Re Matthew's holistic article above, I tend to feel personally that Ashtanga owned and practised with discernment is sufficient. Alignment will no doubt be improved by the breath over time... if we breathe slowly enough to notice it, as will awareness of where we need to modify and adapt if we practice mindfully . Sufficient as long as we remember to attend to the other limbs, the yama and niyama especially.
There's a post I've been resisting writing this week ( I keep telling myself I'm retired). It suggests stages of practice that some (many?) of us perhaps go through, from fixed 'off the peg' to a more adapted, owned (holistic - although I prefer 'integrated' ) practice. It is perhaps a suitable cover post, a summery even, of this now 'sleeping' Blog (Note: Although this blog is sleeping for now I may occasionally post something here http://krishanamcharysaoriginalashtanga.blogspot.jp/).
In the beginning we become enamoured with Ashtanga, with the movement, the breath perhaps and the focus it engenders, we think of it as 'meditation in motion' but then become distracted by trying to get into the next pose and the next, we become greedy for new asana, new series, we slip into asana madness.
We are not completely to blame in this perhaps, Ashtanga has this seduction.
And why not for a time, Yoga for the Three Stages of Life theory argues that practicing a lot of asana in the first and second stages of life may be considered perfectly appropriate, we are laying the groundwork for practice. Likewise sharing our struggles enthusiastically with friends in mutual encouragement and support via the likes of instagram is harmless enough perhaps, I suspect we know when we are slipping into feeding the ego and self promotion. And besides we may have come to yoga for fun and/or health and fitness, for a sense of peace and well being perhaps, plenty of time to explore, if we should feel so inclined, what else yoga may have to offer.
No longer content with just breathing and focusing our attention we distract ourselves with endless concerns, with alignment, technique.... tricks and oh the internet is more than happy to feed us in this (guilty as charged).
And then perhaps go through a critical, questioning phase... no doubt more than once focusing our attention on the inconsistencies, incongruities and at times just plain nonsense surrounding the practice. Why can't I practice this, practice that, WHY aren't I supposed to practice pranayama, meditation/concentration? We practice them anyway then get distracted from practicing the later ourselves by the temptation of ever more asana, technique, more tricks.
Perhaps at some point we do end up coming back to the breath, choose to lengthen it, to spend longer in the Finishing sequence. We come back to pranayama to just sitting, this time more seriously and with more commitment.
We try to practice more slowly perhaps, drop series, go back to basics, drop asana after asana, practice half a series, less even. Those asana we do hold on to are practiced with the breath long and slow..... we begin to wonder if perhaps one asana, just one seat IS enough.
But this slower practice also eats into our pranayama, into the time we have available to just Sit and our health and fitness suffers, asana is there for a reason.
Dropping the practice altogether and just sitting is tempting but in the end the idea comes upon us, Why not just treat the asana practice as mostly physical and go back to moving relatively quickly, a good range of asana benefiting as much as the body as possible and all in one practice.
We come full circle.
If asana now is mainly physical (and yet always with that background ongoing training of maintaining focus on the breath), keeping us in good condition for our pranayama and meditation then we want that physical practice to be as beneficial ( and as safe) as possible, modifying the practice to our individual needs, our choice of asana no longer based on ego but on what most benefits us. Likewise modifying our pranayama, our approach to sitting.....
Deciding on these can be a whole new range of distractions.
Jois knew us well, and his son Manju reminds us, Sharath too (as do so many of those teachers less concerned with self-promotion), keep it simple..... and enjoy it.
Ashtanga taught/appropriated, well is a marvellous practice it can be adapted, modified, supplemented (Vinyasa Krama), we can practice it in the beginning to transform our bodies and later to maintain our health and fitness, it can prepare us for sitting both physically and mentally.
Working daily at maintaining focus/attention/concentration throughout our asana practice, our pranayama, our Sit, for one hour.... for two, is a quite remarkable lay practice.
|cirque du soleil|
"Working daily at maintaining focus/attention/concentration throughout our asana practice, our pranayama, our Sit, for one hour.... for two, is a quite remarkable lay practice, no stripy pants or circus lights required.
Personally I'm more than content with my shortened, simplified, adapted Ashtanga practice( see previous post Proficient Primary). I may practice a little more quickly of late to keep up my health and fitness but I slow it down for key asana where I lengthen the breath and the stay and include kumbhaka. My pranayama is a straight forward uncomplicated, moderate nadi shodhana (see Pranayama)followed by a twenty to forty minute Sit (see How to meditate).
I seek to ground and sustain my practice in constantly renewed effort to live in accordance with the yama and niyama (whatever your tradition of these) where perhaps the real practice lies (thank you Patanjali (see Chanting the yoga Sutras) for recognising how constantly we slip and occasionally fall from this).