Advanced Yoga Practices
Note: For the Original
Internet Lessons with additions,
For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books,
Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.
Click here for the 22 postures in the AYP
Enhanced Asana Routine.
Yoga Asanas (postures)
Traditional or Modern? (Audio)
AYP Plus Additions:)
383.1 - Enhanced AYP Asana Routine (Illustrated) (Audio)
383.2 - Maha Mudra (Audio)
Rationale behind AYP Asana Sets (Audio)
Enhanced AYP Asana Routine
- About Sirsasana
(headstand) and its Risks
- Hot Yoga, Cold Yoga, and Real Yoga
February 16, 2010
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: I have
been practicing various forms of yoga asanas off and on for about five
years, and have found myself drawn increasingly into more fitness-oriented
applications of postures. It seems to be all I can find in the classes
anymore. Having recently begun meditating, I am curious how the rigorous
yoga posture routines many people are doing these days fit with your
teachings? Thank you.
A: Yoga postures have become big business,
and it is a good thing. This was discussed in some detail in
It is the physicality of asanas
(postures) that have provided an entre for yoga into the mainstream of our
physical fitness obsessed culture. Overall, it has been very beneficial,
because sooner or later everyone who discovers the benefits of yoga postures
will find themselves being drawn to the other seven limbs of yoga, including
meditation, pranayama, etc. Such connections are wired within our nervous
system, and this is why engaging in part of yoga naturally leads to all of
yoga. So I am all for the yoga postures boom. It is leading everyone toward
more peace, joy and energy in life, in ways that most of us could hardly
have imagined even a few years ago.
at the same time,
there has been a
divergence in the field of yoga postures, as you have implied, and it will
be good to explore that for a clearer understanding of what is going on, and
how that relates to the kinds of practices we are using in the AYP system.
We can make a distinction here between "traditional" and "modern"
approaches to yoga postures. The divergence can be found in the differences
between these two, and in how these may relate to building a balanced
practice routine that includes all eight limbs of
yoga. To simplify it in this discussion, we can say that a balanced routine
has two parts postures and sitting practices (pranayama, meditation, mudras,
bandhas, samyama, etc.) It is the relationship between these two components
we'd like to focus on here.
While, even in ancient times, there have
been approaches to asanas that have been intense, there has always been a
recognition that asanas are part of the whole picture of yoga one of eight
limbs. Such routines were done with posture holds of 10 seconds or more,
sometimes much more, seeking a spiritual benefit. Pranayama and meditation
(sitting practices) have always been part of the routine, as have the
elements of bhakti, self-inquiry, and other aspects of
the tree of yoga. So even in cases where asanas
be nearly an end in themselves, they were always a preparation for
This is the traditional approach asanas as a
preparation for sitting practices. In the AYP system, 5-10 minutes of easy
asanas with posture holds of 10 seconds or so has
been found to be a good preparation.
asanas have some conspicuous differences from the traditional approach. They
are usually stand-alone, not a preparation for sitting practices. And even
though many of the postures may be similar or the same as the ones found in
a traditional routine, the intensity and speed with which they are done may
be more akin to an athletic workout than an easy routine of systematic
bending and stretching. The modern routine may be much longer than is
necessary for sitting practices preparation. The room temperature may also
be raised to "work up a sweat." Clearly, such rigorous asana routines are
not a preparation for sitting practices. They are not designed to be.
So this is the main difference between traditional and modern asana
practice. One is designed as
a preparation for
sitting practices, and the other is designed as a stand-alone fitness
These two modes are not nearly as far apart as might appear
on the surface. For example, a modern asana routine can be slowed down and
shortened to be an excellent preparation for sitting practices. So all is
not lost. But let's save the long strenuous routines and "hot yoga" for at
least an hour before sitting practices, or any time after. That kind of
routine comes under the category of physical exercise, and we know that this
is not a preparation for sitting practices. It doesn't mean we can't do it
if we enjoy it. Just not as a
Whatever asana routine we are
using before sitting practices, it is suggested to end it with shavasana
(corpse pose) for several minutes, to settle the body/mind down. This is the
traditional transition between asanas and sitting practices, and it can be
used at the conclusion of any set of postures we may be doing.
As a rule of thumb, if our asana routine lowers our metabolism
(relaxation of respiration and heart rate), it is good preparation
for sitting practices, if not taken much beyond 5-10 minutes. More than 10
minutes done daily for an extended period of time could lead us into an
energy overload, due to cumulative doubling up of the energy effects between
asanas and our sitting practices. We would not do
pranayama for half an hour, would we? Or meditation for an hour? Any of
these excesses pursued in combination over time,
could lead us into uncomfortable symptoms of energy overload. Asanas are no
exception. A half hour of asanas followed by sitting practices is far more
powerful than a half hour of asanas with no sitting practices. This is a
lesson many asana practitioners have learned the hard way when adding
powerful sitting practices.
Balance is the key in building an
effective integrated practice routine.
Each of us is
somewhat unique in this respect. This is why we place so much
emphasis on self-pacing in the AYP approach.
The arrival of open
source full-scope yoga practices on the scene has raised some interesting
possibilities for the yoga postures industry. It used to be that one had to
go off and follow a sectarian teaching to learn sitting practices. This was
rarely compatible with the modern teachings of asanas, which
diverge in their own direction, becoming increasingly a part of the fitness
industry. Due to these structural divisions, the
pieces of yoga have been scattered all over the place, with little chance of
connecting them, except by breaking sectarian rules and
going against a major market trend in the postures industry.
However, things are changing, and signs of a lessening
divergence are appearing, at least in some quarters.
The situation is quite different from only a few years
ago. The tide is shifting toward
integration of yoga practices. It is what many
practitioners want, and open source systems of
practice will help fulfill this
Even with the separations and divergences
occurred in yoga over
the years, practitioners have continued to benefit greatly, and many
feel the internal pull toward the integration of practices in their daily
routine. These days, with a few adjustments, any
modern asana practitioner can add sitting practices with
relative ease, with good results. Likewise, those in sitting
practices have reasonable guidelines here for
adding asanas from just about any teaching source,
without taking on excessive risks. With self-pacing and some common
sense, it can be done by anyone.
The guru is in you.
Click here for
instructions and illustrations for the Enhanced AYP Asana Routine.
Related Lessons Topic Path
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
For detailed discussion on the effective integration of modern
asana routines with sitting practices, see the
Mudras and Bandhas book.
An enhanced asana routine containing 22 postures can be found in Lesson 383
of the AYP Easy Lessons Volume 2 book and