Yesterday was the last day of the Ashtanga Yoga Mysore Week with Luke Jordan. After practice we had breakfast with the group of students. I spoke with Luke about the content of my blog yesterday; which talks about YS 2.46 Sthira-Sukham Âsanam: Asana is a steady and comfortable posture. In addition, Luke recited YS 2.47 and YS 2.48. Let’s talk about those sutras in relation to Ashtanga Yoga!
Sutra 2.47: prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam
By loosening of effort and by meditation on the serpent ananta, asana is mastered.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati explains this sutra in his book “Four chapters of freedom” as following. ”The word Ananta means endless. It also means the snake on which Lord Vishnu (conceived as the ‘preserver’ or the ‘protector’) rests in the ocean of milk. So, symbolically ananta means serpent, but in this sutra the serpent refers to kundalini shakti (the devine spiritual power within every human being). The student should concentrate on the serpent power in the mooladhaara chacra, or any other method of concentrating on the kundalini should be employed.”
Georg Feuerstein explains this sutra as following: “ This sutra seems to describe a simple psychological experience which can be verified by anyone who cares to cultivate posture properly. This is the sensation that the body-or rather one’s image of it – “loosens up” and widens. It’s unlikely that the word ananta refers to the mythological serpent-king Ananta, although symbolic overtones may be present, more probably, it is descriptive as the feeling of becoming extended beyond the skin characteristic of deep relaxation, and of merging with the surrounding infinite (conciousness) space.
Effortless attitude and focus on embracing the infinite
In the west most of us have busy lives in which everything happens because of a concerted effort. Perfecting posture for meditation comes not so much by doing; but of not doing. Surely we have to put some effort into the training; examples: the body to sit straight and be aligned. However, the next step is to learn to do nothing, allowing the posture to settle in for meditation. It is an active form of doing nothing, of consciously ceasing to place any effort into the posture. By consciously, intentionally practicing the effortlessness of posture, along with the focus on embracing the infinite, it becomes self-evident how well these two work together.
Sutra 2.48: tatah dvandva anabhighata
Thereby the pairs of opposites cease to have any impact. (State of non duality)
Swami Satyananda writes in Four chapters of freedom: Dvandas (pairs of opposites) belong to the physical as well as the mental realms. Those belonging to the physical level are heat and cold, hunger and thirst, pain and so on. The physic or mental dvandas are happiness and sorrow. Every now and then our mind is subjected to them by circumstances. This causes a disturbance. On hot days we perspire and are restless and when winter comes it is cold. Thus, in summer we would like it to be a bit colder and winter we would like it to be a bit warmer. This is how the pair of opposites disturbs the mind. The practise of yoga can help to develop resistance, physical as well as mental. This is only possible through yama, niyama and asana.
Tristana: Ashtanga tools to work on YS 2.46 2.47 and 2.48.
In Ashtanga Yoga we focuss on “Tristana”. Tristana means three places of attention or action. The union of these three places of attention is the practice of ashtanga yoga. The three places of attention are: Breath and Movement Synchronicity (vinyasa and asana) Bandhas and Drishti.
The purpose of ashtanga yoga is purification. The body is purified with the bandhas and vinyasa (by the building of heat), the nervous system is purified with the breath, the mind is purified with the practice of drishti.
Breath and Movement Synchronicity – Vinyasa
The literal translation of vinyasa breaks down to; Nyasa which means “to place”, and the prefix Vi which can be translated as “in a special way”. Thus vinyasa means to place in a special way. Vinyasa does not just refer to the postures chaturanga, up dog, and down dog–vinyasa starts with the first sun salute and ends when we lie down for rest pose. When we synchronize breath and movement our yoga practice becomes fluid, graceful, and meditative.
Bandha means, “to bond together”. So our bandhas are about connection–inner connection. We are trying to use our bandhas to create inner lift–to bond together energy pathways so the energy does not get blocked and can flow freely upward.
There is an energetic connection in our lower abdomen, which is explained by many as a kegel exercise or a lifting of the pelvic floor (mula bandha) and an inward upward lift of the abdomen (uddiyana bandha) but actually bandhas are a bit deeper–in the core of the body. When I connect with the inner lift of my bandhas I feel the connection an inch or two below my navel and deep into center of my body. From anatomical point of view these bandhas support us in breathing. Bandhas give us inner strength as they help keep us grounded within ourselves and give us a lightness and ease of movement.
Mula Bandha is linked to end of inhalation and beginning of the exhalation, Uddiyana Bandha is linked to inhalation. Both bandhas remain continuously activated throughout the whole practise. To begin with this is very difficult and you will keep noticing that you’ve forgotten the bandhas. See this though as a success as you have reminded yourself. With practise you’ll remind yourself about bandhas time and time again, until it will become a constant companion to your practise. 🙂
Each pose has a gaze point, although you are not to look directly at the gaze point but turn your gaze in the direction of the gaze point. The purpose of the gaze point is to train the mind–trying to use the eyes to keep the mind focused. The drishti is also good for the optic nerve (by improving blood flow to the optic nerve) and the eye muscles. Drishti also helps us keep our head and neck properly aligned in a pose.
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