Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series Download – The Blueprint of Ashtanga; A Safe, Effective Foundation
The Ashtanga yoga primary series will be the bulk of our practice for most of us, if we stick with this system. Which is as it should be. The postures are foundational, giving us a great range and scope of movement in our bodies. They are also (fairly) reasonable for the average individual to practice regularly. They sequentially open up the body in a progressive and methodical nature. This is tried at tested now for over 50 years at the very least.
This series is not just the gateway to ashtanga yoga, it is the bedrock. It works by leading individuals from having done no yoga to a good overall level of ability and fitness. Indeed, all other series are built upon the foundational-ability developed in this one.
On the other hand, it must also be acknowledged, this may take some adaptation of the postures too. The primary series also demands some a pre-requisite of ability. This must also be made clear. It’s a blue-print, a rough sketch, or, even, sometimes an ideal. This is no magic-spell; it a practical and functional sequence that should be treated in the same manner.
Primary series aims at bandha instead of ‘functional mobility’
To move on to the deeper significance and benefits, some will say, that primary series is not enough; that there is not enough variation as to the postures. Namely, that there are too many forward folds. However, the principles behind oga are not the same as Western calisthenics. Indeed, if we are using it this way, we might better find a better exercise routine.
Instead, the continuous forward-folds of the primary series are not to be taken so literally. Here, a rather different and deeper conditioning, is being aimed at. Not just of the body, but of the whole nervous system. Therefore, the aim being subtler, it makes sense that the method also is. Indeed, the clue is in the name of the first forward-fold that it might not be such a simple task; paschimottanasana – westward-facing stretch.
In the understanding that the yogi’s of old traditionally practicing yoga facing the East. The yogis’ of old were instructed to do was not to keep pulling themselves forward, rather pull back. To flatten our chest on our thighs, constantly stretch and then over-stretch our hamstrings is as ineffective to any purpose. It is ridiculous as accomplishing nothing but the obvious.
The Intention of The Primary Series
This is not the intention of the primary series; to achieve straight-lines and long hamstrings Whereas, in pulling ourselves back, out of the forward folds in the primary series, we discover something infinitely more valuable. Which is to talk of this ubiquitous term bandha in ashtanga yoga – an engagement of the core muscles in the postures.
The series facilitates a good basis and balance of strength and flexibility . It is formulated along other lines than we may be familiar in it’s underlying methodology. It needs to be approached with a fresh mind in terms of what we are aiming at in moving our bodies. Not least, that the endeavour is much more internally oriented.
Bandha is practical and energetic focusing on digestion and spinal-stimulation
Indeed, it is the lower-abdominal tonification facilitated by the application and work in banda that does two things in our bodies, one more practical, the other less so;
- It resolves our digestive issues. An increasingly common problem in modern health; in fact, in all traditional systems of medicine, our gut has been said to be our second-brain as well as the seat of our health.
- Bandha encourages a compression of the energy of the body to be brought into the central nervous channel. Basically, it gathers energy towards the body, wherein the most important nerves of the body residing in the spine are stimulated.
So, although there might be more variation in the postures themselves, this is, in fact, not the point. The continuous pulling-back in the apparent ‘forward-folds’ of the primary-series serves a different purpose.
The anatomical reasoning
As well as stimulating the nerves of the spine through use of bandha, the purpose of the simple forward folds where the torso is attempted to be kept straight is to straighten our spines. For, scoliosis affects us all and causes structural imbalances in the body that have deeper implications also.
So, as we attend to the limbs on either side, constantly moving to left and right side whilst keeping the spine straight, we are trying to re-balance the physical body. Yoga being a holistic system that does not separate mind and body as our current medicine does, physical imbalances are representative of deeper energetic-blockages, providing for an opportunity or way into addressing deeper, hidden issues.
Take it easy on your knees
We are beginning to realise by now in The modern West, that the lotus demands of the primary series come a little early for us nowadays. We are different bodies, living under different conditions than those for whom the system was originally designed. Therefore, as we said in the beginning, it is worth being observant of the fact that we may need to make amendments to this series in order to make effective and happy progress with it. To repeat, it’s just a blueprint, a tool for our use.
Probably, the most fundamental amendment then that we might make is to do with the lotus position. Supposing the hips are already pretty open, if they’re not, the series will almost inevitably take its toll on our knees. Because, where the hip doesn’t move, the knee will be asked to accommodate. It may be mobilised accordingly being a smaller joint than the hip so easier to force where the hip is not. On the other hand, the knee is not a ball and socket joint as the hip is, so will be damaged if we perform the position using knee rotation instead of hip.
All this means we may make the following accommodation, remembering a stitch in time saves nine, and that the quickest way to develop the full posture, is often actually to amend it in the beginning in order to find where the real work lies.
Tips For Modifying Ashtanga Primary Series to Safeguard the Knees
- Cross the leg as opposed to putting it in lotus.
- Use a block to support the knee.
- Take time getting in and out of the position (it’s in moving the knee is most vulnerable)
- Take your time generally. As they say: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Find some more basic hip-openers as a warm-up to developing the lotus.