|Outtake video below from Double Booking with Les Twins, Magnolia Zuniga (left) and Jessica Walden (right).|
Here's a taste of the interview with Magnolia...
LU DUONG: "Hardly! You mentioned that you had to take a step back from Ashtanga as it created too much heat in your body. For practitioners coming into the practice seeking healing for their body, do you recommend Ayurvedic treatment or study in conjunction with the practice?
MAGNOLIA: "Yes. I encourage students to incorporate additional ways to support their practice. The practice inspires divine and material change. Because the practice is so potent, practitioners may need additional support and guidance. I offer Ayurveda and scriptural study because that is what I’m familiar with. However, each student has their own appetite and aptitude. Which brings me to a question I ask (mostly to myself) repeatedly. What is the appetite and aptitude of a particular student at any given time? How do I meet the student there AND how do we reach slightly beyond that point? The answer changes. It's important for me, as a teacher, to be receptive and welcoming to the varying degrees I meet without allowing complacency, laziness or fear to take over. Or perhaps complacency/laziness/fear is a place we’ll visit, but only a short time.
The Ashtanga method, like anything else, can create further imbalance when practiced incorrectly. By correctly, I mean emphasis needs to be places where it belongs; breath, dristi, bandha. But, this requires a lot of work, every day, for a long period of time. For example, if a student is taught too many postures too quickly or if the emphasis does not continually come back to that foundation, than the body and mind will suffer. The practice is simple in its requirements.
I find Ashtanga fascinating because it requires you to take care of yourself. There is no yoga binging allowed. Otherwise, you’ll hurt yourself and/or bail. Eventually practitioners hit a point where they need to make different lifestyle choices. Our actions and thoughts will need to be reflected upon, and revised with a fine tooth comb...or a sword. Your choice. This is frustrating because we want a quick fix and we want to feel good about it. The daily discipline of Ashtanga Yoga is rarely understood, let alone encouraged. But, it’s punk rock and does not abide by societal norms. I love that. "
At the end of the interview there are a couple of pictures as usual but also this video with a former interviewee of Lu and Ashtangaparampara, Jessica Walden (LINK to Interview).
Grimmly: Wonderful Jessica, love this. Can I ask your say a little more about how you're 'working with the breath' here. I'm trying to breathe with you as I watch. Are you lifting up to tittibasana on a kumbhaka then inhaling once all the way up to handstand, kumbhaka then exhaling slowly all the way down or are you taking an extra breath at the top.....?
Jessica Walden: Hi Anthony! When I lift up to tittibasana, I am inhaling and still inhaling as I begin to lift my bum upward. Then as I continue to lift into handstand I am actually freely breathing. As I lower I am also feely breathing. As I lift up again, I am inhaling. So the lift always begins on the inhale but I never hold or retain the breath (kumbhaka) because it creates too much tension in the head. I find a soft breath that I can access throughout so that the movements feel effortless and I can find a place of mediation, balance and focus. The breath is not hard and it is not retained. Does that help at all?
Theres such focus and control here, such refinement of breath that it leads me to consider revisiting arm balances. I'd dismissed them as playing to my strengths (as a guy with a relatively strong back and shoulders) and being more about ego and perhaps self promotion. Here though all I see is practice, asana as techné, poesis, episteme. ('craft', 'bringing forth', 'knowledge').
LU: What is your advice to self-practitioners who aren’t in a position to visit a shala daily?
Bibi: Find ways to motivate yourself; get your friends, siblings involved. Talk about the way practice makes you feel. Be exited, be angry, be curious, be disinterested but make the commitment to show up. There are many sites, videos, online communities now as the Ashtanga method spreads - find a way to be in touch with other practitioners around the world. Read blogs about the practice, watch videos. And most importantly, try to make at least a monthly or bimonthly trip to a shala if possible so that someone can monitor your progress. And, make sure you are doing things properly. That will also ensure your fire is kept alive. Go to Mysore!
And also this interview with my mate Steve Hyland (whose interview I linked on an earlier but I don't think quoted.
The quote below I like because it focuses on yamaniyamas and I've just been crafting a post on them and how, if we bring attention to them early on in our practice rather than putting them off, they can help preserve our practice. I know this because I've let my own attention to them lapse and lost some discipline that might have helped me in preserving my own practice through all the upheaval of the last year and the restlessness that as ensued. I'm managed to keep on the mat but it's been a struggle and an at times minimal maintenance practice can only go so far, the yamas and niyamas can be a support.
LU: Steve, you spoke at length about the Yamas and Niyamas and the importance of seeing beyond just asana. Can you share about how you might discuss cultivating the practice off the mat to a student?
Steve: As I mentioned earlier on, I was very late realizing this myself, but I can’t change my past. If we go beyond asana and begin to appreciate that the Yamas and Niyamas help us to reprogramme our nervous system, it might start to wipe a little bit of the dust off of our mirror (to use that old cliche).
Similarly, with the prolific texts, like the Bhagavad Gita. Reading it is okay, but to really find the beauty and the timeless wisdom in it, we should start living it. Think about this for example:
‘When we think about sense objects, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire, the lust of possession. If desire is thwarted, it gets confused and anger can arise. Anger clouds the judgement, and we no longer learn by past mistakes. Life ceases to have meaning’.
(source: “The Essence of Bhagavad Gita” Eknath Easwaran)
That’s just the tip of the iceberg but it can help us so much to live our lives lightly, if we internalize it. Aparigraha (non-possessiveness), Santosha (contentment), even Asteya (non-stealing) all become active forces in our life (practice).
When if we start to build this into ourselves, it seems logical too that the asana experiences change for the better, because of the interaction between the physical body and what’s beneath. The universe(ity) of yoga invites us in.
Ashtanga parampara http://www.ashtangaparampara.org/
UPDATE: The first seven interviews have now been turned into a magazine, free to read online and download as pdf but also available as a print edition.
See my earlier post