|Krishnamacharya aged fifty (Mysore)|
"For people over fifty, it is enough to practice some of the easier and more useful asanas, as well as some of the pranayamas. Those who have been practicing for many years, however, can do any asana or pranayama without a problem". Pattabhi Jois -Yoga Mala
from this post regarding age - "When and how ashtanga yoga practise needs to be modified?"
I'm over fifty, let's imagine the scenario.
I go to Mysore, sometime early in the new year, I get my time slot from Sharath.
I turn up for the first day of my practice, knock out a couple of sury's A and B, then trikonasana, go straight to paschimottanasana and purvatanasana, Janu sirsasana, marichyasana A to C, bharadvajrasana in place of Mari D ( as Manju might suggest), navasana then baddha konasana, a modified setu bandhasna perhaps and on into sarvangasana and Sirsasana, baddha padmasana and padmasana. I then proceed to do my half hour pranayama practice and finally Sit for twenty minutes, Japa perhaps.
The whole practice takes no longer than a speedy full Primary followed by part of Intermediate so no problem...surely.
This, or a variation of it, often forms my practice and given Pattabhi Jois' own advice in Yoga Mala on modifying practise after reaching fifty, wouldn't this be perfectly acceptable.
Or perhaps half primary/half second with the odd posture from third as Manju mentions he now practices being over seventy.
or what of this...
A couple of sury's, trikonasana, paschimottanasana/purvotanasana, ten minutes in sarvangasana, forty minutes in Sirsasana, padmasana, pranayama, a sit.
The above are all variation of my practice since reaching fifty...., truth be told I tended to practice like this before I reached fifty. Rather than being a question of age it was a one of how to adapt my practise once I decided to breathe more slowly. As it happens, I do tend to practice a regular full Primary when M. and I get to practice together on Saturdays.
Note: Krishnamacharya indicated long slow breathing '...like the pouring of oil' in his early Mysore texts. Pattabhi Jois also recommended slow breathing, ten seconds ( or indeed longer) inhalations and exhalations throughout the practice but also recognised given the time this would take, faster breathing would be acceptible (and became the norm), to complete the series. My solution is to practice less asana, half a series, a third.
Truth be told I imagine there are many/some who for one reason or another ( injury perhaps) need to, and do, adapt their practice In Mysore just as in their home shala.
The argument might be that this makes it difficult for Sharath or his assistants to know how to adjust or assist me in my practice, not knowing for sure which asana I might be moving to next.
It be like asking for a runny egg and no ham on your egg macmuffin at Mcdonalds one morning.
Personally though I have no interest in receiving any adjustments or an assists from Sharath or anyone else for that matter. Not because I feel I know best but because it's not something I'm comfortable with or consider necessary or particularly beneficial as a home practitioner. Besides, how do I know if any of Sharath's assistants have ever opened an anatomy and physiology book, or Sharath either for that matter.
Having watched videos of Pattabhi Jois himself assisting I wouldn't have wanted him to come anywhere near me either.
That said, Pattabhi Jois' son Manju's assists tend to be supportive, no pulling cranking, yanking or twisting there, merely propping and perhaps guiding.
If I want advice on my alignment I think I'd rather go to an experienced Iyengar teacher who's focused on nothing else for years.
Note: There are of course many excellent ashtanga teachers (you're own home shala teacher perhaps) who have made a careful study of anatomy and physiology or at least attended several workshops with teachers who focus on this area.
Simon Borg-Olivier happens to be my go to for anatomy and physiology.
Sharath has a Primary only rule for the first trip I hear, that's fine by me and I'm happy to make it easy for him and just practice the first half of primary and move to sarvangasana after Janu Sirsasana, what do I care about the next asana, trikonasana, paschimottanasana, janu Sirsasana, (baddha konasana- I'll squeese it in while Sharath is dropping the room back) sarvangasana, Sirsasana, padmasana are plenty.
Come to think of it I'd be happy to be stopped at Paschimottanasana for that matter or after some long slow Sury's, an inhalation, an exhalation....., what do they care which asana they happen to be taken in.
I remember practicng partlicularly slowly on the last day of Manju's TT in Rethymno, Crete, I got as far as janu Sirsasana before moving to sarvangasana to catch up much of the rest of the room. Afterwards Manju called me over and I feared I might be in trouble but no, Manju just wanted to chat about something else entirely. And besides, hadn't Manju told us only a few days before how his father used to practice long stays in asana with long slow breathing.
Note: One of my favourite memories of Manju's Mysore in Rethymno was hearing, near the end of of my own practice, the breath of others also finishing along with the sound of the pranayama from those already finished or the soft chanting from those who had completed their pranayama (Manju teaches and recommend ten to twenty minutes of peace chants following pranayama, just as his father taught, an integrated practice).
If I don't intend to practice the standard series, don't wish for any adjustments or to attend the Led class or the crush of Conference, then why you may ask come to Mysore at all.
Aren't I just taking up precious mat space.
But what if the main reason for making the trip, the only reason really, is to touch base, to check in with the international community of practitioners (though we may share no more than a glance on the the way to our mats). To pay my respects to Mysore itself, home of Pattabhi Jois (who generously shared this gift with us) and Krishnamacharya who, as far as we can tell, originated this particular pedagogic approach to practice that I indulge in each morning.
To broaden my intimacy with the context of the practice.
Sharath and others are continually stressing that the reason to come to Mysore is not so much for the asana as for the tradition, linage....., parampara.
I don't buy into any of those concepts personally, all too problematic. If Lineage mattered to me then it's taken care of by spending more time with Manju or any of Pattabhi Jois' experienced students now teachers, Sharath is but one of many. Manju put it nicely at the Confluence this year, parampara tends to suggest father to son but Pattabhi Jois considered all his long term students family, parampara resides in all of them.
|Krishnamachartya, Sarvangasana variations, aged fifty ( Mysore 1938).|
Yoga has nothing more to do with India than anywhere else, hatha perhaps, but yoga... the turn inwards is as perennial as the grass (thank you Walt, you old Yogi - that's Whitman not White).
But perhaps there is a context to this practice, Krishnamacharya taught and practiced in Mysore, as did all the boys of the palace, Pattabhi Jois assisted, led at times on his teacher's behalf...., and later Pattabhi Jois generously welcomed his own students into his home, his shala, he welcomed us.
All walked those Mysore streets to practice in the early morning and/or late evening. However different those streets may be now, the morning air and later, the sounds of the birds, the insects, no doubt many of the sights the smells are perhaps the same as when Pattabhi Jois himself walked to practice with his teacher.
The thought is occasionally appealing but passes quickly.
UPDATE Oct 2017
...or were I to step into the Shala in Mysore and practice like this, my CURRENT PRACTICE
Note: There is an argument of course for hurtling speedlily through a whole series and creating time for your pranayama and a Sit or some chanting. Nancy Gilgoff for example, still recommends a speedy practice just as she learned it from Pattabhi Jois in the early 70s. A fast paced Ashtanga vinyasa asana practise, practiced daily, can bring about relatively quick results in health, strength, fitness... as well as, more importantly, develop discipline (hopefully without too many injuries),. Practiced sincerly with commitment and attention on the breath throughout, it is a moving meditation of 60-90 minutes or more duration. It was the practice Krishnamacharya put in place for the boys of the Mysore palace in their hour long group class based no doubt on the table of asana (Yogasanagalu), and it was that practice, a response to a particular pedagogic situation, that Pattabhi Jois, not much more than a boy himself, carried forward with some minor tweaking to his four year course at the Sanskrit college and continued to teach, with only minor adjustment throughout his life. It is arguably though, a first approach to practice (although whole philosphies, some more rewarding perhaps than others, along with tapastries of justification have formed around it) that we can develop (deepen?) further over time (even if our practice is only a few asana) by looking perhaps to Krishnamacharya's own writing from that period, Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) and Yogasanagalu (1941) or to other students of Krishnamacharya less tied to a particular pedagocic environment, Srivatsa Ramaswami for example who began his studies with Krishnamacharya just after Krishnamacharya departed Mysore, in the 1950s .