A Mysore Class helps us delve deeper on a one to one level but ironically the more we practice the more we see that there is so much more to Ashtanga than ‘Gucci’ Postures.
One of the most frequent questions Neil & I get asked is ‘How do I get in to this posture?’ or ‘is there anything I can work on to get that posture?’ The answer is always the same…. What we are really asking is ‘What are the short cuts, the quickest way, to this gucci little posture?’ And it is always a gucci asana, one that looks very impressive, either showing our flexibility or our strength. Know one ever asks how they can improve their Sun Salutations or their Trikonasana. Yet it is here, in these seemingly mundane postures where we can find the answers that we need.
There are no short cuts, the answer is ALWAYS Practice. A Mysore class helps us delve deeper on a one to one level but ironically the more we practice the more we see that there is so much more than the ‘gucci’ postures. You may set out to achieve a certain asana but on the way you find contentment in the smaller things, a gradual ease in the hamstrings, an awareness to the breath that you never had before, grabbing the toes in Paschimottanasana, heals touching the floor in Downward facing Dog, an ache you’ve always had in your knee, shoulder or back suddenly disappears. The struggle IS the Yoga. By the time that we are near achieving our ultimate posture we have realised that the initial desire for this was just the Ego. Of course some people are naturally, anatomically bent toward certain postures but there are always something that will be difficult and it takes more than advanced postures to be advanced in Yoga.
We eventually (in this life time or the next) ease into our gucci posture to no applause or fanfare, (some encouragement from our teacher if we are lucky), & we are not suddenly enlightened because of it. But it does feel good, not because of the Ego (okay, maybe a little bit) but because the body has opened, with practice, giving us a quiet inner confidence, we have made the impossible possible.
How much practice at home?
Traditionally Sri K Pattabhi Jois would teach only Mysore style and you would learn, firstly, the Sun Salutations then one posture at a time, slowly building up strength & flexibility depending on our bodies.
Todays Led classes are great but they can lead to a belief that we have to practice the whole series, at home, in order to gain its benefits. This is not so…. All the cliches come in to play here…. little & often, quality not quantity, but they are true. As Pattabhi Jois said “Anyone can practice. Very old man can practice. Man who is sick he can practice, Man who doesn’t have strength can practice. Except lazy people, lazy people can’t practice yoga”.
The lazy voice in us will say ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I can’t remember what to do’, ‘it won’t work for me’, Lets take the first example, ‘I don’t have time’, We all have the same amount of hours in our day, we have the choice as to how we fill these hours. You may say yes but i have to work & I have kids and blah blah blah, don’t worry, I have used all of these excuses at some point but what we really mean is ‘I can’t be bothered to do it, its not that important to me’ We all have the time, it is our choice and we can either get defensive about it or we can laugh at ourselves. Once you begin a regular practice and feel the benefits it becomes more important and your priorities change.
Back to our Sun Salutations, A & B, these are all you need to reap Yogas benefits. 5 of each, 3 finishing postures plus Savasana = 10 to 15 minutes practice at home. When this becomes easier then you can add more. To begin with it is a discipline but after a while it becomes just something that you do, like brushing your teeth.
We need both, the commitment of a home practice (no matter how long), and a class to learn the series, discuss injuries, learn about yourself, talk to other Ashtangi’s and your teachers, be part of the community. We learn different things in each place.
Ultimately, the fancy Asanas will come to you, but ironically, only when you begin to let them go.