August 14, 2011

The Art of Adjusting: the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga.

I am loving The Art of Adjusting, by Brian Cooper.

The book is expensive (US $62), granted, but that is because it has a lot to offer and it is not one of those books you would read once and forget. No. Not this one.  I already wish I could have it on the kindle so it could come with me everywhere (it’s a bit heavy too, although I heard he created a travel version now).

Adjusting is an art, indeed.  When the adjustment is right there is an exhilaration that goes with it at discovering where the energy of the pose goes, where the focus is, how it can send us within even more, how it can reconnect us with the nervous system in am more dramatic, healing way. And so the book is a blessing.

The beauty of it, at least for me, is that it goes over the primary series of Ashtanga.  It details each pose in the series that brings you health (Yoga Chikitsa, as primary is called, or yoga therapy) with modifications, and looking at it from six different points of view:

  • Key: what defines the asana and what everyone (including new students) should strive to achieve
  • Aim: suggestions as of where the asana is going
  • Foundation: further clarification as of what is basic in the pose, alignment, gaze, etc
  • What to do: Giving tips on how to move deeper into the position without losing alignment

And then, later on, towards the end of the book there is:

  • Partner yoga  providing a few photographs of how two people can provide support/alignment when working together
  • Thai massage photographs of a few poses and how they mix massage with yoga. Perhaps this is more of an artistic side of the book as I am sure nobody can learn Thai Massage from just photographs, but beautiful to look at nevertheless.


The page for Chaturanga Dandasana

The adjustments are separated into “observation“,  “passive“, “active“, and “resistance” categories.

For example, in chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed stick posture) you could observe if the student is ‘letting the belly sag and losing energy’ by that.  Or, you could then ‘press gently on the mid-back and ask that she resist’ (resistance adjustment) or you could ‘pull back on the student’s legs while asking her to pull in the opposite direction’ (active adjustment).

The wording is crafted, made sense, made me re-think poses.  Take for instance, again in chaturanga “the body has to be stretched our from a central point at the navel, with the upper body held steady while the heels are stretched in the opposite direction. This is what provides the necessary tension -like pulling on a rope-“

Like pulling on a rope…. hm…  I learn something new every day. Don’t you love that?

Warrior one really appreciated after15 breaths

Today I worked side by side with the book on Virabhadrasana (Warrior I).  He says:

A strong and powerful asana best appreciated after holding for more than fifteen breaths. It is also…a great preparation for back-bending”.

So I did.  I stayed in warrior one for 15 breaths on each side.  I had never done that before.

At first I noticed that past the usual five long and deep breaths I take I needed to negotiate the neck because it began to feel discomfort.  I had to lower my head so that my eyes would be in line with the horizon.  But for the rest, it was not so hard to maintain the pose and eventually bring the head back up and the gaze to the ceiling.

On breath number 9 or so I began to feel a change in the energy of the pose.  The legs began to work harder to support the pose, I felt first the hamstrings and then the thighs engage much more than they usually do.

By breath 12 I noticed that I was sweating and that the foundation felt much stronger than usual.  THAT is when the back-bending part actually started to happen.  I felt waves of energy in the upper portion of my back, an opening of the chest and as if the lower back inserted itself into the upper back, lengthening upwards.

I admit I had to rest for a few breaths after the intense 30 breaths on Warrior I and even before I went into II.  But then two felt easy.

The level of description of each pose and the prep / variation is substantial. I find the book a work of art.


I also loved that there are blank pages for extra notes, which I have already began filling with what Krishnamacharya says about the poses.  I would have liked to have an extra blank page after all of the poses, but I think I can live with it the way it is anyway.

Blank pages for my notes, hm, what did the big K say about this one?

What a book!

Cooper has a diverse background, his Phd is in engineering and he has an ‘advanced’ degree in Thai massage.  He is also a yogi, of course, who started practicing hatha yoga in the early 70s and later studied with Derek Ireland (John Scot’s first teacher), and Guruji himself in 1990 from whom he learned primary and intermediate in a five-month-long trip  to Mysore.





Read 9 Comments and Reply

Read 9 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Claudia Azula Altucher  |  Contribution: 5,160