The first article is going to be a long one, so I will have to divide it in sections:
- Locality and non-locality
- Mindset or assemblage point
One crisp August day in 1965 I was sitting in the living room of Chalet Tannegg, the house that Vanda Scaravelli had rented for Jiddu Krishnamurti, in Gstaad, Switzerland, for the summer. I was twenty-three years old and had come for my daily talk with him about ‘enlightenment’. I noticed on the coffee table a book by the title ‘A separate reality’, by Carlos Castaneda. Apparently Krishnamurti had just bought it and was reading it.
At that time we were all copy-cats of Krishnamurti, so needless to say that on my return to Holland I immediately ordered the book. I was hooked immediately and so every consecutive year I bought the next one as it came out.
In the beginning I thought it was all about sorcery, as hundreds of young people wandered off into the Mexican desert hunting for Don Juan, indulging in peyote etc., trying to learn to ‘see’.
It was only years later, when I began reading ‘The dancing Wu-Li masters’, and the ‘Tao of physics’ that the penny dropped.
Carlos Castaneda was in fact talking about Quantum physics cloaked as ‘sorcery’.
By the time I read the first book of Castaneda (actually the second one called ‘A separate reality’) in 1965 I was already studying with B.K.S.Iyengar. I had been to Bombay for one year and was now teaching in Holland.
Since that day my studies of Carlos Castaneda and Yoga went hand in hand – two parallel studies at the same time. My understanding of both has undergone many transformations, and still are, as I grow older and more skeptical, being able to better draw the true essence out of both disciplines and bypass the non-essentials.
My third interest has always been so-called ‘pranic healing’. For a while I dabbled into it myself, and studied many books on the subject, though never considering to make it my profession.
Well, circumstances recently has brought the three together in an unexpected way.
Having suffered for the last ten years of a certain chronic condition, which the doctors have not been able to resolve, I decided to look it up in the Internet to see if I could solve the problem myself without drugs. After some navigating I stumbled upon the web site of a certain Robert Ginsburg in England who claims that he studied with a Russian theoretical physicist called Nikolai Levashov.
I did some extensive reading on both of them, and was pretty amazed. Here was quantum physics, Castaneda, the ‘system’ expounded in the film and book ‘The Secret’ and my own attempt at the system of Centered Yoga all rolled into one where the mind is the guide for the subtle body and the subtle body is the guide for the physical body, with as ‘pony express’ between all of these bodies ‘intent’.
One of the discoveries of Nicolai Levashov is that the physical body has several interconnected levels. Work on any one level influences all other levels.
‘Intent’ is the third of the Vital Principles, and is largely misunderstood by the majority of people. Actually I think that very few people understand what intent really is. People invariably think it is imagining, desire, wishing, anything, everything, that has to do with the ego and personal gratification.
Well, nothing is further from the truth.
Castaneda summons it up as follows: “Intent is the FORCE that holds the Universe together”
I think that intent is also the force that holds organisms together, like human organisms.
Being a force it cannot be seen, but, as Castaneda says, the effects can be witnessed. It can be used on objects, whether living or not. There have been many people who have been able to move objects using only their intent (telekinesis) . As far as I understand there are ongoing scientific experiments to use this force of the mind with disabled persons to recuperate some of their movements.
I found a nice description of intent somewhere:
“There are certain forms of mental action that exercise a direct power upon the human personality, while there are other forms of mental action that do not exercise that power. How to tell the difference between the two is a great problem, and a most important problem, because to find the solution is to find the real secret of practical results in the metaphysical field.
Thought does not become power unless the inner force of thought is brought into action. There is no inner force in all-mental action. This force is hidden, so to speak, in every thought, but it is not aroused in every thought. When it is aroused the thought becomes alive with power and produces results according to its nature. When you think of health, and arouse the inner force of every thought, you will give every thought the power to produce health.
The inner force of the thought, when awakened, will express and produce the exact nature of the thought. Your thought will have no power to produce the desired effect in your body unless you awaken the inner force of that thought.
To awaken this force, or rather place it in action in every thought, deep conscious feeling is necessary; and a deep, strong, positive will is required to direct it. But both feeling and will must be trained to sound the depths of the human system, as mere superficial action, however earnest or determined, will not avail. The object must be to train consciousness to actually grasp this finer element in thought, and as consciousness goes deeper and deeper into the interior world of thought, this finer force comes forth with more and more power until every thought you think is a power. Then use wisdom in your thinking and the results that you will henceforth secure will be remarkable indeed.
To awaken the inner force of thought, give spirit to all your thought; that is, give depth of life and feeling to your thought, and give what may be termed the action of soul to every mental action. This force is not forceful and is not purely mental, but contains an element that is much finer and stronger than the usual energies of mind. In fact, this inner force has tremendous power when deeply realized and properly concentrated. When fully awakened there is no disease in the body that this force cannot remove, and there is no adverse condition anywhere in the human system that it cannot make right.”
To be continued…
Dona’s out-of-town seminars
On June 9 the founding members of the Association held a ‘free class’ in the Yoga Festival in Rome, where each member took the class for some twenty minutes, under my supervision.
That evening a party at the house of one of Patrizias’s students, where we met the publisher of the Italian version of the Practice Manual. A very enjoyable evening, with the hope that the publisher will take on also the other books. On Sunday I held a general class, where a lot of people from all kinds of yoga came together to experience Centered Yoga.
On September 20 Francesca and I travelled to Austria, to a small town called Pieber. I was to hold a seminar in Graz at the kind invitation of Maria Sintschnig, but we took the opportunity to also visit Pieber, where the famous Lipizzaner stallions are born and raised, and to see the ‘Herbstparade’.
The seminar in Graz was very nice – wonderful group and nice interactions. We have to thank Maria for her excellent organisation and care. One of her students took many photographs. If you are interested you can write to email@example.com to enquire whether you can see them.
On Saturday we watched the show, and on Sunday we finished the course, after which we travelled back to Italy, tired but full of wonderful impressions. Thank you Maria, and I hope we will do it again in the future.
Milano Yoga Festival
On October 12 I gave a three hour class at the Yoga Festival in Milano, after which we agreed with the organizers that I would return next year to Roma and Milano for further classes.
On October 27 Francesca (who functions as the secretary of both the Association as well as my personal secretary) traveled with the ‘Frecciarossa’ to Rome (a superfast train that covers the distance Milano-Roma in three hours) to assist in the official inauguration of the Centered Yoga Academy of Patrizia Gregori. The opening was at seven in the evening, and we enjoyed snacks, drinks, and some unusual music performed by some of Patrizia’s students. On Sunday a four-hour seminar, in which there were also many students from the Iyengar school, desirous to meet the founder of Iyengar yoga in Italy and to experience Centered yoga in person. The two days were most enjoyable, and I wish Patrizia great success with the Academy.
The bare bones of asanas
When people look at books describing asana’s with photographs or pictures, they can get quite overwhelmed, specially new students. There seem to be so many of them, and seemingly random.
In this article I will simplify the asana’s to the maximum, and show that in reality the body makes only very few movements, and that all asana’s are an endless combining and re-combining of these movements. Once you understand the movements, understanding the asana’s becomes simple.
Movements take place in joints.
- First of all there is the spinal column, which is a series of small joints.
- Second, there are the hip joints, which are big weight bearing joints.
- Third, there are the shoulder joints, which are smaller and more delicate.
Let us start with the spinal column. The spine can make four movements:
- Bending forward
- Bending backward
- Bending sideways
- Twisting around its own axis
The hip joint (the joint where the thigh enters the pelvis) can make six movements:
- The neutral mode (in which the thigh comes straight out of the hip joint)
- Endorotation (in which the thigh rotates inward in the hip joint)
- Exorotation (in which the thigh rotates outward in the hip joint)
- Abduction of the thigh (bringing the leg sideways away from the body)
- Adduction of the thigh (bringing the leg towards the body)
- Flexion: closing the hip joint at the front by bending the thigh in the direction of the abdomen
- Extension: opening the hip joint at the front by taking the thigh backwards in the direction of the buttocks
The shoulder joints can make six movements:
- The neutral mode (in which the upper arm comes straight out of the shoulder joint)
- Endorotation (in which the upper arm rotates inward in the shoulder joint)
- Exorotation (in which the upper arm rotates outward in the shoulder joint)
- Abduction of the upper arm (bringing the upper arm sideways away from the body)
- Adduction of the upper arm (bringing the upper arm the body)
- Flexion: bringing the arm forward
- Extension: extending the arm backward
The knees, elbows and ankles are hinge joints and can anatomically make only one movement: bending in one direction. The knees can be also slightly rotated in cross leg positions, but that should be kept well within limits, as it is not natural to the knee joint and can severely damage that joint. The outer ankle is slightly stretched in cross leg positions, but that too should be kept well within limits, as it weakens the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle.
The toes and fingers have four movements:
- Extension (not much)
Then there are the joints in the feet, and the cranial joints, which we will leave out of the discussion, as they do not concern us here.
ALL ASANA’s ARE ENDLESS COMBINATIONS OF THESE TWENTY MOVEMENTS.
The next thing we need to do is remember that the human body is a biped, that is, its natural position in life is standing upright on two feet. THIS IS ASANA NUMBER ONE.
This asana is called tadasana, and is done standing with the feet at hip width, so that the legs fall vertically down from the hip joints, with the feet parallel to each other.
Starting from tadasana, and using the above schematic view of the spinal column and hip joints, we can easily see that there is only ONE TRUE forward bend. That is uttanasana.
Uttanasana is the matrix for ALL other forward bends, whether standing, sitting, or lying down on the back.
Starting from tadasana, and using the above schematic view of the spinal column and hip joints, we can easily see that there is only ONE TRUE back bend. That is urdhva dhanurasana.
Urdhva dhanurasana is the matrix for ALL other back bends, whether standing, sitting, or lying down on the back or front.
Starting from tadasana, and using the above schematic view of the spinal column and hip joints, we can easily see that there is only ONE TRUE sideways bend. That is the crab.
The crab is the matrix for ALL other sideways bendings, whether standing or sitting.
Starting from tadasana, and using the above schematic view of the spinal column, we can easily see that there is only ONE TRUE twisting pose. That is rotating the spinal column left or right, keeping the hip joints facing straight forward and the two sides of the trunk equally long (no so-called twist-collapse that most people end up doing, where the side of the trunk towards you are twisting collapses in the process and becomes shorter).
This twist is the matrix for ALL other twisting poses, whether standing, sitting, or lying down.
Let us take a few asana’s as illustrations.
- Vriksasana I with the right leg bent:
The left leg is in tadasana, the right leg is in exorotation + abduction + bending/slight twisting in the knee.
- Trikonasana to the right:
The left leg is in endorotation in which the left hip joint is opened (opening the hip joint by taking the thigh backwards in the direction of the buttock: back bend movement). The right leg is in exorotation in combination with closing the right hip joint (closing the hip joint at the front by bringing the thigh in the direction of the abdomen: forward bend movement).
In other words, trikonasana is a combination of endorotation + back bending (left leg), and exorotation + forward bending (right leg). The spinal column has a slight twist.
- Janu sirsasana with the left leg straight:
The left leg is in paschimottanasana (the sitting version of uttanasana).
The right leg is in exorotation, abduction and slight twisting of the knee.
Both right and left leg are in forward bend mode (uttanasana)
- Padmasana is of course forward bend + exorotation of both thighs + slight twist in the knees
- Virasana is of course forward bend + endorotation of both thighs + slight twist in the knees
Keeping this schematic view in mind you can easily understand each and every asana.
Good luck and happy practice!
Kate Rabinowitz from New Jersey after the STORM:
Thanks for writing! I have communication with blackberry. This has been a really epic storm…combining the arctic tropical and hurricane plus full moon, and then add on sea level rise from global warming. We lost power for a week and beaches lost 50 feet..but we are safe. New york city and new jersey must rebuild themselves and there is such a mess to clean up from the storm. It was good being off the grid in terms of silence, but I’d rather go camping than have a house that doesn’t work. All is well otherwise.