I posted the other day about the Year of the Plateau in my Ashtanga yoga practice. Short version: moan, groan, whine, whinge…but keep practicing anyway. Moving on. Concurrent with that post, Grimmly, home ashtangi extraordinaire, has just gotten back from a week in Crete (jealous!) with Manju Jois, son of Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga, and he has been writing up terrific accounts (link is to the first of a series of posts) of his experience over on his blog. I have been avidly reading, Grim! Thanks so much for generously writing it all up! And thanks to Manju for being so open! Seriously, these are some wonderful posts and demonstrate the energy and inspiration a great teacher can offer his students, beyond whatever knowledge s/he is passing along.
Anyway, as I’ve read, various thoughts have been crossing streams (don’t cross the streams!) in my tiny brain:
1) it seems that Manju suggests alternating Primary and Intermediate, not holding back at various “gateway poses” and has a relaxed approach to variations.
2) David Williams, whose workshop I have taken twice, advocates a similar approach.
3) When I pulled my hamstring attachment in my second year of practice, I did a simplified variation of the first part of Intermediate (at the suggestion of Grimmly, actually, thanks, Grim!), for several months while I was healing (Primary is full of forward bends which you can’t do with a pulled hammy, whereas the beginning of Intermediate is all backbends). It was nice.
4) My backbends suck and don’t seem to be getting any better, largely due, I think, to psychological reasons (they freak me out). But it doesn’t help that I do so little work on backbending. Lately, I mostly use my backbending chair (LOVE) and, of course, up dog. But that’s not much. I’m treading water.
5) In those David Williams workshops, David does a led, shortened (he leaves out a bunch of the arm balances) Intermediate that I found quite enjoyable, though plenty challenging.
….all of which sort of added up to this: maybe I should, in this time of plateaus, try picking up Intermediate again?
I mean, I’ve been doing Primary for four years. Maybe it’s time to mix it up. And since my Primary is going nowhere at the moment, it’s the perfect time. Right?
Outside of David’s workshop I have tried Intermediate before. For example when I got Kino’s dvd, of course, I had to try it out. Man, it kicked my butt. I remember thinking, “those Intermediate folks are fucking superheroes” and also “I never want to do that again.” Obviously, I pushed it too far. That way lies not the path to success.
But, I remember that when I started Primary I knew I sucked and couldn’t do anything, so I kind of gleefully didn’t care how lame my practice was. I did Swensen variations of most of the asana, and I followed David William’s excellent advice: make it feel pleasurable. In other words, find a variation, a way to do every asana, that feels really good, like that delicious feeling you get when you get out of bed in the morning and stretch, and don’t worry about how it looks. And I made progress.
Why didn’t I apply that to my previous attempts at Intermediate? I have no idea. Pride, possibly.
Anyway, this morning, lying in bed, trying to get out of bed, I thought I would give Intermediate another go— only this time using that beginner’s mind, and beginner’s body, approach.
So I did. I followed along with David Swensen up to yoganidrasana, and I looked for easy peasy variations of everything. That seemed like a good stopping point, as well as plenty to bite off and chew. I don’t want to get exhausted and hate it. Pleasure is the secret to wanting to do it again the next day.
It went pretty well. I mean, I felt awkward and clumsy and ouchy, yeah—all the things I felt when I started Primary—but it was doable. I found a few good variations, but I’ll need to experiment to find more. Like those Leg-Behind-the-Head poses, yikes, or, of course, the dreaded kapotasana. And I’ll have to work with my terror in backbending. Gently, gently.
Actually, I was surprised at what I COULD do…it has been years since I tried any of those poses, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: although I’m a beginner at most of these asana, I am not exactly a beginner anymore. But treating it like I AM seems to be the best method. It worked for me for Primary.
Make it enjoyable, don’t do too much, don’t try to be a superhero. Let superhero-ness sneak up on me over time.
So that’s my new experiment! I need to get Sophie to take some “Before” pictures of my pitiful, embarrassing, attempts now, in the hopes that I can have some lovely “After” pictures later. (A lot later.) I’m not giving up Primary, but maybe I’ll alternate, as suggested by Manju. It’s good to try something new.
And thanks once again to Grimmly who has had such a positive impact on my yoga practice over the years.
I’ve posted this before, but I still love it. David Swenson doing a hilarious 2nd half of intermediate (all the poses I left off this morning, ha!) in about 5 minutes while telling a funny story. Amazing.
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today's yoga practice
November 21, 2013 | 9:54 am
Primary to navasana.
November 21, 2013 | 9:54 am
Skip. Dentist again.
November 18, 2013 | 12:02 pm
Primary to uphivista konasana. Finishing never felt so good, I am so stiff today. Could the extra salty Chinese food last the culprit?
November 18, 2013 | 12:01 pm
Primary to baddha konasana.
November 18, 2013 | 12:00 pm
Primary to navasana.
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