What disappoints me now about the comment is that it seems to suggest that handstands, arm balances, something flashy and/or dramatic is required to make practice interesting, or at least not boring.
"Vinyasa Krama and it's long stays, it's slow breathing, less jump backs and sury's (YAWN)".
I've just looked back at my old post from when I first encountered Vinyasa Krama back in 2010 (http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2009/06/vinyasa-krama.html) and even then it was the breath that excited me, the long slow breathing, the longer stays and employment of kumbhaka, how one asana would evolve, organically, into another it was the slower, unflashy practice that I found profound.
In fact at the time it seemed in direct contrast to the dynamic, gymnastic, athletic practice of Ashtanga I'd been practicing, perhaps I had the view back then that Ashtanga was supposed to be flashy with it's jump backs and ...and lifts to handstand from navasana, where did I get that impression of Ashtanga, from the internet of course, from books, pictures..if I'd practice in a shala perhaps I would have had a different view.
....and as if one kind of jump back wasn't enough
BELOW: Jump through's in the style of Sharath and Kino, a straight leg jump through I'm trying to learn for a course next week. Jump through to one leg bent, half lotus jump back full lotus jump back. Jump back from Marichi and from eka pada sirsasana. Finally an attempt at jumping through and back without crossing the legs.
Ashtanga is a contradiction, on the one hand it's eye catching, David Williams was struck by Manju Jois' dynamic practice and went to Mysore to search out Manju's father Pattabhi Jois to learn to practice it. Pattabhi Jois himself was first impressed by Krishnamacharya in Hassan in 1924 "...jumping from asana to asana". Krishnamacharya needed to promote yoga and did so via asana, it needed to be eyecatching but that was never the practice, merely the wrapping.
And yet, on the the other hand there was always that stripped back aspect to Ashtanga. Back in the day they didn't have mats, just pieces of carpet, they practiced in their swimming shorts and suits, no music, no quasi spiritual dialogues just each movement, each breath, counted. Even today I'm in awe of the anti-flash, flourishless practice of Sharath, he might practice a little fast for my personal taste but I aspire to his lack of fuss and not only to Sharath, nobody seems to pull anything that fancy in his room.
When did Ashtanga, when did Yoga, need to be exciting, stimulating..... fun to encourage anyone to practice.
But then I guess we all come to the practice for different reasons and at different times, why we come to the practice might not be why we stay, those asana/series keep getting dangled in frount of us until we finally see them for the carrots they are, perhaps that's the idea.
Something I love about Ashtanga and it's 'fixed' form is how it allows us to constantly look at it in a different light and in all it's contradictions, it's a room of mirrorst.
The whole point surely is to draw back from stimulation to loosen attachment to the world, you practice in the same quiet place, ideally a room/space where nothing else goes on, why bring your asana into the world.
Is it really necessary to pop a handstand in your practice gear in the middle of a busy Tokyo street? OK, around the back of the Pyramids if you really have to where nobody can see but downtown Tokyo? Perhaps it's the Englishman in me that groans inwardly whenever I see asana in public.
Or at least be clever about it, wear a business suit like every other Salaryman around you and pop your handstand.... except don't.
Is a handstand really the image one wants to present of the practice, a one armed mayurasana, holding onto the heels, calves, thighs in backbend, at best it's sharing MY progress, ego... at worst it's self promotion, commerce.
NOTE: Krishnamacharya of course was using advanced asana for promotional purposes but I submit that what he was doing here was promoting yoga practice (which had fallen by the wayside somewhat) rather than himself (who was on a salary from the Maharaja of Mysore). Yoga itself no longer needs promoting but perhaps a better understanding of it's purpose ( as outlined in The Yoga Sutras rather than perhaps Hatha Yoga Pradipka) does.
See my previous post Yoga's loss of purpose (LINK).
There are some exceptions of course, I'm thinking of a picture of a friend in a deep backbend in a frock in some rundown backstreet of London with rubble and graffiti but that's a photograph rather than a picture.
Says the guy writing a blog for seven years with 2000 posts and several hundred videos.
I'm no different, my favourite header picture was the simple one of me in paschimottanasana, seemed to send a better message than the one of my old kapo above but I can't bare to change back, at least not until I get my heels again ( what does that say).
Perhaps it was always thus, David Swenson comes to mind John Scott, Lino, Mark Darby and Derek Ireland of course adding a handstand in every full vinyasa. Mark and David inspired me to this practice, Lino filled me with awe, John still makes me wonder why anyone would think that Primary isn't enough but it wasn't his handstands but rather his composure, focus throughout (although I've heard stories about the shoot of Johns DVD), I love Derek despite the handstands.
That said Jessica Waldon's handstands from asana take my breath away (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUgLiHs3FCU), they are the only handstands I can bare to watch these days, but again it's her breath that fascinates me.
Don't be a killjoy, it's just a bit of fun.
When was yoga supposed to be about about having fun, OK gym yoga perhaps, yoga as a light form of exercise and relief from the stress of the week, nothing wrong with enjoying it, having a little fun with it but Ashtanga wasn't supposed to be about that was it, it was supposed to be this deep profound practice, in which, transformation is sought, some degree of realisation and understanding. What, it needs to be fun too, isn't that enough.
But then here's David Swenson
“What’s the main message I want to give people about Ashtanga yoga? Just have fun!” he says. “I don’t want people to be uptight about their practice. I’d like them to lighten up and not worry about doing it all perfectly. Find the pleasure in it, and be happy.” from HERE
I'm not suggesting we shouldn't enjoy our practice, that we should wear hair shorts or something, perhaps it's a question of what constitutes 'fun', 'playfulness', if there is a tipping point, if having 'fun' begins to undermine the practice, change it's character and bring it's weaker tendencies/potentialities to the fore.
We should enjoy our practice certainly, delight in it, it does not need to be unnecessarily 'hard' but make it fun, is that what we're here on the mat for?
I suspect that when we feel the need to make our practice fun then we've perhaps lost our way somewhat and are not taking enough delight in the breath. This a note to self as much as to anyone else.
NOTE: Practice does not need to be 'hard', it is enough that we come to it daily, that is commitment and dedication enough surely. There are times when we may wish to make our practice or an element of it an exercise in tapas, an austerity, but that should no doubt be for a limited period. It is not the practice but a distraction from the practice to constantly add in difficult and challenging aspects to maintain a level of hard(ness), difficulty, challenge, when we do so we are working on something other than yoga that may or may not be a preparation for it. Krishnamacharya or Pattabhi Jois ( I forget who) was asked why there were so many asana, the reply was that some people need more than others. The padmasana, the only asana mentioned in the Yoga sutras may well be all the asana one needs. I don't consider my own practice ( mostly half primary half 2nd series Slow Ashtanga hard, nor do I think of it as necessarily 'fun', I do however enjoy it immensely and take great delight and joy in it.
Of course one might argue that looking back through this blog it's clear that practice has been 'hard' and that clearly I've also had a lot of 'fun' doing it. If it was hard at times it was no doubt because I was pushing myself into asana I was not suitably prepared for, rushing things somewhat rather than allowing my body to become naturally more flexible through Primary group asana. Any fun had has been more a pleasant by product rather than particularly sought after.
Wasn't Advanced series supposedly about demonstration, do we still need to demonstrate (advanced series) other than to promote ourselves or our workshops.
Do we make meditation fun and meditate on a stool balanced on a table.
See the comments section to this post which has a quote from David Williams
The key is being able to continue practicing Yoga for the rest of your life. From over 40 years of observing thousands of people practicing Yoga, I realize that those who continue are the ones who are able to figure out how to make it enjoyable.
...the best Yogi is not the one who is most flexible, but the one who is the most focused on what he or she is doing, the one most intensely doing the mula bandha and deep breathing. It is with some sadness that I have observed people "competing with their Yoga practice." I have also observed others who are discouraged in their practice because they feel this competition and worry that they will never be able to do their practice with the flexibility and skill of others more advanced in the series. My goal is to convey the idea that the greatest Yogi is the one who enjoys his or her Yoga practice the most, not the one who can achieve the ultimate pretzel position.
For more on boredom
Lu's interviews always offer an interesting take on this, why somebody came to the practice, what they found in it to make them stay, I read them to put many of my own views in perspective.... especially after ranting in a post like this one.
I was excited to find that I had missed a few, the interviews tend to be long and meaty ( although these three are a little shorter) so a joy to find you have some good reading to settle in to.
Authorized Level 2
"Amazing, Taylor. On a physical level, the practice seems to wring us from a physical and also a healing/spiritual plane. Did you find the practice to be a spiritual one on your journey?
"That’s all it has ever been for me! When I started practicing yoga, I was in a place where I was dying from the disease of addiction. I was really struggling. To me, spirituality is how I interact with myself and the people around me. The practice allowed me to treat others better, live more honestly, do the right things, and be more assertive, among other things. From that aspect, the practice was really cleaning my life up and bringing out the stuff in me that needed to change. I really needed to learn how to take care of and love myself. I needed to stop being my own worse enemy and learn how to be a friend to myself. The practice was teaching me all of this stuff. It reflected a clear image of how I lived my life and I could see it slowly getting better over time. Compassion, empathy, and self care are not things that came easy to me. In the beginning, the practice also helped me learn how to interact with society again. I was pretty socially awkward back then and had to relearn how to be a friend, partner, and employee. I remember reading a quote once that said, “the body is my temple and asanas are my prayers”. That resonated with me and yoga allows me to feel a deep connection with my higher power".
San Jose, CR
Authorized Level 2
"Why do you think students need to continue learning additional asanas? What is the use of advanced postures?"
"My personal opinion is that Ashtanga is a healing method for the human being; for the body, mind and emotions. An opportunity to calm the system so we can realize our essence of love, truth and joy. Each posture, each series invites us to go deeper with our mental focus and our awareness. The first four limbs asks us effort and dedication, and then, everything starts to settle. New insights come, healthier perspectives, less drama. More love and the willing to help others. Poisons of the soul disappear: laziness, greed, envy, selfishness, desire for the superficial. Peace and harmony come. And even if one couldn’t be able to practice advanced asana anymore, the path travelled so far changes the mind and the perception of life. One becomes softer and starts to trust in our Superior Power will always be in charge. We start seeing God everywhere and in all of us".
Authorized Level 2
"Kate, any final thoughts to readers on the practice?"
"As a parting thought, I would bring the attention back to Gratitude. It has always been important for me to remember giving thanks for the opportunity to practice. Asana is the fun part, and so easily the mind can make daily practice into a drudgery, or an “I’m not good enough. I’m injured. I’m tired.” What a misconception. How lucky we are to practice at all, any amount".
PS. While posting an update I noticed that Claudia over at The Yoga Podcast has posted an interview with Kino MacGregor