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Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga.
SLOW ASHTANGA : Pattabhi Jois talked in interviews, as well as when writing in Yoga Mala, that if we had less time we should practice less asana. In my own practice time is an issue. I prefer to breathe more slowly in the asana and vinyasas, lengthening my inhalation and exhalation, "slow like the pouring of oil" as Krishnamacharya puts it in Yoga Makaranda. I like to explore kumbhaka and the occasional extended stay, in Mudras especially. I also prefer to practice, much of the time, with my eyes closed, employing internal drishti at different vital focal points and I like to introduce vinyasas, extra preparatory asana on days when they feel appropriate as well as perhaps extending an asana into more challenging, 'proficient' forms on the more flexible days, in keeping perhaps with Krishnamacharya's, Primary, Middle and proficient groups of asana rather than Pattabhi Jois' fixed sequences. I like to practice Pranayama before and after my asana practice as well as finishing my practice with a 'meditative activity'. I was first introduced to Yoga through the Ashtanga sequences and I still maintain that general structure in my main practice but I would rather sacrifice half or more than half a sequence than these other factors and perhaps practice the asana ‘missed’ in the following days, I still consider this to be Ashtanga, Slow Ashtanga.
Friday, 20 January 2012
More Ashtanga as it used to be (1978): Mark and Joanne Darby interview
I thought it was interesting jumping forward five years (1978) from the trip Nancy is talking about (1973).
Ilya Zhuravlev: "Mysore 1978" Interview with Mark and Joanne Darby from WILD YOGI
Learning the practice
Ilya: Some people who studied in the 70-s told me that before, students practiced both 1st and 2nd series during one class. Some people told that sequence was different.
Mark: At first we learned Surya Namaskara A, B, Padangushtasana, Padahastasana, Trikonasana, Parshvakonasana - and then Baddha Padmasana, Yoga Mudra and Utpluthi - this was first class. And my friend Old Cliff said: "Oh, he likes you - he gave you a lot of asanas". Next day I got one more posture, next day - one more. So maybe for one week I was given one posture per day, and after two more postures per week. In three months we completed Primary Series. After three month I went for holiday - my body was tired. After one month I came back - and I started Intermediate, it took two months. An every day I did Primary and Intermediate. An then we started Advanced postures. So it was Primary, Intermediate, Advanced every day. So I did three series daily, and after two years my practice was 3 and half hours. Joan was doing 4 and half hours, because she was standing one hour
Ilya: 'My next question concerns the length of ujaii breath during ashtanga practice. When we visited David Swenson`s workshop Baranov and I were instructed to shorten our breaths, since our pranayama practices increased lung capacity and our breathes were longer compared to other students. He also told us not to hold one posture more than for 5 breaths, but you`v told that before it was 8 breaths for each asana. Do you think that it is due to the number of students in class and time limit that counting became faster?'
Mark: 'Yes, a lot of students come and time is limited.'
Ilya: 'Then what is your opinion about individual practice? Is it possible to hold a posture more than 8 breaths and make breaths as long as possible?'
Mark: 'Yes, and when David studied it was also 8 breaths. I don’t think there are any rules, if you want to make breaths longer you can, but there is such thing as vinyasa, and vinyasa becomes a movement which takes energy, and because of that we breathe faster, we need oxygen and then the breath during vinyasa become quicker, so you generally need to keep same rhythm in your postures. So that you don’t speed up to do the vinyasa and then slow down. So, I generally work with my vinyasa, but some days my breath is longer than in others, but some days I`m rushed because I don’t have time. I can make a very strong practice in one and a half hours and I can make it in 2 hours by making my breath longer. There is nothing wrong about it, but you have to keep the rhythm'.
Ilya : '...did Pattabhi Jois teach pranayama for advanced students in early years?'
Mark Darby: 'In those years not even to advanced students. When some American advanced students wanted to study pranayama, Jois started to teach them. At that time we had studied with him for about 6 months. So he invited us also, I guess he felt we were ready. But in later years he was teaching pranayama only to advanced students, people who new third series. One time Sharath invited one student to come, he was not advanced but a long time student, and Guruji asked him - why you here? He said Sharath invited me, and Guruji had discussion with Sharath and said to the man: “You sit and watch”. So he did not practice and just watched'.
Ilya: 'He was very strict in this'.
Mark: 'Because it's difficult. When you do pranayama with strong retentions it can be dangerous. Body should be prepared and Pattabhi Jois said that when you do advanced series you should be ready to pranayama. I teach pranayams which I learn't from Deshikachar - its simple approach, simple pranayamas'.
Samakonasana and Hanumanasana
'Ilya: 'Somebody told me that Hanumanasana was in Primary series'
Mark: 'He gave it to Derek Ireland - Hanumanasana and Somakonasana, it was individual instruction, but Derek gave this to his students. So only his students did this. But he was advanced student. It was not given to beginners'.
Mark : 'Ashtanga done well will be your best friend, ashtanga done incorrectly will be your worst enemy. We didn’t do revolving standing postures as beginners. We did trikonasana, no revolving trikonasana, parshvokonasana but no parivritta parshvokonasana, we didn’t do utkattasana and no virabhadrasana series as beginners. So, when you became advanced practitioner afterwards you put them in the standing postures. Why Pattabhi Jois changed this? Usually when students practice they copy teacher, and when beginners see advanced student doing most postures then they would put them in. So when they go to Mysore they didn’t learn from Guruji but from some students of Guruji in the west, so when they come to Mysore they`d be doing postures already, so he`d just let them do. Before, he never used to teach parshvokonasana, reversed parshvokonasana. If you look at Lino`s book, its not Sharath, its Lino is doing this posture. If you look the video of Guruji teaching in 1990 Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, Chuck Miller, he doesn’t have this reversed parshvokonasana, he only put this after 2000.'
Mark Darby's DVD was the one I pretty much learned Ashtanga with, that and David Swenson's book, Ashtanga Yoga. I still think it's the best DVD on the market for the beginner home ashtangi, you have Mark doing the full series while Nicole Bordeleau does some easier variation beside him, split screen.
Here's a link to Ilya Zhuravlev's website
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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