Interview

What is Prana Vashya Yoga and how did you develop it?

"As the breath is such an essential part of yoga asana, for a long time I focused in depth on its relationship to performing the asana and discovered that the asana actually follows the breath and not the other way around if done properly with full awareness. Prana Vashya Yoga follows the breath instead of following the movement and maintains the rhythm of the breath throughout the practice. Through breath control, Prana Vashya Yoga keeps the attention fixed on the asana, not allowing the attention to wander."

So Prana Vashya Yoga is really more pranayama practice....

"Not as pranayama is generally understood. Pranayama is often a separate yoga practice whereas traditionally it was always a part of it. Prana Vashya Yoga fully integrates the two, in great part, with the application of kumbhakas (breath locks) so that one also experiences the effect of pranayama during the asana practice. There are actually sixty asanas in the sequence."

Can you talk a bit more about kumbhakas?

"A significant development of potential is experienced during the practice of kumbhakas. The use of kumbhakas helps quiet the mind and keeps the awareness on the breath/asana. The body experiences a better development in its resistance power and this helps to impart the complete effect of the asana practice without fatigue. Concentration on the bandhas isn't necessary when consciousness is on the simultaneous action of the breath and movements."

How does it compare to Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, etc? Is PVY adaptable to other styles?

"The vinyasa is different, but most of the asanas are essentially the same; there are just more of them. Prana Vashya vinyasa provides a true equilibrium for the upper and lower body as there is a complete utilization of the shoulders, hip joints, thigh muscles, calf muscles, and hamstrings which help build and maintain strength and stamina in the legs as well.

Prana Vashya is distinguished by its unique approach to flow and balance. The flow is slow, deliberate, and deep, and the body is trained evenly along its front, back and transverse lines. This approach equally trains the body in strength, balance and flexibility while calming the mind and nervous system.

As I mentioned, Prana Vashya Yoga asanas are essentially the same as Hatha and Iyengar, but with an intensified application of each asana, and the attention and utilization of the breath and kumbhakas (breath locks). It is not difficult to learn the basic vinyasa, though becoming adept as it requires increased stamina, balance and flexibility. There is a different dynamic to the Prana Vashya Yoga breath/asana relationship. It takes 1-2 weeks to really start to experience this dynamic and it is quite profound. Prana Vashya Yoga can be considered as an enhancement to an existing practice, not as a conflict."

It sounds as if Prana Vashya Yoga is primarily for advanced practitioners.

"Not at all. In the same class I have had middle aged beginners with back injuries along side of advanced yoga teachers and students from all different yoga styles. Having said that, I have had several advanced second and third level students who were very surprised at the workout they received with Prana Vashya Yoga."

You are well known for your back bending and flexibility. Can you talk about that?

"Safe, deep back bending involves the opening of the pelvis, hip flexors, upper back and shoulders. Releasing these areas of tension allows the spine to extend into an even back bend where otherwise the lower back will take too much of the back bending action (often referred to as "crunching" the lower spine) which can result in pain and possibly injury. Prana Vashya exercises are designed to open and prepare the body in these areas, freeing tension in the body allowing the practitioner to experience a safe and progressive development into deeper back bending. The goal is not only strength and flexibility, but importantly, for a safe practice for health and longevity."

How are your classes conducted?

"Class sizes are limited to just thirteen. I offer what I like to call the 'New Mysore Style'; everyone goes at their own pace with the appropriate sequence and posture for their skill level, but close, individual attention is given to each student. Classes are two hours in length."

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you have won many awards and competitions, but some people in the West think that yoga competitions are "un-yoga like"...that yoga isn't about being competitive...

"I completely agree and in that sense it shouldn't be. Young people like to compete don't they? I competed from 9-21 years of age, but no longer do so. Winning awards and competitions also can provide credibility for a teacher as far as that goes. There is no teaching certification in India as such and we don't have promotion, advertising, and marketing as in the West, so yoga competitions are a good way of gaining recognition and establishing oneself. I think it is really not different from martial arts competition in that sense. There is a great spiritual aspect to martial arts, but competitions and demonstrations are for the physical part of it and is how professionals get established."

Good point. I hadn't thought of it that way.