Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Morning

I am mentally packing for my trip to Prescott right now. I love going to Prescott to teach because I get to see so many long time students and friends and I get to meet the new people who have joined the gang at Prescott Yoga.

But first, the blog!

I went to Mysore practice with Juan at noon which was really fun. One thing that I am really enjoying learning from Juan is the logic behind the Ashtanga Vinyasa system. I have done that sequence off and on for years- (more off than on) and I have always appreciated it but I have not had any real access to its depth. Something in Juan's approach, expertise and teaching style- and his willingness to share all of these things intelligently, compassionately without compromise- has given me great insight into the sequence and the reasoning behind it. I find it hilarious people criticize that method for not having alignment. They are totally into precision and alignment. Granted, it is through a slightly different doorway but still, Ashtanga Vinyasa is a strict, precise, thoughtful and brilliant method of practice. I am really enjoying learning it and practicing it.

I taught my second Level 2-4 class at Castle Hill and we worked with so many silly themes although the "real theme" was a midline approach toward eka pada raja kapotasana. But happy hour, summer camp, yoga competition, goal setting, and yelling yoga teachers was more in the air as themes which was kind of hilarious. I love classes like yesterday's 4:30 class- everyone wanted to work, everyone respectfully challenged themselves, everyone was relaxed and in relationship with me and one another, and I got the sense people were ready to practice and learn. Level 2-4 is a great way to explore all the steps along the way to a pose because level 2 students can do preliminary work and level 4 students can do the advanced variations and everyone is learning and benefiting.

The group practice at Breath and Body was well attended and fun. I decided to teach the sequence more "old school" with less flow and longer holds. We did minute-long timings in the standing poses and managed to get headstand, handstand, pinca and shoulderstand in as well as urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana and headstand dropovers! It was a great time.

It is always amazing to me to work with a timer. When I first did it I set the timer for a minute and then I would do a pose and I would be ready to come out of the pose after 10 seconds! What it taught me was that the poses are not only physical acts, they are actually much more about consciousness. (Of course it is consciousness that takes form in the first place... but I digress.) It is not only what is going on in our bodies that makes us want out of a pose, it is often our inability to cope with what comes up mentally and emotionally that makes us say "Enough, I am done here." Working with a timer taught me a lot about that aspect of asana.

On the flip side, just as there is a skill in learning how to stay, there is a skill to be developed through the 5-breath approach of "give it a go, get what you can get done, move on, let go and ride the moving river to the next pose." I personally love and value both approaches. Again, there is no one way to do it.

1 comment:

Dale said...

Thanks for the long holds!! I had fun with the timed poses. Paraphrasing Iyengar, one should come out of a pose when your head isn't in the pose anymore :-). With my usual shorted holds, I never get to work with that, to bring my pose to the point where my mental focus was actually challenged. I enjoyed getting to work on that edge - to find the point where I felt like coming out of the pose, & then to refocus & determine if this was (1) my body saying that I was no longer safe in the pose due to physical weakness, or (2) just my habitual hold length telling me it was time to quit, or (3) my monkey mind wanting to jump to the next tree, or (4) my body thinking that being "a little tired" meant "too tired". Good stuff! Thanks!!!

On another subject, it is really wonderful to find Ashtanga teachers who respect the individual and the effect of proper alignment on the body. And by proper alignment, I mean in the internal/real sense, not in terms of whether one has hold of one's big toe :-). Matt is an amazing teacher who is more concerned with the well-being of the yogi than how much their pose looks like Yoga Journal. And Selena is totally my teacher in this yoga. Both of these teachers use the Ashtanga as a yoga.

But my experience in hundreds of other Ashtanga classes has been rather the opposite, with the teachers showing little understanding of how the alignment of the pose affects the yogi's body. Witness how Trikonasana is taught.

The advice of the better Ashtanga teachers is structurally ok, and is useful for "getting into the pose" - as if that was important - but shows little intention to use the practice to make the yogi healthier.

Only the best - in my experience Matt & Selena - use the practice as a yoga instead of just exercise or some sort of competition between the yogi and their recalcitrant body.

And of course, now I'll really eager to go take one of Juan's Mysore classes :-).