Sunday, 9 June 2013

Letting go of attachment and watching distinctions dissolve

http://www.existentialbuddhist.com/2011/02/letting-go/
Yesterday I received a comment on an old post

"Amazing ! This is cool! "

The old post was this one and starts like this

Tuesday, 1 January 2013
Surrendering up, letting go

I have it all wrong of course, rather than looking for the Vinyasa Krama in Ashtanga and the Ashtanga in Vinyasa KramaI should be looking at the Yoga Makaranda in Vinyasa Krama, the Vinyasa Krama in Yoga Makranda.

And that should be the side project, in the shorter asana practice in the evening before my longer pranayama session, not my main practice.

Surrendering (up), letting go, I'm lousy at that, perhaps I should work on it as a New Years Resolution, What was that letting go of a thousand things that was doing the rounds a few years ago?

And first to be surrendered up, let go, should be my Ashtanga practice, I cling to it so.

It struck me (yet) again that I have (neglected) responsibilities, duties, giri, obligation whatever we want to call it. For whatever reason I found my way to LA not Mysore and took Ramaswami for my teacher not Sharath or Tim or Lino......
-------------

And here I am six months later back practicing Ashtanga and preparing for a workshop with Manju in Crete in August.

What happened?

I was thinking about it and I think that with the dropping of the attachment (to Ashtanga) there was also a letting go of distinctions, they just dropped away.

from the same post...

"Still explore Krishnamacharya's other writings and practice of course, a Krishnamacharya course was part of my studies with Ramaswami. But I should be passing on what I learnt, sharing that approach to asana and I do happen to believe that you should only teach what you practice".

I focused on Krishnamacharya approach to practice in Yoga Makaranda, the long slow full breathing with the inhalation and exhalation (8-10 seconds) bringing out the pause between the breaths, natural kumbhaka that Krishnamacharya would often extend. Around the postures in Yoga Makaranda I would build the Vinyasa Krama subroutines that Ramaswami had taught us, that was my approach to building my Vinyasa Krama practice. The postures in Yoga Makaranda are just a selection of asana that you would need to lead into and then progress out of.

And surprise surprise, my practice would end up resembling the postures in Krishnamacharya Primary table in his later book Yogasanagalu which is of course pretty much the Ashtanga Primary of Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala, except that I was practicing so slowly that I didn't have time to get through the full table, the full series.

The distinctions drop away, Yoga Mala is Yogasanagalu which is Yoga Makaranda.

Ashtanga is Vinyasa Krama, movement linked to the breath.... we start at point A and move to point Z artfully/mindfully linking each movement to the breath. We practice for the time we have available.

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all  
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

And the long, slow breath was stressed by Krishnamacharya, by Jois throughout his life and continues to be stressed by Ramaswami. It's an approach to practice that was there in the beginning of Ashtanga vinyasa and perhaps always in the background but seems to have either got lost in translation or mislaid along the way, or the practice has just gone off in a slightly different direction, not necessarily the worse for it. It's something that's always there in the background to be explored should one so wish.

Who do you know who practices/teaches/leads the practice at 8 second inhalation and 8 second exhalation (please tell me anyone you know of), few it seems, why is that? The demands of what seems to have become a fixed sequence perhaps? Jois stressed you practice what you can but somehow the focus moved to completing the full sequence, do that in full vinyasa and as we saw from my earlier post you can end up practicing for three hours and forty minutes.

But what if you drop full vinyasa (most of the week) and only stay for three long slow breaths in a posture rather than five quick ones, and what if you compromise just a little and breath fully at five second inhalations and five second exhalations throughout the practice, for every breath from the moment you get on the mat, we're back to a little over ninety minutes but with the long slow breath firmly back in place for every movement of the practice.

And there are all those little vinyasa Krama subroutines in Ashtanga anyway, the distinctions drop away.

It's not the sequences of Vinyasa Krama that I should be stressing in my own passing along, those are mainly artificial constructs for learning the relationship between postures, it's the breath, that long slow full breath, long slow full vinyasa. That approach seems just as important to promote and share as the Vinyasa Krama subroutines I practice in the evenings

That and an integrated practice, Asana, pranayama, pratyahara and meditation on the ground of the yama/niyamas.

I've been asked several times recently about what I learnt from Ramaswami's TT ( from people considering it this year), there it is right there, a long slow full breath and an integrated practice.

Perhaps the main way I part company a little with Ramaswami currently is in my practicing of a relatively fixed sequence, whether Primary or 2nd (although I tend to practice part of 2nd series, in the evenings, in very much in the VK approach of Bow, Meditative and Asymmetric subroutines).

Ramaswami's presentation is a highly flexible, adaptable system. Why would you practice a fixed sequence when your body might require some other posture one day from the next not in the fixed sequence?

Hmmmm.

I thought about this....a lot. Decided that the Ashtanga sequences are never fixed, one day to the next we're always focusing on different aspects of the series, different postures within that sequence. One day we might give extra attention to the Janu sirsasana's another day the Konasana's another day the backbends....or the inversions, it's, perhaps surprisingly, a highly flexible, adaptable approach but within a seemingly fixed sequence. Occasionally I'll bring in something a little extra to give more prep to a posture, allow it open it up or develop it a little further, just as Manju says his father would do.

And there's something about a fixed sequence, a fixed routine. However it came about, there's magic there, ritual, discipline, something special going one that I still don't understand and yet recognise more and more and consider very much worth exploring further.

9 comments:

  1. I think you are right on the spot here Anthony. I adopted a fixed flexible sequence 5 years back and at least to myself it has been the perfect approach to sustain an effective, all-inclusive and enjoyable practice.

    How I came about this? Well...mainly through Manju´s guidance. I hosted him 6 years straight in Chile and used to travel and assist him in the south american tour, spent many hours with him just talking about it, in planes, airports, restaurants, hotels... and one thing he always made veeeeery clear to me was: "This was the way may dad practiced, used to teach and how I learned". This is the way Manju teaches too by the way. If people go to his seminars with their fixed practice he is not going to change it but will just help them with that. However if people ask him about guidance they will get the "flexible" approach as a main practice when you get to a certain age or at least until the body opens. He will tell them that was originally Ashtanga Vinyasa. Why it got fixed at some point after mid 70´s I do not know nor care really. I feel I am doing the same practice as before but with a smarter approach to it. As to not confuse my students with regards to modern Ashtanga Vinyasa I dropped the label and just call it "Yoga" in the krishnamacharya traditionas it is taught in the Mysore school. I say Mysore because there is a big tradition of practicing this method over there. Most people only think of Sharath but I can assure you there are others who have just an advanced practice as him. Several teachers come to my mind BNS Iyengar, Shankarnarayan Jois, Sheshadri, Ajay, etc...

    I sometimes refer to this plexible approach as Ashtanga vinyasa but not as a style but as a concept of Yoga practice. The main point here is that we work with a structure that with time is being developed in a highly personalized practice.

    Really enjoy your website. Keep up the good work! Andrés W.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment Andres I appreciate it, especially good to hear what you had to say about Manju. I tend to think of him as representing that period at the end of Pattabhi Jois' studies with Krishnamacharya and the coming of the 'Western' students in the 70's. In all your talks with him did he say much about the length and slowness of the breath? On the one hand both he and his father talk of it being long and slow and yet it seems to end up twice or three times as fast in actual practice. I'm looking forward to meeting him in August.

      I thought too a while back that I shouldn't perhaps refer to my practice as Ashtanga, some take offence if it doesn't seem to fit with the official line, but then I do want to put out there the idea that there are many ways to approach your Ashtanga practice and they can be just as authentic (whatever that means), traditional, and in keeping with the lineage (perhaps even more so and if that's important to you ) than how it's officially codified currently.

      Delete
  2. I love this approach to practice. I like the idea of mixing from each series to suit your needs. There seems to be too many strict Ashtanga teachers out there with a rigid idea on practice. I'm not saying it's wrong (who am I to state that?), I just prefer the older style of practice. I do think the modern practice comes with a little snobbery in some cases of how your vinyasas look or what asana you've made it to.

    I heard a great story about Manju in a local workshop last year when one lady wouldn't stop askin him on how to do straight leg jump throughs. Manju's answer of it shouldn't become the most important focus of your practice, didn't stop the lady from still asking. In the end Manju gave in and got her to do it with 2 or 3 blocks on either side. After she completed the jump through at that height, he then said "See you can do it. Lets get back to yoga now."
    Brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thought you might enjoy this link G since you are off soon to Manju's TT. It briefly describes a weekend workshop and teacher training with Manju.

    http://www.ashtangapraha.cz/2012/06/teacher-training-with-manju-jois-23-29-june/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the stories and link D I'd come across that link a long time ago but had forgotten it, makes me look forward to the workshop all the more. Have you seen the interviews where Manju is asked about his own practice and he says a little of primary, some 2nd and a few postures from Advanced.

      Delete
    2. I haven't, but that sounds better to me than forcing through a series on a day when you're not feeling the best. I do like to mix things up a bit. At the moment my focus seems to have drifted to backbends.

      Delete
    3. Page 80 of this article, middle column, half way down
      http://www.kripalu.org/pdfs/manju_jois_article.pdf

      "DK: How has your personal practice changed over time and do you do your own thing, or do you adhere to a specific sequence?

      Manju: I do beginning, intermedi- ate, a little bit of advanced, and afterwards, I do a half hour of chanting and meditation".

      Delete
  4. My teacher is also a long-time student of Manju's and he has the same flexible approach--including more breaths--which kind of ends up being longer breaths (but maybe that's my error) in certain asanas that he believes are especially important for me. It takes experience, insight and openness for a teacher to teach this way or for a student to practice this way effectively. Enjoy the TT.

    I would say the sequence is ordered, more than it is set.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "I would say the sequence is ordered, more than it is set."
    Love that Anon, thank you.
    Yes, Ramaswami would have certain asana that are considered requiring of longer stays, Ashtanga actually has that in place I find. Much of finishing has longer stays which with a slower breath is a considerable amount of time. Also paschimottanasana, Ramaswami would recommend ten minutes. In Ashtanga we have four variations of the posture, that adds up, again with a slower breath ( although I believe they've dropped it to just A and B now). Krishnamacharya has other postures in his books where he recommends long stays, i explored those for awhile too.
    These days i try not mess with the integrity series too much in any one practice. So perhaps one or two longer stays, a couple of variations at most, then the next day ( or week) something else might get extra focus, seems to be working OK.

    ReplyDelete

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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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