Moving with breath vs. the Led Primary

As has become apparent, Bobbie and I have spent the past couple of weeks trying to follow Nancy Gilgoff’s advice about moving in close synchronicity with your breath.

Yes, we of course know that’s the point of Ashtanga. But Nancy really emphasized this, even to the extent of suggesting that wherever you find yourself after your breath is where you are at with the pose that day. We like the shortened version of this command: “No dinking around.”

Getting rid of those extraneous movements fundamentally does alter the practice. There’s less time for the mind to wander, for one thing. And it is much easier — really, much more natural is a better description — to stay with the breath and have it feel like it is both leading and being led by your practice.

It’s been an interesting week of practice. (Yes, just a week. So we’ll see where this continues to go.) And on Friday, the interesting part got a little more… interesting.

My possibly even more solitary/self-focused practice bumped up against the weekly ritual that is Led Primary. I’ve always been a fan of Led Primary classes. I’ve liked the “surrender” of it — that someone else is telling you when and how fast to breath (and by extension, to move). And I’ve always found that not having to think about where I’m going allows me to be a bit more contemplative.

This week, it was a bit more frustrating. Not that the class was bad — it may even have been, for me, a pretty good one — but I really felt the moments when my breath was saying, “You move now,” but the teacher wasn’t.

I hope this means that the focus on the breathing is taking hold — and if it is, so quickly, it might really mean it is a natural and, dare I say, correct element to the practice. Because it isn’t like much of Ashtanga comes easily to me.

Both letting your breath lead and letting a teacher lead are two sides to the same infinite-sided dice, of course. It’s all about surrender and letting go of your ego, of not having yourself be in charge.

That always has been easier for me in Led. To see it arising in my Mysore practice is, I think, a good way to end this week.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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