Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Concluding Module 3 (Philosophy), Beginning Module 4

Module 3: Philosophy and Hatha Practices draws to a close...

Chanting, Mantra, Kirtan, etc...
Before the holiday we studied the role of sound and music in ritual throughout the history of Yoga.

At the beginning of this module, while studying the Brahmanistic period, we learned about the significance of sound in mantra dating back to the Rg Veda. We learned that throughout the Vedic period the texts were passed down orally, which required strict adherence to pronunciation, metre, tone, and tune.

As we transitioned into Mantra and Kirtan we looked at the role these ideas play in different types of vocalizing within the Modern Postural Yoga tradition. We also discussed related controversies relating to cultural sensitivity in chanting and kirtan.

We compared and contrasted the methods and characteristics of different types of yoga-related music through time. We began by briefly listening to a modern recording by MC Yogi, a recent headliner at the San Francisco Yoga Journal conference. We talked about Krishnamacharya teaching Indra Devi, as the first Westerner and woman, to chant and the significance of invocation in a variety of MPY practices including Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, Desikachar little-v viniyoga, and Kundalini practices. Following this, and mindful of the strictness and seriousness of technique, we listened to recordings of trained, traditional Vedic chanting while silently following along with sheet music notes.

After the more strict and solemn tradition of Vedic chanting, we listened to a few versions of the Yoga Sutras while following the chanting notes with transliterated text. We also listened to a variety of modern Kirtan, including Krisha Das, and discussed the meaning of the words. Finally we discussed the role of instruments including singing bowls, and practiced the three-part chanting of aum.

Yoga Philosophy continued... How did we get here?

After a much needed resting period over the 4th of July weekend, we returned to review our Pranayama techniques and discuss adding the warming breath techniques. Then we transitioned back into philosophy with the help of Alison Hinks' creative and innovative infographics!

We began looking into the history of Modern Postural Yoga as a phenomenon in the US from the 19th century to today, using these images as guidelines and reading selections from Vivekananda, Desikachar about Krishnamacharya, and passages about early US yoga enthusiasts including Indra Devi, and the Bernard family.
We also discussed some of the reasons for the schism and variation in the different schools represented in Modern Postural Yoga, including schools that are recently gaining popularity and schools that have recently suffered setbacks in public perception (some of which will be discussed again in the "Current Controversies" section of Module 6: Professionalism).
On our final day of yoga philosophy and history, we spent the whole day studying the Yoga Sutras in depth.

We started out by discussing the complexities of dating and verifying authorship. We also discussed textual analysis techniques generally, in terms of what to watch out for (textual variations and context) and what types of arguments we may be tempted to make regarding authorship, authority, and meaning. We also discussed the difficulties that may be created by ambiguity and the issues relating to translating a highly inflected language such as Sanskrit.

We discussed textual variations depending on translation and time period, including the omission of 3.22 from many versions and 4.16 (a favorite of mine that we display on the Upama Yoga website!!!) most conspicuously absent from Vivekananda.

We took our most challenging sutras from homework and practiced "close reading" techniques to 'unpack' their meaning. We examined key sutras carefully using a variety of translations and breaking down the original Sanskrit roots. After learning how to 'dissect' the key words of the original sutra, we discussed how to use this careful linguistic analysis to do side-by-side comparisons of nearly 20 different translations. Finally we listened to the sutra chanting again, the third time since our Sanskrit class and our chanting class. This time students were able to recognize words and passages!

Module 4: Intermediate Asana
After the work we'd done discussing the history of yoga philosophy, we returned to our study of asana. We began by reviewing an idea earlier glossed over, the koshas. After examining this idea as a philosophical approach to identity and self, we looked at how we might use this as a conceptual framework for teaching and experiencing asana. We also reviewed Yoga Sutra 2.46, referring to a seated posture for meditation in the time period of the Yoga Sutras, but also an excellent modern guide for determining the student experience in a pose.

Now that students were already familiar with the anatomical and physiological reasoning behind pose-work from module 2, we were able to deeply examine the energetic effects and desirable mechanics on a deeper level of precision.

Students were also more familiar with the variety of styles, lineages, and philosophies present in Modern Postural Yoga of the 21st century, so we were now also able to examine the different perspectives on pose families and note what sorts of variations may exist from tradition to tradition.

Students began teaching poses and thinking about how to sequence them together, not only anatomically, but also in terms of energetics and convenience to the student (when to grab props, avoiding sequences that change plane too frequently, setting up the mat for long term, etc.)

Students continued examining poses in terms of structural lines and directions of movement, examining "spirals" of rotation in legs, arms, and the significant changes to a pose structure when the pelvic and shoulder girdle are in the correct alignment.

Students also began to learn how to not only modify poses, but examine what qualities were required to build up to more challenging poses, and design modifications to accomplish these long-term goals.

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