Sunday, February 17, 2013

Letting go of fancy stuff is hard...

Especially when it comes to the Ashtanga practice. During yesterday afternoon's session here at Randa's workshop, Randa gently informed me that I have been taking an extra breath to set up for jumping back after each posture in the primary series. For instance, in, say, Janu Sirsasana A, I would let go of my foot after the five breaths in the posture, and extend my legs into Dandasana before I lift up to jump back. For more details about what I'm saying, see my, ahem, famous primary series practice video below:



Well, according to Randa (and according to Guruji and Lino, according to Randa), this is not supposed to happen. You are supposed to stay in the pose when Sharath (or whoever) tells you to inhale and exhale there. Then when he says "up", you simply lift up while still in the asana, and then jump back into chatvari position. In other words, the whole straightening the legs into dandasana thing, while a nice strengthening posture and fancy to look at and shit, is not necessary (and also possibly not "correct method", if you are the Ashtanga police :-)).

Well, I find this a bit hard to accept, probably because I have been doing this dandasana lifting thing for, like, forever, and find it a bit hard to let go of. But I'll see what I can do. Speaking of which, morning mysore is coming up in a few minutes here at the workshop's last session. We'll see how my attempt at no-lifting-up-in-dandasana goes. Will keep you posted on this :-) 

11 comments:

  1. Nonesense, the count is merely to indicate which movement goes with which aspect of the breath we can take a break from the count a any point, while in a posture for example we might stay for three, five eight or ten breaths or even for fifteen minutes if we wish. We can also take a break from the count to get into a tricky posture rather than force our joints in a rush. Correct method bah...... : ) the vinyasa count does seem to have been put in place to keep the young boys of the palace in line and focus their attention. As long as your inhaling and exhaling with the correct movement your fine and in line with K's teaching, secondary sources are always problematic

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    1. Manju also said one time " make sure you inhale and exhale , this is the correct method of vinyasa " i total agree with you A. :)

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    2. Thanks for chiming in, Grimmly and Sissy. I think there is something to be said for "correct method". I think it helps to put a sort of tangible structure and rhythm to the whole practice (although, as I said below, correct method is also relative to teacher and tradition).

      I also like your distinction between method and style, Grimmly. Well, here's a question: Should "correct" correct method rule out any space for style and so-called-embellishments? I don't know the answer to this. Just thinking aloud.

      Maybe I should just go practice, and stop thinking about these things :-) But if one doesn't know the answers to these questions, how does one know if one's practice method is "correct"? Isn't this a very chicken-and-egg thing? Okay.. I'll shut up now.

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  2. Of course I wouldn't argue the point in their space but politely acknowledge their point, try it out and then go with what feels right when I get back to my own space and my own practice. I find the idea of correct method and lineage highly problematic, no doubt one reason I prefer to explore my practice a home....or is hat two reasons.

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  4. Sod it, one more comment. This raise interesting questions concerning method and style perhaps. The appropriate inhalation or exhalation for a particular movement strikes me as coming under method, how long to stay whether to include kumbhaka or not, when, where nd how to jump back, style. Which kumbhaka, if you choose to employ it (style) would come under method, after exhalation in a fold, after inhalation when stretching up would come under correct method. Not including kumbhaka in twists or backbend would again come under method. Length of breath, as well as how many to take in a posture would again be style.
    I prefer it when teachers just say this is how it's taught now or how I was taught rather than resorting to correct method, I wonder if Brahmacharya would have been happy with how K. Adapted his teaching for the boys o h Mysore Palace. How much of K's own teaching is correct method n how much style.

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    1. Note to self- Stop trying to comment on blogs using the iPad, my one handed, touchscreen keyboard skills are clearly not up to the job.

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    2. Perhaps we can think of it this way: "Correct method" is relative to teacher and tradition. I'm guessing many will disagree with me about this, but if you think about it, it can't be more obvious (and therefore, true).

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    3. I still not convinced that tradition and lineage makes sense in this context of Ashtanga. For me tradition and lineage suggest a much grander scale. Sharath seems to be doing an excellent job of preserving his Grandfather's later approach to teaching but this seems to me to be a narrow and simplified version of what we find in Krishnamacharya's writing at the time he was teaching Pattabhi Jois. It doesn't seem to me that we can cherry pick what we want to preserve and call that a tradition or a lineage or refer to anyone as 'lineage holder.
      I watched the Movie Dogen recently. In one scene, upon achieving samadhi Dogen is given a document with all the names of the Abbots in his lineage, that have preceded him in the tradition of that particular teaching that has been preserved through the centuries. Dogen then brings, this lineage, this teaching to Japan and it's continued to be passed on in the exact same way at Eihei-ji to the present day.
      But perhaps i have too grand an idea of lineage and tradition.Always so damned idealistic.

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    4. Also worth examining is the idea that any hereditary relationship automatically constitutes parampara.

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