"Wouldn't you say that the count is now moving to the back ground, and the breath is coming forward?"
Given my obsession with the breath, if your a regular reader of this blog you might expect me to agree with the above comment but I wonder....
".....the count is now moving to the back ground".
Wasn't it always thus, hands up who knows the count. No, not who can follow the count but those who know it enough to comfortably lead the count.
Now hands up who counts through their practice.
I've come to trust my instincts a little, this year my instinct has yelled at me to look to the count.
Did anyone else focus on the count, really pick up on it before Lino and John Scott. I wonder, The number of vinyasa is there on the 1974 Syllabus that Pattabhi Jois gave Nancy and David. I need to do some research on this, do me a favour ask some of those senior teachers next time you in a workshop and let me know. remember Pattabhi Jois didn't start doing led counted classes until the mid to late 80s although John and kino say he was counting softly to himself all the time.
This weekend John Scott mentioned that Derek Ireland was one of the first, if not the first, to give spoken Led classes, talking students through the series.
this is the other approach to led classes, the teacher is very present here.
With the count there is a stepping back, the teacher retreats and merely offers up the count, it's an offering, a different kind of service.
I keep coming back to the memory of Ramaswami leading us through the pranayama chant, I think it went on for forty minutes or longer, couldn't imagine myself doing it.... and yet I have, recently but only perhaps for ten minutes or so.
John Scott reminded us that Pattabhi Jois counted for sixty years, that's a practice right there.
There is something going on with the count and it's relationship to the breath it indicates.
Perhaps we don't notice it when the breath is quick but when we slow the breath and bring in the count we bring in form and structure, frame, vessel, the count becomes a vessel of the breath. vassal?
What happens if we just breathe without the count, we can lengthen the breath, slow it, but I would argue we still connect it to the movements of the body to the stages of the asana, this too is a count of sorts.
The count marks the completion of the inhalation and then of the exhalation it is also an indicator of the mini kumbhaka but that is for another post.
Inhale and then exhale
Now inhale and at the end of the inhalation say ONE, exhale fully and then at the end say TWO
It's different yes? Good different or bad different or just different.
Trying this now, for me, time seems to stand still during that inhalation between the counts, that's interesting. John does twelve of these twice a day and calls it his main practice.
How many are there in a full Ashtanga practice?
John talks about how over time the count is just there, he doesn't think it, perhaps he doesn't even hear it but is still on one level aware of it.
The count, like the teacher, retreats into the background and yet gives form to the breath, opens up a clearing perhaps.
It allows the breath to appear and then disappear, presence and absence.
I don't know, there's something here I feel I'm circling, I trust my instincts, something is yelling at me....
"Look to the count".
The question of tradition came up and how the count is and has changed a little over the years. I was asked whether Ramaswami counts, if Krishnamacharya counted the vinyasa in his later years
If anything was fixed In this (Krishnamacharya) tradition it may well have been the number of vinyasa and the state(s) of the asana, Krishnamacharya will mention the Vinyasa number in the table In his second book Yogasanagalu (1942) as well as in the instructions in his first book Yoga Makaranda (1934) and Jois seems to stress the same numbers, 22 vinyasa for janu sirsasana say (It's there in the syllabus he gave David and nancy in 1974 but it seems it goes back to when he began teaching in (1939). Who knows where that numbers originally come from. Ramaswami doesn't seem to indicate a count anywhere but he did say that Krishnamacharya would still say an asana had a set number of vinyasas (in it's formal version).
There is freedom I think in how many extra breaths get included and where they go, perhaps even where the the states of the asana are placed in the vinyasa count. They should I think all try to keep the odd/even aspect true but that's tricky on the asymmetric postures.
Is it (the count) traditional, important, necessary? I don't know, but I like the effect if has on the breath.... For me at least.
I've been thinking about it since writing this post last night, I don't quite nail it here do I, don't put my finger on it on, why the count is special, what it is about this relationship with the breath.
It's one of those things we have to try for ourselves and see how we find it. I used to just breathe long and slow but when I do add in the count, ekam before the first inhalation (rather than during the inhalation), dve at the end of the inhalation and marking the beginning of the following exhalation and so on, there is a completion of the stage of the breath that I find interesting.
I remember chuckling to myself once at seeing an advertisement for an Ashtanga shala it said you needed to try Ashtanga for 10 years. I remember imagining somebody asking for their money back after the completion of their ten years.
Perhaps you have to practice/teach/lead the count for ten, twenty, sixty years to see what effect it truly has, let me know.
This just in from Priya's Travel Blog her write up of Sharath's last Mysore conference of the season a little while back
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the count in the led practice? I understand they are numbers…is there more to it?
A: It is not a mantra, it’s just 1, 2, 3… counting. The counting in Sanskrit, that’s all. Ekam, dve, trini is 1, 2, 3. So that you can understand how many vinyasa is there in each asana, that is why we do the counting. Mantra is totally different. Mantra is chanting. In English, you call it chanting.
Sharath's view is always interesting, especially for me the slight shifts in focus season to season but it's still one teachers view (however senior his role) one practitioners view ( all long term practitioners views are perhaps of equal value - I've only got seven years on the mat, I'm thinking more of twenty, thirty to count as long term) it always comes down to whether it is useful to us in our practice, how beneficial it is to take a metaphoric view of the count and/or think of it as a mantra, a mala, how imaginative we choose to be.... does the count get in the way of our practice or deepen it, is it useful to us to focus on it, push it to the background or abandon it altogether.