Thursday, September 2, 2010

Astanga

I did a yoga double-header today. I’m pretty wiped!

In the morning, I did my full practice, battled my way through the Intermediate poses, then did some deep backbending (repeating Urdhva Dhanurasana over and over again, walking my hands in as far as I could and holding for five breaths). After my three dropbacks (with some unsuccessful rocking-to-standing), I finished my practice, in just over two hours.

Whew!

Then I dashed off to teach a class, ate my lunch, walked my dog, and headed out for some more yoga fun.

During the recent yoga festival, I ran into one of my first teachers in this city, H. She was one of my main teachers for years and led my YTT. I realised that it had been at least two years since I attended one of her classes, so I promised that I would come by for a visit soon.

H was very cute about it, warning me that her Vinyasa classes are pretty ‘hard core’ now. I reassured her that I’m pretty hardcore now too! Then she laughed and said “I know! I know! I’ve heard! That’s why I mentioned it - you’ll be challenged!”

Aw, the yoga community grapevine...it never lets me down! I wonder who she’s been talking to? :-D

While it wasn’t the most difficult yoga practice I’ve done lately (she’s up against some very stiff competition, given my current practice), I certainly broke a sweat in the class. And there was a tripod headstand that was a bit tricky (and unexpected - I didn’t pull it off very gracefully). The rest of the class was pretty easy going for me.

No complaints, though. It was very, very fun! She taught some unusual variation on Surya Namaskara, lots of vinyasa and standing poses, Vriksasana to Virabhadrasana III, Natarajasana to Ardha Chandrasana, a few lunges and deep hip openers, a Krounchasana variation and some peaceful forward bends near the end. I enjoyed it. I would have liked to see an inversion in the finishing, but I savoured the long, long child’s pose.

Her style has shifted back to a more vinyasa-flow dynamic since the last time I took a class with her. It reminded me a lot of the led classes at Shala South, which makes perfect sense given that H trained there and still studies with one of the senior teachers. She’s a master at teaching to different levels in a class. At the beginning, she encouraged us to find ‘freedom’ in our practice, and find variations that best resonated in our own bodies.

I’m glad I went. It was an the opportunity to do poses that are not normally part of my practice. There’s a chance I may be able to attend her class next week as well. If I can do it, I will. Mid-month, things start to get crazy. I’m back to teaching full-time and I won’t be able to attend classes again until December at the earliest.

********************

I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn’t think it would happen this quickly: I’m getting bored and just a bit lazy in my home practice (I lasted what? All of two weeks? I guess I really *do* like being at a shala)

I miss practising with a teacher, with people around me. I miss having a community and a place to go for practice in the mornings. A friend was concerned I might be considering a return to Shala Central, but no. That’s out of the question now - for many reasons, but chief among them, the teachers would never support my Intermediate Series practice.

Unfortunately, this also takes Shala North out of the running. DR is very firm that his students must stand up from a backbend in order to move on to Intermediate Series.

Again, I’m not going to get into the politics of this (and it’s a tinder-box issue, to be sure). In the Astanga community, there’s a huge divide between teachers who follow the ‘stand up’ rule and those who go by the older standards. I honestly don’t know which method is the best (I’ll let you know six months from now).

I only know that I came by my longer practice very honestly: I was given these poses by a certified teacher. I didn’t ask for Intermediate (in case any of you were wondering). I feel like this series of events unfolded for a reason.

My gut is telling me to follow this thread, but I also need help with my practice.

So I’m considering all my options. I’ll let you know what I figure out.

7 comments:

alice's adventures said...

I'm excited to hear more! I have never experienced the Astanga community/drama but I love the sequence. I practice with an ex-Astangi who incorporates poses from all the series in her classes... makes the limitations seem arbitrary, but I admit I like the idea of "earning" a pose. As always, thanks for sharing!

Shanna said...

The biggest issue that keeps most students from standing up and dropping back in wheel is fear. Do you think you are afraid?

Another thing is distance between the feet. I know that people say your feet should be parallel and hip distance apart but a lot of people just need more space then that. As they get more proficient, the feet walk in. The wide stance is usually safer on the knees especially for women.

Another thing is trying to keep the feet down. Again, when you first start, your feet don't have to be flat.

I don't know if these have anything to do with you but I wanted to through it out there.

Shanna
http://www.wellnessfrominside.typepad.com

Anonymous said...

With respect, I believe this divide people refer to to is not a reflection of what actually exists in our local communities. DR teaches as he has been taught and he transmits the practice as closely to that as he can. So do the Ds. There's no divide between them and I do not think it is accurate for us to cast minor differences in teaching as political. In my view, they do not affect the core of the practice. Whether one teacher would have me practicing pasasana now and the other three months from now is immaterial.

This isn't directed at you personally. I know you are just repeating the commonly accepted position that we as a community repeat again and again. If I may be frank, I think we are totally missing the point.

Boodiba said...

It's pretty funny because NYC style Astanga is pretty aggressive and "regulation handbook" compared to other places. California style is pretty loossey-goosey by comparision, for example. However not one of my three, main teachers here adheres to the standing from wheel before 2nd rule. It's just too hard for those of us who are not natural back benders.

The tendency here - with Greg, Chris & even John - is to feed people 2nd until Kapo and then work with them there until they are ready for dropping & standing.

Kaivalya said...

@alice
Thanks for reading! It's fun to do poses from other series I haven't yet been 'given'. I occasionally go to studio classes that incorporate these and, of course, I teach many of them in my Hatha classes too. :-)

@Shanna
Thanks for offering a few tips! I don't think fear is as much an issue for me since I started dropping back regularly. I do work with a wider stance in my dropbacks and find it helpful. I think my backbend is deep enough to stand up.

The main issue may be strength and mechanics, which is why I'm hopeful that working these 2nd series poses will give me the little 'boost' I need.

@Anonymous
'Political' was probably a poor word choice on my part, but I'm going to stand my ground about the 'divide'. It's there.

The 'gateway' for Intermediate varies from teacher to teacher, place to place (Boodi's comment addresses this) and though it may not affect the 'core of the practice' as a whole, it does affect the experience of individual practitioners.

I take no issue with teachers who teach as they are taught. It's up to each teacher to decide for themselves what their responsibility to the lineage is vis-à-vis the realities of the students in their room.

I'm not demanding that any teacher bend to my idea of what my practice should be. I respect the rules of the teachers I've studied with. That's precisely why I'm practising at home for now.

I'm just trying to do what's best for me and my practice - that's my focus. I'm listening to my body, trying to learn from my daily practice and to grow. For me, that *is* the point.

@Boodi
Hey, I could always just move to NYC, then you and I could go for a coffee. Latte! My treat! :-)

Boodiba said...

Awww you wouldn't have to treat but it'd be fun to meet in person for sure.

Liz said...

From what you've written about DR, I think you could practice with him and be standing up on your own in no time. He sounds like someone who can tune into you as an individual and give you the direction and encouragement needed. Maybe give it a try for a month or so and see if you can't be on that Intermediate train again!