Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The vinyasa count, keeping one's teachers in mind: A few thoughts on self-practice, and a couple of totally useless chess observations

Earlier today, I was chatting with a friend at the coffeeshop that I normally hang out and do my work at. He was telling me that he went to bed at 4:30 this morning (I won't tell you why he did that, out of respect for his privacy). I replied that that was the exact time I got out of bed. Which is not exactly true, strictly speaking; I did sit in bed for a few minutes before I finally succeeded in lifting my ass out of bed (seriously, somebody needs to come up with a vinyasa count for getting out of bed in the morning: Ekam, turn body over; Dwe, swing legs over bed; Inhale, exhale there; Trini, stand up...). But I decided I did not need to overwhelm my friend with so much information. "In any case," I continued, "this means that at least one of us is conscious at any given moment of the day. Interesting, no?" Which drew a chuckle from my friend.

This little conversation with my friend brought my attention to one interesting fact: With the exception of trips here and there to study with various teachers, it has been more than three years since I have practiced at home, without the benefit of frequent practice at a shala, and the benefits of continued regular attention from a teacher that this brings. How have I been able to keep up this demanding practice throughout all the inevitable physical, mental, and emotional ups and downs that accompany the journey of practice? Two things stand out to me right off the top of my head:  

(1) Keeping to the vinyasa count to the best of my ability: One benefit of practicing regularly (once a week, in my case) to Sharath's led primary CD is that, over time, you start to get the vinyasa count down. For instance, in the seated postures of primary, you jump through into the pose on the first side on "Sapta", and after doing both sides, you end up on "Vimsatihi" with many postures. In the last few weeks, I have actually been counting the vinyasa count in my head as I move through the postures. I have found that doing this helps to keep me focused and prevent too many extraneous thought (i.e. monkey mind) from intruding. There is something about counting that prevents one from faffing and/or obsessing too much over postures. This is true even if I do end up giving myself one or two more breaths to get into Marichyasana D and Garbha Pindasana. Esepecially the former: I have yet to personally see anybody who can get into Mari D and bind in Sapta without taking one or two extra breaths. But I guess this is not the point: I think the idea behind keeping to the vinyasa count is that it reminds you that the practice is really a flow, and that you just have to keep on moving and breathing.

(2) Keeping in mind my teachers: Most of the time, I do this without even consciously trying to do so. For instance, in the first couple of downward dogs in Surya A, I sometimes find myself imagining one of my teachers (say, Kino) adjusting me. I often also find myself imagining one of my teachers squishing me in Paschimottanasana. I can't help thinking that it is little things like that that show that the practice is ultimately a communal experience; one feels the power of the Ashtanga community even if one is practicing by oneself most of the time. I also suppose that people who have met Guruji and formed a personal connection with him might imagine Guruji adjusting them or talking to them in his heavily South-Indian-accented English ("Why fearing, you?") during the course of their daily practices. But since I have never met Guruji, I can't know this for sure. By the way, this is also one of the reasons why I did not post anything on this blog yesterday (Guru Purnima): Although I certainly owe much to Guruji for being able to do this practice, I can't honestly say that I have a personal connection to him, and writing an homage to somebody I have never met just seems a little disingenuous.

Anyway... I don't really have much else to say here. I just thought I'd record a few practice thoughts here (For what? For posterity? Are a bunch of aliens going to dig this up and read it a few thousand years from now, when I am gone? :-)) before I eat some dinner and watch my nightly dose of Battlestar Galactica (I'm starting season 4 tonight... yay!).


Oh, and just in case this interests you, I made a couple of observations while playing chess with a friend earlier today: Isn't it interesting that the most powerful piece in chess is a woman (i.e. the queen)? Isn't it even more interesting that if you find the enemy queen very close to your king, somebody very bad is probably going to happen to you (i.e. an impending checkmate)? Moral of the story: Having a woman close to you is trouble... unless she is on your side!

[Image taken from here]

P.S. If you think this is a sexist observation, let me know, and I will consider (although I cannot promise) keeping such observations strictly to myself from now on. 


  1. I'm thinking you should totally make an alarm clock app that gives you a vinyasa count to get out of bed! It could have Sharath's voice for a male option and Grace Park for the female one.

    1. I think I'll pick the Grace Park option... ha, getting awakened by a Cylon! Nice...

  2. oh my, i really laughed at your idea for a vinyasa count to get out of bed! would be so amazing :D

    i'm so far away from entering postures in the correct vinyasa count (except sun salutations and standing postures up to utthita hasta padanghustasana) but i can imagine your approach to not obsessing over getting a posture 'right' is very helpful.

    i actually really like going to led class every friday/every second friday because the practice differs so much from when you're doing it alone/mysore style

  3. "i really laughed at your idea for a vinyasa count to get out of bed! would be so amazing :D"

    Wouldn't it? :-)

    Yes, it is really great to be able to go to led class regularly. I make up for this inability to go to led class by practicing to Sharath's count.

    Congratulations on getting one step closer to becoming a yoga teacher!