WE ARE ONLY IN TRANSITION FROM ONE THING TO THE NEXT!
In the cyclical evolution of Hatha yoga, we are never only concentrating on exclusively structure, exclusively breath, or exclusively movement. They are ubiquitously present. We are working to unite them, as in the origin of the word yoga.
In asana, we focus on balancing strength and surrender within a pose, implicitly involving breath and movement. In vinyasa, we focus on syncing the breath through and to asana, implicitly involving movement and structure. In prasara, we focus on finding flow between asana, implicitly involving structure and breath.
Prasara, due to the historical evolution of yogis arrival to American shores, has been a lost method. However, it’s inherent in the language already employed within extant teaching methods.
In as ana, we must move into and out of a pose in the same way. The movement into the pose is the first component, the movement out of the pose is the final component, and what most people consider the asana itself is the middle component. However, the asana includes this beginning and ending component. Asana implicitly includes prasara. Prasara is only the union of the ending component of one asana with the beginning component of the subsequent asana. Thus, when we embody prasara, we stop doing yoga and start being yoga.
In vinyasa, we must breathe through and between asana. In asana we learn how to breathe through a pose, but in vinyasa we rediscover how breath guides us to the next movement. By learning to breathe between, we are focusing on moving between, and as a result, we are implicitly involving prasara. By embodying vinyasa, by learning to breathe through events and between them, we stop doing yoga and start being yoga.
We must realize that there is no beginning and ending to movement. We are only ever in transition from one thing to the next. Life is composed of one endless series of middle components.
The more that we compose flows, the more creativity we express and the more that we unlock our ability to spontaneously respond to any situation with authenticity, integrity, and grace. Understanding these tools, we can look at all human movement as strings of fluid components. Life returns to being one unending flow. We stop doing yoga; we start being yoga. Our yoga practice evolves along a specific universal path (albeit a cyclical not a linear one): Recovery: Through asana we release fear-reactivity, discharge residual muscular tension, break up myofascial density, and awaken sensory motor amnesia. Coordination: Through vinyasa we synchronize our breath into our movement between structures to produce a synergy from our natural capabilities.
Refinement: Through prasara we integrate our movement into our synchronized breath and structure to increase our efficiency – the physiological expression of harmony – and expand that practice into all things. Yoga is about baby steps from recovery to coordination to refinement. There’s no cookie-cutter program for yoga. When we learn anything for the first time, especially a new physical skill requiring our bodies to perform in a certain manner, there are three stages of motor science we go through as biomechanisms.
Psychologist Paul Fitts has described the three stages involved in learning a new skill (Thomas David Kehoe, 1997) as follows: Cognitive: When we learn the performance goals of the skill, we must consciously regulate and control each skill nuance. Associative: When we practice the skill, our skill timing and rhythm refine unconsciously, increasing fluidity. Autonomous: After protracted practice, the skill becomes automatic and unconsclOUS.
In the cognitive phase, we concentrate upon integrating three physical virtues: breathing, movement, and structure. We must pay extreme attention to the detail of the asana nuance. In the associative stage, we no longer need to concentrate on the external performance goals of the skill in order to regulate the movement. Our attention can transform into effort. Effort involves the internal sensation of our skill performance goals. We experience the outcome of each performance goal inside of us, and learn where we must apply strength, and where we can then surrender superfluous tension. In the autonomous stage, we refine the skill to the level of unconscious performance. We can then transform effort into persistence – the ability to sustain the appropriate balance of strength and surrender often referred to as “selective tension.”
Once we have developed an asana to the autonomous stage, we can begin to plug it into a sequence with other asana at an autonomous stage, to synchronize the breath through – but more important, between – the two as ana. Prasara is not linear. It is only after the protracted practice of many vinyasa sequences that we begin to allow prasara to happen, though we can begin prasara as early as the beginning. Flow erupts spontaneously on its own, and in degree. We cannot set a schedule. We can only discipline ourselves to deepen and expand our practice daily. Through prasara, we develop free-flowing practices where we express our integrated breath and structure through movement. And when we encounter a clunky movement, hardened imbalanced structure, or held, forced breath, we downshift to vinyasa to unbind it, or downshift all the way to asana to recover the appropriate balance of strength and surrender. Proper form then involves the total integration of each unique expression of movement, structure, and breathing illustrated in this Venn diagram:
In prasara, disinhibiting body flow to locate deeper bound structures In asana, finding the balance of strength and surrender In vinyasa, synchronizing breath between structures This may appear compartmentalized. However, we of course practice movement and breathing in asana, structure and movement in vinyasa, and breathing and structure in prasara. It is the focus of the method that differs. Our development can be better understood if we extrapolate this two-dimensional Venn diagram into a three-dimensional flower blossom, as it relates to the spiral nature of our personal evolution. We travel around the diagram in constant cycles, moving from as ana to vinyasa to prasara then back to as ana in smaller and smaller spirals of development toward proper form, not just in our personal practice but in all things throughout our lives.
This spiral represents the ongoing evolution of our personal exploration, enabling and expressing body flow, locating and releasing bound flow, to unlock the innate life force energy within us, known as prana in Sanskrit. In yoga, the metaphor of the chakras is used to describe how and, to a degree, where bound flow happens. Chakras are a nexus of biophysical energy residing in our body. When we become bound in a particular chakra, that energy becomes stagnant and stifled, manifesting physical issues. When it is released through the practice of yoga, the energy released manifests as body flow. This is a very simplistic description of an elaborate odyssey, which only we as individuals can describe to ourselves, and which the greatest teachers brilliantly illuminate through their questions, practical suggestions, humor, and compassion.
This work is intended to convey the natural evolution of yoga through the daily deepening of our personal practice from asana, or balancing surrender and strength in structure, to vinyasa, or syncing breath through and between a series of asana, to prasara, or disinhibiting flow through improvisational exploration and expression of movement.
Certainly, one begins with asana development, the basic education of the alphabet, followed by forming words and sentences through vinyasa development. Then, finally, a conversation erupts spontaneously between you, yoursel£ and everything. However, this development is not purely sequential, but cyclical.
We begin with asana, and before sequencing them, we develop the ability to balance surrender and strength in a particular structure, intrinsic movement, or field of tension, as well as our breath type, quality, and depth. Once we have to a degree mastered a particular set of asana, we can sequence them in vinyasa.
In vinyasa, when breath disintegrates with the movement between a particular set of asana, we downshift and concentrate on the individual movements in between as new asana themselves. Once we have developed those in-between asana, we resume our vinyasa practice to sync our breath to the sequence. With each new vinyasa sequence we practice, and on any particular day, we will find a multitude of work to do – which will be our yoga for that day.
After serious study of our vinyasa, we have gained the ability to improvisationally explore the union of any connection of points (asana) or string of breath (vinyasa). We can use prasara to converse dialectically with our system to find our yoga for that day. And when we find some hidden point, we can downshift to vinyasa to sync our breath back up with the sequence, or we can downshift all the way to asana to address disintegrated structure if there is an imbalance of surrender and strength.
Prasara is much more than merely an expressive yogic dance. It is much more than merely an exploratory diagnostic tool for identifying covert disintegration of our movement from our breath and structure.
Prasara is how we expand our personal practice into everything we do at every moment. By expanding prasara off the mat and into our lives, we plug into where we are and how we are addressing the situation at hand at any particular moment. Prasara is how we stop doing yoga and start being yoga.