Thursday, July 31, 2008

Prasara Yoga Primer - a brief review

In a previous life (and I am not talking about reincarnation) I was a Yoga teacher. I used to practice mainly Iyengar Yoga, Bihar Yoga and Ashtanga. The classes I taught consisted of a combination of these styles and depended very much on the ability and fitness levels of my students. Most people know yoga for the stretches (and also sometimes the breathing methods) but yoga is actually a complete science of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. The evolution of yoga in the West seems to have emphasized either asana (postures), dharana (meditation), or vinyasa (breath-linked postures as is often seen in Ashtanga or Power Yoga). I recently discovered another "branch" of Yoga referred to as Prasara. Prasara is essentially about the in-between aspects, the "flow" between postures. Scott Sonnon is credited for bringing this flowing style of Yoga practice into mass consciousness and it is something I feel is worth exploring. I haven't yet purchased any of his materials on Prasara but I did recently obtain and e-book on Prasara yoga by CST (Circular Strength Training) coaches Ryan Hurst and Jarlo Ilano. The ebook (in PDF format) is written in simple and readily accessible language and contains photos that make the postures quite easy to understand. What makes this particular form of Yoga unique is that it doesn't emphasize holding of postures for extended periods of time but rather the creation of "flows" that allow the body to transition from one posture to the next in a flowing manner. This approach makes a lot of sense to me on a visceral level - the body is never really static. Everything we do is a process of being in motion - even sitting quietly in meditation actually consists of the natural movement of the breath. The Prasara Yoga Primer does a good job of explaining the philosophy of Prasara Yoga, the postures and also the movements that allow the body to flow from one pose to the next. I must admit that it takes a bit of analysis to interpret the in-between moves that lead to the next posture but with a bit of discipline it is not too difficult to figure out. One of the things I really like about Prasara is that it is so much in harmony with some of the findings of modern physics; especially the idea that the universe is a fluid process rather than a static event. Prasara seems to tap into our natural rhythms and then allow us to expand on our natural range of motion to take us into as yet unexplored realms of physical freedom. I have certainly obtained a lot of benefits from following this way of moving my body and am fully intending to explore Prasara Yoga in more depth in the coming weeks.

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