My own Ashtanga has been disrupted this last year with experiments in longer, slower breathing, Krishnamacharya's use of Kumbhaka as well as the disruption that surrounds workshops as you prepare ,leading up to them, and come back afterwards a little drained.
The impression my friends practice made on me was one of clockwork, there is a regularity, each breath, each inhalation and exhalation appearing the same throughout the practice, from Sury to savasana.... I could set my watch by it.
But more than that, their practice gives me the impression of of the workings of a clock, a wristwatch perhaps where each part seems to work in relation to another, the different groups of asana the different parts that make up the working of the watch, the movement the vinyasa. My friend is a dawn horologists, measuring time with the breath and the movement of the practice.
All those who criticise Ashtanga as being took fast, too energetic, to athletic, gymnastic should observe my friends practice, it's unhurried, focused, steady, it's an essay in meditative practice.
I aspire to this practice.
My friend of course, being an Ashtangi, would probably not recognise this description, and no doubt be more than a little embarrassed. Ever critical of their own practice, Ashtangi's when not aspiring to the next asana, a floaty jump through perhaps, are constantly tweaking here, tweaking there.... at what point do we accept our practice for what it is with gratitude, I've taken to include a small prayer of thanks for the morning's practice, however it turned out, along with my closing chant.
I thought I'd begun to, accept my practice for what it is. I no longer concern myself with new or fancy postures but here I am aspiring to more balance, more steadiness.
Practicing on the next mat I find I'm aware of the unevenness of my own practice, discord, double action, a sliding between the cogs, a lack of steadiness, of regularity, an unevenness of the breath. There are times however when our practices come into sync and I'm reminded of how powerful a practice this is, to practice with such balance, evenness, for ninety minutes, two hours, now there is a thing.
This time then is a re grounding of my practice, a steadying, evening out, a balancing.
And it makes me think, my breath tends to be a little longer, a little slower than my friends but is it perhaps a little too long. Fine in certain postures but in others it will naturally need to shorten, the binds for example of the marichiyasana's and kurmasana, is there perhaps a breath, a rate of breathing that I can maintain throughout, from sury to savasana, what is the longest, the slowest my breath can be that I can maintain comfortably throughout my practice.
And once my practice has been rebalanced, what of kumbhaka, when I then reintroduce my kumbhaka into my morning practice is there an ideal length of kumbhaka that will balance with the inhalation and exhalation, Krishnamacharya talks of the length of Kumbhaka in Yoga Makaranda II, he explored this to some degree.
At the end of June I move to Crete for a couple of months to practice at Kristina's shala in Rethymno, hopefully to work on Intermediate, to reground that practice in preparation for introducing Krishnamacharya's use of Kumbhaka into my 2nd series. I began to explore it a short while back but I had allowed my Intermediate series to become ragged, it needed tidying before I introduced Kumbhaka in any disciplined way.
Now though I'm starting to think of balance in 2nd, not merely tidying the practice but balancing each of the elements, the breath, each movement, asana, vinyasa....
It would be nice to have a 2nd series that would be like clockwork, steady and even and balanced.
*Of course there are problems with a practice like clockwork metaphor, it suggests that each part is necessary and what of half a practice (half a watch?). There are of course many designs for a watch/clock and is our watchmaker somewhat blind perhaps.