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A lesson in transformation

Observations from the Silver Jubilee
course in Pune

On the second day of the course Guruji talked about evolutions in the practice of Utthita Trikonasana. Originally, up to the thirties, the pose was performed with both feet forward and it was his Guru who first thought to turn out the front leg to allow a sideways extension of the trunk. Subsequently Guruji evolved the pose further by turning the back leg in slightly to give a stretch to the back leg and to connect the action of the leg to the spine.

Prashant referred to this when he spoke in the Question and Answer session about change in Yoga. He may also have been prompted by the numerous questions sent in querying perceived changes of technique or sequencing in Asana and Pranayama. He explained that the change in the practice of Trikonasana was a big change but the principle had not changed and the triangle shape was maintained. This change without change is what Patanjali refers to as Parinama or transformation.

One reaches a state in Trikonasana where no further change takes place; one maintains it and that is the posture. Posture begins when endeavour ends because Asanas are states, not movements. Patanjali defines this as ‘Sthira sukham asanam’ – (posture is stable and comfortable).

However a ‘frozen’ pose is not possible. The body/mind complex is composed of matter so that movement is constantly taking place internally, in the cells, in the metabolism, in breathing. Not even stones are static. At the atomic level there is the movement of the electrons spinning about the nucleus. So what does static mean?

In Chapter III, Sutras 9 – 13, Patanjali defines the three stages of the restraining of consciousness and the transformation of matter known as parinama. Prashant translated dharma parinama as characteristic change, lakshana parinama as attributory change and avastha parinama as static change.

Characteristic change is experienced in going from Tadasana into Trikonasana, up to the moment when the hand is taken down. Once the right hand is down and the left hand up, then the pose commences, in its attributory or evolving stage. Once your technical know-how comes to an end, you are supposed to stay (but most of us don’t) where the pose really starts, in changeless change.

Trikonasana has to be replicated from moment to moment, without variation. There will be an organic rhythm, there will be pulsation, beats, but these will settle to the Trikonasana rhythm. The in and out-breath gives a cyclical pattern to Trikonasana. This is replication, or changeless change.