Primary Friday: That's More Like It

 Yesterday's Primary was delightful.  Sooooo much better than last week.

I remembered the order of the sequence and stayed with the breath counts all the way through Purvottanasana without needing to check the book, which I still leave open on the floor at the top of my mat.  I came much closer to a recognizable expression of Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, though it still feels horribly askew and I can't help but wonder what it looks like.  I've been using an upright variation for Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, variation B in Swenson's manual.  My hip craves the forward bend, but my knees stubbornly refuse.

Dandasana is a deceptively challenging pose.  I never employ it in my own practice apart from these Primary sessions, so it's been interesting to spend a little more time in the pose.  About a year ago, my grandmother and I were discussing yoga.  She was asking me lots of questions about the nature of the practice, the poses, etc, and I was trying my best to answer them, but it's really such a vast and formless thing, this yoga, so I have difficulties trying to explain it in practical ways.   After summarizing the importance of the breath and focus, it occurred to me that Dandasana is an excellent illustration of the work of yoga, the purpose of the asanas in relation to the larger practice.  The two of us came into Dandasana on the floor and I guided her awareness through all the many actions throughout the body required to simply sit up straight.  It was far more effective than any of my verbal explanation.

Jump backs and jump throughs were much cleaner.  Since attending that Ashtanga class a few weeks ago, I've been tinkering with my jump back technique.  I received some advice to keep my arms straight as I bring the feet through and then lower into Chatturanga as the toes land.  This is interesting because the very thing that allowed me to accomplish the jump back in the first place was learning to bend my elbows and hinge my weight forward in order to bring the hips up.  So now I'm in a confused place where I alternate the straight-arm and bent-arm approaches.  Yesterday I decided to stick with the bent arm approach, but sometimes, when I get it right, the straight-arm technique feels less taxing.

Chakrasana is coming along nicely.  I can't express how much fun I have with this vinyasa.  It makes me feel like a kid again, except when I was a kid I was too insecure and uptight to do things like this.  I'm reverse-aging.  I do have one question, though:  how do Ashtangis stay on their mats in those gridlocked shalas?  As it is now, I'm all over the place.  Yesterday when I flipped over, I kicked the room divider hard and bruised the bottom of my foot.  I think less momentum and more control is needed in the vinyasas to keep me from wandering too far forward or back.

I am still in the process of figuring out the breath counts of the seated sequence.  I can't quite jump through and propel myself right into the poses in a single inhale just yet, but the sequence flowed more smoothly this time and I had a better idea of what I was doing.  I knew which modifications I needed to take and found more suitable variations for some of the lotus and half-lotus postures. 

I could not lower down in Bhujapidasana.  It was so easy the first time.  Now, not.  What's the deal?  I'll have to play with the pose in my regular practice this week and try some different things, see if I can't figure out how my entry has changed. 

The finishing sequence was supremely enjoyable.  That first backbend was tough, but the next two were gloriously expansive.  I'm starting to appreciate Sarvangasana.  It's taken four years, but it's finally happening.  Lately I've been having a subtle but sensuous experience in my upper upper back during Sarvangasana and Parsvottanasana.  It's a pleasant but unfamiliar sensation that tingles, for lack of a better word, across my trapezius and between the shoulderblades.  It's not a stretch, exactly, but it is lovely.

And again, when I left the mat, I felt absolutely juiced.  I was all abuzz for hours after I got to work, practically tweaked, like I'd had way too much coffee.  Am I doing something wrong?  Is this normal?  Do Ashtangis always get this pumped up after practice?


  1. Hi there!
    lately for me (I have just started keeping up with 6 days a week practice again) I did feel much more awake and focused and amazing. Primary series Yoga Chikitsa (Yoga Therapy) help purify the body and bring it into balance so I suppose it helps create more energy. Yeah- that is what I will go with :-)

  2. Hi Flo - The same thought occurred to me, but it seems to me that a cleansing practice would leave one feeling pleasantly wrung out and mellow, but I feel energized, to the point of jittery at times. It's weird.

  3. "I'm reverse ageing" - Absolute quote of the week!! If it makes you feel young and playful it MUST be awesome! :)

  4. My opinion on the jump backs is that with straight arms you are engaging your deep inner core muscles (and bandhas) that you should be using, including rounding your pelvis and lifting the pelvic floor. Doing the jump-back with bent arms is just cheating. Instead of doing the work, you are using gravity to do your dirty work.

    See how the experienced yogi's do it (here's Lino Miele) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeqWCw-SfCM

    AND,yes, the ashtanga practice builds a lot of fire and integrates a lot of prana into your body. You will be wired unless you balance the practice out with a longer finishing sequence. Easiest fix is to hold salamba sarvangasana 20 very long deep breaths, or during the finishing sequence make your exhales a lot longer than your inhales to help ground you, or do a really long savasana. Good luck!

  5. Domestic Yogi - What, exactly, do you mean when you say that I should be "rounding my pelvis?" My back rounds, my belly is round, but my pelvis does not round.

    I hardly think bending my elbows to jump back is cheating. I've seen it done both ways, and, though I teach myself for the most part, I have seen it taught with bent arms. David Garrigues, for example, teaches the bent arm approach, which allows for what he calls the "pivot" of the center of gravity. This video exemplifies this approach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnj2sQZpE-k&feature=related

    I've been taking my time with the finishing sequence, particularly the inversions. I have not had time to really linger in Savasana on Fridays, though -- I get 5 or 6 minutes, tops -- so that might have something to do with the post-Primary buzz.

  6. By rounding pelvis I just mean pelvic tuck is all.

    I am sure there are lots of ways to do and teach a jump back. At some point you have to bend your arms. The longer you resist bending your arms, the more control and tone over your core you will get. By bending your arms you are working to tone and fine tune the arm muscles.

    The beginners always seem to want to bend their arms too early because they have less control of their core, but strong arms.

    Have you watched David Swenson's primary series video on youtube? It is a nice complement to the book. Interesting, he does some nice jumpbacks here early in the sitting postures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZOuKDWqXK0&feature=related

    Then a little later in the marichy's he starts bending his arms a little earlier, maybe getting tired, or maybe you can't do it with marichy, or maybe it doesn't matter? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVSCNWzj8aM&feature=related

    Also, just before for his chakrasana, he skoots up on his mat so he doesn't go too far back.

    Food for thought, thanks!

  7. Domestic Yogi - Thank you for the clarification. I have seen Swenson's primary, but this would probably be a good time to review it, maybe with the book in hand to make notes. Thanks for the idea.

    It's good to know that even Swenson needs to scoot up to make room for chakrasana. I'd hate to be in a shala setting and lay someone out with my chakrasana.