Sunday, 17 January 2016

More on Krishnamacharya's breath, two students 30 years apart, Indra Devi 1930s and Yyvonne Millerand 1960s

Thank you to Enrique for sending through these pages from two of Krishnamacharya's students thirty years apart, Indra Devi in the 1930s and Yyvonne Millerand in the 1960s. Also, two pages from Krishnamacharya's son TKV Desikachar's book 'Heart of Yoga'.
The selection is followed by Simon Borg-Olivier discussion of the benefits of abdominal breathing from his book Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga

The selections relate to my earlier post on Krishnamacharya's explicit instruction for the breath in Yogasanagalu (1941)

Friday, 6 March 2015
The breath: Simon Borg-Olivier made me fall in love with asana all over again.

In that post we looked at the explicit instructions for the breath given by krishnamacharya in his early Mysore work Yogasanagalu (1941)

from Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu

1. In yoganga sadhana we don’t see these (above mentioned) irregularities and with regular practice all organs will become strong.  How is that?  When practicing asanas, we need to maintain deep inhalation and exhalation to normalise the uneven respiration through nasal passages.

 2. In yoga positions where eyes, head and forehead are raised, inhalation must be performed slowly through the nostrils until the lungs are filled.  Then the chest is pushed forward and puffed up, abdomen tightly tucked in, focusing the eyes on the tip of the nose, and straighten the back bones tightly as much as possible.  This type of inhalation which fills the lungs signifies Puraka.

3. In yoga positions where eyes, head, forehead, chest and the hip are lowered, we have to slowly exhale the filled air.  Tucking in tightly the upper abdomen, the eyes must be closed.  This type of exhalation is called Rechaka.

4. Holding the breath is called Kumbhaka.

On reading those instructions Enrique was reminded of some of the instructions for the breath found in several of Krishnamacharya's students, Indra Devi, Yvonne Millerand and also those found in TKV Desikachar's Heart of Yoga. 

It's important to remember that although indra Devi and YYvonne Millerand  were Krishnamacharya's students their writing and own instructions for the breath may well be influenced by later teachers. however One thing we do find in all these descriptions is the employment of kumbhaka (breath retention). Kumbhaka in asana is very much a feature of Krishnamacharya's early Mysore writing and may suggest that the instructions given do closely resemble those instructions given by Krishnsmacharya while they were studying with him.

In the notes section at the end of the post I've included the selection on the benefits of abdominal breathing from Simon Borg-Olivier's Book that I'm currently exploring and trying to square with Krishnamacharya's own Yogasanagalu instructions

The first two selections Enrique passed along are from Indra Devi's 'Yoga For You'.

Indra Devi famously studied with Krishnamacharya  for a short period in the 1930s, is this how Krishnamacharya taught her to breath or an approach she embraced later based on other sources.

An earlier post on Indria Devi which includes 'In the shala', a chapter from one of her books on her experience studying with Krishnamacharya.

Friday, 8 November 2013
Photo: Indra Devi teaching Marilyn Monroe Yoga 1960 ALSO Indra Devi in Mysore


The second two pages are from are from an Italian edition of Yvonne's Millerand Guide pratique de HathaYoga. 

Including  a much appreciated translation from the Italian by Chiara Ghiron 

Thank you to Chiara Ghiron  for the speedy translation below

First picture

Same working position: laying on the back, with bent legs, feet on the floor.

Rest your fingers on the top of your chest; elbows and shoulders rest on the floor, relaxed.

Having inhaled into the thoracic cage, we exhale relaxing until a respiratory equilibrium and then continue the exhale by 'blowing' tthanks to contraction of the abdominal muscles.

Retention with empty lungs: during this retention, gradually release abdominal contraction.

1. Inhalation: the top part of the thoracic cage lifts gently as air gets in. After the top part of the lungs have filled, the middle part also expands, then ribs remain relaxed or floating. Towards the end, a gentle expansion of the abdominal area is perceived, due to completion of diaphragmatic contraction, expansion and lowering, to ensure maximal room to the entering air

2. Retention: short, with no movement whatsoever

3. Exhalation: attention is directed to the abdomen. From the start of the exhalation, the abdomen wall flattens and gradually gets closer to the back wall with a slow voluntary action that allows dosage of rate and amount of exhaled air

4. Retention: short. The abdominal wall is kept contracted for a few seconds then released, to allow for the following inhalation that restarts movement in the thoracic cage

Thank you to Chiara Ghiron for the speedy translation below

Mechanical deep breathing exercise

- Seated, with straight, slightly open, legs, rest on the straight arms behind the back, hands on the floor. Inhale into the thoracic cage.

- Exhalation is helped by movement. While keeping exhaling, the body curls, the head lowers towards the sternum, ribs contract, the back bends sustained by the arms. The maximal air volume is expelled when the abdominal muscles contract by squeezing the internal organs: 'you blow'

- Retention: observe the abdominal surface below the midline, perceiving the tonic contraction of the abdominal muscles under the elastic skin; it is an effort which is very precisely located. With empty lungs and no other movement, this contraction is gently released and the lower abdomen rounds up a little

- Inhalation: making lever on the arms, the upper part of the spin lifts to start inhalation, opening the shoulders which move away from each other, raising the sternum. Air enters with an uninterrupted flux in a totally natural way into the top of the lungs, then into their middle portion as the thoracic cage expands and the back stretches. Lastly, the head lifts and bends backwards slowly. Resting on the arms allows for the abdominal muscles to become completely relaxed; the belly rounds up under the expanded ribs, which is a sign that the diaphragm has lowered and the inhalation has happened from top to bottom

- Retention without movement for a few seconds; exhalation is then guided again by movement of the body

This exercise will be repeated at the beginning of each class to ventilate the lungs and verify the tone of the abdominal muscles. They need to be able to contract to ensure exhalation and relax to allow lowering of the diaphragm at the end of the inhalation.


Two pages on breathing from Krishnamacharya's son TKV Desikachar's 1999 book 
'Heart of Yoga'


My earlier notes from Simon Bog-Olivier and another selection from Yyvonne Millerand

This section from Simon and Bianca's's book gives us lots to think about and work with perhaps as well as their concepts of related ha and tha bandhas..

" Abdominal and thoracic breathing
Abdominal breathing and thoracic breathing are terms sometimes used by people who teach breathing to indicate where on the body an expansion of the trunk should occur reÀecting the primary activation of either the diaphragm (abdominal breathing) or the intercostal muscles (thoracic breathing). It is incorrect to think that air is actually coming into the abdomen during abdominal breathing. In both types of breathing, the air will only go into the lungs.

Abdominal breathing is seen as an outward movement of the abdomen on inhalation and an inward movement of the abdomen on exhalation. Abdominal breathing mainly uses the diaphragm muscle, which moves downwards (distally) as it generates tension. If the abdomen is relaxed, pressure from the diaphragm will move the abdominal contents downwards (distally) and also outwards (anteriorly).

Thoracic breathing is seen as an outward and upward movement of the rib cage on inhalation and an inward and downward movement of the rib cage and chest wall on exhalation. Thoracic breathing mainly uses the intercostal muscles.

Intercostal muscle expansion of the rib cage and chest wall in thoracic breathing is essentially the same as the muscular activation used in the yogic internal lock uddiyana bandha [Section]". p227

8.4.3 The Effects of Breathing Rate on Various Body Systems
Some types of pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) require slow breathing that ¿lls and empties the entire lungs. This is sometimes referred to by other authors as complete breathing. Complete breathing requires full use of the diaphragm, the thoracic intercostal muscles and the abdominal muscles:

• The diaphragm [Table 7.4] is the main muscle used in what is referred to as abdominal breathing [Section 8.2.8]. On inhalation the abdomen gets larger as the diaphragm is activated (tenses and shortens), and on exhalation the abdomen gets smaller as the diaphragm relaxes (lengthens) and returns to its original position.

• The thoracic intercostal muscles (intercostals) [Table 7.4] are used in what is referred to as thoracic breathing [Section 8.2.8]. On inhalation the thorax (chest and upper back) gets larger as the intercostals are activated (tensing and shortening), and on exhalation the thorax gets smaller as the intercostals relax (lengthen) and return to their original position.

• The abdominal muscles [Table 7.4] are used to make a forced exhalation or a complete exhalation. 
By maintaining the grip (tension and shortness) of the abdominal muscles after the exhalation it makes it easier to expand the chest on a subsequent inhalation.

Many people have dif¿culty breathing with both the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles and are unable to expand their thorax unless they breathe quite forcefully with relatively fast and deep breathing [Table 8.1]. Fast, deep breathing forces the abdominal muscles to become activated (tense) to get the air out quickly and fully and, since the abdominal muscles have no time to relax after the exhalation, the subsequent inhalation is done with the abdomen ¿rm, thus forcing the thorax (chest and upper back) to expand.

Similarly, there are many people who can not easily relax their abdomen. Their abdominal muscles hold so much tension that these people are unable to breathe into their abdomen, and are hardly able to use their diaphragm at all, unless they spend time focusing on relaxation and slower breathing [Table 8.1]. These people tend to be doing mainly thoracic breathing while doing any physical activity.

In terms of the bandhas, the complete inhalation, i.e. the maximum possible inhalation, can be done with a tha-uddiyana bandha (chest expansion) followed and supplemented by a tha-mula bandha (abdominal expansion), while the maximum possible exhalation can be done with a ha-mula bandha (abdominal contraction) followed and supplemented by a ha-uddiyana bandha (chest contraction).

Table 8.1 compares the effects of two extreme types of breathing (fast deep breathing compared to slow shallow or tidal breathing) on the various body systems. These are only two of the many breathing possibilities that exist and each have varying effects. There is no such thing as right or wrong breathing but one must use the type of breathing that is appropriate for the situation.

Both the thoracic breathing and abdominal breathing confer possible bene¿ts and disadvantages. Ideal yogic breathing is a combination of the most advantageous aspects of both fast, deep breathing and slow, shallow breathing [Table 8.1]. In ideal yogic breathing, the three central bandhas (jalandhara, uddiyana, and mula) [Section 7.4.1] are held throughout the breath cycle. To initially learn to maintain a grip on the three bandhas, the thorax should be kept expanded (tha-uddiyana bandha) throughout the breath cycle as it would be during thoracic breathing inhalation; the lower abdomen should be kept ¿rm and drawn inwards (ha-mula bandha), as in a forced exhalation; while the back of the neck is kept long and the chin kept slightly down and inwards (ha-jalandhara bandha) [Section 7.4.1].
In optimal yogic breathing, slow relaxed diaphragmatic breathing is used to respire only a small amount of air per minute, but with the chest and abdomen held in such a way that only a small volume of air is needed to ¿ll and then empty the lung. In the most advanced stages of pranayama the key emphasis should be not on increasing lung volume from breath to breath but rather on increasing the pressure in the chest with each inhale without increasing the volume. p238

Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga

Update 2

"I arrived just in time. Giving me a few lessons a week, he started with a simple asana practice. I was to establish a link between breath and movement. Breathing should be controlled hand movements, slower breathing, the slower the movement. Each asana followed repeated at least four times. After one hour lesson in a sitting position, I learned the sound Udzhdzhayi and be able to distinguish it from the nasal sound. He allowed me to begin the simplest Pranayama - Udzhdzhayi Anuloma and Udzhdzhayi Viloma.

Krishnamacharya used to tell me, "lift up your chest," for the fact that, due to the rise of my chest, I could fill the air flow based on my lungs. After that, he insisted on the exhale with the abdominal muscles and the perineum. Breathe in and out - of course, but with the insertion of pauses, everything changes. Coached control is felt as an affirmation of life and gives a sense of a better life, by controlling breathing and blood circulation, which are interrelated. This is what I felt.

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