Friday, December 30, 2005

How do you begin an Ashtanga practice without an Ashtanga teacher?

My cousin discovered Ashtanga on a trip to the east coast, but has returned home in Colorado Springs to discover no Ashtanga, or at least none that she can find. As you can see, Denver (and Boulder, which you can't see) are not possibilities for a daily practice. She has kids and a husband and is in school, so traveling to for a month or two to study with Richard Freeman, etc. is not really feasible either.

So what does one do when the Ashtanga bug bites, and there is only vinyasa on the menu?



samasthiti said...

Cry a lot.....
Be depressed....
Throw a big tantrum...
Complain to anyone who will listen!
Hey this is fun! Seriously though, I do the vinyasa if there's nothing else. When I feel diciplined I do ashtanga alone at the studio at off times. Does she have any space she can dedicate at home?

kd said...

I know some ashtnagis hate Beryl bender Birch--But her books and audio tapes are an excellent source to self start a home practice, also so are John shumacher's Iyengar based tapes.I practiced with John's audio for years before I did Ashtanga and took an hatha yoga class once a week with a teacher so that someone else could observe my alignment. Then I moved onto Beryl's tapes and books when i could not practice with a teacher.

It's better to practice with audio instaed of visualor DVD so that you can really focus. The Dvd's and videos should be used only as a visual resource if you don't understand certain postures.

Anyway any yoga is good yoga, so whatever might be offered in her area she should take, as long as it's on a consistent basis. She'll find a way to make Ashtanga work eventually.

suziecolumbus said...

Annie Pace is in Colorado somewhere--I don't know if it would be convenient for your cousin.

yoga chickie said...

I checked that out - it's a hundred miles away...:p

samasthiti said...

I think it's actually Guruji himself who doesn't approve of Beryl.

But audio is really better than trying to watch it whilst doing it. But it's also nice to watch how the practice is supposed to flow. I really like John Scott's video, he has different levels of practice. He's an amazing practitioner.

Any yoga is better than no yoga though. BUT, I feel when you have experienced the purity of ashtanga, the depth of the practice, you feel so connected to the source. It feels authentic, like that's all you need. And after that, it's hard to go back to other forms .

yoga chickie said...

I actually had emailed my cousin about Beryl B-B's Power Yoga book - I used that book religiously when I started practicing vinyasa yoga. I didn't use it for the Ashtanga, but for alignment in poses in general. I found it a wonderful resource as a starting point and for a long time after. If Guruji doesn't like her method, well, I can understand that. She does kind of dumb it down a bit - and she takes out the hardest poses in the series (Mari D and Parivritta Parsvakonasana), while inviting students to attempt Intermediate poses. It seems to fit a vinyasa model better than an Ashtanga model. But I recommended it to my cousin because other than the omissions I mentioned, it does offer a simple explanation of the Sequence - perhaps more simple and accesible than Swenson's practice manual, which I would recommend as a SECOND source.

I also like John Scott's book, but I use that in teaching, not in practicing...


Anonymous said...

guruji doesnt like BBB because she has accused of not crediting him for the system of ashtanga. But anyone that reads her books knows that she does mention him. She doesnt really mention guruji much other then identifying him as the founding source of ashtanga because she has never studied with guruji, she had a completely different teacher/guru and an american mentor named Norman somethingorother who studied with guruji.

Her books are very good in explanation and I think are very helpful. She also has a pretty admirable practice.

yoga chickie said...

I think his name is Norman Allen. He's mentioned in the books and in interviews with other leading teachers as one of the first westerners to show up on Guruji's doorstep, begging to be taught the system.

I actually think that BBB doesn't give enough credit to SKPJ in Power Yoga (I haven't read the other books she authored), nor does she explain that she has removed several poses from the sequence...I think it would be better if she were more upfront about the system she bases HER system on.


samasthiti said...

This is an excerpt from an article in the New Yorker....

Jois has a
particular animus against Beryl Bender Birch, the author of the
popular book "Power Yoga," a very accessible guide that
is based upon the Ashtanga series. "Only money-making,"
Jois told me sternly. (In reply, Birch says, "My objective
was to bring this system to mainstream America, to a lot of people
who wouldn't otherwise have been comfortable trying yoga. As far
as I can see, we have all benefitted from it.")

So, they both have good points. I tend to agree with Guruji, if her Power Yoga is pretty much dead on Ashtanga except for a few poses seems like infringement to me. Bikram would sue her.

Anonymous said...

She is as upfront about it as most western teachers that base thier system on ashtanga ( think Sharon Gannon and David Life, Baron Baptiste etc). She's never studied with guruji.She based her sequence on the ashtanga yoga system, and she she definitely credits where credit is due, but she's not a Jois devotee and I think thats where the problem lies with most people that dislike her, including guruji. She's done great things for a lot of people through her teaching making some of the ideas from ashtanga system more easily accesible to westerners, her books are an incredible resource and frankly guruji is making a ton of money in one of the poorest countries in the world the last time I checked the prices at his shala in Mysore.

Bikram on the other hand has some serious issues with greed. I don't think it's fair to suggest that BBB should be in that category.

samasthiti said...

Look, I said Bikram would sue her. I didn't say she is like Bikram, full of "greed". Because her system is so close to Guruji's if he were franchised like Bikram is he could sue her.

Now, I know Guruji doesn't charge the locals the same price as westerners, it's the western students that get charged a "ton of money". The "ton of money" last time I checked, really didn't seem that high compared to "teacher training", or other "yoga holiday workshops", or even the Yoga Journal conference.

Now obviously you have a great fondness for BBB, fine. I don't really see how her method is anymore accessible to the general public than Guruji's. If ashtanga is undertaken in the correct way, learning postures one at a time, there isn't any reason pretty much anyone could take it up. And I thought we were talking about ashtanga. Not "Power Yoga".

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I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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