Updated: May 18, 2019
As we said goodbye to 2018 and welcomed everything that comes in this new year, we shared our final Saturday led-practice of the year. After moving and breathing together and before our delicious potluck, David held a brief conference about the Mysore method and the ebbs and flows of Ashtānga Yoga.
David waxed poetic about the usefulness of dialing back our practice in certain circumstances. Coming back to the process of progressing little-by-little – as we did when we were first learning the practice – is important for whenever we’ve had setbacks, injuries, illnesses, family obligations, or a lapse in practice for any reason. We can’t expect to be instantly able to do all the things we could before. At such times, he suggests doing a simpler practice and gradually adding more as we are ready. When it’s necessary, re-building won’t be as difficult as it was the first time. We will often be back to where we were sooner than expected. So long as we are patient, humble & steady, the stepping-our-practice-back-to-heal process always works – 100%! Often, we want a tool or a trick to fix us. Sometimes we are fortunate and that happens, but much of the time that approach is not effective or simply doesn’t exist. Dialing our practice back to a level & pace that is sustainable daily optimizes our inherent healing capacity. The form and structure of a particular posture is less important than the pace of breath, movement, and energy. Ashtānga is more or less 80% circulation and only 20% mechanical or orthopedic. Guruji always taught, “Free breathing you do, circulation correcting, pain going.” When we focus on the breathing, we promote the body’s natural intelligence which heals us and helps us progress in our practice.
This same of little-by-little approach carries us forward as well: from the sun salutations to primary series and closing postures and into intermediate and the advanced series (six in total, with seventh series being family life). It would be impossible and unsustainable to keep adding forever. When are learning a new series of postures (e.g. learning Intermediate), the process starts the same way: We add one new asana at a time to our practice. Then, after our practice has become very long and when we are ready, we “split” our practice. That means that we quite doing the previous series (e.g. Primary) every day, and instead practice the new (Intermediate) series daily. At this point, we practice Primary Series one day per week – usually on the last day of the week before our rest day. This same pattern of adding applies to learning all the series in Ashtānga Yoga. We add the āsanas one-by-one until we “split” and then one day per week is reserved for each series already learned while the remainder of the week is reserved for the current series we are working on. Slowly, gradually & steadily is in the essence of this Mysore method.
2018 at Ashtānga Yoga Orange County has been a joy in many ways. Some hurdles and setbacks will always come as old friends move away and new yogis begin their journey, but community remains constant as we continue to come together to share space, breath, energy, and sometimes food. May 2019 bring everyone prosperity & increased wisdom.
Happy New Year!