Some nice posts floating around at the moment. Peg Mulqueen has been exploring the question of community which leads into the question Is the practice enough?
"For me, it is the trilogy: the practice (or Method), the community and the teacher. Angela Jamison of Ashtanga Yoga Ann Arbor really puts this in perspective, as well as eases my sense of inadequacy for needing the presence of each for my own fulfillment.
And she refers me to the idea of the three-legged stool:
“So in the Buddhist tradition, the way this is talked about is as “Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.” In Christianity, my root origins, it’s “the way, the truth, and the life.” In any case, my translation of the trilogy is teacher, method, community. I think if it as the full source code, and without one of these sources, something is missing.”
Peg closes with
"But to suggest, “the practice is the teacher” is incomplete".
you'll have to read the post to put all that in context. Is the practice enough
Also Ty Landrum a former student of Richard Freeman, has a post called The Practice is the Teacher, these seem to work well as companion pieces, bouncing off eachother nicely.
"In Ashtanga Vinyasa, there is a comparable saying, “the practice is the teacher,” and the meaning is more or less the same. The practice exposes us to our patterns of impulse, and to the tyranny of these patterns over our minds. When we submit to the practice, we learn to observe these patterns without enacting them, and we begin to release them into the emptiness of the breath. As in Zen, the purpose is to disabuse ourselves of distorting influences, to make our minds quiet, focused and lucid, so that we may begin to see for the first time.
There is much to be said for having a competent guide in Ashtanga, someone who has been thoroughly tempered by the practice, and who can point one down the path. Eventually, however, one must learn to face the shadows of one’s own mind, and this is something that one must do alone. The teacher can describe potent techniques, but one must learn how to apply them to oneself. The practice of Ashtanga is designed to support one in this process, and even to show the show the way forward, for those who are really looking. It provides a kind of mirror, in which we can observe the effects of our mental adjustments, and continually refine our efforts at balancing our minds. Thus the dictum, “the practice is the teacher.” The Practice is the Teacher
Where do I locate myself here from the perspective of Home Ashtanga? Here's my rather twee comment on Peg's fb post on the question of the importance of community, of the sangha...
"Not important at all, did it all myself at home without any support , encouragement or input from a teacher......except that's not exactly true.
For the first year perhaps but even then I was practicing along to books, Mark Darby's dvd, David Swenson's, Richard Freeman's.... the input wasn't direct but it was there and when I had a question about the practice I hit the books and/or googled, that's still sangha isn't it?
When I started my blog I began getting advice, suggestions, support, criticisms too that I perhaps pushed back against and practiced harder to try and prove wrong. Sometimes I would keep working on a posture or the jump through, dropback... karandavasana even because I was trying to share the process with readers who I knew where struggling too...perhaps I wouldn't have practiced so hard if I wasn't in the habit of posting everyday.
I used to think that solo practice was the be all and end all of the practice, community, a shala, perhaps even a hindrance to developing a solo practice now I'm not so sure. The encouragement, support one gets from a community probably only goes so far, you still have do the hard work yourself, physically, emotionally, every time you step on the mat for this practice, this discipline.
Community strikes me now as a 'gentle' assist, an act of support, guidance as we find our own way into a posture, into the practice".
"Still not sure what I think on this... teacher, sangha, framework of method perhaps to help you get the basics of the practice then let the practice do it's work. I pretty much feel a teacher's job is to keep out of the way of the practice as much as possible"
And this morning I'm wondering if there's not confusion around the ideas of practice and method, we may need the teacher, the sangha (community) to learn the basic method but it's the practice of the method, the development, tweaking, inhabiting, personalising of the method, it's application to ourselves, to confront and perhaps overthrow ourselves that is perhaps what Ty is writing about.
How much of the method can we allow to drop away?
How much did Krishnamacharya drop, Pattabhi Jois drop, Sharath drop?
How important is the vinyasa count, the equalising of breath, the different approaches to drishti, the bandhas?
How much did they add to it, to that vessel in which we frame, contain the practice?
Is it the breath, the equalising and thus concentration on the breath, first stage in many forms of meditation. Is the the tristana of
Running out of time so will have to leave that hanging and come back to it another time. Stitching together two posts here because the one below perhaps touches on practice and method.
Before my previous post on the Sharath Utkatasana/Virabhadrasana video, The ups and down of Ashtanga's Kapotasana (includes videos of my past and present Kapo(s)), I wrote about working on getting my kapo back. Kapotasana for me is heels, I used to be able to grab my ankles, even the beginning of my calves but for my needs, heels seems plenty. You can get a good hold on your heels and ease yourself down into a nice expression of the posture, settle in and work on the breath. Currently after the illness and what not I'm dropping back and having to spider walk my fingers to my toes and lower there. So how am I working on getting it back?
Basically still an Ashtanga framework , Standing, Manju's pre 2nd series pashimottanasana and purvotanasana ( yes he includes them in his 2nd series it seems) then into pasanaa and krounchasana before sliding into Ramaswami's Bow sequence ( Basically the postures leading up to kapo in 2nd but with more variations, more prep). Then a little of the Vinyasa Krama meditative sequence built around vajrasana. Back on to 2nd series but leaving the early leg behind head postures to one side for now and slipping into Primary's janu sirsana's and kurmasana's instead. Pick 2nd up again at yoga nidrasana ( Karandavasana? Don't ask, not pretty) and carry on to the end and on into finishing, pranayama and meditation/chanting.
The italics above I wrote earlier in the week, posted the slideshow below to give an idea of some of the extra prep postures I'm including from Vinyasa krama.
BELOW: Bow sequences, explores shalabhasana, bhekasana, dhanurasana etc. in a little more depth than we find in Ashtanga 2nd series.
BELOW: some lead into Kapo, slideshow carries on into some extensions to kapo
Bringing the above into My 2nd series though I find myself slipping into a more Vinyasa Krama approach to practice, more like the old videos that Ramaswami made for the 1980's TV slot in India ( ramaswami studied with Krishnamacharya for over thirty years).
After a few minutes the video below leads into the bow sequence
And here's the lead up to Kapotasna.
I don't include all of the vinyasas above but some of them a few more than those that made it into Pattabhi Jois' 2nd series Ashtanga.