Monday, December 17, 2012

Storm-trooping through the practice and life; a congenial Ashtanga educational moment

Apparently, Ashtanga is what stormtroopers do for fun, i.e. when they are not storm-trooping
[Image courtesy of Leaping Lanka]

And storm-trooping is what Ashtangis do for non-fun. The day so far has been a day of much storm-trooping, starting from this morning's practice. Because I am still a bit congested, I decided I wasn't up for my usual full-on second series practice, with Karandavasana and all that good stuff that I had been doing over the last few weeks. Instead, I decided to scale back my practice. So I did full primary and then second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana. I suppose I could have just done primary, but I actually like doing backbends, especially Kapotasana. I like the feeling of lightness that I get through the rest of the day after a powerful backbend practice.

Or maybe all those primary series naysayers out there (you know who you are...) are right: Primary alone may not be the most balanced practice, and one needs some backbending/lengthening of the front body to balance things out. I don't know, one way or the other. All I know is, I can do primary, and I can also do a large chunk of second. So until I make it to Mysore and have to do primary only for a long time (because that's the way it is), I will continue to do primary and whatever parts of second I can do.

Anyway, you probably don't need to know any of this. But as I was saying, practice this morning was a storm-trooping practice. No thinking, just move. Hold asana A for 5 breaths. Done. Then move to Asana B. Rinse and repeat. Then move to Asana C. And so and so forth. I had to pause a couple of times to blow my nose to clear the accumulated congestion, but other than that, the pace was steady. Maybe the purpose of Ashtanga is to turn us all into yogic storm-troopers. Interesting idea, don't you think? :-)

And the rest of the day was also mostly a big exercise in storm-trooping. There were (and still are) a lot of very menial and repetitive tasks to get through. Won't bore you with what those are (but I can give you a little hint: What kinds of repetitive tasks do college professors have to do at the end of the semester?).

But the whole day wasn't just endless, brainless storm-trooping. There was also a very interesting Ashtanga Educational Moment when I stopped by the neighborhood coffeeshop for some chai earlier today.

When I walked in the coffeeshop, this super-perky barista was behind the counter. To give you a sense of what I mean by "super-perky", picture somebody who runs everyday and is, by all accounts, an-all-around athlete, works two jobs, goes to college, and also participates in beauty pageants (she tells me that she has won Miss Congeniality before).  Over and above that, she somehow also manages to greet and engage everybody who comes into the coffeeshop in, well, congenial small talk. Actually, come to think of it, maybe the congenial small-talking is a kind of practice run for what she does in pageants. I guess I'll never know, since I don't go to pageants. But in any case, because of her assiduous efforts at congenial small-talking over the last few months, she has found out that I do yoga for a couple of hours every morning, even though she doesn't know what kind of yoga I do.

Great. Now I can't invite her to read this blog. See, this is what happens when you feature characters from "real" life in your blogs. But anyway, since she is not going to read this blog, I'll call her Miss Congeniality from now on. This is roughly how the small talk went this morning:

Miss Congeniality: Nobel! How did your yoga go this morning?

Nobel: Great.

Miss C: Do you teach yoga, or have any plans to teach it in the future?

Nobel: No.

Miss C: Why not?

Nobel: Well, I do this thing called Ashtanga Yoga. Ever heard of it?

Miss C: No, I haven't. Has it got something to do with that thing called Chaturanga?

Nobel (thinks to himself): Ah, you know Chaturanga! This makes it easier... (then says to Miss C): Well, yeah. Chaturanga is actually one of the many poses in Ashtanga Yoga. Ever heard of Power Yoga?

Miss C: Yes. I did a session of it the other day after going for a run, and it totally kicked my butt!

Nobel: Cool! Yeah, you see, Power Yoga is actually derived from Ashtanga Yoga, which originated in Mysore, India. Or you could also say that Power Yoga evolved from Ashtanga. [Note to reader: I decided that now is not a good time to overwhelm her by bringing up the whole Beryl Bender Birch vs. Pattabhi Jois dispute]. I actually have friends who go to India every year to study Ashtanga. And most of them come back here and teach it to small groups of people. So we're a little bit like "underground" yoga. We don't really believe in teaching big, big groups of people at one time. A few of my friends actually teach from their homes. [Another note to reader: For the sake of simplicity and to keep my story tight, I also decided not to mention people like Kino, who actually do teach to big groups of people.]

Miss C: Wow! How cool! You know, you and I and your fiancee should get together in your apartment one day and do some yoga. You know, light some candles and incense, be all peaced-out, and get the poses flowing...

I can't remember exactly what I said in response to this; part of me was probably trying to suppress a smile at the idea of burning candles and incense and peacing-out while doing Ashtanga with a college beauty queen. In any case, I think I demurred, saying that my cockatiels don't like the smell of candles and incense or something along those lines. I also didn't have the heart to tell her that I would be moving to Idaho next month. But I did tell her about a couple of friends in the area who do Ashtanga, and suggest that she could get in touch with them.

Well, I think that qualifies as an Ashtanga Educational Moment, doesn't it? Certainly makes the rest of my storm-trooping day worthwhile. In the meantime, I'm going to have to sign off here, and get back to more storm-trooping...       


  1. What theme are you using on your site ? I like the design. Many thanks for this posting.

    1. Thanks for liking the design. There is no theme on my site. I just post whatever I feel like posting, which usually (but not always) ends up having something to do with yoga.

  2. You and Ms. Congeniality have greatly improved my mood today.

    1. I can't speak for Ms. Congeniality, but I am happy to be of service :-)

  3. peace-ing out. wow. your encounter is something i deal with on a daily basis. runners are so perky-until they get hurt & can't run anymore. they usually show up in my yoga class. astanga is harder than running a marathon so usually this phase will not last & it's just a matter of time b4 they are out & running despite injury & pain. {{{sigh}}} it's an endorphin thing.

    1. "it's just a matter of time b4 they are out & running despite injury & pain."

      Sometimes I wonder if Ashtangis and runners are really so different from each other...

    2. it depends on the practitioner. (btw-why is it so hard to post on blogspot?)

    3. Sorry, Bindy, I wish I knew why it is so hard to psot on blogspot; I've also received similar complaints from other people.