Archive | July, 2012

Vinyasa Count

3 Jul

If you travel, you will arrive

If you remain, you will grow

This quote comes from one of my favourite books, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House by video artist, Bill Viola. If I remember correctly, he grabbed the quote from a Sufi poet. The book is a collection of his writings from 1973-1994 in which he explores his medium of video, as well as his development as an artist. The quote, a prelude of what’s to come, has stuck with me over the past many years as I have moved my life from New York City to Berlin and finally London with several trips to India in between. The one constant in all that time has been my Ashtanga Yoga practice, which has helped me to understand that Home is on my mat where I come back to mySelf each day.

The above quote also has particular relevance to life in London where one’s mind is constantly pulled to the next new thing. Having new experiences is important, but to truly understand something one must stay with it for a long period of time allowing one’s knowledge to expand and wisdom to develop.

This first week of July marks one year that I have been teaching the Mysore program at the Life Centre in Notting Hill. It has been a very fulfilling year in which I have learnt a great deal. This past March I returned from one of my regular journeys to Mysore to study at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI). At KPJAYI, every Friday brings a led practice of the primary series. It is at this time practitioners are able to check that they are performing the correct vinyasa count during their own self-practice. Sharath, Pattabhi Jois’ grandson, leads the class through the Primary Series counting in Sanskrit. This led class helps the practitioner learn the correct breath count to accompany their movement. By using the correct vinyasa count during practice, one remains ‘on track’ with the sequence allowing the meditative aspect of the practice to develop. Vinyasa refers to a series of body movements linked together by the breath. Every moment is counted in the Ashtanga practice. Each asana has a particular number of “vinyasa” counts for transitioning into, holding and transitioning out of each position. For example, Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) has five counts, whereas Navasana (Boat Pose) has thirteen counts. These assigned counts give another level of focus to the practice.

Similarly to a musical score or the choreography for a dance, the Ashtanga sequence follows a particular arrangement, and in doing so, focuses the mind. With its set sequencing system, Ashtanga is a very accessible way to develop a regular yoga practice. Through repetition of movement, breath and postures, practitioners can turn their focus inward. The practice becomes a dialogue, a conversation between you and yourSelf on the mat. When you allow yourself to think in this way, it enables you to simply do your practice without judgment. Wherever you are in the practice on a particular day is where you are meant to be. You may not get into Marychayasana D as easily today as you did yesterday or at all, but that’s fine. That is simply where you are today. Tomorrow may be different and it may not. This helps us to deal with the things that life throws at us more easily without reacting so strongly, leading us toward greater contentment. Additionally, this practice brings greater focus into our daily lives so that we follow through with completing tasks, projects and anything else we put our mind to!

Depending on your level of experience with Ashtanga, the monthly led class will give the opportunity to learn the correct vinyasa count or to help one memorize which asana comes next in the sequence. Just when you thought you had learned all there is to know of the Primary Series! There’s more!

Stayed tuned till next time when I will write about the most spoken word in Mysore this past spring… SURRENDER!

(and I won’t leave you waiting for months!)

Guruji leads practice in Mysore in 2004

Guruji leads practice in Mysore in 2004

Please visit: for more info on joining these classes!