Who's responsible for this?

Well, in keeping with my earnest efforts to become a "morning person," I managed to wake up early again today, but not early enough to do a full practice (to recap, for those of you just joining us, that's currently Primary to Supta Kurmasana and Intermediate to Eka Pada Sirsasana PLUS Yoganidrasana).  By the time I roused myself awake and swallowed down a mug of the brew, I had only 90 minutes to play with on the mat.  First, I thought about cutting corners and trying to plow through it all somehow.  Then I toyed with the idea of Primary only, but 90 minutes is a short window even for Primary and I really hate to be rushed.

I couldn't decide, so I just started in on the Suryas until I got to ten, then did what my body told me: I indulged in that Vinyasa practice I'd been tempted by on Tuesday night.  It was a little odd at first, disorienting and difficult to navigate.  I'd forgotten how long it's been since I practiced a flow like that.  I found myself in many warriors, hip openers, and psoas stretches.  Also plenty of tripod headstands with various entries and exits:  from Prasarita Padottanasana, Bakasana, the "timber" (does this have a name?), Adho Mukha Svanasana (and how am I supposed to jump into a tripod from Down Dog?  Anybody have tips on this?  Seems suicidal...).

I played with Eka Pada Galavasana (just Galavasana to you Ashtangis, I believe) from the tripod entry for the first time.  I had done so many hip openers and tripod headstands by that point that I figured there was no better time.  I surprised myself by knocking out both sides without any trouble, lifting back up to a headstand between sides.  I'm feeling all those tripod headstands in my triceps and lats as I type this, but only a slight suggestion.  Nothing uncomfortable.

I had a nice practice, but it made me aware of how much more quiet and internalized Ashtanga is.  Vinyasa flow requires me to extend my attention beyond the present, to analyze, assess, and make decisions, whereas with Ashtanga, all I have to do is breathe.  I'm not saying that one style is better.  In my opinion, the difference is negligible.  It's yoga, it's vinyasa, it's breath with movement, an energetic practice.

And yet, there is something to be said for the repetition of Ashtanga, though I'm not exactly sure what that thing is.  Early on, I touched on the idea that the repetitive nature of Ashtanga, despite what I fear to be a heightened risk of injury (though Swenson argued otherwise), adds a rather potent character-building element that even consistent daily practice of a less structured form of yoga doesn't have.  I am reminded of something Swenson said during one of the Q&As (I'm paraphrasing):  through repetition, magic is made possible.  I think he may have been quoting someone else, or I've read someone else quoting him, because I've heard or seen that before.  Not exactly, but in so many words.  In any case, it seems to explain the spark behind the enthusiasm I have for this practice.  There's always the possibility that today is the day when every little thing will happen just right.  Or maybe just one thing will happen right, but you get the idea.  Through repeated practice there is perhaps not perfection, but always possibility.

I feel such a sense of wonder when it comes to Ashtanga.  I don't know if it's the mythos, the moon days, or the series itself, but I do know that my life has been shaken down to the foundation since I've taken up this practice.  My own fearlessness surprises me on an almost daily basis.

All the change I dreaded, refused to even think about for years has come to pass and I'm still here.  I have slashed through so many tethers, so many desperate, grasping associations with the self.  I can see that this is not me.  That is not me.  He or she or they are not me.  My identity is not invested in the resources that I have, the people I love, or even my own health.  As soon as I let go of these attachments, I find the space the vacancy makes is so much more beautiful than I could have ever known.

Is the Ashtanga responsible?  Has it trained me to go through rather than around?  Has it emboldened me to have patience and work with the problems, one by one?  It's hard to say.  I'd think I'd better keep it up and see where it takes me.


  1. HEHEhe...I laughed at "suicidal"...I looked up your "timber" post too and I agree: trying something and surprising myself is one of my favorite things about yoga. Some things I just won't try yet in the interest of self-preservation! Plus, when I was mainly running I had "injury" for a middle name - like so many other diligent runners. So... :-)

    "Through repeated practice there is perhaps not perfection, but always possibility" - yeah! Another bit about yoga that I love, but I never "thought it out" or voiced it like that. Thanks!

  2. Hi Anne - Thanks for the comment! I tend to love anything that has me flying through the air for a second or two... Another reason I fell in love with Ashtanga. I'd really like to know if that particular maneuver has a name, though "timber" is highly descriptive in it's own way.

  3. Love this bit from your post: "but I do know that my life has been shaken down to the foundation since I've taken up this practice. My own fearlessness surprises me on an almost daily basis."

    That's exactly how I feel about this practice...especially since starting intermediate a few years ago...well said!!

  4. As far as I've ever seen (oh and hello!) that movement is called "timbering down." It's pretty cool. Must remember to land on the base of the toes: no other landing feels good.

    To Downdog into tripod headstand (yes, it seems crazy, and REALLY you won't have to worry about it until about 10 poses into third series if I count right), a guy once wrote, "imagine jumping into an L position, torso directly above the hands, legs back at 90 degrees." Then you lower. I was able to do it a couple times but now it has run away. The balance is suuuuuuper tricky because your body gets light, not heavy as you'd expect. It's the same bandha-lightness-magic as in doing Chakrasana or jumping high-and-through the way Kino MacGregor does.

  5. Christine - I'm only just getting started with Intermediate, but already it asks so much of me and somehow, every day, I'm able to give it all. I look forward to a time when I can say that I've spent years with the practice.

    Patrick - Hi! Yes, that was definitely my fear when I first tried to "timber down," crushing a toe or two. But a strong flexion of the feet before initiating the drop and a little instinct seem to take care of it for me. I've never landed uncomfortably.

    I think I understand the process of jumping into a tripod headstand from Down Dog, I just don't see how there can be much of a learning curve. Whether you get it right or wrong, you're landing head first, the only question is, "how lightly?" I may be feeling fearless, but the very thought of that gives me a headache. Come to think of it, I've got some pretty firm yet giving floor pillows that might make a decent landing pad. Hmmm... there may be a way after all.