Primary Friday: Wherein I Learn that I'm Slow

Slowpoke Rodriguez, slothful cousin of Speedy Gonzalez and kindred spirit.
 I made it back to the studio yesterday for my second Mysore practice.  Again, the teacher was great and it was very cool to be practicing among others and yet engaged in my own practice.  The energy in the room was different this week -- stronger, more alive.  There was a large group of Ashtanga first-timers, I'd say maybe 5 or 6 people, at the other end of the room being given the practice in chunks.  The rest of us carried on in our half of the room, one or two doing the Second series and the rest of us in Primary.

Last time I attended Mysore, the week before last, I had arrived a couple of minutes after the scheduled practice time, but was still one of the first to begin.  In spite of this, I had been the last person to wrap it up.  I did everything post-backbends completely alone.  Even the teacher had gone by that point.

This week, I wanted a head start so I showed up 15 minutes early.  I was the first to begin by a long shot.  Nearly two hours later, there were only two of us left -- myself and a guy practicing Second. This guy, who had come in maybe 15-20 minutes after I had, was clearly intent on taking his time, experimenting with this or that between postures.  I, on the other hand, had had a very focused practice, and there we both were finishing together.  I'm not sure why my practice takes so long.  It's a solid two hours, with few extra breaths, and perhaps a brief backbending interlude to work on dropping back and standing up.  I'm a long, slow breather, but I don't think that alone can account for the all extra time it takes me.  Isn't 75-90 minutes about the average?

In class, I noticed that I may have been the only one taking a half-vinyasa after each side and each pose instead of skipping it or just lifting up after the first side.  Isn't this customary? It's difficult to be sure, since I wasn't actually watching the other students, just occasionally sensing where they were in their practices, but the guy in my peripheral to the left, who was also practicing Primary, seemed to be whizzing through the practice at an unbelievably accelerated pace.  I like my slow, steady practice and I don't like to be rushed, but I feel bad occupying the studio for longer than everyone else, and I don't want to make the teacher hang around to watch me like she did last time, so I'll need to figure out ways to cut it back a bit when I go to class.

I was a little worried about unveiling my new drop backs since I've never done them without first warming up by dropping back to a support (bolster, blankets, pillows), but I happened to see some dark green bolsters stacked outside the door as I dragged my mat to the wall.  I grabbed one without thinking.  It was only later that I realized that I should have asked, knowing as I do that some Ashtanga teachers don't allow the use of props.  The teacher was kind, of course, and watched me do one drop back by myself to the bolster, then motioned me away from the wall and helped me do two sets of three drop backs and stand-ups.  She seems to think I've got the drop backs down pat and that I'll be standing up soon.  She gave me a few pointers,  mainly that it's all in the legs.... theoretically, if just straighten the legs, I'll stand up.  I understand the principles of it, and I can feel what needs to happen when she assists me.  It's just initiating the lift in the first place that isn't happening.  When I'm in my backbend, I can't seem to figure out how to first shift the weight into my feet.  With practice.


  1. Is it possible to do warm up at home before Mysore and cut back some of the basic in Primary? Or could you start your Primary 20' earlier (even before the teacher shows up)? I've never been to Mysore, so I don't know if any of my suggestions make sense :P

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, Linh. It might be an option for me to either do some of the Surya Namaskara at home or only do 5 or 6 instead of the full ten. As for showing up before the teacher, that's exactly what I did this time. It worked, but I'm not sure what the space is used for before and after the scheduled Mysore practice, so I don't want to occupy the space for too long.

  3. Where I go, we don't do the full 10 suryas, we do 5 of A and 3 of B. If you're in a warmer climate you probably do not need the full 10.

    Also, do you have a led primary class where you live? This will teach you the proper pacing :)

  4. @Stephanie - I have done a couple of led primaries, and I find that during these, I only get 2 or 3 good breaths in any one pose instead of the full five, which is frustrating. My breathing is big and slow, so I prefer the Mysore setting where I can go at my own pace.

    You're right about the Suryas, though. I am in a warm climate, so I can probably cut out a few Suryas next time I go to class and see if that helps shave some time off the 2 hours it takes me to get through the practice.

  5. Well, I guess you have your answer then!

    Different studios seem to have differently paced Mysores, I've noticed... The one I go is quite fast, but I've been to a couple that were much slower. My practice changes from 75 minutes (usual full primary time for me) to probably 1 hr 45 mins, in a slower-paced Mysore group. All just depends on the length of the breath!

    But if you're doing everything without taking extra breaths, as you've experience in the led primary, then it must just be your longer breath slowing you down. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, if that's the pace that works for you.

    I find that slower practices with lots of futzing are a waste of energy... i.e. the energy doesn't seem to carry me through the entire practice. But slow, even, consistent breathing will still allow for an energetic practice.