More on Practice


"A daily practice brings about a gauge in your life. For me, it’s been a way
to know who I am in the moment. And it’s the only thing in my life that
is something I do every day; it’s the same practice. So no matter what
else I’m doing—I’m traveling, if I eat differently—every day the practice
being the same repetitive practice gives me a way to judge myself in a
nonjudgmental way, a way of seeing. “How am I doing? How am I holding
up to the stresses of daily life?” It’s also the only time for me that I
can take my mind out of my daily life and become free in a spiritual
sense to investigate myself, my true Self."

(Nancy Gilgoff)

"My experience of practicing yoga now for about twenty-three years is
that it keeps me connected to a process that is life-giving, light-giving,
and health-giving. The rewards of yoga are tangible and immediate, and
especially in the beginning. Staying connected to the practice for me just
ensures that this evolutionary process continues to unfold itself in some
kind of organic way, creating greater health, greater wealth, greater possibility,
greater opportunity, greater things.

I think it’s very important for people to develop patience in the process.
Things may not come at quite the speed that people would like them to come and oftentimes people become attached to the physical progress in the poses, using that
as sort of yardstick to measure how well they’re doing in the practice. I
suppose everyone goes through that phase at some point, and maybe
some people never get out of that phase."

(Tim Miller)

"After ten years, one starts to get a bit of a grip with the mula bandha. After twenty years, I realized this was the real strength of yoga. Now that it has been more than thirty years, more than ever I realize the real strength of the yoga is in what’s invisible. I tell
people, “What’s invisible is what’s important.” The breathing and mula
bandha; the name and the form, namarupa, is maya; it’s an illusion. And
the people who give too much emphasis to the name and form miss the
real importance, which is the mula bandha and the breathing, the invisible
internal practice."

(David Williams)

"On Guruji’s first trip to America, his English was pretty pitiful. He explained as best as he could in English, but if he could see you weren’t holding mula bandha
correctly, he had no qualms whatsoever about reaching behind you and
just putting a little squeeze on the rectum. The reflex is to pull it tight
immediately, to tighten up. When teaching pranayama, he was very strict
about uddiyana bandha. He would have each person sit in front of him
and he would press in very hard on that section you need to hold very
tight to keep the air locked properly. People who don’t do pranayama
don’t understand the importance of uddiyana bandha a lot of times. It’s
locking up the energy so it goes to the right places. That and the chin
lock are very important, and using the three together is like playing the
piano and using the pedals. To make the music come out properly, it’s absolutely
vital that some degree of mastery be attained. And it’s hard during
asana because you are moving and shifting position. It’s much easier
when you are sitting in lotus. Like you were saying, kukkutasana would
be a great place to practice nauli because it’s challenging. So after learning
pranayama, control of the bandhas comes more easily during asana
practice and as you shift position [vinyasa]. Mula bandha is vital. That’s
one thing that separates ashtanga from most other systems. If you are
holding mula bandha properly and keep breathing, you can try to pick up
a piano. Either you will be able to pick it up or you won’t, but the likelihood
of hurting yourself is very slim. It’s a protective device; it prevents
hernia and all manner of displacement of organs. It’s vital. The system
wouldn’t work without it, and teachers who don’t concentrate on it are
not doing their students a favor. Their students will progress in spite of
the lack of knowledge, but it will be nothing like the pace they could
achieve if they had a little instruction. It’s the cornerstone of the practice,

(Brad Ramsey)

Why Asana first?

"Asana? I think it is because he wants us to understand the physical effort
which gives us tenacity, willpower, in order to be able to develop discipline.
He inculcates discipline so that we understand that we should be
attentive to other people and practice the first two limbs. But you haveto
go through the physical to understand the two limbs which come before.
You have to be peaceful in your head, you can not go immediately to the
first two limbs. That’s why he makes us start with asanas."
(Brigitte Deroses)

"When you inhale, it works on the sympathetic nervous system. When
you exhale, it works on the parasympathetic nervous system. This is why
we have to bring it into balance all the time. All effort is initiated by
the sympathetic nervous system, while sleep or relaxation is more the
parasympathetic nervous system. Pranayama is how we control the nervous
system. When we inhale, you have to make an effort. Exhale is just
happening, you don’t need any effort. But to inhale deeply you need to
make an effort. When you make an effort everything becomes tense. If
you say “Inhale,” a person may screw up his eyes, raise the shoulders,
move the head up—it creates that action. In pranayama when we inhale,
we move the head down and look into the heart. You don’t raise the
shoulders. You just inhale peacefully. So you are breaking the pattern.
When you exhale you don’t fall into tamas, you keep the back straight.
Otherwise, you would naturally collapse the back on exhalation. When
you exhale, you engage mula bandha, you support the spine and avoid
falling into this heaviness [tamas]. In this way, you change the nervous
system, you gain mastery over it. And this is probably how Krishnamacharya
was able to stop his heart from beating."

(Tomas Zorzo)

"In a lot of schools of yoga, if it hurts you are doing
something wrong. And if you were a perfect physical and mental specimen
already, then I can see how that might be true. If you are altering
the status quo in an unpleasant way, you might want to stop if you were
already perfect. But if you feel growth coming from it, and see things
changing that need to be changed . . . the series is just a mold toward a
body that meets the requirements for spiritual advancement, I believe. I
don’t think you can get there without pain. I never met anybody who did.
For me, it hurt from the first day to the last, at least something. There’s
always something."

(Brad Ramsey)

"First, you keep your body strong. Life demands that you have to be strong
and healthy. Also, when the person starts to practice, they change their
habits in a healthy direction. At the psychological level, you start to develop
willpower, which is also necessary in life. When you practice every
day, you develop willpower. When you relax in the asanas, you are developing
the quality of relaxation in life. So the asana practice is giving you
strength and relaxation and also the possibility of reflection. You can see,
according to your state of mind, how the practice will be affected by what
you are eating. So the practice is a mirror. You can see many things. When
life is falling apart, you still have your practice: it brings you balance."

(Tomas Zorzo)

"Every Saturday would be neti day.
When I got there he was using his old neti string, a really old one, a piece
of bicycle valve tube, what we call surgical tubing, but black like bicycle
inner tubes are made out of, and one of his old Brahmin threads. He’d
double it and roll it on his leg and spiral it real tight, and it felt just like
sandpaper—it was, of course, linen. So every Saturday we lined up at his
little sink in the yoga shala and he would make some of the Indian people
come, too. If they were snorting in class or blowing their nose or
something, they’d have to come and they were the first in line. We always
got there as early as we could because the sink was just cold water. The
first time I went there this little Indian kid, I think his dad made him
come because he had a kind of asthmatic sound to his breathing, really
clogged up, and the kid was practically crying, “No, no,” and they were
rattling back and forth in Kannada and Guruji was like, “Hey, you get up
here!” and the kid is crying and screaming and Guruji says, “Open!” So
he puts the tube up the kid’s nose and reaches into his mouth to grab it,
and “Aargh!” throws up all over Guruji, who jumps back and starts yelling
at him. So he does the other side on the kid, and I’m next. “Oh, no, don’t
worry,” [says Guruji] and runs his hand over it like that [to clean off the
neti string]."

(Brad Ramsey)

(Extracted from, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students, by Guy Donahaye, Eddie Stern)

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