Yogāsana & Prāṇāyama

A student recently asked me if yogāsana and prāṇāyama could provide complete fitness. “Don’t I need cardiovascular work?”, he queried. Off course, this depends on the length of practice and the frequency with which one does the aforementioned. The third and fourth limbs of Patanjali’s eight limb system certainly have the potential to increase cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, plus make one more flexible. If you doubt this, then you perhaps have not heard of John Schumacher, Iyengar Yoga teacher and founder of Unity Woods in Washington, D.C.

“Four years ago at age 52, Schumacher decided to prove his point. He signed up for physiological testing at a lab in Gaithersburg, Maryland. As he expected, Schumacher tested near the top of his age group for a variety of fitness tests, including maximum heart and exercise recovery rates. His doctor told him that he was in excellent physical condition and estimated that Schumacher had less than a one percent chance of suffering a cardiac event. ‘I’ve always maintained that yoga provides more than adequate cardiovascular benefits,’ says Schumacher. ‘Now I have the evidence that regular yoga practice at a certain level of intensity will provide you with what you need.’”

If you increase your yogāsana practice and perform prāṇāyama regularly, there will be no need for cardio burn.


Systematic Intelligence

Prakash, an Introductory Level instructor in Plano, TX has a keen understanding of why we practice yogasana as taught by B.K.S. Iyengar

Systematic intelligence in yogasana is the methodical extension of awareness through each of the body’s organs moving from the gross to the finer parts so that you can begin to feel the freer flow of energy and begin to make adjustments internally where you feel obstruction and resistance. Parts that resist have to be reached and worked through correct action without causing injury. It is very easy to be sluggish in asana and often an experienced teacher will make hands on adjustments on you so that you can extend the intelligence to that part that was asleep or that you were not even aware of but you could reach. Through this process injured parts heal and areas you have reached and worked exhibit more vitality.


Yoga Sutras on Pranayama

II.49 tasmin sati svasa-prasvasayor gati-vicchedah pranayamah
When that [asana] is accomplished, pranayama, breath control, [follows]. This consists of the regulation of the incoming and outgoing breath.

Pranayama as breath control is an ancient practice that can be found in the old Brahmana texts. Vyasa explains that the svasa from this sutra is the intake of air from the outside, and pravasa, the exhalation of air from the stomach. He defines pranayama to be the suspension, or absence, of both—in other words, the suspension of breath.” The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Edwin F. Bryant

“It is difficult to explain Prana, as it is to explain God. Prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels. It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, and cosmic energy. All vibrating energies are prana. All physical energies such as heat, light, gravity, magnetism, and electricity are also prana. It is hidden or potential energy in all beings, released to the fullest extent in times of danger. It is the prime mover of all activity. It is energy which creates, protects, and destroys. Vigour, power, vitality, life and spirit are all forms of prana.”

Prana means breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy or strength. When used in the plural, it denotes certain vital breaths or currents of energy (prana-vayus). ‘ayama’ means stretch, extension, expansion, length, breadth, regulation, prolongation, restraint or control. ‘Pranayama’ thus means the prolongation of breath and its restraint.”

Pranayama is an art and has techniques to make the respiratory organ to move and expand intentionally, rhythmically and intensively. It consists of long, sustained subtle flow of inhalation (puruka), exhalation (rechaka) and retention of breath (kumbakha). Puruka stimulates the system; rechaka throws out vitiated air and toxins; kumbakha distributes the energy throughout the body. The movements include horizontal expansion (dairghya), vertical accession (aroha) and circumferential extension (visalata) of the lungs and the rib cage.”

“The disciplined breathing helps the mind to concentrate and enables the sadhaka to attain robust health and longevity.”

“All stages of [Ujjayi Pranayama (Expanding Conquest Breath control)] except those with retentions may be done at any time. However, if the heart feels heavy, full or painful, or the diaphragm is hard, and if you are agitated or the heart-beat is abnormal, lie down…”
Light on Pranayama, B.K.S. Iyengar

II.50 bahyabhyantara-stamba-vrttih desa-kala-sankhyabhih paridrsto dirgha-suksmah
[Pranayama] manifests as external, internal, and restrained movements [of breath]. These are drawn out and subtle in accordance to place, time, and number.

“Moving on to the second part of the sutra, all these different types of breath restraint are regulated by place, desa, that is, the surface area that is reached by the breath, says Vyasa. He understands time as the seconds of duration of these cessations of the flow of breath, and number as how many sequences of inhalations and exhalations are restrained, and whether they are mid, middling, or intense in nature.”

“Time, kala, refers to differing durations of each individual exhalation, inhalation, and retention,… Number, sankhya, is the number of reputations, or rounds of each cycle of inhalations, exhalations, and retentions at one sitting.”

“In other words, say the commentators, one can increase the duration of these intervals of breath restraint so that they become more and more prolonged and imperceptible in terms of the moment of air. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Edwin F. Bryant

Ujjayi I, II and IIIp.pdf


Sadhana – Disciplined and dedicated practice or learning

“Just performing the asana-s is one aspect of sadhana, but to understand one’s own body, mind and breath through the practice is another aspect; this has to be clearly understood by each practitioner. Often, one thinks of either limiting the freedom of the body movements because of fear and/or pain, or one attempts to break the limits using willpower in a wrong way, thus resulting in injury. When the body is unprepared, both these approaches are wrong. In fact, asana is a process to look into oneself.”

“Often, one thinks of the inner journey for the sake of self-realization. However, as the inner journey begins, one has to look at the first object, the first instrument – the body – which otherwise is neglected totally. We know the body as we have read and studied about it in school. However, this study of our anatomy and physiology gives us an objective knowledge of the body. Many hidden depths and sensitivities like the precise and judicious stretching of the arms ad legs remain unknown to the practitioner. The opening of the palms and the bottom of the feet of the sole-skin is not understood at all as there is no awareness.”

“Moreover, the thoracic tilts or extending the abdominal band remains unknown. The inverted position of the body remains absolutely beyond one’s imagination. Normally, one lacks the courage to move, stretch, twist, bend or balance and go topsy-turvy. Faith and courage are required to do so. Every action has its effect somewhere, which has to be searched and noticed.”
Geeta Iyengar, Yoga in Action: Intermediate Course

Tadasana Paschima Namaskarasana

This week we worked on Reverse Prayer Pose, a very difficult technique for some of us.  Greater success is possible using a Wall Rope.

In this video, Mr. Iyengar demonstrates Tadasana Paschima Namaskarasana around 12:00. Please note how far his shoulder blades travel out, to accept the hands and how much they return to open the chest. Starting around 15:00 he gives further details. For those of you unable to do it, please practice Tadasana Paschima Baddha Hastasana or holding above the elbows in back while in Mountain pose, demonstrated around 11:00.

A simple way to install Iyengar Wall Ropes is by purchasing Over the Door Hangers from and pre-tied ropes from  If you would rather tie your own, watch this how to video.  

12′ of rope is likely necessary to do the knot and have a long enough wall rope.  A second way to tie one’s own is using a double Triple Fisherman’s.  Susan G. Clark has a much more detailed video on YouTube on how to do this second knot.


Yoga for the Spine

Yoga for the Spine: Scoliosis and Lower Back Concerns

Saturday, September 19, 2015 – 1:00pm to 3:00pm

Taught by Rafael Durán

Drawing of muscles of backIf you experience back pain or discomfort, are diagnosed with scoliosis or simply want a better understanding of this area, this 2 hour class is ideal for you.

Muscles along the spine are only a minor element affecting posture. Included are the ligaments and fascia of the sacrum, lumbar and thoracic spine. This hard working tissue is locked ‘short’ and tight through continuous use, especially when posture is imbalanced. Conversely, aging, injury and daily slumping flex the spine forward and lock the back area ‘long’.

Rafael will show ways to lengthen and strengthen muscles, ligaments and fascia related to the spine. Relaxation postures will be included.

Handouts will be provided. For all levels and abilities. Pre-registration is encouraged.

Need more information? Contact Rafael.

Cost is $25.

  • Enrolling in person or by mail? Download the enrollment form.
  • Enrolling with PayPal? Use the button.

Image: Plate 409, Gray, Henry. Anatomy of the Human Body. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1918;, 2000.

YOGAnews 3.1-1

Iyengar Yoga does not necessarily talk about chakras, yet you may be interested in this.

Instructions in this site may differ from my own, but use as reference if necessary.

Virasana (Hero)- On block and/or blanket between ankles

Anchor back of sit-bones down (while raising front pelvic crest), keeping toes spread and nail-roots grounded.

Decompress spine out of pelvic bowl, broaden collar-bones and move inner-blades toward sit-bones.

Join palms at Heart Center, helping keep top of breast-bone over bottom and release base-of-neck.

Take shoulder skin downwards to outer-elbow.  From inner-elbow, release skin upwards to finger-tips.

While listening to breath (with eyes closed):

Move Heart-energy towards base of brain during IN-breath (pause when finished) and Brain-energy towards brain-stem during OUT-breath (also pausing when finished), then repeat.

Repeat OM three times out loud (during the OUT-breath):

Mentally touch Crown, Bridge-of-nose, Throat and Heart centers during ‘Oooo’.

Navel, Genital and Base centers during ‘mmM’.

Tilt skull, gaze at Heart-center, place palms on lap during OUT-breath.

Raise head, open eyes during IN-breath. Dismount.

Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward-facing Hero) With head support

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog)- With head support

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog)- Over folding chair (pad and prop as necessary)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)- Over folding chair with blocks at wall

Concave back

Convex back

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)- Chair or blocks for head support

Parsvotanasana (One Side Standing Forward Bend)- Rolled mat under foot for support

Parsvotanasana (One Side Standing Forward Bend)- Chair for hand support

Concave back

Convex back

Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)- Over folding chair

Shavasana (Deep Relaxation)

What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits” is a story broadcast on Morning Edition I spoke about recently.  The numbers 60, 30, 2 I recalled are a bit different than the actual 40, 20, 5.  My apology!  The main aspect is about behavior change.