|Is that a mischievous spark of amusement behind those shades, Guruji?|
I settled into the practice midway through the standing sequence and by Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, I was feeling pretty good. The level of resistance I face when bringing my forehead to my shin is generally a decent indicator of how the rest of the practice will unfold. I folded easily and balanced steadily on both sides, a good sign which rang true. I had a great practice.
When I first began practicing Primary, I practiced along with Swenson's Practice Manual, which illustrates Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana as a series of four separate postures, the first of which is a relatively upright variation in which the leg is held straight out it front without folding the entirely over the leg. In the third posture of the 4-part sequence, per the Manual, the foot is taken with both hands and the leg is pulled up to the face while the body remains perfectly upright. This is how I learned the series at home until I made it to a Mysore class.
During my first Mysore class, the teacher gently informed me that I was practicing Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana incorrectly. She then made me go back and do both sides again, with her assistance. This experience thoroughly confused me. I had thought the Primary series was the same everywhere, always and forever unchanged. How could it be that Swenson's instructions had steered me wrong? When I got home, I compared Swenson's book to Maehle's instruction of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasa in Ashtanga Yoga: Practice & Philosophy, my other Primary reference. Maehle's version confirmed my teacher's, so I adopted this new variation and carried on, my confidence in the tradition of Ashtanga slightly shaken.
And all was well and good until one day in another teacher's Mysore room, I was stopped after Marichyasana A. I had been under the impression that, should one have the ability, there is an alternative vinyasa to the usual jump back here in which the knee stays behind the shoulder. The practitioner lifts up to Eka Pada Bakasana and then drops to Chaturanga in one exhale. I had thought this was the ideal vinyasa for Marichi A and C. However, this teacher informed me that "the only time we practice Eka Pada Bakasana in Primary is after Virabhadrasana II." Huh. I could have sworn I read that the Eka Pada Bakasana exit was prescribed after these two poses. Upon further examination, Maehle's book mentions this vinyasa as an option, but Swenson's does not. So I continue to do it in my home practice but not when I practice with a teacher.
I must have it all straightened out by now, I thought when, yet again, I was stopped by one of my teachers and told that the sequence had been changed. No longer do we inhale up, pause, then exhale down from Supta Konasana. "Guruji changed it."
What? What do you mean he changed it? Of course, I didn't say these things to my teacher, but I may have cocked an eyebrow. How did he change it? Is there some administrative panel that approves these decisions, or did Guruji just mix it up now and then for fun? And will Sharath do the same? Will I, one day after years and years of practice, be approached by a teacher recently returned from India (or Encinitas) who will stop me to inform me it's been changed? It's a disconcerting thought.
Can any of you senior Ashtangis shed some light on this evolution of the practice? Why and how does the series get changed?