Joints are used as interactive control points that can be set to allow/prevent rotation and/or movement and then the anatomically correct illustrated figire responds accordingly. There’s no floor consciousness or gravity and there’s still quite a bit of testing and refinement to do – but it’s coming around very nicely 🙂 Soon, I hope, online for you to move with your mouse 🙂 and then …
Once in a while life gifts me with a special on-the-mat Yoga practice session. In my memory they are the most intense rewarding practices I have experienced – they are an event apart from all others. Yesterday I gained some insight into what they are and why I have a fond relationship with them.
What Are Intense Yoga Practices?
This is a great opportunity to communicate and clarify what, for me, makes an intense practice:
- A consistent and peaceful presence throughout the practice.
- Full breathing – ujjayi seems to take on a different sound – as it if resonates in a large and hollow chamber. Breath is never short though constantly challenged.
- A direct experience of correct and sustainable effort in which full and deep movement is achieved without any need for pushing (in body or mind) and with relatively short rests between postures.
- Excellent range of movement and responsiveness in the body. A wonderful dance of flexibility supported by strength.
- Tendency towards static stay in posture.
- A clear sense of build-up throughout the practice.
- A crown posture which lends itself to infinite refinment and exploration.
- Intense heat most of which is contained within.
- A pulsing throughout the body – very prominent in savasana.
- An asana practice that practically demands Pranayama.
- A Pranayama practice in which time stands still, in which the breath swings smoothly and feels like it can go on forever.
- A Pranayama which ends in such stillness and presence so that meditation is already there without there being any sense of transition.
- A quiet and still mind with an occassional tempting sensation of swinging or dizziness.
- A clear ringing in the ears of the flute within.
- Tears and a smile.
What I Like About Intense Yoga Practices
What’s not to like? 🙂 Well there are plenty of superficial things to like – things that have undesired effects on the ego: (1) immediate inflation in the short term which then transforms into (2) irrelevant expectations in the long term. But there is something that does go deeper – and again it is found off-the-mat.
Intense practices are not some sudden and unexplained explosion of untapped physical abilities. I have recently written about some preparations I make in my life off-the-mat to support my practices on-the-mat. The short term effects of these preparations are better practices. Intense practices occur when I sustain a combination of good living off-the-mat and good practice on-the-mat over a period of time:
- Intense practices indicate to me that I’ve been doing something right – that I’ve achieved a good existence over the past days or weeks.
- Intense practices confirm my life habits and beliefs more then they do my physical qualities.
- Intense practices remind me to appreciate the choices I have made.
- Intense practices empower and direct me in facing doubts that may come at me in the future.
- Intense practices demonstrate to me that Yoga is indeed an encompassing and whole experience.
- Intense practices teach me to appreciate the common day-to-day practices where I perform uninteresting tasks of maintenance that keep me running smoothly.
- Intense practices are then an occasional visit to a race track where I can open-up my engine to full throttle and appreciate and enjoy the great ride that I am 🙂
I’ve been observing a bunch of things on the left side of my body – so I thought to pool them together, hoping that in time it will reveal something to me:
- During the last two morning practices, when I first bent forward I felt a pressure-pain in the vicinity of my left temple.
- Though it’s not with me at the time of this writing, the last (recurring) discomforts I had in my lower back presented on the left side. When this was happening I noticed that, for exampe, in standing forward bends, when my hands touched the floor, the left hand would be pulled closer to the body (unless I compensated for it) as if there was a tension pulling it in
- In warrior posture variations, when my left leg is forward (stretched on the back side) – I have less range of movement then on the opposite side.
- In trikonasana (triangle pose) bending down to the right (which stretches the left hip) is limited (in comparison to the left side stretch) – there is a natural tendency to introduce a slight forward bend to accommodate the limitation. I therefore go down lower and focus more on opening the chest – usually by working the left shoulder blade.
- In assymetric seated forward bends I have less opening-range in the left then I do in the right hip.
- My left shoulder and it’s surroundings have known tensions and pains in recent months (projected as far as my heart in Pranayama practices when breath is focused into the chest).
- In Pranayama my left nostril is more blocked then my right nostril.
- In seated practices (pranayama / meditation) there is a subtle pull of the body to the left.
Left is feminine, moon, ying …
I miss creating, most of creative energies are currently being expressed at the computer …
As leftover money diminishes, faith is recurringly challenged …
Fear lives alongside prosperity and appreciation …
Pranayama can lead to a delicate place, one that is easy to disturb and lose. The inherent structure of a Pranayama practice leads to an ending that may disturb the very delicate quality it created. My practices bring me with two such obstalces: (1) lowering my arm from the nostril control position; (2) stopping the metronome that is ticking in the background.
One way to maintain a smooth transition is to keep breathing. Whatever breathing technique you use in your practice, you can continue with a few basic ujjayi breaths which don’t require nostril control. So as you lower your arm back down you are maintaining a continuous breathing experience – sustaining the qualities of the practice. Similarly you can continue the same ujjayi breathing pattern as you move to stop the metronome and then continue for a few more breaths counting inside without the guidance of the metronome.
I recommend an ujjayi breath that is:
- Shorter – between one half and two thirds of the inhale length of your practice.
- Symmetrical – equal inhale and exhale.
- No holds – do not pause the breath between inhaling and exhaling, stay with a continuous and fluid movement.
In the bigger picture of Yoga – Pranayama is a transition from asana to meditation. When I continue into meditation I use an additional gesture – delicately bringing together each thumb and forefinger until they gently touch. The gesture, as it was taught to me, has a containing and sustaining quality to it. Sometimes I would use the last exhale to slowly bring the fingers together. Recently I’ve made a connection to another practice I once experienced – Butoh.
Butoh is a form of Japanese body/movement theatre. One of the qualities in it is slow and attentive movement. The beginning of this video demonstrates this quality – notice how slowly the lighting comes into the space and for movement to take place (there is much more then to Butoh then slow movement as you can see in the second part of this clip and even more so in the third part).
So I’ve been playing around with an application of this idea from Butoh into the gesture of touching thumb to index finger. The transition is now longer, it continues from a refined breathing into a very refined, barely perceptive movement – that together lead into a special experience of stillness.
You can move the fingers on both hands at the same time or you can do it one hand at a time. You can start by moving slowly and then gradually develop that into slower and slower movement – it cane take 20 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 10 minutes … there is no limit to what you can do with it.
It’s been an amazing support in further refining the transition from Pranayama into meditation.
Play around see what happens and please come back and share your experience 🙂