Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Patron Saint of Yoga in the Dragon's Den, Hanumanasana, seeing/flirting with other yoga

Last Saturday afternoon, on the spur of the moment, I decided to do some lunges to open up my psoas and quads, which were feeling a bit tight from sitting too long in front of my computer (yes, this is a common occupational hazard of blogging ;-)). I looked around a little on Youtube, and found the above video by Kino, whom Grimmly refers to affectionately in a recent post as "the treasured patron saint of the Home Ashtangi." Speaking of patron saints, I have recently also begun to wonder if Kino might not have become the unofficial patron saint of Yoga in the Dragon's Den as well; if you look at the blog labels at the bottom of this blog, you will find that "kino" comes up the second most number of times, after "practice." But maybe I shouldn't say this, lest somebody out there sees me as being a Kino-worshipper (which, in the minds of some of her detractors, may well be akin to being a devil-worshipper...). Hmm... does making a famous Ashtanga teacher the patron saint of one's blog constitute an "Ashtanga crime"? ;-)

But enough of these random ramblings. As I was saying, I did some lunges last Saturday afternoon. After watching Kino's video above, I did a few Surya As to warm up, and then proceeded to do a few of the lunges in the sequence featured in the video. But by about halfway through the sequence, I felt that my psoas and quads were already so open. And then a possibly criminal thought occurred to me: "You know, since you are already so open, why not do something more... advanced? Like, you know, Hanumanasana?"

As many of you who are familiar with the sequence of Ashtanga postures will know, Hanumanasana (a.k.a. the western split) occurs in Ashtanga at the end of the third series. And I haven't even completed second series! But, overcome by the devilish influence of my criminal mind, I decided to give Hanumanasana a shot anyway (the posture, by the way, is not new to me: In my pre-Ashtanga days, Hanumanasana was one of my favorite postures. But I have not performed the pose since becoming a "law-abiding" Ashtangi.). I proceeded to do it on the first side, with the right leg extended out in front of me. It was... alright. Didn't get very deep into it; there were probably two or three inches remaining between my groin and the mat. Given that I had only done Surya As and a few lunges for warmups, I also decided not to push my luck; whenever I do Hanumanasana, which is not very often, there is always, in the back of my mind, that story of a young Mr. Iyengar ripping his hamstrings in this posture because Krishnamacharya ordered him to do it, and Iyengar had not mastered the posture at the time. So I always approach Hanumanasana with a certain degree of fear and trembling :-)

But then I tried the second side. I extended my left leg in front of me, slid it forward, and voila! the entire length of both my legs and my groin were touching the mat! Which came as a surprise to me, because historically, my right leg had always been the more flexible leg. But even though I was doing the full expression of the pose on this second side, I wasn't feeling as comfortable in it as I would have if I were warmer. So I stayed in the posture for five rather short breaths, and then exited the posture. And then I went into a brief savasana to complete this mini-practice.

So on that afternoon, I did two things that are not "kosher" in Ashtanga: (1) I did a posture I have not been "given", (2) I did it out of sequence. Hmm... does this mean I was seeing other yoga? Or perhaps just flirting with/kissing other yoga? I don't really know the answers to these questions (or maybe I do, but I refuse to admit that I do...). But maybe you do? Feel free to share your thoughts on this and other matters, if you have any.          


  1. I've been an Ashtangi criminal lately as well!!I've been adding a few postures at the end of my practice that are from the middle of 2nd series, just because they feel nice on my back. :) And I personally think that this is totally okay, its nice to add in a little something extra sometimes when you're doing your practice at home.

    1. I'm one of those people who were "given" the second series backbends by my teacher (all the way up to Kapotasana) before I could even stand up from dropping back. So although I try to be respectful of tradition and the method, I'm definitely not in a position to criticize others for being "criminal". And in any case, you can't deny that many of the second series postures (e.g. Ardha Matsyendrasana) are really therapeutic and are very good for getting into hard-to-get-to places like the IT band, for example... so yes, go on and be "criminal"... :-)

  2. P.S. I love that Kino reads your blog :) She is great!

  3. The Ashtanga Fundamentalist is something that exists only in people's imagination, like one of Plato's forms. For God's sake -- do your prep poses and repeat to yourself, "I am a good person."

    About the previous Hooters post. Perhaps it is relevant that Hemingway sat in Parisian cafes, and read, and drank absinthe.

    Enjoy these two exquisite bits of film, from Midnight in Paris. Dialogue by Woody Allen, but pure Hemingway in all his glorious embrace of love and life.

    "I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death."



    1. If I am getting my Plato right, I believe that Plato actually thinks that the forms are more "real" than anything that has ever existed, is existing now, or will come to exist in the world.

      I agree with everything you say about Hemingway. I guess what I was trying to say in that post was that Hemingway would almost certainly have more style and panache when responding to the server than I did :-)

      I love Midnight in Paris. I really think it's one of Woody Allen's better movies. And I think that actor (can't remember his name) who played Hemingway really brought out what I have always envisioned Hemingway to be like in real life.

    2. I'd wager that you'd hold your own if you were also fueled by absinthe -- the stuff is legal now, you know. :)

      As I read your comment, we're also in agreement about Plato.

    3. I should try to get my hands on some absinthe soon, then :-)

  4. Oh Nobel, you really need to get out more if performing hanumanasana is your idea of an illicit activity.

    Gentle teasing only my friend!