The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Developing a home practice Part 1

UPDATE: I received an email this from A. this week asking me how I started and I guess developed my home practice. I was going to direct her to the link to these Developing a home practice posts but it tends to link to the most recent first. This then is an attempt to put it all in the correct order. Bit awkward doing this so let me know if I've screwed up any of the links.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11Part 11b Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15aPart 15b Part 16 Part 17 Part 18 Part 19 Part 20 Part 21Part 21b Part 22 Part 23 Part 24 Part 25 Part 26a Part 26bPart 27 Parts 28, 29 and 30 Part 32 Part 33

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I was asked this in an email this week.

'By the way, did you start doing Ashtanga gradually or if not how? If it does not bother you that I ask I would be very interested in your first days and weeks. I am curious and I feel I could also learn from that'.
I think I pretty much dived in. My flat had been burgled in February 2007 and seven saxophones stolen. Although I managed to get five of them back I was angry about the whole affair and was annoyed with myself for being so angry about it. I decided to get back into Meditation, I'd practiced a little Zen years before. I came across the ZenCast podcast with Gil Fronsdal http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Religion-and-Spirituality/-/Zencast-Podcast/6825 and began to practice Vipassana meditation. Reading around the practice I found that a lot of meditators were also doing yoga so I picked up a book from the library. The book turned out to be Total Astanga: The Step-by-Step Guide to Power Yoga at Home for Everybody by Tara Frazer http://www.amazon.com/Total-Astanga-Step-Step-Everybody/dp/1844831132/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240514267&sr=8-1 I think it had looked the best laid out and the least embarrassing to take up to the Library counter.

I practiced with that book for about a month, practicing in the mornings, before work, in the living room with my chinchilla looking on. If I remember correctly I got as far as the Standing sequence in that time which would take me about half an hour to forty minutes, stopping every now and again to turn the page or check the book. I used to use blocks, or rather books as blocks, for Utthita Trikonasana as I couldn't reach my hands to the ground. I was what, 44 weighed 94 kilo and hadn't done any exercise for about four years. I had a bit of a belly and was feeling generally unhealthy.

I remember really enjoying getting up in the mornings to practice alone in the dark. I loved Surynamaskara A , B exhausted me. I was frustrated that I couldn't straighten my legs in forward bends and having to hold on to the wall in Utthita hasta etc. Virabhadrasana A and B were agony, as was Utkatasana, I couldn't imagine being able to do Ardha baddha padmottanasana. I would Ache all over for most of the day but it was a good ache and it became the highlight of my day. Sometimes it felt like the day was over as soon as I finished my practice and I couldn't wait for the following morning to come around. I still feel like that occasionally, after a particularly good practice followed by my morning grapefruit and coffee.

Next: First DVD Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series Mark Darby

16 comments:

  1. So are you saying that you had an enthusiasm or little fire for practice lit, and this sort of kept you focused?

    As if the interest, the delight in it, was present when you went to bed at night, when you got up in the morning, and whenever?

    That you didn't doubt what you were doing, or create emotional barriers towards it (or to ideas about teachers or rules) ... you just systematically... did the practice?

    Why is the simplest thing the most humbling to me?

    Stay focused. Something about the programme is working for you. Keep working it.

    Either that or the evil chinchilla is making you do it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Owl, tried to answer this in Part 2 but basically yes, I just did the practice. Not going to class I wasn't even aware of any of the baggage surrounding it. I didn't know that there were things I wasn't supposed to do or not supposed to be able to do.Some things felt impossible to me physically and I thought I might always have to do a variation but others.... I was doing handstands, though against a wall, right from the beginning and fitting them into my Sury A's. There was nobody to frown at me or discourage me. I seemed to be making progress at one or other of the poses and that was encouraging enough. I still think that being stopped at a pose where you might feel your not making any progress for ages must be very discouraging, though i understand some of the reasons behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Does he (Nietzsche' , my Chinchilla) look evil? he's ver sweet, actually.....most of the time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I would make read these two posts of you (no, I am wrong: all of your posts) with all the teachers and all the ashtangis.
    Not because your way is the right way but to show how many unnecessary stuff we create in our head.
    I dont know where I will arrive with my practice, but I know that you helped me a lot and I am very grateful for this.
    Namasté!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I started my home practice using the german translation of Tara Frazers book. I think the book is a good guide.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You called him evil!

    Your relationship with little Nietzsche must be pretty complicated...

    He must have powers. That's got to be it...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Did I really say that, oops, sorry Nietzsche. he can be....difficult sometimes. I can hear him upstairs jumping around. he knows I've just got in and wants some attention...or rather a pistachio.

    Looked at the Tara Frazer book in the library today. It does have a good layout and I'd forgotten it has all those variations like the Swenson book. Excellent first Ashtanga book.

    Thanks Nemsissi, look what you've started : ) can't shut me up now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am proud to be the catalyst of these posts! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you from Cleveland, Ohio, US for your blog. I have practiced yoga for about a year through a local Baptiste yoga studio, but am interested in developing a serious home practice. I enjoy vinyasa style yoga and I want the meditative benefits and ability to practice on my own (I find going to classes enjoyable, but also costly and distracting). Many thanks, Brian

    ReplyDelete
  10. Brian,

    http://yogaohio.com/

    http://ashtangamichigan.com/

    http://www.ashtangaannarbor.com/

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Brian,

    http://yogaohio.com/

    http://ashtangamichigan.com/

    http://www.ashtangaannarbor.com/

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks Brian. Practicing at home worked for me but it's still probably a good idea to take a couple Intro to Ashtanga classes to get you into some good habits and perhaps go every now and again to keep you on the right track, OvO is see has passed on some local links). You can learn it through books and videos (you probably already have the basics from Baptiste), I did, but you'll probably spend the next couple of years breaking bad habits...which can be fun too come too think of it. Ashtanga seems ideal for practicing at home, the familiarity of the same sequence every day helps you get on the mat, you always know where you are and what your going to be doing.
    Discipline can be a big problem for many, the trick seems to be forming a habit and sticking to it, practice at the same time at the same place and once you get on the mat stay on it, no interruptions if at all possible. If you don't feel like it one morning just decide to do the sun salutations. More times than not, by the time you get to the fifth your in the mood to practice.
    Good luck with it and feel free to mail me direct if you have an questions that you don't want to put in Comments, my email address is in the About me box.

    ReplyDelete
  13. OvO: Thank you for the local links! Grimmly: Thank you for your advice, support and encouragement...I will keep you posted on my journey. Many thanks, Brian

    ReplyDelete
  14. How did ou manage handstands from the beginning, while overweight??? I used to be able to do them when younger and slimmer, but I'm 20kg overweight ATM and...I am unsure where to start, as I've never been this heavy in my life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was a bit of a struggle Anon, used the wall and tended to do the tripod approach if I remember. Here's a video from some old clips of when I first started, might find it encouraging.

      http://youtu.be/jyXzayu2wZ0

      Krishnamacharya and Desikachar would have you avoid Shoulderstand and headstands in the beginning if your really overweight, I should probably have held off doing them for a while.

      This is a big topic though so I should see about a post on it and bring in a couple of different threads, got to run off to work in a bit but will have a think.

      But I believe that back in the day the idea was that you would start Ashtanga, sury's, standing, some basic seated then jump to a very short basic finishing sequence of seated postures. The inversions (shoulderstand/headstand would be added later. I think Nancy outlines this somewhere, will have a look.

      Delete
  15. watching that video back now it's remarkable I never injured myself, go easy. Good teacher perhaps.

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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