|The Three Ages of Woman, 1905 by Gustav Klimt|
After checking out the local Yoga scene the last couple of days I can't tell you what a relief it is to find that Ashtanga is still Ashtanga and free from general kookiness.... pretty much.
I'm sure it's not just Japan, or Osaka, start googling the yoga scene in your local city, whichever country you happen to be in, and it's going to be just as bizarre, there's some eyebrow raising yoga out there..... your going to end up with videos that will have you screaming, as a friend messaged me after I sent her a couple from here, "Make it stop, for God's sake make it stop".
Ashtanga seems so stripped back in comparison, workman like, relatively sane.... it's refreshing.
But not just Ashtanga the whole tradition, Ramaswami says no more than he has to when he teaches asana, mostly he just indicates the breath. And recently in my own classes I've started giving instructions for all the asana on one side then just shut up for the second side and left the class to it, so what if they forget an asana or two in this particular class. I'd rather everyone just focused on the long slow breathing, the kumbhakas as well as the linking of breath and movement, just as when I practice myself at home. One day I want to give a class where I don't say a damn thing for the whole two-three hours.
But back to stages ( and these are not in order of Ashtanga enlightenment, in fact lets get rid of first, second and third altogether and replace them with x, y and z)
The thought came to me that perhaps in the beginning we focus on those asana in the series proper (OK, after we've learnt the sury's and standing, indulge me), so the Primary, Intermediate, Advanced series. We struggle with marichi's, obsess over our kapo's....... become vindictive over tic tock's (tacks)... and pretty much forget all about standing and finishing altogether, just go through the motions, standing we rush, finishing is just in the way before our well earned savasana.
For me the second stage (sorry, stage y) came when I started Advanced A (which I no longer bother with btw), those leg behind head postures are on you before you know it, I came to appreciate quite quickly the standing postures and milked them for all they were worth.
I still love standing, will often find I've spent an hour on it and do paschimottanasana and it's pratkriya before switch to finishing (see below).
This is when we get finishing and everything before seems stuff and fancy, this is our yoga practice right here. I'd rather do half standing, a couple of postures from whichever series and then spend the majority of my practice on Finishing. Ramaswami stresses long stays and variations in shoulderstand and headstand and most of Krishnamacharya's third son's ( Sri Shribhashyam) practice examples in his book Emergence of Yoga are taken up by the inversion work, preceded perhaps by a standing posture, a forward bend, backbend postures and then a mudra then a seated posture after the inversions. I wouldn't be surprised to find the Ashtanga finishing sequence as one of his whole examples of practice.
Ramaswami too, following his teacher Krishnamacharya, stresses a long stay in paschimottanasana (Ashtanga has that as part of finishing too of course, after the backbends), a long shoulderstand with variations and a headstand, he also includes long stay in maha mudra but in Ashtanga we get yoga mudra instead.
The Ashtanga finishing sequence is, I would argue, a complete, stand alone practice. OK, I'd want to add a little pranayama before and afterwards but you get the idea.
And of course there's this that we've quoted before from Yoga Mala, although I'd argue it's a pretty complete practice for anybody whatever their age.
"Older people who want to start yoga, however, will find practicing the following ten asanas sufficient [see Chapter 2 for detailed descriptions of individual asanas]: first, the Surya Namaskara (types 1 and 2); then Paschimattanasana; Sarvangasana; Halasana; Karnapidasana; Urdhva Padmasana; Pindasana; Matsyasana; Uttana Padasana; and Shirshasana. It is preferable to do these in concert with the vinyasas [breathing and movement systems], but if this is not possible, then practicing while focusing on rechaka and puraka will suffice. Shirshasana should be practiced for at least ten minutes, and the rest, for at least ten rechaka and puraka while in the state of the asana [see fn. 39]. By practicing in this way, the body and sense organs will become firm, the mind purified, longevity will be increased, and the body will be filled with fresh energy".
p26 Yoga Mala. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
If you could only do 10 postures (plus a handful of Sury's ) every day, which would you choose? Would you drop one of the finishing postures for one in a series or in Standing. A mildly thought provoking question.
But then of course there's the Stage Z1 where you rediscover Primary and then Z2 where you have a 2nd series epiphany and perhaps z12 where you decide that really you only need to do Savasana and might as well stay in bed and practice it there.
I might wait until I'm back from November's trip to UK and Russia before I start going to Mysore practice every morning but find I'm quite into the idea. Perhaps I just got the shala habit in Rethymno.
re. the trip back to the UK in November
Here are the details.
VINYASA KRAMA WORKSHOP- AN INTEGRATED PRACTICE
And then on 21st November I fly to Moscow http://www.yoga108.com/2014/09/24/grim-hall/