Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I am not splitting yet

"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams." 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Did full primary and second up to pincha mayurasana this morning. Yes, I have decided to hold off on splitting for now. I will consider making the split into second only and working on karandavasana when I get to the point where I can get into a hands-free padmasana in shoulderstand without any discomfort in my knees at all. For now, the long practice continues. Many thanks to all of you who have taken the time to comment and offer your feedback and suggestions in my recent posts on splitting.

Of course, the other option is to split right now, and do second only up to pincha mayurasana (and add on karandavasana when I feel ready). This is, in and of itself, a respectable option. In fact, I did this for a few months last year before I was given karandavasana. So why am I not doing this now? The simple answer might be that I am too attached to primary :-) But the not-so-simple answer is that I believe that my body needs the hip-opening and internal-heat-building that doing full primary offers me. If one goes into second "cold" immediately after standing, one's hips are less open and one has less internal heat than if one were to go into second after having done all of primary. This might not really matter in the backbends up to kapotasana, since having slightly less open hips does not affect one's back-bending all that much, if at all. But one really feels the difference when one gets to the leg-behind-head postures: All the hip-opening that is generated by primary really helps one to do Ekapada Sirsasana (and all the other LBH postures) more safely and effectively (especially because I went into Supta Kurmasana from Dwipada earlier on, in primary, and so had already put my leg behind my head once earlier in the practice). Whereas if one were to split, one would be going into the LBH postures "cold" without the benefit of primary, which might, at least in my case, increase the risk of "borrowing flexibility" from and injuring the SI joints.

The other reason why I am not splitting yet might be that I don't really feel the strong need to move "forward" in the practice. In his recent post, Patrick talks about "second-time-pose-garnering". The idea is that all the second series postures I am doing right now, I am not doing for the "first time"; I "lost" them once due to injury, and have "regained" them in the last few months. I think there is something about doing "regained" postures that causes one to approach them with a certain degree of care, respect and patience (and maybe even a certain amount of fear and trembling, dare I say :-)) that one might not have when one is in the "first flush of youthful impetuousness", and doing them for the first time. I think this is especially true of something like Karandavasana: It, along with Kapotasana, demands that the practitioner approach it with the greatest care and respect, and not rush headlong into it.

Once again, thank you for listening in on this monologue. I do realize that you really must have other more pressing things on your horizon, and may not be all that interested in the twists and turns of my (non)splitting adventures.  


  1. Sounds like, particularly due to your injury, it might be best to consider splitting when you can bring up your concerns with a teacher who can offer personalized advice (next time you practice w/ Kino?). Of course, doing 2nd without the benefit of Primary before it (and leg-behind head poses only 3 counterposes after deep back-bending) is the crux of the entire Ashtanga yoga system; it's what makes 2nd Series "Intermediate" and what differentiates Ashtanga yoga from other forms of yoga that can effectively be taught in a group/led environment by just giving more or less advanced variations on individual asanas. But, given your injury, perhaps you'd want to discuss with your teacher whether jumping into 2nd only is the best option. There might be other techniques that could be employed temporarily, such as warming up the hips (e.g., long holds in "Pigeon Pose") before practice, staying in hip-opening poses (e.g., Parsvakonasana) longer than 5 breaths and gradually reducing the time spent there, doing prep or "research" poses immediately before Eka Pada, or weaning yourself off Primary (e.g., start with half-Primary and then 2nd, then maybe scale back by a couple of Primary poses every few weeks). Or some combination of these. But every teacher will have a different approach and a different idea of which of these, if any, is acceptable and/or is appropriate for you. Adding Karandavasana might only complicate things; splitting and adding Karandavasana at the same time sounds like a lot of change to have to deal with all at once, especially if your are concerned about your injury; it's just one more distraction to deal with....

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  3. Hello Frank,
    thanks for your feedback. I agree that adding Karandavasana now will probably complicate what is probably already a delicate situation. Actually, I am already doing at least one of the things you brought up: I am holding Utthita Parsvakonasana for 8 breaths instead of 5 right now. I'll continue to work on opening my hips constructively.