I did full primary this morning (Sunday is my rest day). After a few days of doing second only, primary feels "the stranger", as Grimmly recently put it. The sequence just didn't seem to come as naturally as it used to. At one point, I almost skipped a posture: I lay down immediately after Baddha Konasana, thinking that Supta Padangusthasana came after it! And speaking of Baddha Konasana, whatever hip muscles that are needed to bring my chest to the ground in that posture weren't as open as they used to be: I felt quite a bit of resistance as I went into the posture, and just barely managed to get my chin to the ground. Hmm... so I guess the muscles that are needed in order to get into a deep Baddha Konasana are different from those needed to put the leg behind the head in second series?
Hmm... I don't suppose you'd care for all these details about the current state of my practice, would you? Well, let's change the subject slightly to something that might hopefully interest you more. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I recently split my practice (i.e. started doing second series only, up to Karandavasana, in my case). I have also been posting quite a bit about my efforts in working with Karandavasana. In writing these posts, I have been working with the assumption that it is right and natural for an Ashtangi to split his or her practice once he or she has been given a certain number of postures in the second series (or whatever new series he or she is currently working on).
In a few comments on my previous post, Bindy offered a different perspective on this matter. She says that in the "old-school" way of learning Ashtanga, when she was learning the primary and second series, she had to do all of primary and second up to whatever posture she had been given at any given time; it was only after she had been given all the seven headstands in second that she was allowed by her teacher to do second only (I believe I am representing your views correctly thus far, Bindy. Please feel free to jump in if this is wrong :-)). Bindy also added that doing all of primary plus a substantial chunk of second has the advantage of building up one's stamina and preparing one for the rigors of daily second series practice. As someone who spent months doing all of primary and second up to Pincha Mayurasana, I definitely can see the merit of this view, especially the part about building stamina. I also think that all the forward bends and hip-openers in primary served as very good preparation for the leg-behind-head postures in second. Even now, I still do all of primary and second up to Karandavasana one or two days a week, and I can definitely feel the difference in hip-openness between these days and the days when I do second only.
But of course, as many of us know, these days, the standard practice--the "new wave", if you will--seems to be to split people somewhere between Dwi Pada Sirsasana and Karandavasana. At least, this has been my experience with all the teachers that I have studied with thus far. I suppose this is done for a couple of reasons. Perhaps the "old-school" way is simply too grueling and exhausting for most people. I also think that this has something to do with Sharath's recent statements that practice should not be longer than two hours at a time. The idea, I think, is that this practice is supposed to be a householder's practice, that most people who have jobs and families and lives and such simply cannot be expected to carve out 3.5 hours in a day (or more) to practice.
My purpose in writing this post is not to say that either the "old-school" or the "new wave" is better. As I mentioned, there are clear strengths to both approaches. I'm sure there are people out there who subscribe to either approach, and we should all do whatever works for us. But being the Ashtanga geek that I am ("Ashtangeek"?), I can't help musing about these things. So, I'm really not writing this post to take any position or make any particular point. But if you have any thoughts to share about this matter, I'll love to hear what you have to say.