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Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga.
SLOW ASHTANGA : Pattabhi Jois talked in interviews, as well as when writing in Yoga Mala, that if we had less time we should practice less asana. In my own practice time is an issue. I prefer to breathe more slowly in the asana and vinyasas, lengthening my inhalation and exhalation, "slow like the pouring of oil" as Krishnamacharya puts it in Yoga Makaranda. I like to explore kumbhaka and the occasional extended stay, in Mudras especially. I also prefer to practice, much of the time, with my eyes closed, employing internal drishti at different vital focal points and I like to introduce vinyasas, extra preparatory asana on days when they feel appropriate as well as perhaps extending an asana into more challenging, 'proficient' forms on the more flexible days, in keeping perhaps with Krishnamacharya's, Primary, Middle and proficient groups of asana rather than Pattabhi Jois' fixed sequences. I like to practice Pranayama before and after my asana practice as well as finishing my practice with a 'meditative activity'. I was first introduced to Yoga through the Ashtanga sequences and I still maintain that general structure in my main practice but I would rather sacrifice half or more than half a sequence than these other factors and perhaps practice the asana ‘missed’ in the following days, I still consider this to be Ashtanga, Slow Ashtanga.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Owning my practice
I went to a Shala for the first time three weeks ago after a year and a half of self-practice (see posts below) and it was great, very beneficial and no doubt just what I needed. I was made aware of some of the physical possibilities of my body through adjustments. Pulled up gently on a couple of asanas I'd missed out and came away with a mental list of things to work on; getting the sequence of the last third of primary right, focusing on the correct sequence of breath, chakrosana etc. I've been working on all these elements for the last couple of weeks.........thing is, my practice doesn't feel mine anymore. Or less mine.
I started practicing Ashtanga alone at home with a book from the library, and then a DVD, more books more DVDs, youtube and the Internet. Asana I thought were impossible for me, for my body have become possible. All the time it's just been me on my mat, alone in a room early each morning, my practice. It's followed my mood and inclination, will, desire, frustration, stubborn determination, whatever.
Somehow now, after visiting the Shala, it feels a little like I'm practicing for someone else, my teacher? I need to work on this or that, improve this or that. Those elements to work on didn't come from me, didn't arise in me. Perhaps they should have done and done so a long time ago perhaps some things I might never have noticed on my own. Don't get me wrong I'm so very grateful for the attention, the adjustments, advice, suggestions it's just that each morning this last week it's felt a bit of a chore, my hearts not been in it. I feel more distant from my practice, less involved.
No doubt it will pass and it's just an adjustment but it's strange no? Wondered if anyone else had felt the same. And then I began to wonder if there's something similar when someone changes teachers and if so what that says about the teacher / student relationship ( I used to be a teacher ). And when you go to India, to Mysore does it feel more or less your practice, more Guruji's perhaps, more the traditions practice. Or does it always feel your practice.
Perhaps if you began learning Ashtanga in a Shala it's different. If you give yourself over to a teacher to the tradition it's still your practice but in a different context. For me there was just this style of yoga that appealed to me, that appeared graceful and yet powerful, beautiful, perfect. I looked at it as practiced by John Scott, Doug Swenson, Richard Freeman, Sharath, Lino, Kino. And it's the same practice but each time subtly different and sometimes not so subtle. A personal expression...... there you go, a personal practice. As far as I know they all learnt from teachers and studied in Mysore and yet all have their OWN practice. So perhaps I'm just over reacting and it will pass, I hope so because i know i can gain so much from visiting the Shala and perhaps one day, a trip to mysore. And yet...........?
Just read over this and I'm not sure this is what I'm trying to get at, but it's a start.......
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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