The final day of Tim Miller’s weekend workshop in Los Angeles was split between an introduction to Second Series and an introduction to pranayama.
I managed not to bring anything on which to take notes, so I don’t have the usual play-by-play. Instead, it will just be a few highlights.
The main thing was that Second Series practice. Yes, we just went to Ardha Matsyendrasana, but that still involves a lot of back bending and cleansing of the energy body.
It was, without a doubt, my most successful foray into those poses. Why? Practice.
I’ve been playing around with some of these poses while practicing at home, seeking a little more openness in backbend and a little more balance to my practice (and body) overall. And while practice may not make perfect in the case of Ashtanga, it does make better.
And here we move toward the point of Bobbie’s recent post about students being held back.
I think I’m clearly getting benefit from the occasional addition of these poses. (Tim told me my practice had gotten lighter, mostly in reference to jump backs and throughs, but still: progress!) At one point during the weekend, Tim noted that muscles strengthen when we contract them; First Series mostly is about contracting the front of the body, of course. What gets lost is strengthening the back of the body, including all the muscles of the back. The muscles that help us stand up straight and avoid back pain.
You know, muscles that help support us every day. Some kind of important ones.
So that felt like a bit of a nod toward the Nancy Gilgoff position of not holding people forever at First Series. Does that mean I asked Tim if I could practice these poses? No. And that may say more about the regiment of the practice than anything. (I think if I was able to practice with him regularly, the dynamic here would be different.)
I think this topic segues into one story Tim told. He’s been coming to LA to teach for decades, including a lot of trips to YogaWorks when Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty owned it. It sounds like Chuck and Maty ran a pretty tight Ashtanga ship. People did their practices and didn’t go “off script” much. Tim would come into town, feel as though there weren’t enough smiles, that there wasn’t enough levity to the practice, and offer variations and fun embellishments.
Then he’d get out of town and swear the students to secrecy about where they’d learned their new tricks.
The lesson? A little fun in the practice is OK (and is probably missing from too many people’s practices), and I suspect if that means mixing things up occasionally — while being smart and mindful and not putting yourself at any serious risk — then that’s OK, too. But you should return to the fundamentals. After all, Tim and others have improv classes and do teach these introduction to Second Series classes. But they mostly stick to what’s worked all these years.
One last thing to note: I’ve heard there are just a few spots left open for the 2013 Confluence. If you’re hemming and hawing, you may just run out of time.
Posted by Steve