YOGA ASANA : THE PHYSICAL PRACTICE
The ancients knew that although the body wears out, it serves as a vehicle for self realisation and as such it has to be kept in good condition. The yogi masters the body and makes the body a fit vehicle for the spirit.
Asanas purify the body and mind and have preventative and curative effects. They are innumerable, catering to the various needs of the muscular, digestive, circulatory, glandular, nervous and other systems of the body. They cause changes at all levels from the physical to the spiritual. Health is a delicate balance of body, mind and spirit.
The body is controlled by the mind: if the body is to be disciplined or mastered, then the mind must be disciplined or mastered. If one aspect of life can be disciplined, then there is no limit to anything in one’s life that can’t be mastered.
The essence of yoga asana is not of attainments, but how consciously we work with our limits, wherever and whatever they may be. There are different basic frameworks of mind that people bring to a class. One involves viewing a posture as an end to be achieved: how far we get in the posture is what counts. Another one views the posture as a tool to explore and open the body. Instead of using the body to “get” the posture, we use the posture to open the body.
STHIRA & SUKHAM
The Yoga Sutras teach us:
2.46 Sthira-sukham asanam. (Asana: postures; sthira: stable; sukham: comfortable.)
The third limb of yoga: the physical practice – is stable and comfortable.
Patañjali’s only advice concerning asana is that helpful posture is steady and without strain. Being calm and soft, while strong and stable takes the practice to a deeper level, that of a mindful meditation. The student may open themselves to a feeling of inner peace amid the relative intensity of a pose.
To understand movement we must feel, not strain. To learn we need time, attention, and discrimination; to discriminate we must sense. This means that in order to learn we must sharpen our powers of sensing, and if we try to do most things by sheer force we shall achieve precisely the opposite of what we need. - Moshe Feldenkrais
Physically, under the conditions of maximum effort or struggle, the student has already reached the limit of their capacity. At this point breathing is arrested; there is unnecessary effort, little ability to observe, and little prospect of improvement.
aesthetic VS functional asana
Group classes are typically dominated by aesthetics. The aesthetic approach to yoga asana is “what do you look like?” and implies that if you don’t look like the ‘ideal pose’, then something is wrong with you and maybe you should be fixed. Aesthetics believes that to master the body every pose should be achieved. It attempts to get every student to look the same in every posture, using concerted effort to make it happen, pushing further and trying harder.
We now live in a yoga era where we see the highest number of yoga injuries ever recorded. Now I don’t think that’s a good thing. We get 150,000 hip and knee joint replacements a year – that’s not a design fault. That is user error. - Gary Carter
The functional approach to yoga asks “What Do I Feel?” It’s not a performance art — it’s introspective — it’s an “I do it because it feels good” art. It asks to know where we are and progress from there. Rather than jumping ahead at the expense of sthira and sukham. This means letting go of preconceptions about students and classes. Instead, observe where they are and keep moving them from there.
Carefully consider the physical requirements of each asana and the class as a whole: physical strength, stamina, flexibility, risks, and contraindications. Instead of getting the student to look exactly like the intended pose, encourage the student to understand the intention behind the pose and that moving away from an aesthetically pleasing alignment is allowed. By doing this we can work with individual students to find ways to achieve the intention that works best for that student. How a student feels in a pose is his or her principle source of instruction and refinement.
The functional approach advocates the use of props — blocks, belts and blankets, etc. — helping students gain the correct alignment suitable for their individual body.
To help you teach functionally here we break down each individual posture and study these key points :
Name of pose
Draw a stick figure of the pose
Describe the general shape of the posture
Category of posture
Benefits / target areas
Contraindications / risk areas
Cue in & out
200HR TEACHER TRAINING
o SUBTLE ENERGY
o TEACH ASANA
PATANJALI ON ASANA
AESTHETIC VS FUNCTIONAL
o TEACH PRANAYAMA
o SELF TRANSFORMATION
o SEQUENCE & PLAN
o BUSINESS OF YOGA
We have grouped together asana into families of postures that similarly shape our bodies into certain patterns and play with how asanas relate to one another, how they work together to open the body, and how they build upon one another to further open and balance us. Using the body's Myofascial Chains as the starting point for understanding.
As we work through each posture, remember the intricate and infinite layers of integration involved. Note that many asanas can reasonably be placed in more than one family; in those cases, we have placed them according to their primary effects or actions.
As we do the postures, we notice over and over, how they touch more than just our physical selves, they touch our minds, our nervous systems, our habits and our emotions.
Spiral Line - Twists
Arm Lines - Arm Balances
Functional Line - Inversions
tying it TOGETHER
ELEMENTS of an
Be here now. The starting point of every asana practice. Focussing the attention fully and directly on what is happening in the moment throughout the class.
Breathing consciously. Explore asana practice through the steadiness and ease of the breath, continuously connecting the breath with the body and mind.
ALIGNING INTO BALANCED INTEGRATION
The quality of balanced alignment is one your students will begin to feel and develop through their personal practice. Apply the concepts of grounding - radiating, rooting - expression, essential for both foundation and refinement in asanas, simultaneously creating space, easing pressure in the joints, and allowing the freer more conscious movement of subtle energy.
Encourage students to sense how they can apply themselves with full energetic engagement while remaining as relaxed as possible. Moving more and more into a sense of effortless ease encouraging students to tune in to the more subtle flow of energy through the whole of their body.
MOVING INTO SYNCHRONICITY
Vinyasa yoga, becomes a practice of movement meditation when the flow of body, breath, and mind are consciously synchronised.
Vinyasa yoga can sometimes feel far from relaxing. The idea of relaxation being termed with letting the body go completely limp. In the context of asana practice, relaxation means letting go of nervous tension while maintaining the active engagement of whatever muscular and energetic engagement is required in maintaining integrity of alignment. Explore what it takes to support the skeletal structure without straining. There’s a tendency to work the more superficial muscles most intensely, there deep muscles closest to and most capable of supporting the joints are not appropriately engaged. Use the breath to draw awareness more deeply into the body, students will begin to feel how they can activate the deep muscles while allowing the more superficial muscles to release unnecessary tension.