Ashtanga Yoga: A Guide to the Intermediate Series (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)

I am happy to offer you this carefully prepared tutorial on the Intermediate Series as taught to me by its author, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. This DVD is a live class that includes work on back bends such as Dhanurasana, Ustrasana and Kapotasana; deep hip-opening postures such as Eka Pada Sirsasana and Yoga Nidrasana; strength-building asanas such as Bakasana, Mayurasana and Nakrasana; and inverted postures such as Pincha Mayurasana and Karandavasana.

I use the traditional counted vinyasa method and also add supplemental instruction highlighting the actions of the postures, bandhas and breathing. Second Series, called Nadi Shodana, purifies the pranic channels of the body. The practice is intended to extend your breathing capacity and effect an energetic awakening that helps you access buddhi, the reflective, discerning, higher intelligence faculty of your mind. Become fit for dhyana, meditation; develop contemplative poise that yields dynamism, radiant health and Self knowledge. May we all continue to grow in Bhakti and Jnana.

Part 1: A traditional 1 hour and 30 minute counted vinyasa method live class that includes:

  • Work on back bends such as Dhanurasana, Ustrasana and Kapotasana
  • Work on deep hip-opening postures such as Eka Pada Sirsasana and Yoga Nidrasana
  • Work on strength-building asanas such as Bakasana, Mayurasana, Nakrasana
  • Work on inverted postures such as Pincha Mayurasana and Karandavasana
  • Supplemental instruction highlighting the actions of the postures, bandhas and breathing

Part 2: Over 20 video installments giving detailed instruction for beginners through advanced practitioners in the following asanas:

  • Pasasana
  • Kapotasana
  • Bakasana
  • Eka Pada Sirsasana
  • Pincha Mayurasana

Individual Video Descriptions

Intermediate Series Traditional Counted Led Class (1:35:46)

This video is a a traditional 1hr and 30 minute counted vinyasa method live class of the Intermediate Series or Second Series led by David Garrigues. It includes work on back bends such as Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, and Kapotasana, deep hip opening postures such as Eka Pada Sirsasana, and Yoga Nidrasana, strength building asanas such as Bakasana, Mayurasana, Nakrasana, inverted postures such as Pincha Mayurasana and Karandavasana. It also includes supplemental instruction highlighting the actions of the postures, bandhas and breathing.

Pasasana: Are you ready for Second Series?

In this short video I address the challenge of beginning Intermediate Series. It is important that you recognize different stages of growth as you gain experience through practice. Once such stage is in continuing to try your best when you come up against large seemingly insurmountable physical or mental obstacles. Maturity in Yoga is partly a matter of continuing your efforts without expecting to gain from those efforts.

Pasasana: Foundations and Modifications (Beginner, Intermediate)

In this video I teach you how to modify Pasasana so that you can begin to progress and make improvements in both balancing and lowering the heels to the earth. If you can't balance and begin to twist in the posture then a prop can aid you so that eventually you'll begin to leg foundation and movement of the spine.

Pasasana: Intermediate to Advanced Work

In this video I teach you how to further refine Pasasana. I give you ideas how to enhance stabilization of the legs and feet so that you can continue to explore the twist.

Pasasana: Understanding Bandhas through Pasasana

In this video I discuss the importance of centering yourself directly over your foot foundation in Pasasana. Understanding the bandhas is vital to your progress in Pasasana and this video will teach you how to cultivate and work with them.

Krounchasana: Foundation and Pelvic Orientation

From Dandasana establish your foundation by bringing the right leg back to Ardha Virasana (Half Hero), Keep the right lower leg bone in as close to the right thigh bone as possible. Sit tall and forward, center you weight directly over the sitting bones as opposed to sitting back and thus behind the foundation. Separate the knees a bit and make the thighs parallel to each other. Bring your left leg up in front of you straighten the leg as much as possible with the knee cap facing towards you. Catch your right wrist with the left hand across the ball of the foot. Reach in an upward direction through your left leg from the hip through the foot. And pull downwards with your interlocked hands to create a mudra (seal) between your hands and left foot. Bring the left leg as close to vertical as possible while keeping your weight centered forward and performing Uddhyana Bandha. Endeavor to keep the hips and shoulders square throughout your work in the posture-a feat easier said than done. Be satisfied with any tiny bit of success that you achieve in sparring with this formidable Yantra shape. To exit the position maintain your interlocked hands lift up the chest and take the head back breathe in, exhale release and make ready for the jump back transition. Go through the vinyasa and sit down in preparation for the second side. Take Ardha Virasana (Half Hero) on the left side. Separate the knees, make the thighs parallel, snug the left lower leg to left thigh. Center your weight forward over the pelvic floor, perform Uddhyana Bandha and lift up the right leg, straighten the leg keeping the kneecap facing you. Catch your left wrist with your right hand across the ball of the foot. Push your foot into the interlock and resist this action by pulling downward on your foot with the interlocked hands. Use the hand and foot connection to bring the right leg as close to vertical as possible while remaining properly centered over your pelvic floor foundation. Work to weight the left sitting bone and to square the right hip forward. Cast a steady, upward gaze past your right toes, remain in position enjoying steady, smooth breathing. You will spend many a day trying and failing and trying again to skillfully combine the demanding set of actions that will bring about mastery of this worthy adversary. Make ready to exit by inhaling and lifting up the head, chest and right leg, exhaling release and prepare for the jump back transition.

Krounchasana: (Heron Posture) knee safety and tight hamstrings

In this video I give instructions for protecting your knee and setting up a sound lower body foundation so that you can maximize lengthening the hamstrings in Krounchasana, one of the few forward bends in Second Series. I also speak to the benefits of staying in the set up position for some extra breaths rather than immediately going for the full position.

By ‘set up’ position I am referring to the position that you achieve just before folding forward and going into full flexion.

Staying with the position before the position (ha!) helps you:

  1.  To stay forward and centered over your foundation
  2.  Keep the hips square
  3.  Keep the spine lifted
  4.  To work the action of reaching away through the straight leg while pulling back and down with the arms.

Here’s a summary of the instructions I give for protecting your knee and clarifying your foundation (instructions given for right side):

  1.  Sit down evenly on both sitting bones
  2.  Right shin as close to your right thigh as possible
  3.  Right ankle and foot as close to your pelvis as possible
  4.  Hips square
  5.  Knees slightly apart
  6.  Thighs parallel to each other

If you find it challenging to achieve any of the above actions try sitting on a block or other support.

One more set up note: remember to think of the knee as a hinge joint that is mostly capable of straightening (extension) and bending (flexion) your leg and little rotational ability.

Kapotasana or King Pigeon Posture: Basic Foundational Principles Beginner

In this video I teach you the basic actions of the spine and the foundational principles of the legs so that you can begin to make an attempt at this deep backbend.

Kapotasana or King Pigeon Posture: Keep Spine Centered Over Foundation

One of the key principles to executing Kapotasana is building a powerful centered foundation through your legs. This exercise helps you understand how to use the legs so that your spine can be free to safely lengthen in the posture.

Kapotasana or King Pigeon Posture: Develop with Blocks

Blocks are an incredible tool in this posture. If you are struggling lowering to the ground with control and maintaining the leg foundation the blocks will help you progress and begin to improve in this backbend. One of the keys to developing the posture is learning how to stay blocks allow you to stay and build up strength.

Kapotasana or King Pigeon Posture: Refine Foundation (Intermediate to Advanced)

The legs splaying out wider than the hips causes the student to lose their leg foundation in this deep backbend. In this exercise the student will understand the positioning of the legs and how a powerful foundation is what creates the spine to lengthen.

Kapotasana or King Pigeon Posture: Advanced Work at Wall

In this video I give instruction for using the wall to help refine the leg foundation. This video is advanced and challenging.

Bakasana: Foundational Principles (Beginner, Intermediate)

Bakasana is a gateway posture. The understanding of this posture gives you the tools to execute any arm balance. In this video I teach you what the foundational principles are and how you stabilize and create an earth connection in this dynamic posture.

Bakasana: Jump into the Posture

In this video I provide instructions for setting up and executing a dynamic jump into Bakasana. I also provide images that create helpful mental pictures of the jump and lastly I demonstrate the jump.

Bakasana Awareness in Chaturanga, Jump Back and Bhudjapidasana

The imagery that helps you create the characteristic rounded back shape in Bakasana can also help you figure out how to develop other postures that require upper body strength. For example Chaturanga Dandasana is an important posture for developing arm power and upper body strength and the key is to focus on the back side of the body from head to tail. The work is like a less exaggerated version of the work in Bakasana and thus this video focuses on teaching you to maintain a slight backward tilt to your pelvis that resembles the tail tuck of a scolded dog, and also a slight rounded dome shape to your mid and upper back. By distinctly rounding the back side of your body you can create a stable, aligned, and safe position that is both economic and efficient. Enjoying the benefits of a rounded back shape also applies to other postures that require upper body strength such as jumping back and Bhujapidasana.

Bakasana: Relationship to Bandhas

In this video I discuss how the rounded back Bakasana shape can help you experience the three major internal energetic locks, mula, uddiyana and jalandhara bandhas. Through Bakasana you can learn to better align your spinal column over the pelvis and this helps to prevent the tendency to over lift the chest and to "collapse" the kidneys during seated pranayama.

Eka Pada Sirsasana: Foundations and Modifications

In this video I help you understand the actions and movement of the legs, hips and pelvis so that you can begin to take you leg behind your head. A proper understanding of this posture is crucial to prevent pain in the lower back.

Eka Pada Sirsasana: Intermediate Work

In this video I give instruction for clarifying the grounded leg and hip foundation for Eka Pada Sirsasana. I give tips for how to safely and effectively think about the positioning of the leg that will go behind the head in relationship to the hip and foundation. I also speak about keeping the leg behind the head once you have come forward into the posture.

Eka Pada Sirsasana: Jump Back

In this video I teach you how to further develop the rhythm and timing so that you can execute a dynamic and smooth jump back from Eka Pada Sirsasana.

Eka Pada Sirsasana: Advanced Work

Once you have a real understanding of how to activate the hips then you can start to refine Eka Pada Sirsasana. In this video I teach you how to further develop in the posture.

Pincha Mayurasana: Develop Balance (Beginner, Intermediate)

For a beginner to make a start at Pincha Mayurasana they need to understand how to stabilize and create a powerful foundation in the hands, forearms and shoulder girdle. In this video I teach the principles to the posture and teach you how to use the wall so that you can make a start at balancing.

Pincha Mayurasana: Use Wall to Find Central Axis

If you are having trouble balancing in this posture or if you are afraid of falling the wall is an excellent resource. You can safely build the physical and mental strength that is needed to execute this posture. In this video I teach you how to use the wall safely and how to continue to clarify the principles that create the central axis. The wall allows you take a risk.

Pincha Mayurasana: Clarify Central Axis Advanced

Pincha Mayurasana is a foundational inversion. The key to so many advanced postures is within this inversion. For an advanced student it is essential that they know how to refine the posture. In this video I teach how to continue to clarify the central axis and the keys that truly stabilize the posture.

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