I just read David Robson's latest post on Elephant Journal about doing the practice to the correct vinyasa count. If you practice the primary series to the correct vinyasa count, you can actually complete the practice in an hour and five minutes (those of you who have practiced to Sharath's led primary CD, or better yet, have done led primary in Mysore with Sharath, will know what I'm talking about here).
But trying to do the practice to the correct vinyasa count is such a humbling experience. Well, at least for me, it is. For me, the attempt to keep up with the vinyasa count reveals with brutal honesty how I often consciously or unconsciously "cheat" in the practice by taking extra breaths to get into more challenging postures or to do fancy stuff like floating or jumping back with straight legs (yes, these things cause you to "cheat" in the practice, because most mortals--well, at least this particular mortal--have to take at least one extra breath to do such fancy stuff, which messes up the vinyasa count). In this sense, the vinyasa count really calls me out; it's saying to me, "No fancy bullshit, my friend: Just do the practice!"
But back to Robson's article. It's such a great article. I learnt so much from his words. The following passages really stand out to me:
"...more struggle often seems to create an opportunity for more mindfulness. My practice is just as often about the discrepancies in the vinyasa as much as it is the times I actually match the count. Both experiences are mired in citta, and can provide the same opportunities for observation and non-attachment.
However, while I don’t have to be able to do floating jump backs, or get into Marichyasana D in one breath to gain the benefits of the practice, I do have to try as hard as I can—whether I can do it or not, the vinyasa count does matter. The count keeps me focused on the breath and in the present moment. And it is only by striving to match the vinyasa that the deep, internal heat of tapas, and its corresponding purification, will come.
In Ashtanga we work at our personal edge every day. That work is to balance sincere effort with ease and surrender. The vinyasa frames our experience during practice, limiting our focus to the prescribed breath and movement. But we also need to apply non-attachment, vairagya, to the experiences that practice yields.
I believe that the unattainable quality of the vinyasa count and the never-ending difficulty of the poses are designed to cultivate softness as much as strength. We need the ideal, the strong rules of the practice to direct and focus our energy. And we also need to accept the results of our efforts, whatever they are, with equanimity. When both sincere effort and non-attachment are present in our practice, correct vinyasa might just happen."
I totally agree with Robson here, especially that last paragraph. Very often during the practice, I tend to get a bit too attached to the physical outcomes of the postures. When that happens, a lot of chitta vrtti is aroused ("What?! How come I can only just barely catch my fingers in Supta Kurmasana today? Oh no, am I getting fat?! But I practice everyday, and do my best to limit my intake of potato chips. Why is this still happening to me? Why?!..."). Keeping to the vinyasa count is the practice's way of telling us that none of any of this really matters. Just breathe and move, and all is coming. It's like this with the practice. And it's also like this with life. In a word: Vairagyabhyam. Non-attachment.