Friday, June 24, 2011

Back To The Basics

I had the pleasure and privilege to spend a weekend among other yogis with Jonny Kest. Jonny has a yoga teacher training program in Michigan and has a profound way of uniting his students as he gifts to them the foundations of the yoga practice and principles. He helped me to remember the origins of yoga as well as the many benefits of the practice. I was certainly humbled in his presence.

Jonny Kest is a classically trained yogi and reminded his students of the foundation of the practice. He showed his trainees how to teach the Ashtanga Vinyasa Surya Namaskura Series A. We even attended one of his classes and experienced the Primary Series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice.

To break this down for you, and why I am writing about this in my blog, is that Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga sets the stage for many modern styles of the yoga practice. Ashtanga (meaning 8 limbs) was first made known in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. He saw the eight aspects of yoga as limbs of a tree. He states that "wisdom and spirituality unfold in the same manner as a tree grows.....every tree in the forest has the same goal; to reach the light."

K. Pattabhi Jois is the founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. He was taught a particular system of yoga by Krisnamacharya. This system has been handed down to thousands of students around the world and continues to be the hub for the basic yoga practice. Jonny Kest is a student of Pattabhi Jois and has continued this tradition.

Surya Namaskura is simply the Sun Salutation that we all know very well. The asanas (postures) in this series are designed to energize the entire body as it flows with the breath. The is the basis of Hatha Yoga. The Salute to the Sun is the basic foundation of Hatha Yoga, so I thought it would be beneficial to remind ourselves, not only of the history of Vinyasa Yoga, but the basics of our yoga practice and how it can thoroughly effect and change our lives and how we view it.

Surya Namaskara A (The Sun Salutation Series A)
(This text is taken directly from "Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual" by David Swensen, an acclaimed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga instructor and practitioner.)

Samasthiti - Stand with both feet together. Legs active. Spine long. Engage the bandhas. Breathe deep.
One - Inhale raising both arms. The lungs should be full just as the hands touch. Gaze at the thumbs.
Two - Exhale fold forward taking chest toward your knees as you look toward your toes.
Three - Inhale lengthen your spine as you take your gaze to the horizon.
Four - Exhale step or jump back. Lower down while gazing straight ahead.
Five - Inhale straighten the arms and roll onto the tops of the feet. Knees lifted. Toes pointed.
Six - Exhale as you push the hips up. Lengthen the spine from your sacrum through the top of your head. Press the heels toward the floor and lift the kneecaps. Gaze at your navel. Engage the bandhas.
Remain here for 5 deep breaths.
Seven - Inhale as you either jump or walk the feet forward. Lengthen the spine and take your gaze to the horizon.
Eight - Exhale fold forward taking chest toward the knees and gaze toward your toes.
Nine - Inhale raising both arms high over the head until palms touch. Gaze at the thumbs.
Ten - Exhale lower your arms in preparation for the next Surya Namaskara or Vinyasa.
Repeat this series 5 times.

This sequence should sound and feel familiar to you. It is the foundation of our yoga practice. Remember, also, in your daily life that we can wander away from our humble beginnings, sometimes forgetting our roots. It is important to often stop, turn around, and look back at where we came from. It helps us to see our growth and our progression forward on this life journey.


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