simple yet powerful asanas we explore the art of mulabandha by learning to keep the psoas muscle relaxed and long through out the entire inhale. This involves some amazing full body movements that involve the arms, legs and beyond.


Touching Infinity - 90mins
Extend through your Psoas line. Through modifications of sun salutations and standing postures like trikonasana and revolved trikonasana, discover long lines through your whole body. This subtle movement creates a feeling of stretch to infinity and beyond.



Radiant Extension - 90mins

This Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman tutorial practice will help you learn to articulate the hands and the feet while connecting the legs and the arms into the lower Psoas muscle. When the structural patterns of the arms and legs come to life, they radiate out from and simultaneously root strongly back into the central axis of the body. Includes detailed breath instruction, surya namaskars, standing poses, seated poses, back-bends and cool-down. Prop Suggested: a blanket or block.







Cave of Sacrum





The Four Angels - 30mins

The four angels represent the four corners of the pelvic floor; the coccyx in back, the pubic bone in front and the two sitting bones on the sides. Waking up these angels and getting them to work together is the key to structural alignment and to moving the internal breath back and up into the central channel.






Kidney Wings

Secret of Kidney Love - 90mins
A step by step exploration of the coccyx, kidney wing, cobra hood pattern which grounds and releases mental and physical patterns. This pattern is the key to mulabandha and one of the great secrets of Hatha and Tantric yogas. Slowly move through a modified Ashtanga sequence with deconstructed sun salutations, padangustasana, trikonasana, parivrita trikonasana, janu sirsasana, marichasana A & C, half lotus, navasana, fish and more.

Crossing the Midline for Kidney Power - 90mins
In this class you will uncover a remarkable way of grounding which protects your joints and builds strength and stability. Fine and precise alignment details will be explored through standing postures into advanced, seated hip-opening and twisting postures that incorporate this oblique pattern across the body. Complete your practice with a few side body openers before resting in savasana.


Psoas Buttons


Breathing Through Your Psoas Line - 60mins
With simple yet powerful asanas we explore the art of mulabandha by learning to keep the psoas muscle relaxed and long through out the entire inhale. This involves some amazing full body movements that involve the arms, legs and beyond.


Radiant Extension - 90mins

This Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman tutorial practice will help you learn to articulate the hands and the feet while connecting the legs and the arms into the lower Psoas muscle. When the structural patterns of the arms and legs come to life, they radiate out from and simultaneously root strongly back into the central axis of the body. Includes detailed breath instruction, surya namaskars, standing poses, seated poses, back-bends and cool-down. Prop Suggested: a blanket or block.



Gaeśa Belly


Discover the Pelvic Floor 30mins
Discover the pelvic floor and dialectical conversations there. Props Needed: Two blocks and a blanket.


Ganesha's Belly - 30 mins
An exploration of the lower abdomen and the pelvic floor in the gradual discovery of good breathing and alignment.





Cobra Hood





Drinking the Moonlight - 20mins
Take a tutorial style class introducing proper alignment in two contrasting forms of cow pose (gomukhasana), revealing intelligence from your pelvic floor through the root of your palate. Tap into the limitless supply of nectar or compassion that rests at the root of your palate. Learn to extend through your neck while keeping your heart buoyant and sunny. Walk away feeling more open in your hips and shoulders. Props Suggested: A strap.



Elegant Neck - 45mins
In so many postures there is either subtle or extreme backbending through your neck. In this methodically paced class, breakdown upward facing dog before moving into camel and ubhaya padangusthasana. Extending your lower neck, even in backbends, is a skill that takes many years to learn correctly. Once you learn that skill, discover that there are so many delightful moments in a vinyasa sequence where you dissolve into the present moment and wake up!

Tail First Head Last - 60mins
Deepen your practice by first connecting to the subtle layers of alignment and form that unify and illuminate the postures. Focus on awakening and tuning your pelvic floor as you gradually move up through your body to finally awaken your throat and palate. Find detailed instruction moving from baddha konasana and upavistha konasana all the way up to your head and neck with ubhaya padangusthasana and setu bandhasana.


Secret of Kidney Love - 90mins

A step by step exploration of the coccyx, kidney wing, cobra hood pattern which grounds and releases mental and physical patterns. This pattern is the key to mulabandha and one of the great secrets of Hatha and Tantric yogas. Slowly move through a modified Ashtanga sequence with deconstructed sun salutations, padangustasana, trikonasana, parivrita trikonasana, janu sirsasana, marichasana A & C, half lotus, navasana, fish and more.





Skin Flow


Continuous Alignment - 90mins
Here there is an emphasis on continuous alignment, on the thread of intelligent, aligned, integrated movement - that links postures together. Often form is taught for a 'static' classical pose rather than in the linking together of complimentary breath and structural patterns that compose the movement between those 'beautiful' poses.








Holding the Tail of a Serpent



Coiling Around the Sun - 10mins
A specially modified sun salutation to help discover the apana pattern and then to strengthen it. Within your sun salutations, hold bakasana for five breaths, down dog for five breaths and repeat the pattern. The idea is to keep the prana (heart) open, when there is full expression of the apana (serpent tail). This allows full grounding and compression free flexion.


Tail First Head Last - 60 mins
Feed your practice, find mula bandha, and practice proper breathing and good alignment. Spend time in various down dog variations, padangusthasana, trikonasana and fish pose. Work with practiced principles of form and movement so that these fluid transitions are second nature. In many vinyasa movements, alignment is maintained by continuous sequential rolling of your spine in and out of the postures. Experience this in transitions between poses and within poses themselves.






Feet Reflecting Pelvic Floor



108 Triangles - 60mins
After defining the four corners of the pelvic floor, work them in their various connections to reveal the "esoteric triangles." When the deeply asymmetrical Trikonasana is done this way, it solves structural problems and awakens the reflexes from palate to perineum upon which the Vinyasa practice is based.

Deconstructing Sun Salutations - 90mins
A step by step deconstruction of the forms used in Sun Salutations. This allows one to adapt the postures and movements to avoid discomfort and to reap the full benefit of this rhythmic practice. Prop Suggested: A blanket.



Palate-Perineum Reflex


108 Triangles - 60mins
After defining the four corners of the pelvic floor, work them in their various connections to reveal the "esoteric triangles." When the deeply asymmetrical Trikonasana is done this way, it solves structural problems and awakens the reflexes from palate to perineum upon which the Vinyasa practice is based.

Shoulderstand and Headstand Family - 90mins
Using special training postures and alternatives, you will construct a delightful way of making these difficult and subtle postures feel wonderful and contemplative. The emphasis will be on internal channels revealed through palate and perineum. Go upside down without sacrificing safety or comfort. Props Suggested: A blanket for shoulderstand and wall space for headstand.




Plumb Line 





Churning The Fire 10mins

Variations on jathara parivartana, a twist which can work your oblique abdominal muscles to deepen and balance twisting. It often frees lumbar movement, diaphragm movement and sacroilliac movement while building strength in your core muscles. A great class to add as part of a larger full body sequence.

Up and Down the Middle Spine - 60mins
Deepen your practice by first connecting to the subtle layers of alignment and form that unify and illuminate the postures. Focus on awakening and tuning your pelvic floor as you gradually move up through your body to finally awaken your throat and palate. Find detailed instruction moving from baddha konasana and upavistha konasana all the way up to your head and neck with ubhaya padangusthasana and setu bandhasana.


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Come back in 15 days perhaps for a follow up on the trial.

 I'll also see about putting some of Richard's videos in a different order reflecting the Ashtanga series.

Something like this (work in progress ).


Deconstructing Sun Salutations - 90mins
A step by step deconstruction of the forms used in Sun Salutations. This allows one to adapt the postures and movements to avoid discomfort and to reap the full benefit of this rhythmic practice. Prop Suggested: A blanket.

108 Triangles - 60mins

After defining the four corners of the pelvic floor, work them in their various connections to reveal the "esoteric triangles." When the deeply asymmetrical Trikonasana is done this way, it solves structural problems and awakens the reflexes from palate to perineum upon which the Vinyasa practice is based.

Squaring Your Hips - 15mins
Many twists and forward bends involve a subtle turning of your pelvis back and forth to find the optimal angle of rotation. This skill can make a huge difference in the quality of some of your yoga postures. Activate mula bandha in the process. Learn to square your hips in twisting triangle, upavista konasana, janu sirsasana and marichayasana C.

Splitting the Mountain - 30mins
A tutorial class that explores methods for deepening baddha and upavistha konasanas. You will experiment with the spiraling patterns around the hip joints to awaken the pelvic floor. As a practitioner or student of yoga, learn to safely support your knees and hips as you forward fold and circulate your hips open. Props Needed: Three blankets and two blocks. Prop Suggested: A strap.

Up and Down the Middle Spine - 60min
Deepen your practice by first connecting to the subtle layers of alignment and form that unify and illuminate the postures. Focus on awakening and tuning your pelvic floor as you gradually move up through your body to finally awaken your throat and palate. Find detailed instruction moving from baddha konasana and upavistha konasana all the way up to your head and neck with ubhaya padangusthasana and setu bandhasana.

Shoulderstand and Headstand Family - 90mins


Using special training postures and alternatives, you will construct a delightful way of making these difficult and subtle postures feel wonderful and contemplative. The emphasis will be on internal channels revealed through palate and perineum. Go upside down without sacrificing safety or comfort. Props Suggested: A blanket for shoulderstand and wall space for headstand.

Sitting Around Preparing for Padmasana - 15mins
A group of movements that can be done most anytime in order to prepare for full lotus. Various ways of folding your knees, rocking your legs and tilting your pelvis to create the opening for an extremely pleasant full lotus.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Book Review. Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor The Art of Vinyasa. Awakening the Body and Mind through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga



Here was my first reaction to Richard and Mary's new book on fb yesterday

Thank you to Shambhala for the review copy of Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor's long awaited 'Art of Vinyasa', my new desert island yoga book. All I'd hoped for and so much more besides, a smart, wry thought provoking...., practice provoking, palate relaxing delight. 



REVIEW


The Look inside feature on Richard website gives you the contents page and the first chapter.




We can see that the book has two parts, Part 1. Foundations and Part 2. Asana. I've been wondering whether the book would be suitable for all practitioners, beginners for example. I suspect that many beginners would read a few pages of the first part, wonder what the hell Richard was on about and skip to part 2 and the asana section. There they would find a nice clear layout of instruction for each asana, numbered by paragraph/instruction point. I think these instructions would be beneficial if not essential for beginners who may well avoid future injuries as a response to reading and following along, right from the start. These are good practical instructions provided by teachers who have been themselves practicing and teaching for decades.

Recently I came across a newly authorised teacher insisting that there were no props in Ashtanga vinyasa, that they go against the intention of the method. Richard and Mary however do include intelligent, responsible prop options throughout the text, for those with injuries, aches and pains or merely working towards a posture.


Richard doesn't have much time for dogma, this is why I've referred to his wry humour, it's the dogma he's gently, even affectionately, mocking occasionally in the text, I find it refreshing.

"It (the Palate-Perineum Reflex) is extremely pleasant and often relieves strain in a pose when we become too dogmatic and attempt to force the body into some contrived ideal form".

It is possible to work safely at a physical level on the postures that make up ashtanga vinyasa, to develop the discipline, focus and attention, this can all be found in part two of Richard and Mary's book and there is a helpful anatomy section included that one might refer to when necessary.

However, to go deeper into the practice then one might return, again and again over the years, however long we may have been practicing, to the first part of the book and there we find a garden of delights.

NOTE: All quotes below in italics are from the text, I've resisted putting page numbers as the text Shambhala sent me was a pre correction proof copy.

My photo choice
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara with One Thousand Hands and One Thousand Eyes, Metropolitan Museum of Art


"Imagine that you get a job as a model for an artist who’s going to carve a statue of Avalokiteśvara, the buddha of in nite compassion. Avalokiteśvara is to be seated holding the wishfullling gem in front of the lotus  fower ( padma) of the heart, and your alignment must be perfect! All you have to do is sit in that pose and not move.

It takes extraordinary focus to picture what Avalokiteśvara looks like, bringing your attention again and again to rest along the plumb line of your body. Releasing the palate in silent contact with a softening tongue and feeling a smooth, steady breath unfold, you begin to experience all the physical patterns associated with inhaling. You then drop even more deeply in, observing as the breath effortlessly turns around; the exhalation dissolves all those endless forms back to their roots, like petals falling from a flower.  The centers of your ears are directly over the centers of the shoulder joints, so they’re aligned exactly on the coronal plane of the body; your hip joints are centered in that same precise line.  The back of the diaphragm spreads, and you notice that right around the twelfth thoracic vertebra, a radiant point of awareness is forming a warm, vibrant circle. You envision yourself having four arms, but you know not to pinch any of the shoulder blades together or the artist will kick you out and hire someone else as the model. So you drop back into the breath and feel more arms growing—just a few at first, but then an infnite number sprout and reach up out of that warm, vibrant area in the middle of your lower back.  The center of each palm tingles, and you realize you can actually see through the palms as you reach out to all other sentient beings, but you’re not distracted by this visual stimulation. It’s hard work and you start to sweat, but if you release the palate and the muscles in the back of the tongue, your mind clears; you feel an extension along the spine, out through sides of your body, and then up through the crown of the head as if you are growing bigger and taller.  e pose feels easy, steady, and buoyant. You cultivate a vivid sense of concentration and form and, at the same time, the ability to dissolve and let go.

 This is how alignment was taught in ancient times before the study of anatomy and theories of biomechanics and postural alignment became the norm. In those days, alignment was embodied through visualizing deity forms, which brought the  finer qualities of the emotions, sensations, and thought patterns into the breath and body. Artists trained for generations in a highly disciplined manner to reproduce in their sculptures and drawings exactly what sages had discovered to be, through lifetimes of practice and visualizations, optimal forms of alignment. Forms that would facilitate a physiologically awake and open, integrated, and finely tuned state of being that is perfectly suited for contemplative practice. Symbolic representation of this kind of esoteric knowledge followed prescribed patterns and proportions that were described in minute detail so that one could meditate on a deity form and feel correct alignment. In those days, teachers didn’t bother describing the alignment of joints or any of that dry, boring anatomical stuff . Instead, they went right for the source—the deity form—and breathed right into it".



M. asked me why I thought Richard had written a book now when there are so many Ashtanga vinyasa books on the market. I think this is the reason, what Richard and Mary wished to communicate, share....suggest.

Deity visualization is akin to abstract thought, such as exploration of the idea of infnity, but visualizations can be em-bodied to give direct, visceral experience of what otherwise might be a complex construct.

Yoga alignment can and usually is approached from the point of view of classical anatomy, physical form, and biomechanics. And this is good. We look at similarities and diferences in the structure of bones, muscles, and interconnected patterns of breath and movement. Visualization bridges a gap in understanding movement between what happens in the mind and what happens in the body. As we breathe and move in and out of postures, we simply allow a visualized form to rest in the background as a subconscious context from which to experience whatever actually arises as feeling, sensation, or thought.  e visualization provides a reference point for our experience so we can be there with full attention.

Between the externally oriented perspective of studying form and movement from a classical anatomical perspective and the more abstract perspective of visualization lies another method for insight into alignment and form.  That is an understanding of the internal forms of the practice. Each of these perspectives is important and may be an effective means of establishing a context for understanding our practice. Merging visualization, abstract thought, and classical anatomy through an embodiment of the internal forms gives a full understanding of form and alignment.  This really is what the Ashtanga Vinysa system of yoga is all about: taking a multidimensional view of what happens when we practice yoga. Cultivating the simplest of circumstances in a context of open-minded awareness and a full range of movement, we invite the yoga practice to unfold like a  flower in bloom.



Richard goes on here to introduce BREATH, DṚṢṬI, BANDHAS and MUDRA



Also THE NĀḌĪS

By bringing awareness to the nuances of alignment that are revealed through the internal forms of practice, we discover a gateway to understanding the nāḍī system, part of the innermost structure and scaffolding of the practice. Nāḍī means“channel” or “little river” in Sanskrit, and from a yogic perspective, the nāḍīs are an intricate system of rivulets of Prāṇa and energy that  flow through and penetrate every area of the body. From a Western perspective, the nāḍī system could be considered somewhat parallel to the combination of the nervous and circulatory systems.  The nāḍīs bring a vibratory quality of breath and awareness to every point of sensation within the body".

and CAKRAS

"Another brilliant aspect of traditional imagery that invites an internalized, contemplative mind, is the cakra system; through this, we meditate on various stations along the central channel that correspond to distinct sensation patterns and perceptual modes. Cakras (wheels) are usually represented and felt as lotus  flowers or padmas.  They are strung together like a garland along the susumṇa  nāḍī.  they are imagined to be sacred spaces ranging in detail from simple geometrical yantras to elaborate maṇḍalas, temples, islands, and whole worlds populated with gods, goddesses, and (potentially) all beings. Cakras or padmas function to capture and absorb our attention fully and then to balance and deepen our insight into the actual nature of what we are experiencing. Each petal or segment of every cakra needs to be interlinked with its complementary opposites and then with its deeper background.

Smooth ujjāyī breathing introduces the natural vinyāsa of the attention to balance and illuminate the cakras. Evenly illuminated, brought to life and vibrancy, they open into the middle path of the susumṇ  nāḍī at the center of each padma where the nectar from the root of the palate can be felt. In normal distracted breathing, it is likely to feel as though half the petals are wilted while others are overinflated. But with mindful ujjāyī breathing practice, there is a sense of calm alertness within the body and mind, and the garland along the central channel feels alive, awakened, and evenly innervated".


My quotes are long but I felt it was important to give a clear idea of how Richard approaches subtle body, it's an approach I too have found appealing, not to abandon traditional imagery altogether in favour of a modern western supposed correspondence but rather seeking to understand the intention behind the traditional visualizations, not to get lost in them, but to employ them with discernment. It's a neat trick if you can pull it off, for the most part I feel that Richard does and it's perhaps why I/we are drawn back to him. We know intuitively that there is something to this practice we engage in each day, something deep and profound, more than the sum of it's parts, an untapped potentiality perhaps. With Richard we perhaps feel somewhat closer to catching a glimpse of what that might be.

At some point I started searching through the book for the pranayama section there isn't one, I was surprised at my reaction. In the past I might have felt frustrated, disappointed but if we can attain some small measure of what Richard is indicating is available to us in our asana practice then Pranyama holds less of it's allure. Besides, Richard has a pranayama courses where he is able to go into more detail than here, I've taken the course it's excellent.
I relish my pranayama practice, Richard reminds me to relish my asana practice also, I had begun to forget.

Below: Ashtanga Pranayama. Richard Freeman with Pattabhi Jois 1989 from the Advanced Series video see links at the end of the post.



"TRUSTING THE PROCESS
We may harbor a lot of resistance toward dropping in and practicing from an internal perspective.  The fear of feeling—deep inside the body— certain things like infnity, impermanence, emptiness or the fact that there is no ultimate frame of reference, can be terrifying. Yet it is for this very reason that the practices emphasizing the internal forms are so important and why we must take them slowly and work at them with great patience and kindness toward ourselves.  This is why a teacher encourages beginning students simply to have a direct experience within their own bodies of what it actually feels like to take a full, deep inhale and a smooth, long exhale, and why approaching these internal forms directly through  asana practice is vital".


*



Many are familar with Richard Freemans's use of strange visualisations, Kidney wings, Cobra hoody etc. Here he explins why he employs this sādhanā bhāṣā, practice language


"During the Italian Renaissance, an understanding of human form came to life as great artists of the time became anatomists, peeling back the skin of dead bodies and dissecting corpses to study the intricacies of form and structure in fine detail. Some, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, were inspired to explore and broaden their understanding of the body in action, and their art became infused with a level of realism never before imagined.  Their direct study of anatomy, merged with their innovative imaginations and artistic skill, transformed the face of art forever. As a yoga practitioner, fusing together a knowledge of anatomy with the art form of your imagination—deeply feeling movement and sensation, along with patterns of connection and breath—may not make you the Michelangelo of yoga, but it will add a uniquely clear means of inhabiting your own skin.
To begin experiencing our own subtle anatomy, it is helpful to have studied classical anatomy and artistic renderings of the body so we have a general idea of the landscape of human form. Imagining our own structure as an overlay to clear images of anatomy, while focusing on feelings and sensations as they arise, provides an embodied, broad-spectrum experience of the subtle body. In this context, it is helpful to establish a vocabulary specifc to these elusive layers of understanding. Doing so is referred to as sādhanā bhāṣā, or practice language. Every group or school (and ultimately every practitioner) has a unique and ofen abstruse sādhanā bhāṣā  ; words images, and myths that give us markers of understanding and serve as memory cues so we may easily return to and build on the insight that inspired the vocabulary".



Richard includes thirteen of these '...visceral visualizations that describe internal form of the practice'.  Some I remember from the five day intensive I took with Richard in London a few years back and have stayed a part of my practice ever since, others are new to me. As well as reading them here some pop up in Richard's led videos and apps in the context of practice. See also this post, my part transcription of Richard's backbending workshop at the Ashtanga yoga confluence a few years back to see how these concepts apply to practice http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2012/03/richard-freeman-ayc-backbending.html


Mūlabandha
Releasing the Palate
Psoas Line
Cave of Sacrum
Kidney Wings
Psoas Buttons
Gaeśa Belly
Cobra Hood
Skin Flow
Holding the Tail of a Serpent
Feet Reflecting Pelvic Floor
Palate-Perineum Reflex
Plumb Line 


Here's an example of one of the above, the shortest.

"Cave of Sacrum
Awareness of the cave of the sacrum is another way of beginning to feel the pelvic  floor, Mūlabandha, and the lower under-belly version of Uḍḍīyāna Bandha.  The sacrum, to which the coccyx is attached, is set in the sacroiliac (SI) joints in the back of the pelvic basin. Together, the sacrum and coccyx form a contour that resembles a deep cave—almost a separate chamber—below the overall abdominal cavity.  The bladder, rectum, and uterus or prostate are housed in this area of the pelvis.
To feel and articulate the pelvic  floor, we need to develop a sense of emptiness or spaciousness, a suction sensation in this cave, as if we had spooned its contents back and up toward the lower lumbar vertebrae.  is feeling depends on having some feeling of tone in the pelvic  floor muscles attached to the coccyx—as if we were holding the coccyx in place to provide stability so we could scoop the spoon of the mind back and up along the front surface of the coccyx and sacrum to “clean out the cave.” Cultivating this cavelike feeling under the belly helps to fully integrate the internal form of nearly all poses and the movements between them.

Energetically the cave of the sacrum is the origin, the womb, and meditating there allows you to relax into the great irreducible mystery beyond thought. Be aware that clean and healthy bowels, as well as some of the less popular and strange kriya (practices) in hatha yoga, facilitate this ability to sense the cave of the sacrum. Most of these esoteric practices, like the ability to suck water up the anus, are actually rooted in train- ing the same muscles of the pelvic  oor that establish a sense of the cave of the sacrum. Overzealous practitioners are sometimes tempted to take the kriyas—like anything extreme or strange—too far, practicing the exercises to excess or believing they are the answer to everything when in fact they are simply another type of perspective or tool among many for connecting to the subtle layers of awareness in the body."



My advice is to read through these then find one or two that make the most sense at this time and tentatively introduce the concept into practice, play with it, explore it, before introducing another and so on. Trying to introduce them all at once may be bemusing and result in a shallow appropriation, we're in this for the long term aren't we, this is a lifetime practice, "Why you hurry?" was I believe the saying.



As mentioned Richard includes a short Anatomy section as reference


"Classical anatomy complements and greatly informs visualization and the idea of vinyasa in yoga practice.  This chapter includes a limited selection of anatomy topics that are of particular relevance to yoga poses and internal forms. Hopefully this basic information will serve as a springboard to deepen your ongo- ing study of anatomy."



Here are a couple of pages to give an idea of the approach.







Part two Asana

Richard and Mary take a surprisingly unconventional approach to the order in which they present the asana as far as Ashtanga vinyasa is concerned. I was delighted, it reminded me of Srivatsa Ramaswami, Krishnamacharya's student of 30+ years, approach in his books. Asanas are grouped together by type rather than their position within a series (although this is of course included in the Appendix). 

And not just Primary asana either, Richard and Mary present all the postures from Primary and Intermediate series, they also weave in a couple from Advanced series.



"For Aṣṭāṅga Vinyāsa practitioners, the simplest and possibly the “only” way to consider the poses is from the perspective of the order in which they appear in the traditional sequences: Sūrya Namaskaras, the standing poses, the specific series, and the  finishing sequence.  This is good. But we can also gain understanding by examining the postures in terms of some of their common features, regarding them as twists or backbends or balancing poses. Looking at postures in terms of the overall category into which they fall is informative in terms of alignment for any practitioner, and for Aṣṭāṅga practitioners, pulling poses out of the usual sequence can be a good practice for shifing perspective.
 This book presents the poses  first in detail within “families” to show the underlying patterns of breath and movement that tie them together. It also gives the traditional sequences as a quick reference. All poses found in the Primary and Intermediate series and a small number of other poses that demonstrate a particular form or idea are included. Some can be-long to more than one family. Yoga is a  fluid,  flowing, evolving system of breath, movement, and form, forever resisting our need to categorize it yet bene ting from our attempts to do so".


I wanted to share a couple of examples of Richard's presentation of asana in the book, here is one featuring Richard....








... and another featuring Mary. 

Note in this example the prop option and also how an Intermediate series posture follows one from Primary.









Hanumanasana from Advanced series, for example finds it's way into the text.






And here's Richard demonstrating Karandavasana just so I can link to my old 2009 Richard Freeman fourteen day karandavasana challenge post.





There are a lot of Ashtanga books these days, this one from Richard and Mary jumps straight to the top of my list. Shambhala sent me a PDF proof, I'll still be buying the print copy from Amazon.jp as soon as it beomes available so I can attack it with a hi-lighter and pencil.

If I were to recommend three modern Ashtanga/Yoga books to buy it would probably be these

Art of Vinyasa - Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor
Ashtanga Manual - David Swenson (especially for the home practitioner)
Yoga Mala - Pattabhi Jois

Also these from Krishnamacharya at some point for context, they are available on my Free Downloads page
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/p/free-downloads.html

Yoga Makaranda - Krishnamacharya
Yogasanagalu - Krishnamacharya

I also highly recommend Srivatsa Ramaswami - Yoga for the Three Stages of Life, not Ashtanga but so closely related.

See also my yoga Reading list http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/p/yoga-reading-list.html



I'll leave you with Richard in Savasana








LINKS

 Here's the link to the book on Richard's website as well as his other book Mirror of yoga , DVDs, apps etc.

There is a Look Inside 'The Art of Vinyasa' feature on the above page



It's already available direct from Shambhala direct and from Amazon around the end of the month (29th December?). Postage could be expensive from Shambhala but they also have an ebook option. I imagine it will be available on Kindle from Amazon also.

My copy is an ebook/pdf, the print is a little small so if Kindle allows you to increase the font size that might be a benefit although you can of course zoom in on the ipad. Both kindle and Amazon are searchable of course which is useful especially for this review, Richard is using sanskrit diacritic marks however which makes searching tricky.

Although I've been sent this free ebook copy I'll still be buying it in print, so I can attack it with a highlighter and pencil.


Here's the book on Shambhala's excellent website, you could have on your ipad as an ebook today.

http://www.shambhala.com/the-art-of-vinyasa.html


NOTE: Supposedly there is a live interview with Richard and Mary about the book being streamed on Shambhala's facebook page. Monday Monday Dec 5th at 7 MST?
https://www.facebook.com/ShambhalaPublications/



Videos

Richard Freeman with Pattabhi Jois 






Interview: Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor




Print

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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