Thursday, August 28, 2014

Seven Basic Yoga Standing Poses

Utthita Trikonasana - Extended Triangle Pose
Photo by Matthew Greenfield on Wikimedia Commons

This is a bit of a shameless plug on something I first wrote a few years ago on one platform, but then took it down for various reasons.  I've re-written it for a new platform.

Seven Basic Yoga Standing Poses tells why the yoga standing poses are a cornerstone to the practice of Iyengar Yoga, and then gives short descriptions along with accompanying YouTube videos of Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher, John Schumacher, teaching the following poses:
  • Tadasana - Mountain Pose
  • Utthita Trikonasana - Extended Triangle Pose
  • Utthita Parsvakonasana - Extended Side Angle Pose
  • Virabhadrasana II - Warrior Pose variation 2
  • Virabhadrasana I - Warrior Pose variation 1
  • Parsvottanasana - Intense Side Stretch Pose
  • Prasarita Padottanasana - Wide stance Forward Bend
I used only the videos by John Schumacher, because of the cohesiveness of showing the poses all described in a similar way, and because of his very clear and succinct way of instructing, and his strong, clean-lined poses.

I introduce all of these standing poses to my Beginning Level classes, and we continue to return to them on a fairly regular basis in my more Experienced-level classes.   My Gentle classes also do these poses but with more support, often using a chair and / or a wall to add stability.  

These important standing poses help us develop better body awareness as well as greater strength, stability, and flexibility.   

"Live happily and die majestically" B.K.S. Iyengar died at the age of 95

B.K.S. Iyengar
December 14, 1918 - August 20, 2014
B.K.S. Iyengar passed away last week, on August 20, 2014 at the age of 95.  He had heart failure which led to kidney failure -- basically an age-related death.   He lived an exemplary life and his teaching on the art, science, and philosophy of yoga has inspired hundreds of thousands if not millions of people over the years.

Yes, I know that this post is late, and out of sequence with the previous post that talked about the country-wide commemorative practice that was held this past Tuesday.

But instead of writing about BKS Iyengar and his life and death, I've been reading.   Since his death, there have been many excellent articles, obituaries, and reminiscences about him.   Here are a few that I especially appreciated.

B.K.S. Iyengar: An incredible body of work from The Times of India.  Includes his life history and why he started teaching yoga in the way he did.

The Light of Yoga on a Huffington Post blog.  It includes a short segment on Ann Arbor's place in the history of Iyengar Yoga in the United States:
"His American impact began in 1973, when a musician named Mary Palmer, who had studied with the yoga master in India at Menuhin's suggestion, arranged for him to teach at the Ann Arbor, Michigan, YMCA."
B.K.S. Iyengar, Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West, Dies at 95 from the New York Times.

B.K.S. Iyengar Obituary The Guardian

Yoga Guru B.K.S. Iyengar Dies in India Wall Street Journal

The Global Legacy of Yoga's Master Teacher  Listen to On Point, NPR.  Includes as guests, author and journalist Elizabeth Kadetsky, Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher John Schumacher, and professor of Sanskrit Frederick Smith.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tuesday August 26 2014 National Commemoration Day

B.K.S. Iyengar
December 14, 1918 - August 20, 2014
"I always tell people 'live happily and die majestically'".

To honor the memory of Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar, IYNAUS (Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States) invites us to do the following practice sequence at the same time in our homes or yoga studios on Tuesday, August 26.

For our time, Eastern Daylight Time, that is 8:30pm.

Since another group already uses our space at Harmony Yoga of Ann Arbor on Tuesday evenings, I'm encouraging you all to practice in your homes or wherever you are at that time.

The suggested sequence:*
Tadasana - 3 minutes
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Utthita Trikonasana - both sides
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Tadasana - 3 minutes

Sit quietly for 5 minutes

*If you don't know what these poses are,  scroll down to the end for the English translation.  Or make it part of your yoga practice to look up these poses and learn what they are (that's what I really recommend!)

Why is the suggested timing for Tadasana 3 minutes?   For this sequence you are using Tadasana as a meditative experience, by focusing on how you are holding your pose.  Observe how you are positioning and holding each part of the body.  Include paying attention to how the feet are placed and weighted.   What instructions do you remember from class?  Are there any instructions that were particularly helpful for you?

We haven't practiced holding the pose this long in class.  You will get a very different experience of the pose if you hold it for 3 minutes....or even one minute.   Try it and let me know what your experience is.

BKS Iyengar said about Tadasana:
“It is essential to master the art of standing correctly. One thousand things that apply to Tadasana apply to every other pose. See how much your intelligence has to peep in, has to go in, even to understand tadasana? When truly in tadasana, one feels light in body and the mind acquires agility.” 

Here is a link to a YouTube video of Geeta Iyengar (BKS Iyengar's daughter) teaching Tadasana in great detail, including a long segment paying attention to how the feet are placed.

Sitting quietly is also to reflect on the teachings and life of BKS Iyengar, or if you're not very familiar with his work, then reflect on your own yoga practice and experience in the classes you take.

And now the English translation of the sequence.  Look in books or search online if you are unsure of any of these poses.  Any of you who have been to Harmony Yoga for any length of time will be familiar with them.  Modify them how you need to, as you've been taught in classes.

Mountain Pose - 3 minutes
Standing forward bend
Downward Facing Dog pose
Triangle pose -- to the right, then to the left
Downward Facing Dog pose
Standing forward bend
Mountain pose - 3 minutes