“Evil is a talented logic which challenges love and truth by arguing that since all human beings are by nature selfish and fallible, any pursuit of virtue must be hypocrisy.”
Robert Graves

Yoga on the Mat Practice – Winter 2015: Rediscovering Maha Mudra

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As a result of a consultation (November 12th) with my teacher, my asana and pranayama practices were updated.

Asana

asana-nov-2015

The practice offers me two paths to explore. I’ve tasted the inverted path twice … but have gravitated more towards the, similar to my established practice, maha mudra sequence. Some slight life-instability has expressed as a slight agitation in my right-lower-back and the inverted practice aggrevated it. I am taking more time for life-settling and am looking forward to continuing the inverted-path exploration.

Maha Mudra is back (after years of absence) in my practice sequence. I am again taken by the richness of engagement this posture has to offer. Here are some of the things I encounter as the posture and I get reacquainted.

  1. It starts in my  arms, shoulders adn shoulder-blades as they are activated coming into the posture. I look for length, full activation and spaciousness.
  2. As I bend forward into the posture my attention travels down my spine and arrives in my lower back with engaged lengthening and hips with surrendered opening.
  3. I then focus on my hands and their contact with me leg (unlike in the picture, my hands are placed further back on my leg). I try to create a good engaged hold … not too soft not too strong.
  4. That projects up my arms where my shoulders and shoulder-bladed join the effort.
  5. I am learning to discern between my shoulders and shoulder blades.
  6. I try to allow my shoulder blades to be active while relaxing my shoulders, allowing them to move back and down without sagging forward.
  7. When I try to relax my shoulders my hands sometimes also relax and so my attention travels back to my hands (and then back up to my shoulders – in numerous cycles) to re-engage the grip while trying to relax my shoulders.
  8. That exploration brings me to my upper back. I sense a vector that starts in my hands, travels up the length of my active arms, passed through my open shoulders and active again in my shoulder blades which invites my chest to open which in turn actvates my upper back.
  9. That causes my neck to arch a bit and my head to move back … which I then adjust by re-lenghtening my neck and tucking in my chin.
  10. Though the breath is there all the time throughout this journey, after this physical settling I am able to settle into my breath, refine it within the physical setting and allowing it to inform and refine the physicality.
  11. The first thing to settle in my breath is my attention to it and its length (equal inhale and exhale, currently ~8 seconds each).
  12. Next comes a steadying of abdominal engagement, gradually (in each practice sequence and between practice sessions) finding more stability in the abdomen and gravitating towards an uddiyana sthana form.
  13. As the breath takes shape it projects first into my spine. Inhales engaging the hands-arms-shoulders-shoulder blades -chest-upper back vector – leading to a sense of expansion and intensification. Exhales engaging the abdomen (steadily holding and strengthening) and lower back (opening/lengthening) to create a foundation for the inhale-expansion.
  14. When that settles I find myself back in my hips … more softness and surrendering.
  15. The hips then project me, through my legs, into my feet. The foot on the folded leg relaxing. The foot on the straight leg flexing and engaging.
  16. If all this happens in time (before my 6 breaths are up) I get a taste of a present wholeness.

So much dyanmic exploration in what appears externally like stillness. It has taken almost a month of practice for me to feel an opening up in this intriguing mudra.

Pranayama

My Pranayama practice starts with resuming the last practice sequence (one I had skipped because of memry error) in my previous prescribed path:

8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
10.0.10.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
12.0.12.0 x12br pratiloma ujjayi
8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi

It continues with these practice sequences:

  1. 8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
    12.0.12.0 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    8.0.8.0 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi
  2. 8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
    8.4.8.4 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    8.0.8.0 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi
  3. 8.0.12.0 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    8.4.12.0 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    8.4.12.4 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    4.0.8.0 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi

A bhavana my teacher offered in resuming the last step from the previous set was the 1.0.1.0 ratio throughout the sequence. It was an interesting experience. The most notable difference I could best describe using a metaphor for climbing steps. The 1.0.1.0 ratio felt like more demanding (higher) steps to take compared to a more gradual process that comes from assymetrical steps (wher the exhale is lengthened before the inhale). Then the 1st practice sequence in the new set continued that theme by increasing the step size – removing the 10 second breath and going directly from 8 seconds to 12 seconds – making the steps even higher. The most notabel development for me in taking these steps has been in attention. They are all well within my breathing capacity, yet my ability to traverse them is very much effected by the quality of my presence and attention.

I am now transitioning to the 2nd sequence in the new set.

 

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