Monday, January 16, 2006

Rogue Yogini


Read parts of SKPJ's Yoga Mala last night while in the bath.

An interesting read...for a number of reasons...

First, because it does not include several asanas (I assume this is because the Primary Series did not contain these asanas at the time Yoga Mala was first published):

And it gives instructions for certain asanas that do not correspond to instructions I have received in every class, Mysore and led, that I have ever taken:
  • InPrasarita Padotannasana A, the first inhale (as written in Yoga Mala) takes the feet out as far as five feet wide and the hands to the WAIST. The exhale takes the hands to the floor with the head up. The next "vinyasa" consitst of another inhale AND another exhale that takes the head down between the hands, the gaze remaining at the nose as the pose is held for an unspecified number of breaths. (As I have been taught, it is inhale the legs and arms wide, exhale the hands to the floor, inhale look up, exhale into the full posture).
  • In Prasarita Padotannasana C, after the inhale back up from B, it's exhale to interlock the fingers behind the back and the inhale to lift the chest and exhale down to the floor. (As I have been taught, it is inhale up from B, exhale hands to the waist, inhale arms out to the sides, exhale to interlock the fingers....)
  • In Marichyasana C and D, the wrapper arm is not the one doing the grabbing. (In class I am always encouraged to grab my back wrist with my wrapping arm's hand).
In addition, he boils down the dristes to eyebrows and nose, inhales corresponding with eyebrows and odd numbered vinyasas, and exhales corresponding with nose and even numbered vinyasasas, this pattern carrying throughout the entire primary series.

And here is something that actually almost inspired me to start a "secret" blog that I fantasized about calling "The Rogue Yogi, but what the hell, I'll take a chance here:

In his introduction to the chapter on Surya Namaskara, SKP states that "The practice of Surya Namaskara, or sun capable of rendering human life heavenly and blissful. By means of it, people can become joyous, experience happiness and contentment, and avoid succumbing to old age and death." [emphasis added] I find this incredibly interesting since the fear of death is one of five causes of human suffering enumerated in the Yoga Sutras. I prefer to see it as all five of the causes of human suffering falling under the umbrella of "attachment", because I think they all do. But that is a discussion for another day. In any event, to be attached to our health, to be attached to our life, to hold out a promise to onesself that if one practices a certain kind of yoga, one can control the uncontrollable (the passage of time, the aging of the body, the demise of the body into death), is to invite suffering. When we become identified with ourselves as strong, virile, youthful, bendy, healthy, whatever, there will inevitably be a clash between our identifications and external events that challenge those identifications (and often, if not always, win).

So, it interests me that SKPJ would hold out this promise. I mean no disrespect. But it interests me.

On a far less "rogue yogi" note, I adore the photos in Yoga Mala for their lack of perfection. In Upward Facing Dog, the shoulders are farther forward than one might hope. In Downward Facing Dog, there is a distinct bend in the spine, which one would hope might be a straight and unbroken line. The photos tell me, implicitly, that yoga is NOT about the perfect external form. Rather, it is about the process. The DOING it. Not the end result.

Similarly, SKPJ gives precious little in the way of alignment instructions, aside from requiring the body to "tight and straight" during all of the vinyasas of Surya Namaskara. There is nothing about rolling the ribcage upward in Uttitha Trikonasana or Uttitha Parsvakonasana. There is nothing about pressing the elbows apart but the hands together in Parsvotanasana. This is just to name a few postures that are largely left unexplained. What is my theory on why this is? Because SKPJ would like us to be under the instruction of a teacher. That's my theory, at least. He mentions it several times, that it is best (not crucial, but BEST) to learn his yoga under the guidance of a satguru (true teacher/true dispeller of darkness) or a guru (teacher/dispeller of darkness).

Funny. I was reading the book last night in the hopes of learning something I could "use" with regard to Mari D. Well, that didn't happen. But I did follow the simple driste instructions, described above, and practice was sweet. It could have been sweet because of my more saatvic eating yesterday. Or it could have been sweet because I was inspired by what I read in Yoga Mala. Who knows?

I just know that I am happily back in a groove. For now. Like everything, that could change in a moment.



samasthiti said...

Do you think Guruji is succumbing to old age and death? He said his life is "on fire" to someone.

I think this is more a promise of trancendance of them, not so much a you will not get old and you will not die. But the sutras, don't they say the same. But to be a true YOGI, is not something that I will become in this lifetime. I posses no gifts of that nature! I am a simlple yoga practitioner!
I take it as it is, as it just is:injury, bliss, samadhi, pain sorrow, joy,all of these are yoga.
I feel asking for some kind of reward aside from the yoga itself is selfish.I have already been given the gift of the yoga it self.

Also, my teacher trained with David Swenson last summer and the jump is with hands on the hips per Guruji and Sharath. Also, as a rebel against all things alignment oriented I love the lack of it in ashtanga. I like to be adjusted into a correct form, I like my body to find the correct alignment. Not my mind.

Did you find out your dosha? Glad you had a good practice!

Vanessa said...

Prasarita A and C are still practiced in Mysore as in the Yoga Mala description.

yoga chickie said...

I think what I was trying to say (I can't say for sure...I was just reacting to what I read without planning what I wanted to write...without thinking I was going to write about it) is that there is an inherant paradox in the whole notion of the physical practice as a tool toward something, be it enlightenment (pretty abstract concept) or peaceful existence (less abstract concept) or eternal youth (not as abstract, but still kinda)., how can I explain this thing I am trying to say? It's like, if you want to this "thing", whatever it is, and you do yoga hoping to get at this "thing", then there is something to which you are attached. If you detach, then will you continue on with your pursuit? Would you even want to detach if your pursuit was worthy? (What would have happened if Dr. MLK, Jr. was detached from his goal of peace?) Anything with any kind of promise or goal or carrot attached has that paradox. Passion balanced with detachment, diligent practice balanced with letting go of effort.

If this were simple, we'd all be pretty bored....

Dosha - it looks like my nature, as it is right now is pretty solidly in the pitta range. As I suspected. But I do adore Bikram class - and I do feel like it does my body good now and then. How can that fit in with such a pitta person as I am?


yoga chickie said...

Thanks Vanessa. I wonder why they are not practiced that way here. Any insights?

samasthiti said...

Sometimes we actually crave the things that make us out of whack. Like you may enjoy the firey side of your dosha it may fuel your passions and you get ATTACHED(lol) too it.
As far as why we practice, I have this drive to practice. I was drawn to yoga for unknown by me reasons. I just went one day. I have made some physical improvements, it has made my mind more peaceful both of which propels me to do more of it. It's only when I start to wish I could do this or that that I become frustrated.
I don't know, maybe I am missing your point.

yoga chickie said...

It's just that we do become attached to our practice. I don't see any way around it. I think it is an inherant paradox in the system. Or maybe when we are "fully" enlightened, we can sit all day needing nothing, wanting nothing, craving nothing. I don't know...don't think I ever will!


samasthiti said...

Non attachment could be practiced on a lot of different levels. You are not a sadhu, you have not renounced this worldly realm.

How about attachment in moderation?
Does that work for you?

yoga chickie said...

Hmmm...moderation. I think I've heard of it. Exactly what is it anyway?


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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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