Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ashtanga Practice and Method also Ashtanga's Kapotasana with a little help from Vinyasa Krama's Bow and meditative sequences


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".

and later...

"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 

yama/niyama 

Asana/Pranayama/pratyahara

Dharana/ Dhyana/Samadhi

?


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.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Grim. I didn't read this whole post, but thought I'd say a bit more about how I use these concepts of teacher and community vis a vis method. A lot of times the discussion and argument around this topic has to do with the lack of clarity around definitions. Most disagreements are semantic (L.W.'s phrase). ;)

    At least for now, I think of community as context. You are HUGE on community in this sense. And I think of teaching as an activity. It is a role, not a person. And to the degree that we are flexible, we receive feedback from those who are our equals in every way but one: they surpass us in experience and understanding.

    As for the article you link to, the author started practicing in 2005. In this context, he is taking the stage as a teacher, and then telling the internet how to think about teachers. Ok. Perhaps more practice or community are needed to balance this particular perspective at this time.

    Love and Respect,

    Angela

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Angela, thanks for stopping by, like the community as context, teacher as role clarification a lot. Just reread your Relationship section in House Recommendations, lots to mull over there still.

    Playing with ideas of a relationship with the practice being one of engagement with form and do we perhaps step into a role when we allow/encourage ourselves to trust the practice of the practice.

    I tend think of these articles/posts as throwing out suggestions, alternate perspectives rather than telling anyone what they should and shouldn't be doing ( the two I quote here were interesting I thought, bouncing off each other like an old 1970's Binatone tennis game) . We're still learning how to write and read the web. Language that in person might be considered commanding in a subjective blog is mostly pragmatically suggestive, no.

    I say stuff here but it's just a blog, a personal blog, subjective by it's very nature, it's always in that context, it carries no weight other than that inherent in the ideas (if I get lucky and throw out a good one occasionally). Aren't most posts scanned with a nod or a grimace, the ideas half played with before scanning the next post on the next blog. How many really great posts do we come across a year I wonder. Don't you miss really good newspapers, cutting articles out when we were young because of the writing or because the arguments thrilled us whether they went with or against our own bias, blogs have a way to go ( although you have your moments).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting, Grim. I don't know. Casual knowledge and authority are shifting sands here in the interwebs. Your take on it sounds very much like "reader response theory" in literary criticism, but then there are many other alternate lit crit frameworks on such things.

    My sense of it is that credibility is for real here in the web. You have developed a certain amount of credibility, and have an implicit relationship with some individual readers as a result of this. This is part of your experience of ashtanga community, and it's valid and complex and always being made and unmade and made again as you continue to explore and write. For some, indeed what you post is not just passing 1s and 0s but context for their practice that they attribute with some sort of meaning. That's something, and if you want to take it in to account when you're considering the yamas and niyamas, that's actually sort of interesting.

    Like, I don't think your experience of your relationship with readers is non-personal. This is your way of having community, and without this community, your practice would be something completely different. There is something real happening here, even if the body is mostly kept two-dimensional in this context. (I'm thinking of the day we spent together in London nearly 5 years ago, and the way it was textured in intersubjective ways that the internet is not. And yet it was perhaps only possible and interesting at all because of the internet context.)

    BTW, for a perspective on responsibility and online writing in the young Buddhist community, see Lodro Rinzler's Spiderman talk here. http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2013/08/bg-conference-2013/

    ReplyDelete
  4. RRT, busted, sat in on the the Lit crit class back when I was TAing.
    But here I think I was just suggesting that the contest of whatever I write is always that of a journal, it's always personal, subjective, it's a given, sometimes I wonder why I even bother to say "this is just my personal opinion'... other than as a reminder.

    But yes I am aware of the community... as well as the comments, I receive emails and have met a few readers as well as some much loved other bloggers including yourself of course ( lovely day, still think of it when I walk past the houses of parliament on a sunny day). I know that some have found the blog helpful, even if only a gentle nudge on to the mat on the morning. It's because of that community I still include practice posts and don't just write about my own interests and obsessions all the time. And your right there's yama/niyamas to take into account, everyone's at a different place in their practice and I don't want to push peoples buttons as much as perhaps I once did, my own view on so many things has changed over the years, blush at some of the nonsense I've written, the arguments I've gotten into.

    If you stick around long enough and do some research perhaps you do gain a certain credibility but it's still amateur hour, amateur history and amateur research which should always be remembered. Krishnamacharya for instance and his Yogasanagalu, I go on about that table of asana but it may well be that it wasn't in the first edition, might not have been added until the 50's the 70's. I can't do the Linguistic testing of Yoga Makaranda 2 say that Singleton might do before making his arguments say (whatever his conclusions)...I'm still playing at this, you know this of course coming from research yourself but I worry I'm sometimes given too much credence here with some of the more historical posts.

    Will read the spiderman link after practice, running late this morning. have a great day Angela.

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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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