“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Friday, 31 July 2009

Gone Fishing : UPDATED

Out to Lunch
Closed for the Summer
On retreat

I've decided to take a break from blogging during August. This relates to my last couple of posts on Intermediate and my previous post in particular.

The plan is to practice by the book for the next month, Sunday to Monday Intermediate, Friday Primary and rest on Saturday. I want to work on One Pointedness, focusing intensely on the breath, Bandha and Drishti with minimum distraction. I want to avoid getting hung up on particular Asana and work on flowing through the practice as a whole with a clear focus.

I've also shifted my meditation practice to the Jhanas, Right concentration, and hope to keep up a daily practice of 20-40 minutes once or twice a day.

It's kind of an experiment, the plan is to report back in September on how the the two practices relate to, and impact on each other. I'm also hoping that I'll develop the flow and focus in Intermediate that I have in my Primary that's been bugging me so much.

Though I don't plan on posting here I'll probably still keep the practice diary going on the twitter link over on the right of the blog.

Let you know how it goes.

UPDATE

OK, It's not August just yet. I noticed this morning that my counter went over 50,000 visitors. Now I know this doesn't really count for much and that 45,000 visits of those were probably me coming back to check my grammar and if my Karandavasana was even the tiniest bit better than the day before, but still, it was a nice moment.
So before I take a break I just wanted to say a big thank-you to everyone who has stopped by and an especially big thank-you to all who have posted a comment.

I went a bit over the top recently and had a rant about a teacher who I felt had slighted a friend. I might have given the impression then and in the past that I'm dismissive of Ashtanga teachers in general but this really is not the case. Here's a link to the post following my second and last visit to a Shala. http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2008/09/second-mysore-class.html

My appreciation of the generosity of the teachers and teaching assistants hasn't changed since then, even the teachers I may disagree with are, I have no doubt, sincere in their intentions and motivations. I've received a lot of teaching here, via your comments. Sometimes this is direct from your own experiences working with an asana or transition but often it's the generous passing on of teachings that you may have received in the past from different teachers and that your passing on to me here and anyone who might be reading.

There probably aren't any 'Self-taught' Ashtangi's. The linage filters down through the books and DVD's, The YouTube videos, as well as the blogs and forum comments that home Ashtangi's often rely on.

Thanks again.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Good Intermediate practice this morning ( What!)

Crisis over? Well we'll see, but in remission perhaps.

Intermediate was 'good' today, enjoyable?..... perhaps satisfying is better.

What I was saying yesterday about still seeing the series in stages, was playing on my mind a lot throughout the day. I'm thinking about the series too much, about the individual asana. My Primary isn't like that, I've been saying for ages that I treat it as a meditation, letting the series take care of itself while I try to practice a kind of rolling Vipassana. And in the beginning I tended to be more wrapped up with working on the Jump back and jump through that I let the asana pretty much work themselves out.

With intermediate I've been trying too hard, trying to improve every asana every morning. Thanks for reminding me about that Karen, didn't I post or a comment on that too, about practicing at 75% and working on the flow, and not too long ago either. I know better.

This great concentration/ samdhi discussion going on at Owl's got me thinking about the basics. In meditation on breath in Vipassana you might focus attention on the tip of your nose where the breath comes in and goes out, bringing attention back to that point as your mind inevitably wanders.

This morning I did the same thing, but fixing my attention at the back of my throat where I feel Ujjai strongest. Whenever my mind would wander to the practice, to the next asana, I would just bring it it back to the breath. I tried to have the Bandhas engaging automatically in the background on the exhale, occasionally having to shift my attention back to them to reset the routine before going back to the breath.

At Uttita hasta Padangusthasana I realized I couldn't split the one pointed attention effectively between the breath and the drishti (obviously ) so I would focus on the drishti during the pose then shift it back to the back of my throat as I moved out of one asana into the next. Breath, Drishti, breath, drishti....... Throughout the practice.

It seemed to work, I pretty much sailed through the practice in an hour and forty. I was surprised to find myself entering Vatayamasana at one point,' Oh here already' flashed through my mind before I shifted attention back. One other thought I remember noting was ' Here we go'. as I set up for Kapotasana . I didn't managed to come back up from Kapo, needed a bit more attention on coming up there and the same with Karanda, which was OK but I've done better. I was sweating as much, if not more than ever and my hand slipped as I dropped back, luckily I come down quite softly and slowly now so it was OK. I was really pleased with my breath, which remained pretty regular throughout though I took two pauses to slow it down, once before Kapo and once after the Titibhasanas.

So that's all there is too it, the obvious, the basics, we know this. Focus on the breath the bandhas and the drishti and let everything else take care of itself.

Away for a long weekend, Birthday break tomorrow morning. Still have no idea where to but I believe a plane is involved, excited about it. Not sure if I'll be able to practice but am taking the Yogitoes just in case.

Intermediate Kapotasana Progress

Hard to get on the mat again for Intermediate, I thought I'd got past this last week but I think I screwed up. I took Thursday as my rest day (because I'll be away this weekend) and then did two days of Primary making it a break of three days from my last Intermediate. Sunday was a struggle but I was OK about it but Monday too was a case of grinding out the asanas. Yesterday, being my day off, I started my practice later than usual, and really struggled to get on the mat. I should have stuck to the routine last week, rested on Saturday and just done the one Primary on Friday. Today I took the moon day for probably the first time ever to think about where I want to take my practice

The two days of Primary idea was because I felt I was losing some of my flow by practicing it only once a week. I figured I'd practice it twice and Intermediate four times a week. It seems to be too disrupting though, I think I need to be getting back into a routine and come to terms with Intermediate before I start thinking about mucking around with the schedule. Primary will be fine for a month or two.

The thing is, I don't understand my animosity towards 2nd. The asanas are going well, my Karanda is hit or miss but more hit now, in that I'm managing to go back up and exit properly. It's not pretty or elegant, my chin is still on the mat but it's getting there. Kapo is coming along nicely, I'm proud of my Bakasana, in fact it's only SUPV at the end that's not coming together and I'm OK with that, it'll come. The series just doesn't seem to flow. I find it hard to focus on my bandhas in the way I'm able too in Primary and when I was doing the Vinyasa Krama sequences. I can do all the exits and entrances, the different jump back and through variations, it should flow, no? But I still experience it in stages. The Kapo stage, the LBH stage, the bits and pieces stage, the headstand stage.

Oh well, will try sticking to a 5-1 (Inter. to Primary) routine for the next couple of months and see if that works. Take it slower perhaps and really try to focus on the breath. Give you an idea of how serious this Intermediate situation is, I was actually playing with the idea of quitting Ashtanga altogether and practicing Vinyasa Krama instead. I really enjoyed practicing VK last month, felt I gained a better understanding of the breath, the Bandhas and how one asana prepares you for the next. Sometimes with Ashtanga Yoga, it feels a little like Ashtanga first and Yoga second. Does that make sense? But hey, Ashtanga has brought me this far, I owe it a lot. I love primary and already know that I'll love third, I even love most of the Intermediate asana if not the series itself.

Below is my latest Kapo. I'm dropping back more slowly, able to hang back longer and even getting my fingers to my heels. Was trying really hard here to keep my legs up but it's not really happening. Seem to have reached a barrier here and something about my whole approach probably has to change if I want to get in any deeper than this. Perhaps I should try that rope set up to try and keep my legs straighter..... but then that would disrupt the flow that I'm aiming at. Think I'll just go with it for now, settle for what I have and perhaps work more on hanging back longer and see If I can get to the point of grabbing my heels before my head touches the mat.

video


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

20% off anything in Manduka's online store, for readers of this blog

MY readers? I feel so special, but am sure if I look on Ashtanga net this morning I'm going to find a glut or 20% off Manduka offers.

SO, I received a mail from Manduka with the offer this morning, funny but Arturo and I had just been talking about advertising and how we felt about it. But Manduka is Manduka and I've been going on about them since I pretty much started this blog. I wouldn't be without my black mat or my eQua towel, but they're pricey so 20% off sounds great.

Here's the important part of the mail I received, the rest was just sales fluffing, 'Manduka the Ferrari of mats', that kind of thing. But it's BLACK for heavens sake, very black, Ferrari's are RED. Perhaps it's the BMW of mats......but we all hate BMW drivers so that wont work. I heard the Honda Jazz was very popular at the moment , everyone seems to want one and being Honda it's reliable and never wears out, so perhaps It's the Honda Jazz of mats, Hmmmm lacks romance and the Manduka is a very romantic mat. Anyway here it is.....

From now until August 1st, Manduka – purveyor of the finest yoga gear on the market – is eager to offer your readers 20% off of ANY ITEM in their online store when using a coupon code designed for your site. Simply go to www.manduka.com, pick out the item of your choice and enter the code HEALTH20.
And here are a couple of the things I've said about Manduka in the past.
The Black mat
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2008/09/manduka-mat-review.html

Just bought a Black Manduka 100" (240 cm) Mat from the US on ebay. Brand new, seems a yoga school closed and they found a load unopened in boxes. Think he still has a few left that are being sold cheap. Have to find them by going into ebay.com as he hasn't listed them for international sale. I just sent him a mail and checked he was happy to send it to the UK. Shipping is expensive though. The mat cost me about £30 but shipping was another £20.


Ok I know it's a lot for a mat but everybody knows that the secret to the jump back is the Manduka mat, it's all you need. I heard that mantras are chanted at every stage of production and that even the label is sewn on by a 108 year old blind shaman woman called Trixy.

But not any Manduka mat, it has to be the extra long, extra wide manduka mat that fills your whole visual field with blackness, allowing you to float effortlessly through the matty void.

Deciding factor? landing on my head in drop back (see video last post), if I'd only had my Manduka I'd have less of a bump on the top of my head.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008



First impressions:

Heavy, very, very heavy about 9lb for my 100" mat But feels heavier. This is a solid mass of rubber and seems like it's cut out of a formula 1 racing tire. And it's Solid too, thick with seemingly no give. When you roll it out on the floor it rolls out quickly finishing with a loud thud.


Looks:

Looks like you mean business. If your feeling half-hearted about your practice one morning, stepping onto this mat will focus your mind, it demands a serious approach. It's like stepping out onto the grass at Wembley, Lords, Wimbledon... (OK getting carried away a bit now but it kinda feels a bit like that).



Feel:

It's thick about 6mm, but because it's so solid it appears thinner. It's not spongy and there's hardly any give but this makes your feet and hands feel more grounded. And yet it cushions your bones more than other mats.

It's sticky when dry but any moisture sits on it's surface and doesn't get absorbed into the mat. This means it can get really slippery quickly but it also means that you can wipe the moisture off easily. With other mats once they become sweaty you pretty much have to put up with it as you can't wipe it away, they are like sponges. With the Manduka, one wipe with a towel and it's as if you just unrolled it.

In Practice:

Slipperiness is the biggest issue with this mat. I tend to sweat quite a lot but I managed to get through the standing sequence without slipping. I tend to throw a few handstands into my Sury's and it felt firm and solid. I felt more stable and in control, likewise in headstands, forearm stands and especially in Utthita hasta padangusthasana

However in seated I found myself gliding through my jump backs and jump throughs, the faintest sheen of moisture was enough to make it slippery enough for my feet to glide across the surface.

Half way through seated I needed to start using a towel to regularly wipe my hands and the sides of the mat, perhaps every other jump through. But it only takes one wipe and your good to go.

Support:
Just what I'd hoped for, it took the pressure of my coccyx when rolling forward to jump back and off my spine in Garbha Pindasana. Also being a little wider there's less chance of you rolling off the mat as you work your 360. The knee has more support too in Vatyanasana from Intermediate. Nice bonus is that Nakasana is quieter on this mat which should please the neighbors.

Jump back specific:
My toes still tend to brush the top of the mat in my Jump backs and on my other mats at the beginning of practice this will tend to stop me dead until the the mat becomes a little sweaty. However with the Manduka I went straight back through. As it picked up a little moisture I was just gliding across the top, both jumping back and jumping through allowing me to focus on other elements. Slipperiness is an issue with the Manduka and I had to wipe my hands and the sides of the mat a few times throughout the practice. However, with other mats once the sweat starts seeping into the mat there's not a lot you can do about it but with the Manduka the sweat just sits on the top of the mat and will wipe away. Besides I kinda feel that if you're slipping on your mat then your doing something wrong, in that perhaps you haven't shifted your weight correctly or your stretch is too wide for your current muscle development. That said you do have to be careful with your hands slipping in Jump through but don't have to worry about rubbing and blistering your feet as you pass through allowing you to approach it With more confidence and more able to concentrate on your bandhas or keeping your knees up, feet tucked in etc.I've also noticed on my other mats that, with my bony backside, it can be a bit hard on my coccyx, same in Navasana, but on the Manduka, because the mat is so much firmer and gives much more support, I didn't feel a thing.



Intermediate Series:

Practiced Intermediate today and the slipperiness of the mat became intolerable, it was like a skating rink. Because of the Shalabasana series the mat gets sweaty from the word go. There's much more body/mat contact throughout Intermediate than primary so you get really fed up with wiping it down after every asana. In the end I threw my Mysore rug over the top and it was perfect. Jump backs and Jump throughs are different in Intermediate anyway so there's not the rubbing your feet raw on the rug concern as there is with primary. So plain manduka for primary, Manduka plus Mysore rug for intermediate.

Conclusions:
Only been a couple of days but I love this mat. It's helping me with my jump backs, not stopping me dead if my feet brush the surface. Moisture just wipes away with one wipe of a towel. It's firm and gives you a nice secure base for balancing and supports your joints and bones. It's a serious mat.

Drawbacks:
It's heavy and not really ideal for taking to class. Can be slippery and could be dangerous, so not for the total beginner, need to be a little adept at shifting/distributing your body weight. Would be unforgiving if you over stretch. Or of course you could buy one of Manduka's eQua towels to go with it.

I'll come back to my conclusions a couple of weeks from now with an update.

The eQua towel
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2009/05/yoga-towels-manduka-equa-v-yogitoes.html


My new Manduka eQua towel arrived today. Will let you know what it's like after my practice tomorrow.


First impressions........Green, VERY green! It's like doing your practice at Lords or Wimbledon's center court

So it's now Tomorrow. Practiced with the eQua towel this morning. Had the heating turned up really high to make it a good and sweaty practice.

One problem though, I'd requested the XL towel for my XL manduka mat but in the meantime I'd sliced off the end of my manduka (collective gasp). Thing was I was getting used to this great big long mat but going to the Shala and having to practice on a regular size mat. I was afraid of kicking the person behind me in the head so reluctantly decided to get used to a regular mat at home. So I cut my manduka down to regular size forgetting about the imminent arrival of said XL eQua.

But this is actually OK as I can fold a couple of inches of the mat over each end of the mat making it even more secure (see picture).

So does it work? is it fit for purpose?

Manduka claim

1. Super-absorbent.

It certainly is. I'm about as sweaty an Ashtangi as your likely to find, the eQua did all I could ask of it.

2. Ultra soft.

As a babies bottom. I suffer from ashtanga toes, dried skin on the front of your big toe from rolling over throughout the practice. Gets really sore huh. These days I usually lower onto my knees then adjust my toes to avoid rolling over. With the eQua it's so soft that I was able to go back to rolling over. The towel feels really nice too laying back into the supine asana's and especially savasana.

3. Slip resistant.

Need to give it a quick spray with a water mister but from then on your fine. Parasarita Padattanasana has to be one of the most worrying asanas where slipping can be really nasty.( video showing this is fine on the original post, see link above).

4. Moisture Wicking

So this refers to drawing the moisture away from the surface of the mat in the same way as my trusty Nike pro's. I guess it does, seeing as theirs no pool of sweat on top of the mat, but have always wondered.....where does it all go, wicked away to where? one of the great mystery, solve this one next Gordon.

5. Rapid dry.

Oh yeah! again, how, where does it go? pretty much dry ten minutes after practice. Also I rinsed it out in the shower, wrung it out, hung it on the door about an hour ago and it's already dry and ready to go again.

6. Light weight

Yep, weighs almost nothing and folds up into a tiny mesh bag too.

7. Durable

Will have to see about that but I imagine so. Looks well made

BUT.......... well not much a but really. But see my earlier post on making your own yoga towelhttp://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2008/10/home-made-non-slip-yoga-towel.html

The eQua is basically just a pretty microfiber towel. eBay is full of them at the moment so you could make your own as I did.

However, I couldn't find one the right length for a yoga mat and had to settle for a bath towel, cut it down the middle and stitch the seams. The eQua on the other hand is designed for a mat, the right length the right width and comes in cool colours (hard to find a decent colour microfiber towel on eBay).

I should point out that I heard Manduka have redesigned their eQua towel, haven't seen one of the new ones so can't say if it's an improvement or not, bit plusher I read and in more colours.

This is MANDUKA, so I'm more than happy to devote a whole post to them, anyone else wanting a plug would probably end up with no more than a line or two hidden away at the bottom of a normal post.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

New Tenugui + Salabhasana progress



This post is really just to Show off my new Tenugui and send a big thank-you to Okasan. Thank you too, for the beautiful Sake pots and as always for the Kyoho flavoured sweets. (Kyoho grapes have the most wonderful intense flavour).






I think I've mentioned before that Tengui are Japanese headbands, they're worn under Kendo helmets and I find them ideal for practice.








These are an early birthday present, I'm a Rabbit in the Chinese horoscope thus the little white rabbits all over the blue one, which is of course my new favorite.





And here's the new Tengui in action in Salabhasana.
video

Monday, 20 July 2009

Sayanasana , Yoga journal shoot

Intermediate wasn't great today. I decided to go with the paper in bed with the tea and biscuits first and practice in the afternoon rather than the other way around. Changing routine is always a bad idea. Stumbled through the practice, it was OK but a big ragged towards the end. Was much more positive about it, kind of expecting some tough, scrappy 2Nd's now, but know that on a good day it comes together pretty well. It's progressing and I'm developing some flow. I had my rest day Thursday then two days of primary so perhaps a rough one today was to be expected, tomorrow will be better and Tuesdays my day off so I can really get my teeth into it. Some days you just have to roll with it


Highlight of the day yoga wise was coming across Boodiba's new Video's. Always loved the look of Sayanasana but hadn't seen anyone do it until this week. Just had to try it. Got the Yoga Journal shot which really made me question what really goes on in those Yoga Journal shoots....you'll see what I mean in the Video below.

videoSo after four goes at it I think I managed 1/10 of a second. But I love it and why oh why is it in fourth. I'll practice 3rd seriously sometime but am never likely to do fourth so have no qualms about cherry picking the cool asana from the series, hell, SKPJ said it was only for Demo purpose anyway, free reign no(3RD too)? So Sayanasana is officially part of my home Intermediate practice, just after Karandavasana. Come to think of it the asana just before it in 4Th is Vrschikasana A, which is in my Swenson manual after Karandavasana anyway.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Exit ( Chatwari ? ) Karandavasana , Viparita Salambhasana , Can't be done.

I keep coming up against 'The Exit', (i've heard it refered to as the Chatwari exit, is that right, why is it called that?) it's there in the seven deadlies (headstands) it's in Intermediate in Karandavasana and it's there in 3rd in Viparita Salbhasana. It's scary no? Take karandavasana, your up on your forearms and then somehow your supposed to launch yourself up and get your hands in place before your feet hit the ground. In Salambhasana it's even worse, your arms outstretched behind you palms facing up. How the heck are you expected to get your hand up in time, impossible!

I remember giving my father a PlayStation as a present one year. He only ever liked this one racing game, but he would struggle with every level. I remember him, frustrated, angry even, jaw clenching, grinding his teeth, saying 'it can't be done, there's a design fault somewhere, it's impossible'. He would say this at every level seemingly forgetting that he had said the same thing before mastering the previous level. Sound familiar?

Touching your toes-can't be done, Mariciyasana B - can't be done, Mari D - can't be done, Self binding in Supta Kurmasana - Can't be done, Chin to floor in Upavistha - can't be done, Coming up in Urdhava Danurasana - can't be done, Dropping back into UD - can't be done, Binding around BOTH knees in Pasasana - can't be done, Catching your heels in Kapotasana - can't be done, landing Bakasana B - can't be done, binding both legs in Dwi pada sirasana _-can't be done, dropping back and coming up in Supta Vajrasana WITHOUT an assist - can't be done, landing your lotus in Karandavasana - can't be done, coming back up again - can't be done, Rolling back up in Supta Urdhava pada Vajrasana without dropping the toe- can't be done, no really it can't be done, The Exit in Karandavasana and Viparita Salambhasana - can't be done....... can it?

I'd planned one of my assaults on 'The Exit', a two week intensive, nail it or break my toes trying type thing. Sometimes those help, and even if you don't manage it you get a little closer. As it happened while in Karandavasan this morning without really thinking about it, I just launched myself into it and there it was, pretty much. Now it can be more refined of course, perhaps a softer landing but there it was , just like that. Probably if I'd started thinking about it it might have remained elusive, you can think about things too much.

Here it is in this morning's Karandavasana, which I was quite pleased with by the way. A softer landing of the lotus and I managed to come up with just a little chin to the mat rather than half my face squished into It. It's coming along.

video

Of course I had to try it with Salabhasana too and there it was again. I'm not really sure what I'm doing, it feels like I'm flipping the legs back, kind of like cracking a whip, bringing my chest up at the same time, the momentum allowing me to get my hands up in time. very strange.


video

Not much of an analysis i'm afraid, still not really sure how it happened and though I'm happy about it I was kind of looking forward to the two week intensive, getting a little closer day by day, some encouraging comments etc. Never mind, bound to be something else and something else......

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Making friends with Intermediate series

So it appears Intermediate series and I are friends again. All it took was one great practice and all was forgiven. Everything went so right yesterday that I approached my practice in a much more positive frame of mind. I hadn't realized that my negativity towards the series was coming from an insecurity about the practice itself.

I think my Kapo hadn't been going too well. I hadn't been coming up, not getting in as deep and there's a lot of build up to Kapo that feels all for nothing if the Kapo itself doesn't work out. Yes, I know I shouldn't be thinking about them as just preps for Kapo, but when you feeling negative.... Karanda had been a bit hit and miss too, as was Mayurasana and Nakrasana, and I still couldn't hold on to my toe in SUPV, the seven deadlies have always felt a waste of time. What are they for? Would rather do one long headstand.

But yesterdays practice changed all that. Everything had gone so well ( see yesterdays post) that I knew I hadn't lost any asana and was still progressing in them, rather than slipping backwards. Almost ran onto my mat this morning. Interestingly though, despite the negative feelings towards Intermediate and dragging my heels to practice, I never missed a day, always managed to get on the mat..... eventually. Just had to force myself not to think any further ahead than the Sury's

This morning I woke up at 5am, couldn't get back to sleep so started my practice at 5:30 ( I usually practice 6:45 -8.00). Nice practicing earlier, felt like I had all the time in the world. As it happens I really sailed through, everything went well except coming up from Kapo but I'd come up so smoothly the day before that I was cool about it, Cest la vie.

I was much less tired too, managed to stick to the count and the breath pretty much all the way through except for a moments rest before Kapo and Karandavasana. At the end I felt refreshed again same as yesterday. Is it really all mental, I mean that's how I feel after my Primary, even though my mat is soaked with sweat I still feel refreshed, but the last couple of weeks on Intermediate I've had to drag myself through the last third of the series, Interesting.

Finished and went through the Vinyasa Krama meditation sequence and then threw something on and did half an hour Vipassana (still can't be bothered with more than a minute or two Savasana, would rather do a seated meditation,). So perfect mornings practice, tempted to set the alarm for 5am tomorrow, let's hope this lasts.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Really nice practice this morning

I've been finding hard to get on the mat for the last week or two and haven't really been enjoying my yoga. Blamed it on Intermediate, I'd been having fun with the Vinyasa Krama and enjoying my exploration of 3rd and never had the same enthusiasm for Intermediate as I had for Primary.

Today's practice was wonderful though, everything seemed to go well. Being my day off I didn't feel like I had time hanging over me and could really take my time with the Sury's and Standing. I noticed my press to handstand was improving and seem to have the angle right at last, where I lean my shoulders a little forward of my hands to lift up. I managed to get really deep in Prasarita Padottanasana B, head to floor, and spent a lot of time on the Utthita hasasta Padangushasana ( UHP) sequence.

I've taken to putting my foot up on the mantelpiece in UHP to get a good stretch, as if I was getting an assist. If I have time I'll put first one block and then two on top of the mantelpiece then I'll do it again freestanding as usual. If I have the time to do this then I find so much else easier, the LBH asanas for example. You can tell right away that it's helping from how much more comfortable Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana feels, you just know your going to get a good lotus in Karandavasana.

videoKapotasana has been a bit lame lately but today was perhaps my best ever, dropping back nice and slowly, reaching my heels and coming up very smoothly. I'd thought that perhaps I was losing this and that might be one of the reasons I haven't been enjoying 2nd lately. I think the improvement might be due to the Salambhasana work from 3rd I've been doing this week.

Nice Bakasana landing and managed my unassisted Supta vajrasana five times, until now I've only been able to manage three.



videoKarandavasana too was perhaps my best yet Every day I seem to have more control lowering but today I managed to come up without squishing my face into the mat. I still had to put my chin down but quite lightly. I also got the 'Chatwari' exit for the first time which surprised me as I thought it was something I would have to do a big two week intensive on. Getting that made me want to try exiting from Salabhasna too and I managed that OK and even had a little sniff at Ganda Bherundasana.

Ganda B is interesting, I just took my legs further over and let gravity do it's thing, bouncing my toes off the wall to make sure I wasn't going to fall all the way over and snap myself in two. I didn't go that deeply into it at all (see the video on yesterdsay's post) but I could really feel something happening, like my back opening up more, kind of like the feeling I got when I first dropped back into Kapo except this felt a much softer, more gentle opening. This then made a big difference to my UD and my drop backs which were again, very deep and yet comfortable.

I slipped in a quick nod to all of seated from primary going from one asana to the next without taking any vinyasa and only a breath or two in each one, plan being to really open my hips up for the Intermediate leg behind head poses. These too went well, nice and deep and I added on Kayapasana, Skandasana and Durvasana from 3rd. Even tried Viranchyasana A but that was going too far, could get into it but my leg kept popping out from behind my head when I tried to lift up.
videoManaged to roll into Viranchiyasana B though , which was a nice surprise as I'd been a little cautious about trying those ankle rolls. Kind of feels like serious Yogi stuff. One of those things I thought might not be possible for mere mortals, does this mean that Mula Bandhasana might be possible too one day?

I was joking in my last post about those asana that we don't think we'll ever be able to do but there were a couple of things that I really did think were going to be beyond me. Kapo was one, never thought I'd be able to get that deep a back bend. Dwi pada Sirasana and the leg behind head poses are another, and the ankle rolls are the third, just didn't think my ankles and knees would do that kind of thing. Perhaps the Splits is a forth, but starting to think that that too must be possible as I'm making some progress from practicing Hanumanasana at the end of Parasarita Padottanasana. Quite amazing what our bodies will do.

Best of all there was a nice flow to the practice. I was able to focus on the breath throughout much more than usual, with Intermediate, and a nice focus on bandhas too. After backbends I did the long Paschimottanasana sequence from Vinyasa Krama and went into an extended finishing and some Pranayama. The whole practice took just over two hours and yet I felt refreshed rather than completely exhausted, which is how I feel after a one hour rushed Intermediate. Perhaps I should get up earlier.

Long post today but it was one of those practices that I wanted to remember and want to be able to come back to the next time I go through a week or two of not enjoying my practice so much.

Oh, might be going away for a few days next month. Hoping to be able to get up early and practice on a beach, that will be a first for me. Another first is that I might be staying in a Yurt. Oh God, how New age is that, a Yurt for heaven sake.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Video review : Ashtanga Yoga Encinitas California 3rd and part of 4th Series

From the cover
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois conducted an Ashtanga Yoga Workshop in Encinitas, California. During this workshop he instructed his advanced students in the 3rd and part of the 4th series. This DVD includes early footage of Guruji instructing many of today's top teachers, Richard Freeman, Chuck Miller, Maty Ezraty and Tim Miller, asanas of the advanced series.

They're calling this a workshop on the cover although I would hesitate to call it that. One might call it a Demonstration, and there are a group of people, sitting around the walls watching, but it really feels like a small led 3rd and part of 4th class. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is calling out the asana and conducting the count and assisting more and more, as the class goes on.

I actually found it quite moving watching this so soon after Guruji's passing. This was filmed in 1989 making him, what, in his seventies? He's strong, fit, vital, with this big booming voice calling out the count. He shares a little joke here and there, the famous smile breaks out and there's a pat on the shoulder, the back , the hip when someone does well.

I was struck by the intimacy that seemed to grow as this long demanding series progressed, the physicality and demanding nature of the assists. There was a moment near the end of the finishing sequence where Guruji is sitting crossed legged beside Richard Freeman, knees almost touching leading his breathing. The camera zoomed in, the shot blurry at first but finally clearing to a close up and for a moment I swear I could see that intense young yogi that stares out at us from Yoga Mala.

The Ashtangi's credited on the DVD are Tim Miller, Chuck Miller, Matty Ezraty, Richard Freeman, the other two are thought to be Dominic Corigliano and John Norris. Most had been practicing Ashtanga for ten years or so and according to their websites below still seem to be practicing and teaching, what, twenty years later. They begin with Standing sequence and it's great to watch these experienced practitioners running through Standing in a real class environment rather than on a polished, and edited, video. They move into 3rd series after which there seems to be a moments pause before they move on to the first half of 4th series. Was 4th planned, I wondered.

They practice 4th series up until Tadasana and then moved on to the full Mysore back bend sequence, drop backs, tic tocks, Guruji moving from one to the other to assist them through the sequence that included Setu and Chakra bandhasana. Quite something to see this, not so tall, septuagenarian flipping the 6ft odd Tim Miller back and forth. They move on to the full finishing sequence and the video ends following the moment I've described above of Guruji leading Richard Freeman through a little pranayama just previous to UtPluthih.

Should you buy this DVD? Perhaps your still learning Primary and can't imagine moving on to Intermediate let alone 3rd. Why buy this if your never going to practice this series?

Well, buy it because it a presents senior practitioners struggling with an advanced series. If you've seen any of the top teacher DVD's, then don't they seem effortless, thanks I'm sure to a lot of editing. Here everyone is hot, sweaty, occasionally falling out of asanas as well as needing to be helped into them. They're struggling at times to stay on breath and hold a pose for Guruji's count. They are just like us in fact when we're struggling through the second half of our own Primary and/or Intermediate. Or buy it for the intensity of the practice as revealed in Chuck Miller's drishti or to see the subtle differences in everyone's asana's and transitions.

I bought it because here was a chance to experience Sri K. Pattabhi Jois teaching and assisting in a small intimate setting, something I'll sadly no longer have the chance of experiencing.

If I was serious about my practice before watching this DVD, and I thought that I was, I feel even more so now. Watching it seemed to confirm something I had suspected, that the Practice is about the practice. Not about anything else surrounding it, the politics, perfecting asanas, or even about the Student/Teacher relationship. Although there appears to be an intimate relationship in this class, Guruji came across, to me at least, as a facilitator rather than a teacher, here's this gift of a practice, this is how you can practice it...... now you practice it and see where it takes you.

I should say that the picture quality and camera work isn't great but somehow that all adds to the intimacy of the thing.

Here's a taster from youtube.
I found my copy on Amazon

There are some screenshots from the DVD on my previous post
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2009/07/skpj-ashtanga-encinitas-dvd-3rd-series.html

While we're on the subject, does anyone know if the DVD is available, and if and where it can be purchased, of SKPJ leading a small intermediate class seen here on YouTube ?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsiUzRct_gQ

Where are they now

Tim Miller,
http://www.ashtangayogacenter.com/

Chuck Miller, Matty Ezraty,
http://www.chuckandmaty.com/bios.htm

Richard Freeman,
http://www.yogaworkshop.com/

Dominic Corigliano
http://aumboy.com/dominic

John Norris
Can't find anything on what he's doing now, anyone know?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

SKPJ Ashtanga, Encinitas, DVD 3RD series + first Salabhasana

DVD's are of course, great tools for learning and remembering a series. They pay for themselves by being a led class in your own living room that you can retake as often as you like. But they're also excellent for comparing your own asana with those being performed on the DVD, especially useful for the self taught, home Ashtangi.

All you need is a video camera and a nifty little video player program like VLC, which you can download free online. Open the DVD and your own movies using VLC and under the video tab click snapshots on the asana you want to compare.

I've been doing that this evening with the new Encinitas 3rd series DVD and what I like about this DVD is that their practice isn't as polished as the usual 'perfect' (ly edited) DVD's you tend to see. Swenson's DVD's, for example, are excellent, but can be disheartening, he's just too good. As are Freeman's, although there's a great moment in his Intermediate where his hand flaps around trying to reach his foot in Kapo. Kino's too are flawless.

So here's a comparison of some shots from my Tuesday exploration of 3rd alongside snapshots from the Encinitas DVD. There's a few asana here that I think aren't so bad, but others, most in fact, that show I've still got a long way to go before I seriously consider practicing this series.










Arms need to be straighter in Galavasana above.













Obviously still too bent over, leg needs to be further over the shoulder rather than the neck.











Not far of Maty's Bhairavasana here but a way to go before I can look up like Chuck.













Had been happy with Urdhava kukkutasana but need to be much tighter into my armpits.










Astavakrasana I'm quite happy with and Chakorasana below too, though still struggling with the left side.














videoIf I was in any doubt about my readiness for 3rd then my attempt at Viparita Salabhasana would have put me straight. I'd been approaching this asana via Pincha Mayurasana and the wall, managing to get into it pretty much OK . Seeing Boodiba's Videos of this Asana last week made me think it was doable and I attempted it filled with confidence that I would just walk my feet in and hop up into position....... didn't work out that way. This is one of those videos you take that are good for dealing with hubris.

Anyway Tuesdays explorations into 3rd are on hold for a couple of months while I throw myself into my intermediate love-in and try my damndest to fall for 2nd.
video video
Thanks to Boodiba's blanket tip in the comments section I managed to get up after all, Thanks L. Got my hands wrong the first time, second one is with my palms up.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Ashtanga Yoga, Encinitas DVD arrived + Chuck Miller London Workshop


Sri K. Pattabbi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga, Encinitas, California DVD 3RD and part of 4th series

Arrived yesterday. Half watched it/skimmed through it last night. Review to come once I've watched it properly, I'll probably update this post and re post it but just wanted to say two words

CHUCK MILLER

I've heard his name mentioned before of course, though it seems to be Tim Miller who gets all the press. It's quite something watching him practice, so intense it's scary, reminds me a bit of some of the pictures I've seen of Rolf and of course those early pictures of SKPJ himself, inspiring stuff. Next time your having trouble getting on the mat ask yourself, what would chuck do? Worked for me this morning.

Reason I wanted to mention this right away is that he and Maty Ezraty are coming to London this month to run a workshop at Triyoga. I think they're looking at arm balances too. Here's the link.
http://www.triyoga.co.uk/story.php?titleid=1408

And here's a clip of the DVD from youtube Chuck is at the far end with the beard and Maty is opposite

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Learn to love Intermediate month

Intermediate, I don't love you. There it is, I said it.
I respect you, how could I not, but I just, don't, love you.
But I shall, Intermediate, I shall.
If one CAN love through force of will alone, than I SHALL love you.

This month then, is an Intermediate Love-in.

Last night I found myself thinking that perhaps I might jump straight to 3rd, relegate Intermediate to one day a week, same as primary, and work on 3rd four days a week. How dismissive. Can't help it, I just don't love the series. I like many, if not all, of the asanas but taken together I just don't enjoy them. I find it hard to motivate myself to get on the mat, something I never really found with Primary.

To extend the metaphor, perhaps I shouldn't expect to love it, or shouldn't try so hard to feel the same way I did about Primary......perhaps I moved on too soon.

But maybe I can learn to like it, to enjoy it's company, settle for mutual respect rather than an all consuming passion. I need to hang out with it more, get to know it's subtleties.

So this month, or what's left of it, I'll drop my Tuesday flirtation with 3rd, forget calling Vinyasa Krama, or pining away to YouTube video's of Primary and concentrate on Intermediate five days a week (still spend Friday's with primary, is that bad?). I wont try so hard to love it but just try to flow with it and see what happens.



The moon was full, yet on the wane,
but a new moon shall be full again.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BTW
Check out this blog http://bestlivingpossible.wordpress.com/ if you haven't already, for a great couple of posts on visiting Tim Miller's Shala. Makes me want to go or at least catch his workshop next time he's in the UK

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Using the itouch to work through a series

Here's a nice way of using the itouch/iphone to help you work on a series. Today, being my day off, I was playfully exploring 3rd. I'm still not familiar with the sequence of asana or with the weird vinyasa, I could use a book of course, but books are so last year.

We don't always want to follow along with a video but every now and again it would be handy to have the video set up so you can remind yourself how your supposed to get into an asana or how to exit. Synch your video with your itouch and you can jump to the appropriate section without leaving your mat. Likewise with a bit of nifty editing you can add a photo album of a series and scroll through to the asana you want to check up on.

I took a photo of Matthew Sweeney's 3rd Series and downloaded it to iphoto. From there it was just a case of duplicating the photo 30 odd times and cropping each picture down to the individual asana. Turn it into an album and synch it with your itouch and away you go.

video

How to do a Straight leg Jump through blindfolded ( UPDATED to include John Scott blindfolded Jump through )

(originally posted 26th June 09)
This post suggests that the straight leg Jump through isn't really a 'jump' through at all, and that thinking of it that way may be what holds us back. It suggests that you don't need to be particularly strong, flexible, or know your bandha from a band aid (although engaging bandhas might make it a little neater). It suggests that, unlike the crossed leg jump through, anyone should be able to do this at any stage of their practice, there's a knack to it, you could do it .... well... blindfolded (in fact, as it turns out, blindfolded might even help).

The best time to write about how to do something is just after you learned how to do it and your reasonably clear as to what it is that made the difference. Since working out how to Jump through with straight legs Friday evening I've been pulling them every
chance I get to try and get the action fixed in my head

And yet every time I try it, my first one ends up just the same as when I tried it six months ago. I end up landing on my feet just before I go through my arms. If I didn't know I'd done it ten
times already I'd still be convinced that it was impossible, that my arms were two short or that I was just stupid, stupid, stupid.
videoThis was my first attempt this morning I was kind of expecting it because the same thing had happened last night in the bathroom getting ready for bed and in the bedroom ten minutes later. The first one always ends up this way. And yet I think I know what I should be doing. I lift my hips, elongate my arms .....

The first thing to understand about the Straight leg jump through is that it's NOT a Jump through. you don't Jump through your legs, you CAN'T jump through your legs. You know this, like me you've probably stood with your arms down beside your legs hands on the floor trying to work out how the hell it's possible for your legs to jump through there. You were right, it's not possible, it can't be done.

What you CAN do, is SWING your legs though your arms. And that's what's happening in the Straight leg 'Jump' through. You jump to your arms and then bring your head up which kind of pivots you through. It's a weird sensation and still feels a little magical which is why I still need to do the first one with blocks to get the action fixed in my body and then it's OK and I can do as many as I want without the blocks.

So here's my breakdown.


A. Raise your hips high, bend your knees and jump up to where your hips just were, bringing your legs forward towards your hands rather than through your hands. What your actually doing is jumping into an inverted forward bend Paschimottanasana (Imagine turning the picture below 45 degrees to the right or just tilt your head to the left).



B. Now this happens quickly so timing becomes important but about the time your legs reach your hands you pivot at the shoulder. I find bringing my head up makes it happen. By bringing the head up your whole body seems to pivot at the shoulder, your hips go down and your legs come up.




C. It's this pivoting that swings the legs through. Notice in all three pictures my arm are completely straight. All that's changed is that my head has come up a little and my hips have dropped. Notice too that I'm still in Paschimottanasana.




But no matter how many times you watch a video or look at these pictures when you actually come to do it there's still this mental block, there's something counter intuitive to the whole thing, the floor is too dammed close.

So lets eliminate the floor and do it blindfolded. Friday I tried it with my eyes shut which seemed to help. Blindfolded is more dramatic and makes for a nice post title.

video
Do it blindfolded with the blocks first and then quickly throw the blocks away and do it without.

( UPDATE. 5th July OK hands up, admit it who thought I was nuts here? Here's a video posted on YouTube yesterday of John Scott jumping through Blindfolded and having his class practice with there eyes shut

OK different context I admit and he's jumped through a few more times than I have perhaps but still) Back to the original post

Blocks help, they give you the feeling that the floor is further away and that your not going to break a toe.

If you saw yesterdays post you saw me doing it on the smooth shiny floor of my bathroom, with socks on. It gives you just a little more confidence that if your feet do hit the floor then they will slide the rest of the way.

A nice smooth Manduka eQua towel on your sticky mat will have a similar effect, giving you the confidence that your feet will slide through.

videoAnd here it is, still work in progress, when I play with it on the blocks I feel like I have more time, as if it's in slow motion and I'm able to work on engaging the bandhas, control it a little more, slow it down, hold it with my legs outstretched and lower to a nice soft landing. I'm still playing with it, getting the hang of it. Best of all it takes nothing out of you, unlike the crossed leg variety, so you can practice it as many times as you like without getting tired.

I wouldn't give up my crossed leg jump back for this one but it's nice to be able to do both

And finally here's Lino again, demonstrating it on YouTube.

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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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