Saturday, February 20, 2010

Practise makes perfect

Spent the day at the Toronto Iyengar Centre yoga workshop learning about home practise and yoga sequencing.

Andy started by talking about some of the obstacles to practise.

Patanjali (depicted at right) had chronicled these 150 BCE:  physical (disease, inertia, indolence, lack of interest); mental (doubt, heedlessness, carelessness, indiscipline of the senses); intellectual (erroneous thoughts like, "I don't need it," or "I worked hard yesterday"); spiritual (lack of perseverence, backsliding); sorrow and despair; unsteadiness of body; irregular breathing.  That just about covers all my excuses!

We didn't spend much time talking about how to surmount the obstacles, but we did look at one recommended approach to sequencing:
  • standing poses 
  • strong inversions
  • backbends
  • sitting poses
  • shoulderstand (and family)
  • forward bends
  • savasana
    Poses from each group don't need to be performed at each session. There is no notion of counter-poses. Just about the only 'rule' would be that if you are doing sirsasana (headstand) you should also do something from the shoulderstand group.

    There are lots of different systems out there, and each seems to recommend something different.  Just check out the patented Bikram sequence, Tibetan Sivinanda or the Ashtanga Primary Series.  Even different Iyengar schools promote different sequencing, from what I can tell from my Google search.  I will leave the debates and analysis about which approach is 'right' to others.

    However, the approach I learned today makes sense to me because choosing a few poses from each group or focusing on a theme is a systematic way to create an endless variety of sequences.  There is no need to limit yourself to the same set of poses day after day.  You can keep things fresh and interesting; tailoring to your current needs and energy levels.

    The list of poses was shared by their Sanscrit names, which  made things a bit challenging.  I was busily leafing through the Light on Yoga book to figure out just which pose was which.  I know the English names, and know the poses, just not the Sanscrit.  Luckily it wasn't printed in Sanscrit alphabet or I would've been truly lost.

    The rationale for using Sanscrit names is that by going back to the original references you avoid confusion of local labels and slang (my 'fish' might not be yours... and just what the heck is an 'umbrella' pose?).  In that way it is a bit like learning Latin plant names. 

    Maybe I could get images of the poses and then label it in Sanscrit using big letters, with the English in small letters?

    The pose at right is Ustrasana (camel).

    Zachary Art has a series of beautiful images, along with their Sanscrit names and great Iyengar quotes.  Maybe I could start here for inspiration.

    If I preoccupy myself this way I am likely to spend more time crafting the list than actually doing the poses.  Hmmm, wonder how Patanjali would categorize that particular obstacle?

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