This post relates to a video I put up on fb. I was teasing a friend about Vatyanasana and posted an old video of mine of jumping straight into the asana.
Also, a new permanent page on Ashtanga/Yoga and Ageing at the top of the blog with intros and links to earlier posts.
The video itself came about from seeing a new edit of the Krishnamacharya, his family and BKS Iyengar demonstrating asana in the 1938 Mysore documentary footage (see the appendix for that old post and video). Here's my fb comment...
"The things Krishnamacharya used to teach those boys of the Mysore palace, no doubt for all the demonstrations they used to do. As with many postures and transitions (in the Advanced series for example, supposedly intended for demonstration only), practicing them daily would probably be too hard on the knees, the joints, other than for the occasional demonstration which might be acceptable with enough training and preparation. Unfortunately these days, third (Ashtanga series) is the new second and fourth is the new third, many students are now practicing advanced postures daily, I wonder if this is wise."
This has been playing on my mind.
Often (mostly) on this blog, I'll throw a post up to see if I still agree with it by the end of the day, week...., year. I have a strong temptation to delete the first seven years or so of the blog and no doubt, five years from now, I'll have the temptation to delete the rest of it as well but it is what it is, a document perhaps of shifting view of MY daily practice.
A blog it's just a blog.
So this is an idea that I'm throwing up here to mull over.
A daily, Primary series practice is one thing perhaps ( and even that includes some postures that Krishnamacharya originally tagged as Intermediate (EG. Marichiyasana D), as did Jois (re uttihita parsvakonasana B), as well as perhaps some of the gentle 'back stretches from 2nd series but what of many of the more challenging postures particularly those in Advanced A and B ( 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th).?
So this is how I understand it plays out in Ashtanga these days.
You begin to learn Primary. Perhaps for the first class or two (or eight ) you only do the Suryanamaskars, maybe some of the standing postures before you begin to add on more Primary postures.
Perhaps you will be held at Marichiyasa D for some time..., some might be held there for all eternity. Personally, these days (contra to many of my earlier posts), I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing and will myself, more often than not, only practice half the Primary series, but this is because I like to practice slowly and a full series would take me all morning. I want time for my pranayama practice, for a Sit.... as well as to do the ironing.
Eventually we might complete Primary and begin to add on 2nd series, the Intermediate asana series. Again we may get held up at kapo for a few lifetimes and a few more at karandavasana.
It's after Karandavasana I think that you then tend to switch to working on second series daily with Primary only practiced on Friday, so five days of Intermediate asana,. one of Primary
Likewise, on completing the Intermediate series, we begin to add on Third series (Advanced series asana) until finally switching to just 3rd for four days a week, Primary and Intermediate asana practiced one day each..... and so it goes on.
If you've gone so far as to switch to fourth series you will now be practicing fourth series three days a week, 3rd, once, 2nd, once and Primary series once.
So four days of Advanced asana, one day each of Intermediate Primary asana
There are some slight differences between how the different senior teachers go about the above and personally I don't accept any one authority for 'the method'. Sharath's approach is interesting but so too is Manju's, Saraswati's and other earlier approaches maintained by the first teachers to practice with Pattabhi Jois, each with their different idiosyncrasies, depending on which years they first learned the practice and adapted it to their own teaching environment. I don't even accept Pattabhi Jois himself as an authority, which Pattabhi Jois would you choose, the author of Yoga Mala or the ageing teacher faced with hundreds of students. Nor do I accept Krishnamacharya as an authority for that matter. My problem of course is with the word 'authority', it's enough to reflect on the different approaches to practice and over time, with experience, find which approach best suits you personally.
If we accept, and this comes from Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois themselves, that the Advanced asana were intended for demonstration purposes....., should we be practicing such advanced asana daily..., or at least four days a week.... and practicing in this way over decades. This isn't intended as a criticism of Ashtanga vinyasa (there are many advanced postures in Vinyasa Krama that we are encouraged to try), I find great value in practicing the same asana daily, it's a wonderful way to build discipline, but given the rise in the number of practitioners and the number who have moved on to advanced asana and the number of 'superstars' shilling their Advanced practice to put seats on mats in workshops and sell product, is this wise? The occasional demonstration of the more extreme asana of the Advanced series, practiced by an experienced practitioner may do no lasting harm perhaps but practicing those 'demonstration' intended asana, day in day out, over decades may be a different matter.
If you are young, and relatively flexible and with a particular body/sinew/bone structure type, starting practice at Uni, you could end up working on 3rd series at say twenty-five and then continue practicing advanced series asana daily for the next twenty to thirty years.
That's an extreme but perhaps you started Ashtanga in your late twenties ended up at third series in your mid thirties, you could be practicing advanced series asana for ten, fifteen years before you decide enough is enough and start dropping asana and series.
I happened to be forty-three when I started. After completing Primary I moved pretty quickly through Advanced A and all but a couple of postures of B, the photos on the Krishnamacharya proficient asana list below were taken I think three years after I started. Thankfully around this time I began to practice Vinyasa krama with Ramaswami ( mainly because his book contained so many asana) and encountered a slower approach to practice. On studying and practicing with Pattabhi Jois' teacher Krishnamacharya's texts, I slowed my practice right down, these day's I mostly just practice the first half of Primary and occasionally the first half of Intermediate series.
|Krishnamacharya7s Yogasangalu now available for free download for personal study from here|
|Krishnamacharya7s Yogasangalu now available for free download for personal study from here|
Personally, I think now, I shouldn't have been practicing half of the above asana at that point but I was getting older and thought at the time it was a case of now or never plus I was amazed and a little intoxicated with what I found my body able to do. I wince when I see early video of Pattabhi Jois himself muscling his students into Advanced postures, who perhaps shouldn't even have been practicing 2nd.
A thought on these videos:
I'm reminded of the old cybershala, how we would bounce ideas and posts around the blogs, exploring different postures together, sharing hints tips, picking up on topics and running with them. Our videos tended to be mostly 'work in progress'. Apart from going a little deeper in kapotasana, once we got the basics of a posture I think we pretty much tended to lose interest in videoing it, there are few ( if any ) fancy locations and beautiful examples of asana from those years (except perhaps Laruga back before she was teaching, her home practice an inspiration), we were sharing amongst friends rather than promoting ourselves, trying to catch the moment a posture or transition just clicked into place (actually that's probably not completely true, I'm sure there were periods where our ego got the better of us, but on the whole, on the whole). I started this particular blog as a response to the perfect Ashtanga series I saw on you tube, Lino Miele, John Scot. David Swenson, Richard freeman, mark Darby..., their jump throughs were too perfect, so far from my own attempts, I wanted to catch the moment my efforts first bore fruit, so we could see what it was that made the difference, likewise with kapotasana, karandavasana, dropping back, as well as these later forays into advanced series asana.
The full 45 minute Krishnamacharya (and Iyengar) 1938 silent Newsreel plus , jumping in and out of Vatyanasana.
Got to try that, the things Krishnamacharya used to teach those boys, no doubt for all the demonstrations they used to do. As with many postures and transitions (in the Advanced series for example, supposedly intended for demonstration only), practicing them daily would probably be too hard on the knees, joints but for the occasional demonstration, acceptable perhaps with enough training and preparation. Unfortunately these days, third is the new second and fourth the new third, many students are now practicing advanced postures daily, I wonder if this is wise.
Had to give it go, first side is just about OK but the second side a struggle, don't manage to get the foot high enough into the groin, cute party trick though, nice play a bit after such a heavy practice this morning.
Should also add that it's perhaps something to think twice about before trying at home as your messing with your knees. I've spent quite some time playing with the hands free getting into lotus and hop to lotus jump through,
And on a similar theme, the jump in and out of padmasana
Krishnamacharya practicing at 84
|from Breath of Gods|
See the follow up post here
Believe me, after a certain age, to practise āsana and prānāyāma is going to be very hard. I am doing it because of this reason only. The body ages. It descends towards deterioration. The rate of catabolism increases more than anabolism. The bones become brittle. The blood vessels get hardened. All these are known facts. I do not want to fall prey to these. If I surrender to the will of the body, then I am no more a yogic practitioner. When I practise, I watch how to stop this deteriorating process. That is the will over matter.
Often people think that at the old age they should do dhyāna (meditation) or japa (repetition of mantras) instead of āsana and prānāyāma practice. I am not that type of a sādhaka (practioner) to take shelter under the garb of old age. I will not run away from my practice because of the fear complex of old age. I do meditation in each āsana as in each āsana I see God who is infinite and beyond measure. Because of age I have increased timings in my practices. Mind and body want to give way. I daily charge my body and mind to stand with will power so that I do not surrender to the weakness of my body and mind.
The only difference between now and the early days is that in the early days I was like all other youngsters. I was tempted to do the āsana one after the other. Today, I stay in Dwi Pāda Viparīta Dandāsana or in Kapotāsana for quite a length of time. At this age I clearly understand the sūtra (Yoga Sutras, II.46), sthira (stable, firm) sukham (sweet, easy) āsanam (posture) in its total sense. Now, I see in each āsana, the perfect freshness and firmness of body, the alert, steadiness of intelligence and the sweet, benevolence of the self. I see whether I can enjoy sthira and sukha in a long stay in Kapotāsana. Can I be sthira and sukha in Dwi Pāda Viparīta Dandāsana?
This needs not only will power but also courage and faith. By the proper chemistry of will power and courage along with discrimination, the yogic practices generate the energy in the nerve cells as you stay in those difficult āsanas for a long time with comfort. At this age I learn lots of things. It is the wisdom that comes at this age. I have not lost this freshness of intelligence.
Do follow the link (click the article title) and check out the website, the excellent BLOG (http://iyi.org.uk/category/blog/) and the Resource page (https://iyengaryoga.org.uk/resources/articles/) that has amongst much else all the Iyengar Yoga News Magazine mentioned above to view and download
The practice was stunning, bemusing even, long long stays one after another, five minutes here, ten, fifteen minutes there, asana after asana, what possessed the man...... the article above goes someway perhaps to explaining but only someway. I held off posting those pages at the time but now I see they are readily available online.
Asana practice often gets a bad wrap these days, "That's not yoga", they say. 'They' see the play perhaps, the promotional asana that can, at times, distract us too from our work, we can allow ourselves some distraction perhaps if we then rejoin the struggle with ever more commitment.
It is work, that daily discipline that characterises practice as we understand it.Lineage is of no importance other than to cling to an illusion of authority, another distraction, a support perhaps in the beginning, at some point it may become a hinderance to enquiry and what else is yoga. Sincere, committed practice, ideally daily, in whatever form it takes, moving or static, a mix of the two. Practiced with resolve it forges the will, the discipline required of the other limbs it leads us towards.
There is a line from Iyengar's Light on Life that came back to me looking at these pictures...,
Was Svātmārāma thus, Matsyendrasana, in their uncompromising enquiry?
(When) will we see his like again?
Note. The approach to Ashtanga I personally take now, at 53, is outlined in my Proficient Primary page http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/p/proficient-primary-project.html