I worked slowly and carefully with the hamstring, doing an extra Surya B to try to slowly work it out. The tightness persisted through the Suryas, and the first few standing postures. But when I got to the Prasaritas, things got a lot better. There was still a slight "off" sensation, but other than that, it seemed to have opened quite nicely.
Because of this less-than-fully-powerful start to my practice, I thought of doing primary only. But I went ahead and did second anyway. Why? I'm not sure; probably a combination of stubbornness and curiosity about how my mind and body can function under less-than-ideal conditions. Not the best kind of curiosity to have, I admit: It sometimes gets me into trouble.
Second proved doable. Kapotasana felt harder than normal, although I still got my heels. Surprisingly, leg-behind-head wasn't hard at all, despite my worries about my left hamstring. And then Karandavasana... today is definitely not a good Karandavasana day. Made four attempts, and didn't land the duck a single time. Finally convinced myself that it wasn't going to happen today, and moved on to finishing.
So all in all, today's practice was somewhat lackluster, physically speaking. But that's practice. Some days one floats along like a butterfly, other days one crawls along like a caterpillar. But butterfly or caterpillar, one practices. And then, all is coming.
Along with the latest incarnation of Kinogate has sprung up a side discussion about the "99 percent practice, 1 percent theory" doctrine (for more details, see the comments in this article).
In the discussion, Nathan remarked that,
"Perhaps the 1% theory view is part of the problem. When people don’t take the time to learn the philosophy and spiritual teachings behind the physical practice, and then actually allow that to become embodied in their lives, you get all sorts of junk coming out. Including a hell of a lot of flaky yoga, and sometimes equally flaky judgements."
Interesting. Let me begin by noting that Guruji said, "Yoga is 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory." I'm quite sure he did not say, "Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory." Which means that he intends for this statement to apply to any kind of yoga, not just Ashtanga. I know this makes me sound like some kind of an Ashtanga Fundamentalist, but before you get mad and start hurling such accusations at me, take a moment to consider the matter: Guruji also did not say that "Yoga is 99 percent physical practice, 1 percent theory."
What all this means is that, according to Guruji, whatever kind of yoga you practice (Raja, Bhakti, Jnana, Karma, etc.), no amount of theoretical understanding is going to get you anywhere if you do not spend a lot of time and energy devoting yourself to practicing whatever you have learnt, however much or little that may be: As a general rule of thumb, for every one ounce of energy and/or time that one invests in theoretical study, one needs to invest 99 times more of that time and energy into practice. Hence the "99 percent practice, 1 percent theory" doctrine. This applies whether practice for you consists of doing the primary series (or whatever series you are working on), devotional chanting, doing good works, or meditating on particular scriptures. In Ashtanga, you simply can't "get" the philosophy and spiritual teachings behind the physical practice without doing the physical practice. I think David Williams said somewhere that before you do the practice, the theory is useless; after you do the practice, the theory is obvious.
I think the trouble here is that there is some kind of an artificial divide going on: People who think that the so-called spiritual aspects of yoga are more important tend to think that getting too much into the physical practice causes one to shut off the mind/consciousness, leading to "flaky yoga" (hmm... not quite sure I know what this means, but whatever...). I can't help feeling that such a way of looking at yoga belies a tendency to draw an artificial line between the "physical" and "spiritual" aspects of the practice, when one cannot properly be separated from the other: Done properly, the physical is spiritual (and probably the other way around too...). Any attempt to artificially separate and divide the two runs the risk of turning yoga into a cerebral exercise.
These, at any rate, are my paltry thoughts on this issue. And no, I do not think that whatever I write on this blog counts as that "1 percent theory" that Guruji talks about. This is just me running my mind off in a random, musing fashion.