Does there need to be one perfect Ashtanga?
I’m going to give away the punchline right off the top:
No. There doesn’t need to be one perfect and ideal Ashtanga.
In my opinion.
Having studied with a couple of handfuls of Certified and Authorized or otherwise recognized Ashtanga teachers/students — even if only for a few days, in some cases — one thing has become clear to me.
They aren’t all teaching the exact same asanas.
Note the emphasis: exact same.
In general, obviously, these teachers are passing along the same asanas. The poses are the same, the order is the same.
But there are slight and subtle differences. A hand position here, an angle of a leg there. Some have absolute “no-nos” in particular poses that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow among other teachers.
There are even some less subtle differences. A different dristi, a different bandha emphasis.
Why is this, do you suppose?
I have my suspicion: They all learned is a little bit differently from Guruji.
Now, I gather that for some people this is slightly blasphemous to say. (Can something be “slightly blasphemous”?) There is “the correct method,” after all. But I don’t mean it that way, at all. And I don’t intend to imply that I have some knowledge others don’t, especially knowledge that those who spent many, many years with Guruji don’t have.
But I still don’t get this reaction. And I don’t get it for one major, central reason:
Guruji’s own model for a teacher: Krishnamacharya.
There’s no question he instructed his students differently, right? One need only walk into an Ashtanga room and then into an Iyengar one to see that. And I assume that Krishnamacharya had his very good reasons for giving one teaching to Pattabhi Jois and another to Iyengar.
And so if, while keeping “true” to the yoga he’d received, Guruji augmented things a bit so it would be more beneficial for a particular student, I would think that would be in keeping and in honor of his own teacher.
In many ways, I’m actually surprised there isn’t more differences out there. That there isn’t, I chalk up to the power of the Ashtanga sequence and Guruji’s faith in that power.
But I just don’t understand why that faith and power seem to turn into a dogmatism, that there is only one right and true way. I especially don’t get that within the culture, religion and history of India and Hinduism, which have such a multifaceted approach to knowledge, understanding, faith and belief.
A way I have of understanding Hinduism is that it provides many faces and aspects to “God” because “God,” like us, has many faces, aspects, moods and personalities. Shiva, Kali, Ganesh, Hanuman. None is any less “God” than the other, but it is the mood of the moment — or the aspect that will most connect with a given individual.
Am I supposed to think that the third limb of Patanjali yoga would be any different?
Posted by Steve