“Love of asana”

Yesterday, I had some fun with a brief comment in David Garrigues’ most recent video blog entry about “the 1000 practices rule.” I’d like to step back from that and show some respect.

I encourage you to go over to David’s blog and watch those videos, no matter where you’re at in your Ashtanga practice. Each one is nicely edited with shots of Joy practicing third, which is lovely. But in those videos David lays down a theory of third series that shines a light on the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga overall.

This is the last video on the blog, but to entice you to watch them all, here are some teasers: In addition to a framework for how long it may take before you’re ready to move to the next series, David also suggests that the practice has evolved in the last ten years (regular readers know how much we love that word). He explains his rationale for saying “Third is the new Second.” He also discusses what happens when you run out of asanas—when you hit the point where you are at the limit of your practice.

But one comment resonated with me strongly. In order to do third series, you have to have, in his words, “a love of asana.” Tellingly, his example is B.K.S. Iyengar, the Lion of Pune, still going strong. I love the transparency and openness of this statement. At some point, the benefit of the practice has reached its end. You practice asana because you love asana.

Steve has discussed his own ambivalence toward Ashtanga. I’ve sometimes felt that I have no choice but to practice (not as in “Ashtanga or perish” but more like “Ashtanga or collapse”). The idea of the asana being of value in and of itself is a very intriguing idea.

I remember Tim Miller discussing the first-second-third progression in similar ways, but with a different emphasis. Third, he said, requires your full attention.

In the practice of Ashtanga, one of the chief qualities of a student that brings them to a permanent home is–consciously or unconsciously–the desire to never be finished. The practice is bottomless. Just when you think you’ve “got it,” something else presents itself to you in a way that will cause you to rethink…well, everything.

This phenomenon happens from the beginning, and if you’re doing it right, will never stop. The idea that whatever it is I think I’m doing, I’m not really using my full attention yet is, somehow, very comforting. Thanks, David.

Posted by Bobbie


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on ““Love of asana””

  1. Thank you for sharing your feelings & posting the David & Joy videos. When I was younger, I pushed my ‘self’ to be able to do more, but ego was still a problem which led to injury. Injury led to periods of not being able to enjoy Yoga asana fully & then having to spend a lot of time in Primary series to re-strengthen my body. As i have gone through different stages of Life i have enjoyed the ability to do some things that amazed & thrilled me, & as i progress through my 50s, i am happy to continue a vigorous daily practice, run, surf, dance, & do most anything i desire. I firmly believe that Yoga has provided the health & vitality that i enjoy, but i don’t think i need to do the advanced asanas to achieve any thing more.
    When i began studying/practicing Yoga 33 years ago, the physical aspects were my main focus. Now, stillness & meditation are my focus.

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