Saturday, 26 December 2009

Revisiting Advanced A

I Saw in my diary that, sometime earlier in the year, I'd written 'Begin 3rd Series' for 1st of January. At the time I suspect I was being optimistic.

As it was, I started to explore 3rd a few months earlier on the back of Vinyasa Krama. I'd been practicing several of the asana anyway in VK and didn't want to give them up. Recently I decided it wasn't something I wanted to get into. There are some nice asana in the series but I didn't see the point of all the arm balances, not that problematic for my build but they just seemed too '...showy'.

I know, I enjoy the cool poses, but a third of the series is taken up by arm balances, seemed a bit daft frankly. Recently though I've been playing with Mayurasana, the regular version as well as the Full lotus and one armed versions. They could be considered flashy party tricks and yet there's something else about them I like. It's easy to focus on the strength aspect and if your
reasonably strong it's tempting to muscle the strength poses and miss their subtleties.

I remember back in my Aikido days. Two friends joined the club, one was a really big guy the other half the size. The big guy had no trouble throwing the little guy around but the little guy, he had to have his Aikido technique down perfectly to throw his friend. He ended up progressing much more quickly and last I heard had taken over the running of the club as Sensei.

Of course you need strength for Mayurasana, but it's a balancing pose, it's physics, get the fulcrum right and the opposing forces and you float up like a ..... floaty thing.

So maybe I should take another look.

Less interested in 3rd as a goal though, a smooth Primary and Intermediate with the occasional VK extras seems plenty to be going on with. Advanced A does seems like overkill but once a week might be fun. If you have a slighter build then you probably need to be practicing the series more regularly . I tend to bulk up if I spend too long on handstands and arm balances so don't want to over do it.

There are some nice asanas mixed up in there and the strength poses do focus the mind. I don't see any Karanda's or Kapo's in there to obsess over so once a week should be OK. I imagine Purna M will come over the next couple of months, it's getting closer every time but I wonder if I'll be doing a comfortable Eka pada Raja Kapo and Hanumanasana this time next year. I suspect Hanuman will be my 3rd series Krounchasana.

Update.

Practiced 3rd this morning and had a few surprises. Hanumanasana , the one I thought I'd never be able to do ( why of why do we bother to keep saying that) is getting close. Still a way to go but certainly doable and Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana is looking possible as well.

















Update 2
Did I say there was no Kapo or Karnada to obsess about? Well I take it back, VRSCHIKASANA A, worthy of some serious obsessing. That's not 3rd series I hear you say. No, but it is Advanced A which is what I'll be exploring this year. Check the pose out at Boodiba's place she has Sayanasana on the same video, another worthy of a little obsessing.

Why do I like Vrschikasana so much? I find it exceptionally challenging personally (just been playing with some prep for it). Practicing at home, I've always had a wall to fall back on (see what I did there: ). I've never learned to fall/drop backwards out of a handstand or headstand. To be fair I've never really had the space, which was another reason for putting tic tocks on hold. With this I'm going to have to learn to drop over. I like the control aspect of it, the intensity of getting a backbend so deep you rest you feet on your head, and when you next drop to the ground and try to grab your ankles it must be quite a stable posture .... eventually. I like the idea of breathing in that asana. And then there's coming back up out of it to think about.....

20 comments:

  1. "floaty things", ha ha, I like your writting style.

    Hey that hanumanasana is looking good... I have not tried it in a long time because, well, it is one of those classified as "not until third", like walking on water, or speaking in languages, but now I am tempted to try.

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  2. It's certainly coming along. Several bloggers have said that their teachers do Hanumanasana in standing after the Prasarita's, some have said their teachers are quite traditional as well, so seems OK to do it. I practice mine after Utthita Eka Padasana, I had the feeling it was going to take me a long long time so thought I'd better practice it a little every day.

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  3. Yes I have exactly the same "long time" feeling, that is why I have began to play with it in Uttita Hasta Padnaghusthasana... as I am reclined, after the pose, I just investigate, but I have not given myself permission to actually try it... next practice if teachers are not looking I may try it

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  4. Greg used to give people Hanuman when they were finished 2nd but not necessarily ready for 3rd, but then he started giving it to people who were only even about half way through 2nd. Except me! I was doing most of 3rd and he wouldn't let me do it at all, and never gave it to me in the prasarita section, back when I might've wanted it.

    Still a mystery. I never asked him why. Maybe it was because after the intial bout with Chris, I was so close to the pose in 3rd...

    Anyway 3rd is a beautifully designed series - I think.

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  5. Beautifully designed, really , you think. Ok will trust you on this because you practice several times a week but I'm still to be convinced, but then I hated 2nd for the longest time. There are some gorgeous asana in it.

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  6. Namaste Grimmly!

    I just found your blog. Go ahead mate, 3rd is a cool although hard sequence. I started daily Ashtanga practice in the summer of 2008, and now I'm doing 1st, 2nd and 3rd twice a week each. This morning I had my worst ever 3rd practice but I also got encouraged by your posting. The point is if you start practicing it then keep doing it every week otherwise the body forgets quickly. Arm balances are cool, I have more problems with the leg-behind-head and deep backbends.

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  7. I heard someone over here was talking about party tricks. Indeed.

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  8. I know I'm ashamed, I said no party tricks. Heard about you gliding through 3rd (Liz or karen) thought perhaps it doesn't need to be party tricks, how you approach it perhaps. Find it hard to approach handstand asanas any other way, brings out the worst in me. But I'm trying, perhaps if I focus on the balance and control aspect rather than the strength side.

    Anyway Merry Christmas Owl or what's left of it.

    Gauranga Das, Hi. Have been a fan of your youtube video's , thanks for stopping by. Boodiba's got me coming around to Advanced A again. Think I'll explore it this year after all, there are some wonderful asana there. Twice a week does seem a good idea and is probably enough just didn't want to do the four days 3rd and one each of the others.

    How are those one armed handstands coming?

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  9. It's normal to mock what one doesn't understand.

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  10. You saw it as mocking? I figured I was just being critical, I still feel the arm balances over balance the series, as 3rd anyway, perhaps less so as Advanced A.

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  11. Sigh, can't sleep, reading blogs.

    OK you asked about Maehle, I've only read the first wee bit, but on page xx he states the conditions for starting 2nd, to paraphrase - perform the postures correctly, have built sufficient strength/endurance, and the all-important #2, attain the goal of the series by practising it for a sufficient length of time.

    Extrapolating, we could also imagine that one should practise the other series for a sufficient length of time in order to understand them and attain their goals. So how can you even have an opinion on 2nd or 3rd series? You can do most of the postures to some degree (though I'd be very unhappy in your durvasasana), but you've never practised either one consistently (daily) for even one short month let alone a year? One moment 2nd seems too random and choppy, and then you kind of like it... the bulk of 3rd seems pointless but it has some cool postures at the end.... one day you want to do each series 2x/week, then it's one thing 4x and the others once, at one point the game plan changed literally every day.

    Individual postures are one thing and you can practise whatever you like, but how on earth can you claim to understand these series? And just because you don't feel certain ostensibly woo-woo effects after a bit of dabbling, does that mean they don't happen to those who do a series day in day out over time? Do 2nd or 3rd series Sun-Thu for a year or more like the rest of us, and THEN come back and tell us if the series is well-designed or not......

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  12. Just to be clear, I don't mean you're dabbling at practice, you practice dailyof course; but your approach to each series as a whole is what I'm getting at, it's so random.

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  13. Morning Susan. just a quick note before practice so you don't figure I'm ignoring you.

    You get this is a blog, rightg? I'm just asking because some seem to forget that and act as if I'm writing a newspaper column or something. It's a blog, just a blog, a practice blog. it's about my feelings and relationship to a practice I get up and engage with every day.

    My feelings, opinions, thoughts about this practice change constantly. It's mostly about the practice itself but I can't help but come up against the question of the tradition, often because it gets shoved down my throat. A tradition that says it should be practiced this way despite the fact 'this way' has changed constantly. I've looked into the history of the practice a little and tried to make some sense of it to my own satisfaction which again brings up more inconsistancies and so this blog is also about my response to that and how it impacts on my practice.

    I practiced Primary six days a week for what a year and a half before I started to practice Intermediate, I've practiced intermediate solidly three to four times a week for the last year and couple of times a week for a few months before that. Apart from a couple of months when I was mostly practicing Vinyasa Krama though still, a primary and an intermediate once a week each. I've been looking at 3rd once or twice a week for the last three months, mostly because many of the postures turned up anyway in Vinyasa Krama.

    Bit different from the the set way of practicing but still a consistent six day a week practice for three years.
    in the early days, supposedly, they were taught all three series in a couple of months. For the first ten years or so in the west you learned the first two series quite quickly and practiced them together.
    Kino was Teaching after a year so was your Cary I believe, going by her website but perhaps that wasn't Ashtanga. have you listened to the Kino's sunday Chicago lectures on the Miami life center website?

    Three years of getting up every morning to practice for a couple of hours, I figure I get to have an opinion on my practice and get to write my thoughts and feelings about it on my own blog.

    And there's a tradition where others get to comment on each others blog and people have freely done so and have several times chosen to be quite insulting and belittling, as well as respectfully critical, fair enough

    Fifteen of the thirty-three asana of 3rd are Arm balances. My opinion is that it's excessive and I stand by that. Arm balances are not such a challenge for me as a guy, I read once that more women practice primary than men and that it evens up in 2nd series but that in 3rd it's predominantly men. Doesn't seem that surprising, we do well with strength poses and struggle with hip openers. But that of course is a generalization we all know several woman who are practicing 3rd and blog, are they representative, I wonder? perish the thought if I had an opinion about that.

    But in the end it really doesn't matter, this is my practice my blog and I do have an opinion about it. People can read about it here in this tiny insignificant corner of the net, or not, as they see fit. You don't like it change the channel, walk out of the movie theater or post a comment. the only comments i've ever moderated have been the insulting ones either to myself or others.

    A lot of people practice at home, can't or wont go to the shala, though perhaps this changes later. It say 'at home' in the title.

    You've been practicing a long time Susan and not just Ashtanga and you have a wonderful way of explaining and writing about asana, you've also taught yoga for a while. I respect and listen to your opinion, of course I do, but in the end it's me who gets on that mat every morning.

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  14. Just read the second part of your comment again Susan. Guilty as charged i have changed 'almost' daily, at times, my plan for practice. That's the point of course, the point of blogging about it. it's about developing a home practice. frustrating for the reader? frustrating for the practitioner too, believe me.
    Going to a Shala you have that done for you. This is how you practice, this is what you practice on a given day and this is how you practice what you practice. For the home practitioner you don't have that structure imposed upon. You could do you version of the shala structure at home and some do. But your also free to question and explore that structure and justify it for yourself. The approach to practice seems to have changed because of the numbers coming to practice and the problems inherent in teaching a large group, that's not an issue for us practicing at home so we can practice the older approach perhaps, or not.

    True i've never been a big fan of 2nd as a series. OK (for me) if you practice fast perhaps, but I prefer a slower practice these days, longer slower breathes. I found it better for a while with full vinyasa but that cut into my pranayama time and so on and so on.

    I don't claim to 'understand' the practice but I do have an opinion on it that I express on my blog. That it is an opinion is just basic pragmatics, it's on a blog and if it uses objective language then it's in a subjective context and thus clearly an opinion, a personal opinion in the context of a personal practice.

    Like I said before it has 'at home' in the title. it's a home practice and that seems to be very different from a Shala practice. From comments and mail I receive there are a lot of people who seem to go through similar shifts in their relationship to their practice. Hell I even changed the title to 'Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama at home' so as to show that what I'm practicing isn't pure traditional, as that tradition is now so defined, Ashtanga.

    And i really don't tend to talk about the woo-oo (as you put it) aspect of practice. it's not an issue for me unless someone brings it up especially in the context of a teacher, and all that implies, using a smattering of Indian metaphysics to justify their view that you shouldn't be practicing something.

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  15. Well I regret posting that now, I usually try to avoid that kind of comment and only comment where I can be more innocuous.

    All I'm going to say is that your approach to the practice is very different to the way Cary or Kino would move you through it, regardless of your interpretations of the past..... and I think you short-change yourself by never seeing a teacher, and sometimes miss things by rushing ahead.

    Does it matter? No. I'm sorry for putting you on the defensive in your own space.

    It's just a blog, but you're bound to say things from time to time that get up the nose of those of us with teachers :)

    I'm grateful this morning that we both have the chance to get onto the mat. Hope you have a good one.

    Now repeat, Susan:
    it doesn't matter what other people do with the practice
    it doesn't matter what other people do with the practice
    it doesn't matter what other people do with the practice
    .
    .
    .

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  16. Was I bit defensive, sorry.

    I can see how it must be frustrating and of course a teacher would direct me in different ways. I've said many times here that I know I would get a lot for visiting a Shala and/or from workshops which would probably be easier for me. But the one teacher way isn't the only way.
    I take a lot of wrong turns, some approaches work better than others. But in the end I've maintained a Six day a week practice for three years without injury and have progressed quite well. Over all I think it's worked out OK.
    And it's true sometimes I get frustrated by others who are so certain that their way is the only way and can be a bit provocative, i should remember RIGHT SPEECH, 'is it true, is it helpful, is it timely, is it harsh'.

    Have a wonderful practice, now I'm off to the Opera. La Boheme at Covent Garden

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  17. I meant that I can be provocative : (

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  18. I need to remember right speech too. Opera sounds wonderful, enjoy!

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  19. Actually that's the way I read it :)

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  20. Hi Grimmly. I like arm balances in general, have practiced them even before Ashtanga. However nowadays I have some strength problem because to get them in the series from headstand is a bit tough right now. As for the one arm balance, I can do them only for seconds, have you seen my Facebook photos? The first one to learn properly is one arm peacock and then one arm handstand maybe, they come in higher series anyways. Godd luck with your practice. My motto is a series a year so I will spend 2010 with consolidating the 3rd. But I find 1-2-3-1-2-3 system better than 2-3-3-3-3-1. Anyway, let's see.

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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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