Tim Miller's latest post on his blog is a great read. He relates his struggles with his Monday evening Intro to Ashtanga class. The entire post is very insightful, but the first few lines caught my attention:
"For the past 25 years I have been teaching an Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga class every Monday at 5:30pm. This class began when we opened the North County Yoga Center in 1988 as my attempt to initiate beginners into a practice that is very challenging on many levels simultaneously. Over the years I have attempted to present the practice in a user-friendly format, but if the practice is watered down too much it loses its primal potency."
That last sentence ("if the practice is watered down too much it loses its primal potency") struck me as being a very apt description of what the practice is about. There is something about moving the body in accordance with the breath and a strict vinyasa count that gives a primal, potent transformative character to the practice. In her book, Sacred Fire, Kino observes that you can't beg, borrow, or fake your way through transformation (I'm paraphrasing here, as I don't have the book with me, but I'll be doing a proper review of the book here soon, so stay tuned). The only thing to do is to move and breathe with the vinyasa count as honestly as you can, and let the practice transform you on its own terms.
At his Montana workshop this past weekend, Lino emphasized the same point as well. He said that, in the early days of his studies with Guruji, he knew nothing about the vinyasa count; he didn't even know the names of the poses! He didn't have to, because he had memorized the sequence of postures, and all he had to do was listen to Guruji's instructions on when to do what during practice. The whole time, Guruji was saying a whole bunch of things in Sanskrit (what we now know as the vinyasa count) that nobody understood anything about. Somewhere in the early nineties, Lino began to spend more time studying with Guruji and asking him questions about the practice and the vinyasa count. And this led eventually to his publication of that book detailing the vinyasa count of the primary and intermediate series which is now almost a bible among many Ashtangis. By the way, Lino has published a new book, which I purchased at his workshop. This new book has the vinyasa count for primary, intermediate, as well as Advanced A and B. It also has a Q&A section at the beginning, in which Lino talks about his experiences with the practice and with Guruji. Perhaps I'll try to share excerpts from this book in future posts.
Anyway... that was a whole bunch of neither-here-nor-there thoughts about everything and nothing about the practice and vinyasa and breath. Maybe I'll have more to say later, but for now, there are a whole bunch of things that I need to get done for the day. So I'll leave you here with these thoughts.