A good Ashtanga practice, or, a benefit of practicing at night

Bobbie and I have both written about practicing Ashtanga at night.

Yesterday, just by change, I happened upon what might be the best reason for my sticking with an evening practice schedule. It all started before sunrise.

That’s when I’d gotten my butt out of bed, into a car (after two cups of coffee, don’t fret) and down to the beach. (Venice Beach, if anyone’s wondering.) And then, into the water.

It was my first dawn patrol in probably years. In part that was due to Ashtanga’s getting in the way. (I wonder how many activities there are that an early morning Ashtanga practice trumps? Usually it’s late night before activities, right?)

The waves, for those who care, were super walled up, with sets touching head-high; it might have had the fewest clean shoulders of any surf session I’ve had with a solid swell in the water. (Lesson: There are no sand bars in Venice. Dive bars, yes.)

But… the morning was beautiful; conditions were perfect. A slight offshore wind, clear skies, a pink-and-purple sunrise, even a sliver of waning moon.

Plus a sea lion, a dolphin, seagulls and the closest I’ve ever had pelicans fly to me. As in they almost knocked me over as I was catching a wave.

The experience was great. Peaceful but exhilarating. Tiring and rejuvenating. A lot of one-with-the-moment-ness.

Sort of like a good yoga practice?

I then finished off the day with a short asana practice (it turned into a late day at work): the “hold steady” Sun Salutes with a few shoulder and hamstring and hip stretches just because I need those. And, finally, pranayama.

Combined, I got the physical workout that is important, if not the purpose. (You have to stay strong and healthy.) I got the quiet of meditation / a sense of being in the moment, both in the morning and on the mat. (A nice way to bookend a day.) And there was deep, regulated breathing.

What really was noticeable was how both played off each other — and, really, amplified each other. As I settled down after pranayama, the feeling was about as close to what I’ve heard Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, David Swenson and other describe about their own experiences with yoga.

Probably the next step is to manage this with a full asana practice at night. But that might be more goodness than I can handle.

There’s also my planned week or two in Encinitas while Bobbie (and the host of other Third Series crazies) is at Tim’s Third Series Teacher Training. Then it will be: practice early, go to the beach, surf, lie around, repeat.

My suggestion application to you is: Is there an activity you could slide into the surfing spot (rock climbing comes to mind because of those two dudes who climbed El Capitan) and see what kind of “yoga experience” you might discover?

Posted by Steve 

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

6 thoughts on “A good Ashtanga practice, or, a benefit of practicing at night”

  1. Nice… Made me happy to think Venice beach is still so lovely- lived on ocean front walk 1967- high rent of $125! Sent from my iPhone


  2. That sounds like a great day. It’s great to find the balance to do the other activities you love and still get the yoga practice in.

  3. Sweet way of living your practice, Steve. Personally, I teach each morning, then head home and hike and bushwhack my hills and woods with two energetic dogs who won’t let me rest for more than a minute, for about an hour each day. Being in nature with them, exploring silently and without agenda, is being present – it is a sadhana! Some days, yes, the “official” yoga practice has to come at night – or I slip it in sometimes around 4pm, before I make dinner for the family. And it’s not always asana – sometimes just pranayama or sitting. Even 15 minutes counts as per Nancy Gilgoff! But, that’s the life of a householder – practice is a support for your life.

  4. My late afternoon/evening practice stems from the fact that I am suffering from chronic back-butt-leg pain for two years now. It is at its worst in the morning, before I get moving. Even when I practice in the latish morning, say at 9 or 10 am, my body doth protests way too much, and instead of the moving meditation that Ashtanga is supposed to be, the practice transforms into an hourlong (or usually less) torment and agony. But weirdly enough, the pain subsides around lunchtime and movement becomes easier. So while my mind rebels against the practice of practicing in the evening, I’ve learned to listen to my body and practice when it wants — and that seems to be in the late afternoon or early evening.

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