The latest, little, thing I hate about Ashtanga

Nobody can say I hide my ongoing dislike of yoga and Ashtanga. I’m not someone who loves yoga.

For the past couple of weeks, there’s been a new, albeit little, flair to my Ashtanga practice that I hate. Fact is, it creeps me out.

In a desperate, and most likely ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to gain flexibility, I’ve added in both Hanumanasa and pigeon pose into my practice. It’s in the usual place for these poses, right after the Prasaritas. Keep in mind here, at 6 foot 1, I’m not getting my feet beyond the ends of my yoga rug. So these are not pleasant poses.

As I move from one side to the other, there’s the loudest — and for me, chilling — crack somewhere deep in my left hip joint. In checking out anatomy graphics, I’m thinking somewhere near either the Abductor Longus or Magnus and the Gracilis muscle. Maybe the ishium?


Whatever and wherever, what freaks me out is how right at the center of everything it seems.

Creaks and cracks of wrists and ankles is one thing. Those are so at our extremities that it doesn’t feel like a big deal. I could manage, worst case, with a broken or wrecked wrist or ankle.

But this sound comes from somewhere at the root, at the core. If it really did snap, that’d be it. One part of my body would fall to the left, the other to the right. And it sure sounds like that’s trying to happen.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. (I don’t think.) But it’s just this freaky reminder of the tension and the tightness, not to mention that it is coming from a spot you never see, except maybe in Supta Kurmasana.

As I said, it’s a little thing. It’s not failing to bind in Marichyasana D, or anything. But coming at like 6:15 a.m. in the morning, it invariably makes me feel just briefly a bit sick to my stomach, a bit freaked, a bit weirded out.

The opposite, I suppose, of the Tom Sawyer effect.

I’m on guard as I approach these poses, as a result. I’m neither stable nor at ease. It’s a challenge almost entirely of mind, to not get caught up in what’s next, to be stable and natural in the pose I’m in at the moment. But I know it’s coming.

And so I can add this to the various challenges and struggles of the practice. As if I needed more.

But that’s not really why I hate this. It’s the freaky sound I can’t stand. (*Shudder*)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

13 thoughts on “The latest, little, thing I hate about Ashtanga”

  1. One thing to consider – does the crack feel akin to cracking your knuckles, or your back? Does it feel like a release? Can you just do it once, and then it doesn’t happen again until the next day? (for example, if you crack your toes or knuckles, generally, you can’t crack them again right away.)

    If so, these kind of releases are generally beneficial, I believe.

    However, if the crack is something that does not feel like a release – and if it happens every time you move in a certain way – and feels more like something shifting oddly, then that may not be as beneficial. You should describe it to your teacher and have them listen to it, too.

    I get a big crack in my left sacrum, every time I go into parivritta parsvakonasana (revolved side angle) on the left side. It feels delicious, a release that is akin to a deep sigh. I think it’s beneficial and necessary and look forward to it happening in my practice.

    But, I have a corresponding “clunk” deep in my left hip, every time I bring my left leg from full flexion into full extension (as in lowering the leg back down to the floor from supta padangustasana). The clunk is less delicious than the crack – there’s no pain, but no feeling of release, either. The clunk goes away when I internally rotate the femur before lowering the leg. I sense it is not beneficial, and I avoid doing it.

    This anomaly of my left hip – both the crack and the clunk – is the result of a bad fall from a galloping horse when I was 13. It’s possible I broke something somewhere in the left side of my pelvis, because I was limping for 2 months afterwards (my parents didn’t seem to think a visit to a doctor was in order at the time, for some odd reason.)

    I’ve learned to accept the crack and avoid the clunk!

    The great thing is, the practice – and a good teacher – can help you figure out if your own “crack” a good thing – or not.

    1. I think clunk sounds kind of similar. Although without any big fall.

      And I get less disturbing cracks in the Prasaritas and even triangle. That “feels” fine — this one is really just the location (under the leg instead of on the hip by the waist) that is so … disturbing.


      1. It may not have been the result of a really traumatic experience that caused this “clunk” in your body, Steve. It could have been as benign as sliding into home plate the wrong way during a Little League Game as a kid! Or, it could be something emotional, too. (I used to pooh-pooh the old “you need to release the emotional trauma from your body in order to open up more” myself, but 16 years of Ashtanga practice has proven the validity of this assertion to me!)

        So, you may suddenly remember what happened some day, or not. Or you may have an emotional epiphany, or not. While I think my riding accident – and the resulting compensation of my gait and body to address that injury from age 13 on – resulted in the misalignment and loss of integrity in my hip, that’s only my best guess. It could be something completely unrelated.

        Don’t get attached to results, that’s all I can suggest, so that you can find some equanimity – and fun, Lila, in your practice! 🙂

        Not that it matters, but, I have a few theories about what my own “clunk” actually is – the most likely being that there’s a tendon (muscle to bone attachment) arising from the obdurator internus muscle that moves too easily in and out of proper alignment along the grooves of the pelvis where it resides, depending on external or internal rotation of my leg.

        Here’s a wiki with some good images of these deep muscles of the hip:

        You may be able to sense intuitively which one it is when you see these muscles in the pelvis. I think checking out the anatomy of the area is very helpful. Visualizing what’s going on as you practice helps, too, and can give you strategies to help open and heal. But, as Ashtangaglow says, modify and stay safe. Pain is a warning sign that should be heeded!

  2. If you feel sickened by the sensation, trust your instinct — it may be a structural limitation that no amount of stretching will correct or it could be a deep part of the body’s connective tissue that just is not ready to move this way (i.e. an injury just begging to happen). I’ve taught and practiced Ashtanga for about ten years (not certified, but am a student of Timji’s, Richard Freeman and Maty Ezraty). Not all bodies can or will “achieve” every asana, but working with our bodies even in modifications to the asana brings tremendous benefit.

    I agree with Michelle, sometimes sounds and sensations are openings and releases other times not so much! The tricky part is discerning when sensation is intensity that we can and should work with and when sensation is indicative of a limitation or potential source of serious injury. The pelvis is especially tricky, and while I’m happy to share my insights based on my practice and those of my students, I’d suggest that you seek the advice of a qualified professional body worker to understand the root cause.

    In my own body, I’ve found a good gauge is to notice how you feel after practice or how the body reacts to the pose in the next day’s practice. Does the “clunking” area hurt or does it feel lighter and/or have more freedom of movement? If you’ve committed to working with Hanumanasana and the variation of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, notice if the creaking changes after a period of time. If the issue is functional — i.e. caused by your habitual movement patterns — it may improve over time. If it is structural, the limitation likely won’t improve.

    Have you been to one of Timji’s workshops during which, as the Asana Doctor, he demonstrates PNF work? This can be great for limitations in the hips. It sounds as if the issue occurs as you are moving from one position to another — we all spend a good deal of attention and develop insight while in the asana, but how are you moving from one position to the next? And PNF work is a great indicator of whether a limitation is structural or functional — if a limitation is functional, the work should allow a release (greater flexibility). If PNF work doesn’t allow a bit of release it is likely there is a structural limitation.

    Among other things, cracking and clunking can be bone hitting bone, it can be laxity in connective tissue, or it can be a muscle tearing. You’d know immediately if you had torn something, obviously. Pushing a bone on bone limitation in the hip can eventually cause injury to the knee or low back (something’s gotta move to take up the slack). Likewise lax connective tissue can mean that you are creating a minor dislocation in the joint every time you move a certain way — nothing good can come of this 🙂 Trust me, I have the knees and right shoulder to prove it. And for the record, most of the damage is from ballet not yoga.

    Talk with your teacher, make sure he or she knows exactly what you are experiencing. You teacher should be able to offer ways to work the same range of motion while respecting any structural limitations. Are you still seeing the Rolfer — consult with her, Rolfers (as well as good massage therapists and PTs) have amazing knowledge of structural and functional anatomy and biomechanics.

    And always remember — our challenges are the best teachers because they tell us where our real edge is. If you are in extreme discomfort in Hanumanasana for example, step the pose down a few notches to where there is intensity but not pain. Let the pose be easy for a few breaths, for the body definitely becomes fearful when it moves into uncharted territory. Always being 100% full out means that you are at your max all the time. No one can make adjustments when he or she is maxed out. Not even we Ashtangis 🙂

    1. Tim’s done plenty of PNF work on me — I think because he doesn’t really believe I’m as stiff as I am.

      I suppose it sounds like a release — even as a clunk — not so much bone on bone. And there’s no real pain. Perhaps I should say it sounds like a super deep click / release.

      But, again, what really freaks me out is the location — so far away from where these noises usually come for me. And it kind of makes me feel the way lots of people do with finger nails on chalkboard.

      Am all done with the Rolfer, though if I go back for a tune-up it might be something to talk about with him. He did work in there at one point — maybe that loosened some things up, now that I think about it.

      Thanks for all the comments, all. 🙂


  3. Why did you decide to insert those two poses after the prasaritas? Just curious, I never considered inserting a pose. Did Tim suggest it?

  4. Actually the “clunk” associated with extended foot lowering is quite common. Head of femur is re-positioning itself a bit more rear-ward in the socket. Generally not particularly harmful, nor particularly beneficial.

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