Monday, May 13, 2013

Supersonic practice, "Can you do this?"

This morning, I did my usual practice (full primary and second up to Supta Vajrasana). When I looked at my cellphone at the end of practice, I realized that the whole thing had taken just one hour and twenty-six minutes.  And I'm very sure I didn't skip any postures.

So yes, I did full primary plus one third of second series in a sizzling one hour and twenty-six minutes! Which means I had broken the "sound barrier", as far as my own practice is concerned: I've never been able to get through a practice of this length in so short a time before. Which is curious, because the pace of the practice didn't feel particularly sizzling when I was doing it. I didn't feel like I was rushing through anything. I suppose it is always possible that I was rushing through chaturanga, thus shaving off a few minutes... but really, how many minutes can one shave off by skimping on the chaturangas? Or maybe it's the weather; it's finally starting to get really warm here in Idaho. Could warm weather make one move faster? Or maybe I had shaved another few minutes off by breathing shorter breaths in Navasana; for many people (including probably myself), unless you are following somebody else's count (e.g. Sharath: "Ashtau up, exhale down, Supta aagain Nawasana!..."), there is always a tendency to speed up one's breath and count in this pose (for rather obvious reasons).

Well, speaking of Navasana, let's take a look at what is arguably the most famous Navasana video ever made. Here's Lino, floating from Navasana into handstand and then back into Navasana, and looking like he's taking a walk in the park the whole time:

I hear that floating into handstand from Navasana is no longer "kosher" in Mysore; I hear that people have been yelled at by Sharath for doing it. Doesn't bother me; I've never really been a handstand fanatic in any case. But whatever the case may be, you can't deny that watching somebody like Lino float effortlessly between Navasana and handstand is a great pleasure for the eyes (Ashtanga eye-candy?...).


In a recent post, Grimmly announced that our friend Susan will be teaching "Ashtanga Yoga Level 1" at this place called the Light Center Moorgate in London on Monday and Thursday evenings at 18:45. How wonderful! Well, if you happen to be in London (as in London, United Kingdom, not London, Ontario) on Mondays and Thursdays at 18:45, and feel that you could use some Ashtanga instruction, do think about dropping by (wait, do they allow drop-ins?...). 

Anyway, there are two things that can be said about the above announcement: (1) Ashtanga blogging must really have jumped the shark if the blogosphere has now become a place where bloggers announce classes that are going on halfway across the world (I mean, isn't this what yoga studio websites' schedules are supposed to be for?). None of this, of course, is meant in any way to detract from the great news of Susan's teaching at a brand new studio; this is indeed an auspicious beginning. But still, one can't help observing...

(2) As I looked at Moorgate's website, I couldn't help noticing the following picture and caption: 

[Image taken from here]

The picture is used as part of an advertisement for a free introductory class voucher. Which is, in a way, understandable: For people who can't touch their toes, the prospect of one day being able to do Samakonasana (a.k.a. the Russian Split, the Chinese Split) while wearing a suit might be appealing... or would it? One would think that a picture of somebody actually touching her toes might get the message across more effectively... but then again, what do I know? I don't run yoga studios for a living...

But the question "Can you do this?" does sound like the sort of thing that certain well-meaning yoga enthusiasts out there might say to their unconverted friends in an attempt to get them to go to yoga class. Actually, here's a story that might prove instructive. A few months ago, a friend who had known my practice for a few years was observing me doing primary series. After watching me do a few postures to Sharath's count, she remarked that my practice has moved from a place of "Can you do this?/Look what I can do!" to a place where I am simply, well, doing my practice, without seeming to care that much about what I or anybody else can or cannot do. Personally, I consider that to be an external validation of the fact that my practice has become more and more an inwardly-focused thing than an outwardly focused thing (although, strictly speaking, one is not supposed to need external validation of inward focus: There is something vaguely oxymoronic about this idea. But still...).

Anyway, I think this is enough rambling for one day. More later. 


  1. ok i liked this. It followed (or echoled) my own mental twists and turns. Nice post

  2. Didn't actually look that closely at the ad when I put it up, just saw Susan had posted some pictures of the place, quick cut and place and up it went. My personal leanings are of course towards a sparse cell, rinsed with cow dung (and well ventilated) but that's just me. That said M. has talked about doing some Yoga on the way to work and that 'on the way to work' is key, I can see the appeal of somewhere bright and shiny clean with good showers that allow you to leave the studio/shala just as fresh as when you left the house, I get it. I get the pictures too, of all the postures they could choose they went for a stretch (rather than a 'power move'), M. wants to feel more flexible and that second picture with the girl fresh and genki (still in the business suit) is actually quite good, wouldn't you like to feel like that as you head off to work or after finishing work.....not exactly how I feel after a hot sweaty Ashtanga practice but still : )
    Ad's are always curious. I saw an Ashtanga one somewhere where it suggested that you need to try it for ten years....can you think of anything else you would 'try' for ten years, a car, a toaster? Do you get ten years of shala fees back if you decide it didn't work for you? Which two pictures would you choose from the Ashtanga cannon to represent the practice noble, am curious.

    thanks for echoing the post, we can be Fonzie together

    1. Yes, let's be Fonzie together :-)

      I think I see your point about feeling fresh and genki in a business suit. I wasn't seeing it this way when I wrote the post; I was thinking more along the lines of "Gee, that can't be comfortable to stretch in..." But then again, why can't business suits be comfortable to stretch in? :-) I am obviously imposing limitations and boundaries where none need to exist...

      Then again, I don't suppose anybody would want to do an Ashtanga practice in a business suit, no matter how stretchy and comfortable. But that's another story, I guess...

      I wouldn't mind getting ten years of shala fees back ;-) It's gotta be quite a chunk of change...

      Which two postures would I choose from the Ashtanga canon to represent the practice? That's a really good question; haven't really thought about it. the problem is that, in my opinion, no one (or two) postures (or even group of postures) are really emblematic of Ashtanga; unlike Iyengar, which most people associate with Mr. Iyengar's famous backbends. As for Ashtanga, hmm... I don't know, maybe Dwipada Sirsasana? No particular reason for choosing this pose; it just popped into my head just now (probably because there are lots of pictures of Kino in various variations of that pose.


  3. I think the ad hits a nerve in many people who aren't 'inaugurated' to yoga. Most people with a 9 to 5 job complain about tense and painful why not try yoga and look fresh in a suit? :)

    Congrats on your practice! I do only primary up to Bhujapidasana and it always takes me 1:10-1:20 minutes to finish... Mainly due to the many many breaths I take when I set up for the Janus and Marichys and backbends.

    I also noticed that it says you're not following my blog...does it show you that I follow you?


    1. Your blog doesn't seem to have the "Follow" button on it that I can click on to become a follower. Or is it hidden somewhere? I don't know; blogger just keeps coming up with new things all the time. It's hard to keep up :-)

      Actually, fast practice doesn't necessarily equal good practice, especially if one's breath is strained throughout the practice. I think it was Richard Freeman who said somewhere that after all these years, he is still trying to do the slowest possible primary series...

      Yes, I suppose you are right that looking fresh in a suit is appealing (I don't wear one often, so I can't really empathize ;-)).

    2. i'd never wear a women's suit, no matter if it's with pants or a skirt, haha...i prefer the jeans&shirt with sneakers look :)

      i thought there was a follow button now? it's all the way down at the bottom, but i'll move it to the right side now so people can see it.

      also, when you're on your dashboard, just below the header 'Reading List' there's a button that reads 'Add' and when you click it you can just copy+paste any blog URL you want to follow. this way you can follow many blogs from other hosts than blogger as well (e.g. wordpress)

      hope that helps! :)

      and for the practice speed - if you're only doing primary, then it will be very beneficial to be slow for building muscle i guess. but when you do primary + a part of second i guess you also have to budget your energy...(couldn't say this from experience, though!)

    3. Thanks for the tips. I just followed your blog (I'm following under "siegfried23").

      It's really great that you are going to Kino and Tim's workshop. I'm sure you will learn lots!

    4. thank you, you're so nice :)

      it will be a dream come true to study with them

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  5. Hey Nobel. Minding the traditional count like a hawk and getting really absorbed in counting the breath has been so useful lately. I think I was in a state of "autopilot" for a while. I've applied myself to counting again and I've picked up the pace quite a bit though it doesn't feel any faster. It feels good. I've been listening to the S. video - not during practice, but separately, and then recalling it in my head while practicing.

    While I wouldn't want to do yoga in a business suit, I do suit up almost every morning after practice. I think "business suit" and yoga can go hand and hand. I used to have hang ups about this - like I can't be real yogi and a good lawyer at the same time. I realized the faultiness of that thinking a few years ago in part with the help of a teacher. I've never practiced better - law or yoga - than when allowing myself to just give to both of these parts of my life simultaneously and without holding back. No fighting either aspect.

  6. Kristen, try and get hold of Manju's DVD , he has this led with the whole class repeating the count the name of the posture as well as the drishti