This morning I wanted to try and bring Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama together, try and find a middle ground somehow. As I keep saying, Ashtanga is a Vinyasa Krama practice. It's a series of Sub routines and I'd already noticed that my daily Vinyasa Krama routine had taken on an Ashtanga shape. I would start with a couple of Standing sub-routines and forward bends, a Sury namaskara. I might be practicing some seated and Asymmetric Seated sequences, which are pretty much Primary series anyway then moving on to finishing routines, shoulder stands, headstands etc. So my routine was pretty much Ashtanga Primary anyway.
But what about the approach to the sequences. Vinyasa Krama is a very slow practice, patient build up long slow breaths, a lot of bandha focus.
The build up was less of a concern, I'm already flexible enough to be practicing Primary without too much trouble, I feel comfortable going straight into all the primary poses and besides they follow a pretty logical progression.
The breath wasn't as much of a sticking point as I'd thought. Owl had gone on about the importance of the breath in Ashtanga last week. Some practitioners really stress that aspect in their practice. In my own practice I'd focused on the breath a little but was more concerned with completing my practice before work and had got it down to an hour. This morning I decided to try and slow it down from 60 minutes to around 90. I approached the breath as if I was practicing VK, long slow breaths, especially the exhales which I would hold and engage the bandhas on pretty much everything without a twist( Just been checking out breath and bandhas in the book and it seems bandhas were encouraged on the twists as well but you shouldn't be retaining the breath on the inhale and exhale in VK, supposed to save that for pranayama in classic asanas).
That was fine through Standing but became a little harder once the jump backs and jump through came into play. That could be because my fitness has dropped off a bit or that I'd woken with a cold. I suspect though that my half kino Jump through is just too strenuous for a VK style Ashtanga practice. Half way through I began to find it hard to keep the breath long and slow. I think the answer might be switching to the less strenuous straight leg jump through. I taught myself to do it a couple of months ago but lost it because I didn't practice it every day. I think if I can get that back, it should solve the breath issue.
There are a few poses that Vinyasa krama recommends extended stays. Paschimottanasana, Salamba Savangasana , Sirasana and Maha Mudra. I noticed on Kino's DVD that she said we tend to Stay in headstand and shoulder stand for ten breaths, I'd forgotten that. Ten long slow breaths with bandhas keeps VK happy. There's a long Paschimottanasana anyway in primary but there's also one after backbending which is perfect for an extended stay. Mr Ramaswami suggests doing Mahamudra after the practice as prep for meditation anyway so again this fits nicely.
And that's how I approached my primary this morning. Still dynamic but with the breath, bandhas and the longer stay in poses emphasised. It felt like Ashtanga but also felt like Vinyasa Krama.
The next thing is to see if I can do the same thing with my Intermediate. The plan now is two days Primary and two days Intermediate. Plus, three days of the Vinyasa Krama routine with the Inverted, Supine and Lotus sequences stressed along with the On the feet, Triangle and On one leg sequences as the Standing element, that way I can continue to build familiarity with the sequences.