Prasana yoga arose out of a need to define what I am doing in a yoga class.
I spent 9 years studying the novel vinyasa practices of Shadow Yoga and Shiva Nata under Shandor Remete (a.k.a. Natanaga Zhander), Matt Huish, and Arkady Shirin. Arkady had studied side-by-side with Shandor in India and his approach was similar. Matt was Shandor’s longtime student who I first met in 2002.
All taught me multi-directional vinyasas that began largely in saddle posture (asva) with unique flows and posture forms that often took practitioners low to the ground as well as up on the balls of the feet. (It was “multi-altitudinal” as well as multidirectional).
All of them integrated steady work with the breath and bandhas (energy locks) in posework. Emphasis was laid on Uddiyana Bandha, and Shandor particularly taught many fine details of the practice.
What Shandor, Arkady and Matt were also doing—and which was of great interest to me—was integrating aesthetics into yoga for the purposes of yoga’s higher aims. None of them ever said this in their teaching, but that is what I got from the work. The yoga flows were always carefully wrought, unique, and beautiful. They entrained the mind like no other practice I knew.
After an initial year of work in Ashtanga in my very first years of learning yoga, I set out to learn every prominent yoga style and study with every reputable teacher at least once.
I took classes in Kripalu, Jivamukti, Para, Kundalini, Forrest, Sivananda, Prana Shakti Flow, Power, Bikram, Viniyoga and others, and put extensive work into studying Anusara and Iyengar Yoga (primarily in 3 years with Sianna Sherman, Tony Briggs and Karl Erb). At yoga conferences and in workshops, I sought to “taste” the best of modern yoga teaching (This is a practice I still do) and experienced a breadth of the practice.
Its basic meaning is just “to throw” and I felt that what I was doing was training students’ attention on movement in vinyasa—teaching them about transitions, or the “throw” between poses.
As I continued to explore the multiple meanings of Sanskrit, I learned that pra- asana can also mean “the fulfillment of asana” and this seems a worthy goal to pursue.
Prasana was a beautiful word and I took to pronouncing it with the accent on the second syllable. The Sanskrit masters among my friends inquired as to this, but I didn’t (and don’t) worry about it. “Hatha” “Shiva” “Kundalini” and many other words are now spoken so universally in their American idiom that they signal a regional variation in pronunciation that is coming to be as valid as the Sanskrit dialects of India. Call me an apostate if you like (and some have), I call this practice Pra-SA-na Yoga
I continue to explore the meaning of the “throw” in this practice and to extend and codify what I have learned from my teachers as I continue to learn from my own practice and others. Using terminology from Indian dance and other movement arts, I gave names to the patterns of movement that I recognized from the work of Arkady, Shandor and Matt and explored the application of these movement-forms further.
I began to look carefully at aesthetics, too, even as I was studying the Indian arts, philosophies and histories within academia. Many times I discovered things in my own living room that were later corroborated in the texts. America is a creative country and my background in art and dance lead me to trust my emerging insights as well as the creative process, and I began to teach these creative process in my workshops.
At present, I am plunging deeper into Tantra through study and ritual and recognizing how the deeper principles and practices of ancient yogas can be integrated into today’s forms of working. I began to discover an entire field of alignment within movement with patterns as regular as the static alignment taught by B. K. S. Iyengar.
Now I teach unique postures and yoga flows, informed by a understanding of movement shaped by various Indian physical disciplines and the teaching of my past and present instructors. I use creativity to focus on intelligence in motion and establish a more accelerated and grounded experience of the movement of prana in the body.
This practice is exuberant, new and beautiful. It aims at yoga’s fundamental goal: a mind consciously tethered to universal consciousness reflected in a life that is joyful and creative, productive and very free.
May you be blessed in your own studentship, research and practice.