This summer it has been three years since I started practicing Ashtanga yoga. I can not believe this, three freaking years, life zooms by and don’t you forget it. But yes, three years, I’ve had my little home practice, with videos or not, religiously six days a week at times, at other times fourish practices a week. I’ve taken weeks off, been lazy, done lots of half practices, gotten on the mat by promising I “just had to do the surys” (and then ended up doing the whole thing), then gone through second and third and forth winds where I’m thinking about the next practice the minute I finish today’s and can’t stand to take a day off. In other words, the works.
I got curious about where I started and where I am, asana-wise, through all of this up and down, back and forth, and so I cut and pasted some Before and After shots from the archives (and some new pics taken the other day), to see if I’d gotten anywhere at all.
Turns out, I have.
Actually, I figure there are probably two ways to look at the change: 1) Three years, no adjustments (except a few during the David Garrigues workshop this spring), no shala, no teacher, and a conservative practice (meaning, I don’t push hard, easy does it) and wow, I still came pretty far!
OR, 2) That poor woman, three whole years have passed and she has barely progressed at all. In other words, I don’t even know what I don’t know.
Feel free to weigh in on this in the comments! I don’t know what a normal rate of progression is, I doubt there even is one, so I can’t compare to others, just to myself. Which is probably for the best, right? But still, I might be seen as flailing by myself out here in the yurt, or I might be seen as doing okay, depending on your perspective….
Anyway, here it is. Oh, and I certainly am NOT saying my current asana are All That. Not perfect, not to be emulated. Just, hey, check it out, progress has been made. And if I do another post like this in three more years, I’ll have Before, Middle, AND After shots to take a gander at.
(There is not, of course, a shot for every asana in Primary, just a few highlights—otherwise this post would be absurdly long.)
Trikonasana and Parsvakonasana, 2009…2012
Even though my parivrtta parsvakonasana is still pretty lame, I couldn’t do anything like it when I started, could only sort of look down at the ground, propping my elbow up on my knee. I mostly skipped it. So no Before pic for this one, just the after.
From straight arms to head on the ground!
Now a few seated poses….
Forehead to the shin now and I can hold my own hands, though not the wrists.
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana
Full bind on this one now, plus forehead to shin.
Marichyasana B & D
This pose has about the most change of any of them, I think, from barely being able to sit up without propping my torso with my hands, to a full wrist bind. My chin isn’t on the floor yet, but that leg is comfortably in half-lotus, all when I used to barely be able to bend the other knee half-way up when my lotus-leg foot was just on the thigh. Hip openers, you gotta love em.
David Williams suggest beginners do Bakasana as a prep for Bhujapidasana, so that’s what I did for at least a year in the beginning, although I had one toe down for most of that. Now I can do a pretty decent both-feet-up arm balance, although my arms are still bent. BUT….
….now I can do an okay Bhujapidasana, too. Although, again, my arms are bent and my chin is miles from the floor. And lets not even talk about jumping into it, shall we? Maybe in three more years. Still, I can get those feet a few inches off the ground, so I’m calling it a win.
Sophie, my photographer for all of these shots, of course, can do a kurmasana that is as flat as a pancake.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
That baby cobra was all I could manage when I started and even that used to kill my lower back. In other words, I couldn’t do an up dog AT ALL. And I’m still super tight in my upper back. But at least I can do a whole vinyasa now. My Up Dog is okay, doesn’t hurt, although I can’t look up the way some of them do.
Urdhva Dhanurasana, 2010…2012
The “before” shot here is actually a year in, 201o, so this is only a two years difference, not three. This is because I couldn’t do any sort of backbend at all, not even this terribly lame, contraindicated one, when I started, couldn’t bend that much and certainly couldn’t hold myself up. I can actually hold myself up for a few seconds now, and my arms are straight, so that’s something. I’ve got a ways to go before my hands are under my ears, or my legs straighten out any, or I can get a full five breaths on the second or third time up. I’d like to get more bend in the upper spine and not crank so much on that one spot in my lower back, too.
I don’t know why but back bends freak me out. I get all scared and have to really psyche myself up to do them.
Unlike Sophie, Queen of All Things Backbend, who adores backbends and wanted me to shoot her bendy back, too. To be fair, Sophie is a great cheer leader for me in my lame back bending attempts, “You can do it, Mom,” she says and, “hey, that was better!” But one look at her flexi-spine and I just hang my head. I’ll certainly never be as bendy as she is, ever again, if I ever was to start with.
Straight back bend, fingers brushing her feet.
Then a hang back with a nice namaste….
Then she started fooling around, waving “Hi!” at the camera and making funny faces….
She also wanted to do her Leg Behind the Head pose. Little show off.
Next Luc wanted to get in on the photographic action, although he was shy and only wanted to be in a picture if I was in it, too. Look at his little flying lotus! He’s so adorable.
So there you have it, ashtanga three years in! What a long strange trip and all of that.
Oh wait! I almost forgot the best pose ever: lovasana. I finish my practice for the day and one or the other of them sneaks over and very gently lays on top of me in a hug.
Here is Sophie, in 2009 at 5 years old…
And here she is, three days ago, at 8. Look how much she’s grown!
I sometimes think they like lovasana so much because they suck up all the prana and merit I may have generated during my practice, like little sponges siphoning off the extra charge. Oh well, I guess they can have it. I feel so honored that anyone would like me enough to want to press their body to me when I’m all tired and sweaty! I know it won’t last so I try to enjoy it now, haha.
But there you have it, highlights of Primary a few months in, and nearly three years later, from someone who is DIY the whole way. Who knows, maybe my little pictures might give hope to someone just starting out—or it might depress a newcomer…”that’s all you’ve changed and you’ve been at it for THREE YEARS???”
Either way, I’ll do another of these posts in 3 more years, that is, if I’m still alive and still practicing. And still blogging. And if the Coming Zombie Apocolypse doesn’t fry my internet connection. I’ll be 44 in three years, holy shit.
And my photographer will be 11!
ETA. It’s Jan 2015 now, two and a half years since I wrote this post, wow. I’m still doing my practice. Here is a link to the post I did last summer, 2014, five years into practicing ashtanga, focusing on backbends. Thanks for stopping by!