Goin back to my roots
As a yoga teacher, I've found it really important to have a home practice to teach from a place of experience and understanding. This is constantly changing and evolving.
Over the last few years my home pratice has been drawn towards the path of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, a dynamic flowing sequential practice of yoga.
There are many teachers of Ashtanga and so many interpretations of the sequence and how it is taught. I was keen to learn the traditional method as first taught by Shri K Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) in Mysore India. This desire led me to New Zealand and a teacher training course with John and Lucy Scott. They have dedicated the last 20 years to practising and teaching this wonderful science.
Both John and Lucy Scott are amazing practitioners and teachers of yoga. And I hope as I practice and digest what I've learnt, I can pass on this traditional method in my classes.
New Zealand is a beautiful place and arriving I was instantly at home. It felt very special to do yoga in a fabulous setting with a group of people who share a love of the practice.
Each morning we would do the Primary Series of Ashtanga called Yoga Chitkitsa or body therapy. Helping to strengthen and release the body and encourage optimum skeletal alignment. At the same time focusing the mind.
The Ashtanga sequence remains the same on a daily basis so we can observe how we transform with respect to this constant. We are able to become more body aware and notice how the mind becomes more one pointed.
The key focus areas of the practice are:
- posture awareness (bandha)
- free breathing (ujjayi)
- looking place (dhristi)
- movement breathing system (vinyasa) with counted method (Sankrit count)
So we'll look at each one in turn over coming bloggs.
I'll begin now with posture awareness or simply bandha. In order to be aware of the body we need to be fully present in the body. In Ashtanga yoga we have a strong awareness of the bandhas throughout the practice.What are the bandhas?
The bandhas can be described as energy awareness or energy locks in the body with physical body locations. The first one being Mula bandha known as root lock. We'll begin here goin back to our roots ......
Our root is our connection with the earth (like the roots of a tree), giving us energy and a feeling of being grounded. Mula Bandha can be physically felt by drawing our pelvic floor muscles in and up - the muscles we use if we were to stop ourselves from peeing mid flow. If this is less than easy to feel then drawing the anus in and up will also connect with Mula Bandha. It is easiest to feel at the end of an exhalation and eventually we apply it for the in breath and the outbreath. (If you are interested in a more detailed description, David Coulter in Anatomy of Hatha Yoga has 4 pages with diagrams dedicated to Mula Bandha).
Mula Bandha is key to the practice. When the mind wanders, we connect back to Mula Bandha. When the body feels less than stable, we connect back to Mula Bandha. We apply the bandha to feel our foundation in a posture so we are able to expand, find space in the body, breath freely and allow energy to flow.
Patanjali in the yoga Sutras talks of posture as Stira, a steady firm foundation and Sukkha, being comfortable. When we have Mula Bandha applied we can straight away connect to our steady firm foundation and then find the freedom or comfort in the posture. John Scott describes this as "having our internal structure strong so we can relax our external scaffolding".
Connecting to Mula Bandha is very beneficial not only in our yoga practice but for everyday life:
- when our internal structure is strong, the breath is able to open up
- being strong internally keeps our organs safe - helping to prevent a prolapse
- for men - it is known that keeping the pelvic floor muscles active helps the prostrate gland to stay healthy
- for ladies - keeping these muscles strong, particularly after child birth, means we are able to jump on a trampoline without any fear!
- when we have a strong core, our lower backs are protected
- by applying Mula Bandha we are not only present in the body but also in our mind so we are able to be aware of our thoughts and speech. John Scott says that Guruji would often say "no Mula Bandha - bad speak, Mula Bandha - good speak".
Coming soon ....... come fly with me - Uddiyana Bandha
If you are interested in Ashtanga yoga, come to my new and improved Wed eve class, 8.00 to 9.30 p.m. St Mark's Church Hall, Westmoreland Rd, BR2 and my Self Practice class Sunday mornings 9.00 to 10.30 a.m. at The Yoga Barn, Keston email@example.com for more details