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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Returning to Ashtanga - a journal

This is  new stand alone page (at the bottom of the pages list beneath the blog title photo above 'Coming back to Ashtanga.' ) that  I've been using as a journal - started May 18 2019 




Introduction

When I mentioned in a post this week that I had started practicing Ashtanga  again a friend commented that they too had been coming back to Ashtanga off and on over the last two years.

It struck me that there are probably a lot of practitioners coming back to the practice or considering it and that it might be worth journaling 'how it goes'.

Firstly, I wasn't expecting to come back to the practice, I thought I had washed my hands on Ashtanga a year ago, see this post -"There's probably still an Ashtangi in me somewhere but...." from May 2018, plus I was enjoying other approaches to practice.

Ironically, I had been posting, on Instagram, videos of full on Ashtanga transitions and contrasting them with gentle movements transitioning form forward to back spinal flexion. The focus of course was intended to be on the gentle movements but I found myself quite nostalgic for the time when I was working on those crazy Ashtanga transitions ( none of which are of course necessary in ashtanga, a gentle step back from and step to an asana being completely sufficient). I didn't miss the actual transitions I was showing but rather the time when I was so focussed on my daily Ashtanga practice, that commitment and focus.

It didn't come out of the blue. After being so disappointed with much of the Ashtanga community in their response to the breaking story of Pattabhi Jois' abuse and, frankly, anger at what had taken place and especially how so many had looked the other way, excused and basically enabled Jois' abuse at the time, I had wanted nothing to do with the practice. Even now, after all that we know about Jois' abuse, we still end up with photo's of him turning up in our feeds on instagram and fb by those who still feel that is appropriate to do so and not concerned that it can be experienced as another violation and or a direct insult..  However,  as time passed I found myself still rooting for friends and acquaintances and indeed complete strangers, who were working at their practice. I might have been frustrated at the community but couldn't fail to respect the sincerity and quiet commitment of daily practitioners.

A month or so ago I had posted on Krishnamachary's table of asana and how it was possible to reach back before Jois to a practice that was essentially the same but unbesmirched by Jois' grubby touch. I practiced it a few times but still found myself inclined to continue practicing Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal movements, Ashtanga, even Krishnamacharya's Ashtanga felt somewhat of a backward step.

And then, one morning, Wednesday (day 2 below) it no longer seemed so much a backward step but rather that the explorations of other approaches to movement this last year may serve to better inform what has always been my practice


*

Perhaps daily updates for the first week then weekly and monthly


First week - May 2019

Day one
And so I was surprised when on Tuesday, after twenty minutes or so of Simon's Spinal Movements, I started to run through the Ashtanga sequence, just as I remembered an old demonstration YouTube, no five breaths in asana but straight from one asana to the next ( as I said, a demonstration).

Day two
And then on Wednesday, after a ten minute Spinal Warm up I practiced full Primary but with less jump backs, between groups of asana rather than between sides, so a jump back after all the marichiyasana's, another after all the Janu Sirsasana variations etc.

I blogged

"Wednesday I practiced my first full Ashtanga Primary series in, oh I don't know how long, almost a year perhaps (See - I'm sure there's still an Ashtanga practitioner buried within me somewhere but......). And this morning, I practiced half Primary/half Second. I'll probably practice the same again tomorrow and then a straight Primary alongside M. on Saturday.

It's not really worth mentioning, I shouldn't write this until after a week, a month, another year of practice. This practice only takes on significance after a significant period of work, of grinding the practice out day in day out". 


Day three
Thursday I practiced half primary/half second (up to Ustrasana - no pasasana)

Day four
Friday was the same as day three, Half primary/Half second but more jump backs, this time between asana rather than groups of asana. Fourth day is and always has been the killer for me, I always seem to feel the fourth day more than any other, my whole body ached, not in a bad way exactly but just the feeling that you had seemingly employed every muscle in your body, in some way, in the practice. I feel asleep in Savasana.
I did question whether I had perhaps over done it but I had been careful, knees slightly bent for much of the time to go easy on the hamstring, gentle twists, gentle back stretches. I decided that I felt no worse that how I would if I had half hiked/half climbed  up our mountain.

Day five
Saturday. Similar to day four, half primary/half second, jump backs between asana rather than sides. I expected to practice straight Primary beside M. on Saturdays but this week she was on her holiday. Sunday I work early so plan on taking Sundays as a rest day. Which makes this my first week, one day short of a full weeks practice. Not a bad idea, having a shorter week for the first week back. Feeling so exhausted for much of the day on the fourth day reminded me that it's still an intense practice and too be taken seriously, cautiously.

Day Six
This was going to be my rest day as I have to work early. Woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep. I felt stiff all over, aching back, hamstrings, shoulders. I tried some spinal movements but they didn't seem to help, I tried a couple of sun salutations and felt a little better, after the first creaking ones anyway. In the end I settled for a half primary easy on the hamstrings, bent knees etc.

*


Second week
Monday

- If the last couple of days I had ached all over, this morning I woke up fresh, ache free and hardly able to wait to step onto my mat. So it goes.

- On a side note my Spinal Movements, practice freed from the morning slot, feels quite exciting and exploratory, kind of how I use to 'play' in my afternoon Vinyasa Krama practice all those years ago.  

- Practice continues to go well, no aches, flexibility is coming back, two kilo curiously dropped off in just over a week and I've had to tighten my belt to stop my trousers falling down. More importantly though, to mix my metaphors. I feel more anchored, grounded...., earthed, I hadn't realised how restless I had become this last year.

Wednesday

- This week seems to have been ten years or so since Jois passed away, some, including Certified teachers ( and indeed, whole Associations) who should know better, felt it was appropriate to post photos of Jois (which ended up on  my Instagram feed), with captions mentioning what a marvellous and beautiful man he was, healing even. Is it timely? Really?  It's not about you, step aside, yield the floor and actually listen to, and hear, the victims whose voices are finally beginning to be heard.

I posted this in response


Discernment is knowing when and when not to exercise our freedom of speech. I don’t understand why you would publicly mark Jois’ passing. Why not a private acknowledgement perhaps out of respect for those who have directly experienced Jois’ abuse and are finally being heard, as well as those who have spoken up in support, despite the verbal abuse they have received from the community. It does help me to understand how senior and authorised teachers, looked the other way, excused and ultimately enabled Jois abuse.

To the response, 


"You never went to Mysore, you didn't know him, I practice with him for years"

I would suggest that clearly you didn't know him either, or perhaps you did but didn't want to 

A year ago it was this response by the community that turned me away from my practice. Interestingly, a year later, I wrote the above then got on and did my practice. I seem to have managed to distance the practice from Jois and indeed from those in the Ashtanga community who 'like' and 'heart' such photos of Jois' (unfriend me, please). That said, I didn't want to risk it, took down my post and withdrew a little more from social media.

At this point I'm more concerned with protecting the rebuilding of my Sādhana and it's grounding physical aspect/element

And yet I feel the tide is turning.

Thursday

I suspect this will be my last practice this week as I'm hiking up a mountain tomorrow. It's probably a full moon anyway (I never used to take moon days but this one comes at a good time). I'm still ache free, feeling strong, more flexible, enjoying practice and looking forward to getting on the mat each morning. Still taking it easy, jump backs between sides, not going into forward bends or twists too deeply, taking my time. I did add in Karandavasana yesterday before Sirsasana...., just to see. Landed my lotus but only just. I've had wrist problems recently, a ganglion cyst (see https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2018/11/ganglion-cyst-and-alternatives-to-sun.html) that became painful, it's pretty much gone now after using a wrist support but I still feel protective of my wrists.  I use the supports ( I even bought a second support for the other wrist)and steer clear of handstands but a forearm stand to bring back a little strength doesn't feel a bad idea and i was never completely happy with my karandavasana, always felt a little squished.




Friday (day eleven)

I'm sure Ashtanga used to be harder.
Just finished practicing Half Primary/half  Intermediate Ashtanga + Pincha and Karandavasana (down but no longer up, for now at least) next to M. (Primary). I noticed my mat wasn't that sweaty and after only two weeks coming back to the practice and carrying an extra couple.., FEW kilo.



Contrast it with this from years back, my towel drenched in sweat.


I'm feeling relaxed, refreshed and considering if I actually feel like eating something.

This is all Simon Borg-Olivier of course. Natural 'belly' breathing - the focus at the beginning of the breath (also movements) at the belly rather than at the chest and letting the breath take care of itself ( it tends to tune in naturally with the movements anyway). Plus I practice more slowly, breathe more slowly take my own sweet time getting in and out of postures with the breath, jump backs between postures rather than sides. I don't stretch or strain, more active movements. The room is cooler too than I used to have it ten years ago, although see this from a couple of years back when I first started Simon's approach 32°and 70% humidity in Osaka ( and no Air-conditioning in the flat) yet still a mostly dry mat.




I still feel like I've practiced, my whole body feels alive, present but I didn't feel much need of a savasana.

Coming back to Ashtanga...., it doesn't have to hurt.

That said, the other way used to be fun too : )

To be fair my body knows the practice, muscle memory, all those little tricks and techniques I picked up over the years that allow me to still get into binds despite the extra bit of weight I'm carrying. It was always going to be easier second time around and it's not like I haven't been doing some kind of daily practice.

M. too has a very relaxed sweat free practice, she takes her time.

Manju always said that we shouldn't push so hard, that we should enjoy our practice, have fun. It's still a long practice, takes a commitment to step on the mat each morning, still builds discipline but a hair shirt is.... optional.

Tomorrow will be a rest day (finally) or rather we are getting up early and hiking up our mountain

We're hiking up somewhere in the far left of the photo then going along the ridge ( there's a lake up there supposedly) and coming down somewhere near us ( to the right of the sun) "groan". Did I say a rest day?
Photos just taken from our balcony.



Third week

In the lake five minutes after my half Primary yesterday.

Lake Biwa

Saturday, M. and I went hiking up our mountain(s). Took a train south a couple of stations, hiked up one mountain, walked along the ridge, up and down another couple of peaks then came down our mountain, around seven hours hiking.

Top of the mountain Saturday.
A Panorama, Our lake Biwa on the left, The Kyoto mountains to the middle and right

Needless to say we were wreaked, bodies ached everywhere, serious pain in places, lower back, frount of shins, hamstrings, calves and my right shoulder too ( from the walking stick I picked up and used throughout I imagine). If I wrote that about an Ashtanga practice the critics would be out in force screaming to outlaw the practice, to regulate it, ban it!

I was reminded how, several years back there was the whole, 'Don't do any other form of exercise.' mantra in Ashtanga circles, do you remember that? Don't cycle, don't run, don't swim, don't go to the gym, "It will only interfere with your practice". Of course years, later Certified Ashtanga teachers were turning to Circus skills trainers to up their game, improve their handstands and keep ahead of the young blood coming through the ranks of Ashtanga social media. But I want to focus on before, when the Ashtanga police were out in force judging any transgression, don't you dare get on a bike or hit the pool.

It was ridiculous of course, most recognise that now I suspect but for a time seemingly everyone was very serious. I think now it's very revealing. it shows the focus on asana. Being serious about Ashtanga meant being serious about progression through the series, when all we really needed to be serious about was our commitment to a sincere practice, that groundwork of our yoga, polishing the tool. For others it might be sitting on a cushion or chair, for us it's making that commitment to a series of shapes, for an hour or more, on a rubber mat all while observing the breath.

Not meditating, not pretending to meditate, just sitting exhausted at the top of a mountain
looking out over the Kyoto mountains as far as the eye can see.
Thursday

I mentioned before that I'd had some wrist problems, a ganglion cyst on my left wrist that turned painful leading me to drop all my jump backs and even sun salutations. Thanks to my friend Jess' wrist strap recommendation ( Wristwidget or copy - see earlier post) I'm able to bring back my salutations and jump back ( although I tend to jump back between Asana rather than sides).
But what about arm balances? I leave them well alone. I stop at half Primary, after Navasana , thus avoiding Bhuja Pidasana and Kukkutasana altogether ( Note: I choose to practice the Krishnamacharya favourite, Bharadvajrasana rather than Mari D. following something Manju Jois once mentioned. - Krishnamacharya Put Mari D in his middle/intermediate group of asana). I don't miss them although I do miss the nice floaty Bakasana from the Ashtanga second series and Astavakrasana perhaps from Advanced A ( 3rd).


Manju mentioned that he tends to practice half Primary, half second and a little of third ( for fun and/or to 'keep his hand in'). I do something similar but there really isn't anything in Advanced A or B that I miss enough arm balances always seemed to play to a strength - strong back and shoulders and the back bends are excessive - also why I no longer bother with Kapotasana). I settle instead for Pinca Mayurasana and Karandavasana from the second half of Intermediate 'for fun'. No stress on my wrist, brings back a little strength and I really never was that happy with my Karandavasana, it would go down and back up but was always a little squished.
Half Primary is a quite delightful ( and sufficient) practice but Half Primary/Half Second ( I stop at Ustasana) always struck me as the best of all Ashtanga permutations.


Friday

Tristana, what Tristana?

I noticed this week that for all the lables I have at the bottom of my blog, relating to posts, I don't have a single post labled 'Tristana'. Tristana refers to 'breath, bandhas and drishti'. I always thought it sounded a little too 'neat', too much like marketing. I'm suspicious of anyone attempting to tie up my daily sadhana in a pretty bow.



Breath: I let the breath take care of itself, merely observing it, occasionally attend to it if it gets a little raggidy, usually by dwelling a little longer in a posture and letting the breath settle.

Drishti: Mostly my eyes are shut - I was pleasantly surprised when Manju suggested it on his TT as I'd been closing them for much of the time for years.

Bandhas: I move from the core, my sit bones tend to be dropped for much of the time, likewise my hips moved forward, are Uddiyana and Mula Bandhan naturally, subtly engaged, perhaps, I barely consider them ( Note: Simon Borg-Olivier mentions nine bandhas, mostly protecting joints, I do bear these in mind, or rather they've worked their way into my practice).


And what of the count? How far do we need to count in Sanskrit ( I wrote a post on learning it, one of my most popular posts  https://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2014/02/one-approach-to-learning-ashtanga.html). These days I just count up to two, right at the beginning of my practice, "Ekam, Dve..... ", then forget all about it. I take as many 'extra' breaths as I feel like to get in and out of a posture. Those extra breaths aren't counted but are... 'observed'.
.
No opening or closing chants either. I thank all teachers and practitioners past and present for maintaining me in my practice. I wish all beings safe, well, peaceful, content. I offer two prayers, one in Greek one in Latin in recognition of my horizon and then I practice.

The sequence I practice is closer to the order in Krishnamacharya's table of Asana to give me a more comfortable distance from Jois.

I believe that we find our own approach to our practice, it's 'correct' if it's honest, sincere and committed and feels appropriate and meaningful that day.


*


Fourth week.....




Wednesday


Ashtanga Half Primary - Krishnamacharya's alternative listing of Asymmetric Seated Asana in Yogasanagalu ( Mysore 1941). Our Free Translation HERE

I was asked about something I mentioned earlier on my 'Return to Ashtanga' rolling post and page on my blog.

"The sequence I practice is closer to the order in Krishnamacharya's table of Asana to give me a more comfortable distance from Jois."

So how is Krishnamacharya's order of Asana different from Jois'? Firstly we should remember that Krishnamacharya's table of Asana is just that, a table rather than a fixed practice sequence or series as was the case with Jois. That said I suspect it may well have been a loose, constantly modifiable and adaptable, framework for practice..


The main difference is the asymmetric section. In Jois the sequence seems to lead towards arguably the most challenging posture in Primary, Marichiyasana D. In Krishnamacharya's table Mari D. is in the Middle ( Intermediate) group of Asana and it's as if the Asymmetric sequence leads to Janu Sirsasana or rather the key ( for Krishnamacharya) mudra 'Maha Mudra', for which the Janu Sirsasana variations are Asana versions.



My own approach to half Primary is pretty standard except that I substitute Krishnamacharya's Asymmetric subroutine for Jois' and include Maha Mudra with kumbhaka.
Reaching back before Jois and gives me some much needed distance from Jois' influence.
It also makes for a nice practice.

NOTE: Interesting article from Gregor Maehle which brings together nicely a lot of the ideas discussed on this blog over the years regarding Krishnamacharya's early texts, in particular the table of asana in Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (1941) and much more besides.

Did KP Jois Invent Ashtanga Yoga?

I don't consider it's so much a question of whether Jois or Krishnamacharya 'invented' the Ashtanga Vinyasa method we think of today. 'Invent' comes from the latin 'to find', I guess you could argue that Jois 'found' the Ashtanga method on the wall of his teacher's shala. It strikes me as absurd to consider Jois invented something we can see so clearly laid out in Krishnamacharya's early work, I think we have to settle for modified, adapted, simplified at most. Did Krishnamacharya  then 'invent the Asthanga Vinyasa method/approach to practice it's a question that really doesn't interest me much and we have no earlier textual evidence to decide one way or the other. If we characterise Ashtanga vinyasa as the connecting of asana then Jois mentioned he saw Krishnamacharya 'jumping from asana to asana back in the early 20' in a demonstration. We all know how hard the jump back and through is to learn, that suggests to me that Jois had been 'jumping' for some time, perhaps it was something that he learned from his own teacher as well as the strong focus on the yoga sutras Pranayama and therapy that Krishnamacharya mentioned he learned from his teacher, Ramamohana Brahmachari, wheter in Tibet or more likely perhaps in a forest outside Vārāṇasī.




Thursday

My wrist has been playing up again all week, noticed it on Monday morning which was surprising as Sunday was my rest day suggesting it wasn't a result of sun salutations or jump backs. I suspect it's from holding onto the straps of my backpack as I run to the station after work.

The pain seems to be further over from before, more above my thumb and first finger, the wrist strap I've been using and mentioned before in this post doesn't seem to be effective here.

So I've been employing Simon Borg-Olivier's sun salutation variations where we don't actually touch the ground but just move the spine back and forth to the same count (see the third variations in the video below from 2.43). Ramaswami's vinyasa to and from seated positions ( second video below) thus avoiding any 'weight' on the wrist and skipping jump backs and jump throughs altogether and instead laying back between groups of table postures to include Dwipada pitham or table posture as a pratkriya (counter posture) to the forward bends.





Practicing this way highlights the Vinyasa Krama nature of Ashtanga. Ashtanga is merely a collection of asana and subroutines. The only difference between it and how Vinyasa Krama is practiced is that Ashtanga tends to be a fixed sequence of these, Vinyasa Krama embraces more modification and variation. Personally I've found there to be are enough asana in Ashtanga that extra variations and modifications are not necessarily required. You can practice Vinyasa Krama with just as many jump backs and through as Ashtanga, or you can practice less or a different kind of transition, either way, Ramaswami mentioned that the count to and from an asana is always implied if not actualised.

In Vinyasa Krama, we tend to work into a posture, repeating several times, going in perhaps a little deeper each time but you can do the same in Ashtanga of course, especially in Mysore self-practice, it's only with the introduction of the Led class that Ashtanga seems to have lost it's way somewhat.

Vinyasa Krama as taught by Ramaswami and following his teacher Krishnamacharya also emphasises pranayama and a meditative practice/activity, so Asana followed by pranayama followed by a Sit or perhaps chanting or contemplation of an 'appropriate' text of subject matter. More and more 'senior' Ashtanga teachers are it seems snubbing Sharath and including pranayama an often a Sit after the asana sequence.

I've always tended to practice my Vinyasa Krama as Ashtanga and my Ashtanga as Vinyasa Krama ( by including Kumbhakas and integrating with pranayama and a Sit) anyway, so this wrist problem is actually a welcome reminder of the roots of my practice.

Friday

With my wrist still playing up and regular Sun Salutations off the menu, I embraced Simon Borg-Oliver's Sun salutations variations (google for his video, it's the third variations I'm talking about). Then on into a pretty standard Ashtanga standing and half Primary but laying back and introducing dwipada Pitham ( table posture) in place of jump backs as a pratkriya (counter posture).


There are several variations of table pose https://youtu.be/1bxB13L2AZ8


Although the half series was pretty standard Ashtangawise (except for the Krishnamacharya version of the Asymmetric subroutine - see earlier post), practiced this way, a little slower, some kumbhaka, more modification, it felt a little more Vinyasa Krama than Ashtanga . You can practice Ashtanga this way of course  but it seems to have more of a Vinyasa Krama feel than Ashtanga.
I picture a scale, in the middle area Ashtanga and Vinyasa Krama are much the same but move a little to the right and it feels more Vinyasa Krama, drift to the left and it's more Ashtanga.


Tomorrow I get to practice with M. and that'll be a month back practicing Ashtanga and perhaps a good place to end this practice journal post.

Saturday

Practicing with M. today, pretty much as Friday above except that after Simon's Spinal Sun salutation variation I came up with this variation on Suryanamaskara B, skipping Chaturanga and Urdhva Mukha svanasana ( upward facing dog) altogether. The slighter angle of the wrist in Adho Mukha Svanasana was comfortable.

Modified Surya namaskar  A

Modified Surya namaskar B



And that's a month back practicing Ashtanga and the end of this rolling 'journal'.




Ranier Maria Rilke




Appendix

Current thoughts on Ashtanga Vinyasa and Yoga.

Ramaswami, I guess paraphrasing his teacher Krishnamacharya, puts asana practice in perspective nicely. Paraphrasing the three Gunas ( a useful model but a model all the same)...

Asana to reduce Rajas (agitation), Pranayama to reduce tamas (lethargy) leaving us in a more satvic (serenity) state.

- there are of course many translations of the three gunas - Studying Sanskrit is of course an option, Indian Philosophy too... or we can just Sit more instead. Intellectual study is always it's own reward but I don't believe the study of Sanskrit or Indian Philosophy is required of us, a passing acquaintance is perhaps sufficient. I remember Ramaswmi suggesting that the Yoga sutras were pretty much intuitive. that it was the commentators who confused things, I tend to agree, we can get bogged down and distracted rather than just getting on and practicing. Yoga, as one pointed contemplation of the self (or it's absence), is humanities birthright, it doesn't belong to India, we find it everywhere. Personally, I look to my own tradition, the Greeks. However long I were to study Indian philosophy I would never understand it as well as my own horizon ,I realised this listening to Ramaswami's Yoga Sutra lectures over a fortnight, how he would weave in songs and slokas with stories from his childhood, his whole culture a vast tapestry of interconnections.

I asked Ramaswami once why we should practice early in the morning when we are perhaps at our least 'Rajistic' and most 'Satvic'. He seemed to suggest that it was just the best time to practice asana and it was more about reducing an accumulation of raja over time.

The idea then is to choose a practice that reduces our agitation, restlessness, that grounds us and basically just balances out these three mode of existence so we can start working towards equanimity, one pointedness and generally preparing ourselves for the application of that one pointedness which is where the yoga then comes in, an appropriate application of the one pointedness we have developed.

This is a householder practice. We are not expected to practice actual Yoga now, but rather after our householder duties are complete, when we are then free to retire to the (metaphorical) forest for contemplation.

Our practice now then, assuming we are not intending to become a Monk or Nun,  is to help us to live a more grounded, balanced, life, to carry out our (householder) duties with discernment and to prepare ourselves for the future, the third stage of life, to work now on our discipline, equanimity, non attachment for that time to come. This could have been written by a Greek, I prefer to look to the Stoics for my yama/niyamas

The question then is not, does Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga work to achieve yoga (of course it doesn't it's just making shapes and breathing exercises) but does it help prepare us while helping us to live a more discerning life. For some it does, for others another approach may do just as well or be more effective and appropriate. I've often thought I would have liked to run for an hour or so a day but I don't have the knees for it, or perhaps swim for an hour, back and forth. back and forth, I do have the lake for that.

But clearly I feel this approach to practice helps give me that discipline and balance/stability.








Friday, 17 May 2019

"I honestly don't recognise the characterisation of Ashtanga by it's critics".


Photo: from a short video by Alessandro Sismondi


I honestly don't recognise the characterisation of Ashtanga by it's critics.

Wednesday I practiced my first full Ashtanga Primary series in, oh I don't know how long, almost a year perhaps (See - I'm sure there's still an Ashtanga practitioner buried within me somewhere but......). And this morning, I practiced half Primary/half Second. I'll probably practice the same again tomorrow and then a straight Primary alongside M. on Saturday.

It's not really worth mentioning, I shouldn't write this until after a week, a month, another year of practice. This practice only takes on significance after a significant period of work, of grinding the practice out day in day out.

Leading up to practice I have this sense of mentally preparing myself to climb a mountain or rather of hiking a hill perhaps. I know it will take time and effort but remind myself that I will be so glad I did and that there will be joy along the way as well as effort and perhaps tedium (although if I'm honest, tedium has be rare).

I approach my resolute mat with resignation and determination or rather, will and intention.

Ekam, Dve, it begins. Half way through the count of the the first sun salutation I let the count go and breathe naturally, trusting my body to breathe appropriately, aiming to observe with detachment rather than to direct the breath.


I've done this practice for years, a decade, the asana mostly take care of themselves now, even after a year away, muscle memory. Heidegger says that we don't think about a tool so much as just pick it up and use it. As an experienced musical instrument repairer I can attest to this. Think too much and you'll over or under use the tool and end up damaging something. Asana are not unlike this, they take care of themselves.

Of course there tend to be an asana or two that we give more attention to, perhaps the most recent one we've taken on and are struggling with, or perhaps one of the stubborn resistant classics that never seem to get that much easier. Or perhaps a light bulb goes on in an asana that we've taken for granted for years and we suddenly rediscover it anew.

Occasionally we lose our way a little, try too hard, this is often where any injuries may arise, I've been lucky, a decade with no injuries to speak of.

But mostly we just do the work, grind the practice out on a bad day, flow/pass through it on a good, constantly seeking to bring our awareness back to the breath, letting the flotsam and jetsam of the mind float past, drift away on the gently lapping waves of disinterest....., on a good day

And perhaps we find ourselves in savasana and realise that the last thing we remember was going up into shoulderstand and we just lay there for a time before making the same commitment we made to stepping on the may but this time to settling into the tedium of pranayama and a Sit.

Home practice, no adjustments, no assists, nothing to prove and only occasionally overdoing it a little.

Practice should perhaps have a healthy dose of tedium, we shouldn't try to make it all too interesting too much of the time. Heidegger wrote a hundred pages on boredom (The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics p78...), we shouldn't be afraid of it.

A sense of achievement, yes, a little perhaps because we remember that we didn't feel like getting on the mat that morning but we'll feel more achievement at the end of the week. One practice means little, the discipline is grinding it out again tomorrow and the next day and the next week, month, year.

The party tricks, the fancy asana we occasionally allow ourselves to be seduced by are little compared to the discipline itself of daily practice.

The critics of course focus on injuries, on mistakes, too strong adjustments on abuse (rightly so). Failing to fully understand, they try to fit what they can't seem to comprehend or haven't experienced sufficiently into a box they can make some sense of, and more importantly manipulate and employ for their own ends. Tabloid like they focus on exceptions and collect enough of them to seemingly form a norm.

But the norm is actually quite unspectacular, nothing to see, merely the daily grinding out of ones practice, that setting up of our day, a discipline is remarkable in it's unremarkability.

And it's not just home practice of course. I have a page at the top of the blog, 'Mysore rooms around the world', ordinary practitioners grinding out their practice, extraordinarily ordinary.



Notes.

I still seem to be including Simon Borg-Olivier's Spinal Movements as a ten minute warm-up before moving on to Sun salutations and Primary, as well as as a stand alone practice later, just as I used to practice Vinyasa Krama as a second practice years ago.

As I showed a couple of years back, Ashtanga is a Vinyasa Krama. It's a practice made up of  a selection of different subroutines.

My approach to Ashtanga asana tends to be strongly influenced By Simon Borg-Olivier and in particular his 84 Key asana course, to help me practice with more care and awareness.

I slightly modify the order of a few asana so as to align myself more with Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) table of asana, reaching back before Pattabhi Jois.

My eyes tend to be closed ( Manju Jois once suggest this), my breathing natural with a strong Dantian/Hara/Core focus of breath and movement.


Re. the Philosopher Martin Heidegger mentioned in the post. 
The usual track tends to be to approach him from a collection of his Basic Writings, which includes the introduction to Being and Time and the strange and wonderful 'Origin of a Work of Art'. His analysis of Boredom is found in 'The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics' starting on  p78... You can get away with jumping straight to that section of the book. Heidegger was spoken of as a mind blowing lecturer, the 'Hidden King', this doesn't tend to come across in his writing so well except perhaps in his History of a Concept of Time which I love. Don't worry about how much you can or cant understand of Heidegger, just go along for the ride and let it wash over you and seep into the cracks of your Being. I also recommend Sojourns, Heidegger's journal of his first trip to Greece. 
It's often best to approach Heidegger as might a poet rather than as a Philosopher, it can be less stressful that way.


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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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