Monday, 27 April 2009

Developing a home practice part 6

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 15Part 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 26b Part 27 Parts 28, 29 and 30 Part 32 Part 33 Part 34

It's probably good to consider why I decided to stop practicing Ashtanga and take up The Rocket. I could get through all of Primary by now, though with the help of Swenson's variations, but it was difficult to see myself going much further. I didn't think I would ever get Marichiyasana D, or get my legs over my head in Supta Kurmasana. My legs were still, bent in all the forward bends, still miles from the floor and the Jump back just wasn't happening. There seemed no way to lift my backside off the floor far enough to get my legs through. Looking ahead in Swenson I couldn't imagine ever being able to do Intermediate. Wasn't I too old now for Eka Pada Sirasana or Kapotasana ( not at all, as it turned out).

The Rocket seemed to promise to develop my core strength, which, I thought, would enable me to jump back eventually, and to offer me some of those cool, Intermediate and Advanced arm balances without having to worry about all those weird pretzel poses. It turned out I was quite strong and was already having a bit of fun with handstands. The video below shows the kind of thing I was beginning to play with, it's no wonder that The Rocket attracted me.
videoDec 07
At first I thought I would practice both. The rocket on my days off and the 40 minute Swenson Short form on work days, though I ended up just practicing The Rocket

The Rocket is basically a Power vinyasa flow type, Ashtanga inspired practice. As I remember it Larry Schultz had learned Ashtanga and put together a sequence of poses that lifted freely from Primary to Advanced. All the cool poses were in there but without the asana's that would take years to develop. Supposedly he developed the series while on tour with the Grateful Dead, a band who are supposedly an institution in The US (never heard of them!).

The following link takes you to It's yoga, home of The Rocket. In the top left you'll find some videos about the rocket, the top one is a little video that shows you the sequence http://www.itsyoga.net/library.htm

Got to say I had great fun with this. Sometimes Ashtanga can feel like it's more about what you can't do....., rather than what you can. All kinds of justifications get presented for protecting the series in it's purity, the asana's build upon one another, they act as counter poses etc. Thing is I don't think it needs any justification. What's wrong with , 'It is what it is and we want to keep it that way', end of story. I don't have a problem with that.

So the DVD arrived and I gave it a go on my day off. A man and a woman on a couple of mats at It'sYoga, the guy is some ex American football player, Touchdown Todd, big big guy. Larry is doing a voice over calling out the poses and the count. I got through the whole series, takes around an hour and a half. There was Bakasana, kapotasana, Pincha Mayurasana, Eka pada bakasana , Koundinyasana....well you get the idea. Asanas that weren't even in the Swenson Intermediate section. I had to look them up later and found they were from Advanced A or B, Cool. There was some core work in the middle that seemed to come from the Scary Twins on Youtube. It begins with a jazzed up Standing and ends with the standard Ashtanga finishing. It was familiar, felt like I was still doing Ashtanga, but Ashtanga on crack.

videoFeb 08

I think I practiced The rocket for about a month possibly two. It was great fun, I became stronger and fitter and more fearless but the Jump back didn't seem to be getting any closer. I was beginning to have doubts. It was a cool practice, but somehow....soulless. It felt more like an excercise program where Ashtanga had felt, if not a spiritual practice then at least a meditative one. I could focus on the breath in the rocket but I didn't feel as if I was meditating on the breath.

I came across my John Scott DVD again, put it on and was just blown away. Here's a link to the Intro on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDWUjPUpbHo In his Primary he's practicing on a black mat in an empty, white studio. There's this big booming ujaii breath and a voice over giving the count and drishte. His gaze is fixed and he moves through primary with such Strength, and yet..... grace. It's a very powerful, controlled and focused practice. I watched Lino Miele's Practice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KAU3xNVTAE too and ordered the DVD, getting a similar impression. Inspiring stuff
The Rocket may have all these cool asana but it had nothing on John Scott doing his Primary. Yes he was throwing in some handstands and lifts but they made sense within the practice, they didn't seem out of place, unlike the core work in The Rocket. There was an integrity to the practice. It wasn't about being able to do cool poses or being strong and powerful. It was something about moving the body through space on the breath. Body, Spirit, Will.
Next : Returning to Ashtanga, turning Veggie and Sharath

15 comments:

  1. I was actually in It's Yoga studio a couple times before I found Mysore style, I remembered feeling very intimidated by it. It was one of many detours I took before Mysore class.
    Keep it coming...loving it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cool personal review of Rocket as/vs Ashtanga.

    This says more about me than about the practice (either one), but when I knew I was headed to SF for a month, I checked out the studio webcam (yes, they have one and you can watch classes) and transcribed the sequences onto paper, and then learned them in the back yard, so when I went, I was able to hit those sequences. It rocked. But also, and maybe as you know, SF has something like 3-4 authorized teachers in it, all of whom run Mysore-style rooms, so I did that for about 20 of my 28 days, too. It'd be, morning Primary in a Mysore room, teacher training, afternoon Rocket, food and/or beer (SF has marvelous beer, and I was living in the Upper Haight, what do you expect), crash and then repeat. I did double practices I think every day (except Saturdays) and a few triple practices. And I got an overuse injury in the right wrist which kept me from doing a full home practice, on and off, for FOUR MONTHS after that. It still gets cranky now and then.

    Larry used to call me "Hercules," stuff like that. Also, he taught me how to do Pincha Mayurasana. He's a cool and interesting character, and he's not shy about explaining why and how Rocket is not traditional, he doesn't pretend that it's a traditional sequence.

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  3. I like the new dress of the blog

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  4. Great what you've done with the place!

    This:

    There was an integrity to the practice. It wasn't about being able to do cool poses or being strong and powerful. It was something about moving the body through space on the breath.Hmmm... forget tradition for a sec: the juice in the primary series is opening the hips. Especially for men. Call it kundalini. Call it emotions. Call it tapping new energy. Call it toning the internal organs. In contrast, is it really that interesting to structure an asana practice on the basic idea of suspending a rigid body on big football shoulders?

    "The Rocket: It gets you there faster."

    The Rocket: Shortcut to nowhere?

    ReplyDelete
  5. P.S. I wonder if you'll someday begin to believe in the MB, and maybe even blog about it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Owl, did you miss the full stop? The integrity quote is about Scott's Primary, not The Rocket. And I think you must have missed the post with my nod in the direction of the MB.

    Sounds like a fun time patrick haven't been to SF since I was five. Must look out for that webcam.

    So the new look is ok? Still not sure but felt like a change.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, it's that I miswrote the comment in the midst of pasting your own text. Oops. I just wanted to highlight that passage of yours and then agre with it by adding that the Rocket has a way of leading men in the exact opposite direction of one of the most powerful and rewarding benefits of an asana practice--bringing awareness to and freeing the pelvis. It's candy but pretzels are more nourishing.

    Where's the MB post?

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's funny, re: rigid guys on footballer shoulders. That's absolutely some of what you see at that place, true as true gets.

    However, I'm still for (and I think this post supports) some Rocket experiments, particularly for the folks who are all flexy jello; there is a positive thrill to be had from finding out how strong one is.

    Nonetheless, I find that I don't feel a need to do any Rocket followup. I've taken what I needed from it.

    And yes, I totally spaced the compliments on the new look. Good things, this new layout.

    FWIW, Larry's bit on bandhas (even the MB) was quite good.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Looks like you found the new focus for your blog. Thanks for sharing your journey and answering my question about modifications and dedication to the practice. I get it now, after reading your posts and especially after I joined a "30 days of yoga marathon" here. I have had to redefine my practice since I can't do a full Primary practice every day ... and from reading your blog I see that the same was true for you. I am feeling the benefits of a consistent, daily practice though ... first time for me ... !!

    Christina

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Szayamo,gald yu feel I managed to answer your questions a little. i tried. The next post is going to be about finally attaining a full Primary daily thanks to Sharath's DVD.

    Owl, sometimes you just come up with the best lines. 'It's candy but pretzels are more nourishing.'

    I'll have to look for my MB nod. Something along the lines of 'It wont get you off the ground but once your up, it might lift you a little higher.'

    The Rocket , It is what it is, I had fun with it. Full on Ashtanga isn't for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Agreed--fun is good. :-) I'm just a bit bent out of shape about the "gets you there faster" thing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yep noticed that : ) Have always wanted to ask though, where that 'there' is exactly, gets you where? Patrick did you ask?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I didn't ask, actually, and the site is really unspecific about that.

    I had the idea that the "there" is maybe Bakasana, since after the sun sals, that's the 3rd pose you do.

    Larry's story is that (like all ashtangis at one point or another) he got stuck at a pose (Mari D) for a long time (YEARS, as I heard it). That's the Great Ashtanga Test, of course. Can you hang out here for months or years and work the pose til it comes?

    Larry decided, apparently, no, I'm not gonna. And POW, the Rocket was born.

    So I usually sum up "it gets you there faster," as, "you don't have to wait to get the pose here." Of course, what that means in the Rocket is the advanced arm balances, not, say, Sayanasana or Eka Pada Sirsasana :)

    I generally cut Larry a break on not waiting, first because it's not my business to disapprove (and who cares if I do or not?) and second because I know what it's like to bang one's head against an intractable pose, when you can do the dozen poses that follow it.

    All the same, I see how that business about "get there faster" can be irksome. Definitely.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Nice rebranding! :)
    This series is just so great.

    Owl DOES come up with the best lines, and I loved 'gets you there faster / shortcut to nowhere'.. The whole THERE in the Rocket is just so ridiculous as a yoga slogan - it's all happening HERE, duh! :) I think part of the beauty of ashtanga is that it isn't really finishable (I mean has anyone ever seen Sharath do 6th series??).. that's one way of dealing with goal-orientation in the long view, even though we may get hung up on the 'next asana' over and over again...

    For sure the Rocket would be fun to try, but I agree with Owl that it seems to bypass the very body areas that those who are attracted to it generally need to work on most. But it's a lot better for them than not doing yoga, and then there are always the Patricks...

    ReplyDelete
  15. I admit to commenting with just a brief skim of the entry and the comments (fun stuff- I'll come back later), just had to tell you that this made me laugh:
    "Sometimes Ashtanga can feel like it's more about what you can't do....., rather than what you can. "-

    hilarious. But- that feeling goes away. It has for me, at least.

    And- LOVE the new look! That photo is great.

    Owl- "The Rocket: Shortcut to nowhere?"
    ha ha ha ha haa!!!!!
    and... Grimmly, your question about "where 'there' actually is!"- I'm really enjoying this exchange of comments.

    MB! magical.

    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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