Gearing up for the Swenson Adventure

Last night I used my last studio class pass to practice with J one more time before the Swenson adventure begins on Sunday.  I had planned on taking the moon day, but realized my class pass was about to expire, so I decided to skip it.  For those of you just joining us, I'll be practicing with Swenson bright and early every morning for the next two weeks!  I'm super excited, but wondering how my body will adjust to the jolt of 6am practice, six days a week

A very coy Triang Mukhottanasana
I am not at all sure what to expect from Swenson or Shelley and have no practice goals in particular for the next two weeks, though J suggested that this would be a good time for me to work at grabbing my ankles for Triang Mukhottanasana.  J also suggested that I should ask David about my rapid progress through Primary and Intermediate.  To recap, I began to practice Ashtanga regularly in late February.  I spent about one month with a daily Primary before T and S started laying Intermediate on me and once it started, it didn't stop.  S bestowed postures on me at a relentless pace until Yoganidrasana, and it only ended there because she left.  All the while, I felt as though my head were about to explode from the massive energy release of Primary and my spine might just melt from the endless openings of Intermediate.  J showed up just in time to temper the flames and ease me back into a manageable, practical practice. 

My practice now consists of full Primary plus Intermediate to Bakasana with Primary only on Fridays, and it's just now getting nice and comfy.  Primary feels like a warm-up.  The series of Intermedate backbends that used to sap me dry are no big deal, and I look forward to playing with Bakasana before Urdhva Dhanurasana.  The only problem, and it might not be a problem at all, is that students are generally made to practice Primary for a full year before moving on to Intermediate.  I've also read, I think in Maehle's books, that a MINIMUM of three months of Primary should be completed with proficiency before adding any of 2nd series.  I just want to know, energetically and practically, if it's okay for me to carry on with Intermediate so soon.  J has said in the past that I can go as far as I like into Intermediate as long as I don't drop any of Primary until next year, but I'd really like to get Swenson's take on it.

I've been tempted this week to start working on the leg-behind-postures again.  My hips have been pretty open and the lotus postures are still feeling good.  It's almost as though my body craves Eka Pada Sirsasana.  I can feel it vicariously,  deep down in the hip joint whenever I think of it, but the thought of extending my practice further makes me a little anxious.  These past couple of weeks have been such a blur.  I've been teaching a lot and summer classes have begun, so I'm also busy with school, not to mention the recent move.  I hesitate to add any more to the pile just now, no matter how much my hips may desire it.

Today is another busy day.  So busy, in fact, that I'm not sure when I'll be able to do my practice.  As soon as I finish this post, I'll jump in the shower, then head off to teach my first class of the day.  After that, I'm teaching straight through until 7pm.  I know I'll be exhausted this evening, but I don't want to skip a practice after my 3-day practice week earlier this month.  Fortunately, I have two days completely to myself coming up this weekend before the Swenson adventure begins.  I intend to unwind, have a nice Primary on Friday, and then rest on Saturday in preparation for the next two weeks.


  1. Looking forward to hearing about the swenson workshop, two weeks, that's a nice amount of time.

    it's not like Ashtanga was your first experience of yoga, thus the need to take it slow, you'd been doing some serious power/vinyasa yoga for years no? not surprising you progressed quickly. The primary to bakasana sounds about right to me, kind of a natural break there.

    I can't remember, can your do dwi pada (both legs behind head) if so how about using that entry to Supta kurmasana and then of course you exit through tittibhasana and bakasana, gives you the tast of those later 2nd series pose in the Primary context. Just a thought.

    Have a great time.

  2. Hey Grimm - It's true, two weeks of morning mysore with Swenson has the potential to be an eternity. I'm very curious to watch it unfold. I will most definitely be posting on the experience.

    You're right, I had almost four years of daily vinyasa practice under my belt before taking on Ashtanga, so it wasn't a big switch. The hardest part is getting on the mat every day, and since I already had that going for me, the rest has just fallen into place. Ashtanga seems to fit me like a well-worn glove.

    J knows I've had an established practice for some time and she still wants me to stick with full Primary for the first year, which is the only thing that's holding me back. I just don't have the time to extend my practice any further right now, so if I want to move on, I'd almost have to drop some of Primary. After these two weeks with Swenson, I'm going back to home practice exclusively, at which point I might reassess the situation. We'll see what happens.

  3. Enjoy your time with Swenson, Megan. I really think it will be most rewarding. Here's a suggestion: Maybe after your two weeks with Swenson, if he says it is okay for you to continue with second, you can try adding just one second series posture after Bakasana each week (Bharadvajasana for one week, then add Ardha Matsyendrasana the next week, then add Ekapada Sirsasana the next week, and so on). That way, you will be adding postures at a rate that is sustainable. Just a thought.

  4. Thanks, Nobel. Adding one pose at a time does seem like a nice way to go about it, I'm just not sure how I'll schedule around a 2.5-3hr practice at this time. Presently, my practice runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes, maybe 2 hr, 15 mins if I can get into the twists without too much fuss and really focus on riding the breath right on through to the end. To add any more postures, I'd need to start dropping Suryas or skipping vinyasas, and I'm not too keen on either idea.

    My schedule might open up a bit once I settle into the new job/school/life a little more.

  5. Hi. Thanks for the awesome class today! I didn't know you were in school. What are you studying and where? Your upcoming workshop sounds interesting and challenging. I have not heard of Swenson. Is this an Ashtanga workshop?

  6. Hi Dottie - Thank you for being there! Always love having you in class.

    David Swenson is one of the pioneers of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga in the West, from which all forms of vinyasa or flow yoga are derived. He's also a Texan, so he must be great. ;)

    For the next two weeks I will be practicing mysore-style ashtanga (self-practice with hands-on individualized instruction) and pranayama with Swenson every morning. I expect it will be very interesting and challenging, indeed.

  7. Oh yes... and I'm studying Creative Writing. Finishing up my A.A. this summer and then taking a semester break before jumping back in for my B.A. in the Spring.

  8. Hello Megan,
    I saw in your reply to Dottie that you are going for your B.A. in the spring. Not to pry or anything, but are you going to UT Austin? It's such a wonderful place; did I ever tell you that I spent a semester there (in Fall'99) as an exchange student?

  9. Hey there - Great post as usual - Swenson is fantastic; Pioneer indeed, and still going strong! You will love your 2 weeks. One note re Grimmly's perfect recommendation: Primary gives you such a chance to get some 2nd series-feel...suptaK and all its full glory :) Enjoy David, and Shelley time too.