Tag Archives: sequence

Sequence as Mantra

It may not be necessary for all yoga practitioners to have a mantra practice. However, I do feel if you are earnest in your practice, you tend to develop one anyway as a consequence. Most Iyengar practitioners have had some exposure to the invocation of Patanjali, which is normally chanted before class. After Iyengar’s passing in 2014, some may have even heard the Guru Mantra which has been added to the end of the Patanjali Invocation.

Iyengar said a curious thing in one of his many writings to the effect that doing asana is like doing japa, or a practice of repeated sound forms or mantra-s. As I am heavily subbing for my teachers this month who are in China doing a teacher training, I have been writing out as many as three times as many sequences to prepare for classes.

Writing a sequence is much like writing an essay, or music composition. It is best to start with a theme. I have been taught to stay within a “clan” of poses or poses of a similar action. For example, standing poses or back bends or abdominal poses. There is a definite beginning, middle, and end to each good sequence. There is also a “sirsasana” and “sarvangasna” in each Iyengar sequence, even though you may do something in lieu of those poses. Typically, dwi pada viparita dandasana is substituted for sirsasana, and setu bandh is substituted for sarvangasana.  I have been studying long enough to see that all rules can be broken, but it is best to stay within logical limits unless there is a deliberate effect you are trying to achieve through the sequence.

ganesa-sculture

As I utter my daily mantra-s I notice too that they have a logical beginning, middle, and end. Take the Ganesh mantra of Om Gam Ganapataye Namah. Most of the times mantra-s begin with the Pranava or OM. Then there is a seed syllable like “Gam.” Then there is a name of the diety Ganapataye.” Then the ending “Namah” which means this is not my “self”  or not my “ego.”

It is said if you utter a mantra enough times, you develop the siddhi of that mantra, or obtain the power that it beholds. Not an easy task. Some mantra-s are said to have be uttered thousands of times before this takes place.

However, if you do a sequence only a few times, you immediately understand its benefits and its limitations. In essence, the “siddhi” of the sequence is revealed to you much sooner than in the mantra practice.

As pictured above, I write my sequences in spiral notebooks and file them away once the book is completed. I have dozens of these filed away through my years of teaching. I like to look in the old ones to see where my practice and teaching have developed, or more importantly how they have stagnated.

Many blessings!

 

 

 

A nice Christmas day sequence by Iyengar teacher Hong Gwi-Seok (Peggy)

I want to wish all of you a merry Christmas.

Here is a wonderful sequence by Junior Intermediate III level instructor Peggy Gwi-Seok (aka “Badass Yoga Nun”). She has a very nice message and works to spread Iyengar yoga to the Detroit area.

As Blogspot and WordPress don’t play well together, I simply added the link.

 

Many blessings everyone!

http://stillinsirsasana.blogspot.com/2016/12/a-yoga-sequence-on-christmas-day.html?spref=fb

A standing pose sequence if you have minimal props

If we want to do more yoga outside the studio, it is best to be practical. I like to integrate yoga into my work day, and therefore keep a few props at my desk at work. For this sequence, all you need are a mat, a block and a strap…

 

1 Tadasana

tadasana

2 Urdvha Hastasana

urdvha hastasana

3 Urdvha Baddanguliyasana

tadasana_urdhavbaddhahastas

4 Gomukhasana Arms (use strap if you can touch hands)

gomukhasana arms

5 Utthita Trikonasana (illustration Lior Hikrey)

lior trikonasana

6 Utthita Parsvakonasana (use block if needed)

Gettysburg U. Parsvakonasna

7 Ardha Chandrasana (use block if needed)

ac IV

8 Prasarita Padottanasana (use block under head if can’t reach the floor)

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.27.00 PM

9 Salamba Sirsasana (omit if mensturating, high blood pressure, or eye problems)

sirsasana iyengar

10 Dandasana

dandasana iyengar

11 Upavistha Konasana

upavistha konasna

12 Baddha Konasana (use strap around feet if you can’t reach them)

baddha konasana

13 Setu Bandha (bend knees, feet on floor if only one block)

setu bandha

14 Savasana

savasana

Enjoy your practice!

 

 

 

 

Message from Geeta-ji

This came straight from the institute (RIMYI) regarding International Yoga Day on Tuesday June 21:

 

A Theme for Your Practice

In his early days, Guruji used to practice and teach forward extensions on Tuesdays.
Forward extension asanas: Janu Sirsasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana, Adho Mukha Upavistha Konasana, Paschimittanasana, Krounchasana, Kurmasana etc.
Then the Eka Pada Sirsasana cycle: Eka Pada Sirsasana, Skandasana, Bhairavasana, Kala Bhairvasana, Chakorasana, Durvasasana, Ruchikasana, Yoga Nidrasana etc.
Finally ending with the twisting asanas such as Bharadvajasana, Marichyasana III, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Pasasana.

He would do the forward extensions for 2 to 3 minutes on each side and stay for as long as
10 minutes in Paschimottanasana.

This will be the theme for our practice on yoga day this year. Let us do asanas from this
category according to our level of practice and ability.

…Below is from IYNAUS….

RIMYI also advised us that “As regards the other events, we can open out our centres for new students to experience a class of Iyengar Yoga. This would mean following the simple asanas as listed out last year from the Preliminary Course. We can also show a film/video of Guruji’s practice, talks, teaching as that is ever inspiring.”

For those of you who would like to take up the suggestion of following a forward extending sequence suitable for early and intermediate level students, we offer the following sequence as an option. Please use any modifications you are familiar with that are suitable to your condition.
Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Uttanasana
[If you have a regular practice of inverted poses, add those here.]
Paschimottanasana, feet apart
Janu Sirsasana
Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana
Marichyasana I twisting
Marichyasana I forward bending
Paschimottanasana feet together
Upavistha Konasana
Bharadvajasana I
Marichyasana III
Ardha Matsyendrasana I
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Supta Baddha Konasana
Savasana

iyengar paschimottanasna

 

Be well, and best wishes for International Yoga Day 2016.

 

A sequence for raw beginners

During Iyengar’s trip to China a few years ago, he layed out a sequence for those who are fresh to yoga. He explains that all the actions in these asanas are the building blocks for furthering one’s practice. If you have never done yoga before, these are the poses from which to start. Here is the sequence, click on links for how to do each pose:

Tadasana

tadasana

Utthita Trikonasana

iyengar triangle

Utthita Parsvakonasana

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 10.34.44 PM

Prasarita Padottanasana

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.26.40 PM

Parsvottanasna

parsvottanasana (2)

End with Savasana

savasana

 

This sequence appeared in an article by Senior Teacher Manouso Manos in the Fall 2012 Yoga Samachar. He says that  “It brilliantly links actions throughout the class and challenges practitioners to carry some actions from pose to pose and to change others–because it teaches straight leg and bent leg actions; it teaches twisting principles as well as stability; and it connects practitioners to their feet and composes the entire body into a cohesive unit.”

If you are brand new to yoga, I would try this sequence daily for a month. It can take between 15 to 30 minutes depending on your availability to practice. Try to devote at least 5 minutes to Savasana and gradually build up to 10. Never omit Savasana, it is the most powerful asana to link to the higher states of the eight limbs.

 

Why Sirsasana is done before Sarvangasana in the Iyengar system

Iyengar nirlamba sirsasana

My good friend and fellow blogger Irish Ashtangi brought up an excellent question: is headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) done before or after shoulder stand (Salmaba Sarvangasana)? As this question is a bit more complex than it seems, I am dedicating a blog entry address the question.

First full disclosure. I practiced Ashtanga for a brief period of six months should not be considered anywhere near an expert authority on the Asthanga system. I have experienced the First Series a few score times so at least I have some reference point to write from.

That being said, I later became certified in the Iyengar system. In my training, I was taught that Salmba Sirsasana (supported head pose) is unequivocally sequenced before Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported All Limbs of the Body pose, or shoulder stand).

First, we have to view these two asanas in terms of temperature. Salamba Sirsasana (I’ll refer to it as headstand from here to simplify) is a “heating” pose as it stimulates the nervous system. Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) is a “cooling” pose which pacifies the nervous system. Here are Guruji’s words on the subject from Light On Yoga:

Sirsasana and its cycle should always be followed by Sarvangasana and its cycle. It has been observed that people who devote themselves to Sirsasana alone without doing the Sarvangasana poses are apt to lose their temper over trifling things and become irritated quickly. (Light On Yoga page 189)

If you consider the eight limbs in logical progression, they go from the external to the internal. From this perspective, it makes sense to a practice a less stimulating pose like Sarvangasana near the end of  the practice to prepare for Savasana, then Pranayama to experience Pratyahara.

In defense of the Ashtanga system, which has Sarvangasana practiced before Sirsasana, the poses are only held for a short period of time compared to the Iyengar system. In the Iyengar system, one builds time in Sirsasana to 10 plus minutes and Sarvangasana a bit longer. From my brief practice of Asthanga, I recall the poses being held for a few breaths lasting no longer than 2 minutes. Please correct me if I am wrong as I am not an authority of the Asthanga/Jois system.

In my training, we are instructed to teach beginners Salamba Sarvangasna before we teach them Salamba Sirsasana. This is because students learn the required movements of the shoulders and the chest in Salamba Sarvangasna that they will take to Salamba Sirsasana when it is later introduced.

One last note about the sequences in the back of Light On Yoga. Most all of them start with the first pose being Salmaba Sirsasana. This has gradually changed in his later teachings, but Sirsasana still tends to show up early in contemporary Iyengar sequences. Also, inversions are more prevalent in an evening practice than a morning one. There are always exceptions to the rule depending on which “effect” you want from the practice. Thank you Irish Ashtangi for asking this question. He is an ardent practitioner and has a very inspiring blog chronicling his yogic journey.

guruji pali II

As a commemorative note, today marks the 13th day after Iyengar’s passing. The 13th day after death is considered an auspicious time. In your practice today, please keep Iyengar in your thoughts.

Paschima pratana sthiti for beginners

My dear friend Sudhanshu Srivastava from Kolkata has been suffering when doing forward bends. He says in Paschimottanasana (Intense stretch pose for the West side of the body as seen below) that he is not able to bend forward but only a few degrees.

paschimottonasana

This is a difficult pose for any beginner and should not be considered until two things happen: the hamstrings loosen and the abdomen softens. That takes a few years of correct practice in the Iyengar method. Otherwise there is a risk of injury, particularly tearing a hamstring muscle. This pose does not appear until the second (Intro II) syllabus which assumes the practitioner has had at least three years of practice in the asanas preceding it.

Here is a sequence of forward bends for people with tight hamstrings and a hard abdomen.

ardha uttanasana

Ardha Uttanasna with wall (hips directly above ankles, wrists on same plane as hips)

Chair downdog

Chair Adho Mukha Svanasna (note heels are pressing down)

U T in chair

Chair Utthita Trikonasna

parsvottanasna with chair

Parsvottanasna Stage I with chair and back heel pressing against wall

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.19.16 PM

Prasarita Padottanasna Stage I with blocks

rolled blanket

First roll a blanket about half way of what it is in picture…

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.50.58 PM

Then insert it in the crease between the abdomen and thighs in a bent knee Uttanasna. Make sure the cavity of the abdomen fills with blanket. Eventually try to straighten the leg keeping the blanket in the cavity. This will be very uncomfortable because the abdomen is tight. Do what you can.

sp mere mortal

Supta padangusthasana with belt keeping abdomen soft.

savasana with chair

Savasana with legs on chair, knees slightly in front of hips as seen above. Note that abdomen remains soft.

This is just an example of a simple forward bending sequence and should not be considered dogma by any means. My aim here is as mentioned above, to address tight hamstrings and abdominal muscles. I put a lot of emphasis on the “softness” of the abdomen because the rock hard “six pack” abdomen makes it very difficult to do forward bends due the overuse. The rectus abdomini are just superficial muscles. The muscles I am concerned with are the much deeper and stronger are the transversus abdomini.

paschimotonasna with kofi

To lastly illustrate my point, the above picture is taken at a Kofi Busia workshop a few years ago. That is me in Paschimottanasna with a little help from Kofi. I weighed about 175 lbs (80kg) in the photo and have a roundish soft abdomen. The red haired lady in the background is obviously much lighter and has a “six pack” style abdomen. That is as far as she got in the pose.