Steve and I have attended a fair amount of workshops and talks with senior instructors over the years. We share a background in scholarship, so Ashtanga history gets our interest. One aspect of the early days in Mysore, India that’s always both freaked me out and intrigued me is that, before Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s room was packed, before the mobs started showing up at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Center’s doors, students that moved into the Second and Third series (and beyond–it went by different names then than its present form), they did all the poses they’d been given, all the way through, every time.
It’s something of a mystery in Ashtanga that sometimes simple ideas can take years to sink in. This is one of those things that has just sunk in.
I remember Annie Pace talking about this, back when I was still stagnated at kapotasana. They used to do the equivalent of First, Second, and Third series, every day. Didn’t that take forever? I asked. As you get more “polished,” she said, you move more efficiently. If you’re finishing each series that way—only about three hours. Every day.
What? said my brain, and shut down. Something like a white noise-like hiss followed. I could not process that.
Long story, but frequent readers of this blog know that I spent a solid number of years only practicing First. I was slow to gain strength, was out for six months with shoulder surgery (not yoga related, but yoga-revealed, you might say), moved, and lost my access to my shala, etc. All this amounted to years doing just First, and then more years doing First and Second up to kapo. That, I thought, was it.
When Maria Zavala began teaching me the Second Series asanas, and Tim Miller told me to come to his Second Series teacher training (“You come!” he said), big things happened, and I was freed from nearly 20 years of debilitating back pain. That was a little over a year ago now.
Yoga Chikitsa, First Series is called—“yoga therapy.” Indeed it was. But I had clearly reached its limit, and when I was finally able to stand up straight for the first time in years, you could say I got a little resentful that I hadn’t found this magic years before. I developed a kind of love/hate relationship with First.
It was, once again, Maria Zavala who started to work this free, release me from it. Talking with her not too long ago, she mentioned that there are First Series things that only First Series can do, and her Second Series practice is better for it.
This is true, I thought, and found myself saying, What if you just did First and Second together?
So, today, I did.
I realized, as a result, that our relationship to the series changes over time. I’m watching Steve return to basic First Series practices. His whole attitude toward the practice is evolving as a result. It seems natural that I would come back around to seeing the therapy in First differently, through the lens of Second—also known as nadi shodhana, “nerve [channel] cleansing.”
“If the doors of perception were cleansed,” wrote William Blake, “every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
The cavern of the brow over the eye, that is—the body. I’m stepping out.
Posted by Bobbie