My favourite is this one
"Today I saw a red and yellow sunset and thought, how insignificant I am! Of course, I thought that yesterday too, and it rained" ~Woody Allen
So I had an epiphany, of sorts, on the mat yesterday (don't we always), while trying to get to grips with a Vinyasa Krama approach to Sivananda yoga. At the time it seemed much more profound than the post title suggests but I'll go with that.
It started along the lines of "what the hell am I doing" as I tried to squeeze myself into a Sivananda practice and kind of ended up with "Your an Ashtangi for Christ sake, live with it".
Ashtanga was the practice I started with and have practiced six days a week for the last three years (apart from the odd sabbatical), though not so long perhaps, it's enough, it seems, for it to get under your skin. The fact that I took to the practice and have kept it up so long suggests that, overall, it suits me. Mostly I've had a ball, yesterday I described Primary as a joyous practice.
I said yesterday that the practice can bring out aspects of my temperament that I'd rather minimize than encourage in a 'yoga' practice but perhaps, rather than run to other styles I should just face those demons on the mat. What the hell else is the black expanse of a Manduka for than to look into the murky depths of your soul...
Vinyasa Krama seems to bring out the best of me in my practice but it's almost comical how it keeps transforming into an Ashtanga style practice. Stop fighting it, go with the flow and other ahmisic cliches.
So perhaps I can use Vinyasa Krama to bring out the best of me in an Ashtanga practice and overcome the mighty demons. Besides I'm not tied to a Shala and as a home Ashtangi am free to adapt may practice. Vinyasa Krama is all about adapting and tailoring a practice to the practitioner. I'm glad AYRI exists and that Sharath is there preserving a style of practice but there are other ways of practicing Ashtanga. According to Manju, his father used to employ variations as did Krishnamacharya himself. Now I'm more familiar with the sequences and subroutines of Vinyasa krama I want to use them to tailor my own practice.
The trick is not to overdo it and that's where I've gone wrong in the past. Once you've learned the VK sequence your not expected to practice the whole sequence in one go. There are some key asanas that you would aim to practice everyday and you would add some subroutines to those. Many of those key asanas are in Ashtanga Standing and Finishing, Have you noticed that most of the asanas in Finishing are in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka?
So how would it work.
Last nights Primary I added the one legged squat to Utthita hasta Padangusthasana. I stayed in Pashimottanasana for 25 breaths and went in and out of Purvottanasana three times with the breath before holding (the pose that is). Maha Mudra is the same as Janu Sirsasana A but without the bend, I stayed in that 10 breaths each side before bending forward and going through the Janu's as usual. After Supta Konasana I took a short savasana and then slipped into the last part of the Vinyasa Krama seated subroutine, the one with the legs spread wide. I took the practice as slow as I dared and focused strongly on the breath and bandhas, longer slower exhales on the forward bends for example. It was still Ashtanga, still Primary, though some might disagree but it had a vary Vinyasa Krama feel to it.
But what about the jump backs you say. One of the defining differences between the two styles is the lack of jump backs in Vinyasa Krama, just the one Jump through at the beginning of the sequence and a jump back at the end. Well, i'm glad you asked, I was worried about that, but then I came across Ramaswami's argument for not jumping back throughout. He says that the practice is about linking the breath and the movement and that the jump back is too fast to link the breath. that might hold for some jump backs/through but mine is of the slow, floaty Kino variety and the breath is very much engaged. Again, adaption, it's all about adaption.
How about intermediate?
A similar approach to standing as in Primary but I added Natajarasana after the UHP's. Following Krounchasana I went into the Vinyasa krama Bow sequence and did most of that, excellent backbend prep, pretty much an extension of what's already at the beginning of 2nd. I included Viparita Slabhasana and Ganda Bhandasana, they come into the Bow sequence. After Kapo I took ten breaths in Vajrasana. Continued through 2nd as usual until Bharadvajrasana, before going into that I did Mahlabanda which is very similar except you sit on the heel and don't twist. It's a mudra and I'm slipping them into the practice where I appropriate to slow myself down and refocus. I stayed there for 25 breaths. Before Eka pada Sirsasana I did the Archer and Heron poses Arkana danurasana and Kraunchasana. I can do LBH without but these are such great prep poses and allow you to go deeper, they just make sense. I included Skandasana the laying back LBH before folding forward, just a nice stretch. I dropped Nakrasana, too noisy upstairs plus I've heard of too many broken fingers (even from long term ashtangi's ) and to be honest I think it's a stupid asana. I'm strong enough to do it but aren't prepared to risk a finger and skewer my practice for weeks on end. I took ten breaths in each of the Gomukkhasana variations and carried on through the seven deadlies.
In both Primary and Intermediate I emphasised the Finishing sequence (also added the little Sarvangasana leg raises etc prep after UD), starting to think more and more it's the most important part of the whole practice. A ten minute headstand, 108 Kapalibhati and, very unusual for me, a full ten minute Savasana. I forgot to mention, one thing I have kept from the failed Sivananda experiment is ten minutes of Pranayama before I start my practice. That strong focus on the breath and bandhas sets you up nicely from the word go.
Ashtanga purists might be pulling out their hair and Vinyasa Kramites shaking their heads at perhaps mixing too many subroutines but It seems I'm an Ashtangi at heart with strong VK leanings and I just have to live with it.