(1) and (2) are related, for many reasons. One possible reason is that if you are worrying about (1), you are also probably worrying about (2) as well. For instance, if you have come to the conclusion that doing Primary Series alone is not a balanced practice for you, given the present condition of your body, and are experimenting with second series postures on your own (or are even "seeing other yogas"), but are not prepared to stop calling yourself a traditional Ashtangi, then you may be concerned about whether your present practice consisting of your "self-given" postures (I know a lot of people out there don't like the words "given" and "give", but I'll stick with these, because these are the words that come to mind right now; I'm not feeling mentally nimble enough today to try to find more appropriate words. Yes, today is a "bad mind day". I hope you will excuse me...) would make the cut as a "traditional practice." So, there may be a certain kind of guilt involved here: Let me call this "Tradition Guilt."
Actually, you may suffer from Tradition Guilt even if you have been given the postures you are practicing now by your teacher. Suppose that, even though you haven't mastered the so-called "gateway poses" in primary (binding in Mari D, binding in Supta K, being able to drop back and stand up on your own, etc.), your teacher decides to move you on to second series anyway, because he or she believes that keeping you too long in primary would exacerbate certain pre-existing imbalances in your body. But suppose, further, that other supposedly more "tradition-observing" Ashtangis get wind of you and your teacher's un-traditional activities. The Ashtanga police are called, and all hell breaks loose. If you are a blogger and have been blogging about your, ahem, un-traditional activities on your blog, your comment threads will be besieged by these well-meaning tradition-observing folks, who are concerned that you and your teacher have strayed from the path of tradition and will soon burn in the fires of Ashtanga Hell. They therefore see it as their sacred duty to offer you their counsel and try to bring you back from the brink of eternal Ashtanga damnation. If you are even a little faint of heart, you might find yourself moved by their appeals; you might then start questioning your own practice (and also your teacher's judgment), and may thus suffer from Tradition Guilt over possibly not following tradition.
Is Tradition Guilt a justified kind of guilt to suffer from? Damn, this is such an awkward way of putting the question: I really am having a bad mind day. But I hope you get what I'm trying to say here... Many people in this day and age will argue that guilt is a useless and unproductive emotion, and that no guilt is ever justified. Well... maybe, I don't know, one way or the other. But the fact of the matter is that I suspect that many people out there do suffer from this Tradition Guilt, whether they want to admit it or not.
If you are such a sufferer, there's some good news here: I hereby absolve you!
[Image taken from here]
On what authority do I thus absolve you? You may ask. Well, none whatsoever; I'm a nobody in the Ashtanga world. But let me just give you my two cents' on this whole Tradition debate: It's pretty silly, really. Now, I'm not saying that tradition is not important in the Ashtanga practice; it is. But I think too many people are trying too hard to pin down what tradition is by appealing to the minutiae of the practice: If you do x, y, and z, and don't do a, b, and c, then you are not following tradition. If you take x number of breaths in Y-asana instead of taking y number of breaths, then you are not following tradition. If you do posture sequence B without first mastering posture sequence A, which Sacred Ashtanga text C strictly proscribes on pain of eternal hellfire, then you are not following tradition. And so and so forth. Ultimately, I feel that tradition is like water; it fits into many containers, but the minute you try to say that it is the shape of any one container, you lose its essence.
So what is tradition? Well, I don't have a one-word answer (or even a two-word answer) to this question. But I think it has something to do with this parampara thing, this notion of being able to trace what you do in some coherent fashion to Guruji. A recent commenter on the above-mentioned post at the Confluence Countdown puts it very nicely:
'The lineage of learning must be traced back to Guruji. This doesn’t mean your teacher needs to be authorized, as that’s not always a possibility. However, somewhere along the line, you need to be able to link it back to Guruji in a straight line. Even if it means you learned to practice at home with a video or a book (yikes!). Who is instructing? Who was their teacher? And their teacher… and so on. At some point, there needs to be personal contact directly with a teacher. If not, it may be Asthanga Vinyasa, but I wouldn’t classify it as “traditional.” Looking at the definition of traditional we get: existing in or as part of a tradition, where tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation); long-established.'
One important thing we can glean from these words is this: A practice isn't "traditional" just because it has been practiced for a very long time by a group of people. In other words, just because practice sequence A has been around for a hundred years while practice sequence B has only been around for ten years doesn't mean that practice sequence A is more traditional than B. The deciding factor here is not length of time the practice sequence has existed. What is important is whether you can trace what you are practicing back to Guruji in a more or less linear fashion. If you can, then your practice is traditional. If you can't, then, well... it's not.
I'm guessing that some people (or maybe even many people) out there would be rather unsatisfied with this understanding of tradition. It might seem a bit nebulous and vague. It certainly doesn't lend itself well to the kind of finger-pointing that many so-called traditionalists like to engage in, because even if I am doing second series before I can stand up from dropping back, if I have a way of linearly tracing what I am doing back to Guruji, then I pass the tradition test. And so do you, even though your practice may be very, very different from mine. Which means there is more than one way to be traditional, because many practices which seem very different when seen "from the outside", so to speak, can ultimately all be traced back to one source. Which probably doesn't sit well with the sort of mind that likes to be able to make quick judgments about whether things are this or that (or neither). But, to use a very cliched turn of phrase, it is what it is. Why should tradition fit itself within our narrow mental constructs?
Wow, I just procrastinated away half an afternoon writing this post... Why do I do this? Am I addicted to blogging? Am I writing this blog, or is this blog somehow an organic being that is pulling things out of my mind and putting it here? Hmm... what do I know? Anyway, I better go get some "real work" done now. In the meantime, if you have anything to say, I'll love to hear from you.