“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Saturday, 15 February 2014

On 'teaching' workshops and retreats - I actually haven't the foggiest idea how Sharath runs a Mysore class, I really don't.

A friend commented today on my upcoming retreat in Spain that she hoped I would point out to everyone that I "...actually haven't the foggiest idea how Sharath runs a Mysore class".

She has a point...


I've never been to Mysore, India.

I've very rarely been to a Mysore room in fact. Let me see, I've been to two Sunday Mysore sessions at Ashtanga Yoga London five or six years ago and then there was a 'teacher training' week with Manju in Crete which was a mix of led and Mysore sessions as well as adjustment clinics. I did attend an extra Mysore class with Kristina before leaving Crete plus I went to another led with Manju at Stillpoint Yoga. Oh and I had a week, or was it half a week, of led classes with Richard Freeman a couple of years back. I think that's the sum total of my  Ashtanga Mysore and Led class experience.

As far as Vinyasa Krama goes, I had four days with Steve of Harmony Yoga before attending Ramaswami's five week Vinyasa Krama teacher training course at LMU in California.

Oh and there was the other weekend with Norman Sjoman.

Have I missed anything?

Nope, I think that's it, that's all.

To be fair I haven't actually said I'm running a Sharath style Mysore session, quite the opposite actually. The five day retreat in question, that I'm presenting in Spain this Easter, is basically concerned with exploring and developing a home Ashtanga practice.

There are four Led classes, one on Krishnamacharya's 'original' approach, as suggested in his 1934 book Yoga Makaranda. The next is on the Ashtanga presented in Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala of the 1950's. The third is probably the 1974 original syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams and/or Manju Jois' approach to teaching Ashtanga. The fourth was originally intended to be a led class in the style of the Led classes Sharath presents on his World tours. There is ONE Mysore self practice session on the final day.

The idea for this Mysore session is that attendees can do their own practice and take whatever approach they wish. It might be how they currently practice, or perhaps some influence from one or more of the led classes that I'll be presenting might creep in along with the 'problem' asana workshops and Vinyasa krama classes. They might slow their breathing and take appropriate, short kumbhaka's (breath retention) in certain asana in line with Krishnamacharya's original Yoga Makaranda approach or perhaps stay in postures "doing puraka  and rechecka (inhalation and exhalation) as much as possible" in keeping with Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala. Or they might like to practice full vinyasa in line with the earlier practice including the 1974 syllabus or take fewer, shorter breaths as on Sharath's tour dates, DVD and CD. They might like to go straight into pranayama and chanting or meditation or even pull out a copy of the yoga Sutras and study it at the end of their practice.

The idea is to present options for practice rather than to say this is how Ashtanga is practiced here, this is in keeping with my view of developing and exploring one's own home practice.

I'm actually still deciding on the order of led classes. I'm tempted to put the 'Sharath's Led' third and have Manju's approach fourth. I see Manju as slowing the practice back down somewhat, a going back to the earlier presentation of his father, taking a more flexible approach ( in certain ways) to practice perhaps, as well as reintegrating Pranayama and chanting.  I actually like this idea better.

Perhaps it's not appropriate to have a 'Sharath led class' at all. I thought if I didn't include him it would seem dismissive and besides I practiced with Sharath's DVD every day for months. It was what allowed me make the move from David Swenson's short form to the full Ashtanga Primary series. Sharath takes the practice so fast on his DVD (although it doesn't seem it) that I could do the full practice in 60 minutes before work. At the time 60 minutes was all the commitment to the practice I was prepared to make. Later I went back to Sharath's presentation of the practice and practiced for a month or so with a recording of his led Primary from Jois Yoga a few years back. Although I've practiced with most of the other major DVD's out there I probably practiced with Sharath's the longest. besides it's a very attractive and popular presentation of the practice, it would be amiss of me not to include it.

but again...

I actually haven't the foggiest idea how Sharath runs a Mysore class, I really don't.

I suspect however that you don't get to explore kumbhaka if you so wish, or take long slow inhalations and exhalations of eight to ten seconds each in some or all asana and vinyasas. I'm guessing that you don't get to take longer stays or add in maha mudra say before Janu Sirsasana for five minutes a side or take a twenty even forty minute headstand in his room. I'm assuming you don't get to bring in Vinyasa Krama modifications to postures, not because your injured necessarily but just because you feel like it that morning or feel your body could do with it, or perhaps extensions that may or may not be 2nd or Advanced series postures you've not been given. My understanding is that you don't get to go straight into pranayama after finishing or meditation, chanting. Any or all of which you'll be welcome to do on the final day mysore session on my Easter retreat.

Perhaps it's not possible to have a Mysore room practice like that, this is the reason I want to present the workshop, just to see, an experiment. Can you have a room full of people doing self -practice together, the practice they do at home in a shared room, whatever that may be.

Personally I find it an exciting idea.

I don't know if I'm at all qualified to present this. Not sure blogging about practice qualifies you for anything. While I was a teacher for many years, a TA at University, a School teacher, English teacher and teacher trainer in Japan it feels somewhat remote from sharing my yoga practice. I certainly don't like the idea of 'master classes' that's for sure, sounds pretentious in English and inappropriate, I don't know about in Spanish, 'mini workshops' are better, feels more like I'm exploring the subject matter just as much as anyone else in the room.

It's an exploration and development of home practice retreat. I've only been practicing for just coming up to seven years but that has been mostly twice a day, seven days a week ( was never really one for moon days). I taught myself the practice from books and DVDs, I worked out how to jump back and through (straight legged, crossed legged, full lotus...), drop back and come up again, get into Marichiyasana D, pasasana, grab my heels from the air in kapotasana and later my ankles, tic tack, (just), one then two legs behind my head, go down and come up in karandavasana... I taught myself Primary series, intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B all at home all by myself and without any adjustments or assisting.... and without any injuries other than a bruised toe.

But it's still only seven years, that's not long and I certainly can't say my own practice is perfect or even that refined, I just get on the mat every day.

And of course there's this

AsanaJournal: Do you believe that an Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher has to be either certified or authorised? Is the qualification an assurance of “good and proper teaching”?

Manju: Yoga is a lifelong practice; it is never ending. You don’t need a certificate; you need experience and confidence. That’s all you need, not a piece of paper.

To be honest, although it's great fun, rewarding and quite fascinating, I'm not sure about all this 'teaching', these workshops, I'm not even comfortable calling it teaching but the deal I made to myself was that if somebody asked I'd say yes and somehow that made me feel less guilty about not going out of my way to teach after taking Ramaswami's TT course. Originally the Easter Retreat was going to be all of Ramaswami's vinyasa Krama routines but I was asked to do Ashtanga instead and got quite excited about the idea of presenting these 'options' available for practice. Plus I believe Vinyasa Krama can be helpful for an Ashtanga practice. I find the distinctions between Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama drop away somewhat when you slow your ashtanga down and take a slightly more flexible approach to it.

And it's only for a short while, after moving to Japan in May I can go back to my own self practice with a feeling of giri (obligation) paid... somewhat..... it's not is it, it never is.

It just struck  me that if anyone comes to this retreat in Spain they will probably be Spanish.

En realidad no tengo la más remota idea de cómo funciona una clase Sharath Mysore, realmente no lo sé.

That's from google translate, hope it's not too awful.


A note on the change of blog title.
A reminder to myself

Overcoming asana, individual asana and the challenges they present but also our ....obsession/fixation with asana and with asana centred systems of yoga practice. Overcoming the attention on distinctions, imagined or not, between this method, lineage, approach to asana practice or that. Overcoming the over identification with one style of practice or personage. Overcoming discrimination in favour of discernment. Overcoming asana and rather... exploring, investigating, practising our yoga in what ever form it manifests itself in us....at home.

7 comments:

  1. "I don't know if I'm at all qualified to present this." ~ Anthony Grim Hall

    Manju Jois Interview Asana Yoga Journal http://www.asanajournal.com/article.php?id=152
    "Asana: Do you believe that an Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher has to be either certified or authorised? Is the qualification an assurance of “good and proper teaching”?

    Manju: Yoga is a lifelong practice; it is never ending. You don’t need a certificate; you need experience and confidence. That’s all you need, not a piece of paper."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like this one from Andrew Eppler brad.

    I have often reflected on a conversation I once had with my teacher Sri BNS Iyengar (pictured below): After 15 years of practice, I asked him if I could have his blessing in teaching other people Yoga. He said “Excuse me, but you know nothing! You just happen to be good at some yoga postures. But according to your ability to attract the people and to help them, of course you have my blessing.”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are many versions fore sure. Who wouldn't give their student a blessing to go out and teach! Let's face it the practice of yoga is about doing good, feeling good, and connecting with the divine within us ("God is a metaphor for the unexplainable" ~Ghandi) who doesn't have the right to pass it on it would seem a sin not to.

      Delete
  3. at a workshop David Williams was asked when you are qualified to teach. His response: when you know one more asana than the person who asked you to teach them. Or something like that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As far as I'm concerned, if a teacher is not constantly in a state of self-reflection -- asking themselves if they should be teaching and what they should be teaching -- they probably aren't much good and almost certainly won't get any better. I'm so glad to know that you are teaching a bit, Grimm, and empowering others to teach themselves. As you know, home practice is potent and can lead one to the heart of yoga. A teacher who does not identify as "teacher" can really get that message out. Good for you, and good luck at your workshops.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for the words of encouragement both here and in email. I'm sure I would feel exactly the same if I were 'authorised' to teach ashtanga, I wonder if the authorised teachers feel it a burden, even a bit of a curse as much as a blessing. Would hate to feel that I should be teaching one way, in line with 'accepted practice' when my intuition ( in it's vagaries over time) suggests to me that I should be teaching contrary to that, would it feel a betrayal.

    Much better to put under question all teaching, all authority, on principle...what else was yoga all about.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think you workshop sounds great. You are doing something different and that speaks to your heart. It is the innovators who make a mark on the world. If you were in my town. I would definitely go.

    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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