Ashtanga Self-Practice Course with TYG Chama
Upon my first visit to the ashtanga center in Mysore in 2003, I listened to Pattabhi Jois explain how ashtanga yoga is both a 'breathing system' and a kind of 'scientific yoga'.
A few decades earlier, Pattabhi Jois had named his original studio the 'Ashtanga Yoga Institute,' citing the yoga sutra as the source for the name "ashtanga". This course will provide a chance for common yoga practitioners to get a better understanding of the origin and true nature of ashtanga yoga.
This 4-week ashtanga self-practice course is intended to help students get new perspectives on their own yoga practice, based on their own experience. The course seeks to provide a better understanding of the 'ancient wisdom' of the historic sages, as well as tying into the 'wisdom of today' as presented by Pattabi Jois.
Session 1: Breathing system, breath and vinyasa
David Williams, one of the earliest ashtanga yoga practitioners in the west, said it took him more than 30 years to realize that deep breathing and mula bhanda is the most important aspect of ashtanga yoga. This first course session builds on David's observations by deepening our understanding of external respiration in order to get closer to the realization that breathing forms a bridge between the upper body and the lower body, the body and the heart, and between the asanas and meditation. Asana practice will focus only on Suria Namaskar.
Session 2: Body science for greater stability
The yoga sutra places importance on 'stability and comfort'. Without developing bodily stability, it is difficult for most people to build a practice that nurtures the conditions for deeper meditation. In this session, we will look at the body from a scientific point of view, both in terms of structural and centripetal stability, in the aim of nurturing an impression of hatha yoga that goes far beyond mere exercise. The asana practice will center on standing poses.
This session will apply the methodology of Physical Director Masahiro Hirayama, my first functional anatomy teacher, who taught me the fundamentals of anatomy through my own experience and sensations as a hatha yoga practitioner.
Session 3: Going deeper into introspection, working in pairs
Indian yoga masters say that there are two levels of pranayama. The first level is basic breathing in and out (as in session 1), the second is a much deeper, advanced level. In India, that higher level is only taught to disciples specially selected by a guru. Yoga practitioners in Japan, who generally do not have access to a true guru at all times, can begin to acquire some this higher knowledge through this part of the program.
My own first exposure to higher pranayama came through an encounter with craniosacral bodywork. In the west, there are established theories about the relationship between the cranium and breathing. This session aims to develop our ability for going more deeply into introspection by applying theories and practices used in craniosacral manipulation. We will apply Hiromi Morikawa's method into yoga 'adjustment' as the students work in pairs.
The yoga sutra says that abandoning desire and training is extremely important to yogic development. When I was in my 20s, I damaged my body and soul by blindly aspiring for samedi, without any guru or partner, enduring hours of meditation through sheer determination every day, limiting my diet and stressing my body. In a way, I got stuck in a common trap of abandoning merely that 'reality' which includes one's own body, other people and society in general. My lucky encounter with ashtanga yoga and my exposure to excellent teachers has since brought me up to where I am today. At last, in my 40s, I have finally become capable of happily living my life while fully engaging in yoga.
In this final session, after asana practice, we will gather to share our discoveries and feelings from our communal 'self practice', aiming through the discussion and personal contact to extend our individual connectivity.
Chama (Mamoru Aizawa)
Chama (Mamoru Aizawa) is a Tokyo native now based in Izu, where he runs a blog-style …