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.