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Here you'll find some writings I've done, only partially edited, out of my journal. Please let me know if you've enjoyed them, or hated them, or anything at all.
yogidavid@gmail.com

what is yoga?
what are concepts?
why do we practice asana?
why not stretch?
what is the nature of physical tensions?
what happens on the sensory field?
what is Yuck and Yum all about?
how do we turn tension into extension?
what is the relationshiop between breath, prana, and spirit?
what are the bandhas?
what is ujjayi breath?
what is ashtanga?
what is Dynamic Yoga?

What is yoga?

Yoga is to surrender the projections of the mind, then the true nature of the self can manifest. The activity of yoga is self-inquiry.

Yoga means union. Joining together. Integration. We interact in duality. We differentiate this from that - organic from inorganic - plant from animal - animal from human - self from other - mind from body from spirit . In essence we are all in this together. Without soil there would be no food. Without plants there would be no oxygen. Without animals there would be no carbon dioxide. Humans are actually animals! What would our heart be without our lungs. Humankind's quest for the spiritual indicates we don't recognize that everything is spiritual. Connecting to our spiritual nature releases us from that which binds us.

A bit about Concepts

Nothing I can tell you is the truth. Everything you will find here is a concept. Concepts can only POINT towards the truth. Consequently they can also point you away from the truth. After hearing that in a talk by Wayne Liquorman I decided the only new concepts that are useful are ones that integrate or remove at least two old concepts. Concepts are what stand between us and the truth.

In Patanjali's yoga sutras, he refers to the Citta Vrtti, or the turnings of the mind, and identifies five kinds: (correct) knowledge, misconception (incorrect knowledge), fantasy, sleep, and memory. The opening sutras suggest that by stilling these fluctuations, we get in touch with our true self. Otherwise we identify with the vrttis AS ourselves. When you let go of anything you hold as true, only the truth comes back. In other words, if you love something, set it free.

Why do we practice asana?

The postures are used to challenge the body to bring out the tensions that show us what our patterns of projections are, sheding light on them, bringing them into our awareness so that we may deal with them.

The practice of hatha yoga teaches us to focus, be present, and let go of our long held misconceptions about who we are - let go of ideas of what we can't do, move into the realm of exploring the possibilities of our life.

These exercises help expose the unity of all things because as we peel back layer upon layer of tired, constraining, outdated concepts, we eventually encounter our true nature, the nature that is life energy. that is matter. that is consciousness. that is the drshtr (sp?) = the seer = the witness

In order to move in the kinds of ways a hatha yoga practice might lead you, we need to be extremely present to what is happening in our bodies as we move and change our shape. We need to look at the very nature of our limitations. In order to experience the nature of our limitations, we need to move towards them and experience them. Once we accept that they are actually happening, we can begin the inquiry into why they are there and how they serve us.

Why not stretch?

I think stretch is a really misleading word. Just like with a rubber band, if you just play with the elasticity of the muscles, it eventually goes back to it's old form.

That's using counter force to pull against a muscle that is tight because of a buried tension.

if you look to unify/integrate (yoga) the body, using the poses to help you find buried tensions in order to understand them better, and through that understanding let them go, then we're talking about yoga, self exploration.

When you untie a knot in a rope it's permanently longer, when you stretch a rubber band it goes back to it's old shape. if you tie a knot in a rubber band and stretch it, while it may appear longer from a distance, you actually tighten the knot.

Additionally, if we stretch rather than extend there is a tendency to stretch the tendons and ligaments rather than lengthen the muscles. This destabilizes our joints and creates an opening for injury.

The nature of physical tensions

Tensions in the body are the result of Samskara - unresolved past actions. Everything that has happened in our life that has not yet been resolved gets carried around with us - as memory, as physical tension, etc - until we eventually come to some sort of resolution about it.

The asana are used to move the body into shapes that challenge these tensions so that they are returned to the foreground where they can be exposed, then resolved, permanently. Muscular tensions are part of our muscular memory. The physical limitations we experience are due to our guiding principal of avoiding pain and moving towards pleasure. As we approach these old pains, the surrounding muscles grip to keep us from exposing them, and re-experiencing that pain.

However, when we do experience them and return them to the foreground, we are presented the opportunity to see them for what they are. With patience, forgiveness, openness, honesty, generosity, and an awareness of our full potential, we can resolve them and let go of them, permanently, by dissolving them in the light of our awareness.

Additionally, in my practice I find that I always encounter a psycho somatic limitation before I reach the physical counterpart. Letting go of the psychosomatic block first slides the experience of the limitation closer to it's origin.

How adverse are we to feeling things in our bodies that are rarely felt?

The level of sensation

I believe the sensations most people think of as "stretching" are actually the sensations associated with resisting an opening. The sensations of release feel like a sigh of relief rather than a strain. Increased range of movement is gained by letting go rather than pulling against. The strained feeling's association with release is due to its proximity. We feel the strain that points our the tension. We watch that tension until we are no longer afraid of it, and we can let it go forever.

For instance: Are they there to protect us from injuring ourselves? Are they preventing us from moving outside the range of what we already know to be comfortable?

YUCK and YUM
In observing my daughter Eva grow and learn, I've seen that when experiencing new foods, her first reaction to something different is her "YUCK" face. It generally takes some coaxing to get her to admit that the food is actually tasty and nutritious. Then she can say "YUM" and enjoy that very same limitation.

Same goes for sensory experiences in the body. When we begin to experience a part of our body or joint that we don't normally move, we brace ourselves for the expected pain. That bracing is often the action that causes the painful sensations in the first place!

Turning Tension into Ex-tension
The very same nerve channels that send sensory information to the brain are used to send motor instructions back to the muscles. The element of the intense sensations we experience that are the result of excessive tightening our muscles can be released by unclenching and actively extending the very muscle that feels tight. With practice, we can use that information the senses are sending us about exactly where the tensions are in our body to tell the very same muscle to extend rather than contract.

Prana, breath and spirit
The connection between breath and spirit is reflected both in the Sanskrit 'prana' (breath, spirit, life force, energy) and the English 'respiration' (re-spiriting the body). If we are at all interested in the spiritual aspects of yoga practice - awakening to spirit, understanding our spiritual connectoin to others, and the like - then a focus on the breath seems an appropriate place to start.

We can live months, even years without eating, days or weeks without drinking, and minutes without breathing. When we are born we breathe our first breath, and that breath keeps flowing until we breathe our last breath. Breath is that subtle space where the spiritual meets the physical.

If we can accept that breath is at least very closely tied to our spirit, and we understand that we're all sharing the same air, it makes it easy to see how we're all connected. Living creatures have been recycling the same air since the beginning of life. Plants and animals symbiotically resotring air for each other.

This also makes me wonder what convenience is worth polluting our air, our spirit. And how can we justify cutting down the forests that enable us to breathe. But how to break out of our very lifestyle, and that of our loved ones? A bit beyond my field of expertise at this time. Perhaps visit here: circleoflife.org.

Bandhas
The bandhas are the gates of energetic flow through the body, that, when engaged, promote comfortable stability (asana) in the body regardless of position. They're fairly hard to describe, but I'll see what I can do to help illucidate. Remember what I said about concepts above.

To even discuss the bandhas we need to look at what they are, what actions clarify them, and what they feel like.

Bandha, is often translated as locks. John Friend says they're more like canal locks than door locks, regulating the flow of air. I quite like that imagery, however it literally means "bound" or "to bind". So what are we trying to bind here?

The three most frequently referenced bandhas are mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandara bandha. Together they are the maha bandha, or great bandha. In short, they refer to and enhance the 3rd and 4th limbs of ashtanga yoga, asana and pranayama. Asana is comfortable stability, mula is the stability, uddiyana is the comfort. Pranayama is the release of the breath, which jalandara, somewhat paradoxically, enables.

  • Mula Bandha: meaning root lock. This refers to the grounding, rooting effect of this energy gate. It is part of the apana vayu, or downward flowing wind. This refers back towards the relationship between breath and prana, and hints at the relationship between breath and bandhas.

    there are many actions that can be taken to encourage the experience of the bandhas. I'll write about some of them now.

    1. exhale very deeply, that creates the downward flowing wind,and you can feel, perhaps, a toning of your lower abdomen. If standing, you may feel a grounding down through your feet, or rooting.
    2. lie on your back, and relax. Tilt your pelvis in such a way that your lower spine is lifted up off the floor, exaggerating the upward arch of your back, and lowering the backs of your thighs to the floor. Then, maintaining the contact of your thighs with the floor, extend your tailbone down towards your feet. This tends to create a vortex feeling in your pubic region
    3. lie on your back, and relax as completely as you can. Being aware of your breath and how it changes through this progression, bring your heels to touching, then the balls of your big toes, then your inner ankles. push the balls of your big toes away and draw your baby toes back towards your face. notice again any change in your abdomen. maintaining that action in your feet, legs and abdomen, reach your fingers beyond your head towards, as far away from your toes as you can, extending yourself as long as you can. maintaining that full extension, relax your abdomen and your breath as much as you can within that action.

    In my opinion, unhelpful instructions I've heard are things like tightening your buttocks, tightening your anus, and lifting your pelvic floor. I believe these are instructions that are intended to bring your awareness down to the region of mula bandha, but they all seem like tension creating activities. The lifing of the pelvic floor does happen as a result of mula bandha, the vortex created above the pelvic floor will lift it, but holding it the way I used to try before I met Godfrey didn't feel very good.

    So what is being bound here? It's the accessory muscles of exhalation.

  • Uddiyana Bandha means upward flying lock. This refers to the lightness offered in it's practice. It is most often taught as uddiyana bandha kriya (action). This excercise, which I will not describe online because it should be learned in the watchful eye of an experienced teacher, helps clarify the actions that expose the vortex that is uddiyana bandha, but it is not uddiyana bandha itself.

    uddiyana bandha can also be practiced quite safely like this
    1. inhale deeply and hold your breath.
    2. exhale, and inhale deeply and hold your breath again, clarifying which valve blocks the flow of air.
    3. exhale, and inhale deeply noting the opening of your ribcage as you take air in, holding and reclarifying the valve
    4. exhale, and inhale deeply and attempt to hold the breath more with the ribcage than the valve
    5. exhale, and inhale deeply and hold your breath with both valve and ribcage, then WITHOUT EXHALING release the valve
    6. maintain the openness of the ribcage observing the flow of breath in and out of your body without the assistance or interference of your ribcage, occasionally re-opening the ribcage.
    7. repeat 5-6 a few times, observing that openness and breath flow
    8. as you repeat, attempt to release your abdomen to observe any occurence of a vortex or sucking up of your solar plexus, NOT from tightening or sucking in of the abdomen, only from the opening of the ribcage

  • Jalandara bandha, i've only seen translated as the throat lock. Jala means net or membrane, like those between the bases of your fingers. It is practiced by sticking your neck very far out dropping your chin, and pulling it back in such a way that the breath is held.

    it is also experienced when practicing uddiyana bandha, especially during uddiyana bandha kriya, as a drawing in between the collar bones. This, again, is the vortex, and the cause of the sound of ujjayi breath

What they feel like, in general, in my experience, is a sort of energy vortex. What do they feel like TO YOU?

Remember that these actions are things that will help you find the bandhas, they are NOT the bandhas themselves

Ujjayi breath
Ujjayi breath translates as "victorious breath", and it is often somewhat misleadingly taught as a syllibant breath, hissing breath, loud breath. The problem most people encounter with ujjayi is over straining, trying too hard.

Try this:
- tighten your pallete, press your toungue to the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose.
- be aware of any sound that happens
- be aware of the location of that sound
- be aware of any tightness in your face
- be aware of any other physical or emotional tensions and/or releases offered from this technique

Now try this:
- relax your pallette and your toungue.
- maintaining that relaxation, breathe deeply
- be aware of any swirling sound in your throat
- be aware of the location of that sound
- be aware of any softness in your face
- be aware of any other physical or emotional tensions and/or releases offered from this technique

Hopefully that description was adequate for you to clearly feel the difference. Let me know if it is unclear.

Jalandara Bandha is a throat lock down at the nape of your neck. that's where the sound should come from. Deep down inside your neck, at the top of your lungs almost. This tends to create an ease of being, which is often touted as the benefit of yoga.
PRACTICE WHICHEVER METHOD ENCOURAGES AN EASE OF BEING FOR YOU

Ashtanga

Ashta-anga means 8 limbs

Yama: ethical regulations
There are five yamas, or regulations, that are universal, not bound by status, place, time, or circumstance. These five regulations are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (honesty), asteya (not stealing), bramacharya (awareness of the divine), aparigraha (non grasping/non attachment).

Yama, as they relate to an asana practice, are:
sensitivity to the presence of aggression in your striving, honesty about abilities, openness to what is offered in the postures, awareness of the divine source of action, letting go of unuseful concepts

Niyama: personal regulations
There are also five niyamas: saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (passionate searching), svadhyaya (self-study), isvara pranidana (surrender to the supreme Self)

Niyama, as they relate to an asana practice, are:
purity of intent, contentment with what is actually happening, passionate about practice, being selfaware and focused, and acceptance of the innate wisdom of the higher self.

Asana: posture
Asana is a steady comfortable pose. By meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered. Most yoga classes these days seem to only focus on asana, how to do the poses. Some of us try so hard to get into some outward form that we sacrifice our comfort and stability. Focus on returning to that place, transforming our body - no matter what the position - into a comfortable seat for meditation.

Pranayama: releasing of the breath
Prana is the life force that flows in the air. Ayama means to release. We can go months without eating, days without drinking, minutes without breathing. In practicing pranayama we use techniques to alter the flow of our breath in order to expose our habits, in the hopes of freeing ourselves from those habits.

Pratyahara: turning the senses inward
We spend so much time in the modern world, as in our pracice, looking outward for answers, looking at our teacher or neighbors for how to do the postures, finding a spot on the wall to help us find our balance. Today we focus on listening inside for inner guidance.

Dharana: meditative focus
In each pose there is a drishti, or point of focus. We each have our own trouble spots as well. During practice we may find ourselves distracted from time to time. Today we avoid turning away, we practice our focus, and train ourselves back to our path.

Dhyana: meditative contemplation
In contemplation, we are not locking our focus on one object, one sense, at the exclusion of all others, but opening ourselves up to all stimulus, being equally focused on everything that is actually happening, increasing our general awareness.

Samadhi: being absorbed in spirit
Yoga means union. Joining together. Awareness of the fact of an already existing union. The union of mind-body-spirit, together with the universality of that spirit, makes us all one. We are not human beings looking for a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. Contacting our spiritual nature releases us from that which binds us.

Dynamic Yoga

Dynamic Yoga was developed by Godfrey Devereaux, who did his yoga training in India with B.K.S Iyengar,and the unrelated B.N.S Iyengar. Godfrey also has zen training, training as a Montessori teacher, and training as a macrobiotic cook.

The Dynamic Yoga method was developed by Godfrey drawing from his experience as a yogi and an educator. He discovered that BKS Iyengar's zillions of micro-instructions all fell along the lines of spirals running through the body.

This is similar to a concept that has been independantly developed by yet another world famous yogi, John Friend.

The idea of a spiralic dynamic is nicely supported by the macrobiotic teachings that all energy moves in spirals (waves), which is what initially drew Godfrey's attention to them.

Using this information, Godfrey found that instructions like 'turn your left ankle in, open the back of your left knee to the wall behind you and rotate your outer left hip forward' could much more simply be stated as 'more inward spiral'.

I hope to pass this simplicity on to any student that cares to listen.

Dynamic Yoga is also about the discovery of the bandhas, energetic locks. More like the locks of canals than the locks on our doors, opening and closing to allow energetic flow.

My classes draw primarily from the Dynamic Yoga method, adding my experience studying Patthabi Jois' Mysore style Ashtanga, Gary Carter's take on Vanda Scaravelli's teachings, and various workshops in related disciplines. see my resume for complete details.

A flowing practice with an emphasis on the activation of the bandhas (energy locks), and directing that energy along the internal spiralic dynamic of the body. Sound complicated? It's NOT.

You will learn the basic principles of alignment that apply to any posture through increasingly challenging (and fun) variations.

Exploring your potential develops your potential.


*Interestingly, Kia Mieux, another teacher in the SF Bay area, is teaching a style she also calls Dynamic Yoga. I have not yet taken her class and cannot speak on the similarities or differences in our styles.