Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mysore Report, Perfect Ashtanga Body, Sex Drive

First, a little report about this morning's mysore session with Matthew Sweeney (MS). For starters, I am still working on the four areas that he identified yesterday (see previous post). In addition, another interesting thing happened as well. Somewhere in the Janu Sirsasanas (I think it was Janu B, but I can't be absolutely sure), MS came up to me, and asked me how far in the Intermediate Series I have gone. I answered that in my home practice, I usually go up to Pincha Mayurasana (Yeah, I know, I said in some previous posts that I had started working on Karandavasana, but certain issues have arisen recently that have prompted me to cut out Karandavasana for the time being. More on this in another post).

Anyway, MS looked thoughtful for a moment, and then said, "You should try to conserve as much energy as you can today, so you can maybe do more second series postures. Don't rush through primary or anything; just don't use up so much energy; maybe do the vinyasa on only one side." (These were not his exact words, but they are pretty close.) MS has very astutely perceived that my vinyasas (jumping through and back in slow motion, without touching my feet to the mat in either direction) consume a lot of energy in my primary; that, combined with the fact that I am the biggest sweat-hog in the universe, causes me to burn a lot of "fuel" during primary; I guess you can say that I am the Ashtanga equivalent of a Hummer ;-)

In any case, I agreed with his suggestion, and then... guess what? I continued to jump through and back on both sides anyway! Why? Well, for one, there is something about jumping through and back that allows me to straighten out my limbs after doing each posture, which feels quite good. After mysore, I discussed this with Bill (see previous post for who he is), and discovered another reason why I continued to do the vinyasas even after MS's suggestion: There is something very addictive about vinyasas. I don't surf, but I suspect that doing vinyasas between practices maintains a flow and a wave-like rhythm to the practice, which is quite addictive, in the same way in which surfers might be drawn to and be "addicted" to the feeling of riding a wave. I don't know if this makes any sense, but at any rate, this is my theory.


After mysore, the four of us (Bill, Ellie, Monica, me) went to the same place for breakfast (again, see previous post). Over breakfast, a number of interesting conversation topics came up. Here are a couple:

(1) Is there such a thing as a Perfect Ashtanga Body? Yeah, I know that this is probably not politically correct Ashtanga conversation, but hey, I've never claimed to be the epitome of political correctness. Anyway, after a very interesting (and often hilarious) back-and-forth among the four of us, we decided that the Perfect Ashtanga Body (PAB) needs to have the following characteristics: 

(i) Long arms: Very useful for jumping through and jumping back.

(ii) Short legs: If you have short legs, forward bends will be easier, as you have less leg distance to cover before you touch your hands to the ground. Short legs also make putting your leg behind your head easier, since you have less leg to haul behind your head. 

(iii) A broad chest, and a torso that is longer than your legs: Having a broad chest allows more chest-opening to happen, making for impressive back-bending. Also, from a pranic point of view, having a broad chest and a long torso may also enable you to store more prana, which is a great thing. 

After a little more discussion, the four of us agreed that somebody with a PAB would probably look like this: 

 [Image taken from here]

To be sure, Spongebob's arms could probably be a little longer; but other than that, I would think that if there ever were a contest for the PAB, Spongebob would probably beat all the David Swensons, Richard Freemans, Kino MacGregors and (sad to say) Matthew Sweeneys of the world hands down, wouldn't he? :-) Hmm... Somebody needs to get Spongebob to an Ashtanga class right this moment.

(2) What is the effect of regular Ashtanga practice on the sex drive? We had a discussion on whether regular Ashtanga practice (especially Intermediate Series, with its nervous-system-purifying/kundalini-raising effects) would have any effects on the sex drive, if any. We couldn't come to an agreement on this matter. But I think there are four possibilities: 

(I) Sex drive increases.
(II) Sex drive decreases.
(III) No change in sex drive. 
(IV) Sex drive neither increases nor decreases, but one achieves greater control over one's sex drive. 

Another complication may be that the results may differ for both males and females. In any case, I think this is an interesting topic for a poll. With this in mind, I have set up a new poll in the top right-hand corner of this blog. The poll question is: "Which statement best describes the state of your sex drive since you began practicing Ashtanga?" But if you don't practice Ashtanga, you can also participate; just replace "Ashtanga" with "yoga" or whatever style of yoga you practice. I think this will be an interesting and edifying poll. And of course, the poll is totally anonymous; nobody (not even I) will know who you are. So you need have no worries about revealing your identity. I hope you can participate :-)


  1. Spongebob has no neck. Those dinky legs wouldn't be able to wrap around his head properly, just saying :-)

  2. i was reading your description of the PAB and waas imagining that body is actually not a pretty one and then i saw spongebob hehehe ~ ivana

  3. I have long legs and a short torso, and I can say that I've noticed very often how much this puts me at a disadvantage--more often than the advantages, for sure. But I deal. Having long arms helps a bit, for sure.

    Also, I'd add to this: bow legged--or at least not knock-kneed. Being knock-kneed myself (another major disadvantage!), I have noticed that a lot of ashtangis are bow-legged, and that those people often get into lotus much more easily than I do, even though my hips are much more open (Baddha Konasana no problem). At some point I realized that the angle of the lower leg with respect to the thigh is unfavorable for lotus with knock-knees, but favorable for bow legs. The angle from bow-leggedness actually reduces the amount of rotation required for lotus, while the knock-kneed angle increases the amount of rotation needed.

    Makes me sad. :-(

    1. I have knock knees also and have had such challenges with this practice over the years. It requires a lot of very deep attention in MOST of the seated series and even though I have been super slow and careful, my knees can easily CLUNK and then I have pain. So for all the PAB please have patience and respects for us knocked kneers! It makes the practice even harder to stay with because of the intense rotational challenges. Love Love Love.

  4. Yes, Yyogini, this is true. Spongebob could definitely use a neck, and maybe legs that have real knees that can bend :-)

    Well, Ivana, beauty or prettiness is in the eyes of the beholder, as the saying goes... :-)

    Frank, I also have long legs and a relatively short torso, so I feel your pain :-)

    I've never thought about being knock-kneed as constituting a disadvantage to getting into lotus, but I think you are onto something here. As for being bow-legged, here's something I just read online:

    "Bowleg is a term used to describe outward curving of the legs that occurs in almost all children. Also known as genu varum, this is part of normal development. It is actually abnormal for children less than 18 months of age not to be bowleg." (http://www.childrensorthopaedics.com/BowlegandKnockKnees.html)

    I wonder if this means that Ashtanga favors children, or at least people whose bodies are childlike in certain respects :-)

    1. Wasn't the practice originally for very young male Brahmins in India? I think they usually started quite young - about 15 or less?

      It's only actually a recent thing for ladies to be able to do it. In India there's still a stigma against women who practice it when they're on 'that time of the month'. Part of the reason we're not meant to practice it is because we're 'unclean'. Sorry, slightly went off topic there. But yeah, Ashtanga was originally for very young men to increase their athleticism, I believe.