A: Good question. I still think straight Ashtanga is ideal for building discipline but then, once you have it, rather than looking outwards to the next asana and the next you can choose to turn inwards and explore the asana you have in other ways. First though, build the discipline, practicing the same asana everyday can be useful.
This was a short exchange with a friend recently, her next comment was to suggest this would make a good post perhaps. So, while the hard drive permits here goes, my HD is temperamental at the moment, sprightly in the morning but will slow to a crawl later in the day.
Two things to pick up on in this post...
1. Do I practice something different?
I haven't really wanted to admit that I might be practicing something different, that would suggest that Ashtanga is a clearly defined X.
So I practice more slowly, that's there in Yoga Mala and if I practice less of a series these days as a result well that too is in Yoga Mala, you get a pass when over fifty. But what about mixing it around a little as I see fit, bringing in extra preparatory postures or extensions, staying a long long time in one posture and/or passing through another in one long breath or three. It doesn't look anything like what is tended to be thought of as Ashtanga, I know because there's M. on the mat next to me pretty much going through her practice by the book, my own practice is more and more Vinyasa Krama like of late, my head and shoulderstands more like we see in the old 1938 Krishnamacharya movie.
It may well be true that Pattabhi Jois never practiced what most tend to think of Ashtanga vinyasa now himself, for any significant period of time at least. His own practice may have been close to how his teacher Krishnamacharya taught him, I'm not talking about in Pattabhi Jois' later years but back in the 50s when he was teaching his kids, Saraswati and Manju. Manju talks of his father's long stays, his slow breathing, how he would pick an asana to stay in for a long time. Perhaps Pattabhi Jois too then was teaching other than how he practiced.
2. Am I teaching?
I pretty much let M. get on with it, she's teaching herself or rather the practice is teaching itself.
I guess I taught her the sun salutations, I think... but I suspect that some time or other she just started practicing along with me. I made her up a Swenson like short practice at some point that she would practice occasional. If she asked I would explain something or if I saw something I thought could be harmful I would mention it, give her the odd tip but mostly she just practiced along to her John Scott print-out of the series that I gave her.
When M. came back to Japan ahead of me for a few months she started to practice more regularly, more seriously, that's when her practice probably started to blossom, on her own, on her own mat practicing every morning.
Recently I gave her a little adjust in Supta Kurmasana, that may have been the first ever and we've talked about how she might float up to headstand in the same way she floats down but that's pretty much it.
She's read everything here of course, has the first print copy of my books but I can't lay claim to her practice.
3. Would I encourage her to visit Mysore or a Mysore room?
Sure why not, we've talked about visiting Saraswati's quieter shala before... or Kristina perhaps in Crete and Manju of course. Chuck and Nancy come here to Japan, we've talked about going to one of their workshops but I'm not sure I could bring myself to switch back to a straight, by-the-book practice again, come to think of it I'm not sure I could actually get through a full Primary anymore, I've allowed my Supta kurmasana, and marichi D to lapse and rarely jump back and through. I guess I would switch back to practice with friends in Crete or for a week to garner some of Chuck and Nancy's wisdom... but a month?
I've wanted to write a post about styles of teaching.
I love what my friend Angela is doing at her space in Ann Arbour AYA2, by all accounts a small, quiet, mostly under the radar, shala exploring interesting aspects of practice depending on the practitioners interest and motivation. Angela doesn't seem to go galavanting around the country workshop to workshop but, apart from Mysore or the odd workshop at the request of a friend she stays at her shala sharing the practice. It's pretty much the same approach my dear friend and teacher Kristina takes in Crete
But I also love what David Garrigues is doing. Rather than having a home shala (does David have a home Shala?) he teaches around the world, generally going back to revisit the same shalas, the same students. He will work intensely with a group of students for a weekend, a week, perhaps longer in his retreats in India, picking apart asana, stripping them down, exploring them but then he will leave his students - and they are his students) to get on exploring their practice themselves at home or in their local practice space. This is different from a teacher just teaching workshops, David builds relationships with his students, I know because some are my friends, they refer to him as their teacher, I've seen them working on their practice, on what he has given them and how energised and motivated they are to continue the exploration when they get back from one of his workshops.
And then there is Sharath in Mysore of course, a place to just go and practice with others as passionate about the practice as you are ( see Ty Landrum's excellent and very sweet post on his first visit to Mysore http://www.tylandrum.com/notes-from-mysore/) . The shala, the town, is too busy for my taste perhaps and I prefer a more flexible approach to my own practice, Guru, Parampara, Source are a turn off for me personally, authority always but hey, whatever keeps one on the mat, on the path of their practice. I'm glad the Mysore Shala is there and that Sharath and Saraswati are doing what they are doing, just as I'm glad that Encinites is there and boulder and Crete and AYL in London and the local Ashtanga class in the gym down the road taught by somebody who has never been to Mysore but is just as committed and dedicated and sincere in their practice. Visiting Mysore may seem no more relevant to them than it does to me, relevance come from the practice itself, whatever we happen to call it and however we practice as long as it is perhaps with sincerity.
* Ty Landrum has another post here http://www.tylandrum.com/for-the-sake-of-others/ where he argues that practicing for others rather than only for ourselves may be something we should be considering. I'm sympathetic to the idea of going to a shala, not just to learn something yourself but to support the community, the other students, its an option though to be considered certainly not an implied obligation. Personally I still lean to home practice, I hope that any benefit I receive from the practice is still somehow passed along to others one way or another.
M. will of course kill me for writing about her practice but she has been saying I owe it readers of the blog to post.
UPDATE: New Year Practice
It's supposedly traditional in Japan to watch the first sunrise, spoiled as we are with Lake Biwa a minute away we did just that before our first practice of the year. Given the above I thought I'd practice straight Ashtanga Primary alongside M. The only difference being my two slow breaths to her five. I think she was delighted at first until she realized how exposed her short cuts were. Yes, all of standing and no you can't skip the bind in Ardhabadhapadma. And "Oh, I never taught you Janu C and said you can skip Mari D... Not any more. Never known anyone say they were looking forward to navasana until I realised that M. had been settling on three repeats rather than the full fivtoo
And I enjoyed my Primary too, might have lost my bind in Supta K but still a fingertip bind in Mari D.... Off work for a week so can practiceblater and thus together, do a full six days Primary with no shortcuts.
Happy New Year to all
"May I be free from enmity, may I be free from ill-will, may I be free from affliction, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering, may I not be parted from the good fortune I have attained, as owner of my kamma.
May the community in this monastery... May the guardian deities of this monastery be free from enmity, may they be free from ill-will, may they be free from affliction, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering, may they not be parted from the good fortune they have attained, as owners of their kamma.
May our supporters who provide the four requisites... May our parents, teacher, relatives and friends be free from enmity, may they be free from ill-will, may they be free from affliction, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering, may they not be parted from the good fortune they have attained, as owners of their kamma.
May all living things, all breathing thing, all beings, all persons, all individuals, all women, all men, all noble ones, all worldlings, all deities, all human beings, and all those destined for hell be free from enmity, may they be free from ill-will, may they be free from affliction, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering, may they not be parted from the good fortune they have attained, as owners of their kamma.
In the east, in the south, in the west, in the north, in the northeast, in the southeast, in the southwest, in the north west, below and above; may all living things, all breathing thing, all beings, all persons, all individuals, all women, all men, all noble ones, all worldlings, all"
|Thank you to my friend Abi for this (a Christmas present she received this year)|
And this from Ramaswami this morning