Video: John Scott on breath and vinyasa

John Scott isn’t one of the Ashtanga teachers with whom we’re particularly familiar. We know him via name and reputation is about all.

Here he is, in the latest video out of Purple Valley Ashtanga Yoga, talking about breath and vinyasa:

We have a book of his, I think, but I can’t find it. (The downside of a color-coded library). I do note he has some yoga apps, if you check out his website.

Posted by Steve

The weirdness of drishti

A couple weeks back I was wondering how one gets — and I suppose keeps — motivated day after day with an Ashtanga practice. (Thanks to those who provided some feedback; I hope there was something helpful to you if you are/were feeling a bit lethargic on the mat.)

I’ve since been thinking about it more and practicing, as well. In one talk with Bobbie, she pointed out — these are my words summing her eloquent ones up — my drishti sucked.

True enough, I discovered the next morning.

We’ve written about breath and bandhas and drishti plenty here — as you’d expect. You can check out Bobbie’s thoughts on drishti here, for instance. And I know somewhere I suggested that as long as I was focused on breathing, I more or less would say I’m “doing Ashtanga.”

As with any previously uttered/written statement, I reserve the right to refute my earlier thinking. I think breath is important — probably the most important aspect of Ashtanga. And bandhas are critical — your asanas are essentially flappy — maybe even broken — in the middle without them.

But then there’s drishti. It may be the “least important” piece to the puzzle, but at the same time it may pack more bang for the buck than anything else.

All three, of course, make up Ashtanga’s Tristana. Check out this wonderful summary of Tristana from ashtangayoga.info:

Tristana is the key to this spiritual side of yoga. Tristana is the name for the union of vinyasa, bandha and drishti. Only when this state is achieved, does the lotus blossom of ashtanga yoga unfold its petals. Ujjayi breathing is the foundation of vinyasa. The alignment of the body in asana is achieved through bandha. Drishti completes the trio and builds the bridge, to carry the essence of your practise from the yoga mat into your daily life

That substitutes vinyasa in for breath, sort of — breathing is the “foundation of vinyasa” in this version. But to my point: check out how drishti “builds the bridge” to a practice that is more than just what’s happening on the mat.

That’s been my experience (albeit over a small set of practices). Getting my drishti down a little better — focusing my gaze and, by default, my concentration — feels like a minor adjustment or correction to the practice, but one that then produces massive changes and, almost, aftershocks.

“Completes the trio” undersells things, I think. “Locks you in and rockets you forward” might be closer to the experience.

And that’s weird. All from a narrowing of the gaze.

Posted by Steve

Riding behind the crest of the breath

A handful of years ago, when I spent a week in Tulum with Tim Miller for his Primary Series retreat, one of his suggestions for my practice was to hold the standing poses for twice the usual length — 10 breaths, in other words.

I’ve pretty well stuck with that over the years, except during Led classes or when visiting an unfamiliar shala. (Probably then I’ll still go for six or seven breaths.)

Practicing at home, it’s essentially a given: I hold all of the standing poses that long, at least, and throw in a few other variations (a Hanumanasana sequence after the Prasaritas, for instance) that just seem right, or needed.

During the past week, though, I’ve been a bit pressed for time a couple of mornings, and so the alteration I made was to cut back those standing poses to five breaths. (I think it trims eight or 10 minutes off the practice).

What I observed was a pronounced sense of the movement, the vinyasas, of the standing poses. It feels downright quick to go from right side to left, or left side to twist, or to move through the Prasaritas so quickly. But simultaneously, the power of the breath as the leader of the practice — moving with it, riding the breath (not quite like riding a wave, in my imagination; on a wave, you’re in front of the curl; with the breath, it feels like you’re behind the crest — to me, anyway) — is inescapable.

This isn’t quite the same as what I experienced a couple of years ago after a one breath per pose practice, but it is similar. Thinking back to that, it was all breath and movement. Having the five breaths in the state of the pose, in that stillness of the asana, makes for a sense of “now we’re going” when the movement comes.

Again, the breath seemed more like the leader; in the single-breath variation it was the unity of breath and movement. This time it was stillness, now breath is taking you on, stillness. And somehow too much stillness in between seems to diminish the breath’s proper place. For me, anyway. I suppose optimal time between Vinyasas may vary.

Posted by Steve

We told you to start reading Ashtanga Yoga Therapy’s blog: On full vinyasa practice

Last week, we pointed you to Anthony Gary Lopedota’s new blog. And we told you to add it to your reading list.

Well, if you haven’t, you’re falling behind. Way behind.

A link is right here. He’s gotten eight posts up — that’s more than we’ve done, although we did ratchet the postings back (a while back) because people we knew in LA said they couldn’t keep up — since midweek. Still, impressive output.

Here is just a part of his answer about full vinyasa practice:

As far as the ashtanga yoga of KPJ, full vinyasa is traditional and all other forms of this practice are abbreviated. The longest living profession in the western world is orchestra leaders with their constant arm and shoulder movement. This is the most important part of vinyasa. When this movement of the arms is accompanied with deep consistent breathing the lymphatic system is supported to do the job of cleaning and removing toxins and debris from the body. This cleansing of the body is the most important part of health and longevity. Asana practice is mostly important to gain health and longevity which will help with spiritual development. It is difficult to focus on the latter limbs of Raja Yoga if one is sick and uncomfortable. It also, not always but often, takes time to awaken, so more time will give us a better chance at the part of the evolutionary process that takes place while in this body, on this earth.

Full vinyasa is not always the best method depending on the person’s state of health and depending on how fast they breathe and move.

Go to the link to find out who he thinks are the strongest examples of Ashtanga practice.

Posted by Steve