Monday, May 9, 2011

Fargo-Moorhead Little Ashtanga Community report, teaching faux pas, suggestions needed

"The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Hmm... I sometimes wonder if our practice is also like that. You go to bed at night. When you wake up in the morning, your mind/body feels tight and stiff, and you do the practice to "rebuild" your mind/body back up before breakfast... Uh, okay, maybe some of us practice in the afternoon/evening, so this doesn't apply. Never mind. Forget I said any of this. I try too hard to be clever sometimes; besides, what do I know about being married?

On to the actual topic of this post. Yesterday afternoon, I met with two friends to do some Ashtanga again. We met at my friend D's place in Fargo, ND (you might remember D from this post). D, as you might recall, is not very flexible; he had to bend his knees till his heels touched his butt in order to get into dve position in Surya A. I decided to get D to try V's suggestion. V's suggestion was to:

"have him bend his knees a bit and place his hands on his knees or shins, for Dve. Then for trini he looks up and for chatvari he can do the squat before stepping back."

I started by demonstrating this to D. I placed my hands on my knees. And then, from there, I exhaled all the way and bent my knees till my hands touched the ground, and stepped my feet straight back into chatvari position. Which means that I totally forgot about trini! How did that happen? Well, for instructional purposes, we did the Suryas without the Sanskrit vinyasa count; they were so new to the practice, and I had so many instructions to give about even the most basic of things, such as how to get into downward dog, that bringing in the Sanskrit count only served to make things more complicated for them. I intend to bring in the Sanskrit count later, when they are more familiar with the movements. But the trouble with me, as I discovered yesterday, is that I rely so much on the Sanskrit count myself in going through the Suryas (I count to myself in my head when I do my practice in the morning) that when I have to teach without the Sanskrit count, I mess up the order. So I basically demonstrated (and had D do) Surya A with this super-long exhalation, starting from bending forward into forward bend (i.e. dve position) all the way to chatvari. And I didn't even realize my error till we were done with Surya A, and were doing Surya B! What a faux pas. I guess this shows that I am an auditory learner, since I can't seem to keep track of the order of the postures in the Suryas without mentally reciting the vinyasa count to myself.

Surya B was interesting too, in a different way. On the spur of the moment, I decided to try to keep the pace of Surya B going. So I told both my friends/students that we were just going to go through all 5 Surya Bs without stopping, and that if they get tired at any point, they can just go into Child's pose and rejoin the flow when they feel ready. D had to go into Child's pose after two Surya Bs. He stayed in Child's pose for the duration of the entire third Surya B, and rejoined us for the last two Surya Bs. I thought that was a really good effort on his part.

During the course of doing the Surya Bs, I noticed that D had a tendency to turn his wrists inward during the transition from chaturanga to updog, so that in updog, all his fingers are pointing inward. I'm not entirely sure what the reason for this is, but I suspect that he does this in order to try to compensate for a lack of upper body strength; perhaps for him, turning the wrists in somehow makes pushing up into updog easier, at least psychologically.

I brought this to his attention, and demonstrated how the hands are supposed to stay flat and stationary throughout the whole vinyasa. I explained that moving the hands during the vinyasa results in uneven pressure and strain on the wrists. I think he understood what I was saying, although I also think that, realistically speaking, it's probably going to take him a bit of time to change this movement habit (as we all do with our movement habits). Any of you have any suggestions about how to minimize any possible damage to his wrists in the meantime? I have already suggested to him to come down onto his knees in chaturanga, and he is already doing that.

At the end of the practice (as with the previous two sessions, all we did were five Surya As and five Surya Bs), D got up early from Savasana and started walking around the house before rejoining us for the closing namaste. I was really a bit worried that the pace of the Surya Bs might have been too fast for him, and he was feeling restless and/or discouraged. But I met D over lunch today, and he told me that he really thinks that the practice is beneficial for him. He said that after the last two sessions, his usual desire to overeat and indulge in junk food became a lot less strong, and he noticed that he tends to eat healthier for the rest of the day after these two sessions. Isn't this cool? I think this is immediate proof that the practice changes us from the inside out. He also told me that he has found a couple of videos of Surya A and B by Luke Jordan (anybody knows who he is?) on Youtube, and has started doing the Suryas with these videos in the morning.

This is really neat. I can feel that very, very slowly, one new practitioner at a time, the practice is starting to take root here in Fargo-Moorhead.   

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this useful piece of work! Keep blogging!!