Category: Blog
Benefits of Primary Series Asanas

This week we’re including (almost word for word) the benefits of each asana of primary series as specified by Pattabhi Jois in his Yoga Mala.

The Surya Namaskara (sun-salutations) are essential in the practice of yoga as they help to gather the strength of the mind in one direction, control the breath and help mental focus.

The first 2 standing poses (thumbs to feet and hands to feet) Padangushtasana and Padahastasana: They dissolve the fat of the lower abdomen and purify the egg shaped nerve plexus in the anal region and rectum as well as purifying the kidneys.

Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle): Dissolves the bad fat around the waist and brings the body into shape. It also expands the narrow portion of the breathing channel and strengthens the spine.

Uthitta Parshvakonasana: Purifies the ribs and lower abdomen, dissolves the bad fat at the waist and softens the limbs so that the subsequent asanas can be practiced more easily.

Prasarita Padottanasana A to D (The 4 wide legged forward bends): These asanas cure constipation, purify the top part of the spinal column and the waist. The anal canal is purified and the bad fat in the lower abdomen is dissolved.

Parshvottanasana (Prayer position behind the back): Like the asana above.

Basically all the above asanas loosen the limbs of the body. For people who suffer from rheumatic or joint pain, the sun salutations and first six asanas are especially important. If they are practiced properly with the correct breathing method, the pain that occurs in the joints will be eliminated and the body will become light and healthy.

Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana (The leg balancing pose that you really realy don’t like): This asana loosens the hip joints, destroys defects of the testicles and male organs of generation, strengthens and purifies the vertebral column, waist, hips and lower abdomen. It also eliminates constipation.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (half bound lotus): This purifies the rectum and liver. It also prevents gas in the stomach and prevents diarrhea.

Utkatasana: Strengthens the waist and makes the body light.

Virabhadrasana (warrior): All the joints of the body, as well as the lower abdomen, spinal column and organ of generation are purified. Pain associated with the knees as well as the pain from standing or sitting all day while working, is eliminated.

Paschimattanasana (the first seated pose): this pose eliminates gas problems in the stomach, it strengthens the organs of the digestive systems.

Purvatanasana: Purifies and strengthens the heart, anus, spinal column and waist.

Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana (seated, half bound lotus): Alleviates the enlargement of the liver and spleen. Also cures abdominal distention due to bad food and actiities. Constipation is also cured.

Tiriangmukhaaikapada paschimattanasana (right, then left foot back): Cures a number of afflictions including: body fat, water retention, thighs swollen out of proportion to the size of the body (elephant leg!!), piles and sciatica. Also makes the body symmetrical.

Janu Shirshasana: This posture cures cystitis. There’s a lot more in the yoga mala about the benefits of this asana but too much to reproduce here.

Marichyasana A to D: The benefits of all four are different, though all cure diseases in accordance with one’s physical nature. They each cure gaseous movements in the stomach and intestines, as well as the rectum, such as diarrhoea, and restore digestive power. With that, flatulence, indigestion and constipation are eliminated. Abdominal pain during menstruation is removed. The womb becomes powerful and enables a woman to carry a child strongly. The vata pitta kosha (large intestine and gall bladder) are purified, as is the manicure chakra (the third chakra at the navel centre), and the body gains strength and power.

Navasana (boat pose): The anal channel, spinal column, ribs and lower abdomen are purified. The digestive fire is increased and the waist gains strength.

Bhujapidasana: Purifies the oesophagus. The body becomes light, and the shoulders and waist become strong.

Kurmasana: Purifies the nerve plexus in the anal region from which all 72,000 nadis grow. Also purifies the heart and lungs, and eliminates ailments caused by an imbalance of kapha. The chest becomes broad, bad fat is dissolved, and the spinal column becomes strong. Chest pain due to over-tiredness is cured, disorders from bad food remedied and the fat in the lower abdomen is dissolved, allowing the body to become healthy.

Garbha Pindasana: Dissolves fat of the lower abdomen, purifies the manipura (third) chakra, and wards off diseases of the liver and spleen.

Kukkutasana: The intestines are purified, the fat of the lower abdomen is dissolved, and diseases affecting the bowels and urinary tract, as well as excess phlegm, are cured.

Baddha Konasana: Constipation and piles will be destroyed and indigestion will no longer haunt an aspirant. There is a lot more information relating to Baddha Konasana in the Yoga Mala.

Upavishta Konasana: The grdhrasi nadi (sciatic nerve) will be strengthened, gaseous movements in the stomach will no longer occur and peristalsis will be resolved.

Supta Konasana: Same as Baddha Konasana and Upavishta Konasana

Supta Padangushtasana: Purifies and strengthens the waist region, knees, food and anal channels, and the sperm passageway (virya nala). It dissolves bad fat on the sides of the body and the waist, making the waist slender and strong, and the body light.

Ubhaya Padangushtasana: Purifies the anus, waist, stomach, genital organs and the granthi traya (three knots) which begin at the anal canal. It also eliminates the burning sensation that can occur during urination.

Urdhva Mukha Pascimattanasana: Purifies the lower back and oesophagus, and the swadishtana chakra (region between the anus and navel). When the swadishtana chakra is purified, bodily activities become light, all physical activities are free and easy, and impediments such as disease, do not torture one.

Setu Bandhasana: Purifies and strengthens the waist and neck, purifies the muladhara (root) chakra and increases the digestive fire. It also purifies the oesophagus, heart, and lungs, making them strong.

Next time: Finishing asanas.

Pattabhi Jois specifies (in the notes on the benefits of Baddha Konasana):

A point must be made to readers and aspirants that they should be careful to remember. When one follows the methods of asana and pranayama, there is no doubt that all diseases will be cured. But if an aspirant thinks that this will occur by his merely practising asanas while continuing to eat rajasic (stimulating) and tamasic (heavy) foods, then he is misguided. Such a course will actually lead to an increase in sickness.

If you’re interested in reading more about the practice you could pick up a copy of Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. It’s the first book I ever read on Ashtanga yoga.

 

 

 


A note on shaucha

 

Your mother always told you that cleanliness was next to godliness and Patanjali agrees. It turns out that your mother is a great yogi!

The word ‘ashtanga’, as many of you already know, means eight limbs. The limbs, as listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, are Yama, Niyama, Asana (we recognise that one), Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. If you want to know what they all mean have a read of the ‘What Does Ashtanga Mean‘ article on our website.

The first two limbs (yama and niyama) each have five sub-limbs. Think of yama as being a set of morals and of niyama as being a set of personal observances (together they form a rough guide on living harmoniously with the world both inside and outside ourselves).

The first sub-limb of niyama is often the first one to become most pertinent in a class of sweaty students (and teachers for that matter).

Saucha can be translated as cleanliness or purity, and your mother was right; it is next to godliness.

I have seen and heard so many conversations (online and in the real world) between ashtanga yoga teachers about this subject. Ashtanga yoga is a sweaty practice and some people’s nostrils are more sensitive than others.

Guruji says:
* “There are two types of purification: bahir shaucha (external purification) and antah shaucha (internal purification).
* The first involves washing the body with red clay and water. By rubbing the body with clay, sweat and dirt are removed, and the body becomes soft and shiny.
* The second means viewing everything and every being as a friend, and treating all with affection (maitri). This means engaging the mind with the supreme feeling that all are our friends, and considering everything to be a reflection of God.”

We say:
* Please shower before you come to class in the morning.
* Please wear fresh clean clothes to class (as once you start to sweat in previously-sweated-in clothes they really start to smell; you may not notice this but everybody else does).
* Please air your wet yoga mat after class if possible and wash it regularly (if you sweat a lot then regularly means once a week).

Then, perhaps, you and all of your fellow students (who you now love due to your new-found maitri) might get that little bit closer to the eighth limb of ashtanga yoga: Samadhi (bliss).

Who said yoga philosophy was complicated.

 


South Indian Breakfast at Home

This morning I decided to make my first attempt at recreating the fantastic South Indian breakfast known as chow-chow bath. We ate this most mornings in Mysore at a tiny street-side stand called Sri Durga Bhavan. You may have already seen photos of their breakfasts on our previous blog entries.

First up was the Khara Bath. It’s made with semolina, ghee, onion and a host of spices. Often carotts and peas are added too but we left them out this time. It turned out ok, but maybe a tiny bit on the dry side. Suzanne made the two types of coconut chutney (the recipes for which were given to us by our downstairs neighbours in Mysore last Summer). The chutneys were great.

Khara Bath and Coconut Chutney
The second half of the ‘chow-chow’ is the Kesari Bath. This also is made with semolina and a lot of ghee, but sweetened milk is added so that it is more like a dessert. It should be a deeper yellow colour so I’ll have to work on getting the proportions right. It tasted ok to me. You know; milk, butter, sugar; you can’t go too far wrong. It needs a bit more practice though. Practise and all is coming I suppose!Kesari Bath

Then we washed it all down with a healthy sized pot of masala chai made with a spice mix that we got from Meena Gupta in Mysore. Now this really did taste like Mysore in a cup. Masala Chai


Indian road block

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Cows in India have free reign in the streets. I’ve never seen anyone hassling a cow or getting it to move on.

I came out of our house yesterday and saw this cow sitting happily in the middle of the road. Vehicles which could fit past went around her, and those that couldn’t reversed and went up the adjacent road.

It occurred to me that, if a cow did this in Dublin, it would probably be on the news! But it’s totally normal here.

Going home is going to be quite a culture shock!

John


How I got authorised to teach Ashtanga Yoga

Picture the scene: I’ve just done somewhere between eight and ten backbends and I stand up to try some unassisted dropbacks. I conquer the fear once and manage to get to the floor, from where I try, unsuccessfully, to stand back up. No dice.

I get to my feet again and attempt to drop back again. As I’m preparing myself Sharath comes and stands in front of me (about 6 inches in front of me actually!). I go back and my hands touch the floor again. He doesn’t help me. I walk in a little bit and Sharath puts his hands on my thighs. I stand up with ease, unsure of how it happened.

He says “you can do it”. I’m not so sure.

He helps me to do three of those half-bend drop back thingys and then brings me all the way down (I walk in again) and back up.

I’m physically and mentally drained and, as usual, a little shell-shocked by the back-bending experience.

Sharath says, “You come to the office later and fill out the authorisation form. Actually, come tomorrow, I won’t be there today”.

I say “ok”. Which is all I can manage if I’m honest.

Then I get into the pascimattanasana position on the floor and he presses me down hard. I say “uuugggh”. After 3 breaths he’s gone and I’m thinking, “…..”

And that’s the story of how I got authorised!