I've practiced 3rd, off and on, for a while before but not really 4th other than in the context of David Williams Advanced A and B (at the time I had to leave many of these postures out), it seemed a good idea to explore the postures as part of a series.
I find it endlessly interesting to compare Vinyasa Krama and Ashtanga. In Vinyasa Krama the postures build up upon each other, preparing you for each posture to come. That occasionally happens in Ashtanga in the Janu's in Primary or the backbend sequence leading up to kapo say, but more often or not you get thrown in the deep end in Ashtanga, postures just appear, seemingly without any prep, especially so in the Advanced series. It certainly makes you milk the sury's and standing sequence for all it's worth, every ounce of prep, when you know what awaits.
I have David Williams poster of the Ashtanga syllabus as it was taught to him. I like the long Advanced A and B sequences but they are a little long for daily practice, on my day off perhaps but not before work especially since I want to save time for my pranayama and meditation. The shorter, reworking of those sequences into 3rd and 4th series are, I hate to admit, more manageable.
This morning then was my first proper 4th series practice, If I'm honest I was a little under prepared. I spent a month around May on just Primary and my leg behind head postures slipped a bit as did my backbends. I started bringing them back in June but gently and in the context of Vinyasa Krama so my fitness has dropped off a little plus last nights over large ( for a yogi) bowl of left over Japanese curry/rice and a rare beer haven't helped.
Despite that practice went well, took about two hours but then I had to have a couple of attempts at some postures and at one point I threw in an extra eka pada raja kapo as prep for padabgusthasana Dhanaurasana. That's two hours not counting pranayama etc. I think I can probably bring it comfortably down to 90 minutes which makes it doable on a weekday.
Compared to 3rd it doesn't seem exhausting and yet I ended up sweating two kilo but that might have been last nights beer and curry. I like it as a series, nice to work on and through, lots of very meditative postures giving it a nice overall feel or it will have when I can make a better job of it.
I know some of you hate my approach to practice, you want to see one posture perfected at a time but I learned from David Swenson's book with all it's variations. If I couldn't do a pose I did the most advanced variation I could and moved on, working on the series as a whole rather than individual postures. We'll have to agree to disagree on this. A foot to head Vrschikasana is a couple of years off and yet I'm relatively comfortable in budhasana and kapilasana I prefer to do the best Vrischi I can then move on.
So here's a run down of how it went mainly for my own records so I can look back on it in a few months from now. I have some pictures lying around of some of the postures, not of others, didn't really want to stop and film anything today.
Mula bandhasana is coming on I think I've been too tough on myself, having seen a lot of advanced practitioners videos of this, perhaps mine isn't as bad as I thought, though I'd still rather have my knees much wider apart.
Vrschikasana A. (forearm scorpion) As I said mine is pretty rough, feet a long way from my head and there's just no prep for it here, straight in. I'm relatively happy with my Viparita Salabhasana, just brushing the hair on my head so feel that a half decent Vrischi is possible.
Sayanasana ( below) was perhaps better than ever today which was a surprise as I haven't worked on it. nobody seems to stay more than a second or two so not too worried about not managing five nice long breaths.
Buddhasana and Kapilasana (below) was just manageable on the right side (right leg behind head) but not the left so I just did a variation. LBH postures got better as the practice went on as you'll see, in fact the left side ended up being better than the right.
Akarna Dhanurasana A and B ( archer and heron)are postures I've been including regularly as prep for LBH poses in both my vinyasa krama and Ashtanga practices, so no real problems although B was a little unstable.
Padangustha Dhanurasana (below) is new for me, only managed the awkward hand grab last week. Tried and failed here so slipped in Eka pada raja kapotasana as prep and then tried again and this time it was OK. B is going to take sometime before I can rest my feet on my shoulders
Marichyasana E, F, G, And H ( G and H pictures below) are relatively straight forward but obviously, as with any pose in Ashtanga can be improved).
Tadasana ( here it's standing with the heels together feet turned outwards and hands in namaste)is not too troubling as I've practiced it every morning for the last year or so as part of my pre Sury tadasana warm up
Samanasana, will take time before it's anywhere near elegant
Parsva bakasana (like Punga below but with the knees together) and Punga kukkutaasana ( pictured below ) the arm balances are just fun poses though the transition from left to right side is bloody hard.
Eka pada Dhanurasana ( below)I'm just been doing this one handed for now can manage both hands...just, but prefer to work on the balance and opening up the back more, will come back to the two handed grab later.
Eka Pada Kapotasana ( below). taking the easy way out for now and entering via urdhva dhanurasana, have done it dropping back kapo style before but deciding to take it easy for a while. Really like this posture, bit scary but I like it.
Parivrittasana A is just doable in my space but there's not really room for B, did in the studio on the VK course but not sure when I'll be able to give it another go. How do people practice these in busy shalas.
Yoni Dandasana (one foots in Janu C position the other turned backwards, sole's together knees on ground) is a pose I forgot about, still trying to work it out, almost there but need to explore this outside of the practice
Yoga Dandasana. (below) managed it on the right side but not really on the left but then this was the first attempt for a few months, needs work.
Bhuja Dandasana ( below). First time I've tried these and I did them again at the end because I enjoyed them so much and wanted to take a look at them. LBH much better now I'm warmed up and as I said the left side ended up better than the right.
Parsva Dandasana ( below) my favourite arm balance, nice how the arm balances are more spread out in this series allowing you to enjoy them more.
Urdhva Dandasana is a bit strange but relatively straight forward, need to check the vinyasa out of this one
Adho Dandasana (below) was another one I'd forgotten about mixing it up with Bhuja dandasana. the leg goes in frount for this one and then the hands go around the leg for namaste, had to keep stopping to check Sweeney. Confusing, will need to spend some time working it out.
Samakonasana (side splits) I just downright skipped it, unashamedly. Need to come up with a stratagy to work on it. My hanumanasana is pretty much there but can't ever see me doing this one.
Omkrasana (below) is a fun to end on and yet has a nice focus when your up there, like this one a lot, quite intricate.
Over all I'm quite happy with how it went, it'll get better. I prefer it to 3rd that's for sure. After omkrasana I changed into something dry, switched towels and moved on to finishing and pranayama, meditation etc. Give it six months and it should be a nice practice, though that takes us into winter and you need a hot room for this series or some serious uddiyana and ujaii
Have a look at my previous post to see Mark Togni make a much better job of the series.
Wondered if I'd have any aches or pains this morning but woke up feeling great. Legs feel like they're made of rubber, very loose, flexible, no stiffness or tightness at all as if I've just finished a practice. Almost feel like I could jump in the air like a gymnast and land in hanumanasana or do that handstand entry.... don't think I'll give it a try though. A little stiffness in the shoulders perhaps, trap's I think but then I woke up in the night with the fan on and my back felt cold so perhaps it's from that, like sitting in a draught.
Took an rest day this morning, proper one, no VK or sitting for pranayama and meditation, figure there was a lot going on yesterday morning and I should give everything a chance to settle.
Really like 4th, never liked 3rd that much and it took forever to come around to 2nd. The mandala's are a bit awkward but apart from them I think I like every posture, want to be in them, inhabit them, has the best arm balances too and nicely spread out,