Playing with the Ashtanga practice

We are all such a serious bunch.

It comes through in the 2000 New Yorker story that a commenter provided on the “closed-minded Ashtangi” post. It comes through in most stories about Ashtanga, despite the fact the stories of Guruji seem filled with humor and irony.


It also, I think, comes through in the way we all describe tweaks to the Ashtanga practice. It’s “research.” “Research poses.” It’s all so serious, so scientific. (This time I mean that in a less positive light than I have of late.)

Instead of “research,” though, what if we called those poses something else? How about “play?” If you’re at all like me, an eyebrow goes up at the idea.

I can’t recall the last time I played around with the practice. It probably was Tim Miller’s Improv class in Mt. Shasta last summer. There are bits of Second Series and some other poses tossed in the mix.

I was thinking of this this morning as I finished up what householder duties required to be a short practice. (Still, I practiced.) I did poses I always do; I didn’t add in anything. It struck me, as I was rolling up my mat, that I probably could manage Bakasana B after a little practice. (Ah, the word starts conflating things.)

Let’s put it this way: I could probably get down Bakasana B (I don’t want to say “master it”) after a little play.

But why would I do that? When would I do that? What would it serve?

I’m still bumping up against an uncertain answer. It feels, though, like it will have something to say about both the great strength and the, perhaps, limits of the practice — or at least the limits to Ashtanga as my body will practice it.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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