Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rishis and Community

There has been some interesting discussion in the Cybershala about the 'Rishi Series'. This was a series that advanced practitioners used to do either following sixth series or after finishing Intermediate (as a preparation for Advanced).

(Note: This was practised in the past, but isn't part of the Astanga method as now taught in Mysore. Thanks, Susan, for making this clarification in your comment on this post.)

You can read more about this on Grimmly's blog:
Ashtanga Rishi Series(explanatory post)
Ashtanga Rishi Approach: First Day
Ashtanga Rishi Approach: Second Day

Ursula has been experimenting with it too:
Dandasana and My Rishi Series Variation

I'm keen to try this myself, though it will need to happen as a second practice, probably falling on a Sunday when I have time to experiment. I'm feeling very good about the direction and intensity of my shala practice right now and I don't want to break any momentum there.

Still, sometimes I will 'Rishi up' some of the poses in my regular practice. Sirsasana is one, but I suspect everyone goes through that phase eventually. I was up to 10 minute holds when I finally got bored - literally bored, which was probably a good reason to stay with it, come to think of it! ;-)

There are definitely a few poses in my current practice that would benefit from longer holds. I've already been holding Ustrasana for longer durations. Right now, I typically hold it for a minute, but two or three minutes would be an interesting experiment.

I've noticed during these longer holds that the barrier to staying in the pose isn't physical, it's purely psychological. Napper has blogged about taking long holds with Kapotasana B. I use this pose as a warm-up to A and I struggle just to get through five breaths! But I'm pretty sure a longer hold would be good for me. I've also found that repeating Kapo A doesn't seem to help me much. I'm wondering if holding it longer would?

Just an aside, I've been impressed and deeply touched by these amazing senior teachers who have so readily responded to Grim's queries regarding the Rishi Series and the Astanga series 'as it was' (in the 70s - a topic for another time). It makes my heart swell to see this generosity of spirit and community. It's a lovely antidote to some of nastiness and infighting that occasionally pops up amonst yogis.

They're certainly leading by example! As I read Nancy G's letter, the Astanga community suddenly felt smaller, warm and intimiate, very supportive. It made me proud of this lineage and the people who practice it. When the Cybershala is awesome, it's *really* awesome!

What do you think of the 'Rishi Series'? Do you hold any poses in your practice for longer durations? Have you experienced any benefits from doing so? Anyone out there experimenting with a Yin-style practice?

This was from the fall - I have no idea what my backbend looks like these days. Maybe I'll do a photo shoot soon. But not on the balcony! ;-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Grimmly said...

Does work well as a second practice Kai, familiar and yet different enough to not feel your doing your regular practice twice. Trouble is it starts playing on your mind, last night while doing second i gave kapo a 25 breath trial run and this morning in pasha did the same (only made it to 20 before my arm slipped off). Kind of feel like the Count from Sesame street.

Nice bit you wrote about Nancy and the community, so true, she's been so generous, I've just received another e-mail on the breath in '73 that goes into a lot of detail, managed to bring myself to ask about it, she put me straight on a few things, post to come.

good luck with the Rishi,

Anonymous said...

"Bored the way a river is bored"--Chogyam Trungpa.

I never did 50 breaths in anything (although in one Led Primary in Chicago, I counted how many of my breaths Kino had us hold Sirsasana, and it was 52!!!!!), although when trying to expand my Urdhva Dhanurasana/dropbacks adventure in 2008, I did start holding each pressup for 8 breaths rather than 5, and would do three that way, and THEN another three, walking the hands in but NOT descending the head, for a total of 15 breaths, so basically one long pressup wheel with a walk-in every five breaths. That *really* expanded my backbending.

I find that if I repeat Kapo A-and-B, the second round is almost always deeper. Not every time, but most times.


susananda said...

Hi :)

I like to hold some poses for longer in my practice. Also doing a practice of several postures with long holds is similar to a 'yin' practice and I think it can be beneficial.

But it's inaccurate to say that advanced practitioners do this either after completing all the series or after intermediate... it may have been taught that way long ago (and yes it's very generous of Nancy and others to share their experience). But it definitely is not taught that way now. Not saying its a bad idea, just that before Grimmly's post of the other day there was probably NO practitioner doing this after intermediate to prepare for advanced series. Now it has become a minor craze, we are creating history through the internet. Again, try it and it may be beneficial! But let's not give the impression that this is part of current ashtanga method? It's important to keep facts straight and then let people make their decisions about how to proceed. Some people don't care about 'correct method' and others do.

I hope I've put enough disclaimers in!! :)

susananda said...

Oh and I *always* hold uth pluthi (or as spell check would have it, Utah Pluto) for 50. Which is handy, because Sharath's ten = 40+ of mine :-)

Kaivalya said...

I enjoyed your post about the breath. It's been interesting the watch the debate emerge around Ujjayi. For so many years it was taught that way by just about everyone. The new wave seems to be going back to the basics. I actually like this descriptive better: 'free breath with sound'. Makes more sense to me. I always felt conflicted between Ujjayi in Astanga and Ujjayi as I'd been taught in Pranayama.

Kaivalya said...

I like your approach to UD. I'm going to try it (if I can manage not to wimp out). I've recently started to feel some opening in my thoracic spine in backbends and I want to keep pushing the ege of that.

Kaivalya said...

Thanks for pointing out the clarification needed for the history of the Rishi series. You'll see I added a note to the post, crediting you.

I'm impressed that you can hold your Uth Pluthi for 50 breaths! I'm lucky if I make it to 20. :-)

susananda said...

Thanks! I think it's really important to keep these things straight. For all we know this may be something he tried with a couple of students and decided was a bad idea....as it was never taught to more recent certified teachers.

I don't call this ashtanga, I call it adding a hatha practice into your routine. I do it sometimes though.

And they are not particularly slow breaths :)

Grimmly said...

For all we know this may be something he tried with a couple of students and decided was a bad idea....as it was never taught to more recent certified teachers.'

Kind of seems like Krishnamacharya felt the same way about ashtanga.

I don't know, without the breath, I mean if all it is In Out In Out then perhaps it is more like Gymnastics than we like to think, the difference then becomes one of intention. I love practicing Ashtanga but to me at least it feels a little hollow sometimes, something lacking and I tend to think it's those longer stays and the sophisticated breathing of Ujayii but then it's a compromise, you can't have everything.

No they're not particularly slow, going to be exploring the Vinyasa krama version next week.