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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Book Recommendation: Yoga for Your Life

I just re-read this book by Margaret and Martin Pierce, something I’ve done several times. Such a great resource – it’s a practical, how-to manual that gives a series of eight practices that build on each other and become progressively more challenging. Beautiful pictures supplement written instructions. As far as I know, it’s unique in the world of yoga books because it provides actual practices from start to finish

What I like so much is the emphasis on breath and movement. The Pierce’s studied with TKV Desikachar for decades and this book is true to the tradition that he represents. This tradition, which dates back over 1,200 years, is also the one on which Viniyoga is based.

Lucky for me, Margaret Pierce was my first yoga teacher. I really learned about the fundamental importance of breath in yoga. Margaret’s a gifted teacher and brings such creativity to every class. Wish I lived close enough to still go to her classes!



Asana Practice & Setting an Intention

Just as an asana (posture) is adapted to fit the needs of a student, the overall purpose of the practice also needs to be considered when making adaptations. Actually, the overall purpose would be considered first then the asanas would be selected. We call this setting an intention for the practice.

Setting an intention gives the practice direction and focus. It serves as a guide for combining and sequencing the various asanas with maximum benefit for the student.

Following are examples of intentions used in creating a practice …

  •  to energize in the morning or relax in the evening
  •  to prepare the body and breath for seated breathing (pranayama)
  •  to teach a fundamental principle such as matching the length/flow of the breath with the pace of movement
  •  to prepare for a specific event such as an athletic competition
  •  to heal a chronic condition that causes pain and/or suffering

Each practice could use many of the same asanas. What makes the result different is their sequence in the practice, the number of repetitions and the length of stays, and the way the breath is used.

The combinations and possibilities are endless and always need to be selected with the needs/interests of the student(s) top of mind.



Viniyoga: Appropriate Application

This week’s blog continues our discussion about asana, specifically Viniyoga’s approach to asana. Remember, last week we explored the benefits of asana practice and repetition/stay.
In ancient Sanskrit, Viniyoga means appropriate application. What the Ancients understood and what Viniyoga (the yoga method) embodies is that one size most definitely does not fit all in asana practice.
The next time you’re out and about – at a restaurant, grocery store, etc. – play a little game. Observe the people around you. Notice how different everyone and everybody is. Some people walk with long strides while others shuffle along. Some have shoulder slump while others throw their shoulders back military style. Some folks are sway backed and some have flat backs. The list could go on but you get the idea. People watching is educational because everyone is so different.
Given all these differences, does it make any sense to force everyone into the same yoga posture? Okay, that’s a rhetorical question.
Viniyoga teaches that asana practice is about the student first and adapts the asana to the student’s needs. For example, suppose one student has a rounded upper back and another has a relatively flat upper back. The position of the arms during standing backbends would be different for each student so as to not exacerbate the respective conditions.
Other types of yoga teach that there is a correct, classical form and the student’s objective during practice is to master the classical form. In other words, the emphasis during practice is on the asana rather than the student.
There are other questions to consider when adapting asanas and we’ll explore those next week. But, the first question to answer is always what are the needs and interests of the student?



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