Why I am Grateful for Ashtanga Yoga. Reason #2: Eye-Focus, Breath and Bandha in EVERY Practice

During the last days of this peculiar year I have been thinking about the reasons why I am grateful for Ashtanga yoga in my life, here is reason #2:

Incorporation of Bandha, Breath and Dristi in EVERY Practice

I remember taking several classes at a Major NYC Studio (4 floors of yoga) back in 2000, when I was looking for a path that resonated with me. I was impressed with their level III classes, we always ended up doing some strong forced breathing for 125 counts with such force that when we ended I could sometimes see a string of golden light flowing through my breath.

As much as I liked it, I realize now I was just hyperventilating. There was no mula bandha (perineum tightening) involved, no control, no explanation from the teacher.  It was just forceful exhaling.

Perhaps I should not have been on the level III class to begin with since I had not had the proper technique training on how to do kapalabhati, granted, but then again I am exploring and noticing why it is that I am grateful for what happens in every class of Ashtanga.

Practicing Kapalbhati after leraning the right method
No idea why everything in the room went yellow
I mention this because during that class, as well as many other classes I took around the city there was never one style that included the three elements that ashtanga introduces from day one, and in every practice, those of:

The breathing (Ujajji or Dark Vader sounding breath),
The focus point for each and every single move, and
The incorporation of bandhas.

Clearly an Ashtangi
Of course there ARE a few styles that include these components as taught in the tradition of Krishnamacharya. Vinyasa Krama is one of them and Grimmly is one of its most notorious proponents and followers I have found in the blog-sphere.

Eye focus on the palm of the hand

The only issue with Vinyasa Krama is that there are no studios that teach it (at least not many,  for example I have not seen anything at Pure Yoga in NYC or other local studios). Also, for home practice it has several routines and subroutines (see this free downloadable book also from Grimmly), which leave one at the mercy of the mind on the “pick and choose” department.  I found that Ashtanga saved me the trouble of that by being a pre-set repetition and a routine as well as a discipline.  I needed that because I have a flickering westerner mind and having to chose would have made it harder for me.  I know it!

Learning to breathe with the ujjaji technique, while placing the fiery eyes on a steady point in each pose, and adding the tightening of the perineum (mula bandha) and uplifting of the abdomen (udyana bandha) in all poses does NOT happen right away.

Of course not, it takes years to make the whole of the asana experience come together and alive, and get to a meditative state of connecting intimately with the body and going within, reaping all benefits, nevertheless, the instruction is provided from day one.

As soon as we step into the mat we are invited to play with the whole technique, to start experiencing it, learning it.  We are treated to advanced techniques of yoga from the very moment we begin, and for that I am very grateful.



7 Responses to Why I am Grateful for Ashtanga Yoga. Reason #2: Eye-Focus, Breath and Bandha in EVERY Practice

  1. Spitfire December 15, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I used to practice yoga and then I took a light saber to the knee.

  2. Claudia December 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Uh oh, sorry to hear that…

  3. Nobel December 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Nice post, Claudia! I really like the picture of Darth Vader doing Ashtanga; I&#39;ve always suspected he practices anyway, what with all his scary siddhis…<br /><br />Spitfire, I&#39;m so sorry to hear about your light saber to the knee. I recently took some Force lightning to the knee, and am healing from it.

  4. Grimmly December 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    Notorious?<br />OK, you got me thinking, 4th ed. to include twelve sample Vinyasa Krama practices that cover most of the subroutines in Ramaswami&#39;s book. Then somebody can practice one a month or a different one each day thus covering everything in two weeks, includes 2 rest days for ex ashtangi&#39;s : )<br /><br />Your right though, that not having to think about what your going to practice

  5. Claudia December 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Nobel, hope the accupuncture is working for you! thanks for the comment, and yes, ha ha, Vader does have all those sidhis, although he uses them for eeevvvviiiillll….<br /><br />Grimmly, yes notorious indeed. One could indeed practice one a month different each day as you propose, but I know that would have not been me… guess I am more of the kind that needed lots of guidance, as in, from

  6. Anonymous December 16, 2011 at 5:46 am #


  7. Sean December 17, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Love your blog!<br /><br />Sean